May 19, 2017

Is this thing on?

Is this thing on?

It's been precisely 119 days since I last used this darn thing, but don't worry, I'm back. 

You don't need to hear it from me that the world is scary as hell right now. Maybe you're not as scared as I am, which wouldn't necessarily surprise me since I am one of the biggest worriers I know! Maybe you're not as scared as I am because you don't live within range of North Korea's missiles. This fear has been a big part of why I stopped writing publicly; externalizing myself in this way just became really hard really quickly. I don't know how not to share myself and my feelings, so when I tried to take myself out of what I was writing, it just didn't work. That said, I'm feeling back up to the challenge. Part of my own coping mechanism is, and has always been, supplementing the harshness of reality with a healthy dose of fiction. You're welcome to agree or disagree with this method, but it works for me. In fact, it's always worked for me. I have a distinct memory of a conversation with my mom in high school where I said the thing to make me feel better after a bad day was watching an episode of The West Wing. 

I believe fiction - be it movies, television, or books - has the ability to contextualize the human experience in a way that makes us more empathetic and analytic. I accept the fact that I'm probably in the minority here; most people watch movies to be entertained, not to critically interrogate the story in a way that helps them better understand their world. I'd be lying if I said that entertainment isn't at least part of why I love fiction so much, but it's surely not the whole reason. So, if you're looking for a reason to read these messages, I'll say this: I hope to contextualize fiction in a way that reminds you why it matters for reasons beyond entertainment. If you don't need the reminder, I hope you stick around anyway. 
 

Watching

True Crime Documentaries. I watched two documentaries this week about two different murders. Casting JonBenet and Mommy Dead and Dearest. The latter (available on HBOGo!) is a much more traditional true crime documentary - it's almost completely informational, providing all the details on a really insane case. Casting JonBenet (available on Netflix!) takes a much different approach, putting the story of the murder into the hands of actors auditioning to play the roles of the Ramsey family. I wasn't really a fan of either documentary, but they got me thinking about the genre of true crime. It's a genre that is, by and large, motivated by morbid curiosity. The power of that curiosity is really strong, so strong that we often compromise quality or meaning for the sake of exploitation. To me, Casting JonBenet felt exploitative. I couldn't begin to tell you why director Kitty Green felt compelled to retell the story of JonBenet's murder through the stories of a bunch of wannabe actors. By not offering any new information or compelling analysis, I was left wondering why it even got made. The only explanation I was left with was our own morbid curiosity. Without that, Casting JonBenet, and most true crime, would lack much of a reason to exist. 

Hail the Conquering Hero. Before I talk about Preston Sturgess' 1944 film, let me get something off my chest: I hate that the election of Donald Trump to the Office of the President has profoundly altered how I perceive and understand fictional stories about politics. Now it seems that everything, from The West Wing to House of Cards to 1944 films about a man lying about his wartime endeavors, held a sort of warning for the political turmoil that I would watch unfold in my country in 2017. At the same time, it's further evidence of how important fiction can be to understanding the state of the world. I'll do my best to avoid constantly talking about how things are timely and relevant to present-day politics, but sometimes it hits you in the face, like this line of dialogue at the end of Hail the Conquering Hero

"Politics is a very peculiar thing, Woodrow. If they want you, they want you. They don't need their own reasons. They find their own reasons."

Doesn't that just cut you to the bone? Or is it just me?

Listening

"Don't Take the Money" - Bleachers. When Bleachers' debut album came out in July 2014, I fell in love with it. It's just the kind of pop music I'm into - full of big choruses and plenty of synth. Well, they have a new album coming out and I really, really dig the debut single. 

"Fake Happy" - Paramore. I've been listening to Paramore for longer than I care to admit, but I'm happy that they seem to have aged along with me. Their new album is full of bops!!

"Kiwi" - Harry Styles. I have no problem admitting that I was happily aboard the One Direction train when they were still together and I was bummed when they broke up. Harry Styles' new album is the first thing to make me OK with their break up. 

Other

I'm not in France and I'm not happy about it. The Cannes Film Festival kicked off this week and it's killing me (but in an exciting way?) not to be there. So many movies premiering that I'm dying to see. So many movies I won't see for months or even years, in some cases. I've made it a personal goal (ruh roh, is it bad luck to share this so publicly?) to go to next year's festival. Movies can be a powerful motivator! 

The view from my new apartment is the bees knees. In a bit of personal news, I moved into a new apartment earlier this month and I am loving it.