Saturday, December 27, 2003

Hello, Saturday Night:

I think you're all right.

I feel really lucky right now. I am having a potential streak of good movie karma. It's kind of like when you're on a roll in Yahtzee, or when you've been getting good parking. I have seen not one but two good movies in three days. What's interesting is that the only thing these movies have in common---and I mean the only thing--is Jon Favreau. First I saw "Elf" on Christmas with my brother and sister, and oh Lord, how I did cry. Jim Walsh, baby, I know you've seen it by now, right? How much did you love it?

Good Lord, what a classic Christmas movie.

Actually, I take it back: The other thing these movies have in common is Hal Ashby.

"Elf" borrows from lots of other movies, "Big" and "Being There" most of all. And the other movie I saw tonight, "Something's Gotta Give," made me think of my best movie of all time, "Harold and Maude." Both that movie and "Being There" were directed by Hal Ashby.

"Something's Gotta Give" is wonderful for many reasons, but the most surprising reason is Keanu Reeves, of all things. I think he may have actually given the performance of his life. He should be horribly proud. They should give out Oscars for Best Performance By A Traditionally Mediocre Actor, and he should win by a landslide. It's a terrible cliche, but he seriously lights up the screen in every shot. He is boyish and tender and lovely, and somehow his usual woodenness comes off as genuine human awkwardness. He is delightful to watch, and he makes every woman in the audience fall in love with him, not because he's kickass and hip and superhuman, but because he's totally human. I think his performance may have called up some of his deeper history, because I think he used this tragically romantic character as a way to express his experience of being in love way back, with the lady who died.

This movie also borrows from earlier movies, in a playful way---there are subtle references to "Manhattan," "Annie Hall," "Terms of Endearment," "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and even "The Shining." In fact, another reason this movie is so good is that it sort of culminates what is great about both Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton. And Diane Keaton definitely hits it out of the park, perfecting her character from "Annie Hall" and making me understand what the big fuss was all about back then, why she was so special.

I'm not saying it's a perfect movie--the editing is weird sometimes and some of the dialogue is pretty dialogue-y. But somehow it ends up working.

It's funny too because despite the age factor, the Diane Keaton character reminded me so much of myself. The scenes when she's crying compulsively at her computer, in the shower, on the beach, etcetera, were meant to be comic, but I wasn't really laughing. It almost made me feel that being in love is not really an individual experience. Falling in love is like tuning in to a secret frequency. Once you get the password, you're in, and in some ways it is the same environment for everyone who's there. I've seen it before in other people and I've kind of known how it would feel, and though it feels much bigger than all that, at the bottom, it feels just like I knew it would. It is a distinct feeling, distinctly different from not-love. It is a place. That's like that e.e. cummings poem.

When I was in tenth grade, I took an English class at Immaculate Heart from Ms. McNamara, a nun who understood about love. I mean, love-love, sexual and romantic, too. I don't know where she learned it, but she did. The entire year was spent reading the best high school books and trying to talk about love. I wrote a clearly Sapphic love poem for her class, before I even knew about such things as lesbian imagery; I was just trying to explain how it felt to love someone. She gave me an A+, and there wasn't a blush of embarrassment about any of it. Thank you, Ms. McNamara! In any case, something magic happened in her class. It was so special that a year ago when my friend Halle got married, she wanted Ms. McNamara to perform the ceremony, and I couldn't think of a better minister. It turned out that Ms. McNamara now lives in Northern California and works in prisons. That's the Immaculate Heart I know and love.

At the end of the year, we sat in the auditorium at long fold-up tables to do our final exam. It wasn't easy, but at the top of the first sheet of paper, she had written a note to us thanking us for the year and encouraging us, maybe not in so many words, to be confident. And at the end of her note, she included that poem by e.e. cummings. Sitting in that cold auditorium, being tested and codified for something as ephemeral as poetry, the note from Ms. McNamara reminded me what it had all been about, and what is was still all about, and what it was going to be about, regardless of our scores.

love is a place

& through this place of

love move

(with brightness of peace)

all places

yes is a world

& in this world of

yes live

(skilfully curled)

all worlds

It's funny I should be sitting here so many years later, reciting the same words that came to me like scripture at 17. I'd amend it myself, because love isn't all that peaceful, a lot of times. But what I have learned about love, and what this one movie said, too, was that the torture of heartbreak is a fucking bargain, as ticket prices go. And I guess that was also the main point of "Harold and Maude." That's what made me think of that film, more than the old woman/young man stuff.

It's like Maude said: Get hurt, even, but play as well as you can. Go team, Go!

Jesus, I'm Irish tonight.

By the way, I'd like to take the opportunity to wish a happy birthday to the Baby Jesus, in Prague and everywhere else he may be tonight. I'm often the first one to get down on Christianity, because I have a brain and whatnot, but the one thing I do appreciate about that tradition is its essential statement about Love. It was unique for its time and place, and that's why it has such staying power.

Gotta run. Rock on, babies----


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