The Movies

projectorThe theater was not what I expected.  It was a theater time forgot, with awful threadbare printed carpet and a box office with wooden ledges.  I bought my ticket ($12, thank you), and went up the stairs.  I turned the corner to go to the bathroom.  I almost ran smack into a cutout of a movie villain and nearly wet my pants right there.

Then the movie, yes.  “Her.”  Being in love is like having a voice in your ear.  From what I remember.  That voice.  All the time.  In your ear.  Ticklish.  It doesn’t matter if who you love is real, or, rather, you loving makes her real.

And touching matters, but not as much as the voice.  Nothing could matter as much as that.

I walked a lot of the way home, although I didn’t have to, it was both frugal and the movie was that good.  I wanted to be alone with it.  Sidewalk after sidewalk, block by block, windows of chandeliers and bookcases in bay windows of brownstones, narrow building after narrow building, stoop after stoop, with the park at my right hand.  I thought about people I have been in love with.

I love stories about loneliness because loneliness is so sweet and so sour, and I also love movies that say, “sex is the least of it,” without being coy.

The main character in “Her” goes out on date with real person, and it ends the awful way it can.  At important kissing moment, girl says, “Will you?  Are you serious?”  and boy says, “Whoa, there,” resulting in the usual sad stop of kissing all together.

For the first time, I did not have to pay the entry fee at the Museum of Modern Art (I got a membership), so I was at leisure to have lunch, and then to look at very little, or nothing, at my leisure.

The atrium had benches and carpet, and people of all ages were sitting, lying, propped on elbows, letting the film go, some of them watching, some not.  It is low tourist season here, and that made is seem cozier, too.  No one in the atrium was someone in town cramming art, photos with Matisse before running to photos with Times Square. It was too cold out, too rough.  We were inside, warm.  We were sitting, lying, propped up on elbows, eyes closed, on phones, what have you.  We watched and didn’t watch Chinese angels flying outside mile-tall office buildings, and a lady in 1940 riding a trolley and lighting a Chinese cigarette in a Chinese alley.

Around the corner, I saw a few more films.  One of a fountain and an intersection of cars.  One a reenactment of the guy, H.M., who is a famous test subject for memory problems.  An epileptic, he lost parts of his brain, and now is unable to form new memories.  In the film, two projections showed him, on one square, and images of things he knew about, or would never know about, on another.

I liked that, the memory stuff, even if the reenactment made it feel disingenuous, and more than that, I liked the sound of the film, real film, flipping and ticking along, the way films did in my elementary school gym, big reels, big screen, all of us on the bleachers, eyes peeled.  Flipping, ticking, like an eggbeater, like a card in a  bicycle wheel.  Maybe the card in a wheel somewhere far away, in a season not now, the fluttery pace of time second by second going faster than you thought it was.

Link to the film at MoMA

Where the Child Things Are

I wish Spike Jonze had invited me over to screen his new movie, and I would have said, “But what is this ABOUT?”  I don’t think the film takes a stand for or against conventional narrative structure, which bothered me, but then again, there is a good blanket fort.

Max, in the movie, makes a fort out of blankets, which I hope you know is a super fun thing to do.  Couch cushions make it better.  The best couch has removable seat cushions and back cushions, and a good balance of softness and rigidity.  It would be best if there were pillows for either end that came in a shape useful for building.  Our best building couch was the living room set, two couches with scratchy tan, gray, and cream upholstery.  (In our family, it was certainly a couch and never a sofa, although I don’t know what that’s about.)

Our blanket forts, on the other hand, functioned as Little House on the Prairie encampments, spaceships, and clubhouses of one kind or another.  Never forts.  Obviously a blanket is too easily penetrated.  I’m not sure what Max was thinking on that score.

When Max makes his fort in the movie, he runs out to call for his mother and show it off.  Although my parents are wildly supportive of pretty much every move I make, I remember how disheartening it was when I got old enough to perceive that they were faking interest in my projects.  They wanted to get back to a book or a television show or the bills or a phone call.  Max’s mom is busy like that.  She doesn’t come up to see the fort.

Your parents being grown-up has its plusses and minuses.  If parents are too into what their kids do, I actually feel sorry for the kid.  Kids have their own world, their own thing, and grownups are only required to keep it from going off the tracks into “Lord of the Flies” territory.  Mostly, when I was a child, I felt like a colonial American.  Lots of influence, lots of administrative activity, but my world was still my own to navigate and define.

The sad thing for me was that Max’s friends in his tent were teddy bears.  Adorable glass-eyed teddy bears in a row.  I thought immediately about how when I had a spaceship, I had a copilot.  I never had to look hard or hold auditions or anything.  I started with two little sisters, and later, I got three more siblings.  When I was older and directed movies using my dad’s old camcorder, I was frustrated by casting limitations, but not nearly as frustrated as old Max would have been.  For heaven’s sake– I even had a minimal spread of age and gender to work with.

In one of the reviews of Jonze’s movie, the writer mentioned that Max runs out of his house toward his Wild Things adventure, rather than sitting in his room and letting the vines grow, the walls disappear.  (I’m sorry I can’t find this reference again.)  I guess that is a forgiveable change for cinematic purposes.  It was sad to miss that idea, though– that your escape, as a child, was realizing that your mind was your own, and no parent or teacher or monster could be in there without your okay.

For me, that was part of becoming a reader.  There was always a safe place in my head, if a writer set it up for me.  Escape isn’t out there somewhere– it’s in your head.  (And imprisonment is there, too, as Max gets totally freaked by the idea that the sun will go out.  I heard about that on “3-2-1 Contact” and was equally terrified.)

What I did like about the movie was that it showed how children have their own world.  Max’s mom says she is sorry that some other kids hassled Max, and she says she would have stopped them.   She wouldn’t have.  She couldn’t have.  At the very end, the mom closes her eyes like she’s falling asleep, and Max is alone again.  Deep alone in his thoughts about his adventure, and maybe alone in the forest of his mind.

This is my favorite real review of the film, especially the part about “Kids love danger.”  Danger was indeed oddly lacking:

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/cinema/2009/10/19/091019crci_cinema_denby