Progress Not Perfection

Spoiler warning: if you have never seen Billy Wilder’s Some Like it Hot, do not play this initial video. It’s a huge spoiler & I wouldn’t want to kill that film for anyone. This clip is only meant to enhance my piece and is not essential  to the comprehension of the rest of the entry.   

I was told recently by someone who I highly respect that we are all works in progress.

While there hasn’t been much to make me feel positive about my situation as of late, to an extent, this statement (and the person it was coming from) did. It came on the heels of having spent an incredible summer day with the women that I went to Catholic-all-girls-school with. Most of them are married, with babies, good jobs, productive lives. Hell, even my punk rock math teacher was there, reminding me that I had been in honors’ math (me?? honors math?? I can’t even figure out a proper tip at dinner with friends anymore! I was good with numbers at one point in my existence???) and quoting the Descendents. Man, she was a great teacher.  I sat there, we laughed, caught up, talked about the things that we got out of our schooling that few others did- why do women these days seem to hate each other so much? And why do they think it’s “cool” to smack each other down and say “Well, I like having guys as friends better”? You need your ladyfriends, yo. Just like guys need their guys! It was a great afternoon talking about how we were inadvertently trained to develop a very strong idea of sisterhood that has lasted us throughout our lives.

We are in our mid-30s. We have known each other since we were 12/13. That’s a fucking long time. Every one of us has made inordinate amounts of mistakes. Pissed our friends and lovers off, learned to fix it. Then learned that each “fixing” method changes for each person. We’ve changed careers, regretted treating our parents or family members in certain ways, learned that maybe certain friends or family members were incredibly toxic and it was our responsibility to play Personal Doctor (we know our own bodies best- mental and physical) and cut out that tumor before it became a larger cancer and destroyed larger portions of our Lifebody.

This is what we call Progress. None of us will EVER EVER be perfect.

I keep thinking of this film by Christine Lahti that I love, called My First Mister. It stars Albert Brooks and Leelee Sobieski.  I cannot count how many times I’ve watched that film. If you haven’t seen it, it will simultaneous make you fall in love with life, laugh and cry. It is one of my all time favorite pieces of film work, and I don’t say that very often. Friends, you can judge me for my excitement and frequent hyperbole when it comes to cinema, but certain films? This is on my list of Films I Would Marry. Come to think of it, I should write up a list like that sometime. But back to My First Mister.  I probably like it because I see bits and pieces of myself in Leelee Sobieski’s character (especially the scene that was shot in Retail Slut on Melrose, RIP). But Albert Brooks character serves as just as much of a mirror. It’s a heartbreaking and heart-fixing story about two broken off-kilter people who walk around limping and frowning through life until they find that other person who makes them laugh and dance. But it is not a love story. The film is a perfect story about how people are simply not and that is a beautiful thing.

My First Mister explores the ways in which we make progress with each other and relationships in ways we never counted on. Did I ever think that 20 years after meeting these women I would be sitting in the sunshine with their babies and realizing that we all basically look the same and are just as sharp-witted, strong, loving and quirky as we were in 7th grade? No way. I would’ve laughed if you had told me that a few years ago. But that’s progress. Progress is also the realization that I need these women in my life. They are so good for me. I hesitate to say it, but I feel like the insecurity that I have now was all received because I was put in an environment that was not as progressive and diverse as that which I spent my early teen years. Not to say that we weren’t all normal jerky teen girls (we totally were, in our own ways), but we also related to each other in a different way. I’m romanticizing it a little, but I think of the way that I entered that school and I remember the way I left and the people I have now. I look up to them. Those relationships were hibernating building blocks. I’m glad that they were awakened.

Internet radio has decided to play “Under Pressure” by Queen right now. It couldn’t be more appropriate.

I graduated from my moving image archive studies program in June. It’s about to be September. In my albeit small graduating class, every single person I have spoken to or heard about already has a full-time job but I do not. The minute that my classes were completed, I applied for unemployment and I was denied. I have appealed the decision, gone to court, and been dealing with this for months now. I have had EDD employees tell me that leaving a full-time job  to complete grad school and do freelance online journalism was a “bad decision” and if I hadn’t done that I wouldn’t be in this situation now. I have had them tell me that freelance work and online journalism/writing wasn’t “real work” so that’s why they didn’t count it. They basically yelled at me and told me that my current state was of my own making, and had I done the smart thing and kept the “real job” and not gone back to school, everything would be fine.

Of course, this woman’s rant just seemed to realize all of the fears and terror-dripped paranoias that I have been pouring out to my boyfriend for the last few weeks, as my job applications kept getting sent into these black holes and no interviews or interest has been shown. He’s a great guy, but it’s frustrating for him. He wants to fix this situation and make me feel better. He just wants to fix everything, just wants me to feel better and see the woman that he sees. But this isn’t a “fixable” situation. And what a terrible thing to lay in the lap of a basically new relationship, right? Poor guy has to listen to me cry about how I wish that I hadn’t gone to grad school and how I feel like I’m no good at what I do. Logically, of course, I know that both of these statements are patently untrue but I feel completely helpless when I cannot do anything for myself economically and when I am not working. The me that I like the least is the unemployed, unassignment-ed, undeadlined me. I am at my most shining when I am powered up and whirlwinding through tons of stuff, 100mph. I glow. Right now, I feel dejected, rejected and like I’m doing nothing.

Another one of my favorite films that I have basically memorized comes to mind at this juncture. Noah Baumbach’s Kicking and Screaming. A brilliant film about the foibles and follies that befall a group of (yup, indeed) college graduates, right after graduation, and coming to term with adult life. If you have not seen this film, SEE IT. But, basically, right now I feel a hellovalot like Max.

Thing is, I’m not Max. I do many things. It’s just all volunteer work. I’m the chair of a committee and have been diligently working on that as things have been moving forward. I volunteered for Outfest, the LGBT film festival, and worked like crazy for that. I recently began involvement in another project for cataloging standardization as well. Pure and simple, applying to jobs is work and, to be frank, new relationships are work. I seem to push all these things to the back of my mind because the only thing that counts in my eyes is getting that “real” job out of school, getting the “real” work that everyone else is getting. This, of course, backfires completely on me because what is “real”? What is that qualifier? Who is to decide? It seems that the qualifier is The Paycheck and that discounts the very real work that I have been doing elsewhere.

I’m working on this, though. Slowly but surely. Because while I am not perfect, the one thing that I have the utmost faith in is my ability to make progress and be productive.

I’m not going to lie. I’m scared.

But I’m scared because I actually care about this. It would say quite a bit if I wasn’t scared. This is my dream and my greatest love. It irritates my guy when I say that, but it’s a different kind of love than I got for humans in my life; I can’t explain it. Film will always be That Thing for me. I am the most fulfilled, the most ME I can be when I am within that realm. I would be disturbed if my unemployed status wasn’t causing a pre-ulcerous condition. I’ve never found any career path that I gelled with like I do this one.

So I have one basic option: keep making progress. And this involves a variety of things.

1) Be realistic: the things that are being done are not nothing. They exist and they contribute to larger bodies of work. My place in the field is important, whether I am actually employed or not. Dropping out is not an option. The healthiest addiction I have ever had is being addicted to film archiving & preservation work and not being able to keep my mouth shut about needing to be active in these pursuits. This isn’t a bad thing.

2) Be grateful: the new people who have entered and re-entered my life are some of the most charming and supportive people I have ever met. And they are adults. Change is good, change is progress. Many times, positive progress comes from the most unlikely of places (see: My First Mister).

3) Listen to Wilder: Billy didn’t write bad dialogue. Always listen to him for advice. Every time my brain is arguing with me on the things that I can recognize are untrue, I will simply revisit Some Like it Hot and get smacked in the face by the reality of me being, as my boy is wont to call me every so often, a silly goose.

I realize that this is a bit more personal than some of my other entries, but sometimes a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. Thanks for listening.

My Superbowl: The Academy Awards & Me, 2012

I’m not going to lie to you. I didn’t see everything this year. I didn’t even come close. In fact, I saw more things that were made in years before this year than in this current one. I went to the Film Noir Festival and the TCM Film Festival (which you can read all about here and here). I did the Reel Grit Six Shooter up at AFI, various stuff at the Cinefamily and a grip of stuff at the New Beverly, not to mention the Egyptian.

IT’S BEEN A GREAT YEAR FOR CINEMA. Just not necessarily new stuff.

Truthfully, if you wanna read that list, hop on over to the illustrious and welcoming Rupert Pupkin Speaks, where he has been gracious enough to provide a space for me to babble on about my favorite films that I watched this year that did not come out this year.

However, since I stayed up WAY TOO LATE last night to be utterly disappointed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and their idiotic and exasperatingly schizophrenic choices of what are apparently the “best films made in 2012” and their acting milieu, I think I need to post my list too.

My friend Ricky says that his choices are always right and the best. My friend Ricky is an egotist.

I will only go so far as to say that these are the films, actors and theatrical engineers that I enjoyed full-throttle. The individuals that gave me ear-gasms, eye-gasms and brain-gasms. ME, not anyone else. While I would argue vehemently for the inherent quality of any (and indeed all of these films) I believe quite deeply that everyone is entitled to have a differing opinion when it comes to the cinema. If we did not, damn, life would be boring. While I heavily believe that the Academy made gigantic errors in their picks this year for “bests,” I am always more than happy to have healthy debates and discussions on any films as long as they stay respectful of other people’s opinions.

It may seem hypocritical for me to state that I think that the Academy is just flat-out WRONG in one sentence and then happily move forward to chat about being able to agree to disagree on filmic opinion in another, but I believe them to be different arenas. Being that I am in training to become a film archivist, the Academy bears a certain responsibility and it has dropped the ball in the last few years…big time.  While we sit here, fully aware of the changes taking place in our cinematic landscape (35mm to digital, 3D and VFX technologies, etc) there is a large responsibility to history that the Academy bears and I don’t think that they know quite  how to handle it at this juncture in time.

See, this historic responsibility is bisected, with one arm towards the Industry Professionals and the other towards the outside public. What I see here and now is an inability to balance the two, and it’s difficult for them and for us. It is difficult for them because the Business  is their “meat and potatoes” but the PUBLIC is their “bread and butter.” So how do we set this table properly? Everyone needs to stay pleased, everyone needs their money. So how do we maintain a decent set of nominations? It’s not like there weren’t good movies this year. Lord knows, there were great ones. But I really feel like a good chunk of the things that were stuck up on the screen for the year were there to pacify people, to make people happy, and not for representative means.

The Academy Awards are actually important. No one seems to think so. They laugh them off, get screeners, free films, whatever. Sure. At least they do around here. I know how that is. I live in Hollywood. For heaven’s sake, I spent an entire summer archiving all the screener VHS tapes we had gotten from the Academy as a “summer project.” My mom needed to give me something to do. I ended up watching Mike Leigh’s Naked (1993) that way. I might’ve been a bit too young to watch it at that point, but y’know…

In any case, I think it’s odd that people don’t think voting on cultural history is important. Yes, Virginia, that Footloose LP that I got as a kid from the Academy IS cultural history, dammit. So what do we have this year? We have some good stuff and some not so good stuff. Some things that people like and some stuff that I think people think they should like. Some things that I find remarkably offensive and in poor taste and some things that are probably pretty decent but speak to how starved most people are for the kinds of films that used to fulfill people’s entertainment “hole” on a regular basis and make them happy in an unspeakably pure and lovely way.

The Academy was created to house things as the best films of the year. The ultimate examples of filmmaking. Even the nominations should be that way. And these nominations are not that. It is disappointing to say the least. I like my moving image history satisfying. So, on that note, I’m going to give you my favorite films and performances of the year.

Here they are:

Favorite Animation:

OK, so on this one, I totally agree with the Academy’s nomination and I hope this baby wins. I don’t think I could’ve enjoyed this more if I’d tried. Unless I’d gone to see it…5 or 6 more times. I wish I had. I really really loved this movie and I really really want to own it. If you love Sergio Leone and you have even a smidgen of a sense of humor, I believe you will love this. If not, you might have no soul. I would check.

Favorite Supporting Male Performances:

Patton Oswalt in YOUNG ADULT. While the film had a few problems, I liked it over-all, and HIS performance put me over the moon. It's not just because I like him either. He's a DAMN fine actor and this is the BEST he has EVER EVER been and I simply adored BIG FAN (2009)

Since I saw the announcements this morning, a record has been on repeat in my head: ALBERTBROOKSWASROBBED.ALBERTBROOKSWASROBBED. *This* snub makes me more unhappy than any of the others. His performance here created the term "Oscar-worthy."

"Nick Nolte. Warrior. Um, I love this film to bits If you wanna know how I really feel, check out the piece I wrote all about it, which was right before this. I REALLY loved this film. Even more than that, Nolte's performance was the best he has given in years. Multi-faceted and just gutting, it was an amazing feat of acting. I bawled and would do so again.

Favorite Lead Male Performances:

John Boyega, ATTACK THE BLOCK

Tom Hardy, WARRIOR

Gary Oldman, TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY

Favorite Female Performances:  It’s been a rough year for the ladies. All the female performances I liked were…second fiddle and not there for very long. Not that this is a new trend (it’s not) but where are the juicy roles for women? I know there were films out there that people argued were very good for women, but those same films, while they were “good for women” also set them back quite a bit. My mom said that Meryl Streep was good in The Iron Lady. I didn’t see it. At this point, I’m going to give my favorite performances to one film I have seen (and adored), one film I haven’t seen but love the actress and trust other people’s judgement, and one that I am seeing next week and will probably absolutely LOVE TO BITS. I wouldn’t usually think it was ethical to pre-favorite a film performance, but with the paucity of chunky, decent female performances this year, I’m going to do it anyway.

I loved this film and I loved Ellen Page in it. SUPER was an uncomfortable and realistic film with gritty, gutsy goodness that I just ate up hungrily. She gave a fantastic show and I REALLY loved her.

I love Tilda. I need Tilda. My life would not be the SAME without Tilda. I have not seen this film but somehow I KNOW she was exquisite. I have neverevernever seen her do wrong. I believe in her. We Need to Talk About Kevin is is a film I desperately Need To See.

I finally get to see MARGARET this upcoming weekend. I bite my thumb at the powers that be who refused to let this film be released and sat on it for so long. It totlally looks like my kind of film. And Anna Paquin looks like she gives a hellova performance. If she doesn't, well, I'm wrong. But I've seen the trailer, chatted with people about it, and I know my taste. I think her placement here will be justified.

Favorite Music/Score: 

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy— Alberto Iglesias

Attack The Block–Basement Jaxx

Drive–Cliff Martinez

FAVORITE FILMS:

I saw this 5 times theatrically and then more times than I can count via a screener. I also spend most of my time listening to the soundtrack obsessively. This film has most assuredly taken over a good chunk of my existence, as most Winding-Refn films do. No shocker there!

Saw this in the theater 4 times, I think. Would love to have seen it 4 more times. More movies like ATTACK THE BLOCK, I say!

I love you Takashi Miike. This movie blew my brain so far outta my head I had to pick the bits of my skull off of the wall of the theater. I simply love this movie more than words can describe. It is intellectual, visceral, VISUAL. So great! What a cinematic triumph. MORE!!

It seems like I'm really obsessed with this film, but I actually just really liked it. It is one of the better films, but I'm not as obsessed with it as I am, say, with DRIVE or ATTACK THE BLOCK. However, it fascinates me as it delves into intellectual areas that I *am* obsessed with AND it's an incredibly well-shot and well-acted film.

The minute I read the book, I loved it. The instant I heard it was being turned into a film by Scorsese, I went insane because I knew it was going to be FABULOUS and it was. Simply FABULOUS. I cried the ENTIRE way through it because I loved it so very very much and it was such a gift to my eyes

Saw this twice. First time in ages a film has made me excited to read the book it came from because the story was *that* great and I knew that the book would contain just as much depth! Saw it twice in the theater, thought it would lose something the second time but I was desperately mistaken. The sign of a great film is that it retains its greatness as well as gaining more with each separate viewing. This has those qualities.