Life Aquatic and the Subtle Amidst the Loud

This was my laptop desktop image during my year in the MFA. Jordan put it on my computer, and it reminded me 1) that I have a cool husband and 2) to keep dreaming big.

This was my laptop desktop image during my year in the MFA. Jordan put it on my computer, and it reminded me 1) that I have a cool husband and 2) to keep dreaming big.

Watched Life Aquatic again, years after watching it for the first time. First, I have to say — I forgot how SAD it was. When we hit play, I did not expect to have my face drenched in tears before it ended. Somehow I’d completely blocked the sad part out of my memory and it came as a pretty big shock.

But the sad part is really not what I wanted to talk about. When I think about Wes Anderson as a director, what stands out the most are his exaggerated characters, his eye-popping production design, his picture-book-like cinematography. It’s all so noticeable and loud (and always so pleasing to the eye on so many levels), but watching Life Aquatic this time reminded me where Wes’ genius really lies:

Even though his characters are always so bigger-than-life and so odd, the relationships between characters—what’s going on between them—is handled more subtlely. It’s not that you can’t see the filmmaker’s hand there too. Just like everything you see on screen, just about every word feels like it’s there for a purpose. It’s definitely scripted.

The genius of it though, I think, is that to understand what the story is really about, you have to look past all the oh-so-satisfying “noise” of the production and examine the story being told in the tension between sentences, in the direction of someone’s gaze, in what’s not being said.

That’s one reason that several days after watching what might come across to some people as a silly, weird little movie, I am still thinking about the equally silly and weird characters and contemplating what it is that they’ve taught me about life and myself.

 

Warm Bodies(es): Two Stories I Wouldn’t Want to Live Without

WarmBodiesPosterAfter going goo-goo over the Warm Bodies film, I finally read the book and am kind of blown away by the fact that although the two versions may include a lot of the same events—may even feature some of the exact same dialogue—they couldn’t have felt more different. It’s almost like two completely different stories and I love, love, LOVE that they both exist.

The movie = charming, funny, touching.

The book = introspective, melancholy, complicated.

Mood-wise, the film feels more like a Nick Hornby and the book leans toward, um, maybe a Cormac McCarthy feel?

The thing is that though the two versions are different from each other, in the end they’re both about the same thing: love, what it means to be human, what it means to have hope. But while they use essentially the same characters and the same plot, they explore their themes from different perspectives and this is fascinating and lovely to me. It says something about stories, how alive they can be and how they can grow and change depending on who’s telling the story, whose reading/watching/listening to it, and when.

And we need different perspectives in the world, different renditions of the same story. It teaches us more about ourselves and it’s one thing that keeps us civilized.

So thank you, Isaac Marion, for writing the book and thank you, Jonathan Levine (and associates), for making the movie. I’m so glad I live in a world with both of them.

Why I (kind of) Love Zombie Movies

Warm BodiesWhen people say, “I love zombie movies,” used to be that I imagined they meant they enjoyed the blood spraying everywhere and guts and brains getting more screen time than most of the actual actors. Anyone who knows about my high school obsession with Edgar Allan Poe might think I would enjoy a little gore now and then, but that’s really not the case. I’d see parts of zombie movies when my husband watched them, but was more than satisfied with those brief glimpses.

Then I watched Shaun of the Dead, and I liked it. Of course, I suspect I’d like about anything that Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright wrote together (especially if it also features Nick Frost). Because of my husband’s love of zombies, I ended up seeing some of The Walking Dead and getting totally drawn into it (I know this is a TV series and not a movie, but really I’m talking about zombie stories generally, right?). Then just a few days ago I watched Warm Bodies and fell IN LOVE with it, and I thought to myself, “Wait. Do I love zombie movies?”

I guess I kind of do. Of course, my eyes close automatically most the time when the zombies are actually doing their thing so maybe that has something to with why I can enjoy it. (Because really? Ew, gross.) I like zombie movies–or at least some zombie movies–because of the human element.

It’s about humans at our rawest, about surviving the monstrosity of people who have lost their humanity and the struggle not to lose our own. It’s about the best and worst of being human and about trying to triumph over our basest instincts.

Really what I love about zombie movies is the characters. I’m fascinated by how they go about facing what seems like an unstoppable force and what changes in them when everyone around them has turned into literal monsters. (Of course, one of the things I loved about Warm Bodies–and, in some ways, The Walking Dead and Shaun of the Dead–is that it kind of turns the monster idea on its head.)

I do think sometimes zombie movies can seem like they’re reveling in the horrific as much as or more than they’re examining the human situation, but I also think that zombie movies might touch on aspects of our fears and strengths that other genres can’t quite reveal. As soon as you’ve got actual monsters or non-zombified humans as the “enemy,” you’ve stepped into something different.

Maybe it’s because zombies bridge the line in our psyches between the imagined and the possible. They are a metaphor for our deepest fears in a way that aliens or monsters can’t be because zombies look like us, they are us. And at the same time, they’re enough removed from reality that it allows us to face our fears bravely and examine them.

I suppose that is why I (kind of) like zombie movies. Of course, I’m not going to watch them all the time, but I am going to go watch Warm Bodies again. Probably this weekend even. And I’m guessing I’m still going to love it.