Lessons From…About Time

Truth be told, I am kind of a sucker for romantic comedies and dramas, especially the odd, quirky ones with an odd premise. Cannot really figure out why, but movies like 500 Days of Summer and Love Actually just make me kind of happy. Thus, when I saw the trailer for About Time, I knew I had to see it as soon as humanly possible.

I mean, c’mon, it’s a romantic drama with time travel! Did someone decide to make a movie just for me? If so, thank you random film creator because you excelled. If not, whatever, I’ll still take it and analyze it for deeper meaning to my heart’s content. As always, possible SPOILERS ahead and read at your own peril.

So, the basic premise of the film is that at the age of 21, Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) learns he is able to travel through his own timeline from his father (Bill Nighy). Apparently, the men of Tim’s family are able to do this for some unexplained reason. Of course, he is unsure how to use this miraculous ability until his younger sister brings home Charlotte (Margot Robbie), one of her friends, to spend the summer. Tim immediately becomes infatuated with this girl and uses his gift to attempt to woo the young lass.

I mean, can you blame him?

I mean, can you blame him?

While his power allows him to not be an ass in front of her, it ultimately proves useless in actually winning the girl over. This is the first lesson of the film: Regardless of your abilities, strengths, and overall awesomeness, you cannot make someone care for you. It should be noted this applies to anyone and everyone inconsequential of race, gender, age, creed, etc. and so forth. It is a difficult lesson to learn and considering the virtually infinite number of programs, books, and “teachers” that claim to be able to just that one that we must remind ourselves of every once in awhile. Sometimes, in fact a lot of times, a no is just going to be a no and there is nothing to be done but move on.

As the film continues, Tim moves on to London and continues to use his ability infrequently. He brings it out for minor nuisances and inconveniences but nothing of real weight or value until he meets Mary (Rachel McAdams). Mary is his “one” whom he fell in love with on a spontaneous date in the dark when he unwillingly accompanied his asshole-ish friend one night. I know it’s the kind of premise that can really only exist in a movie which is why I appreciate it corny set up and all. Unfortunately, at the end of the night Tim uses his power to help out his failing playwright landlord which undoes the events of meeting and seducing Mary. This is the first instance where Tim realizes that his ability has some drawbacks. Now, the rest of the film could have easily been Tim trying to correct this mistake instead he easily fixes it in one night, and the film moves on to more important matters.

Hopefully, you did not forget about Charlotte because Tim did not, and by pure chance he sees her at a concert he attends with a law buddy. Not quite over his old crush, Tim unsuccessfully tries to hit on her. Even with his ability, Tim still manages to put his foot in his mouth in these social situations, so he gives up the pursuit. Amazingly, Charlotte sees him and initiates conversation and greeting which leads to dinner and drinks alone. This brings up the second lesson: Sometimes, just sometimes, the best thing to do is nothing at all. I know, I know, in modern society the thought of inaction is heresy. However, there are circumstances when the best act is to not act at all. Hell, virtually every legitimate form of martial art has some form of this philosophy and, frankly, if a system of maneuvers and philosophies intended to protect yourself through physical force says that every once in awhile yo should not move maybe the idea is not as odd as we think it is.

Tim’s unexpected luck and second chance leads to the door of Charlotte’s hotel room. Here he is faced with a choice; enter Charlotte’s room and fulfill his adolescent fantasy or leave and go back to Mary. Here’s the thing though; Tim could go with Charlotte, have mind blowing sex, and simply travel back to before it happened. By all the physical laws of the universe the sex never happened, but Tim would have the memory of it. There would literally be no evidence or consequences save for those in Tim’s mind. He chooses to leave Charlotte and go see Mary, whom he now realizes he is in love with.

Yeah, real big loss there, Tim.

Yeah, real big loss there, Tim.

Which bring us to the next lesson: You discover who you really are when the only witness, judge, and jury of your actions is yourself. As stated before, Tim could have had sex with Charlotte and made it so that the event would only be in his memory. Charlotte would have no idea of their encounter and thus neither would Mary because as far as that universe is concerned it did not happen. Yet in that moment, Tim made a choice based only on what he felt and knew to be true and right; his love of and for Mary. That was his sole driving force and what he would have to justify his actions to. Who are we when we only have ourselves to answer to? What decisions and actions would we take if there were no consequences? Tim found his answer and acted on what he saw.

Most romantic films would end either here or at the wedding, but About Time is not the typical romantic drama/comedy. At its core, the film is more than the relationship or romance of two people. It even goes beyond simply having a cool power because it forces Tim to learn and understand the limits of such a gift. Tim realizes this when he learns that his power cannot save his sister. Kit Kat (Lydia Wilson in a phenomenal performance) leads an incomplete life unable to find any consistency save for her emotionally abusive and inattentive boyfriend. She becomes a dysfunctional alcoholic and is involved in an automobile crash on the day of her niece’s birthday. Upon hearing this, Tim immediately uses his power to save her from the accident and then goes back further to make sure she never meets the asshole boyfriend and hopefully lead a better life. Amazingly, this action seems to work but has unfortunate consequences for Tim and his immediate family. Tim makes the choice to go back to the original events and try to help her sister through normal means.

Granted this may seem a bit selfish on Tim’s part, but I would argue that his initial actions were more selfish because he essentially undid years of his sister’s life without allowing her to really heal the parts that were broken by her relationship. This is the fourth lesson: You cannot really save someone from themselves. Only they can. We all have friends that make the same mistakes over and over again, and no matter what we tell them they just continue to do so. We have probably done the same. For whatever reason, it took a specific moment or word or instance until things just, hopefully, finally clicked. It was not until precisely then that they were ready to listen and change.

After Kit Kat’s ordeal, the film leads into the final conflict, the death of Tim’s father. It is an odd occurrence in this film because even though his father is dead, Tim can go back in time and visit with his dad from time to time. That is until Mary decides that she wants to have another child. Apparently, the time travel is only recommended to go back no further than the birth of a child because to go further could completely alter that child’s outcome. Of course, Tim does not want to risk that again, so he knows that by having another child he will forever cut himself off from his father. Tim agrees with Mary knowing that is ultimately what his father would want which leads to one of the most emotional scenes of the film. Seriously, even I got a little teary, and I am pretty much a sarcastic, heartless bastard.

This scene is somehow right in between two very emotional ones.

This scene is somehow right in between two very emotional ones.

This leads to the final lesson I took from the film: At some point, we must be steadfast in looking forward and not turning back. We should never forget the past nor the relationships and emotions attached to it, but we cannot live in it. Because if we constantly live in the past, we are at best stagnant which is essentially the same as being dead. Tim says his final goodbye to his father and chooses to move forward with his family and life keeping the gifts, advice, and love his father blessed him with. Who could ask for more?

Thus endeth today’s lessons. Now, go kiss your loved ones and hug your parents and children.

Advertisements

On Choice of Words (Not Quite Diction)

As an aspiring writer, bibliophile, and idiot who decided on pursuing an English degree, I have always believed in the power of words. Whether to inspire the masses or simple convey a single, meaningful idea, words matter. Hell, you have never heard someone say “he/she convinced me with that completely accurate math problem.” No, it was flowery language and incredible metaphor that men have willingly given their lives for.

In case I haven't been obvious enough yet.

In case I haven’t been obvious enough yet.

However, I have always been bothered by the limit wordsmiths have in wielding their craft. I mean, like all artists/creators, what responsibility do authors and “wordy” (yup, aspiring writer) people have to their communities and/or their art?

This train of thought was partially inspired from a conversation with an artist. He makes interesting pieces revolving around criticism of popular culture and major sociopolitical issues in South Texas. For him, his art was his involvement and all he felt necessary or compelled to do. Of course, he also acknowledged that if others believed they should take a more active role in social and political movements, it was up to them to set their own boundaries. Yeah, the artist gave a very political answer.

The second thing that inspired this stream of consciousness was remembering the movie The Invention of Lying.

I won’t go into any spoilers or detail, but it is an interesting film, and I highly recommend watching it. The premise is that humanity is incapable of lying except for one man (Ricky Gervais) who discovers the ability to do so. Now, for the most part he is self-serving and uses this new found power for his own personal gain, but there is one key moment when he essentially creates religion. This is not intended to create a debate or even a discussion on religion, its validity, or any other facet of belief. However, in the film it is basically a lie intended to comfort a dying mother and everyone else who has questions about the afterlife and what it means to be a good person and other major philosophical questions that we people just do not understand.

Really that is the crux of my internal query. What is the purpose of being able to wield and manipulate words? Are they meant to simply entertain, provide comfort, inspire toward some movement or progress? What happens when the words are in conflict with the reality or truth of a situation? For example, let’s say a story in a newspaper shed light on a horrible, atrocious situation, but the subject matter was not necessarily 100% factual. Is the truth more important than the good that was done? If a lie provides comfort, is it really such a bad thing? If the truth causes harm, is it actually good? Or perhaps the question should be how much good and change was actually made if a single truth can utterly derail it?

I apologize for the series of odd, semi-existential questions. Hell, maybe I should stop doing these “On [Something]” posts since they seem to result in more questions than answers. Also, I swear I am not writing under the influence of anything other than my synapses incapable of being quiet for too long. I am hoping that throwing these out into the ether of the Internet will yield some answers. Or at the very least other will discuss and maybe some day come up with something, but who knows.

For now, all I can do is cast out the net and see what happens. Maybe one of you has some insight into this.

Lessons From…Hermione Granger (Ok, Emma Watson But Still…)

Normally, I analyze a movie, book, television show, or another piece of media, but today the media really speaks for itself. Today, Hermione, I mean Emma Watson, spoke in front of United Nations delegates on the topic of equality and a new campaign that she is part of: HeforShe.org.

Like I said, the media, in this case the televised speech, speaks for itself. Frankly, it is a worthwhile message delivered by probably one of the better celebrity options. At times, I doubt the power and influence of celebrity, but this is one of the rare cases where I see the worth of such a privilege.

After all, this is the girl who played Hermione Granger, one of the best developed female characters in recent literary history. Better skilled than her friends, more proactive than her boyfriend, and eventually one of the best damn wizard and professor in Hogwarts’s legacy. In real life, Watson also made major headlines when after acquiring world wide fame, the acclaim of her peers, and enough money to last her well into old age and beyond, she decided to attend Brown University and obtain a collegiate degree solely because she believed it to be an admirable endeavor.

Basically, the takeaway message is that Hermione Granger was a badass; Emma Watson is somehow probably even badasser. Also, she does this kind of shit amid assholes threatening her online and in real life, so +∞ to Gryffindor. As well, fuck you shitty people!

My only real criticism of this speech is its method of appeal. While I agree that to truly make significant changes to equality across the globe and board cooperation between men, women, and everything in between is necessary, I found the plea that was made asking men to assist off putting. Men should not help women because it will ultimately benefit them. They should provide aid because it is the right fucking thing to do.

Seriously, if your instinct tells you to consider what is in it for you when you see someone in need of help, you need to grow the fuck up and become a decent human being.

So, today’s lesson: Be willing to initially listen without judgment. Don’t be a dick. Help others whenever you can. 

Finally:

Emma ain't having none of your shit.

Emma ain’t having none of your shit.

On Self Starting

I was listening to an episode of the Nerdist Podcast with Kevin Smith today. Among the various tidbits and humor, Kevin talked about how his newest movie, Tusk, and how it basically began as a random idea from a conversation with friends. He knew that he had an interesting idea and that no one was going to fund this passion project because it was such a crazy idea and he did not have the best track record at the box office recently.

Who wouldn't give this guy money for stuff?

Who wouldn’t give this guy money for stuff?

Of course, instead of this deterring Smith, he found other ways to fund this movie and did his damn best to get it made. Essentially, this has been the trajectory of Kevin Smith’s career. He made his own start before there were avenues like YouTube and really the Internet for distribution. The technology back then was also nowhere near the available toys and tools of now. So, Smith, basically had to make legitimately good movies for extremely cheap to have any chance at a career.

All this lead to Clerks. So he done good.

Throughout the podcast, and nearly every interview he has done in the last few years, Smith iterates that if you want to do or be something, then you should just go and do it. With all the resources we have access to for distribution, marketing, and creation, there is no excuse for why if you want to make a movie, write a book, draw a comic, or just create anything, you can’t.

Now, the eternal argument against this advice from creators is “of course you can say that, you’re ______.” However, the truth is that Kevin Smith wasn’t born “Kevin Smith”, Neil Gaiman wasn’t born “Neil Gaiman”, nor was Patton Oswalt born “Patton Oswalt.” Every creative individual began as just some schlub wanting to make something in the vain hope that maybe someone would enjoy it and hopefully make enough off of it to eat at some point.

It is actually kind of comforting knowing that all the people whom I follow and find entertaining were just like me toiling away at their craft, trying to improve, and just having fun in the process. There is no guarantee of success the longer you do something. The only thing guarantee that Smith gives is that if you are having fun doing something you love then the journey, wherever it may lead, will have been worth it.

You can only start and keep going.

You can only start and keep going.

I suppose that is all any of us can hope for, and I will try my best to enjoy all the moments on this weird, creative trip I am taking.

Lessons From…The To Do List

Over the weekend I watched the independent film The To Do List. Not really sure what I was expecting, but it starred Aubrey Plaza and had some solid support casting (Donald Glover, Alia Shawkat, Clark Gregg, Connie Britton, just to name a few). I was pleasantly surprised. This is not to say that it was the greatest comedy or coming-of-age story, but more so that the film was entertaining and enjoyable for what it was. As with most media, I found a few pearls of wisdom that I wish to analyze from this film. Also, as with the other posts SPOILERS ahead.

So, the general gist of the film is simply that Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza), exceptional student with an anal retentive streak, finds herself lacking in sexual knowledge unlike her sister (Rachel Bilson), mother (Connie Britton), and “slutty” friends (Alia Shawkat and Sarah Steele). She decides to correct this deficit in the manner she approaches everything else by making a list of sexual activities/actions (hence the name of the movie) that she must research, study, and perform until she is prepared to finally lose her virginity; all before attending her freshman year of college. Of course, hi jinks ensue and mistakes are made along the way, but I’ll let you see the film for the full story.

The humor from the film is obviously derived from the straight laced, serious Brandy trying to be one of the “slutty” girls like her friends and experience sex (Plaza’s deadpan delivery also helps the situational comedic moments). However, this performance is counter to Brandy’s natural state. While she does come to enjoy the sexual acts and her sexuality by the movie’s end, her real pleasure comes from the research, discovery, and correct execution of the list. Eventually, her departure from her true nature and desire, at everyone’s insistence, to loosen up and be less stiff costs her her job and friends, for some time. Which brings us to the first lesson: you cannot be anything other than yourself because you will otherwise fail. While Brandy’s losses are temporary, they do occur. It is only once she realizes what is actually important to her that she manages to correct her initial errors, save her relationships, and eventually find her own ‘real’ sexuality.

Eh...yes and no.

Eh…yes and no.

The gif (pronounced jif!) brings us to lesson two: sex is both important and no big deal. For all the weird and gross out humor, this was one of the core messages of the film. Sex can be an extremely significant action in a person’s life or it can just be something they do on a Friday night. Neither one is a wron was to look at sex and both serve ways serve a purpose. It took me a long time to learn this lesson myself and frankly it is one I have to remind myself of everyday. However, I wonder how different my view of relationships and sexuality would be had I thought of sex like this from the inception. Because it is true what the film, specifically Brandy, says, “It’s not having sex that’s a big deal”, what really matters is the emotions, attachments, relationships, and meaning we attach to the act of sex. So whether sex is a deep, meaningful act or just something you do to pass the boredom is completely up to you.

(Feel like I should put this as a quick note: Not saying that sex is meaningless and that you can just do whatever the hell you want with no consideration for others. Simply stating that sex means what you want it to mean and that if you want to fuck the cute boy or girl in the corner because you’re horny and they’re cute you should as long as they want to as well. So basically just be honest about what you want out of the experience with yourself and them because that is only fair and the right thing to do)

Finally, after having this epiphany, Brandy rushes over to her friends to reconcile her earlier mistakes. She realizes that what she really cares about and what truly matters at the moment are her relationships with her friends and family. Which is the final lesson: you will grow up, change, and most likely move on/evolve from your current state; however, cherish the relationships you make and have at each phase of your life because they have more influence on who you are and will become than virtually anything else. Brandy learned this near the conclusion of the film and even though her friends might not have followed the same path as her post high-school, she understood the significance their friendship played in her eventual growth and knowledge.

Thus endeth today’s lesson and I recommend watching the film if you get a chance.

P.S. I decided to include one last tidbit from the movie

When Tami Taylor gives you lube...

When Tami Taylor gives you lube…

So, I guess use lube?

A Time Before…

There was a time before the words

Took up house inside of me

Before when food and drink

Satisfied my hunger and thirst

 

Ever since the words crept in

Only more and more words

Can quench my desire

 

I devour entire worlds

Through the black blood

Of their gods and creators

 

Each one gives something,

Enlightens my mind,

Strengthens my spirit

 

Makes me better

 

I will never claim them all

 

At best I can make my own tome

And hope that some soul

Will drink and eat of it

On Priorities

I am writing this blog post because I made a choice a while back to write more, in general but also specifically on this blog. Afterwards, I will write up a lesson plan for my classes in order to be better prepared for tomorrow because it is my job. I mean, technically it is what I get paid to do. Once that is finished, I will attempt to get my lazy ass to work out, shower, and have a meal since apparently you are supposed to eat more than once in a day. If time and energy permits, I will, hopefully, be able to finally play Destiny for a bit. 

I would much rather skip all the steps before it and go play Destiny for as long as my body and mind can hold out. While this is most likely what I would have done just a year or two ago, it is no longer a plausible situation. I now have a full time job that requires certain responsibilities. I also realized that I have to try to maintain some semblance of a working body and mind which require things like upkeep and sleep.

Beyond this there are also goals and endgames that I want to accomplish and just like everyone else I only have 24 hours in the day. Since I am limited in time and resources, I have to pick and choose what I can and cannot do. Of course, this means that some of my preferred hobbies and pastimes take a back seat to more important or necessary functions. I suppose this is what happens as we grow and mature. We realize what matters to us and attempt to put our energy into those things because we want to excel in them.

Tom Haverford from Parks and Rec, said it best, “Sometimes you gotta work a little, so you can ball a lot.” And really isn’t that what we all are trying to accomplish?