Monday, July 04, 2005

me and you and everyone we know - aka Longest Entry Ever!

Speeeaaking of Sleater-Kinney, women beep beep boop Portland beep beep boop Kill Rock Stars beep Art boop dumdumdoo Video beep beep .... Happy Miranda July!!!!!

The "beep beep boops" are the joyous electro-chorus equivalent of what my middle school put on banners in block letters: "MAKE THE CONNECTION!" So instead of seeing the interception between say, algebra, and making snickerdoodles in home ec, I guide you from a band to a lady of many hats, which includes performance-artist-hat, and maker-of-video-for-sleater-kinney-hat, aaaaaaand maybe you've forgotten by now that I haven't updated in many many days. (Oh my poor five readers. I'm very sorry. I do apologize.)

ANYWAYS, last week I checked out the new IFC Center, née the Waverly Theater. We sat on foamish seats the purple color of the most comfortable, unthreatening Barney. I also felt like I was in a little spaceship. Cool!!! Next destination: Movie!

We saw Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We know. For the most part, I lapped up its quirky sensibilities and carefully sunny colors, deemed it quite enjoyable and warmly funny, and sort of floated out of the theatre in a very good mood.

The movie's eclectic bunch of characters move in and out of each other's lives and we get to watch as July sort of puts the puzzle pieces together of this oddball community so that the narrative threads run parallel, interweave, meander, and sputter through the different sorts of relationships and quirks of, well, the title – me and you and everyone we know.

For the most part, July builds her characters by showing us their oddities and innocence. Sometimes this can all run on the forced, precious side, but on the whole, her hand treats her characters and their unmoored states with a gentle lightness that all results in something surprisingly affecting.

The movie, with its inevitable tangential comparisons to Sideways and Garden State, got me thinking on its varied receptions because after recognizing that I rather liked the movie quite a lot, I immediately felt an ugly little seed of guilt and then realized, oh no! Not only am I susceptible to things deemed "indie" (whatever that means... WHAT DOES IT MEAN????), I'm susceptible to its judgmental, joyless backlash!
My ridiculous train of thought kinda went like: I liked this! But it's just cuz it's my sort of movie. Because I identified with the characters? But is that any reason to like a movie? But was it any good? And then ran through all sorts of pitfalls of criticism ending up in that usually useless, boundless question, what is good art?
Armed with Netflix, a film-obsessed friend, and a crop of non-Loews-types movie theaters in NYC, this year marks the first time I realized how GOOD movies can be. I've watched more movies this year than I've ever seen and keep on running up against this sort of cul-de-sac thinking. Yet, at this point of my movie-watching - because I actually haven't seen very many things that I didn't like - I'm still wary of my critical skills and still trying to gauge how and why I react. I'm not sure how much I'm buying into other people's and filmdom's judgments, although those things inevitably get mixed into the bag.
As for Me and You..., some people will love it. Some people will be very put off by it and invoke "twee" which to me is still a new vocabulary word. I fall behind the opinion of A.O. Scott's "I like it very much, and I hope you will, too."
Ah, Merriam-Webster tell me that twee is affectedly or excessively dainty, delicate, cute, or quaint. I guess I can see that. But whatever "preciousness" "cloying" or "quirkiness" does not have to be a fault, per se, but a style. Without this aspect, this story might have utterly caved in on itself and become something quite different and flat.

July found herself a really talented cast of kids, especially six-year-old Brandon Ratcliff (his entries in the movie movie blog are awesome), and the 'twee-ness' actually applies more to the adults here. I think this might be because any preciousness of adults is a supremely private thing. The little ceremonies or habits that you have for yourself translate quite differently when taken into the public realm. It's the same reason why you don't want to hear howverymuchinlove somebody might be or how happy they are or how weird they are. So maybe we don't see you pushing a pink circle sticker on your dashboard like a reassurance button as Christine does, but maybe we do see you fixing your hair, smoothing it back, when it isn't mussed up, when you are nervous or unsure.
As adults we become almost afraid of being sincere and as kids, you don't have that cautiousness or consciousness even. Kids usually have no qualms about expressing what they want or need. This quality in adults can cause others to either pity or deem one pathetic. Adults deal with tact and Political Correctness, and most especially Thinking of What Others Think of You, which when you think about it, seems so ridiculous and unwieldy, trying to mirror back what you yourself are projecting, inevitably skewed. The art in the movie is that these struggles of wanting are reflected with kindness, with hope, so that the kids aren't the only ones given the chance to grow up.
Different views.
And don't forget grrlpower. "[The level of sexism] is so insidious that you can't even point a finger," says July. "It's like this silent ill that you think isn't affecting you, but then you realize, oh wait—I'm dealing with this every day. Everyone who deals with me is not used to me being a woman. Because of the way the system's set up, and maybe because it's built around men, it's really hard to have relationships or do anything that isn't ego driven. If you want to do anything really differently, you have to change the whole system. I think there's a lot of different ways that it could look." Grr.


foxes said...

in reference to wordy games: i like to play text twist

jason said...

oh man i LOVE text twist.

deepal said...

that last line struck me... i know there are certain ways in which i repeatedly act that ultimately make me unhappy... for me growing up largely means weeding out these things... in the past, when i've grown past these ways of acting, sometimes it was because someone patiently dealt with me, rather than reacting more harshly, such that it brought me face to face with this aspect of myself... if they reacted harshly, i was likely to then channel my frustration towards them or in other directions rather than being forced to turn them on myself... i wonder if the stereotypical adult social environment makes it harder for this type of growth...