Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Measured Return

Summertime = outside time and therefore movies become a curtailed priority. Currently I have a 10 week baby, a 27 month toddler, a pug jug, some younger friends, a band, a wife, friends, the sun and fresh air, and all of the chores and events that come with it to stand in the way of any regimented movie watching. I bring this up not only because I haven’t written about film in a long time (by my standards over the past seven years) but because when I did watch movies I watched them with a bit of an agenda. That agenda was to canonize and show off my numerable yearly accomplishments, which paled in comparison to most cinephiles (paid and unpaid). But once summer comes around I find this parading of consumption fruitless and at times downright tedious as life itself begins to beckon me away from the glowing screen. This isn’t my version of going all David Thomson on you and denouncing cinema’s worth, on the contrary, but rather admitting that seasons change and my time ---- which is constantly being tugged in one direction or another ---- is guarded with more urgency as miserable weather (movie weather) clambers back around to us Northeasterners.

As movie season closed I watch a small assortment of movies from the current year (Blackhat, It Follows, Timbuktu), a large amount from 1985 (Shoah, Lost in America, Come and See, Vagabond, A Time to Live, a Time to Die, & Purple Rose of Cairo), 1990 (Trust, La Femme Nikita, A Tale of Springtime, To Sleep With Anger, Darkman, Life is Sweet, Close-up, Nightbreed, & Life is Sweet), 1955 (The Violent Men, The Tall Men, Mr. Arkadin, Moonfleet, House of Bamboo, The Phenix City Story, Pather Panchali, The Lady Killers, The Man With the Golden Arm), and 1944 (Experiment Perilous, The Scarlet Claw, I’ll Be Seeing You, It Happened Tomorrow, Ministry of Fear, Passage to Marseille, The Uninvited, & The Pearl of Death). And the list goes on as I deviated from those chosen years to see a large assortment of classics including some admittedly incredible movies (Baby Face, Rawhide, Springfield Rifle, Stars in my Crown, The Tin Star, Belly, Beau Travail, & The Wind Will Carry Us).

But I’m not going to talk about any of those movies because I don’t really have anything to say. I’ll admit that my approval rating seems to be on the high side lately and I’m never quite sure why and nor do I currently care. If you are sensing a languid aura it’s because I’m also feeling dry in my drive to write, or perhaps even unsure of myself since it’s been a while. I’ve always had this fanciful/fearful suspicion that people might actually read this and take me to task for any number of reasons (an error, a rhetorically/morally incorrect notion, etc.). Having been aware of the “rake em over the coals” climate spurred on by slacktivist social media I fear I’ve developed a pitiable and near crippling fear of engagement. It’s not that I’m all that worried that my views won’t align with likeminded lazy progressive bellyachers, but that somehow my ability to express this will rub someone the wrong way which will suddenly thrust me into a very public debate. I guess I’ve shrunk since my younger days of duking it out with likeminded punk kids over issues of respective morality. But mostly I’m not really interested in drama these days.

And this segues perfectly to Valentine Road, a documentary released by HBO that I caught yesterday. Admittedly the movie is probably not great but I’d argue that it’s hopefully something more important than that. If more people saw it they would see the sad story of two boys from somewhat similar trajectories that converged in a tragic brutal fashion. The short version is that Brandon McInerney came to school one day and shot his classmate Larry King to death on the plain grounds that Larry was publicly attracted to him. The movie explores the climate surrounding the situation and digs up some lingering relics that undeniably contributed to the killing and gave many of the town’s figures including teachers, jury members, and loved ones enough rope to hang themselves with except that many (too many) in the town of Oxnard California are apparently unremorsefully spiteful of kids like Larry for their unwillingness to repress their true identity. In the end it’s all about conformity, the utter lack of guts and the need to assimilate. This is probably the trait I ended up loving most about Larry, the fact that he was such a bold thorn in these turgid coward’s communal side.

Of course, the movie left me boiling with anger and feeling as though justice, both legal and cosmic, is a rare feat in our sad world. This has been a prevailing feeling lately as senseless violence is/will always be alive and well and that in many of the headline grabbing instances of this involve victim shaming. In the case of Larry the dismal defense team and their loathsome “expert” psychologist decided to go the reverse bullying route to make Brandon’s actions appear like the vulnerable act of a fraught boy as opposed to the misguided but pitiless actions of an angry boy-become-man-too-soon. On these pillars of hatred and moral transference the defense painted little Larry as lurking predator stalking Brandon at every turn. Of course this is the most common way to turn the public’s fear from the perpetrator to the victim, shifting sympathies and making concessions for acts previously punishable by banishment from society. And it’s on this happy note the movie essentially ends; with the town of Oxnard going about its perilous business, hoping that either recent history won’t repeat itself or that kids like Larry will simply retreat into the shadows or cease to exist.