drinking at the moment

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the magic of the single shot

I know, I know. Didn’t I just say I didn’t like talking about music? Well, here, the music is incidental. I’m talking about the single-take: both music videos (where it appears to be an increasingly common tactic) as well as epicly long sequences in movies. They’re awesome.

But I like them not just because of how hard they must be to pull off successfully–I like them because of the amount of people you know have to be on board to make it work. Running around behind the camera, giving directions, hurrying props and people from point A to point B in time for the camera to get there…it’s easy for me to grow tired of people going on about the technicalities of filmmaking, but I will never grow tired of long, hard, fabulous single-takes. So here’s a small sampling*:

*Guess who’s not a pretentious nerd? That would be me. I am pretentious about a lot of things but film isn’t one of them. So don’t expect the Criterion Collection here.

OK Go’s “This Too Shall Pass” video. 

After their initial treadmill video I suppose the bar was set pretty high for the band’s next single-shot endeavor, and this is pretty great. I don’t know that I would give two figs for the song without having been introduced to it this way; as it is, every time I hear it in a supermarket I think of that massive team of people doing takes over and over again to get this right, and I feel warm inside. And they don’t try to hide it, either–you know from the first frame that they’ve done this many, many times in the effort to reach this perfect take. And they get there. And as you can see from the end, it’s euphoric.

Focus Features Staff Pick from Atonement from Focus Features on Vimeo.

Atonement’s 5-minute Dunkirk beach scene.

Because they’re not always fun. Sometimes they’re just beautiful. (Lots of technical details here, if you are into that kind of thing, which I am not. Just amaze me. That’s all I ask.)

WALK THE MOON “Anna Sun” OFFICIAL Music Video from Contrast Productions on Vimeo.

Walk the Moon’s “Anna Sun” video

This one brings up an important point: as with OK Go’s videos, and Feist’s I Feel It All, sometimes in these endless shots they lock eyes with the camera. I love that. And I’m not sure I can explain why. I’m not impressed when it occurs in short shots; in fact I find it annoying–Kevin Spacey’s recurring direct-address asides in House of Cards pissed the hell out of me. “Will you shut up and get back to your world already,” I thought. I knew he wasn’t talking to me-me, so I wanted him to stop faking it. So why do I like it when people do it in a long involved shot? Maybe because, like I mentioned about the Feist video yesterday, they’re locking eyes with the eye of the camera and (though  I don’t know if the cameraman has to hold it to his eye anymore; maybe he can just look at a screen, off-center from the actual eye of the camera?) the cameraman. And that is the person who is really involved in this scene, really toting his heavy-ass piece of equipment along the beach and through the dancers and between flying objects. That initial locking-of-eyes with the cameraman (or at least what I read as the cameraman) is terribly intimate to me. A kind of “here we go, buddy!” look. And I love that. I don’t mind being a third party to that exchange–it’s more honest if we’re not trying to pretend I’m actually there. Maybe. Or maybe it’s equally dishonest but is just inviting me in as a voyeur to a relationship I value more than the scripted ones between characters. Who knows.

Isaac’s Live Lip-Dub Proposal

Not much else to say here but “love.”

drawing board

I wanted to write about a couple things. How Runner’s World, though this will surprise no one, is very much a man’s magazine for all that its own articles and advertisements acknowledge that women are the bigger group of runners out there. How in that article [that’s a link, by the way, watch for the bold] I loved so much, the guy gained validation, in part, from being able to freely ogle women’s asses at races without people looking at him askance, and the tone of the article said that was totally okay. (Really? That’s where you get your stamp of approval? I know it’s complicated with you because you may not have been exposed to anyone who would’ve educated you as to why that is shallow and apish and degrading, but hey Steve Friedman, you should fucking know better than to go along with it without even a qualifying phrase.) And even in the admittedly less awe-inspiring blurb on running with one’s mate, the answer to every damn problem was to Give The Man Space To Be A Man, Give The Man Silence To Be A Man, or basically to STFU because the real deal here is the dude and he should be allowed to run the road as he sees fit, and to hell with the needs or wants of anyone else.

And I wanted to compare Cheryl Strayed’s Wild to Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild, and to figure out why I condoned one brazen trip into emptiness and condemned the other–more than just the trip, really, but the motivating factors behind them. Grief is okay but an affected disdain for the trappings of the life his parents worked hard to give him is not? (See, I cannot even attempt to describe it objectively, so ferociously do I resent McCandless, seeing the misery he wrought on people who loved him, and for what? To make vain assertions about a society he was too snot-nosed to even know how to reject in a way that wasn’t a knife in the back of everyone who ever cared for him? Ultimately resulting in his own agonized death?)

And I wanted to remain cautious about Born To Run, again because of the gender issue and how he treats it (or doesn’t), while still addressing some of the less gendered things he says about why people run. Early on he mentions that in times of crisis, the people running in this country skyrocket–Vietnam, post-9/11, post-financial collapse. And I thought of how I ran in Japan every day and how the whole effort was so soaked in anger, a whirling mix of furious stare-downs and stony refusals to acknowledge the sniffs or gasps or, once, spit I prompted from the people I passed. And in between spikes of fury, the delirious promises to myself: if I could just make that tree before the train, or the station before the scooter, or my door before the mailman, I could go home, I could go home, I could go home.

But all of that sounded awfully grim, so I thought I’d share this instead. I realized after posting about Nick Drake yesterday that I don’t like talking about music much, or sharing it, because it’s a really open and easy way to get people to be total shits to you, and to cause them to wax poetic on how everything you / kids this days / anyone but the person his/herself likes is drivel. But half the reason I keep this blog anonymous is so I can say stuff like that and not have to give two hoots in a rain barrel about people’s response. So here, then, is not just a song but a music video, I medium I almost aged out of before they became irrelevant. But I like this one. You can go all anti-Hathawayesque on her and complain about dancing and wiggling and playfulness, but I don’t think she’s doing it to titillate people. I think she’s having a damn good time. And it’s cold* and she’s surrounded by explosions and she can still leap and dance and laugh and it’s just so everything my topics under consideration were not. And in case you haven’t noticed, I’ve had plenty of time in my life to be grim, and I’m rather tired of it. So then have Feist:

*Actually, given the lack of breath fog and that she whips the gloves off at the end it’s probably rather warm and the gloves and long sleeves were required for insurance purposes, but still. While we’re talking about the actual filming of it I forgot to add that I love how intimate it is, how no one’s trying to erase the fact that there is a cameraman running all over the place, following her amidst what has to feel and sound like Verdun.

ads that will shape you if never define you

Officially, I am a millennial. I came of age in the 2000s. But I feel, emotionally if not chronologically, slightly too old for that bracket, and if that sounds half as self-serving to others as it does to me, I have some explaining to do. Luckily, there was an ad that played in the late 90s that presents a perfect dividing line for what I think is an important difference between new and late millennials:

If you were under 21 in 1999, you knew this commercial. Those of you over 21 saw it, sure, but it couldn’t have held the promise it did for those of us who watched who couldn’t yet live it but who were young enough to believe we could–that we were so close. If you mention “that Pink Moon commercial” or “that VW commercial” or even just “that commercial with the car driving through the night and the song” to someone my age (and no younger), we are going to know exactly what you mean. When I saw it referenced in an article lambasting the much-later AT&T ad–which ad was ridiculed, with good reason, for shamelessly pirating Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s gates while slapping a Nick Drake tune on top to try and score indie brownie points–I knew instantly what they meant though I’d long forgotten what a Cabrio even looked like.

Watching this commercial in 1999, we tweens and early teenagers understood several things:

1.) there were aspects of this life we did not yet have: friends / nature / a car of some kind

2.) there was no real reason why we couldn’t, at some surely-soon date, obtain all of these things, because with the exception of the car which in most cases would be borrowed anyway, there was no economic or moral or cultural boundary between us and these things

3.) if we could find people we loved and who loved us enough and a night still enough and a moon full enough, we would be happy.

Happy enough to turn down the parties we’d been brought up to gravitate toward like flies toward bug lights, in favor of the cool dark and the silent closeness of like-minded others. Happy enough choose milkweed over weed, trees over kegs, rivers over red plastic cups.

Not that we articulated all this, you understand. But it was there. I know it was there because suddenly, over 20 years after his death, Nick Drake’s Pink Moon skyrocketed to number 5 on the charts in 1999. Never mind the style of the car itself–that night, those people, that song, was what we wanted. If it came in a Volkswagon package serenaded to us by a man two decades dead and old enough, had he not killed himself, to be our father, so be it. We wanted it. I wanted it. And I continued wanting it, up to and especially after the last brick-and-mortar, not-entirely-legal college music-sharing scene introduced me, abruptly, to the entirety of Nick Drake’s repertoire. This conveniently coincided with the release of Garden State, whose soundtrack with its one Nick Drake offering trailed from every room in my dorm. As it should have. We were the perfect age.

And the other millennials weren’t. They weren’t there yet. We fell in love before Facebook–oh all right, we started fucking before Facebook. We didn’t learn how to stalk people online until our younger siblings taught us how–and that “to stalk someone online” was a thing. Those few years matter a lot. Even if we all have smartphones now, the people who grew up thinking that one day, if things went right, they’d soar along a country road in the dark with people who felt what they felt so strongly that they didn’t even need to speak–that the voice of a dead man from northern England could speak for them, and say it all in doing so–they aren’t the people who the media wants to believe they are. (Hint: no one is.) But even if you lump us all together now, once, our dreams were different.

And I think part of us will always remember that. Such that even as responsible, health-insurance-procuring, savings-account owning adults, we will still on occasion be moved to grab at something tiny and transient that reminds us of something we used to think could be ours. And that would have been enough. Or so we tell ourselves.

zombies and the afterglow

I hate zombies. In video games, stories, tv shows, movies, you name it. I have no interest in them. Either fast or slow-moving. I’m pretty sick of this decades-long pop culture obsession with the apocalypse, in general, but with zombies especially I have had enough. I discussed it half-jokingly with my mother once–in the event of a (can there just be “a” zombie apocalypse? I suppose it must be “the”) zombie apocalypse, we’re driving off the nearest cliff, Thelma and Louise-style. I gain no joy from imagining how I and this or that person with meaning to me might go about attempting to survive such an incursion. I look at it almost like slash fanfic writers look at Mary Sues. Scornful almost to the point of taking offense.

But when an office email went around requesting recommendations for summer reading, I put down Carolyn See’s Golden Days without a moment’s pause. I tried to pitch it to people who are into this zombie/apocalyptic business, because it’s better than whatever they’ve been watching or reading. There are no zombies. Per se. But there are…similarities. And amongst all the things that melt and rot and fall off, our narrator’s ability to be brutal and brilliant and insightful does not. The end of that book–for a gruesome, if not terribly insightful comparison–felt like losing my first baby tooth. Ripping it out, actually, because that is what I did, sitting on the sidelines of a pin dodge game in first grade gym class. I hated the taste of the blood and the pain but I knew if I managed to lose it at school I’d be given a bright little treasure chest to put it in, and that people would fawn over me and tell me I was growing up and that they remembered when I was just thissss big etc. etc. I’d seen it happen to others. And I wanted that. So I marched up to my gym teacher with a huge gap in the front of my mouth and a fistful of gore and announced that I should probably go to the nurse’s office. Which I proceeded to do, in triumph and in glory.
The second half of Golden Days is not pretty. There are parts where it is best to have an empty stomach. But it is triumphant. Those whose attraction to the rotting and the decay of people and society stems from a resentful desire to watch things burn, look elsewhere. This is not for those who want to cackle over the smoldering remains of the life we know. This is for those who came for the afterglow, and who always will.