really nice positive thing about the entertainment business every single
day of the year, including weekends. Sometimes it may be something
simple, like a video that showcases something fun and sometimes it may be a movie poster
that embraces the aesthetic we all want Hollywood to aspire to.
Sometimes it may be a long-winded diatribe. Sometimes it’ll be from the
staff and extended family of CHUD.com. Maybe even you readers can get in
on it. So, take this to the bank. Every day, you will get a little bit
of positivity from one column a day here. Take it with you. Maybe it’ll
help you through a bad day or give folks some fun things to hunt down in
their busy celluloid digesting day.
What I’m Thankful For
We’re at an interesting divide in our culture. I’m 34, and for people of my generation, we’re among the last to grow up without the internet. Ultimately there are good things and bad things about both ways of growing up, it’s just different. And ultimately, any one who tells you that a previous generation was better is just indulging in some form of nostalgia.
Growing up, I was a movie geek. I remember the episode of Siskel and Ebert where they talked about widescreen versus pan and scan (talk about outdated), and it convinced me that I should get the money together to get a laserdisc player. After hanging out with a friend who had one, and being suitiably blown away by Empire Strikes Back in widescreen and Dolby 2.0 surround, I was able to wrangle the money together. But none of my other friends had a laserdisc player, and my obsession with watching films was mine alone among my classmates. I thought being into laserdiscs was a key, and through most of high school it turned out that it was just a way to irritate clerks at the various video stores that had what I wanted.
I had friends, and they thought it was cool, I guess, but none had the passion for it as I did – this was before Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino. I was poring through what was available – and what my budget would allow – and discovering all sorts of films to watch and books to read and Pauline Kael, partly through research, but also partly through blind chance. For instance, Trilogy Video in Portland, Oregon had a laserdisc of The Thing. I didn’t really know much about it, but it was in the Sci-Fi section, I hadn’t seen it, and it was deemed to be released in widescreen (which was enough for me). I even remember that they were printing something that was taking forever (likely a late call list), and the owner of the store – familiar with me as a teenage cinephile – decided that I should get it for free for waiting. I remember that because The Thing is a masterpiece, and that viewing made an impression. But though I had friends, and good ones at that, there were very few people I could share this with. As I grew older and met more people, and as DVD made watching movies in widescreen, and hearing commentaries more of a common occurence, I found others who shared my interests. Now, I can count among my friends some of the Internet’s bigger movie nerds, and I write about movies and get paid for it. I get to see movies before they come out, and I’ve been able to carve a life for my self out of the thing I love the most. Things unimaginable in high school.
The internet has shown that there were a number of people like me – to varying degrees – going through similar things, and the internet opens up the world to have these discussions where like minded can get together. The widespread nature of the internet means that I can be friends with people who live in London I’ve never met. The only boundaries are language barriers. The downside to this is that if you’re the only person in your town or neighborhood who’s into something you can feel special about it. In high school I embraced the Talking Heads, or Jean-Luc Godard or whatever and felt like I owned it, because there was no one I could talk to about it. While the internet exists to tell you you didn’t get there first by a long shot. There’s always going to be a guy who has done more and seen more and has a better story than you. But also those people do that for two reasons. One is socialization, which is that enthusiasm is good for getting started, but it’s not really an end game. This can also open up a deeper level of frustration for those in the know – ultimately if you’re truly obsessed with something there aren’t going to be that many people who care about it as much as you, and those who come across as mildly interested, or whatever add to your alienation. But the other side of that is that some people are self satisfied with their unofficial positions in communities, and being a know-it-all or whatever is part of their self identity. Anything that might pop that bubble is an insult, because they want to feel that they own something more.
But ultimately, the anonymity that the internet can provide mixes easily with people’s command or lack thereof of language, and has turned the internet into a giant high school, with cliques and similar social standings. Having seen both sides of the coin, I can see how the spirited but slightly clueless are frustrating, just as being enthusiastic and being told that you’re not special for – say – wanting to watch a three hour french movie called Children of the Paradise is wrongheaded. Even if you’re streets ahead of someone who’s just discovering French cinema of the 1940’s (or for that matter, the American New wave of the 1970’s), that doesn’t justify being a dick. If you care enough to go back to older films, if you care enough to learn, then that’s a great thing. Undeniable.
I can’t say my teenager years were all that rough – in the scheme of things – like most adolescents I felt alone and isolated, but I also chose my passion (or maybe it chose me), and could at least feel comfortable in my alienation – I could see the purpose in it. But what I’m thankful for today is Dan Savage’s “it gets better” project. After a youth committed suicide, the idea was to get older homosexuals to talk about what it was like as a youth, their feelings of discomfort and alienation, but also their place now in the world, and their current happiness – something that in the myopia of teenagedom is hard to see through the trees.
This project is something that could only happen now. With the internet and computers as they are today, you can record a video from your laptop or phone, and present it to the world. Many of the stories presented are heart-wrenching, as feeling alone and unaccepted led many close to the edge. But – as the project states – it gets better. And there’s something so powerful about knowing you’re not alone, that there are people like you, that maybe it will all pass, that defeats all sarcasm. I can only imagine how bad it was and is for some, but we live in a better world than the one I grew up in if this project exists. Here is the latest from a group of Pixar employees: