Friday, February 8, 2013

Before Sunset: part 2 of a 2 part story of perfection

At the beginning of the century I was hearing rumors that there was going to be a follow up to Before Sunrise. A movie I adore, and just wrote about in my blog. I found the idea intriguing considering how the last one ended. Unfortunately in the below review I have to spoil the ending of Before Sunrise so consider yourself warned. I swore to myself if they did make a film I would see it in the theaters. They did, and I did not. Dont know the reason why not. It was 2004, I was working at Diamond, we had no kids and were househunting. So when it came out on DVD I bought it same day. And let it sit til a valentines day maybe 2005 or 2006 when I watched both back to back. I was in my thirties now and I had been watching Before Sunrise on a somewhat steady basis, at least once year around Valentines Day. But I found myself more intrigued with Before Sunset. Maybe because it was newer and I was excited to see these characters doing something different. Then it to became part of my usual rotation again around Valentines Day, and I sometimes found myself watching Before Sunset instead of Before Sunrise now more often. In fact it's been a while since I saw Before Sunrise. I watched Before Sunset last month. Just felt like it. I was sick at home and wanted something fast and easy to watch. Something familliar and warm that I enjoyed to make me feel better. Unlike Before Sunrise, where it took me a little while to see why I liked it so much, I knew right away why I liked Before Sunset, because this film was talking to 30 year old me, because Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) were now in their 30s talking about stuff that concerned us.

For those who did not see Before Sunrise or read my review. 1994 20ish American Jesse (Ethan Hawke) meets 20ish French Celine (Julie Delpy) on a train on his last night in Europe. They start chatting and soon get into full blown deep conversations. The train stops in Vienna and Jesse is flying out of there back to America the next morning early. Celine is heading back to France. Jesse convinces Celine to get off of the train with him and continue their conversation while walking around Vienna.  As they walk they begin to fall in love. Then they start to despair because day is coming quickly and they don't know what to do.


They made an adult decision to just make this night their only night together. They will not exchange numbers, they will just keep the dream of the encounter alive. But when the reality strikes that they will never see each other again, Love jumps in and convinces them that is a dumb idea and that they will meet back up in Vienna in 6 months to see where the relationship will go, they will not exchange numbers nor try to contact each other before that 6 months. They agree and part, end of film.

Flash Forward, 9 years. Jesse is in France now as a famous writer, who has written a best seller about his whirlwind romance in Vienna. He is finishing up a world tour and will be heading back to America in about 3 hours. While at a book signing meet and greet Jesse notices Celine. After the meet and greet they awkwardly say hello. Celine convinces him to go to coffee just to catch up before he has to leave for America. He tells his handlers what is going on and they give him a cell phone and a number to call when ready. From this point on the film runs real time which is an incredible thing, making the film different and more interesting then the previous one. The old friends go to coffee house and catch up and sure enough they hit it off again and they start talking again about everything. Since Jesse does not want this to end he convinces Celine to walk around France for a bit. Celine is a little worried that he will miss his plane but agrees since she misses him too. So again they walk around a beautiful European city in the Summer in a limited timeframe just chatting away.

Through the conversation we learn that one of them (I wont say who to not spoil this) did not show up in Vienna 6 months later so they had not seen each other til that moment in the bookstore in 9 years. We learn Jesse is married with a son, and Celine is working with a political group to help the environment and is dating a combat photographer who is away on a mission. Through the conversation also we see how the characters have changed in the past 9 years and they have. Jesse who was so confident and psuedo intellegent is now a broken down man who loves his son more than anything, but is still obsessed with the one night he had with Celine (not in a creepy way). He feels that his night with Celine was the pinnacle of love, that he experienced the absolute perfection of love and now is quickly falling. he's not confident, he's not happy, he's beat down, but still has a little spark, a spark that starts to glow again being around Celine. Meanwhile Celine has become totally crazed about life, again not exuding confidence, saying that love is not real it's just an emotion and that she does not need anyone or anything to make her happy, she is smoking, depressed, angry, passive agressive and again it goes back to that night where she felt whole, and when she lost it, she lost her way. Both of these two who were so vibrant and bright eyed in their 20s have been bitch-slapped in the face by reality and it has shattered them. But the more time they spend together you begin to see a healing process. It's even not a longshot to say that they may be soulmates and when they were tore asunder, not for any reason except that they wanted to be adult about it, their souls shattered and now being back together they are beginning to notice that hey, we compliment each other very well.

Again Richard Linklater directs and co-writes with Kim Krizan, but this time both Hawke and Delpy are classified as writers as well, because much like Before Sunrise they improved most of their conversations. The film has the same glow as the original, but Before Sunrise shows us more of Vienna and the exploratory part of their relationship. This one Linklater believes much as I do that the true story of the film is Jesse and Celine finding each other and this isn't a dream like the original, it's real life and he decides to focus more on his actors than the scenary, though there are some nice shots. It's a deep movie, it's not as fun as the original, but that's ok it's a different film from the original and that is what you want.  Hawke and Delpy again are amazing with special props to Hawke who drops the swagger he showed in the previous film and in Reality Bites and shows us a broken, vulnerable man who wants to do the right thing for everybody but himself. It is somewhat reminiscent of the role he played in Dead Poets Society.  Delpy meanwhile is allowed to open up her acting, something she did very little of in the original, and shows us what a young idealist strong woman goes through when her life becomes utter shit. Celine's rage at Jesse near the end of the film is a true highlight showing how damaged she has become by holding on to that night much as Jesse has and how such a beautiful wonderous night has turned both their lives upside down.

The ending is again ambiguous, and leaves you wanting more. I won't spoil it here, but the ending is a natural progression to all the anger they both have, and you can see that they have finally realized that they are healing each other being in each others prescence. It's a good ending, but again much like the first one an aggrivating ending because you want to know what happens next.

Rumors started swirling last year that they were filming or have filmed the third movie. I have not heard anything, but the timing is about right. We have a title called Before Midnight and I am dying to see it. I have my ideas what it is about, but wont say anything because I don't want to spoil it. So hopefully we will see a new film from them very soon. And this time. I will see it in the movie theater. MARK MY WORDS.

Before Sunrise: part one of a two part story of perfection

I'm a romantic at heart. I love watching films that have happy endings for couples who appear perfect for each other. I relish that. It proves that maybe even in the real world true happiness in love is attainable. This belief hit me hard after college where I was dumped by one of the few girls I truly loved. It took 5 long years to get that feeling again, and during that time I devoured Romantic comedies and films in general. Especially during Valentines Day when I had no one. Then in 2000 I met Dawn who is my greatest love, but the memories of that time before Dawn creep in every once in awhile usually manifesting in thoughts of what would have happened to me if Dawn and I did not get together? So the feelings of these Romantic Comedies, as unrealistic as some of them are still has a good spot in my heart and always give me a smile. However there was one film during this 5 year span which surprised me on how much I love it. It is to me one of my all time favorite films, along with it's follow up. But it was completely different then a typical romantic comedy. It seemed more real and at the same time more dreamlike and surreal. Which the actors mention numerous times in the film. That film is Before Sunrise.

Released in 1994, I saw it on DVD in 1995 during my downward spiral, and maybe that had something to do with it because it's about two people in their 20s who meet in Vienna, fall in love, but then have to seperate after spending one night together. He's from America, she's from France. Jesse (played by Ethan Hawke) is an American who just got out of a long relationship and wanted to see Europe and find himself. So he spent a few weeks on the train through Europe. Vienna is his last stop before his flight home. On the train he meets Celine (played by Julie Delpy) who just spent time with her grandmother and is heading back to France. They happen to be on the same train home and happen to sit across from each other. Jesse sees her and is struck by her beauty. He then starts to talk to her. They decide to adjorn to the dining car which is a little more quiet and continue talking. They talk about everything, thoughts, feelings, dreams, ideas, memories, anything. They seem to have a good compatability. When the trains stops in Vienna, Jesse has to get off and Celine is going to stay on til she gets to France. Jesse convinces her to get off the train with him since his plane doesnt leave until early morning and he has no money to get a hotel so he was just going to wander around Vienna for the night and then leave in the morning. But he tells Celine it would be better if he could share it with someone, with the caveat if I turn out to be a sleezebag she can just jump on the next train. So they wander through Vienna talking, in June when it's warm, exploring the city, and just talking about everything under the sun. Through their conversations we start to get a picture of their characters.

Jesse first appears to be similar to the character Hawke played in Reality Bites, but slowly and surely we begin to see that he is not a jerk but is a guy who had his heart broken and he is trying to overcompensate for it. Celine is soon able to bring out the nicer guy within. Meanwhile Celine appears to be supremely confident, but we soon see an undercurrent of self-doubt and fear in the path her life may be taking her. These two fall in love while just talking in one night in a magical city knowing full well that sunrise is creeping closer where they will have to say good bye forever. It is a talky film and that is all that really happens in the film, but the conversations are so interesting that it keeps you interested and you start to feel what they are feeling. You are hoping that they can figure out a way to work it out and have a happy ending, but you still get that doubt that is just expounded by what happens at the end. Which I wont spoil.

Richard Linklater directed it and co wrote it with Kim Krizan. But a lot of the conversation is real thoughts and ideas that Hawke and Delpy have. A lot of Improv on that as well. Shot on location in Vienna you get a good sense of the city and the people as Linklater uses locals in all of his scenes. Some fantastic acting as well from the cast as the two leads do a grand job of playing two strangers who find each other interesting and you can see them slowly falling in love, from passing glances, to attempts to try to hold hands or just brush hair out of her eyes. Just simple gestures that overall you may not notice but are perfectly in step with what two people falling in love do.

It is a glorious movie, sweet, romantic, dramatic, and incredibly interesting. Adults will find it more interesting then kids, there is some language, and adult situations in the film so not for kids, grownups will love it, but it may affect people in their 20s more since these characters are in their 20s discussing things that kids in their 20s discuss about the future and growing up, and reality.  Highly Recommended. Especially around Valentines Day. It's sequel Before Sunset is just as good. I will be reviewing that next.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Singles: a perfect snapshot of a particular time

Valentine's day is fast approaching, and what always gets me prepped for Val day is watching romantic comedy movies. I know I'm a man what are you doing, but there are actually some really good movies out there that just happen to be about romance. I feel for the next few days I will write reviews of some of the films I always try to catch around this time of the year.

First we have SINGLES released in 1992 and written and directed by Cameron Crowe he of Say Anything and Jerry Maguire fame. Before he was a successful writer director, Crowe was a writer for Rolling Stone Magazine. So he was able to write about all kinds of bands and write about one of his loves music. Crowe loves his music so much that everyone of his films has specific songs in it that he picked for being the perfect song for the scene, and he is usually spot on.

Singles is a series of stories following friends who all live in the same apartment building and who are all in the mid 20s, fresh out of college trying to find themselves in Seattle. It just so happens the film came out just as Grunge music was becoming huge with Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Screaming Trees, etc. all hitting it big. Pure luck for Crowe that the film hit when the popularity of Grunge was growing that this film made some good money. Especially the soundtrack which has songs from pretty much all the Grunge bigwigs except Nirvana.

The first story follows Linda Powell (Kyra Sedgewick) who does not live in the apartment complex but on her own in a small house. She starts dating Steve Dunne (Campbell Scott) who lives in the apartment complex. Their romance goes up and down through typical romantic comedy set ups, but in the end it is the only truly adult relationship that gets covered in the film.

The Second story focuses on Janet Livermore (Bridget Fonda) whose boyfriend is Grunge band wannabe Cliff Poncier (Matt Dillon who is brillant). He has three jobs, fronts a band called Citizen Dick that is trying to break in and get some of the Grunge glory, but the only problem is his band sucks. In a hilarious in-joke members of Pearl Jam including Eddie Veddar are his bandmates. Janet is totally in love with Cliff but he is more interested in his band and living the rock lifestyle so he treats her casually saying stuff like you know I see other people, and pays attention to the tv instead of her. But Janet doesnt want to feel unloved, so she doesnt break up with him, but she doesnt hang out with him as she tries to figure out what to do with her life.

The third story focuses on Debbie Hunt (Sheila Kelley) who is a loud brassy woman who works for the local new station who tries to find love anyway she can, including doing dating videos. In another hilarious cameo Tim Burton plays Brian the director of her dating video which is one of the most bizarre things you will ever see. And freaking hilarious!

All the characters interact throughtout their stories since they are friends and neighbors as we get an absolute brillant snapshot into what life was like for mid 20 year olds right out of school finding themselves alone and trying to grow up but still hold on to childhood. It is a perfect shot of what was going on in 1992 Seattle, and looking back on it 20 years later still seems timeless while keeping you ensconced in the 90s Seattle. It's hard to explain but it is something that you just need to see.

Singles is funny, heartbreaking, and real. And an absolute delight to watch around Valentines Day. The couples are real, the desperation for love is real, nothing seems to outlandish.  I liked most Grunge music so I still blast the soundtrack which is fantastic. The film is filled with cameos from such actors as Jeremy Piven, Victor Garber, Peter Horton, Eric Stoltz as the most annoying loudmouthed mime, Bill Pullman who gives us a perspective of a late 20 early 30 year old as compared to these kids, Tom Skeritt, Ally Walker, Various members of the local popular Grunge bands like Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, Cameron Crowe himself pops up in a cameo as what else a music reporter. And you will be surprised to see Paul Giamatti playing the kissing man. Great music, great atmosphere, great direction, great acting. One of my favorite movies of all time and I am dying to watch it again soon.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Addiction Can Be a Killer

I never thought I would ever write about this secret part of my life, but I think enough time has passed that I can let it out. It's not a bad story, it is a true story, and there are much  MUCH worse cases of things happening to people. I am not expecting any lectures, or pity, or concern because all toll it only lasted about 2 and a half months, but in some cases that is a lifetime. In the end I know why I did it, that it is all on me and not on the person who caused me to do it. I am not writing this to blame anyone but myself because in alot of cases that is how addiction works. Someone may get you hooked on something, or you may be doing it to get over something bad that happened to you, but in the end it is your responsibility to take care of yourself and not let yourself get caught up in it. Again easier said then done. I am not here to lecture anyone. I am here to share a story because I feel the need to write, and nothing really interesting is going on that requires me to write a blog. Yeah the Ravens won the Superbowl, but my last two blogs were about the Ravens and I really do not have that much more to say on the subject. Yeah I am VERY HAPPY they won. Ecstatic that they won. But enough has been written. I have touched the Lombardi trophy, the last time they won it I was able to touch it. I have also worn a Baltimore Colts Super Bowl ring that Tom Matte let me put on. That's about all I have to say about that.

18 years ago I was addicted to sleeping pills. Well technically over the counter/on the shelf sleep aids that say non-habit forming. (Boy were they wrong). It was 1995, January. I was a Senior in College at school for our January mini-mester, then my final semester ever and graduation were staying at me in my face. I was dating a wonderful woman, who I will not name but those who were around me at the time know who it is.  And again I am not damning this wonderful woman who I feel nothing but happiness that she was in my life, and occassionally on Social Media she pops up and we chat. I don't hate her, I don't despise her, and I never ever blamed her for this. It was my own fault. She was my first real serious girlfriend and I had never ever broken up with someone nor been broken up to. She broke up with me near the end of the January mini-mester saying she changed her mind about me. For the longest time this was the thing that nagged at me, I thought we had something great and in the end it wansn't quite good enough for her. And the more I have reflected on it, the older I have gotten, the more experiences I have had, I got it. I realized what it was that screwed us up. And it WAS ME. I had never had any real experience on how to treat a girlfriend. I was good to her, got her stuff, was her sounding board, her companion, her friend. But I just did not enough for her. I really don't want to dredge up what it was that I didn't do, but the fact is I KNOW, and that is all that matters. It has helped me in the present because I am looking at my 10th wedding anniversary this year with a woman I love more than anything and two amazing children who I love just as much. We have been together for almost 13 years so I obviously have learned from my mistakes. But to get back on track so she broke up with me. I have never had that happen before, I was still madly in love with her, and now she could not stand being with me anymore. My heart sank, my brain fried and I tried to make sense of what was happening.

I was denying it, I was thinking I could do more for her now, so I bought her presents almost everyday and mailed them to her campus box along with letters declaring undying love and that I can change. And I was slowly becoming that horrible guy who instead of making her fall back in love with him, could very well be creeping her out more with all these gifts and letters. But I didn't care how I was coming off. I wanted her back. So with all that in my head I was finding it hard to sleep. So one day while grocery shopping I stumbled upon the sleep aid section. I was having trouble sleeping why not try these to give me a hand. We lived in the same dorm, our campus was very small, and I discovered that I unknowingly signed up for a class that I needed to graduate that had her and her friends in it. I was active in the theater company we had, as was she and our school was putting on a series of small plays directed by different people. I was cast in one of them, she was stage manager of another one, so again I was seeing her alot. So the constant barrage of seeing her caused me to keep buying more sleeping pills since they were working. So I kept buying them. And they were not cheap. Sometimes I would go to the grocery store just to buy them and nothing else.

I was not really paying attention in my classes and I was skipping the one she was in often. Call it apathy, because I had that to. This was my final semester, unless I really screwed up badly (which I still could at this time but that was not my mindset) I was graduating no matter what. I was passing my other classed though not in stellar fashion, but I was still passing. I was very quiet now, my friends had been living off campus all year and I was barely visiting them. I had my own room so I was not going out, I was staying in reading comics, watching movies, writing my newspaper column, doing school work and still trying to figure out ways to get her back. The pills were letting me sleep but I was becoming a hermit, on a college campus filled with other single beautiful women, or I could be hanging out with friends and having fun, acting goofy. No I was a hermit.

I'm still not sure what caused me to get out of the haze of the sleeping pills. Maybe I was running out of money since I did not get paid much by the cafeteria, and my mom and dad sent me money sometimes as well. So soon I was staring at the fact that I may not be able to buy the sleep aids anymore, that I needed to keep my money to buy things I really needed like food, or wanted like renting movies, or buying comics. Maybe I got a talking to by my teacher of the class I was skipping, or maybe a friend showed concern. I honestly do not remember. It may also be that the time came where I was facing no money and no pills and I was going to have to find a way to sleep on my own. So that was the night, whatever caused it, that made me say, you know what. You only have about a month and a half left before you are in the real world. This girl has given no response whatsoever to your odes of loving. She was avoiding you for good reason because you were verging on the edge of stalkerdom. She was two years younger then me and you were never going to see her in person again when you graduated and returned home to start your life. And maybe you have a problem and if you don't stop it now it could get worse and you could get into heavier things. So I stopped. I stopped cold turkey. That night was horrible, almost as bad as what I consider what withdrawal might feel like, but again not making light of people who are addicted to worse things, but that is what I imagine withdrawal feels like. Cold sweats, nervousness, shaking, trying to figure out what you can take that has the same qualities as the sleep aids. Pacing, bouncing around the room, turned on the tv to try to relax, reading a book that is boring like a school book to put you to sleep. Somehow I think I got some sleep. The next day things looked a little better. I got back into my schoolwork, slowly but I did. I started to move on from my someone I was now referring to as my Ex-Girlfriend. I was focusing on the roles I was playing in the play, and the cute girl who I had been hanging out with during rehersal and who was also in the show. I started feeling better. I started to be able to sleep on my own. I started reconnecting with friends in my Senior Class who I really had not hung out with in awhile, I was also reconnecting with my friends who lived off campus.

Soon it was Spring, I had weeks left in my college career. I had finally accepted the fact that I was now single, and took advantage of it with a nice couple of nights with the cute actress. Nothing serious, just fun. I finished my requirements for graduating, took my exams and then had a fun filled week of nothing but Senior activities. Trips to bars, restaurants, we did the annual 10th street crawl, I was hanging out with people in my class who were in the same boat I was. I was talking to former roomates and friends who had drifted out of my life. Fun stuff. The day before graduation my buddies and I went to see Die Hard with A Vengence in the movie theater. Then I graduated and I started my life.

Since that time I have not touched sleep aids, nor will I ever again. Nyquil is not so much a sleep aid for me since I literally cannot sleep after taking it. Maybe that was one of the side effects of the sleep aid addiction. Things that are supposed to help you sleep and fight disease do nothing for me. Though that is one sleep aid I can take. Well since it doesnt make me sleep!  Maybe things are opposite for me since Coffee makes me tired. For a few years I did take Ginseng supplements regularly, but that was actually to keep me awake because one of my jobs started at 330am. But I never got addicted to them. When I left that job I stopped taking them. No harm no foul, as non habit forming items are supposed to be.

Addiction is a serious business. It causes you to feel like you have lost control of your life. And it can screw up your life. I got lucky. It was a minor addiction to an item that really could not hurt you. It's not like the millions of people who are addicted to drugs, or alcohol. I do not claim that I know what that is like. Cause I don't. That addiction is serious business. But my main point is that all addictions can become serious. Even ones as small as sleep aid addiction. Addiction is you depending on something you really do not know, you have all the strength you need inside. You just need to be strong enough to find it. I was not strong enough, but I feel I have become strong enough now. It's a serious business, and it can kill you. You are strong, you just have to prove to yourself that you are strong enough. Easier said then done, but if Life were easy. You would never find that strength.