…and the quest to see everything

Archive for February, 2012

Parent Relationships: Hugo


Any other seventeen year old can see that the paternal figures in Hugo represent a cultural fatherhood as it does with a biological one. That our eponymous hero Hugo’s (Asa Butterfield) status as an orphan living in a train station is a break from that said culture and identity. And his self-appointed mission to fix the automaton that his father (Jude Law) has brought home from the museum where the latter works is symbolic of him repatriating himself. The he in convinced that the automaton has a message for him that stems from the belief that the objects our forbears leave us says a lot about them and ourselves.

John Logan, screenwriter and Martin Scorsese, director adapted this movie from Brian Selznick’s children’s book “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.” And as a necessary evil, Hugo’s life is full of coincidences, his notebook of the drawings of the automatons catches the eye and anger of a man named Papa Georges (Shutter Island alum Ben Kingsley), who owns the top shop from which Hugo steals. That Hugo can’t even utter why he has the notebook points to how stunted he is. Papa Georges takes the notebook, a part of Hugo’s journey then being to recover it, going to the former’s through a cemetery, a setting so visualized out that it inescapably became overt symbolism.

Anyway, Papa Georges is actually acclaimed silent filmmaker George Melies, almost lost in movie history until Hugo and Rene Tabard (Michael Stuhlbarg) rediscover him in the early 1930’s (I imagine a more boring story, Tabard or some twenty-something assistant finding Melies through records or whatnot, but we like this story better for reasons of our own). Pointing out Papa Georges is a case example shows how loss doesn’t only occur through accidents but through adult self-will. He almost shuns movies because he believes that his contributions are no longer wanted, because he’ll never have a comeback because those things aren’t supposed to happen.

Speaking of which, the movie, being from a children’s lit source material, only shows the development and evolution of a child through its connections with the father. But whatever is missing through the Hugo-father-Georges story lines is shown through other story lines and connections within the characters. There’s the limitation or lack of Hugo’s adolescent phase, the loss he experiences or his survivalist induced kleptomania don’t count as that. His adolescent phase is shown through the world falling out of Georges’ movies the same way a person outgrows movies or cultural pieces they used to love as children. ‘Films have the power to capture dreams,’ as Hugo quotes his father describing a movie the latter has seen as a child.

But that fantastical quality is also George’s biggest disadvantage, as most of the children who have seen and loved his films have experienced the war and other misfortunes and have wanted other movies if none at all. The lightest genres they can tolerate are social commentaries disguised as comedies, as evinced by Harold Lloyds and Charlie Chaplins. And time moves on, as sound in movies demand that even those slapstick silent movies have to become relics. Thankfully, not everyone grows into adolescence or adulthood, that Hugo and Rene, instead of sporting battle scars and limps, use their first childhood encounters with beauty and magic to continue into great artistry. Their much derided interests can show the other grown-ups that dreams can come true in a big screen. They even have to remind Georges that.

The second thing missing directly from Hugo as a character but is well and alive through traces around him is the female presence. The only thing we know from his mother is his father’s words of her English provenance. There are slightly stronger examples. Hugo’s love interest Isabelle (Chloë Moretz, her grating accent scaring me of what Les Miserables might be like this year) instinctively chooses to dig up her godfather Georges’ past with Hugo – both calling it an adventure –  her precociousness disregards that she can possibly hurt Georges’ feelings and instead views this as her right to know about his past or about anything. She probably chooses this as punishment for her godfather banning her to watch movies.

She lacks the protective instincts that her godmother Mama Jeanne has, but she still has a stake on the resurfacing of Georges’ work, her role as his actress and muse being a great contribution to his work. Rene’s compliments confirm her share within early cinema. There’s also the woman selling flowers in the train station (Shutter Island co-alum Emily Mortimer) revealing to the Station Inspector Gustave (Sacha Baron Cohen) that her brother died in the same war that has gotten him injured. I resent giving masculine-dominated movies brownie points for writing one line for each female character or something (which is an exaggeration I admit but come on, why give Emily Mortimer such a small role?). But these women and men surprise each other with their shared history, and these revelations support and cement the connections that these characters have.

There are a few silver linings to being an orphan (or yes, fan girls and boys, to Jude Law dying. The movie visualizes his death forgettably, as paper-thin fires consume a museum, one of equally paper-thin looking sets. Anyway….). First is the connections that these grownups forge under his voyeuristic eye, that these workers and shopkeepers and regulars organically create a familial rapport. That these are older versions of his lonely self, and that they can cure their anomie.

Second is that Hugo’s orphan-hood allows him to dig twice as hard and in many different directions to discover himself. Let’s think about his direct provenance – he’s a son and nephew of repairmen and he would have stayed that way had these elder men lived. I don’t want to romanticize him living in a train station by himself. The other train station orphan shows what hygienic state Hugo could have been in. But the station also represents multifaceted urban stimuli and he could also have followed the examples of those around him. A cafe owner, a flower sales rep, a station inspector (Gustave also being an orphan), a librarian, an Indian Chief, you know how the Imperial nursery rhyme goes. For a person who belongs nowhere, like an apprentice in Confucius’ world, the choices are endless. And as much as there are people like Gustave who wants to lock him up or the characters who think he’s invisible but there are others like Georges and Rene who give him a chance.

Lastly, I don’t want to sound like I’m belittling repairmen. If anything Georges just saw himself as a box cranker and a vaudeville act – a man with a bigger sense of entitlement would have probably died instead of reducing himself as a toy shop keeper. But as Hugo’s father saw potential in an automaton that the museum didn’t want to display, these stray young characters’ constant search has great results. As much as this movie is about the characters’ returning home, it’s also about appreciating the utilitarian craft, a 20th century fight and attitude towards unappreciated art forms. The other characters have thought as a rickety few hours of escapism, Hugo and Rene’s mission was to convince everyone that they have experienced movies as magic.


Pink Ribbon$ Inc.


Lea Pool, of Lost and Delirious fame, is great in documentary form while attacking the ‘breast cancer culture,’ a militant movement turned into a unicorn march, in Pink Ribbon$, Inc. This is a movie about semantics, one with which I have an issue. One of the movie’s featured talking heads criticize the word ‘survivor,’ used towards and by women who have faced tribulations. That word is preferable because it implies a ‘post’ phase of convalescence, a move up from ‘victim,’ the latter word evoking constancy and forced submission to their suffering. One of the talking heads’ arguments is that ‘survivor’ makes the ‘victims’ feel that the latter weren’t strong enough to defeat the disease. So what’s the correct word then.

These words are chess pieces within a war about the voices of those afflicted with the cancer. Some have understandable problems with breast cancer allowing us to say ‘breast’ in public, both sexualizing and infantilizing a disease. There are scenes where a woman is holding up a poster saying ‘WALK IF YOU LOVE BOOBS,’ negating that the cancer should be more urgent. The culture has thus acquired a dictatorial attitude of public optimism, neglecting how diseases suck, making these feelings of pessimism shoved into the private sphere. Hiding/not being able to vent bad feelings and pretending to be constantly perky are signs of neuroses, insanity if we count that one group tries to silence the other.

Silence on one side can occur when the other’s message is overpowering. There are four stages of breast cancer, as a Texas-based stage four breast cancer support group informs us, the group having to find themselves because they’re pariahs in other supports group who see them as ‘angels of death.’ The disease can permute from stage two to convalescence to stage four, or someone can just be diagnosed to four and wait to die. We have forgotten so much about the nature of cancer and the happy ones’ clamouring misinforming us about the methods of finding a cure and treatment. Doctors remove cancer cells in a medieval way, like ‘slash, burn and poison.’ Misinformation is also bound to make many of us forget out tenth-grade science that cancers are mutations of the cell and opposed to viruses that destroy them, complicating the way scientists should be looking for cures.

Common knowledge suggests that Radioactive materials advance cell mutations causing cancer, those chemicals unsurprisingly found on the products of the multinational companies that advertise the perkiness and sponsor the Runs and Walks and Jumps for a Cure. The lack of cognitive dissonance is especially alarming when a mother and daughter are one of many who take part and have to be massaged after a long few days of the marathon. So basically these people, mostly women, are asked to buy products – pennies of proceeds will go to breast cancer research! – that would hurt them and take part in actions that would hurt themselves so they can fundraise money with the slight possibility of curing themselves. They’re asked to inflict self-harm twice! ‘Corporations are evil’ is hardly a novel message, but it’s still startling, knowing the effects and the rising numbers of women diagnosed with the disease. Images via TIFF.


African Diaspora: Kinyarawnda


Sure, the acting is rudimentary here – if you want to watch amateur actors reenacting their national trauma, any hipster can point you to The Battle of Algiers. One of the six interweaving vignettes of Aldrick Brown’s Kinyarwanda (the title deriving from Rwanda’s national language) also portray the Mufti (or the Muslim leaders within the community) conversing about the conquering Belgians diving their country by tribes because of their physical appearance, which sounds like a clunky history lesson. But the others depict different emotions and tactics within characters living in a border city during and after the Rwandan genocide.

It’s not just a simple, melodramatic arc of submission and redemption with which first world audiences are accustomed, although there are some versions and permutations of that here too. We see the soldiers like Lieutenant Rose create new friendships on the field while discussing the ones who ‘understand’ at home. Rose continues the work, in a camp full of humiliated men who participated in the genocide. These stories show characters who become heroes through their natural altruism, remembering that the ones who could be victims are, sometimes, lovers or simply neighbors. Years after the goal is forgiveness, which is asked for and given with sincerity.


Parenthood: A Separation


I saw Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation after I wrote my Parenthood in 2011 Cinema post and I didn’t want to just write a sentence or two and ruin that post’s flow. And I’ll probably decide to discuss the movie outside its gender/familial dynamics. So voilà.

A Separation gives attention to how members of its society views and examines motherhood and womanhood, among the many complex topics upon which the movie beautifully touches. Nader (Peyman Maadi) deals with his father’s (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi) incapacity by hiring working class Razieh (Sareh Bayat) as a daytime housekeeper and caretaker for his father while he leaves for work. After a dispute between them – some money is missing in Nader’s drawers and he of course accuses her of theft – he pushes her, possibly leading to her miscarriage.

If Nader is found guilty of causing the miscarriage, it’s murder under Iranian law. Nader’s pre-trial takes place in some bureaucrat judge’s office, where he has to bring witnesses like his daughter Termeh and her tutor to prove that he didn’t know – I also can’t help but point how as much as it’s perfunctory for both families to bring their children in to exonerate themselves, it’s still simultaneously hella classy and tragic, the daughters seeing handcuffs and Termeh seeing her father wearing a pair and being one of them criminals.

He has to prove that he couldn’t hear a conversation revealing Razieh’s pregnancy, etc. Both Razieh and her husband Hodjat (Shahab Hosseini) question Nader’s and the testimonies supporting him. How could he not have known? It’s obvious just by looking at her. I can’t look up Nader’s verbatim but he says something like how he couldn’t tell that she was pregnant because of the chador. I didn’t want to read it in a way that a first world perspective would, I coming from a third world background who sees the chador as a choice. Nevertheless, I still can’t help but hear this line as a critique of Islam, that article of clothing oppressively weighing her down.

I couldn’t see this movie any other way, as the chador is inescapably bound to Razieh’s character. It accentuates the waddle that she has as she goes up the stairs to Nader’s apartment, or her ghostlike running as she looks for Nader’s father or her hurried face and hands as she tells Hodjat not to take Nader’s money. Bayat’s award-winning performance fleshes out a woman whose duties as a mother and wife of a man drowned in debt is showing through her physicality, with or without that article of clothing. But that doesn’t mean that her words don’t matter neither, her Streepian revelation of ‘I have doubts’ contributing to the moral duplicity that the movie shows with sympathy and without judgment.

The movie can be seen as one with two halves. We spent the first half with Razieh while the second is where Nader’s wife Simin (Leila Hatami) dominates. A Western rendition of this story would have had to soften Simin up or villain-ize her. I don’t begrudge her for leaving home to move back in to her mother’s or being unable to take care of her father-in-law because she’s always at work although I know one or two wackos who would find a problem with that.

It is uncomfortable watching her push Termeh around, the latter reluctant to leave her father and Iran. Or that both husband and wife lock each other into a staring contest, waiting for the other to blink so he or she can blink back. She packs her bags into her car, waiting for Nader to agree with everything she wants. They’ve gotten to the point when compromise, an iomportant part in maintaining a family, is impossible, even if both can’t be seen as in the wrong. Both are proud, which I read as a masculine trait while neither character is ‘feminized.’ In the portrayal of their relationship, they’re even – their qualities and decisions aren’t divisible by stereotypes, Nader and Simin are the more ‘progressive’ yet flawed couple, unlike Razieh and Hojjat who are still bound by religion and patriarchy.

Let’s not forget that their separation occurs because she wants a better life for her family, their pre-trial being that electric Arthur Miller-like scene that sets the movie’s humanizing tone. She doesn’t have to prove anything as the story lets us know what her intentions are in the first place. And let me just say that my hesitation to view these characters’ tribulations as a critique of Iran’s theocracy and justice system. Every country sucks, every bureaucrat seen with disdain, especially ones who can sentence others although they don’t know the ‘whole story.’ Whether we’ve been struck by quandary like this, the movie still calls on our fears that we can be maligned. Either if it’s on a criminal standpoint, when people can get jailed for things they didn’t know were wrong – and you can’t get acquitted for ‘not knowing what you did was wrong,’ on a legal standpoint – or just under others’ piercing eyes of.

If the mothers in this movie symbolize a the state of benig broken, Razieh transgressing by taking care of two fractured families while Simin being the point of one fracture, the fathers then posit themselves as the fortress of the family. Nader tries to teach Farsi words to Termeh, despite her protestations that her school system prefers Arabic words. But if that means that he’s the ‘conservative’ stronghold of the family, then I don’t know whether telling his daughter that it’s ok to, spoiler, lie in court is deviance or traditional self-preservation. Every scene with Nader and Termeh has this slight sense of danger that a jerk is raising someone who will be a jerk.

Hojjat, however, tries to keep his family afloat through his creditors, sometimes forsaking his wife’s religiosity for their much-needed money. He’s a a man, after years of unemployment and trauma, whose version of protecting his family is harming others. It’s this sort of personal dysfunction that provides us with the most nuanced characters whom we haven’t seen for a long time until now.


Oscar Animated Shorts


I lied, the Oscar-nominated animated shorts come first. As I was watching them I kept thinking about how the next short was better than the last. Which kind of felt like a cheat because the latest one was probably fresher in my memory. This probably will show my biases about aesthetics but the audience during my screening saw, in the order that they were presented, go from capturing the mundane to portraying the fantastical, from the most rudimentary forms of animation to the most breathtakingly detailed. Oh, and before I talk about each short, I would just like to say that this is the first time I’ve seen these selections.

Patrick Doyon’s Dimanche portrays a titular regular Sunday in rural Quebec. It evokes the cloudy whimsy of childhood with its sensory interpretations of trains and elephants and the protagonist looking up while the adults, presumably his aunts and uncles, have indiscernible conversations. ‘Rudimentary’ is probably a belittling comment to describe this, as it does play with two-dimensionality. There’s also something remarkable with the economy of drawing birds and humans with simple lines and shapes. There’s also a texture that smoothed out, computerized animation hasn’t completely captured, making me miss the paper and pencil animated movie.

Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby’s Wild Life makes my biases resurface because I graduated high school to get away from stories like this ad nauseam. Most versions I’ve heard about Prairie settlement on the Canadian West which are full of Eastern European characters and that’s represented with a vocal cameo by the hilarious Luba Goy. But our protagonist here is a young British man who fancies himself as a cowboy. But just because it’s tenth-grade history doesn’t mean that it has parallels now, that a lot of co-dependent overgrown children still today. Some sequences feel like two frames interchanged to simulate movement but the sound brings that conceit to life. And I’m a sucker for watercolour so this gets a pass.

Contrasting those old school historical Canadian annies are two shiny ones from south of the border. The fourth one being William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg’s The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, the most widely-seen short when it hit online by itself. It’s a bit lengthy and sleepy – what kind of ADD do I have? – but the latter half of the short makes the titular books look tactile. It also hits on the ‘important subject matter’ criteria that may or not be important for the voters in the Academy, but it does touch on the topic of temporal loss and how books can comfort us from those anxieties.

Lessmore reminds me of Up – book balloons! – and so does this last annie, Enrico Casarosa’s La Luna. It’s a 20th century version of a myth, as a three-generational Italian family who look like fishermen are actually out on the sea to work on the moon so they can clean it up. They take us on a journey that includes stars, both shining and exploding, on the moon. And spoilers, they make the moon wax and wane. This short is also the closest thing we’ll have to Melancholia getting an Academy Award nomination, with the moon and all, so it gets my vote. And this short is produced by Pixar and those guys know how to push their stuff so I’m not worried.

Oh and there’s the second one, Grant Orchard’s submission, the most forgettable of the bunch, which is a shame because it mixes both old school black and white and colour computer animation. It also has a gross-out, apocalyptic spin in the end as it envisions a zombie chasing a chicken down the street, a contrast from the earlier scenes when it’s just a man seeing a chicken. It also has the sleek, urban, virtual Fernand Leger that reminds me of that short that won in 2008-2009 I think, I can’t remember the title. Although A Morning Stroll doesn’t evoke that technological aesthetic though.

Yay! These shorts were very popular during Family Day when I watched them so they’ll still be playing from today until March 1st at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Images vis TIFF.


Motifs in Cinema: 2011 – Parent Relationships


Perhaps because it’s one of the youngest artistic forms, cinema is often assessed in much different manner that literature, or the visual arts. We discuss it in terms of genre, not in terms of thematic offering. Comparing, for example, Corpse Bride and Up because they’re both animated leads to some dubious discussion especially when – like any art form – thematic elements examined in cinema and the way different filmmaker address them make for some stimulating discussion. Motifs in Cinema is a discourse, across eleven film blogs, assessing the way in which various thematic elements have been used in the 2011 cinematic landscape. How does a common theme vary in use from a comedy to a drama? Are filmmakers working from a similar canvas when they assess the issue of the artist or the family dynamic? Like everything else, a film begins with an idea – Motifs in Cinema assesses how the use of a single idea changes when utilised by varying artists. – Andrew Kendall

Let’s begin this with the power of mothers, sometimes relying on their mystery of their and their children’s origins. Part of the journey that sons and daughters take in movies is to unearth this said origin. It could be of a sexual nature, where her past can be considered as a threat in comedies like Submarine‘s Oliver Tate hears news that his mother Jill’s ex boyfriend is moving next door, or No Strings Attached‘s Emma discovering that her mother is dating a biker.

She can also be like The Tree of Life‘s Mrs. O’Brien, the movie’s connection to world’s prehistory. In a way, it makes sense for her to be the character that we the audience first see in the movie’s two beginnings, manifesting and letting the audience experience the desire and poetic consciousness of her and any human being’s place in the world.

Her actions can be a catalyst that unite strangers, like Cindy from Win Win being temporarily separated with her son Kyle. Movies also inspire within its characters an impulse to write this history and its sociopolitical ramifications. The Help begins with Eugenia ‘Skeeter’ Phelan interviewing Aibileen and the latter’s maternal connections to slavery. She lives in a constructed world where men are passive and women have their own ways of controlling each other. She also discovers her own mother’s role in the stratification and divisions between the housewives and the maids, directly involved in the separation between her and her nanny who she might have loved more than her own family.

Both Win Win and The Help have children with ‘two mothers,’ the latter experiencing double-sided paranoia. One is the suspicion that a stranger can be better than one’s biological mother. The other is the inevitability when the child grows away from her. In Win Win, both fall on Cindy, while Kyle’s adopted mother Jackie Flaherty’s only complex is imagining Cindy to be a crack mother. The Help divides this double inferiority, the housewives having the former, and the titular help – as Aibilieen notices that the children she’s taking care of are growing to be as racist as their real mothers – having the latter. Both movies end with one maternal figure letting go, letting the audience decide if a victory is won with one woman’s concession.

I also pondered on other maternal models like Take Shelter‘s Samatha LaForche. Chastain, playing Samantha, makes me feel ambivalent for conceding her dissent against her husband Curtis and his compulsive need to have a storm shelter that’s killing their expenses which include an operation for their deaf child. Again, the mother holds the family’s origins, the same way Curtis might have inherited his mental state and delusions from his mother. She is where the story really begins. I also remember one of the characters telling Samantha to her face that both Curtis and their daughter are her burdens and as insulting as it is, it’s true. The same thing happens in a comedy like  50/50 where Katie, a young psychiatrist, dealing with an equally young, closed-up cancer patient named Adam. While complaining to her about his shrill mother, Diane, who won’t stop calling him, she eventually tells him something like Diane having a husband she can’t talk to and a son, Adam, who won’t. In both movies, both the child, in early or adult stages, becomes a liability and it’s unfair that it’s up to the mother to keep the family together and be the back-up plan.

Or ‘origin’ can also be seen and interpreted as a symbol of precarious tradition, like Audrey in Pariah. She is mother to Alike. We can argue that enforcing womanhood on her children is her way of transferring the sexuality which she’s robbed, as her suspicions of her husband Arthur having an affair makes more sense by the day. Her Christian, conservative world falls apart when Alike comes out of the closet. Their last encounter ends when Audrey, teary-eyed tells Alike that ‘I’m praying for you,’ this movie’s way of negotiating a mother’s ‘badness’ by following, for the lack of a better word, hate with love.

One parent’s essential place in a familial unit means that the other is kept slightly away. Two movies that show this are written by Steve Zaillan, showing paternal distance in present day families. His first movie Moneyball has Casey Beane getting firsthand news about her father Billy through her mother or the media and it’s up to Billy to either confirm, deny or comfort her. The second movie, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, also has the same theme with The Help when a de facto left-wing parental figure sees retroactive conservatism in their child figures. Mikael Blomkvist, a liberal journalist, has a teenage daughter Pernilla, who is going to Bible camp, although their relationship is more adult and amicable.

But in ‘traditional’ environments, the father is closer to the children, causing resentment within the child. The Tree of Life‘s Mrs. O’Brien and her eldest son Jack have a borderline Freudian bond but her husband overpowers her influence. Footloose‘s Rev. Shaw Moore bans public dancing, angering his rebellious daughter Ariel. The Devil’s Double, Uday Hussein preferring his mother and not his father Saddam. One of the few exceptions of this paternal resentment is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close‘s Thomas Schell, the coolest dad in recent cinema, the reason his son Oskar remembers him after his death.

Sometimes the mother gets killed off for the father to make a bigger impression – it’s also a convenient way for some movies to write lesser female roles. Beginners’ Georgia Fields recedes within flashbacks as her son Oliver faces his father Hal’s homosexuality and cancer. The titular Hanna gets training from her father Erik. Super 8‘s Elizabeth Lamb leaves her husband Jackson to raise their son Joe. A Better Life‘s Carlos Galindo is a father trying to give to his son the opportunities he never had. Real Steel‘s Charlie Kenton’s journey to bond with his son is an uphill climb. The Descendants‘ Elizabeth King succumbs to a coma and her husband Matt gets put to use. These families sons and daughter of those movies eventually learn to accept their loss.

The past few paragraphs have reminded me how heteronormative this year in has been. I’m interjecting on myself to call on Annette Bening and Julianne Moore to work together every year. And the funny thing is that I didn’t even like The Kids are All Right, mainly because of my ambivalence about the ending and Mark Ruffalo’s character. Neither do I find Lisa Cholodenko’s movies perfect.

But speaking of perfection, that’s something I couldn’t meet here. So I wrote separate posts coming out on the next two days on two different movies. First is A Separation, the four main characters and how class binds their behaviours and decisions as parents. I also wanted to dedicate the last paragraph on the parent-less, the characters with ambiguous parentage and ones confirmed as orphans. The relationships they build and the heroism they can conquer. There have been so many characters like them in movies during the past year, all of them wanting to know who they have to fight and who’s on their side. I concentrated on one movie, Hugo, and the different meanings, superficial and hopefully deeper ones, on what it means for the titular Hugo’s to rediscover his father and finding a new home and purpose.

This mini-blogathon exists because of our mutual friend Andrew Kendall, quoted above, of Encore’s World of Film and TV. Click here to see what he says about characters in the movies of 2011 and how they work hard for the money and links – more links! showering links like gold coins of wisdom! – of the other participants of the blogathon.


2011: I am Mavis Gary


This recreates my mental state three days before Valentine’s Day. It ain’t pretty.

A conversation I had with a critic – the same person with whom I was discussing Dragon Tattoo – eventually got us discussing Jason Reitman’s Young Adult. I agree with him, it’s a zombie walk where hack writer and man stealing slore Mavis Gary’s (Charlize Theron) converses with her high school co-alum Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt) as a way of Diablo Cody talking to herself like, pardon the comparison, Ingmar Bergman with hoodies and home brewed whiskey. It’s only energized by Mavis’ blood curdling speech at the end. A villain’s tirade before leaving an all-American environment – in this case it’s Mercury, Minnesota, a small town provenance she’s seemingly outgrown – and her departure typically resulting with the other good-natured characters hugging and keeping their relationships intact and so forth. That speech is one of the elements within the movie that riskily decides to side with Mavis despite her being an intentionally terrible person and I give brownie points for those things.

His criticism against Young Adult stems from how it tries to both mock and pander to opposite sides of whatever line the movie draws to divide Mavis from the other characters. There’s the use of “Kourtney and Kim Take New York” among many uses of pop culture to either make fun of lowbrow culture, the working class reassured that the middle class is more pathetically trashy. In short, condescending to both classes but mostly to the townies who don’t even know what ‘the TV’ is. Keep in mind that it’s screenwriter Diablo Cody doing the finger-pointing, funny enough because she has appeared on the E! Network as well as being engaged to someone who works there. Also keep in mind that I watch and secretly love “Kourtney and Kim Take New York.”

It’s like a rom-com making fun of Katherine Heigl like Friends with Benefits does. It’s equally hurtful when an intellectual like Woody Allen makes fun of us. But Young Adult shows my reflection pointing back, a flawed conceit that my reflection is an ugly mean girl AND Charlize Theron. The rich make fun of us whether they’re classy or trashy and I still feel ambivalent knowing that these masks of class, education and breeding are in place against others.

What he also finds smug is something that, despite deeming the movie passable, I also could never make peace with – she’s one of the unique cases who, despite being love struck, only chooses one target for her supposed goodwill if at all. Why is Dolce-clad Mavis still holding out for Buddy Slaide (Patrick Wilson), who has unkempt facial hair, wears thick plaid jackets without being ironic and works in a factory? Just because Patrick Wilson has cheated on his wife in many miniseries/movies doesn’t mean he’ll cheat on her for you this time, Mavis. I don’t even know if he has sex drive in this movie at all.

This perpetual high school reunion one-upmanship happens all the time. Someone created the Twitter handle @FriendFromHS for this purpose. Or like what I used to do during the first year I joined Facebook – I’m trying to forget that someone else might be doing the same to me – and laughed at how this guy got fat and so forth despite not being able to find my man who got away who by the way is straight. I should actually do that now because looking at him will make me feel good about myself, hoping he finally signed up.

Oh my God he got hotter.

And I don’t care if he’s the kind of guy who takes pictures of himself in his bathroom without closing the shower curtains, holding the camera in his hand in front of the mirror because he can’t figure out how to use the timer, accessorizes with cubic zirconium bling and befriends girls who spell ‘sexxxy’ or ‘chineese’ (He’s white. Aryan, even). His face is in the same immaculate state when we were both young, belonging to better clothes and a svelte body.

If he blocks me, I wanted to write the typical ‘I hope you’re not offended by the past’ thing. But I always had a speech prepared if I see him. That there have been others after him – ‘after’ despite him not reciprocating in any sense of the word. That I thought he was the one and that those others made me feel lost, that I didn’t know what love is when I fell out of my infatuation for him. But now that I can see him again that changes everything. I could have pressed enter and told him everything, making me seem crazy if I didn’t have a friend to stop me.

The artist is someone who insists on content, form and image – especially image’s importance – despite others perceiving it as unapproachable. Her present is everyone else’s past, she views it as nostalgia but others perceive it as stubbornness. She performs this past ad nauseam but never tires because of its comforting rituals. She’s a risk taker in her eyes but that doesn’t matter if the others see madness or chooses not to see her at all, their rejection making her lose everything. This creation or dedication is caused by love and some conceive love, giving into love and to another person, as containing destruction. Love forces a person to change for the other person, to create herself anew, making her lose her individuality. But love can also be an instinct against outside forces and this form of stasis could lead to the same destruction she’s been trying to avoid.

Sorry about that insanity, although I wanted to talk about that. It’s been a long time since Young Adult came out, but what I remember from its criticism is Mavis as an unsympathetic character or her place within the movie’s class boundaries. But what about her character’s mental state? Most movies about the insane are pretty self-centred, the other characters are either supporting her convalescence or driving her to madness. We see the other characters through Mavis’ warped prism, blocking them, their relevations of ‘I feel sorry for you’ seemingly tacked on and coming out of left-field. Are we not seeing her mental condition because she looks like she has her shit together or am I using her state as an excuse? Buddy’s wife gets a whiff of her condition and I don’t know if it sticks. And her presence within Mavis’ peripheral vision causes for new lines to drive up between them, making the movie problematic.

P.s. I still haven’t added him yet.