Monthly Archives: July 2012

The Dark Knight Rises: A semi review devoid of spoilers but mostly a personal narrative

I believe it was Ridley Scott who said that movies and films are two separate things. I forgot why and since this isn’t a formal review, I am too lazy to check my sources. But trust me, I’m in line to inherit the Ebert throne. At least in my head I am and that’s all that really matters. So if this were a formal review, it would be mind blowing.

But I think I get what Mr. Scott is getting at. There is a fundamental difference. Movies are entertainment. Their sole purpose is gratuitous escape from the monotony of life. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I love my blockbuster films. I’m picky with them but I love big action movies. I love the anticipation of midnight showings. I love the crowds because they are the best. I wouldn’t dress up but I love that they do because these super fans truly are not giving one fuck. And I love it cause I give too many when I shouldn’t.

Ever since I saw the first trailer for The Dark Knight rises my anticipation would not cease. I followed links to find the easter eggs in the trailer, “Nolan is dropping hints at Robin!” “Nolan said no Robin” “Batman dies in the comics!” “This is Nolan’s world not comic Batman world.” At the irritation of some of my less excited friends, this is MY movie. This is my Harry Potter. This is my Twilight. This is my Star Wars. I didn’t grow up on the comics and it would take a brave die hard comic book Batman fan to guide me through that extensive collection. I would gladly take a tour. I grew up on the 90s cartoon Batman. That’s MY Batman. That is probably one of my favorite childhood memories: Channel 11 at 4 pm sitting in front of the tv watching Batman. I’m lucky I didn’t have childhood diabetes because when the Batman toys were available at McDonald’s, I swear I was there like every day. But thats my parents fault!

Anyway, enough about my Batman credentials. Which I know are slim compared to a lot of others but whatever man. I am the Bat.

Getting back to what Scott said (or may have said along those lines) I would not consider The Dark Knight a movie. The Amazing Spiderman was a movie. The Avengers was a movie. The Dark Knight trilogy were films. This is why I consider them films. For me, the biggest criteria for a film is the directors ability to create an alternate reality where I not only suspend my disbelief but I can become immersed in it. Of course, it is easier to do that with a city like Gotham but in the 90s, Gotham was this silly out of this world place. We knew it couldnt exist and that’s why we were happily entertained by those movies. But let’s not include Batman and Robin, let’s try to forget that one.

Christopher Nolan’s Gotham is a major metropolitan city that I can find myself in. It’s New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco. It has characters that are relatable. It has good that real people strive for. It has unfiltered evil that people are capable of. We don’t have A Batman but with ever evolving social media, anonymous individuals have taken a vigilante like approach. Around the world, the anonymous people of regimes have toppled their oppressive governments.

The Dark Knight Rises is a film. I found myself being more than just entertained. I don’t know if it has anything to do with our election coming up but I did sense a lot of political undertones. This could just be me since I know all my friends are annoyed of my over analyzing skills but that’s just how my brain works. There were multiple scenes that gave me chills. I started to think of Bane as this symbol of anarchy. I get him, I really do. He is Gotham’s “reckoning” and he truly believes that the only way to achieve change is to destroy everything ala French Revolution style. I want to believe that can work too. But anarchy is inherently selfish. It is a facade. It doesn’t give people power back. It gives them the excess not of money but corruption and evil. And I’m thinking this as Bane storms Wall Street. This was chilling.

One of the minor themes that I noticed was the desire to be off the grid, the map. Remove all trace of yourself. This is a desire that I have often expressed. In the film, it’s in the form of criminal activities. I am not a criminal nor do I intend to be but I’m a social media criminal. I’ve had dozens of blogs over the years and the memory of some them still haunt me in the sense of “why did I write that?!” A lot of them have been deleted over the years. However, it wasn’t until recently that I had an existential crisis over the revelation that everything uploaded onto the Internet stays in some encrypted ethereal haunting cloud. Of course, it would only haunt me if I were some threat to some incredibly powerful organization that had it out for girls that wrote really terrible poetry. Still, the thought of deleting myself and reconstructing myself on the Internet makes me feel like a social media criminal. All these usernames throughout the years, all those deleted myspaces under my belt, all those photos and blogs and words. I suffer from a bit of paranoia and anxiety, obviously. This theme in the film, this desire to erase yourself, leave and start fresh is a common theme in our real world. And like Selina Kyle expressed, it gets harder since everything is tracked. It is harder to start fresh when we willingly sell ourselves out. That fact makes me feel like I am not in control of my own existence. Before I had a God overlooking everything and now I have something or someone just as omniscient but a little more tangible.

This is why the Dark Knight Rises is a film to me. I mean, it is totally awesome and everyone should watch it cause it’s Batman and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a stone fox. I just have a tendency to work my brain over time, at the annoyance of most of my friends. But then I think, I should wear my invisible batman suit and not give one single fuck about my critical mind. This is how I work and this is how I am able to enjoy films. Films take you deeper. Anyone can watch a movie and walk away with the single thought of whether they liked it or not. And don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of movies that are solely for that purpose and I indulge in them too. I’m just talking about that one film that comes along and has the ability to take you on another level. That’s the beauty of film. That’s the beauty of narratives. That’s the beauty of photography. That’s art.

Tagged

one foot in front of the other

I love Haruki Murakami’s writing, but I did not especially love his book What I Talk about When I Talk about Running. I read the whole thing, and the writing, like always, is meditative and pretty, but I was just left wanting more. So now I am going to do the worst thing possible and write about running, and I’m not even Haruki Murakami. And unfortunately for you, it’s too late to stop reading.

Yesterday, I completed a 20-mile run, the last of the long training runs before my 1st marathon in San Francisco on the 29th of this month. I remember when I was training for my 1st half-marathon last year and I had to do a 10-mile training run, and I could not believe how far that seemed.  I ran way out through the city and beyond it, until the houses and people faded away and there were just orange groves and then just dirt. And then I turned around and ran home. It was miserable. Part of the reason I’ve always been drawn to intense physical activity is my competitive nature. (Monkey bar champion in 3rd grade. Arm-wrestling champion in 6th. Impressed?) But it runs deeper than that–my anxiety thrums high and constant, and I have a really nasty temper. Pushing myself to the brink sort of takes the edge off of all of that. I had played basketball for several years in high school, and it is fast-paced, violent, and interactive. You rely on others and others rely on you. I also did mixed martial arts and pole vaulting. Martial arts is intensely social and jarring. While pole vaulting is a solo activity, you are still constantly interacting with your team, and the act of sprinting down the narrow path, jabbing the pole into the box, and flinging yourself over is all accomplished in under 1 minute. Compared to my previous activities, running seemed so tedious and lonely.  After I had kids, I ran a little here and there, on the treadmill mostly, and I did it because it was hard and seemed to burn the most calories, not necessarily because it was enjoyable. Even 20 minutes seemed like forever. I almost always had to go to the gym with someone else to stay motivated and to have someone to compete against. Last year, when I decided I wanted to complete a half-marathon just to see if I could do it, I did so as part of a team of parents of kids with autism. I had fun the day of the race, and I was part of a team. But the training was all alone, and though I was disciplined about it, I found it to be a little…boring.

A friend from work told me that once I did a half-marathon, I’d want to do a full one. I assured him that would never happen. 13 miles had felt like an eternity, and I didn’t want to injure myself like he had. But I found myself thinking about it more and more. And then one day, I stepped funny, my ankle made a grotesque snapping sound, and I collapsed pathetically, the groceries I had been carrying splattering all around me. I crawled to my phone to call Ryan for help. In those weeks when I couldn’t run, I wanted to run so badly that I decided once I was healed I would register for a full marathon.

So here I am, three weeks out. My last and longest training run is over and now it just tapers down. Around mile 11 of my 20-mile run yesterday, I thought, “I got this. ” I think I even said it out loud. It was gorgeous outside. I ran up into the hills, and I could see clouds settled against the mountains and I watched the sun rise. For the first hour, I saw no one. During my last mile, I even had the energy to pick up my pace a little. I had been terrified that it would be an awful run, that I would suffer and struggle as I have on several of the runs during these past few months, and that just didn’t happen. It has not been easy getting to this point. I’m not a naturally graceful runner (or person in general). There have been some ugly, discouraging runs. I have no idea how the marathon will go, but it is kind of reassuring to go into it with very few expectations.

Haruki Murakami’s book about running is likely as good as anything could ever be on the subject. The problem with writing about it is that it is such a personal and simple activity. As simple as it is, it has become very important to me, and I’m really grateful for the past several weeks of training. You really get to see where you live and feel how you breathe and your legs get stronger than you thought they could get. You are out in the world but you are completely alone at the same time. You are faster than other people and other people are so much faster than you, and you learn to let all of that go. I’m not doing it to beat anybody anymore. In fact, I’m pretty slow. I just put one foot in front of the other one over and over and I think about very little and this goes on for hours. That’s the most beautiful part about it, at least to me.

The Verdict

“It was here in Big Sur,” Henry Miller wrote, “that I first learned to say Amen!”

I traveled along the spectacular ninety miles of wild Big Sur coast recently, slept in a yurt, hiked, swam, drank like a writer, and surveyed the beauty, notebook in hand. I don’t think I earned any of these pleasures, but I embraced them, and I remembered to say amen.

I had pre-booked a consultation appointment at Esalen Institute, a clothing-optional retreat where “seekers” along the coast go to find answers to impossible questions. We were fortunate to be welcomed and encouraged to explore. I wasn’t skeptical about anyone’s intent or mission, but I opted for clothing the entire time. I am not a particularly modest person, and I am not ashamed of my body, so this prompted some inward curiosity. My (intentionally unnamed) companion cheerfully opted for nudity. This made me question myself even more.

I started to think about personal boundaries and what they mean to us. I wondered about the unisex environment and considered whether my discomfort was entirely centered around my formative experiences with male caregivers. Soaking in the hot springs, I was the only one there who wore a swimsuit. Quite frankly, part of me is certain there is something terribly wrong with me, but I kept the suit on. I know I would be a different person if I weren’t raised carelessly; what I don’t know is, whether, even in a bastion of beautiful believers, I am capable of extending unearned trust.

The Verdict

“I do not tell them how the emancipation from pain/leaves nothing in its place.” –Ai

The verdict came to me
via voice message,
driving down
from Cucamonga Peak
where I had gone to avoid the drama,
hiking the highest trail in the region,
while the courts sorted out proclamations
in which I no longer played a part;
cell reception bouncing back,
light flashing, resuscitating reality;
I pulled over cautiously to listen.

The defendant was not exceptional,
merely the most recent
in a line of men who had violated
my body since I was 7, but he was the first
held accountable; as I listened to
the District Attorney blandly
spell out his sentence, terms of
a protective order the judge
procured, protecting me, Jane Doe,
from any future contact from the defendant
or any third party thereof, I sat on the
curb and cried into my cupped hands.

Pulling knees to chest like
a little girl, rocking imperceptibly
until the sun burned harsh
against my wilting cheek,
wondering who I would have been
had I been a girl lavished with love
from a mother, father,
grandfather, or lunch lady,
roaming museums, movies, gardens,
rocky beaches, a girl prone to laughter,
ravished only by the sun.

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