...or the amazing chronicles of everything that I like and stuff.
I’m writing about Speed Racer, five years after its initial release, because one of my favorite guy-who-writes-about-movies (filmcritHulk) did it too earlier this week (read his piece over at badass digest) and it seemed like a good idea. I haven’t written about movies in a long time so I decided what the hell. Also: not nearly enough has been written about Speed Racer.
I saw Speed Racer opening weekend back in 2008. I was very excited about the movie even though I don’t think I’ve ever watched an entire episode of the cartoons. This was a Wachowski movie and as such it was an event. I’m a huge fan of theirs. They are filmmakers with guts. You can spit all you want on the Matrix sequels (I like them both a lot) but they are very courageous movies that make bold choices. Anyways, that’s another discussion. As soon as the trailers for Speed Racer were released I just lost it. I thought it looked AMAZING. I was sad that people weren’t talking about it more. Look at that shot above. It’s the anti-Matrix. Colourful, vibrant, playful. That shot was in the second trailer. It’s one of a dozen crammed into that minute and a half that promised an experience unlike any other that Summer.
So, opening weekend, I dragged a few friends and my sister to the movie theater. I could hardly contain my anticipation. The lights dimmed and the trailers came and went and soon enough the logos appeared. The logos. Holy shit. What have they done to the logos????!!!! The Warner Bros, Village Roadshow and Silver Pictures logos were all drenched in gloriously psychedelic, kaleidoscopic animation. It was beautiful and ballsy and it made a promise. Right there in the first seconds, literally, or the movie it made you a promise about what was to come. Buckle up.
The first twenty minutes of the movie set up the universe, the rules of this world and the - sometimes tragic - history of the Racer familly. It is perfect storytelling. We travel to and fro in time (sometimes without the camera even cutting), there is action and romance and drama and comedy, all overlapping and supported by Michael Giacchino’s truly fantastic score. In the openning of their movie, the Wachowski threw the gauntlet at every other movie coming in that Summer; Beat that. (btw: no one did).
Here is what happens every Summer (disclaimer: I LOVE Summer tentpoles. I love superhero movies and bigger than life movies. I love awe. Summer movies try to give me awe and whether they succeed or not, I love them for trying). Every Summer I am told “In our movie, you are going to see something you’ve never seen before!” And everytime they are, technically, right. The explosion is bigger than the last time. The superhero jumps higher, punches harder. The hero fight more adversaries. The car chase is longer and more stuff gets destroyed. An entire city is levelled, instead of just a neighborehood.
That’s fine. Cool. Thanks for the effort.
Then here comes Speed Racer. The movie shows me things that not only have I never seen, but things I have never even imagined. Seriously, I can imagine a lot. What the Wachowskis lovingly refer to as Car-Fu, where the cars are literally fighting eachother on the race tracks, is so visceral and imaginative it’s just beyond me. The way they play with light traces (the lines that lights leave behind when you take a picture with long exposure), the innovative cutting techniques they use, the way the lanscapes morph like waves in the background as the cars speed ever forward (see the desert race scene). In terms of filmmaking that movie was next level in 2008 and it’s still next level today.
And it could be just that: dazzling eye candy (I don’t think the term “eye candy” has ever been more on point than when describing the visuals of Speed Racer). But it isn’t.
Speed Racer is devoid of cynicism. It is an optimistic, loving, pure-hearted movie. In the age of Dark Knight gloom and Man Of Steel angst, it is unbelievably refreshing. It’s characters are not multi-dimentional and that’s okay. They are archetypes. They have very defined roles to play in the story and they don’t deviate from those roles. This is not a short-coming, it’s a prowess. It’s something to be admired. Clear simplicity is much harder to achieve than you might think. Deep and multi-arched characters can be great, but you don’t want Han Solo to have an extensial crisis or else the machine breaks down and your Starwars movie stops working. Han Solo is an archetype and that’s why he works so well (just like Luke, Lea, Yoda…)
The entrie movie is a love letter to the importance of the familly unit. And not just blood relatives. Trixie and and Sparky are not related to the Racer familly but they are very much a part of it. The movie asks to what lengths you would go in order to protect your familly, and some of the characters go very far (or fast - zing!) indeed.
In essence: it’s a very beautiful movie. It’s silly, funny, at times a little broad (monkey poo!), has ninjas and vikings and pinguins and wrestling and there is a law-inforcement character named Inspector Detector (that is the best name ever) and yet at the end of the day it manages to be heart-breakingly earnest.
I’ll do you one more: it has the most moving, gorgeous, tear-inducing action set-piece ever put to film. The last half of the balls-to-the-wall final race sequence of the movie never fails to make me tear up. It does everything right. It is stunning. Visually, emotionally, viscerally. It gives me the best gift that a movie can: awe. Lots and lots of awe.
It’s about time people discovered the insanity/joy/magic of the Wachowski’s SPEED RACER. Get to it.
(And next Summer let’s all get together and go see the Wachowski’s next scifi epic: Jupiter Ascending) (WOOOHOOO!)
You can listen to my band’s new album by clicking HERE.
It talks about robots and ghosts and stars and heartbreaks and longing and friendship and hope and sadness and the end of all things. We recorded it for no money, strictly for fun. It is in no way, shape or form, a professional endeavor. It is too long and has too many songs. The point is to get completely lost in it, like a forest. We are very proud of it and we hope you enjoy it.
This is the album cover art, by the legendary Elise Simard:
Here’s a little short film by Wes Anderson starring Jason Schwartzman. Enjoy. (found via aintitcool)
Here is “Afterlife” by Arcade Fire. This was filmed live at the Youtube music awards. It was directed by Spike Jonze and stars the lovely Greta Gerwig.
Friends, go see Gravity this weekend. You will not witness a more thrilling (and thrillingly executed) piece of cinema this year. Sandra Bullock is phenomenal. Movie magic is not dead.
Frank Bonaparte stared at the giant columns of metal, entangled in inch-thick metal wires, that kept the suspension bridge suspended. It was a foggy night and the intricate structure rose so high that you could not see the tip of it through the grey smoke. To be honest it was really of beautiful. The same way the Eiffel Tower is beautiful. It should be ugly, just a lot of metal piled together, but it’s so big, so god-like, that your awe of it paints it kinder in your head. We made this. We made it and it’s huge and it holds together through tempests and storms and the wrath of the world and it supports thousands of souls every day and it’s us. We are capable of this.
Bonaparte began to climb. There was a fence so you couldn’t get to the walkway that rose up the bridge’s support structure, way up into the sky, but it was night and no one was around and if you can’t climb a simple fence then, really, just go home and give up already. He jumped off the top of the fence onto the other side and began to walk up the narrow length of the walkway. The drop on either sides of him got steep quickly, and he began to clutch the metal guardrails on either sides of him tightly. The night got quieter as he ascended upwards, even the cars on the bridge below now keeping to themselves, just soundless shapes that moved quietly to and fro.
It was a long walk.
He looked down eventually and could not see the bridge anymore. The walkway got lost in the soft fog somewhere behind him, like it was fading into a grey river. He kept walking. He could see no more than a couple of meters ahead of him.
The fog felt good in his lungs. The silence felt good in his ears. He was alone in his sadness for the first time in so long and it was good. There was clarity. The city was no longer oppressing him on every side, no longer forcing itself on him with it’s noise and it’s walls and it’s too much of everything. Up here he was calm. The city could not touch him. He allowed his sadness to flow over him and drown him, finally. He wept.
He was waiting to get to the very absolute peak of the bridge structure before he asked himself what he was doing here. It was a hard question to ask and he was putting it off until he had no choice but to face it. Except when he finally got to the peak he realized he had not accounted for the possibility that another man would be there. But there was. Looking at him right now.
“Hi,” the man said, “I did not think I would run into someone up here.”
Frank didn’t say anything, he was still processing this new development.
The man turned his back to him and leaned dangerously over the guardrail, looking down at the fogness of everything. He took a coin from his pocket and threw it, staring at it as it spinned it’s way through the grey expense of the world beneath them.
The stranger turned to face him again. He didn’t say anything for a while, just looked him in the eyes. Finally he said “You’ve been crying. It’s all over your face. Maybe you want to be left alone about it but that’s not the cards you were handed tonight I guess, so…” He let the words hang there for a moment and added: “Let’s talk, man.”
Finally, Frank Bonaparte said something. He said: “What were you doing up here before I got here? Have you been here long?”
The stranger thought about that. Finally he said “How long I’ve been here, well, I’m not the best at knowing these things. Maybe an hour? maybe a bit more? As for what I’m doing here, well I guess I had a lot on my mind, and this seemed like a good place for that. ” Frank nodded.
The stranger took out a pack of cigarettes and offered him one before taking one out himself. He took out a lighter and Frank leaned over a little to reach the flame the man had ignited, cupping it into his free hand to protect it from the breeze.
They both smoked in silence for a bit.
“My wife died.” The words escaped Frank’s mouth before he could stop them. The stranger looked up but didn’t say anything. He waited, maybe because he knew that Frank was not done talking yet, even if Frank himself did not. It felt like an unspoken permission and Frank took it. He spoke. For longer than he expected Frank said everything that he had held locked up inside. It flooded out of him in waves that crashed into the stranger, who took it all in, not saying a word, occasionally offering another cigarette. It felt like he was releasing words onto this man he did not know. Letting them leave, finally, after keeping them confined in him for so long. Too damn long…
When Frank Bonaparte was done letting out his story into the world, both men remained quiet for many minutes. Finally, the man gave Frank a nod. He did not speak. Just the nod, once. It was better than words, which often can do so little in the wake of tragedy. It was an acknowledgement, which, sometimes, means the world.
They smoked another cigarette in silence and finally the stranger said something. It was not about Frank’s wife or how she had died or his loss or advice on how to grieve. He didn’t give him words of compassion or encouragement because those or tricky and, when the loss is that recent, they never work anyways. Instead he said this:
“You know what irks me? The idea that it’s bad to be average. Nobody wants to think of themselves as that. In fact, I’m pretty sure most people are convinced that they are not average and would be insulted if you hinted that maybe they were.” He took a long drag on his dying cigarette, threw it over the side of the railguard, into the universe, and lit a new one before he continued. “What bothers me is that it betrays a disdain for everyone else, in a way. Because it’s simple math that the majority is an average, right? Maybe not, I’m bad at math. Anyways. I think most people are part of that average. But they don’t want to be part of that. They don’t want to be counted in with everyone else. And they’re all missing this beautiful, amazing point, which is this: The average is extraordinary. Because I think people are extraordinary. I think you are. I think I am. People have ideas and dreams and they have a capacity, fuck it, a propensity, for kindness. How crazy is that? Did you know that, when you’re depressed, if you do something nice for someone it’ll make you feel better? It’s true. That blows my mind. Our very mechanism is built on a fail safe of kindness. That’s magical. It makes us mighty. So here is this thing, this undeniable fact that is staring us in the face: Everyone is amazing, everyone is extraordinary, and the average that everyone is afraid of? It’s fucking great. It’s an amazing thing to be a part of. You don’t need to be a famous actor, or royalty. You don’t need to be outside, or above, the average. You’re enough. More than. I just wish everyone could see that.”
Frank thought about what the man had said. It made sense. It didn’t turn sadness into happiness, or grief into acceptance. It didn’t magically solve any problems. It wasn’t a solution, but it made sense. There was goodness in the idea and that is a powerful thing, a valuable thing.
Moments passed between the two men, on a silence that was natural.
“What’s your name?” Frank said eventually, “I never asked you. I’m Frank.”
The man said: “Your story’s going to be better if I’m just a stranger on a bridge, when you tell it to a friend someday.”
He took a drag at his cigarette and added: “Really, what’s a name going to add?”
It was a fair point.
End of part 3.
Tim woke up with the sun that morning. He walked out of the bedroom and saw that Celine was already awake, making coffee.
He had been at the farm for a little over a month.
When Celine saw him she said hi and asked if he’d slept well. He walked up to her and kissed her lips. It felt good and natural; something that was meant to be the first thing you did in your day, every day.
“I don’t like waking up without you,” Tim said.
“Your sleep looked amazing, I didn’t want to damage it.”
“It’s just sleep. You’re better.”
“Sleep is precious, it’s never just sleep. It crept up on you last night, real quick. You fell asleep mid-sentence. That’s some professional sleep right there. That’s precious and not to be messed with. I made coffee.”
She handed him a cup and he took a sip, carefully.
“That’s not regular coffee, that’s super coffee,” Tim said.
“My coffee is always super coffee,” Celine said, “by the way I decided pancakes for breakfast and also I decided that you were making them.”
Tim smiled, kissed Celine again and went to the fridge to take some eggs out. He made the pancakes. They ate their breakfast in silence, sharing an occasional smile. When they were done they went to sit on the porch, looking out at the wheat field spread out before them, licked into a golden glow by the sun’s early morning rays, and shared a cigarette and then another. Eventually Celine said Let’s get to it, and they did. They worked all day, taking a break only at one in the afternoon, eating sandwiches Tim had prepared because he was really good at sandwiches.
Evening came crawling on the world. This was to be the last one they spent together, and they both knew it.
Tim prepared supper. They ate together, cleaned the dishes and sat on the porch afterwards, rolling and smoking cigarettes. They wanted the hours to stretch, the night to bleed into tomorrow and never end. But time, they knew, would not bend for them.
“This was a good month,” Celine said.
“It was,” Said Tim.
“My husband will be back tomorrow…”
“I know. You were very clear. It’s okay.”
“I will miss you, Tim.”
“It was a good month.”
They smoked together until the sky filled with stars, exchanging few words. It was comfortable.
“What were you looking for, when you came here a month ago?” Celine asked, eventually.
Tim, silent for a bit, thought about the question . “A while back I decided I needed to change things in my life.” He said, “I decided I would look for amazing and impossible things. I came here because I was hoping I would find something like that.”
“Those are good things to look for,” Celine said.
“And? What did you find?” Celine asked.
“What do you think?” Tim said.
They kissed. For a long time all that could be heard on that porch were the songs of crickets and the sound their lips made dancing together.
Celine took Tim’s hand and led him to the bedroom where they slept together one last time, whispering soft words, quiet kindnesses.
On the edge of sleep, Tim asked Celine: “You said earlier that I fell asleep mid-sentence last night, you remember? This morning you said that.”
“Yeah,” said Celine.
“What was the sentence I started?” Tim asked.
“You were asking me a question, something personal. It was nice of you to ask.”
“What was the question?”
“I don’t want to tell you, I want to keep it for me,” Celine said, “anyways I don’t have an answer to your question so it doesn’t matter.” She paused for a while and added: “But it’s fun to think about.”
Shortly after that, she fell asleep with her arms around him. He was already deep in dreams by then.
She woke up with the sun the following morning. Tim was gone.
End of part 2
Tim woke up at 7 AM for exactly 6 seconds. That is how long it took for him to murder his alarm clock against the bedroom wall opposite his bed. He promptly fell back asleep and remained this way until his stomach shook him awake for food, a couple of minutes shy of 1 PM. He should have dressed in a panic, omit brushing his teeth hoping coffee would camouflage his bad breath (fyi to people who do that: it does not work, please stop) and run out of the house towards the office, but he did not. He put on clean underwear and proceeded to the kitchen to prepare two stomach’s worth of eggs and toasts and a tall glass of orange juice – extra pulp like he liked it. Done eating, he finished getting dressed, brushed his teeth and left the house, a full five hours behind schedule.
He knew the way to work very well for having walked it five days a week for the last ten years, but today he did not follow it. It was a sunny day so today he went to the park. It was a big park and it was mostly empty because there are buildings everywhere outside the park, and those buildings are filled with offices and these offices are cluttered with cubicles and on week days those cubicles eat people, which leaves parks pretty much people-less.
Tim sat alone on a bench. It was nice to feel the breeze carress his face. It was not a pushy breeze, it was a shy one, which is the perfect type of breeze to feel on your face. The sun shone, its heat traveled across outer space, broke through all the different layers of the sky and came to rest onto his face. That heat that comes from outer space, Tim thought, is very comfortable. It is second only to campfire heat, which is the very best heat.
He felt his phone vibrate in his pocket and took it out. The digital screen said he had missed 15 calls so far today, and that there was an incoming call from work. Tim hesitated. Finally he accepted the call and took the phone to his ear.
“Hello?” Tim said.
“Tim, finally!” a voice said, “Where are you? Are you okay?”
“I’m in the park; about five minutes walk from my place, the one we were at with Joyce when she said the thing about the dog.”
“The thing, you remember? How she wanted to take her dog to a dog shrink, he didn’t touch his food much and seemed depressed and she wanted to take him to the dog shrink. You asked if there was a tiny couch for the dog to lie on.”
“I remember the dog thing, Tim, I’m asking what as in what are you talking about, we have a presentation in like fifteen fucking minutes.”
Tim felt a little bad about that, truth be told.
“The powerpoint is ready, it’s in a folder named “presentation” on my desktop. It’s all ready, it’s good, but I won’t be there. It’s just you.” There was a little pause. “I’m sorry” Tim added.
“What the fuck, Tim?” the voice said.
“I don’t know what to tell you, I’m not coming” Tim said.
“Jesus Christ,” the voice said, “fine. I’ll see you tomorrow, then.”
“No, you’re not hearing me,” Tim said, “I don’t think I’m coming back. I’m not coming back to work.”
There was silence for a long time. Finally the voice said: “Okay… Okay, what are you going to do, Tim?”
Tim thought about that for a moment, and said: “Amazing things. Or impossible things. Amazing and / or impossible things. Every damn day.”
End of part one.