Friday, November 19, 2010
merging...ever so slowly, from the "funk" that has clouded most of this year. As part of that process I decided to go ahead and do this speech class that really, I wasn't too crazy about doing. But it has proved to be a good time for me to polish some of my writing/thinking skills. I gave a speech last week and in went over the time limit (apparently I can be a bit verbose) - so last night I had to cut it down to a more manageable size. It was fine. I compared the two and the second one is still good. But to be honest, I think I like the more verbose version better. It occurred to me that maybe I would reproduce it here as some kind of means of it getting a larger viewing public than the 6 or so people in the class who saw it. I'm sort of looking at it as part of a process of becoming the person I need to become.
This is a photo of me Senior year, near graduation, I'm second from the front in the gray dress, these other girls were my best friends in high school. - We'll return to this photo later in the speech...
First of all, you must know, I love movies - so narrowing them down to 5 favorites was no small task - but as I culled my list down shorter and shorter I noticed a theme start to develop.
The main characters of each of the films I chose are in possession of a certain esprit de corps, a certain pluck, a determination and ultimately, an ability to overcome obstacles which would cause some people to give up - but not these characters, they over come, they persevere.
So first off the classic film, The Graduate
Our main character Benjamin has just graduated from college and he has absolutely no idea what he's going to do with his life, with his future. He'll probably go to law school, but only because this seems to be his parents idea of what he should do next. There is a famous scene where Bejamin's parents are having a party in their back yard, and they plead with Bejamin to try out the new scuba equipment they have purchased him. He doesn't want to try it on, let alone ump in the pool with it. But his father and mother persist. Finally, in total defeat, Benjamin does jump in the pool with the equipment on. But as he tries to hop back out of the water, his father pushes his face back under. The scene is replete with symbolism. Benjamin sinks to the bottom of the pool and stays there. This is not quite what his parents had in mind. Simon and Garfunkles "Hello Silence My Old Friend" starts to play. It's one of my favorite movie scenes. How many of us can relate to this? The expectations of others overwhelming when we aren't even sure what we want for ourselves. Finally, through a series of convoluted circumstances, Benjamin sets his eyes on the girl of his dreams, Elaine. Elaine represents all that is good about life, all that Benjamin really wants. He does everything he can possibly think of to win her over. Even to the point of stopping her wedding to someone else. Benjamin in one of the most determined characters I believe cinema has ever given us. I love his indomitable, however potentially misguided character, and spirit.
The second film "A Single Man" just came out this year. It is a lush, gorgeous little film. The photography itself will take your breathe away. I cannot say enough about how gorgeous this film is. But our main character Professor George Falconer has decided, after the death of someone very close to him, that this will be his last day on earth. And we watch him go through the motions of his last day - and the beauty that we see, the beauty the direction and the DP have so fantastically produced for us, the professor only gradually begins to take notice of. And then, through a series of events, including the kindness of strangers, and of old friends, and the basic goodness of humanity, by the end of the film, which has all just happened in one day of his life, he begins to change. Slowly and gradually he begins to question whether he really does want to leave his life. This day, meant to be the last day of his life, becomes the day that he sees all the beauty that we have been seeing all along, and suddenly he wants to choose to live. We see him struggle with deep and dark demons and come out the victor.
And now we come to what is possibly in fact my favorite film of all time, a little french film called "Amelie". Amelie is gorgeous, simply stunning in it's array of deep greens and reds, every frame of the movie, a little piece of art, in and of itself. With lush sights and sounds which make Paris, with especially Monmartre, come across as a fairy land alive with sights and sounds and smells. Audrey Tatou as our hero Amelie is perfectly darling. Amelie is alone. But Amelie has always been alone and may always be alone. And she is okay with that. Because Amelie knows how to live. She takes delight in all the simplest pleasures of life - the perfect creme brulee, beautiful art, the best kiwi at the fruit stand. Amelie has never lost her child like wonder for life and most of all - she is good, she is kind. She performs random acts of kindness to everyone around her, and in the process, though she is already happy, she finds a soul mate. This is not a typical movie, she does not start out trying to find a soul mate - but she finds one in the process of making her life all that it can be, a life full of joy and wonder. We can learn a lot from Amelie.
Anyone who knows anything about me knows my great crush on Mr. John Cusack. 26 years is a long time to have a crush on someone. But I STILL do. And Mr. Cusack is at his best in the movie "Say Anything". Say Anything is about the triumph of the underdog. John Cusack's character Lloyd Dobler is ever the optimist and because of it, he accomplishes quite a coup - he gets the girl, and not jut any girl, the Rhodes scholar headed off to study at Oxford, Diane Court. But Diane's dad isn't super thrilled about Lloyd and so he questions him about his ambitions and Lloyd gives what is on the most famous speeches in cinematic history, he says "I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought or processed, or repair anything sold, bought or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that. I don't know sir, I can't really figure it out tonight so I think I'm just going to hang with your daughter, cause I'm pretty good at that". And when someone at school says "Man! How'd you get Diane Court?!" Lloyd says "I dunno, cause I'm Lloyd Dobler?" And one of Lloyd's favorite things to say is "How hard is it to just decide to be in a good mood and be in a good mood?" This is the ultimate appeal of Lloyd. A man who is determined not to let life get him down. It's not that Lloyd's life is perfect, it isn't, far from it in fact., but he chooses to view it in the best possible light to make the best of it. Lloyd Dobler is everyone's hero.
And so we come to the last movie "Pretty in Pink"Can I just tell you how much I wanted to be Andi in "Pretty in Pink"? I wanted her hair, I wanted her clothes, I wanted her Carmen Ghia, I wanted her cool. Andi's life wasn't exactly easy either. She comes from the wrong side of the tracks, her mother has left her, and he dad is unemployed. But she has pluck, she has determination, and she wants to achieve, to overcome all the obstacles and prejudices she faces. And here is where that photo of me in high school comes into play. I was invited to my 25 year high school reunion this summer. A part of me wanted to go, but a bigger part of me did not. I'm not as thin as the girl in the photo, I'm not as young o as pretty but possibly even worse, what have I even accomplished? My marriage fell apart this year and I still haven't finished my degree. I'm a mom and I have children I am proud of, but it feels sometimes like that isn't something the world values much as an accomplishment. And Andi, from pretty in pink, actually gave me the courage to go. There is a scene towards the end of Pretty in Pink, where she has been dumped by her prom date and she goes to the prom anyway - alone. And when her dad asks her why she is doing that she says "I don't want them to think I'm broken"....
So that's why I went. I thought about the movie while I was there too. And I realized it was one of the best decisions I had made. I had a lot of fun. And I realized I could be an example for a lot of other people who's lives have not turned out exactly as planned either.
And I also thought about another quote from Say Anything -
Ione Skye in her character as Diane turns to Lloyd and says "They don't think it's going to work do they?" and Lloyd shakes his head to indicate that no, they don't, and the he smiles and he says:
"You've just described every great success story".