Monday, July 7, 2014

Goodnight, Dear Void

Some movies you see once, and move on. But some others are just so darn re-watchable—and so quotable. As much as I adore TV and books, there’s nothing like a movie for quotability. There are a few films that I’ve seen far more times than I could ever count. There are certain lines I think of every time a similar event happens in the real world. For instance, if anyone ever mentions trouble digesting dairy, in my head I immediately hear Meg Ryan’s character from French Kiss yelling “Lactose intolerannnnncccee!!!” and I picture her asking Kevin Kline to “stop the rocking” of the train.

These moments are burned into my brain forever, some from sheer repetition, but others because the moment, and the words the character spoke in that moment, just fit into this little space in my mind, and my heart.

There are so many quotes I could list, but here are my top five. More than just great movie quotes, if you ask me, these are words to live by.

5. We're all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that's all”
-Andrew from The Breakfast Club

In a movie full of quotable lines (provided you’re not watching the censored version on broadcast TV) this one seems to me to really sum up the message of the film. None of these kids really felt like they had it all figured out. The fact that Andrew, one of the two members of the popular clique to be in Saturday detention that fateful day, was the one to say it gives the message even more weight.

4 “Why do I and everyone I love pick people who treat us like we're nothing?"
    “We accept the love we think we deserve.”
-Sam and Charlie, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Okay, so this movie is based on a book, so it’s cheating a bit, but, wow. What a line. I can’t imagine Charlie’s reply not resonating with everyone who reads/hears it.

3. Donger's here for five hours, and he's got somebody. I live here my whole life, and I'm like a disease.”
-Sam, Sixteen Candles

I have personally recited this one throughout my life. Sam’s grandparents brought their foreign exchange student to her house on the afternoon of her birthday; by nine PM he had a girlfriend. Meanwhile Sam’s had a crush on the same boy for at least a year and (she doesn’t think) he even knows she’s alive. Such a relatable moment (at least for me!)

2. “That's your problem, you don't want to be in love, you want to be in love in a movie.”-Becky, Sleepless in Seattle

The genius of Nora Ephron: I could easily do a top-ten list of just her quotes. This line is so perfect. Who doesn’t want to be in love in a movie? And how many of us at least strongly suspect that romantic books and movies have probably ruined us on some fundamental level?

1. Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life - well, valuable, but small - and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn't it be the other way around? I don't really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So good night, dear void.”
-Kathleen, You’ve Got Mail.

Ephron again, of course. I love this movie so much. I love these lines (which the protagonist writes in an email to Tom Hanks’s  character) even more. There’s so much here. I feel sad and happy reading these words, every time. It’s amazing that the email/social media world had barely begun when this movie was written, and yet how perfectly does this sentiment still feel today? And then there’s the idea of wondering if we’ve chosen the best life because it’s what we want, or if we haven’t been brave—that part’s got to be timeless.

In a way, every blog post ever written (and most of them were written after this screenplay) is an echo to this idea. Whether or not we receive an answer, there’s something sort of comforting about sending our cosmic questions out into the void.

Goodnight, dear void.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Halt and Catch Fire?

So I’ve been watching the new show Halt and Catch Fire on AMC. I showed up in case it was going to be the new Mad Men, but stayed for the weird retro music and the flashbacks to my childhood. Much as I remember about the real eighties, there’s an alarming amount of beige.

In the show they’re trying their best to design an affordable personal computer that weighs less than fifteen pounds (ha ha we all say as we reach for the smartphones in our pockets). All the characters are very conservative and wear boring (mainly beige) clothes, except for Cameron, a rogue programmer. You can tell she’s a rebel because she listens to Punk Rock Music and wears t-shirts. If they keep up this kind of subtle characterization, this series is sure to garner lots of awards.

I’ll probably stick with it for a bit because for one, it’s a summer series. Let’s face it, the bar is on the low side. Also, watching it makes me remember the early eighties, aka my early childhood. The show has also caused me to consider my strange relationship with computers. For something that barely existed for the first twelve or so years of my life, the computer has become pretty darn important in my life. My laptop is practically an appendage at this point.

My dad, who’s a baby boomer, worked in sales. He told me that one day someone brought a PC into his office, plopped it on his desk and announced something like, “From now on, this is how we do things.” He said that’s essentially what happened to everyone in his generation.

That had to be rough. But my generation’s relationship with computers was a little murkier. We had computers in my high school. I went to a big public school; we had maybe two rooms full of Radio Shack Tandy machines: green cursor, black screen, floppy drive. As a student I remember visiting these strange devices only sporadically. In contrast, I took a typing class (as in, the room was full of typewriters) twice a week.
Sleek, elegant design. Refreshing lack of user-friendly operating system. 
When I was a freshman in college, the school held a ceremonial burning of the library card catalog, and told us to use the computers to find our books. That’s cool, except I’d just finished learning the how to use freaking card catalog in my senior year of high school. 

This kind of crackerjack timing has been the hallmark of my life’s experience with technology. 
The clever title Halt and Catch Fire, though it's supposedly some early bit of programming language--is also kind of a perfect metaphor for technology. Yesterday's amazing new invention is tomorrow's pile of old crap. 

At least until it becomes a collectible, and then you can really clean up on eBay.