Seeing the Gears

A meandering review

            I have loved film and television since I was a small, round faced child. It’s where I learn and escape. It’s how I avoid the monsters I don’t want to face. In my most recent bout of avoidance, I started watching 13 Reasons Why. This is probably not the best thing to watch when you’re already feeling sad and weary. It is however a choice I’m glad I made.

For some time, I have felt my hope and optimism fading. I realize now it’s because I haven’t been feeding them. It is easy for me to allow the pain of others to feel like my pain. With our global community, it is easier now than ever to become immobilized by the pain we are all feeling. It is not necessarily that the pain is more or less than before, just that I can see it. I can see the mourning, the dying, the fighting, and the violence. Easily and without thinking I can consume all of that pain. Sadly, my heart and body can’t grow to swallow it all. I would do that if I could. I would swallow all the pain if it would make things better.

This is why watching 13 Reasons Why, was a good choice. For me it made things better. While I feel uneasy about the treatment of suicide as a mystery, I also understand that for many that is how it presents itself. A great mystery or unknown, maybe even a monster. If we don’t look at the monster, if we don’t talk about the monster, maybe it will leave us alone. The story of the show weaves an enticing, heartfelt mystery. It tells its story with care; and reveals itself to you in digestible chunks. It gives you allies for your arguments and still makes clear the points it is trying to make. Most importantly it unapologetically tells its truth.

Normally when I finish a show or film, I’m quick to rate it. I go to IMDB and dig into the production information. Who are the actors? Creator? Writer? Is it based on something? Depending on what I’ve watched, this process can be a few minutes or sometimes hours. As a creator myself, I want to know. If I enjoyed show or film, I want to know that the actors went on to keep creating. I want to know if there is more of their work I might see. I want to know the intentions of the creators. Are my assumptions about their work correct? After finishing 13 Reasons Why, I want to know none of this. While I do hope those who worked on this film go on to have long and happy careers; I don’t feel a need to check things out. I don’t want to give it a rating.

This is new for me. I am grateful, as I always am, to the creators of the show. Weather I like it or not is irrelevant. If someone created something that I was able to view, I try to be grateful for this gift. This current feeling, after finishing 13 Reasons Why, seems different though.

For some time, I have been chewing on a conundrum. I love creating and I love consuming the creations of others. By consuming the creations of others, I learn more about the act of creating. I also risk losing the magic. When someone takes nothing and constructs something to put in its place, this is no less than magic. Not all magicians are created equal. Some have better tricks. The best magicians however are ones who invite you to face the truth. They don’t try to trick you. They merely invite you to join them on a journey. There are of course things happening that you can’t see, but you don’t notice. You truly don’t care. The problem with learning more about the act of creating is that I start to see the things happening. It’s as though I get a pair of x-ray glasses. I can see the wires and the gears. I can see them turning. It ruins it. Or so I thought.

While watching 13 Reasons Why, I could see and feel what the creators were doing. Using a mystery to explore a fairly taboo topic. Enticing me to continue down the rabbit hole, but I didn’t care. It didn’t matter that I could see the gears, because they weren’t trying to trick me. They made it clear what I could expect. They managed me and pushed me. We were dancing.

The show solved my conundrum for me. They provided an answer, I had received, but didn’t believe. They also gave me hope. The world has darkness and pain. It can most certainly feel like a place without hope. Seeing the gears of this show. Thinking of the writers, directors, craft services people, grips, producers and every other hand required to see it through to its completion gave me hope. It reminded me that every day in direct rebellion to all the sadness people are creating and doing their best to share their truth. Is there any better gift than that?

This show is most certainly not for everyone. I don’t even know that I am making a recommendation here. I think what I’m saying is thank you. Thank you to all the hands that ensured I would be able to see this show. It gave a gift to me that I needed and for that I am grateful.

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La La La

A Review

The magic surrounding La La Land has kept me floating since I saw the film. I wanted to see an afternoon movie for weeks but something always got in the way, my afternoon date canceled and Loving was not showing at the movie theatre. All of these things had to be in place for La La Land to come into my world and transport me.

The film itself has the very simple plot that IMDB so accurately lays out, “A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles.” The simplicity of the plot only adds to the magic of Damien Chazelle, the writer and director for La La Land. He is a master magician in this film. I could spend many words talking about the seamless way music and dance are used or how the cinematography creates romance and nostalgia, but you should see this film for different reasons.

So many of my friends are recovering after the election, but still have a cloud hanging over them. If you didn’t look twice you wouldn’t see it, but it’s there. This tinge of sadness marking every daily action and interaction.

The greatest things about this film are that it achieves a sense of remembering and dreaming and creates hope. The film is almost a dream. The main characters are both shooting for the stars and dealing with the choice all people face. Do you keep believing or turn to “growing up”?

In my experience, someone telling you to “grow up” is really someone telling you to give up. You see a future bright and shiny and they see disappointment and unrealistic aspirations. In the film, the magic is in the tension between romance and reality. This film is able to be honest and show struggle without ever losing its sense of heart-warming whimsy.

When the film ends you are at the same moment sad and hopeful. Chazelle is able to capture the moment when a symphony reaches the peak of a crescendo and can give no more with breaking. He captures the moment when the wave is at its peaks just before it descends back into the ocean. He captures this moment and then leaves you with the reality of life and the hope of life.

This is why you should see this film.

If you happen to be like one of my friends with a heart still recovering and a cloud painting your life with sadness, I think this film might help lift you. It might serve as a reminder that when faced with a choice between reality and hope you don’t have to choose.

If you’re just a person walking through life you should see this film because of its beauty.

There should always be room for beauty.