Film Review: Chasing Mavericks

This one was more of a film I wanted to see because it looked fun. Also because I can’t always go see intense movies like Cloud Atlas.

It’s the story of Jay Moriarty, a NorCal kid who surfs, and finds out about these huge waves called Mavericks, thus deciding he wants to surf them just like the man he looks up to: Frosty. Frosty then agrees to train Jay to survive the waves. So the plot of this one is, all in all, very simple.

Throughout the film, you see both the main characters being forced to deal with their worst fears. Jay’s father left them when he was a kid, and Jay has an unopened letter from him that he’s afraid to open. Frosty has never been much of a family man, even though he has a family, and doesn’t really know how to be a dad. The relationship that develops between them is very much a father-son relationship, and you watch both characters grow through this, a side effect of Frosty and Jay training.

From a storytelling aspect, this film was very classic in delivery. Jay, the protagonist, has a physical goal and then there is  mental/emotional goal; he wants to surf the Mavericks and he has a limited time frame in which to train for it, but he also has to over come his fears relating to his father. There is a mentor figure, a love interest, contagonists (because they’re not actually antagonists); there are success and setbacks. There is loss and hope. And in the end, overcoming what seems to be insurmountable odds.

I really don’t have a whole ton to say on this film. It’s a well done, family friendly film with awesome surfing. Very enjoyable.

return to the start

Sometimes it takes a long time for things to resolve. Life moves faster than that, of course, but the emotional and psychological scars take a long time to heal. The damage, that takes but a moment to be inflicted, can take years before resolution truly occurs. For me, the resolution has been in the works for longer than it probably should have been. And the last bit of resolution is probably one I will never get; I will never be able to tell him I’m sorry. I don’t regret ending things, but I do regret just how much it hurt him.

This is going to be a really long post, and I don’t have photos to put in it because I deleted every single photo that relates to this time of my life. And threw out the artwork related. I even deleted all evidence from my backup drive. However, I managed to find a few photos on my mom’s computer. Proof that it really happened.

______________________________

It began when I was a junior in high school, and ended when I was a junior in college. And in those five years, a tragic romance unfolded. Had Romeo and Juliet survived, I imagine they would have been just as doomed as Ryan* and I were. Star-crossed lovers is the term. Two people whose lives cross for but an instance in the scheme of time, and in that moment, burn brighter. The moment passes, and despite the love shared, it does not endure. It can’t endure.

We were in marching band at different high schools, both suburbs of the same city. As such, our sports teams competed, and since that included football, our marching bands crossed paths. In the competition world, our marching bands almost never took the same field, since we did different circuits. But it was at the football game between our rival schools when we were both sixteen that we met. During third quarter, the marching bands get to socialize and have refreshments with each other. It’s a neat time to meet other people. Since I wanted to meet horn players from that band, I sought them out, and met one. A friend of his, and several guard girls from my school were part of this, and I found out that his friend was both a horn player and one of the drum majors for their band. Excited to meet other horn players, I managed to get the first guy’s number. Unfortunately for me, the guard girls had been hitting on him, and he assumed I was part of that later on, and decided that I was a psycho, thanks to the drum major horn player friend of his.

It ends, the time our stars were aligned, with a conversation on his 21st birthday. Or at least that’s the last time I remember talking to him. There were a few other incidents involving him showing up to my house and me hiding locked away in my room because I just wanted it all to be over. All after two months worth of him showing up at my university outside of my classes and apartment several times a week, to the point of me often hiding and a friend in the Marines offering to beat up Ryan. Everything between us was a mess that had already damaged us beyond repair by the time his birthday rolled around. It was hard to talk to him that day, May 9th, because we didn’t know how not to be in love with each other. Separating our friendship and our romance was impossible for him, thus leaving me in a place where I couldn’t even be around him or talk to him. It was a disaster. He was talking about some of his friends from high school taking him out to a bar, and how honestly it wasn’t that exciting, and he wished I could have been there. But he knew that we needed to spend time apart. The problem was that mentally he knew this but emotionally he didn’t, and a lot of messiness ensued. For me it was terrifying, and I have to believe that it was for him as well, but for the very opposite reason it was for me; I was afraid I would never escape him, and he was afraid I would.

The second time I saw Ryan, it was during the winterguard/winter drumline season, again while we were juniors. It was the only year I did winterguard, oddly enough. In any case, at a major local competition, my guard had performed and were sitting on the bleachers watching other guards perform before awards, and his drumline happened to be sitting in front of us, watching their high school’s guard perform. I recognized him, and while the other guard girls were all gossiping about who they thought was the hottest, I was busy being the brave one that was cool with moving down a few rows and striking up conversation with the drummers. Lo and behold, Ryan was sitting right in front of the guy I had plopped down next to just to prove a point to the other girls in my guard. And so I started talking to him instead.

We broke up in early March. I had just come home from the Olympics in Vancouver, the last bit of which we had been fighting long distance. He had grown up in a house where his dad was the dominant personality, and his kind mother was glad not to be the one in control. So naturally Ryan gravitated towards being in control and me taking the back seat, whereas I am hardheaded and a very dominant sort of person. We were always butting heads over this, and his need to be in control of my life had spiraled to a dangerous level. All the warning signs I had been too blind to notice were suddenly clear as day, and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we weren’t meant to be together. That no matter how hard we had tried to make things work, no matter how much we loved each other, that we were wrong for each other. It was a saturday, and we were supposed to go ice skating at UK together, but when I arrived at his apartment and we got into his car, the fighting continued, and one drive around the block later resulted in a long night in which I became scared of what he would do to himself now that he knew for sure that this was the end. Somewhere in the fight he pulled out the engagement ring he’d bought while I’d been in Canada and tried to show it to me, but I closed my eyes and held them shut for a long time. To this day I have no idea what that ring looked like, nor what happened to it.

The third time we met, it was at another football game. This time, our senior year of high school, and I had already developed a minor crush on him, after having met him twice. Determined not to let possibly my last chance pass me by, I stowed a sharpie in my uniform and during third quarter, tracked Ryan down and got his number. He was the head drum major that year, and trust me when I say the allure of being the soloist from my school and being like psh of course I’m friends with that school’s drum major was a big one. There’s a funny story this time from how that first horn player I’d met the year before was desperate to avoid me because he was still convinced I was psycho.

Christmas of our junior year of college, we went engagement ring shopping over break. Just a few locally owned jewelry places, and I remember looking at rings and being beyond excited about our future together. I was going to get engaged to the man I was madly in love with, and we were going to get married right after graduation. I’d picked out a few weekends in late May and early June and we were tossing around what we thought would be best. One summer, we had gone to a local Arboretum, and Ryan and I knew we were going to have an outdoor wedding there. For our honeymoon we were going to go on an Alaskan cruise. Looking at the rings, getting sized, made the whole thing palpable. Our future was set and we were blissful.

Burned into my memory is the first time we ever hung out. Senior year, I was over high school. So instead of going to homecoming, I used my one free weekend between August through November to hang out with Ryan. Since he’s allergic to cats, we ended up hanging out at his house. I’m not entirely sure how I managed to convince him of this, but I guess it was the same way I managed to get his number. And like every guy I’ve ever known and wanted to be friends with perhaps too aggressively, he made the preemptive strike of “I don’t want a girlfriend and I’ll never be interested in you.” I assured him I wasn’t looking. He would later tell me he could tell I was lying through my teeth. We watched V for Vendetta, which oddly enough I had seen that past spring with the guy who took me to my junior prom. Through the whole film, Ryan paid no attention to me, whereas I was painfully aware of him. Crushes tend to be like that. That was also the day I met his parents. When we eventually started dating, Ryan had to explain that I was the weirdo they’d met a year ago and all that fun stuff. The following monday at school, everyone was asking me what on earth I did over the weekend because I was glowing with happiness. So I eagerly told them about hanging out with Ryan, the head drum major for X school. The reaction was exactly what I waned: awe.

The fall of our junior year, Ryan transferred to UK, claiming that he liked the music program better there, and especially the horn teacher. When I broke up with him, he claimed he transferred just to be with me. All I could see was that it meant at some point he had lied to me, although in reality, both reasons were probably true. Being 30 minutes away from each other, we spend an absorbent amount of time together. My social life at my university dropped to basically none. I skipped out on anything and everything to be with Ryan and his friends–all other horn players at UK. It got to the point where I would hang out with those girls (yes, all girls) without Ryan, even though they were his friends. Truth was, my relationship with Ryan had already destroyed almost all the friendships I had, or prevented them from growing into actual friendships. That fall I had my junior recital, Ryan being one of the four horns in a horn quartet piece that ended my recital. It was an arrangement of “Because” by The Beatles. Across the Universe was our favorite movie, and I loved that song, so of course I wanted it in my recital. That fall Ryan was also constantly on my case about religion. We both grew up religious, but he had “outgrown” it, and was always annoyed that I still believed. Any time religion came up, he took the time to try to prove why it was wrong and why I was an idiot for believing. I just accepted that this was a part of who we were as a couple, even though it hurt. Ryan developed this way of tearing me down and building me up that left me dependent on him emotionally. And I let him. That fall, it was the strongest it would ever be.

We IMed constantly senior year. I would watch impatiently for him to sign on, and then often force myself to wait a minute or two before pouncing. Turns out he was terrible at english, and since I was in AP, I would edit his papers for him. The tradition would continue on into college. The first time I edited a paper for him, he kept urging me to hurry up, but I said I was being thorough. I was, actually. I’d never read the book his paper was on, Beowolf, so I judged his arguments on whether they made sense to me or not. When I found out how he did on his paper, he started by saying the english teacher basically chewed out the entire class for all-around terrible essays. He, however, had a 97% on his. So I would help him with english from then on, and he would help me with horn/music stuff. I talked about auditioning for Glassmen, and he was the person I was most excited to tell I’d been offered a spot in the winter of my senior year. We talked about drumcorps a lot.

Summers all blur together for me. We had two summers of bliss together. The first one was the only time we really had to grow our relationship not long distance. Every second of every moment together was precious. The second one, in which we knew he was transferring to UK and would be close to me, was different. We would go roller blading round his neighborhood, he tried to teach me to drive stick (I still can’t), we would play soccer at a park two streets away from his house. We went everywhere together, and any time spent apart was heartbreaking. His presence was like oxygen to me. My dependence on him should have been terrifying to me, but young love is so all-encompassing that I never noticed. Generally when we were together, it was at his house, and Ryan was very rarely around my family because he didn’t like them. Again, it should have been a warning. Although, we didn’t hang around his friends much because I didn’t get along with them. We squabbled like an old married couple, and generally ignored the bigger issues. We’d get to those when they came around. Probably though, we avoided them because if we ever faced them, it could easily end the relationship. Blinded by our love for the other, we never truly even knew we needed to face the big issues.

We didn’t hang out for the rest of high school. One night at Glassmen during move-ins, I was feeling exceptionally down, so I thought I’d try calling some friends. Neither of my best friends answered, so on a whim, I tried Ryan. Who answered. I found out he’d be on tour with the Cavaliers that summer, and that was the moment everything changed. I still had a crush on him that despite my dire attempts to suppress it, had never disappeared.

Upon arriving home from tour, my best friend at the time, Amy, came to the airport with my mom and sister to welcome me home, and couldn’t wait to tell me the news: Ryan had called me. THE Ryan, the one I had gushed about all senior year. So I bashfully told her, uh, yeah, we’re sort of dating now.

And so that summer, every time Glassmen and Cavaliers were at the same show, we found each other and hung out. If I showed up by their buses, the guys knew who I was looking for, and if Ryan showed up by ours, people knew to find me. We were friends, and for a while on tour, my crush on him went away. I almost started dating Danny, another gmen mello. People all thought I would. But then finals week in Pasadena, all those feelings, after having not seen Ryan in three weeks, became real. And finals night, after the awards ceremony and after we had all gotten out of uniform for the last time, Ryan found me. And before he had to run off, and before I had to leave as well, he kissed me for the very first time.

I would have never guessed that the single kiss I wanted the most would turn out to damage me so much. We were doomed from the start, but we could have never known that. You can only try to force a square peg in a round hole for so long, before both are damaged and you eventually learn that it’s impossible. In some sense, the day I broke up with him was like Romeo killing himself, and Juliet being forced to deal with the aftermath. Does she move on, or does she let the heartbreak kill her? We were star-crossed, Ryan and I, and for nearly three years, we were madly in love. But our paths were never going to stay together. They couldn’t.

It has taken me years to undo the damage that relationship did to me. And it has taken me this past year (a whole year) to go from the moment I forgave myself and knew I would be loved again someday, to the moment where I can finally forgive him. Up until recently, the bitterness of the relationship and the horrific way it ended were all I could see.

I wish I could explain things to him. I wish I could tell him I’m sorry.

*name changed.

Also, that’s one of two remaining photos of us together. No, seriously. Two.

Film Review: Cloud Atlas

That was a metaphorical and philosophical bullet to the brain, as is the style of the Wachowskis. It does, however, boil down very simply. It’s the journey of souls, one in particular as marked by a comet-shaped birthmark.

Going about describing this film is like trying to describe a mix of the reincarnation and love from The Fountain, the intertwining story element of Babel, the psychological aspect of Black Swan, an emotional and theological chunk from Atonement, and a little bit of The Matrix philosophical and theological elements to top things off. When I say bullet to the brain I mean that the film keeps going and you’re sitting there wondering what you’re looking at in six different timelines that cross paths here and there in the most unique ways.

I’ll try to separate the plots out for you, since in the movie they are all interwoven in a beautiful and cinematic way that makes the whole film so much more complex, but at the same time so much more beautiful and simplistic.

Storyline 1: A lawyer, Adam, has sailed across the Pacific to obtain a contract for his father-in-law for slavery rights of some kind in 1846 (I think). There he gets infected with a worm, and a doctor goes with him on his return journey to San Francisco to help him. As does a slave who says he can earn his own passage. And he does. The doctor (Tom Hanks), however, is trying to rob Adam, and is also poisoning him slowly so that he can get the contract and the gold in the case the contract is in. The now former slave saves him, in repayment for Adam getting the captain of the ship to allow him to earn his passage on the voyage (in turn basically granting him his freedom). Once back in SF, Adam burns the contract in front of his father-in-law, and he and his wife (the daughter) announce that they are moving east to be part of the abolitionist movement. When told that they will be nothing but drops in the ocean, Adam says what is an ocean but a multitude of drops? Adam narrates part of this, and this story connects to the next in the fact that he wrote his story down, and the book is one that is read by the main character in the chronologically next story.

Storyline 2: England, 1930’s. We meet a gay couple, one of whom studied to be a composer and manages to worm his way into the household of an ailing composer of note in the day to help him transcribe the rest of his music. Whilst there, under constant barrage from his employer, the young man, Robert, is finally able to write his own music, which the old composer claims is rightfully his, and threatens to ruin Robert’s, reputation. (Outing him would have ruined him in that era.) So Robert goes to leave and the old man continues to threaten him, wherein an accident happens when the two struggle with a gun, and it goes off and shoots the old man, but doesn’t kill him. The old man is out for blood after this, while Robert finishes his symphony, The Cloud Atlas Sextet, before killing himself minutes before his one true love rushes in the door. The letters Robert wrote to Sixsmith (his lover) through this narrate the story, and are part of the continuation within the next story.

Storyline 3: San Francisco 1970’s. A journalist (Halle Berry) meets Sixsmith as an old man by chance in an elevator. The power goes out and they have a long time to talk. Sixsmith eventually decides he wants to trust Louisa with his secret, but before he can tell her, he’s killed. She finds his body, and the letters Robert wrote to him, and then decides to start investigating the whole thing. Louisa goes to the nuclear power plant that is soon to be up and running, and meets Tom Hanks’ character there, and the two instantly connect, and he says some poetic things about suddenly believing in past lives and fate and such. His plane is blown up, and a contract killer runs her off a bridge. She survives, and eventually gets the story out, via a copy of the report of the faulty nuclear plant Sixsmith sent to his niece. Louisa gives her the letters and Megan says that Sixsmith believed in love, even though he was a scientist. Also, Louisa goes to a record shop to buy Robert’s Cloud Atlas Sextet in here, and says she knows it, even though there are only a handful of copies of it in existence.

Storyline 4: Present day. I Somehow missed how this one connected to the last storyline. Whoops. A publisher, Timothy, is at a party with the author of a book he wrote, Dermot. The book got a terrible review and Dermot, at the party, throws the reviewer off the balcony, killing him. (At this point, Tom Hanks has played a killer twice). The book suddenly becomes a success, and then thugs come and demand money from Timothy, who goes to his brother for help. The brother sends him to a mental institution for the elderly to get rid of him, and there, Timothy and three others plan an elaborate escape. The escape empowers Timothy to reunite with the woman he had loved in his youth. At the end, he decides to write down his story, and it becomes a film that shows up in the next story

Storyline 5: New Seoul, 2144. In storyline 2, the old composer says he had a dream about a strange cafe where all the waitresses had the same face. Turns out, that’s the beginning of this story. One of the girls shows another the lost and found, and Sonmi 451 becomes entranced with a little movie player. Yoona (the other one) acts out against a customer who sexually assaults her and then tries to escape. She is killed instantly. Hae-Joo comes and breaks Sonmi out, and shows her the resistance, as well as the truth: the genetically grown workforce that serves people are killed after a certain amount of time, and their bodies broken down and fed to the current workforce. The whole thing reveals a fairly emotionally despicable situation. So Sonmi agrees to do a broadcast across the world and colonies on other worlds. While this is happening, the resistance is destroyed, and Hae-Joo is killed. Sonmi, once captured and asked to tell her side of the story for the archives (which narrates this whole bit), is asked if she was in love with him, and she says she still is. When this causes some confusion, she says that death is like a door. When the door on this life closes, another opens. The soul continues. Her broadcast eventually ends her up as a sort of deity in human culture.

Storyline 6: Way into the future, on a colony. Zachry’s brother-in-law, Adam (a connection to the first storyline) and nephew are killed by cannibal warriors while Zachry hides nearby. Halle’s character comes to the island their village is on to climb ontop of the mountain the locals believe is the devil’s lair. The devil in this case is called old Georgie and is Hugo Weaving (who has played a villain in every storyline he shows up in except one, and he’s barely in that one). Zachry agrees to help Meronym (Halle), and finds out that Sonmi was a human who lived a very short life, and he sees part of the broadcast she made all that time ago. The tribe is all wiped out by the cannibals, and Zachry kills one, which causes a battle in while he and Meronym kill the whole cannibal tribe (to save each other and to save Zachry’s niece, the lone survivor of the raid). They go somewhere else, and the last scene is of Zachry telling this story to his grandchildren, pointing out Earth to one of them, then going inside with Meronym.

One interesting tie from the last story to the first is that in the first, Tom Hanks plays a doctor trying to kill someone, and he takes a jeweled/glass button from Adam’s coat. In the last story, Zachry (Tom Hanks) wears a necklace with that same jeweled/glass button, and when he turns from being selfish to being a hero, that necklace is ripped off. Also, the doctor talked about cannibals in one scene, when he first meets Adam, and then cannibals appear in the last story.

Now, if this was hard to follow, I’ve actually given you the easy format. The stories all intertwine in a very unique way, and sorting out what’s happening in each story takes some time. In the intertwined format it’s much more eloquent than I’ve made this seem.

The image carried over through the whole thing is a comet-shaped birthmark. First on Adam, then Robert, then Louisa, then Timothy, then Sonmi, and lastly Zachry. It’s the story of souls through time, and the lives around that soul. The story always centers on the one who bears the birthmark. From killer to hero, as the description says. But it’s more than that. It’s the story of love found and lost throughout time, of life lost and life saved. The comet represents the journey of the soul, and in some way how that soul crosses paths with someone who had seen this mark before, been involved with the life of that person.

In the sense that it carries over, like reincarnation, it is very reminiscent of The Fountain. I happen to love that movie, but Cloud Atlas far surpasses it. Instead of just two people passing through time, always to be together, it’s multiple people, but the same pairs are always there. It uses the same actors to play many roles, allowing us to follow the journey of the soul and how it relates to the past and future, rather than confusing us by casting a bunch of different people. I’ve heard some flack about how they should have cast different ethnicities rather than doing makeup on them. The point is for the audience to understand who these characters are, and why it’s so important that they would be drawn to each other.

The way that all these stories are interwoven makes the reveals happen at just the right time, showing us one character and then introducing them to another in a different timeline, which eventually causes us to be introduced to them in the first timeline and so on. Hard to explain well, but cinematically it’s so beautiful and works perfectly.

It made me cry. I was sitting between total strangers in a packed theater and I was so moved that I cried. But the sadness was coupled with happiness from other storylines, giving the whole film this incredible bittersweet feeling. Storyline 5 was the saddest, I thought. It represented an incredible amount of hope that ends in death because it cannot end any other way. I think also that Doona Bae and Jim Sturgess in combination offer this incredibly potent mix of heart, soul, and sincerity.

Each storyline shows us that there are two paths we could follow (if you look closely). Good or evil. Doing the right thing or being self-serving and doing the wrong thing. Life is about the choices we make, and the lives we cross paths with, and how the choices we make impact those lives.

In a metaphorical and philosophical way, I think I understood this film. Someone actually turned to me during the credits and asked if I understood it, and then afterwards in the bathroom I heard a bunch of girls complaining that they didn’t get it and the plot was really simple and they didn’t seem to like it. I was absolutely 100% judging them in that moment. Because the plot wasn’t actually that simple. Any of the stories could have been it’s own film, but then the overarching storyline of the soul, the comet birthmark, going on, was both simple in idea and incredibly complex in execution. The film is more of a character-driven story rather than a plot-driven story (Inception would be plot-driven).

As for other things about the film, the music was incredible. The Cloud Atlas Sextet we hear played throughout is hauntingly beautiful. The makeup in the film was phenomenal, especially since the actors were changing ethnicities for most of the different storylines. That’s hard to do, let alone do well. The cinematography was beautiful. It was never showy (unlike The Matrix), and I liked that. The acting was amazing. Top-notch actors were brought on for this, and they carried each and every story with care and fineness. Hugo Weaving is  terrifying villain, but for very different reasons, so is Tom Hanks. Jim Sturgess always has this incredible amount of heart in his acting, and watching him in this film made me realize why I love him so much; I can’t not love that much heart and sincerity. Doona Bae is incredibly moving. How she acts seems so simple, but I have no doubt it is anything but, as the complexity of each feeling came through. Halle Berry brings her cool, confident, capable self to screen. Ben Wishaw (Robert) blew my mind. He had a powerful storyline, and he played it so well. Everyone in the cast was wonderful, and it was clear why they are renowned actors. The special effects were nice, and I love how they did New Seoul and the futuristic timelines. Everything seemed a logical advance from where we are.

The one thing that brought me out of the film a bit was in the last timeline, they have this sort of future-speak that is basically butchered english, and sometimes I had to spend a little time deciphering what was said.

It’s magnificent.