Surprise!

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Since I was not able to sleep anyway, I watched the live stream of the Academy Awards and was just going to turn it off at the end after hearing Faye Dunaway announce La La Land as winner of best picture for 2017. (The expected letdown – at some point I became so bored by the idea of La La Land sweeping it that I felt like almost anything else would be better.) Dunaway and Warren Beatty stumbled a bit before announcing La La Land, and I was doing something else so didn’t turn it off immediately. And then suddenly after making some of the standard thank you speeches, La La Land‘s producer ended up having to announce that no, actually, Moonlight had won. Beatty had been given the wrong envelope. It seemed at first like the La La Land producer was humbly praising Moonlight, as though it should have been the winner, but then it became clear, as he held up the card and envelope announcing the actual winner, that it read MOONLIGHT.

Gotta say – that was a surprise. And the way it happened, all that chaos, was entertaining.

La La La La La

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La La Land: “This year’s other best picture nominees have heart, soul and humanity. Damien Chazelle’s tawdry, dispiriting confection has none – it’s the tale of two narcissists who sacrifice love for self-interest”.

On the advice of someone whose taste and opinions I trust, I decided to break my personal non-cinema-going record (hadn’t been to a cinema since June 2009) and fly to Berlin just to see a midday showing of La La Land. Let’s forget the impracticality of my impulsive leap; let’s forget the fact that, despite my multiple confirmations of getting the original-language version, the film was dubbed into German. Let’s just consider the fact that I still felt deeply saddened by the film, even if I could not understand every word that was said. (I later saw it in English to pick up the nuances and bits I’d missed.)

My trusted source, who had recommended it, felt that it was uplifting, if I may paraphrase his post-viewing thoughts, because the couple (spoiler alert), despite not ending up together in the long run, inspired each other to do great things, to follow their dreams.

As the aforementioned Guardian review points out: “They get together when their careers are failing, and spend their time sharing notes. Once they have co-mentored themselves on to the road to personal advancement, they ditch each other like a rocket’s blast-off section.”

I can see and support this interpretation logically, without putting such a negative spin on it (it is a film, meant to be entertaining in some way, after all). The ‘support’ and ‘seeing talent and beauty in each other and encouraging it’ angle is only one edge of the sword; the other is that both characters were using each other, as the Guardian suggests.

Going by how I felt after seeing it without being able to understand everything being said, I knew that my feelings were not admiring the ‘mutual support’ and the characters being who they needed to be for each other until they made it or didn’t need each other any more. At least it was not the complete feeling. I cried, felt moved, but could not pinpoint exactly what made it so deeply sad for me. I did, after all, share many of the same complaints about the film’s many shortcomings (bad singing, a lacklustre chemistry, the co-opting and simplifying of jazz as a musical genre, and blah blah blah) that the article highlights but still was able to overlook them for the sake of finding some greater meaning.

“Greater meaning”, though, all filters through the prism of your own state of mind and emotional being at the time of viewing and later reflection. Thus I was able to wring mammoth amounts of emotion from even my dubbed German viewing, but this may only be because of my own topsy-turvy emotional state at the time.

It is only now, reading this review, that I see reflected in words what I was unable to articulate: these two people (potentially ‘narcissists’, according to the article) sacrificed love for self-interest. Again, setting aside the fact that I did not necessarily find their “love” all that believable or compelling, it still ended up disposable and was easily cast aside to pursue other things.

“We can now see why these sweethearts separate. On their last night together they pledge eternal love; but they also promise to follow their dreams. For them, the latter was bound to trump the former: self-worship brooks no distractions. If, at the end, Seb seems a little lonely and Mia seems a little bored, no matter. Their final smiles indicate that both have attained what really matters: self-satisfaction.

Still, La La Land is a film for our time. With our self-nurturing, self-promotion, clicktivism, Twitterstorms, sexts and selfies, we are all narcissists now.”

And you know, that is not entirely unrealistic. Do we not meet people when things in our lives are falling apart, less than ideal, and make pledges of undying love and then somehow rebuild around them but then run far and fast as we ‘follow our dreams’?

Unfortunate Coincidence (Dorothy Parker)

By the time you swear you’re his,
Shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is
Infinite, undying –
Lady, make a note of this:
One of you is lying.

It happens every day, and sometimes for very good reason (I even applauded the ‘leaving a relationship, forgoing love for personal goals’ move heartily in my previous post on the women of the mostly crap TV show, Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce). I don’t want or need every movie (or any movie, really) to have a standard Hollywood ending wherein the couple ends up together. But when I saw the film, I needed to see (and believe) that love could be strong enough to win and could be stronger than circumstance or even self-interest.

Photo (c) 2017 Lisa Zins

Dubbing needs drubbing

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I confirmed and reconfirmed no fewer than three times that the film I went to Berlin to see would be in English (its original language) with German subtitles. But you just can’t trust the Germans when it comes to dubbing versus subtitling. Turns out it was dubbed into German – except for the songs, which were subtitled. Yes, it’s a musical, and therefore primarily music.

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But that doesn’t mean you have actually subtitled the movie when all the dialogue is forcing Ryan Gosling to speak unnatural German. In that sense, it was a hilarious footnote to this adventure – I would not, as I told someone afterwards, watch a dubbed movie at home if someone paid me to do it, but today I spent considerable time, effort and money just to get to and watch a dubbed movie. However, it is a testament to the power of the film that I could still leave feeling moved and crying. I didn’t expect to – with all the hype, it being a musical (two strikes, automatically), not being particularly fond of Emma Stone either way and not that keen on what appeared to be a love story. Not to mention that it didn’t grab me the first minute or even in the first 20 minutes (especially, of course, because it was in German haha). But even in English it really wasn’t doing it for me. I don’t know when or how it changed, but there were small moments that started to win me over.

But again I can’t even be irritated about the dubbing. The experience of just running off and doing something different and virtually unplanned was enough. Uneventful flight, gorgeous but bitterly cold Berlin weather, visiting some favorite sites, everything running smoothly and on time, nice lunch at Jewish restaurant, Masel Topf, in Prenzlauer Berg, watching the police assigned to guard the synagogue pace back and forth.

And good film, if a bit strange – like the time I saw a Norwegian film in Mexico before I ever lived in Norway or gave Norway or Norwegian a second thought. As soon as I sat down in the cinema, I thought, “Hmmmm.” Norwegian voice, Spanish subtitles. Brilliant.

I did figure out finally what made me feel I had fallen out of love with Berlin when I was considering moving there last year. It was that for me it is not a city to do by myself/by oneself. It has always been something I explored or wanted to explore with someone, so wandering around alone actually felt empty. I had forgotten that I felt that way sometimes when I was working there. Other cities have not been like that – Swedish cities don’t feel that way to me, for example. But I feel a bit lost – not literally – but emotionally untethered without a Berlin companion, strange as that sounds.

And now it is definitely and desperately time for sleep – only about six hours to go until I can achieve that.

Spontaneity

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One of the biggest reasons I live the life I do and have cultivated the lifestyle I have is its flexibility and the ability to be spontaneous. Do I often do anything with that? Not in my opinion. From other people’s regimented perspectives, maybe it seems like it, but to me, spontaneous is buying a ticket to Japan in the morning and leaving in the afternoon.

The other night, Sunday, the internet connection in my house stopped working. I was already half-asleep and it was 2 a.m. so this should not have mattered to me in the least. But somehow it made me irritated, and thus wide awake. And suddenly, after speaking for some time about the film La La Land earlier in the evening, and getting excited to see it (even if it had not registered in my head before this conversation), I thought at 2 a.m., randomly, “This would be a good time to jump in the car, drive to Oslo airport and fly to some city where the film IS playing!” (I had already checked to see that it’s not been released in Sweden or Norway yet.)

Exercising freedom and flexibility is always in my reach and I never take advantage, certainly not fully. This seemed like the right opportunity. Of course, is it rational to jump out of bed, where you’re already half asleep and dressed for sleep, get your things together, buy a ticket and go to Berlin (city of choice) just to see a movie that, even a day earlier, you would not even have given a second thought to?

No, pas du tout. But it was never about what is rational. Seems like lunacy, but it’s less about the movie and more about just doing something crazy and unexpected because I can. If I don’t have kids, complications, obligations (other than work, which I can do at any hour), should I not be taking full advantage of the freedom that that affords?

I didn’t do it when that middle-of-the-night urge struck – the internet connection started working, so my tiredness took over again, but I was halfway out the door and then spent the next day, Monday, debating whether I should go Tuesday instead. I was not as spontaneous as I might like to be – but now, sitting at the Oslo airport working for a few hours while waiting for a flight to Berlin, I can say that I was spontaneous enough at least to go for it the next day.

The last time I went to a cinema was in 2009; I had returned to Iceland to visit and saw whatever Star Trek movie was new that summer. And somehow have never returned. This seems like, if not a monumental way to break the dry spell, a novel and memorable one.