I could have made a decent paycheck this week if I could only have agreed to blog the Academy Awards. Of course, they don't particularly care that I have haven't seen any of the nominated movies--- not a single one, except maybe a documentary because I actually was conscripted to attend a random screening by the filmmaker. But these are movies not films. The difference, to me, being the hype and promotion, the 'blow-up' factor.
It's hard for me to diagnose the exact cause of my movie-going malaise. It could be my age, or the fact that after seeing thousands upon thousands of these-- they become a little cheap-- like a roller coaster ride, over and over. It's terrifying or amazing, but in the end, we can only remember maybe the first time-- or the time someone threw up on you. Like I remember a movie-date, when I really liked the guy… or making out with my husband, because that's what we did at the movies. But I was young.
And of course I won't venture the theory that these movies are not, besides the sensational trailer campaigns and the celebrity overkill, what we used to call 'memorable'. That they don't resonate in the way that 'On the Waterfront' or 'The Hustler' did… the way these actors used to 'be' their characters… that try as I might, with a few exceptions, I just see celebrities.
I did try to watch the show. I noticed things like the camera focusing on black people in the audience to compensate for the fact that there was hardly a minority face among the high-profile nominees. Maybe that explains the Birdman wins? A Mexican director? Who knows?
What I did think about was the fact that our television sets, in my day, were black and white boxes. Actors were miniaturized and the format was square. The resolution was not great. The larger the set, the less clarity. So the movies were larger than life, colored-- you could see places you might never visit, you could scrutinize the imperfect and breathtakingly passionate face of Richard Burton and you knew you would never ever be these people or these characters and it was stunning.
Maybe 25 years ago I was invited to the home of some prep-school parents who liked musicians. Not only did they have a complete 24-track studio and rows of guitars no one could really play, but they had their own private screening room. It was a mini-cinema with leather reclining chairs like first class airline seats. The speakers were surround-sound and the screen was cinema-scale. They had some kind of expensive format projector or who knows? A movie collection. Of course, like the other 'playrooms' in the house, including a simulated ski-ing machine with visual moving slopes, it was immaculate and empty. Everything at their fingertips, these people--pushbuttons and electronic wonderment-- and they were hardly ever home. Their kids were brats.
My Thanksgiving tradition includes my son coming over to sleep and eat and binge on sports and this year, he begged me to splurge on a new TV. I have no cellphone, and had an old, small box. It was getting to the point where even the sports scores were 'off-screen' because my set didn't accommodate the format. So we got a black Friday spectacular 42-inch screen for very little money… and after my brief adjustment period I have only just begun to 'see' what others have been seeing on their high-def technology for years. It's pretty spectacular… the visual… clearer than clear. When my son calls me from a Knicks game, I can see him waving. Amazing.
But one thing I have noticed-- the lines between cinema and television are blurring. It is so symptomatic of our culture now-- people with their palatial apartments and oversized homes-- that now we all have a private screening room… and 4 million movies available to us at all times. I still have my Time Warner triple play--- I don't want HBO and I don't want to be addicted to TV. I haven't watched a single Breaking Bad or Madmen episode or even Downton Abbey…I like the randomness of TV, and now that we all have a cinematic format and video quality--- and everyone from Apple to Amazon to your neighbor is producing 'television'… movies are marketed like anything which is cheap and downloadable and viewable on phones while you have a bath. Or drive in your SUV and cause accidents…whatever. Everyone has everything everywhere, like a rich person. And it feels cheap.
Does anyone remember being in love--- really in love? Not the kind you will marry or possess because it doesn't work that way, but the kind where you are overcome with passion and you 'lift' out of your own body and you are possessed and then there you are, the 2 of you, in some bed somewhere which you will remember for the rest of your life, where you lie awake because it is your own movie and you need to press this into your heart forever, where you are aware you have slept with some kind of angel, and you have been touched or maybe ruined forever, but it is real. And maybe this will last for days or weeks or months or maybe years. Maybe it will come and go, will weave in and out of your life, like a cosmic glowing thread of light, maybe you will become pregnant and bear its child… but it will not stay. And in the hours or days or weeks, between those episodes, love happens. You do not text, because that was not available. You don't even telephone, because you are under a spell, and the technology of even a wire and a receiver-- it seems well, awkward. You might write a letter and post it, and it will take weeks before you even know it is received, if ever. You might get a tiny box in the mail with a hand-rolled cigarette or a pressed flower, or a fortune from an old cookie… and it will be from him. But it is in the space which surrounds these moments--- that the experience becomes something.
In art, space is essential--- real art, that is. It is what you leave out that is important. Now, we have no space. Even my oversized flatscreen during the Academy Awards is crammed with finery and entertainment… thousands of beautiful people and too much music, and film, and live people-- the actors, reminding us that everything is not really art, but a 'layer', an investment, a trick. People are maybe not really crying, even… we see these little cameos and it is confusing… it is just too much. In a way it is like massive quantities of food without digestion. It is all too much. Everyone is dressed in loaned gowns and the after and before-shows insure that there is no space anywhere. What is the meaning?
I suppose without the ball and the gown, the Prince would never have noticed Cinderella. This is an old story. And without the 'space' of losing her and having to try the shoe on all those girls-- he would never have found his true princess. Maybe that explains the current obsession with shoes, the celebrity closets with a banker's salary worth of shoes. Hoarders.
There used to be an expression… you can't have everything; where would you put it? But now you can put it in your phone, on a chip. It's in your pocket… your money, your airline tickets, 10,000 movies. Rich people are creating space in the New York skyline so they can own more and more, have bigger screens for their personal lives. But this is not the kind of space they need. They don't see that they are starving for the kind of space that they no longer understand-- the kind of space that exists while you miss someone or you want something so badly you must work seven years to have it. Occasionally a movie director understands this, and tries to show this-- the most archetypal legend of existence-- the search, the quest…what makes us fragile and divine and raises us above our flesh and bones-- our soul peeking out of its human garbage pile of 'stuff'.
I went to a funeral for my friend on Saturday. It was a devastating loss for me of someone who suffered from cultural under-acknowledgment because we are obsolete, we seekers of music or art or truth among the technology we can't even afford. My niece had emailed me; a friend of hers OD'd. I shared some of Vvedensky's Gray Notebook which I was reading. Brutal and real. Re: the funeral, It was so hard to see Joy in a box, I mailed her back. She thought it was the title. Maybe it is.