Intrepid Girl Reporter

why does my apartment smell like burnt toast?
December 2, 2007, 11:32 am
Filed under: IGR Recommends, movies, poetry

So I have this picture of you, under the tree, leaves everywhere, drinking from one of my parents’ mugs. I guess we used to bring the mugs into the car and then return them at the end of the day. I guess we were alive, and I am alive, and the person in the photograph is you.

Jennifer Michael Hecht, “Notes for ‘September,'” The Best American Poetry 1999 (fuller text here)

As we sat through the first few minutes of August Rush, I told Oregon that I was never listening to the recommendation of a Korean movie-theater employee again. She suggested that maybe we just ask them if they enjoyed My Sassy Girl, and if so, to do the exact opposite of whatever they offer. It was that sort of opening.

But now, hours later, I can’t make up my mind. August Rush feels like a really good movie and a really strange movie fighting to get out of a really, really bad movie. It’s also only the third time in maybe four years that I’ve gone to see a film without any idea of what it was about (and the other two movies I saw under those conditions were Cry Wolf and Marci X*, so a little background research might not be a bad idea). I was a little conflicted from the beginning, looking at the poster: Jonathan Rhys Meyers? Good! Keri Russell? Bad. Robin Williams? Really bad. Reminds me of the poster for Once? Well, that’s tricky, now, isn’t it.

The main problem that most critics seem to have with the movie, now that I’m actually bothering to do my research, is that it’s totally, ludicrously unbelievable and sentimental. Well, um, yes. Earlier today, Oregon and I were talking about how orphanages in movies and books are these sort of Instant Pity Kits. (See: the Boxcar Children, the Samantha [“American Girl”] series, anything by Frances Hodgson Burnett.) And then we got there and the kid was not only in an orphanage, but also looked like the producers had maybe starved him for a couple of weeks beforehand. And the realism of the plot? Of course the kid is a musical prodigy! (I’m not giving anything away by saying any of this.) Of course Russell and Rhys Meyers start looking for each other at almost exactly the same time eleven years after their botched affair! Et cetera.

But here’s the thing: we say that events are “like something out of the movies” for a reason. Yes, everything that happens seems highly (like, 90%) unlikely. But strange, joyous things do happen to real people, and their lack of believability doesn’t make them any less real. The Hecht quote above (which refers to one of my favorite poems in high school) sort of alludes to that idea, a little bit; even when we think these things can’t happen, there’s no getting around the fact that they do. And while the meet-cute was a bit much, I didn’t think it was that implausible, and honestly, I found it (and a lot of the other plot twists) rather inventive. So help me, I thought it was…well, cute. Besides, how many times have you had some friend describe a ridiculously perfect evening that later went awry?

My major problem with the movie was its incredibly awkward and cliched explication of various sentiments that totally did not need to be said. There’s a lot of fluff floating around the movie about how music is everywhere and you just need to listen and blah blah blah, which the basic plotline – with that skinny kid picking up music so quickly and all – makes readily apparent. Also: while Freddie Highmore (aka Charlie Bucket from the Johnny Depp Wonka) is appealingly waifish, his lines all make him sound like a moron. I think they were going for some sort of “too distracted by art to pay attention to life” kind of star-child, but what I actually kept wondering was, “Is he supposed to be an idiot savant or not?”

There are a few moments of marvelous strangeness, though, that I wish had been allowed to come through more clearly. The Wizard’s lair is an incredible, creepy wonderland, and the Wizard himself has his creepiness spoiled only by repeated declarations of really stupid things. Robin Williams is incredibly creepy, but I suspect that he could have been very much creepier. The movie wants to be a sort of modern fairy tale, and I think that if they’d played more with elements like this one, they could have come closer.

There are elements of In America here – no surprise, as the director is Jim Sheridan’s daughter, although it’s nowhere close to that movie – and Rent, and even We’re Back: A Dinosaur’s Tale. (No. Really. The whole kids-joining-the-circus thing?) And that, too, is part of the problem – the movie cribs from a really, really wide range of movies, not all of which are even necessarily good, and it doesn’t really pull it off. There are times – like the ending, which, although sappy, does not feature a tearful reunion, more credit to the filmmakers – where you can sort of sense what the movie could have been, and others where you sit there and just go Stop talking. I don’t know if I can recommend it, exactly, but I probably wouldn’t change the channel if it was on, either.

Today IGR Recommends a number of things, including:

  1. Fuji Apple Mentos. Apparently there is a whole world of Mentos flavors out there about which I know nothing. Too bad you can’t get these in America, Americans.
  2. GS25 Marts, the obvious underdog of the Korean convenience store market, where it consistently loses to Family Mart, despite its having a much better selection of obscure candy and soda. GS25s are also consistently dirtier and harder to find.
  3. “September.” Plugged in previous blogs (although no posts in this one.)

Tonight there must be people who are geting what they want.
I let my oars fall into the water.
Good for them Good for them, getting what they want.

The night is so still that I forget to breathe.
The dark air is getting colder. Birds are leaving.

Tonight there are people getting just what they need.

The air is so still that it seems to stop my heart.
I remember you in a black and white photograph
taken this time of some year. You were leaning against
a half-shed tree, standing in the leaves the tree had lost.

When I fianlly exhale it takes forever to be over.

Tonight, there are people who are so happy,
that they have forgotten to worry about tomorrow.

Somewhere, people have entirely forgotten about tomorrow.
My hand trails in the water.
I should not have dropped those oars. Such a soft wind.

This poem was also, apparently, turned into a song by a Norwegian acid-jazz/electronica group. Given my past history with poems I like being turned into songs, I’m not inclined to listen to it, although I am a little intrigued.

*This is a ridiculously bad movie with the exception of the fork fundraiser scene, which is so good that it almost makes the rest of the film worth it.


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I saw 데스샌탠스 (“Death Sentence”) with Lauren and Tom tonight. Tom was able to predict everything that was going to happen throughout the entire movie, and Lauren hid for most of it. Be glad you saw “August Rush” instead. Oh geez.

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