"It's funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen."

Friday, December 23, 2011

Canadian Content

I saw three movies lately that are all Canadian-ish. So, I'll be like the CBC and play up the Canadian content. (Very few spoilers - a bit in the very last sentence.)

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to try to be a good man and how to discern what that really means. Men don't have much in the way of really positive role models. To what extent can a guy successfully tease less, yell less, shove and kick less, without a strong alternative offered that doesn't come across as wimpy? Then I saw this beautiful film, Lars and the Real Girl. Don't avoid it because it's about a guy who dates a blow-up doll; I promise they don't have sex (she's religious).

(Ryan Gosling was born in London, Ontario, then grew up in Cornwall.)

The part of the film I want to download and play on a loop is when Gus, the older brother, is explaining to Lars how to know when you stop being a boy and actually start being a man:

"Well, it's not like you're one thing or the other, okay? There's still a kid inside but you grow up when you decide to do right, okay, and not what's right for you, what's right for everybody, even when it hurts.... Like, you know, like, you don't jerk people around, you know, and you don't cheat on your woman, and you take care of your family, you know, and you admit when you're wrong, or you try to, anyways. That's all I can think of, you know - it sound like it's easy and for some reason it's not."

The best part of this speech is he says it all as he's making dinner, then continues after he excuses himself to do some laundry when he hears the dryer buzz. Being a man is not about being the most powerful, being waited on, being the one who can take on all others or the one who gets to call all the shots. It's about being strong and courageous enough to do what's right. That's really hard work, and it's not acknowledged enough when someone rises to the challenge. But it's also not about being perfect. It's about trying your damnedest to get it right once in a while.

The next movie had a fascinating depiction of a not-uncommon triangulation between mother, son, and husband. Ages ago I bought the movie Spider out of a bargain bin. Then the other night, by chance, I decided to give it a try. I had just made it through Eastern Promises, which is brutal but very good, and I needed something to take my mind off it before going to bed. It was a Cronenberg double-bill. Spider, the main character, just got released from an "insane asylum" to a half-way house. As he scribbles in his journals, the film flashes back to his childhood to when his problems first started. As he hit puberty, he started to see his mom as a sexual being, and his dad as the cause of the change, the one who turned this woman from a doting mother into a "slut," actually believing his dad killed his mother then brought home an impostor to live with them.  It's all very Freudian.

(David Cronenberg was born and raised in Toronto.)

It's necessary to see people in three dimensions. I don't believe we can love in part - that we can decide we'll love only the bits we like about a person and hate the rest. We have to love the annoying or disturbing parts too. We all get to a point when we see our parents as human beings separate from us. It can be a difficult step, and many never quite make it.

Being a mother often includes being nurturing, caring, warm and loving. Being a woman often includes being sexual and sensuous, even enjoying a bit of hedonistic excess. But can we be accepted and loved when we're not in our desired role?  That's the trick.

Finally, I saw Juno. What a delight. I actually think the soundtrack with songs by Kimya Dawson really made the film. It's got a fantastic female lead, and the love interest is a guy who's reserved but not passive. He actually shares his feelings without looking ridiculous, and he refuses to be stepped on. In a nutshell, girl meets boy, girl ditches boy, girl makes an effort to get boy back again. But what hit home for me was how she got him back.

(Both Canadian!)

Relationships can't always survive hanging on to a few initial expressions of affection: the poems and letters, home-made trinkets, or even a three-month-salary ring.  We sometimes need on-going reminders of acceptance and concern; we need gestures.

Not much beats a mailbox full of tic-tacs.

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