500 Moments of Hell

There is a moment in 500 Days of Summer, among many other moments, that I found uniquely frustrating. For some reason, perhaps because the writer and director had run out of cliches and decided to steal the “interview on love” sessions from “When Harry Met Sally”, the movie switches to Black and White and the four male characters we’ve met speak directly to the camera about love.

The boss quotes one of his greeting cards and then says, “And yes, that’s from one of our greeting cards. Just because I didn’t write it, doesn’t mean it isn’t true.” And the audience laughed at this jackass.

That’s right. An actor, in a movie, delivered lines written by the writer that seem to imply that when one is quoting from another writer, one is a cloying idiot, falling prey to the lies that our culture tells us about love. There are few things that make me more uncomfortable or irritated than a writer who mocks those that don’t get “writers”, as if there are those who think great thoughts, and those who mis-use or mis-quote those great thoughts for their own purpose. Maybe the only thing worse than saying that as a writer, is saying it while employing every single cliched, overused technique already in fashion. I don’t ever need to see this particular story told again.

Here are some other things I no longer need to see in movies, TV or theater.

1) Marveling at the idea that greeting cards are written by people other than those who purchase and give greeting cards. This idea is so manifest, and such a worthless joke, that to comment on it is to insist that this very pedestrian realization is something you find remarkable… an insistence that proves how easily impressed you are by the simplest ideas.

2) Kittens, when used to express emotion, are cloying. The poster of the hang-in-there kitty has been an ANCIENT JOKE since the late 80s. When Office Space commented on the “case of the mondays” annoyance, there were two levels to the joke, and the *first* level is that the joke need not be commented on.

3) Scenes of emotional significance occurring during a rainstorm, especially when it involves people running in the rain to make up with someone they’ve wronged. Rent every movie from 1981 to 1996. I believe Coppola never made a movie without employing this, and he’s made a lot of movies.

4) Great looking people discovering love at first sight with other shockingly gorgeous people. I’m sorry, did Zooey Deschanel break up with you? Console yourself with this –

5) A man using his movie/TV show/Play to get back at women for not loving him enough. Specifically, making a piece of art that shows a woman behaving repulsively toward a man, even though that man is charming, funny, small, beautiful, free of wrong, easily hurt and above reproach.

6) Characters explaining their opinions of love based on their parents’ divorce. Do you really think you can get away with “I don’t believe in love, my parents split up”? Have you ever met another human being? Almost everyone’s parents are divorced, and the ones that aren’t barely tolerate each other, human reaction to that is as varied and divided as our reactions to the existence of the Grand Canyon.

7) Junk food as a short hand for depression. If someone showed up at my liquor store in a bathrobe and purchased a pile of twinkies and cheap whiskey, I’d pull that person aside and say, “Listen, this is an advertisement for depression, this isn’t actual depression. My guess is, you aren’t having a single real emotion at all. You haven’t ‘given up’ or whatever it is you’re trying to broadcast, when you go somewhere in public in a bathrobe, YOU ARE CELEBRATING yourself.”

8) People talking to themselves in the mirror. Have you done this? Seriously, if anyone reads this, and they can say to me, honestly, that you’ve looked at yourself in the mirror and rehearsed a phone call or psyched yourself up, if you’ve ACTUALLY done this, then I want to hear from you. Because I’m DONE with this. I’m not talking about when you’re high, everyone has watched their eyes dilate in the mirror when they’re high. I’m just so sick of this cop-out, the whole-hearted belief that the audience won’t know what’s going on unless the actor speaks out loud to himself, and he can’t possible do that in a mutter, sitting in a chair, he has to do it conversationally, in a mirror.

9) The explosion into song after sex. This is one of the only moments done so well in the movie that I wasn’t in actual pain, but can we just stop this? I get it, when you finally have sex with the girl of your dreams, it’s much like musical theater, but do me a favor… Don’t shoot the scene. Spend two years, find a group of like minded people, and create a two act musical that expresses what you’re mocking. See if you can do it. You can’t, and this short hand is repulsive.

10) Telling me that popular culture is all lies. Particularly when you do it in one of the most lucrative forms of popular culture. You don’t get to write a love story, make it into a movie, and insist that it’s not a love story and that movies are all lies.

11) Recycling my own memories back to me, especially by using characters who are too young and too stupid to have my memories. I did fall in love with a girl who loved The Smiths. It was 1985, and we were both 15. And I thought she was the love of my life. The Smiths broke up in 1987, when the actors in this movie were 6 and 7 years old. He sings The Pixies at Karaoke? They broke up in ’92, when these actors were 11 and 12. Now if I were to sing “What A Fool Believes” at Karaoke, it wouldn’t make any sense. That song came out when I was 8.

And, don’t actually PLAY the end of The Graduate. That was its own movie, that made its own points, and meant a lot to a lot of people. I saw a play some years back about a group of guys getting together after several years, and four minutes of the play was them singing an 80s song. Not referring to it, or even singing a single refrain, THEY SANG THE WHOLE SONG. Let’s make a deal, if someone else has already made a movie or written a song that makes your point, then find a new point to make. It’s done.

12) The rube best friend. Exhausting. Why does every man boy spend their time with shitheads who don’t share their sensibility, their sense of humor or their understanding of the world.

13) Assholes hitting on girls at bars. Huge aggressive meatheads, coked up and slightly drunk, behaving like total assholes at a bar. Look, this barely ever happens. The truth is, it isn’t one little rare special man who is scared of love in a sea of brutes and assholes. Theses guys who spend all their time at the gym and have to get drunk to talk to girls? YOU THINK THESE GUYS *AREN’T* THE ONES SCARED OF LOVE? I didn’t like these guys either, in high school, but then we all GREW UP. I spent a lot of time in bars in my youth, me and all my friends. The genuine assholes weren’t the thick yuppies, they were the pretentious screenwriters who thought they were better than everyone in the bar because they *felt* things. The coked up yuppie woman-hater is a trope from the 80s, the last time it made sense was in “The Wedding Singer”.

This is the popular kids’ misunderstanding of loneliness. Lonely guys go to bars and try to talk to pretty girls. And a lot of them are kinda ugly, kinda bloated, and have to put on an air of invulnerability to get up the nerve. When I see a guy with too much hair product, who’s gone to a bar alone and gotten drunk, my heart breaks for the guy. When you try to make him out to be an asshole, it makes me hate the writer.

(pant pant pant…)

Now, I
‘m old, I have a kid and I’ve been married forever. Love is a very blue-collar thing for me, it’s something that occurs with an enormous amount of work, and it has nothing to do with anyone’s big beautiful blue eyes. And I speak from experience, both my wife and my son have big beautiful blue eyes.

We don’t love someone “essence”, we love what they *do*. Yes, we can lust after beauty, but we don’t exist in a vacuum, we aren’t items. If you are loving and kind towards someone, that will effect how they behave towards you. The world is not full of people who behave randomly, we AFFECT one another.

And… okay, let’s say we don’t. Let’s say we have no effect on each other, and that a woman can simply treat a man with utter disregard for how he feels or how he behaves. My conclusion is that this woman is a sociopath. And, frankly, I’m not interested in art that makes an argument that a person’s actions get no reactions. Where the characters simply, after much sturm and drang, have no affect on one another.

It isn’t interesting to me, that people love each other for a mystical reason that has no bearing on who we are or what we do. And more than being boring, I think it’s a lie, a self-congratulatory, immature lie. With the little amount of sleep I’ve had in the last two months, I can’t believe I spent those two hours awake and being lied to, instead of asleep and watching my dreams.