Thursday, February 21, 2008

I used to love her, but I had to kill her

Argh. Can't sleep (clown'll eat me!) so I'm writing.

Why does my brain wait until I'm all ready for bed - teeth brushed, face washed, prayers prayed (Ha! just seeing if you're paying attention) - and I've gotten snuggled into my warm bed before going into Hyper Creative Drive? Is it just that my sense of what is actually worthy of being written down is skewed by my tiredness and everything seems like a brilliant idea? (kind of like when you're stoned and everything you think seems REVOLUTIONARY!) Or does my brain just like to torture me by waiting until I'm all snuzzy drowsy cuddly with KB before it goes, "Psst. You know what would be a great way to introduce the FBI agent in that horror script? Here listen, I'll tell you..." and I find myself laying there arguing with myself:

Me: "I'll write it down in the morning."
My Brain: "You'll have forgotten it. I promise you."
Me: "No, this is too good. I'll remember it. I know I will."
My Brain: "You won't get all the detail. You won't get the feeling of it. You'll get some vague outline and most of the facts, but it won't be as meaningful and good as it is now."
Me: "God dammit."

And I get out of bed and go into the office and turn on the blinding light and write it down. And it's true, My Brain is right, because it's happened before - I tell myself I'll remember it in the morning, turn over and go to sleep, and then when it's the next morning (or afternoon when Nolan's napping, as is usually the case) and I do try to get it down on paper, I find myself going, "Now what was that great line? Shit."

I have, since the great The Wind That Shakes The Barley tragedy of Ought Eight, been given a virtual kick in the butt, writing-wise. I am simultaneously trying to work harder at writing at least something every day, and also giving myself a break for not being able to be Superwoman and do it all plus be a great writer. KB has said to me many times that this is just one phase in our lives, the stay-at-home-and-raise-your-kids phase, and there will be other phases (hopefully the write and sell and make movies phase) in the future, and I know that's true. It's just so hard sometimes to cut myself slack.

Which leads me to my next thought.

Nolan and I were at the library today, because we've been staying home entirely too much lately, being all homebound and cocoony with no appointments or playdates and I really felt we just needed to get out. It's hard to convince Nolan to change the status quo most of the time - if he's happy playing Constructables, he doesn't want to get a coat and hat and shoes on and go out in the cold and get in the car. So I usually defer to him and we stay home and play on the floor until I'm drooling with ennui.

But not today! Today, I forced him into the coat, etc. and we went to the Library for some interaction with other human beings.

And in the lobby, we ran into this woman, let's call her, um...Heidi. Nolan and I have run into Heidi and her kids numerous times in the past at various playgrounds in Princeton, mostly last fall, just after she had had her third child. She's a pediatrician who works part time, and did I mention she has three kids? When we first met her last fall, the baby had just been born and she was on her six-week maternity leave from work. (And she was completely free of any leftover baby weight that I could see.) We met for a couple playdates (her middle child, a girl, is Nolan's age) and lunch and whatnot, and I wish I could think of a bad thing to say about her, because...there isn't one. The woman's perfect. She has three kids under the age of 5, she works part time as a friggin' doctor, and she's totally cool. About everything. She makes homemade cookies. She knits. She wears Chuck Taylors in a completely un-ironic way, and she gets away with it! And she's not that annoying kind of holier-than-thou mom who let you KNOW that she knits and makes homemade cookies and doen't give her kids any food with high fructose corn syrup. She just does those things. And is totally self-deprecating and slightly goofy and doesn't wear makeup and I hate her.

I have one kid and am home full time with him, I don't knit or bake or do anything crafty, and all I do when KB comes home from work is bitch about what a tough day I had and how difficult Nolan was to deal with. Sometimes I think I just need to turn in my Parenting License to the Parenting Agency and say, "Sorry, I really thought I could handle this, but as it turns out, I cannot. I am a complete wimp and am totally incapable of dealing with adversity in any form, especially as it pertains to my child. Sorry about that. Better luck next time!"


So anyway, we met this woman in the lobby of the library, and we chatted and I invited her and her husband over for dinner. Because I'm an idiot, and apparently a masochistic one at that. I'll get to know her even better over dinner, I'm sure, and it will turn out that she volunteers for Save the Children in her spare time, knits afghans for elderly Katrina survivors, and that she once rescued a litter of puppies from a burning building. While wearing her Chucks. Sigh.

So I'm looking forward to that dinner.

But, and I have no smooth segue here (alas), the real thing I wanted to write about when I sat down was...Paul Haggis. KB and I just watched "In The Valley Of Elah," and I have to say, that's the first Paul Haggis film I've seen that didn't make me want to retch. Or hoot. Or both. Repeatedly. It was actually quite good - some clunky dialogue and some rather obvious foreshadowing of plot points, but on the whole very balanced and subtle and...mature.

I guess it's surprising to me, because when "Crash" won Best Picture in 2006, it really just hurt my brain. I couldn't fathom that anyone could think that trite, preachy, poorly written, hammily acted, obvious, treacly, ponderous, mish-mash of cliches could be on anyone's list of Not Too Awful movies, much less the Best Friggin' Movie of the Year. I laughed when it was nominated, it seemed like such a joke, and when it won I was just flabbergasted.

Not to mention "Million Dollar Baby," which was slightly less painful due to the mollifying presence of Morgan Freeman (he can make reading the phone book seem like Fine Art), but in which I was still able to predict the "big" moments, right down to almost getting the dialogue word for word in some scenes. (My mom hates watching movies with me now - she says I've gotten too snobby - and this was a particularly bad one. We were watching it at her house, since she has the pay cable and the big flat screen TV, and when I started guessing what the lines were going to be, out loud, to KB, she got up and left the room she was so annoyed. Sorry, Mom!)

So with those two movies (plus the screenplay for "The Last Kiss!" Yecch! Now there's a winner!) comprising the entirety of my knowledge of Paul Haggis's, how do you say, oov-rah, I did not have high hopes for Elah. I guess when you go into something with low expectations, it's not too hard to pleasantly surprised. I don't want to be damning the movie with faint praise, because it actually really was quite good. My theory (espoused to KB, my current sounding-board/victim for theories) was that Haggis had written and directed Crash, but only written Elah, and thus had another person (the theoretical director) to reign in his worst impulses and sort of balance him out.

Buzz! Wrong! Thank you for playing, Caroline! Take your year's supply of Rice-A-Roni, the San Franscisco treat, and leave quietly, won't you? He wrote and directed both of them. Huh. What do you know. Maybe he's growing and learning as a director and writer? That was the thing about Crash, it was so...juvenile. All the ideas were on the surface, nothing was left for the audience to understand. He might as well have just bought one of those giant billboards on Sunset and wrote "Racism and stereotypes...BAD. Caring about people as individuals...GOOD." and saved us all two hours.

But then, he's the one with the shelf full of shiny gold statues, now, isn't he?

Thanks for reading.

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