Tempus fugit

I saw Richard Linklater’s extraordinary new film Boyhood opening weekend (at the always cool IFC Center here in Manhattan) and was treated to a Q&A with the man himself and his star, the miraculous Ellar Coltrane, following the film.  Chances are, you’ve probably been reading and hearing a lot about this film the last two weeks or so, and not without reason does it have a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  It is quietly moving, honest, and completely lovely; full of the real stuff of life that seems insignificant, but upon rumination, it is actually the important stuff.  It’s the stuff that shapes who you are.

Richard Linklater and Ellar Coltrane: changing the face of cinema, quite literally

Richard Linklater and Ellar Coltrane: changing the face of cinema, quite literally

And it got me thinking (and continuing to think as it is over a week ago I saw the film) about life.

But it also got me thinking about magic: both fictional and real.

Whether it’s coincidental or not, magic seems to be a recurring theme in the film.  In one scene, Mason’s mother (a sublime Patricia Arquette) reads from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets before bedtime.  In another scene, Mason and his sister, Samantha (played with feistiness by Lorelai Linklater), dress up and attend a midnight book party for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.  They’re wide-eyed and excited, clutching their newly purchased books to their chests like precious treasure.  A third scene has Mason asking his father (the always reliably affable Ethan Hawke) about magic and elves.  “Right this second, there’s like, no elves in the world, right?” he asks tentatively.  And this propels his father into a wonderful moment of vocal philosophizing about the definition of magic itself.  He explains that magic could very well be the fact we have whales so huge you can swim through their arteries, but is that magic?  He doesn’t know.  When Mason asks again, this time a little more pointedly, his father answers, “Technically, no elves.”

Mason Jr. and his female friend = the new Jesse and Celine?

Mason Jr. and his female friend = the new Jesse and Celine?

The last scene of Boyhood features a now nineteen year-old Mason sitting on a rock in the wilderness of Texas with a girl he’s just met that day, his first of college.  They’re talking about life.  “You know how everyone’s always saying seize the moment?” she asks. “I don’t know, I’m kind of thinking it’s the other way around, you know, like the moment seizes us.”  He replies, “Yeah, I know, it’s constant, the moments, it’s just — it’s like it’s always right now, you know?”  And just as he’s saying that, the sun is setting, and you know you’re glimpsing another fleeting, magical moment, but like Mason, you’re hopeful, because you know another one will come along if you ground yourself in the present.  And THAT right there got me thinking about another of my favorite Linklater films, Before Sunrise (really just that whole trilogy, but the first especially).  In a scene in that particular film which is all about seizing those fleeting moments, Celine says to Jesse, “If there’s any kind of magic in this world, it must be in the attempt of understanding someone, sharing something.”

"If there's any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing something. I know, it's almost impossible to succeed but who cares really? The answer must be in the attempt." - Celine

“If there’s any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing something. I know, it’s almost impossible to succeed but who cares really? The answer must be in the attempt.” – Celine

So is that magic?  Connecting with someone else on an almost spiritual level?  The kind of magic we’re accustomed to is often the kind associated with witches and wizards like Harry Potter where there are spells and people are transformed.  If you really think about it, all magic is about doing something to another person: cursing them, making them fall in love with you, changing them or yourself in some way.  The Oxford Dictionary defines magic in four ways:

  1. The power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces.
  2. Mysterious tricks, such as making things disappear and appear again, performed as entertainment.
  3. A quality that makes something seem removed from everyday life, especially in a way that gives delight.
  4. Something that has a delightfully unusual quality.

So if we look at it this way, as magic being something that seems delightfully removed from everyday life that influences the course of the events in a life, then we really DO experience magic in the real world.  Mason’s father wasn’t wrong and neither was Celine: magic is very real and present.  I don’t think Richard Linklater featured Harry Potter in two scenes of Boyhood without reason; not only have the books changed the lives of millions of readers around the world in profound ways, but so too do Harry, Ron, and Hermione experience the magic of growing up, forging friendships, and discovering love (among other things like battling dark wizards and basically saving humanity).  Magic is ever present in all those milestones of life, big and small.

"We are the three best friends that anyone could have..."

“We are the three best friends that anyone could have…”

Celine and Jesse experience that magic as they wander the streets of Vienna, talking for hours and essentially falling in love.  I’ve written about it before, but we’ve all had those moments of connection with someone else.  It’s usually those moments we actually FEEL life happening to us and around us; we become acutely aware of our own mortality and the preciousness of it all.  It’s the thing where you feel infinite and finite at the same time.  Mason Jr. becomes aware of it at the end of BoyhoodCeline and Jesse know it too.  And so too do we when we allow ourselves to be swept up in those moments, to be seized by them the way Mason’s female companion posits during their conversation.  And those moments are also usually the ones that transform us with their magic, because our lives are never quite the same afterwards.  I just felt it late last Wednesday night as a guy and I recklessly climbed ladders to the roof of his office building just to look at the Empire State Building and essentially, each other.  To hold hands and talk about life, both of us sensing it was the start of something new and treating that beautiful fragility with reverence and wonder, because we know it will never be like that ever again; we will never have these moments again.

A now iconic movie poster for a now iconic film

A now iconic movie poster for a now iconic film

Boyhood often is about the mundane of life, but further examination reveals the mundane is the magical.  So often we remember these small things more so than the milestones.  The little setbacks and victories.  The way your mom would make breakfast.  Summer days spent riding bikes and drawing with sidewalk chalk.  Long conversations to your best friend on the phone.  Or maybe harboring a crush on a college professor.  Or climbing on a roof to look at the city lights with someone just because you’re young and feel invincible.  Things DO change, people DO change, and that’s the magic of it all.  Time is magic, because as it passes, it transforms you and the world around you.  You’re always under its spell.

Just as he’s leaving for college in Boyhood, Mason’s mother is crying and poignantly admits, “I thought there’d be more.”  So do we.  All the more reason to appreciate whatever time and magic we’ve got.

*Run to see Boyhood whenever it hits your local multiplex.  Heck, even drive to a showing nearby if it’s not.  It’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of movie.  Truly something special.


First Crush

Spring is in the air here in the City and with it comes the inevitable coupling up of animals and humans (though I myself am politely declining any and all close encounters of the male romantic kind until such time as my heart has fully recovered from the last).  So that got me thinking back…way, WAY back to the 90s…to when my heart felt its first flutters of love, or at least, deep like.  Enjoy…

My first crush was named Paul.  We were in the same kindergarten class, and I thought he was adorable.  Of course, at the time, I didn’t really understand what a boyfriend or love was beyond what I saw depicted in the Disney movies I so frequently watched.  Paul was gentle and sweet, sometimes shy, but always friendly and polite.  And the best part was that he had a crush on me back.

Crushes come and go, naturally, and my crush on Paul was no different. For a while in third grade, there was Robbie, who was blonde and played soccer and had just moved from Kansas City.  He had that new kid in town mysterious quality, a mischievous grin, and never was without a little twinkle in his eye.  I was smitten.

McIntire Elementary School: where many an early crush was had

McIntire Elementary School: where many an early crush was had

But it turns out I wasn’t the only girl at McIntire Elementary who felt that way; apparently every other girl in the third grade had taken note of Robbie and was secretly plotting ways of winning him over.  Realizing he was more into my friend Joanna, I quietly withdrew my heart from the competition and turned my attention back to multiplication tables and my Book-It booklist (which I think we can all agree was one of the best reading incentives ever: read books, get free pizza), and not long after that, Paul too.

Read books, get pizza. I wish the adult world was like that.

Read books, get pizza. I wish the adult world was like that.

Sure, he was a little too into Pokemon by that point for my taste, but we both loved music class and I had never forgotten the heated discussion we’d had over which Power Ranger was the best.  It seemed like a good match (if only it was THAT easy now).

In fourth grade, we started switching classrooms for science, history, and math, so even though Paul and I were in different classes, we could still communicate via notes we left in each other’s desks.  He left me a carefully folded note one day after science class, asking if I’d be his girlfriend, and naturally, I left one back accepting.  I marked the occasion by making note of it in my Lisa Frank polar bear diary

My actual Lisa Frank polar bear diary from 1997. Please note my favorite color was "cerulean." #pretentious

My actual Lisa Frank polar bear diary from 1997. Please note my favorite color was “cerulean.” #pretentious

that I kept under lock and key, saying we had “a complicated relationship.”  As if I had any idea what that actually meant, but it sounded good and adult at the time.  For Valentine’s Day, he got me a TY Beanie Baby keychain, which I still have somewhere in my closet at home in Missouri.  For a girl in the 90s, getting a beanie baby on Valentine’s Day was even better than flowers or candy, and I knew I had picked my boyfriend correctly.  I think I got him a pack of Pokemon cards, probably as a peace offering to say “I don’t understand this obsession, but I accept that it’s important to you.”  This would prove an important lesson for later relationships: you don’t always understand your significant other’s interests, but you must support them anyway.

Frosted tips, unlike Frosted Flakes, are NOT "grrrreat!"

Frosted tips, unlike Frosted Flakes, are NOT “grrrreat!”

Things changed in middle school because suddenly, we joined with all the kids from the other two elementary schools, and frosted tips and lots of hair gel became a thing.  An UNFORTUNATE thing, but a thing, no less.  Not only was there more homework, but now I had to worry about bras and school dances and figuring out how to do my own makeup (which in middle school in my day meant lots of eye shadow, Dr. Pepper Lipsmackers, and maybe a hint of mascara; SO natural…NOT).  And there were more boys.  So many more boys I had seen around town but didn’t really know.  I joined band and was in choir, and Paul was too, so we saw each other still in our music classes, but became friends instead.

I definitely believe in the whole When Harry Met Sally scenario that men and women can only be friends after they’ve gotten physical contact and/or those pesky romantic attractions out of the way (at least, most of the time).  That’s what happened to Paul and me.  After our brief 4th grade romance (with NO physical contact, mind you), we settled comfortably into a good friendship, which we have maintained up until now.  In high school, I used to go over to his house a lot after school with some of the other guys from band, and we’d play video games for a while and drink Route 44 drinks from Sonic.

The one thing I really miss about the Midwest: easy access to Sonic Happy Hour

The one thing I really miss about the Midwest: easy access to Sonic Happy Hour

A few times, I’d catch Paul looking at me, and I’d wonder if perhaps he had rekindled some of those old feelings for me.  If he did, he never acted on them again, and we graduated with our friendship intact.

I ran into him two summers ago at a friend’s wedding, and it felt weird but also like old times.  He introduced me to his girlfriend (who’s cute as a button and who he’s still with now).  We shared some laughs.  Once in awhile we send something to each other over Facebook, but we’ve gone in different directions in our lives, and have fewer things in common.  He works with computers in St. Louis, and I’m here creating stuff, living a semi-bohemian life.  I catch myself thinking about those strange childhood years sometimes, and Paul always enters my mind when I do.  He represents a time gone by, a different version of myself, and, in a way, the men who would follow him; the ones I gravitated (and perhaps still DO gravitate) towards.

I think we all are trying to recapture the magic of our first crush in our later relationships in many ways; the youthfulness and innocence, the butterflies in the stomach, the longing.  You only get one first crush; only one person gets to be the first to awaken those feelings in you for better or worse.  I don’t mean to sound all starry-eyed and nostalgic, but  it’s one of those moments you really DO carry with you for the rest of your life.  We always hope that the next person we fall for will stir up all of that, make us feel like we’re back in the throws of young, exuberant 4th grade love.  Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t.

I’ll always think fondly of Paul no matter how much life separates us, because that relationship has become oddly preserved just as it was, untainted by whatever else has happened to us in our individual romantic lives.  It is just as sweet now as it was then, and for that, I’m grateful.  I could use more sweetness in my life.

And for the record, I still know nothing about Pokemon (but THIS is pretty adorable).  Sorry, Paul.

You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

The Tribeca Film Festival just began in New York this week, and I couldn’t be more excited.  I’ve read lots about different film festivals (Cannes, Sundance, Toronto, etc) and the various movies that premiere at them but as I’m not an international movie star or even just been in a feature film or lived in a city that held one, I’ve never been able to go.  That’s why I am so enthusiastic about the Tribeca Film Festival!

And also because I’m praying for a glimpse of Robert DeNiro.

Anyway, the TFF is featuring many a free program this year, one of them being the Tribeca Drive In down in the World Financial Plaza right along the Hudson.  They set up food trucks, hand out free stuff, and screen fan favorite movies.  This year, they’re showing Jaws and the Goonies.

If you know me at all, then you know both of these films are among my favorite movies of all time.  I grew up watching both incessantly (and still do).

Last night, they screened Jaws, and I took myself on a much-needed solo date to see it.  As I was born in the 1980s, I only had ever seen Chief Brody, Quint, and Matt Hooper battle that terrifying shark on a television screen.  My parents, on the other hand, came of age in the 1970s, so they witnessed it all on the big screen when it came out in ’75.  As such, I’ve always felt that I missed out a bit on what made the film so awesome in the first place: the sheer size of a giant shark on a giant screen.

"You're gonna need a bigger boat..."

Watching Jaws basically in a harbor was probably the coolest thing ever.  I honestly couldn’t tell if the seagulls I was hearing were coming from the screen or the sailboats next to me on the Hudson.  It was a perfect setting.  Most of the audience was people my age or older who’d grown up with the movie in some way: either from seeing it in the 70s or the “handing down” of it from their parents who’d seen it in the 70s.  We all clapped together, laughed together, screamed together, and cheered together.  There was a kind of magic in the air.  A nostalgia made new.  Though the majority of the audience had seen the film before, for many of us (myself included), it was like seeing the film for the first time.

And it kind of GOT to me, you know?  I got this overwhelming feeling of happiness, love, and community.  All of us were here because we LOVED this movie.  We’d all had our own experiences with this movie; in some way, it had shaped us all.  Now here we were: all of us sharing this moment.  It made me realize how lasting an impact films have as opposed to other art forms.  Film lasts forever; handed down from generation to generation.  There’s something inherently special about that.

And I don’t think anyone can deny there’s something inherently special and MAGICAL about Steven Spielberg’s films from the 1970s and 80s.  There’s a mythical quality about them, you just can’t put your finger on; it’s just a feeling.  Paired with John Williams’ scores, I just don’t think it gets any better.  Maybe it feels like childhood or growing up.  I don’t know.  His movies from that time are…well, timeless.  Classic.  You never forget your first time seeing them.

Maybe that’s why last night was so special to me.  I nearly cried on the subway ride home.  I finally got to see one of my favorite Spielberg movies on a big screen for the first time…the way people saw it for the first time when it premiered in 1975.  The way my parents saw it.  And for just half a second, I didn’t know what year I was in.  It felt timeless.  I was under a spell.  We all were.

That’s the power of the movies.

And I HAVE to be a part of that.  I HAVE to be a part of something so beloved it keeps drawing people back to it 37 years later.  Something people pass down to their kids.  I want people to feel all the things I felt last night: the nostalgia, the magic, the joy.  I want to tell stories people love.  Make films that shape their lives and experiences in a way that MUST be shared with others.

I WILL be a part of that.