Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Idea like a hit song, a virus in the brain.

I'll admit it. I like a big blockbuster. Quality of the plot and character development are unimportant. What's important? Explosions, the bigger the better. Good, fun things that look good big. And good looking people.

I went to see Inception today. I should mention size also matters. Sitting in an air conditioned theater for 2 hours and 22 minutes was an excellent idea. For the two of you who mightn't know, Inception is the Leonardo DiCaprio vehicle about dreams. The visual effects in a word were: stunning. Especially the scenes with Joseph Gordon-Levitt trying to get the team into position for a wake-up "kick" in zero gravity.

This is not it, but here's JGL running funny:

As with most of my favorite stories, we are presented with the concept that the real world and the unreal world (sometimes fictional, but in this case the dream world) are divided by only the finest of lines. In the best of cases, we can't really decide for sure what side we're on. As a writer, I kind of feel like I live on this line. Actually, that's even pushing it. Differing from some of the characters in this film, I do not have trouble knowing what's real and what isn't. I have trouble maintaining a strong presence in the RW.

I had a conversation just this weekend about this. Over drinks and dinner with a group of writers who live in my town, and a few from out of town, we talked about babies and traveling and TV and a lot about writing. One friend writes poetry, but may be better known for her nonfiction. She admitted that her poetry tends along the lines of nonfiction as well. I contended that I am unable to write "anything true" because every time I try to tell something that happened, things immediately get added, deleted. Not so much that the story is unrecognizable from its origins necessarily (well, not always), but enough that Oprah would chide me if I tried to pass it off.

Necessarily we all do this. Our brains do this in creating memories. We can't not leave things out. But I am aware of the major changes I'm making. I do it willfully, yet uncontrollably. It's just not that interesting if I don't change things around.

From my house I often walk to the grocery store. When I get home, I often find myself adding details and characters to the deli counter and produce aisle. Right now I want to tell you about the boy behind the counter with the incredible, bushy eyebrows, but that was someone ahead of me in line. It's much more interesting if I was asking him for cheese.

I recently invented a woman dancing with tomatoes in a denim skirt. The woman was real. A quick glance gave the impression of dancing. When I turned fully to face her, I realized she had her hands full and was getting the hair out of her eyes. Much less interesting than dancing, which is what I had seen initially. Was this a lie?

Maybe it was. In this relationship C and I have an agreement never to lie about big things. If she tells me she couldn't answer my call because she was watching a house fire, when really she was just in the middle of a thought I'm okay with this. If I talk about long-haired women dancing with produce, I assume this is okay too. This works for us. And I don't mind not always knowing what's real. We tell each other stories constantly. It's who we are. Some are true. Some are better. What I want always, and what I expect from others is an emotional truth.

This is the distinction I make. The facts are not so important as the emotion conveyed. What was felt is prime. Primal.

My nonfiction writer friend of mine and I were talking about how maybe people (or writers anyway) are predisposed towards either fiction or nonfiction. Like on a continuum. I like this thought. Kind of like Kinsey's scale for sexuality. I'm much farther gay and much farther fictional on the scales.

Sometimes I like to break the world into either/ors. Binaries. Such as: 'there are two people in the world: those who like, deal compassionately with animals, and those who don't.' But it is more useful to think of all things in a more complicated way. Perhaps a book could be given a number from 1 to 6 indicating its relation to the facts. We would want most of our textbooks to bear closely to them, but for me all else could gather happily on the other side. (By the way, as expanding as I am of all definitions and breaking down binaries, I probably won't like you if you don't like animals. Although, that said, I'm not much of a cat person. Yes, I know: I have three cats. This does not make the statement any less true, and possibly more so.)

So the movie! I think it bolsters/illustrates my claim that the emotional truth is more honest. It's where we live. There's little to no character development in anyone but the main character, but that's mostly due to the fact that I don't think an audience could hold any more details in their brain while parsing the rules followed in the dream world(s). Kudos to whoever cast the film's stars though; there's someone for everyone.

Also, it's a film that times itself out. So many times (especially in long films, and with me of tiny bladder) I'm left wondering whether I can wait it out or if I should dash off to the ladies' so I can finish the film in comfort. (For those who also drink a lot... I've never used it, but supposedly RunPee.com is an excellent source that tells you when to go.) In Inception everything must happen before the van hits the water. The different dream levels are toggled between (the farther in the dream, the longer time is expanded), and the van makes it's slow descent. Actually, visually these moments were probably my favorite. Sleep-filled arms flailing in the half-light of an overcast day, the water somewhere below, everything riding on a few seconds dragged impossibly and unfelt to the man awake at the wheel.

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