Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

To Eternity, and Beyond!

Last night, we went with another couple to see 'Toy Story 3.'

One half of the Another Couple arrived at the theater first. I'll call him Errol, because why not. Errol was already on the second floor of the theater, near the giant windows overlooking Lincoln Square. He'd lost weight since I last saw him; he insisted he'd actually gained 7 pounds, so I wondered if maybe the light made him thinner.

I'll go ahead and give his current boyfriend a name. I'll call him David.

So Errol and I waited on Greg and David to arrive, and small-talked while sitting on a bench as the thinning sunlight rushed through the giant windows. I didn't have much to say, but warned Errol I'd probably cry during the movie. For about a year or so, everything has made me cry; just reading the reviews of 'Toy Story 3' had made me tear up. It's a trait I get from my mother, I think--she used to weep uncontrollably over TV commercials for long distance phone services. Like this one:

Doesn't make me cry, but who am I to judge? I recently got choked up watching a '30 Rock' rerun, which I'm sure is the exact opposite reaction one is to have when watching that show.

Errol was kind. "Oh, I expect to cry," he said, eying two cute guys across from us. "The gays are out in force today," he whispered, winking.

I winked back, then continued. "There might be sobbing. Loud, uncontrollable sobbing."

"There might," he replied politely.

"Where's Greg?" I asked. "He said he'd be here early."

"And David sent me a text he was downstairs ten minutes ago."

David showed up first, with Greg not far behind. We handed over our tickets to the ticket-taking-person (can one still call these indifferent teenagers 'ushers'?), got our 3-D glasses (don't get me started) and walked to the auditorium for 'Toy Story 3'.

Which started after several disappointing real estate ads and a few lame coming attractions.

[New York Times review]
Therein lies its genius, and its uncanny authenticity. A tale that captured the romance and pathos of the consumer economy, the sorrows and pleasures that dwell at the heart of our materialist way of life, could only be told from the standpoint of the commodities themselves, those accretions of synthetic substance and alienated labor we somehow endow with souls.

Re: The crying thing. Seriously. I'm doing it all the time now.

It started around the time I was working my way through the 'Claudius' novels, the two books written by Robert Graves about Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus this-that-and-the-other.

I was 1/3 thru the first of these two 'Claudius' books when I noticed it: commercials were making me cry. Then cheap, throw-away episodes of sit-coms brought tears to my eyes. Half-way thru 'I, Claudius,' I caught myself cradling Waffles while watching a rerun of 'The Simpsons,' crying over a Lisa plot.

The two 'Claudius' books describe the decline and fall of a once-great society. Graves, a Brit, wrote the books in the late 1930s, after the fall of the British empire. The books are superficially about the Roman empire but contextually they're about the British empire--the decay, the rot, the rigor mortis.

Cars, appliances, laptops, iPads: we love them, and we profess that love daily. Its purest, most innocent expression — but also its most vulnerable and perishable — is the attachment formed between children and the toys we buy them. “I want that!” “That’s mine!” Slogans of acquisitive selfishness, to be sure, but also articulations of desire and loyalty. The first “Toy Story” acknowledged this bond, and “Toy Story 2” turned it into a source of startlingly deep emotion.

The movie started. Randy Newman's 'You've Got a Friend in Me', from the first 'Toy Story,' played over the opening credits and then faded somewhere around the time Newman sang the word 'die' and the screen cut to black. Greg and I held hands. Clasped. Grasped.

And I thought of a line from Shakespeare: I am dying, Egypt, dying.

Then I thought, oh Jesus Christ, Shakespeare? While I'm watching 'Toy Story 3'?

Then I thought, oh. America is on its last legs.

When Woody chose life with Andy and the others over immortality with Stinky Pete at the museum, he was embracing a destiny built on his own disposability. When we grow up, or just grow tired of last year’s cool stuff, we don’t just put away those childish things, we throw them out. “Face it, we’re just trash,” says a bitter pink teddy bear near the end of “Toy Story 3.” Though the movie... labors to dispel the gloom of this statement, it can’t entirely disprove it.

Yup. America is on its last legs. Dying, like Antony, like Cleopatra, like the Roman and British Empires. For whatever reasons, a year ago I started re-reading the 'Claudius' novels, and I've been crying ever since because the story seems so familiar.

'Toy Story 3' didn't make me sob, but I cried. Or, rather, I didn't cry; teared up constantly is more to the point. Teared up to the point that my cheeks felt moist and that 3-D glasses couldn't help me see the screen clearly. The movie was the final addition to a trilogy I didn't know was to be a trilogy. It's the end of a story I didn't realize was on-going until the posters for the third part started appearing a few months ago, at bus stops and train stations. 'Toy Story 3' put a cap on something I didn't think needed an ending.

In providing sheer moviegoing satisfaction — plot, characters, verbal wit and visual delight, cheap laughs and honest sentiment — “Toy Story 3” is wondrously generous and inventive. It is also, by the time it reaches a quiet denouement that balances its noisy beginning, moving in the way that parts of “Up” were. That is, this film — this whole three-part, 15-year epic — about the adventures of a bunch of silly plastic junk turns out also to be a long, melancholy meditation on loss, impermanence and that noble, stubborn, foolish thing called love. We all know money can’t buy it, except sometimes, for the price of a plastic figurine or a movie ticket.


Scott Coats said...

I'm with you on tearing up at the least bit of emotional tug. I can't say that it's because of an impending sense that our society is doomed...then again, I can't say that it's not.

One thing is certain...I did not tear up during "The A-Team." So, I've got that going for me.

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