Ode to Rainy Days

 

Summer in Plano is depressing, especially for an introvert. I remember watching Ben Affleck’s The Town and Rebecca Hall’s character talking about how sunny days remind her or her brother’s death, and it confused the hell out of 13-year-old me. To have someone’s grief juxtaposed with what’s generally considered to be a symbol of happiness ravaged my prepubescent mind. Then again, I was a teenager who knew nothing about the complexities of human emotion watching a “big boy” movie.

Fast forward nearly an entire decade and like a pretentious movie critic, I get it. While I’ve been lucky to not experience the grief Rebecca Hall went through, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all had bad days. The term “waking up on the wrong side of the bed” hits so much when you’re “grown up”. Sleep at a weird angle and you wake up with a backache that will take over your week.

You might have a day job and decide to browse Reddit and YouTube for a little bit before bed, not realizing it’s 2:00 AM and that r/PublicFreakout is a literal black hole of productivity. Now you’re bummed out about the lack of sleep that you can get at the absolute most, and that worry does nothing to help you fall asleep. Wake up the next morning per your alarm, and the sun is up and shining, taunting you and your nightly habits. “Here Comes the Sun” is less of a feel-good song and more of a tribal chant of how emotionally and productively inept you really are. The sun is less of an indication of a new day but a reminder of yesterday’s mistakes. Everyone else is up and running and your controller isn’t even plugged in.

Alright, enough with the analogies.

There’s something aggravating checking your weather app and seeing the next week’s forecast being nothing but the sun symbol. It gives you a weird kind of cabin fever, but instead of Jack Nicholson losing his mind in the snowy Overlook Hotel, you’re questioning your sanity by just being in the sunny outside world.

It’s a challenge for introverts to go out on command, so rainy days are practically my Christmas. I feel like the universe shames me for not wanting to go out during the day in hopes of not profusely sweating by just turning on the car, and rainy days are like your big brother going “hey, kid, let’s watch some cartoons and make some waffles.” The weight of societal expectations washes away in place of a lovingly gloomy and moody aesthetic that does away with the bore of the sun. It adds variety a summer that knows only one mood, one trick, one damn weather app symbol.

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I wrote this in a coffee shop in broad daylight while listening to the Blade Runner soundtrack. My brain has never been more confused. 

 

My movie diet also doesn’t help how I feel about the sun being out. It’s a challenge to make broad daylight look cinematically interesting, because the art of cinematography is the use of light and shadow to create compelling frame of film. When you’re on set and the sun is beating on you, artistic lighting and variety can almost be thrown out the window. When it’s nighttime, however, and it’s pouring rain, the world is yours.

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The world of 1982’s Blade Runner and it’s even better sequel is a neon drenched fantasy, where the gloomy visuals echo the film’s existential themes. The introduction of Rick Deckard is a tracking shot that passes through several neon lit shops and restaurants, with the sound of rain acting as the white nose counter to Vangelis’ iconic score. Add this and the film’s legendary opening that introduces you to 2019 (per 1982) LA, you’re instantly immersed into a world that is as attractive as it is hopeless. Emotional beats hit harder and are done in a dream like haze, perfectly blurring the lines of movie magic and real, palpable emotion.

Film uses rain as a means of importance, to emphasize that the world you seen within the frame is fantastical, one that almost embraces the existential dread that the sun and clear skies are supposed to shield you from.

As a writer, it’s pretty disgraceful to admit that I have difficulty putting into words how much I long for some overcast. Nearly three months into the summer, there have been less rainy days than there are Blade Runner movies, and that’s just not okay. Waking up to some quiet raindrops, maybe a little thunder, can help you deal with the crap hand that you were dealt the night before. The gathering of clouds that dim the world around you is a visual moodsetter that breaks monotony and breaks convention. And as someone who sweats on the drop of a dime without max AC, downpour is a man’s best friend.

Also, Coldplay’s Parachutes album SLAPS with overcast.

The Melancholy of Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Mild spoilers for Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

 

My first Tarantino film was 2012’s Django Unchained. It was my cinematic Big Bang, where I realized that movies were a collaborative experience in the vein of help achieving one’s imaginative vision. It helped me realize that film was an art form to express one’s self through comedy, violence or tragedy. It blew me away, more so than any other film I’d seen up to that point. Fast forward to today and I can confidently say that Tarantino is my favorite filmmaker, mainly in part to how he’s become the artistic definition of the word “director”. There are very few, count-on-one-hand filmmakers that can attract an entire audience solely by being involved, and I see him as the marquee name to that distinction.

It’s been interesting following his career. Starting as the new kid, the hot shot with Reservoir Dogs, then turning the cinematic medium upside down with Pulp Fiction, a film whose popularity and cultural influence could have easily typecasted Tarantino into making films like it. We now know that one of his greatest directorial strengths is adding variety to his work. In the quarter century since Pulp Fiction came out, we’ve seen Tarantino go into the blaxpoitation, martial arts, samurai, war, western and who dunnit genres, all with outstanding results. His love of cinema permeates each and every time he puts a film out, which makes Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood so special.

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With a filmography as dense with cinematic allusions and tributes as his, it’s surreal to watch a Tarantino film that takes place in the city, the industry that he unabashedly loves; it’s like Michael Bay directing a fireworks shop owner, or JJ Abrams making a Thomas Edison biopic.

Tarantino’s latest is predictably a love letter, a beautiful reminiscence of a time before. Rick Dalton, once the talk of the town, sees the parade pass him by, not as the main attraction, but a lowly bystander. He is desperate search for the next big job, slowly coming to the conclusion that there may never be a “next job”, not like before. Leonardo DiCaprio is cast as said movie star, with Brad Pitt’s Cliff Booth as his right hand (stunt)man.

What makes OUATIH unique from the rest of the director’s films is context, both narratively and within Tarantino’s career. He’s famously said that he’ll stop directing after his tenth picture, expressing his worry that going further may ruin the prestige of his work. If that’s to be believed, and we hold him to his work, we’re entering the theatre witnessing the true twilight of his career. No longer is he the hotshot who reignited John Travolta’s and Pam Grier’s career, or the center of the movie violence argument. In a time of sequels, reboots and remakes, the idea of the movie star or original IP is slowly becoming quieted out in favor of surer, easier investments. A new wave of cinema is starting to set in, and Tarantino knows this. He’s always been a champion of film, and rightly views it as an art, an event where one should prepare themselves to go to. He still shoots on film, hates the mere thought of CGI, and wouldn’t dare be a director for hire. He knows he’s old fashioned, and his latest film is a meditation on that feeling, even becoming a little insecure about it. The two main characters spend the vast majority of the picture looking back at the good ol’ days or try their best to replicate that success. It’s all done with sincerity and authenticity, as if Tarantino is writing Rick Dalton through his own eyes. Rick hates hippies, and maintains a well-mannered, clean shaven demeanor, even if he stands out from the rest of the city. He doesn’t follow the current trends because he knows no other way than what he knows. Nostalgia is a powerful drug, and it’s used to infectious and tragic effect.

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Sharon Tate is prevalent to the story, being a beacon of light and optimism that the new wave of cinema would bring in the oncoming decade. Her place in the story has become the central place of criticism for the film, ranging from the apparent lack of any meaningful screen time or how inconsequential she is in relation to the Manson family subplot. The critique of ample screen time is understandable sure, but the intent with Tate’s character isn’t just “Tarantinoing” her up, but instead act as the New Wave ready to take over Hollywood. Her optimism, kindness, cheerfulness is a direct contrast to not only the central protagonists, but how many view her legacy. Tarantino doesn’t dwell on the violent reality that Sharon meets, an event that will forever change how we look at her career and body of work. Here she’s portrayed as a star on the rise, one who lives in the moment dreaming of a fruitful career. She’s essentially the least flawed character Tarantino has ever penned, a brilliant juxtaposition to a violently tragic reality.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is Tarantino’s Roma. This has all the trappings of a film made by him, but has moments that are so drawn out and specific, that we’re able to see the director’s gleeful affinity for cinema but also be wrapped up in its melancholy. It’s an examination of one’s own body of work and questions its own relevance going forward. This isn’t an old man shouting to the sky in rejection of the future, but rather a bittersweet tribute to a time that was pure and innocent, a fairytale of what was and what should’ve been.