When I was asked if I would write a monthly film column for Aftertaste magazine, I jumped at the chance. What could be better than having a real platform (as opposed to my non-public living room) where I’m invited to share my experiences, joke about my enlightenments and make a fuss of my frustrations! But then the inevitable happened – the months just kept coming, one after the other. Sooner than planned.
Last week I attempted to turn on my computer and it simply did not go on. After two and a half unpleasant hours of tech support, I learned that my hard drive had failed. It was gone. Dead. And there was nothing I could do about it. They would gladly ship me another one, but unless I had any back-up discs, everything on the hard drive had been killed.
I began to panic and rapidly search for ways to somehow see if any of my previously unpublished articles, unread screenplays, storyboards, poems, or recipes could be salvaged. Maybe I could get back my address book, expense report, emails, or find out if all my FIRECRACKER marketing materials were still alive. But on Tuesday, my outlook changed.
After lunch, I began to feel an overwhelming sense of relief. Perhaps I’d only been hungry, but it felt like a total burden had been lifted. So I elected to just get rid of it altogether and order a new computer. I didn’t care if all of my documents were lost! I was suddenly hungry for a new beginning! I chose DELL because I don’t like the cult over at the other place – where people think they are better than others. Plus, DELL has better customer service.
Then I thought – if starting fresh feels this incredible – I might as well throw everything away! I gathered a bunch of big black trash bags and got to work. I only had a couple of days before my new computer would arrive – so there was no time to waste! Out went the folders, the papers, the pictures! Away with the demos, the tapes and the discs! I did keep some items of value, however. The Plez Letters got their own box, but everything else was history. My history. And there was no reason to keep any of it. I still have my memory! When I’m old and lose my mind it won’t matter anyway!
I couldn’t believe all the crap I had. And it was all crap I thought was important! Did I really need to keep the screenplay to a film I’ve already made? Did I really think I would listen to those unsolicited CDs? They’ve sat there unheard for over a year! When I’m eighty, will I really want to sort through that box of high school memorabilia? Who in their right mind really *needs* that unsightly stack of FLAUNT magazines? They didn’t review the “Wamego” documentary anyway – so fuck ‘em!
When I finally made it through all the crap in my office, I decided the furniture needed to go next. Out to the curb. Then I decided to get a much better set of storage units. I found some inexpensive systems at TARGET and spent another day assembling them. Re-storing, organizing and shelving only the important crap felt great. And by the time I finished getting the office back together again – the new computer arrived. It’s awesome. Jet black – really fast – with a big flat-panel monitor. Delicious!
I am now a firm believer that all seemingly horrible events are only truly horrible if we want them to be. And in the end, if we want to turn them into positives, we can if we choose to. Though no one ever does, it seems to me. Usually people are so trapped in their misery that they never want to escape it.
Which brings me to DECEIVED with Goldie Hawn. This woman (Adrienne Saunders) really reminds me of one of my family members. She’s direct, unafraid of confrontation, and honest. It’s a refreshing version of the typical woman-finds-out-her-husband-isn’t-really-her-husband movie. What’s this version like? Well-crafted and smart.
Maybe it’s just the clever way Goldie Hawn plays the role – but I sensed that there was little that could provoke her to curl up in the corner and shake with fear. No matter what happened (the guy at the museum is dead, there’s some Egyptian necklace causing all this commotion, her apartment is broken into, her life is a total wreck, her dead husband really isn’t dead, etc.) she never cowered. This woman was upset because she’d been lied to.
In a scene with John Heard, who plays her husband, she asks, “Why didn’t you just tell me?” It was the way she said it that gave me the idea if he’d been honest with her from the beginning – she might have even helped him! But he lied to her and seemed more interested in denial. Big mistake. Sure, it isn’t ethical to participate in jewelry fraud, murder, and pretending to be someone else – but the bigger problem is hiding it. In the same scene (I think) he asks her, “Wasn’t I a good husband? Didn’t you feel loved?” Clearly, he had parents and neighbors who taught him it was more important to look the part of Happy American than it was to actually be one. Like there is some sort of shame associated with being anything else. Sound familiar? (Not familiar to films like this. I meant, familiar to our entire culture.)
I must make special mention to Thomas Newman about his score: Please, Mr. Newman, get off that goddamn xylophone or whatever the hell it is. The theme for “Six Feet Under” is fine – but not every movie needs to sound exactly the same. (Obviously “Six Feet Under” was scored years later – but still. You scored DECEIVED over twelve years ago. Enough is enough!)
On my street we believe it’s always better to be honest about something than it is to deny it. No matter what it is. Because it will – mark my words – come up at some point.
If you’ve killed someone, stolen some priceless treasure, faked your own death, and have problems with your mother – just get over yourself and be honest about it. There are people who can help you. Maybe not the 95% who will judge you, condemn you, or blame you for not living up to their expectations – I’m talking about the other 5% who will be supportive and understanding. (This is the same 5%, it seems, who favor the separation of Church and State.) If you make the choice, however, to deny it and pretend nothing happened – well, you will have a miserable life and die unhappy.
If you feel like the whole world is against you, or your life changes dramatically, simply eat something spicy and you’ll be fine. You might even find the courage to do away with all that crap and move on.
(Originally published in Aftertaste Magazine, 2004)