July 31st, 2005

I'm creepy

You try and try and try to sleep.

Sleeping with another person is something I never thought I'd be able to do. You see it all the times in movies and television shows but it always struck me as odd. Who would want to sacrifice their privacy and space during that most vulnerable of activities, sleep? Who would give up the right to a room of their own, a place where you can fart or wipe your nose on the sheets, or just lie in calm meditation without fear of interruption or distraction, to allow another person in? Couples with separate bedrooms are often seen as aloof and distant from one another, a sign of a relationship in shambles with little chance of repair. I always saw it as a sensible arrangement. Intimacy and sex are great, but when it comes to sleep why not spread out and snore in a bed of your own?

It was, then, with trepidation that I prepared for this weekend, where my girlfriend and I planned to spend 2 and a half days and 3 nights together in something approximating bliss, with time off for separate planned dinners and some work we both had to do. I'd attempted sleeping with her before, and while it hadn't been terrible as an experience it had gone pretty badly as far as actual sleep. One night of bad slumber I can handle, but three in a row seemed to be treading towards thin ice. Would I become irritable, disengaged? Would I fall asleep in the middle of some important conversation or act of lovemaking? Would she blurt out "I want to make love to cabbage" during a REM cycle, leaving me both confused and slightly turned on?

In the end it went pretty well. We figured out that sharing my bed would work better if we slept head to foot, so we did so. We ate Mexican food for dinner one night and I released foul smelling gases. She took it in good humor. Our last night was interrupted by an unfortunately located cockroach, but overall it was...nice. And I figured something out.

The thing about sleeping with someone, besides the pleasure of a warm feminine body lying next to yours, is that it is an act of trust. Not only are you entrusting the other person not to do something horrible to your unconscious shell, but you're trusting them not to judge you for the things you do when you are at your least controlled.

Humans are social animals and we remain social in all but the most extreme of conditions. Even during sex we lie and mislead, telling others what we believe they should hear. We say "Oh baby, that's perfect, don't stop doing that" even when we may be thinking "I wish this was over, Pedro Martinez is pitching in 7 minutes!" Sure you can argue that orgasm represents a loss of control, but it's 6 seconds of goofy faced heaven and then back to being a member of society.

In sleep, however, all social controls are lost. You snore, you fart, you kick, you roll over, there's nothing you can do about it. You have to trust the other person not to care.

That's where the true heart of a relationship lies, at least as far as I can tell. In the way people can judge one another not by what is done but by what is intended. You can't hold someone responsible for something they do in their sleep, and you shouldn't. Likewise you can't hold people responsible for success or failure, only for the attempt they make. This world judges you so often on results. Your grades in school, the job you get, your salary in the real world, but who we are as people is defined by our attempts not how they turn out. Humanity and virtue are found in the striving for a better world and a better life. Success? A lot of that is the luck of the draw. You judge someone you love for her effort and her desires, not her results. Let the rest of the world see her for her external accomplishments, to see the real person you have to look within.

Last night Jennifer and I found ourselves out of sorts with one another for a little while. We weren't fighting, just mis-connecting. This continued for about an hour until I drew some silly lines on my face with her markers, and that evolved to us drawing on one another's faces, and pretty soon I looked like some sort of avant-garde lecherous clown, one who uses his painted smile to hide not sadness but a dark-born grin. I gave her an uneven mustache and a big green scar. We looked at one another and ourselves and laughed. It didn't matter that her drawing was much better than mine, or that we both looked like fools, or that the markers were a little more permanent than the box suggested. We had left ourselves vulnerable to mockery or abuse and found instead companionship and judgment of humorous intention rather than unfortunate results. Later that night we washed our faces off and went to bed. Together.
Sippin' the hatorade

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Van Helsing is a movie ultimately done in by its budget. I went into it with relatively low expectations, having heard mixed things, and found it to be both more entertaining than I expected and fatally flawed. The film wants to be a campy tribute to monster movies with all the famous cinematic badies crammed into a few rolls of celluloid, but because of its bloated $160 million budget it needs to be a marketable action film for a mass audience. Thus we have a ridiculous, but fun, version of Dr. Hyde crammed into a movie that also features werewolves and a Frankenstein's monster that belong in a more serious film. Van Helsing has a 19th century religious version of James Bond's Q with him at all times, yet Hugh Jackman rarely gets to crack a smile. Everyone's accent is absolutely ridiculous, but while Richard Roxburgh goes completely over the top in an attempt to play Dracula as humorous, (at least I hope to god that's what he was doing) Kate Beckinsale's Anna character is a grim and efficient action heroine. Frankenstein's monster combines pathos and passion with a brain pan that keeps flopping off at the wrong moment. When the big fight comes it's sort of like Superman doing battle with a villain from the Underdog cartoon series, only the Underdog villain is on equal footing. The film was hugely expensive but comes off as cheap since the script is uneven and the CG looks fake.

Van Helsing isn't an awful movie, it's entertaining enough to be watchable, but it needed to either embrace its silly camp premise and style, or work harder to be serious and exciting. Because it strands itself in no-man's land it comes off as a bargain version of Hellboy, a movie that was made for about $100 million less. That's not precisely damning with faint praise, but it's not a compliment either.

If Van Helsing is an example of a movie that could have been much better but wasn't particularly awful, The Forgotten is the opposite. It really is that terrible and it couldn't have been better. The movie seems to have a really good premise at the beginning, but in the end you realize that that was just an illusion. In fact the premise reveals itself to be stupid to the point of insult. The film doesn't even bother to keep us in suspense about the question that should drive the first half of the movie and, if it were daring, the whole thing. Is she remembering the truth or is it all an illusion? She's remembering the truth. The film doesn't make an attempt to hide it and she never doubts herself for a second, even in situations where a sane person would be wondering whether he or she was insane.

The Forgotten also features the sort of dialog that one would expect from a 17 year old trying to ape self-important television writing.

Telly: Do you think I wouldn't drink that entire bottle just to forget for 2 seconds? You're in this. You don't get to drink your way out. What makes you so fucking special?

This series of lines has about 180,000 things wrong with it. For one thing the guy actually had managed to drink his way to forgetfulness before and probably could again. She could as well. For another he's significantly less special than she, in fact she's the one who makes him special. It's like Batman turning to Robin and saying "So you're a crime fighter huh? What makes you so fucking special?"

Later in the movie someone actually says "These people are down deep" (in reference to a special NSA division) and when asked "Doing what?" replies "I'd say god only knows, but I don't think he's in the loop."

That's the sort of line that not even Harrison Ford at his wisecracking best could make work. Instead this movie gives it to a stonefaced detective. It's like a giant experiment to see what would happen if a movie got Julianne Moore, Gary Sinese and Alfre Woodard, and put them all in a high-school revue. The answer? Not a heck of a lot. Bonus points for Anthony Edwards turning in a performance that makes his Revenge of the Nerds work look like Kenneth Branagh doing Shakespeare.

This movie definitely deserves its name, and will probably end up mentioned only in games of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon and by perplexed IMBD.com surfers wondering how a movie with this much talent attached could garner such a low stars rating.