Marshall & Julie: Day 5

1 08 2010

Another reminder (mainly so the “Marshall and Julie” graphic will fit nicely into the post): these posts are not in real time.  They were all written at a previous date.  So there.  Now, enjoy.

Day 5: “…To Make An Omelette” / “…To Maintain a Blog”

Julie begins the chapter describing something that I know all too well: the obligation that the blogger feels to satisfy the reader.  This was one of my earliest fears when I start my blog, and I included it in my first post:

How on earth am I going to have time to maintain a blog?  My guess is that this will become an incredibly self-serving project, giving all the time I spend watching movies some sense of purpose, but if people actually take time out of their day to read my thoughts, I will no doubt feel the need to give them what they desire.  And much of the time, I will want to leave the world of pre-calculus and physics to write about the world of cinema.  But please, dear readers, do not let me!  It falls under the category of “the greater good.”  I will most assuredly want to write, and you most assuredly will want to read, but I desperately want to go to college, and if I do not do my homework, I will not go!

Julie only manages to mark six recipes off the list in two weeks because of her parent’s visit.  This makes her feel compelled to go full steam ahead despite having a bum wheel.  Eric, looking out for her well being, tells her to stay on the couch and elevate the foot, but Julie will have none of it.  She plays the “I have readers that need me” card, to which Eric responds that they could survive without hearing her latest story.

In the initial weeks that I began blogging, my aunt offered up some advice.  She told me that in order to run a trustworthy blog, you have to give them some sort of organization and routine to follow.  If you only have the time to write something once a week, settle on that.  If you can post something everyday, that’s even better.

I have a fair few readers, and I do feel the need to give them what they want.  My routine is to post a random factoid daily and some sort of other feature pops up at least every three days (I don’t know why, but some neurosis in me doesn’t think it’s OK to have more than three factoids in a row).  Sometimes, I have an abundance of things I want to post and I have to spread it out over a few days.  However, I am usually struggling to get that post up every third day.  I invented several new categories, such as the “Oscar Moment” and “What To Look Forward To,” trying to find something to post.  But the more I think about it, my readers wouldn’t care if I posted 10 factoids in a row.  That’s where I get most of my comments, anyways.  The organization of my blog isn’t to satisfy my readers; it is to calm the extremely anal neat-freak inside of me.

And never do I think that my readers “need” me.  There are infinitely many blogs about movies, just like there are infinitely many blogs about any subject.  I am not blessed with a niche market like Julie; I doubt there were many people in 2002 cooking their way through Julia Child’s cookbook.  If I started slacking off, someone else is out there reviewing movies or revealing their neuroses.  Heck, people get paid to do the former.  They could just as easily go read only Roger Ebert or Peter Travers, but for some reason they choose me (or at least include me).  I know that I have to earn my readers, and that only by constantly bettering my writing can I hope to keep them.

Julie’s readers were quite shocked to find out that she had never eaten an egg before she began the project.  I was terrified to reveal to my readers that I had never seen some of the defining movies of the craft – “Gone With The Wind,” “Citizen Kane,” or anything by Hitchcock.  I didn’t think they could take me seriously as a critic or an “informed moviegoer.”  Thankfully, no one seemed to take issue with it but my friends.  Crisis averted.

Now that Julie has tried an egg, she plows headlong into the omelet chapter in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”

In coordination with the release of the movie “Julie & Julia,” PBS ran some episodes from Julia Child’s shows.  I stumbled across one of them while working out one lazy Saturday.  What did she happen to be making?

Omelets, of course.

The one thing I loved about her program was how beautifully simple and relaxed it was.  It never feels like she is in a hurry, a stark contrast to your Rachel Rays of today.  I watch plenty of Food Network – I come from a family of rabid foodies – and there truly is no one quite like her.  She made making an omelet seem so simple, and I was actually inspired to try whipping one up.

Did I?  No, but the fact that she made me want to try is remarkable.

While reminiscing about her strange childhood, Julie talks about all of the harbingers that led her to think she was some kind of paranormal being.  In college, she discovered that she could not execute any dish that required “setting, fermenting, rising, or gelling.”  I admire Julie for knowing the limitations of her passion.  No one is perfect, so this got me thinking (as does everything in this book) about a parallel to the movies and me.  What is my weakness?  What do I have an inherent incapability of grasping?

Most film critics would say that they don’t understand why on earth someone would want to settle down for two and a half hours of their life and watch “Transformers.”  I, however, am not a film critic.  I am a normal teenager who just happens to like reviewing movies; I don’t get the opportunity to be treated to hundreds of movies each year, nor do I get paid to do it.  I’m not ashamed to admit a guilty pleasure – I have declared that I would rather watch “Alvin and the Chipmunks” than multiple Best Picture nominees from this decade – because some sort of “reputation” that I feel critics worry about doesn’t bother me.  I am what I am, and if I thought the best movie of the year involved robots punching each other or talking animals that farted a lot, I would not hesitate to say it.

I understand that a lot people want escapist entertainment; otherwise, how else can you explain “New Moon” making twice as much as a tour de force like “The Hurt Locker” in ten minutes?  Life can get pretty stressful, and sometimes watching a movie like “Revolutionary Road” only serves to aggravate the tension.  Often times, there’s something awfully therapeutic about letting your mind go blank while staring at a screen for an hour or so.

I have only had limited exposure to this style, but artsy European melodramatic cinema is something that I cannot seem to understand.  First off, why would anyone want to watch a movie where the characters don’t change?  If the celluloid is supposed to match the world as we see it, why wouldn’t the characters change?  We change in little ways each day, whether we know and like it or not.

I do have to account for error though.  Perhaps the one film that I have seen is not representative of the genre as a whole.  In an effort to up my street cred as a blogger, I partook in various events of the Houston Cinematic Arts Festival.  One of these events was the unveiling of a new movie starring Academy Award winning actress Tilda Swinton.  She was going to be at the screening and would do a question and answer session after the movie, which was so secret that we couldn’t even know its title (before watching – it is called “I Am Love” in English).  Curious and starstruck, I went to this event on blind faith.

Thankfully, I went with a friend, Andrew, who is a filmmaker and has great general knowledge of all types of cinema.  We were bored out of minds and in accordance that we would have left had Tilda not been present.  But she was, and we sat there.  About halfway through, Andrew grabbed the notebook that I brought to sprawl anything blog-worthy and began to scrawl on the page.   He handed it back to me, and in the light reflecting off the screen, I read:


So, wait, why do I give a shit about these characters again?

In the session afterwards, she used an interesting quote of Alfred Hitchcock to express her feelings on movies.  Here’s what I said in my review:

In the discussion session that followed the movie, Swinton took a quote from Hitchcock to describe the style and feel of the movie: “Let the dialogue set the mood and let the pictures tell the story.”  This philosophy of filmmaking is the polar opposite of those that drive “Iron Man 2″ and “Sex and the City 2″ into the 30-screen theaters.  It’s what brings that niche, art-house crowd to the small theaters that show independent films.  In essence, Swinton’s philosophy is against the basic principles that most Americans hold dear when they go to the movies.  They want to be engaged by the story, not by watching bees pollinate flowers (an image Guadagnino seems to particularly love).

Julie finishes the chapter wondering what Julia Child’s first egg was like.   I don’t have to imagine what Julie’s first blog post was like; she has only written a book about it which has been turned into a movie that millions of people saw.  However, I do have an advantage on Julie here.  She cannot connect with Julia on blogging because she never did it.  But everyone sees movies, so I can imagine what Julie’s first movie was like.

Julie has an idealized version of Julia Child in her head, where she is perfect and graceful.  My first impression of Julie Powell was Amy Adams in the movie “Julie & Julia,” so the Julie in my head is sweet at heart but is hardly flawless.  Now, after reading a few chapters in her book, this Julie is a bit of a potty-mouth.

The Julie in my head likes movies but probably doesn’t have the time or the money to see as many of them as she would like.  Perhaps her first movie didn’t lead to a love affair quite like mine did, but it definitely sparked an interest.  Now, my Julie and her husband, Eric, like to let the food settle in their stomachs on the couch while enjoying a nice movie on a modest television set.

Maybe this imaginary Julie is a manifestation of what my mind perceives how “normal people” watch movies.  Truth be told, I’m really not sure of the sensations other people get while watching movies.  I like to think that I am not totally inept in my perceptions, but I can’t help but wonder how much the rapture of cinema is amplified for me in comparison to other people.



One response

8 08 2010

Most people may not share the same reaction as you to movies, but that’s part of what gives this blog its life.

And I thought it kinda ironic that you mentioned Swinton while doing a Julie & Julia type project. I thought Swinton had the best female performance of last year for her titular role in “Julia”, for more impressive than the Oscar nominated Julia performance by Streep, even though I wouldn’t have been upset if Streep had won.

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