Monday, November 09, 2009

The one where I finally get my “Up With People” membership card revoked.



(From Sunday’s lunch. Where are the Coke people hiding the cameras? )

I used to know this man who’d spent hours and hours of his life planning a revolutionary new amusement park.  He would tell me about his plans in vivid detail, his hands drawing the shape of genius in the air. Sometimes, in his urgency, spittle would collect in the corners of his mouth as he lectured and I would have to lean away slightly to avoid the overspray.

It’s been awhile, but I remember that the amusement park was built on a huge triangular (isosceles) mountain, but not a stationary mountain, a spinning mountain.  Actually, sections of the mountain would spin, in opposite directions simultaneously, and then huge  mechanical arms, which were attached to the core of the mountain, would shoot out and flail wildly, thus providing a thrilling experience for the hundreds of tiny people strapped to them.   If memory serves, the people were actually strapped into little fuzzy beanbag  chairs, which were, in turn, affixed with  suction cups to the mechanical arms.

It was all very technical.

Sometimes he drew me diagrams with a dull pencil stub and some notebook paper, and I wish I still had one, but mostly he would have to eat them after he was done talking, because it would be disastrous if the plans fell into the wrong hands.

The best part, the climax, if you will, was when the machine guns came out of the mountain on additional octopus arms.  Because everything,( people, beanbag chairs, machine guns) was spinning in different directions, there was a lot of suspense about which riders would be shot.  Some would live.  Some might only suffer flesh wounds.  That was the beauty of this ride.  Thrills and suspense.  Death-defying action.  It couldn’t miss.

Sadly, the amusement park mountain never got built, mostly because the CIA and the man’s mother were involved in a conspiracy to steal his ideas, and so they had him committed to a mental hospital where he spent all his time looking for bugs in the outlets in his room.

I lost track of the man after I quit the job working at the psychiatric hospital, and sometimes I‘ve wondered if he’s still there, with his pencil stub, fine-tuning the plans.

Until this weekend, when I rented a movie named Synecdoche, New York, and I realized that my old friend must be making movies now.

Have you seen this movie?  Of course you haven’t, because what kind of masochist would rent this movie other than me? No one, that’s who.

It’s a Charlie Kaufman film, and it makes the spinning mountain seem like a good idea by comparison. Also the machine guns are totally cheery next to the bummer that is Synecdoche.

For example.  In this movie, the main character is unhappy. I think because of all the stark, fluorescent lighting.  He develops a mysterious disease. It comes and goes, but ultimately has no bearing on further events, just covers him in ugly pustules for fun.  His four year old daughter is taken to Berlin by his wife, where the four year old almost immediately morphs into a fully tattooed German woman who is having a lesbian relationship with her own nanny.  He learns this by reading her diary, which she left under her pillow. Back in America. It spontaneously updates. He never sees her again.

He then becomes involved with a woman who lives in a house that is on fire for forty years. She marries another man who lives in the basement (he came with the house and wears a wife-beater), and they have twins.  Three.  Not three sets of twins.  Three twins. She dies of smoke inhalation. Naturally.

Then he marries an actress in his theater troupe and they have a daughter too, but he can never remember her name, and then he leaves his second wife to go and clean the pretend apartment of his first wife, who paints miniatures. Nude miniatures.

(If your head hurts right now, you’re getting it! Good job!)

The apartment is pretend because it’s part of a theater set. He’s decided to make a play of his life.  And possible there is a play of the play of his life.  There are wigs, and multiple versions of everyone, and all the dialogue happens at least twice, like Ground Hog Day only not funny, and they rehearse for a couple of decades and build a replica of New York City in a warehouse,  but never perform the play for an audience.  Some people die in unexplained ways. A man in an overcoat stalks him.  It might be him stalking himself, but only until the suicide.

(This is where my husband sighed heavily and went to look for my son’s Halloween candy stash.)

Later he decides to play the part of the cleaning woman in the play instead of the director because of stress, and then he has a touching conversation with his/her mother, who died a long time ago.  A fake priest that looks a little like David Arquette gives a speech while standing on some Astroturf. Then he dies. Not David Arquette.  The main guy. Probably. The cleaning lady says so.

That’s basically it.

Be glad I just spoiled this movie for you.  You could use those two hours for something more pleasant and productive, like pulling out all your own teeth with a bottle opener.

I’m sure there are those of you that think Charlie Kaufman is a genius, a profound surrealist with a potent commentary on the existential crisis we all live daily, a man willing to present the tragic absurdity of life with unflinching honesty.

You would be wrong.

Charlie Kaufman is insane, and also an intellectual masturbator.

Not that I have any strong feelings about it, but I think forcing prisoners to watch Charlie Kaufman films would be both an effective interrogation device, and a violation of the Geneva convention. His movies make popcorn stick going down.

I’m feeling a little hostile suddenly. Wow.  I thought only Andy Kaufman affected me that way. 

If you see this movie in the video store, feel free to fling it under the shelving unit.  Go ahead and push it clear under with your toe. You’re doing everyone a favor, even Charlie, who clearly needs to be spending his time more productively, like maybe designing amusement park rides and checking his outlets for listening devices.

I’m done now, I think. 

Check in next time when I discuss the perennial favorite, why Kevin Costner must be driven out of movies and forced to watch Charlie Kaufman films as punishment for every movie he’s done in which he wore pleated slacks.


Mrs Jones said...

I love Charlie Kaufman films. But not this one. I'm one of the three other people I know on this planet who have seen the film (actually five now, including you and your husband). 'Ambitious' isn't quite the word. 'Overly pretentious wank' is more like it along with Darren Aranofsky's 'The Fountain' but at least that has a gorgeous soundtrack.

real estate agent in Vancouver said...

Hi. I think Charlie Kaufman has enough talent to make a good movie. This one I haven't seen yet, but according to your review it seems to be worth to see. I have personal experience with psychiatric hospital too because member of our family spent some time there and I think that there are people who really need help but they have also very interesting stories to tell.

Best regards,

Jules said...

I think I have some co-workers who I'd like to take to that spinning machine gun amusement park. OR they could just watch the Charlie Kaufman film. Either way, they're on my nerves and need some torture.

diane said...

I was actually starting to feel a little crazy just from reading this review. I will be on the lookout for this film, and vigilantly kick it far under the shelf.
Machine guns? I hope that guy is SECURELY locked away.

Kurt said...

It's so close to having "douche" in the title that I've picked it up twice. But then my hand started burning so I but it back down. Charlie Kaufman needs to remake "Porky's", I think.

I want to take the kids to Spinning Octopus Danger Mountain.

Mobius said...

Oh thank good god. I watched this movie last week too. (odd) After getting it from Netflix like four months ago.

Anyway.. I watched it and about an hour and a half in the sound went wonkie. The funny thing it took me about 10 minutes to realize it, because for awhile I thought it was part of the movie.

Anyway... thank good god that I don't have to reorder another version and subject myself to the end.

Your timing is impeccable.

Steam Me Up, Kid said...

Vic, I saw that movie IN THE THEATER!!! Afterwards, I tried really hard to say positive things and make sense of it, like Oh, blah blah, the art and the artist, the man and his vision, aren't we all living a life of something something...

By the time I made it to the car, I was pissed. I felt like I'd been tricked, or felt up when I wasn't paying attention, only on my brain instead of my boobs. I think that movie is a private joke between Charlie Kaufman and himself, to laugh at all the people who sit and try to analyze movies. If that's the case, then I actually like it.

Ed Adams said...

Thanks for ruining it.

I totally had just checked this movie out from the Library.

Now, I'm back to masterbaiting to reruns of the Golden Girls.


@eloh said...

I need to scrub this post from my mind.

I'm old, my brain is, well, less than it used to be. I'll get in the video store and see this movie and my brain will say.. "Yes, that's it, we've heard something about this... yes... it was from someone we liked... now what was it... oh well if they told us, we need to see this...blah blah blah"

Because I'm old and my brain has some worn places and blah...

Soda and Candy said...

God yes. My husband loved Adaptation and I just thought it was a load of old bollocks wrapped in a migraine. I had no idea what was happening at any stage of the movie.

Miss Yvonne said...

I would have been sighing and reaching for the halloween candy long before your husband did....only instead of candy, it would have been a bottle of wine.

P.S. I'm totally going to watch Porky's this weekend. Thanks for reminding me of this cinematic masterpiece!

Nikki said...

I got eerily aggravated as I read on. It was almost like I was reliving your pain and it was horrible. Thank you for spoiling that movie for me. I was never planning on watching it and now I never will. BTW I would have totally got on the mountain coster ride thingy.

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

Did he wear pleated slacks in Bull Durham or Field of Dreams, because I liked those movies.

Mr. Charleston said...

Good Grief! Thanks for the tip. Can't wait to miss it.

just making my way said...

Even reading about it got me annoyed and headachy! Clearly it is time for more wine.

J. said...

When you said that they guy in the mental hospital spent his time looking for bugs in the outlets, at first I thought you meant phantom spiders and imaginary beetles. Thanks for clearing that up later on in the post.

Jocelyn said...

There are bad ways to hurt my brain (SEE: Synecdoche) and good ways to hurt my brain (SEE: your recap of said movie).

I would rather read this post for 2 hours than watch that movie.

I would rather thumb wrestle with Andy Kaufman than watch that movie.

There. Don't think I can state it more dramatically than that.

Vic said...

Mrs. Jones,
I've always wanted to say I love Charlie Kaufman films. I've tried, but this one just made me mad. Not even going to attempt 'The Fountain', even if actual angelic choirs are featured in the score. :)

real estate...,
I'm amazed that I somehow made this movie appealing to you. I'm good! The movie, sadly, is not.
I enjoyed working at the hospital.

We are taking the rude coworker directly to the machine gun portion of the ride. I want to flick her in the forehead first though.

I knew I could count on you! Between the two of us, we might be able to "lose" quite a few copies.

It should have had 'douche' in the title. It's less pretentious at least. I want him to remake "Turner and Hooch". I love that dog.

You're welcome. What kind of sickness overcame us last week, do you think? We had the movie sitting on our counter for three weeks before we tried it.

Probably your copy of the movie was better anyway.

I think it is a joke, but that just pisses me off even more because I hate being tricked. I'm a whole lot of fun on April Fool's Day.

That Emperor is naked. I'm just saying.

(I'm so impressed that you saw it in the theater though. Maybe there'll be a class-action lawsuit for theater-viewers soon!)

Ed Adams,
You're welcome. Sophia's pretty hot, if you like wizened women with Q-tip hairstyles.

I read your comment and turned all Sally Field in my head ("She likes me! She really likes me!") This is not at all pitiful.
Let me help you out. "Turner and Hooch"! That dog's hilarious!!"

Now go!

Soda and Candy,
Shhhhh! You're not supposed to admit that the movies make no sense. Just nod sagely and murmer things like "OH, yes.... Mmmm HMMM..." It just takes practice.

Miss Yvonne,
That's what this movie needed! Wine. No wonder.
Are you doing a Porky's marathon?

I need to sketch that mountain plan out from memory and copyright it before someone makes millions on it. If I build it, you can have free rides.

the Indfmj,
I think he wears pleated pants in ALL of them. Except "Dances with Wolves". I kinda wish he wore pleated pants in that one...

Vic said...

Mr. Charleston,
Also, I forgot to tell you, another good tip is that you should never use an ice cube to remove gum from someone's armpit. I attempted this once with negative results.

just making my way,
Wine will make the headache worse. Try vodka.

I bet he looked for those too. They're what make that sizzling noise in my outlets, I bet.

Thank you! I would rather read your posts than many pleasant things (as well as this stupid movie. :) Good to see you!

Dominica said...

listening to this story, the 'spittle' of the first guy seems to be haunting me ...
I couldn't concentrate on your movie review anymore ...
I did read it again today (I really did) and I must agree with Diane, I start to feel a bit over-active and crazy too !!

Makya said...

Say what you will about Kaufman (although Being John Malkovich was quite good), but I'll be gosh-darned if I'm gonna sit here and let you put down the good name of Andy Kaufman. Any humorist should at, the least, respect what he was doing.

plentymorefishoutofwater said...

I might check this out now...I am a CK fan but not seen this.
You have a really nice writing style, very evocative.
Check out my dating disasters if you get a minute:

ShoesFit said...

Sounds truly horrible - just reading your recap made me irritated at the movie. But why did you soldier through to the end? I didn't know you were such a masochist! I'm with you on Andy Kaufman, too - what rubbish.

Looking forward to your post on Kevin Costner. I know what a deep-seated, passionate, have for him...

Lori E said...

I'm not sure if I should invite you to join in my Writer's Challenge this month or not. The topic is "what is your favorite movie and why". Link goes up Nov. 13th.
Oh what the heck it couldn't be worse than this one...could it?
Until the end I thought you meant he was looking for insects in the wall outlets not listening devices.

J. said...

p.s. For years one of my friends has been wanting to start a musical group called Down with People. It would consist of a bunch of hipsters wearing black and singing choral arrangements of Joy Division and Bauhaus songs.

chupacabra said...

Simply can't wait- thanks for the heads up on Synecdoche, it may replace Adaptation as my favorite movie EVER- in the history of ever.

I have never even seen it and already I'm planning wall space to have it play in a loop on a flat screen that's set in a frame...

erin said...

Wow. I have this film in my queue on netflix.

I guess I won't be watching it? Or maybe I'll watch it tonight just to see what the frick you're talking about.


And of course Becky saw it in the theater. Of Course.

Courtney said...

Thanks for the synopsis. Movies like that are the reasons why God made subtitles and fast forward.

Cat said...

I got a headache from watching the preview for this movie. It maybe the most depressing thing designed to make you feel like a moron. EVER.

CatLadyLarew said...

Next time just make a sculpture out of the leftover Halloween candy. It will make for a much more entertaining evening! (I found the spinning mountain idea much more entertaining than the movie description.)

Margo said...

I declare war on my husband. The battlefield? The Netflix queue. Movies like this make me want to bit the head off of small furry animals.

LiLu said...

"His movies make popcorn stick going down."

I've turned this over in my head at least four times, and it still just sounds dirty somehow.

Ad Astra said...

Woah! I was told to go watch Synecdoche by a friend (whom I suspect, is half intellectual masturbator himself). However, I watched a different different film. The woman in the house on fire never marries the guy. In fact, Kaufman's character has his second wife leave him when she gives up trying to be in the recreation of life and acting as herself. Then he goes and marries receptionist lady. But then there's all this weird sexing between the actors of reception lady, and the director. I got my version downloaded illegally from the internet? Maybe that's our discrepancy.

I CAN'T believe I even made it through that movie. When he started describing his pustules so nonchalantly to his daughter, I'd almost had enough.

The Jules said...

Kerr-ist, I had problems following Monsters Versus Aliens, so I'll probably give this a miss.

I don't get surrealism. They seem to work hard at producing stuff which I have to work hard to stop producing.

Fragrant Liar said...

Dude, where are you?

BarbaraCA said...

"Synecdoche, New York" left me feeling like I was in a fever dream. I am constantly feeling unbalanced and wondering if I have a brain tumor. But not in a good way.

Carolyn...Online said...

Oh shit! Scott and I accidentally watched this last week. We didn't mean to but it had Catherine Keener and we're suckers for her. But we didn't know we were supposed to drop acid before the movie started so nothing made sense. Then we tried to be all smart and work it out but it made our brains hurt. Then it got weird with the daughter. Then we decided he was dead the whole time.

iNosha said...

Wow..... That's..... Complicated......

I never want see the movie... My head hurts!!!!
It sounded interesting though....


Anonymous said...

Thank you! I fell asleep during the first fifteen minutes- I always vaguely wondered what happened, but not enough to try to watch it again...