Agents of Chaos: The Greatest Screen Villains of Our Time

August 8, 2008

Now that seemingly the whole world is writhing in the throes of the post-orgasmic glow of The Dark Knight (at least I am; the global box office seems to be backing me up on this one), it seems like a good time to address the best bad guys in Hollywood history.

AFI’s list of 50 Greatest Villains is over 5 years old, and while it’s a largely credible one, its age leaves a lot of highly qualified candidates with lengthy, impressive resumes of staggering evil out in the cold. AFI just recently rejigged their Greatest Films list with no other apparent purpose than to fuck with viewers’ minds, so why not redo this one when there’s great credence? So, leading the charge to stake their claims in the splendidly burnished hall of infamy that would make Stalin groan in envy, are these fine young gentlemen, these Agents of Chaos:

5. Anton Chigurh (Played by Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men)
Why: He’s an unstoppable, unflappable killing machine, a menacing presence with an insatiable appetite for destruction and misery. If the Terminator were Latino with a fucked-up hair-do and took a maniacal delight in killing people (and wasn’t a cyborg from the future; who the hell’s gonna buy that?)…he’d have some serious Green Card issues. Other than that, he’d be Anton Chigurh.

What’s Against Him: Said fucked-up hair-do.
Accolades: Best Supporting Actor Oscar, in the Best Picture winner; my #3 film of 2007.

4. Daniel Plainview (Played by Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood)
Why: Well, let’s see…he ruthlessly exploits, manipulates and cheats everyone, and when he finds someone may have done likewise to him, he shoots the guy dead. His little son (and partner) is wounded in a freak industrial accident, so he ships him off to boarding school to be rid of him. He gets baptized so he can get drilling rights. Cuts off his son at the knees when he learns the lad wants to go into the business on his own (thus becoming a competitor, the one thing red-blooded capitalists can’t stand). Mercilessly taunts a fallen preacher over supper, then puts him out of his misery by bludgeoning him to death. With a bowling pin. But perhaps the most biting indictment is that he is the embodiment of the no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners capitalism that is America. ‘Nuff said.
What’s Against Him: A borderline homicidal fascination with milkshakes. The naked irony of the American Film Institute picking a character embodying the worst excesses of America. Played by a Brit.
Accolades: Best Actor Oscar, in my #2 film of 2007.

3. Captain Vidal (Played by Sergi Lopez in Pan’s Labyrinth)
Why: Amon Goeth (he of Schindler’s List fame), meet your long lost Spanish twin brother, identical in maniacal levels of unbridled evilness. Not since Ralph Fiennes scared audiences shitless with his chilling Nazi (are there other kinds?) in Spielberg’s Schindler’s List (wow that sounds odd) have we been presented with a villain this wicked and grounded in ideological and historical believability. This guy isn’t evil – that’s merely what he eats for breakfast, which is made short work of by a digestive system that’s no stranger to cracking walnuts whole. And what’s worse is that he’s never over-the-top or losing his cool (even when his servant takes a page from the Joker’s book and tries to “put a smile on that face”). And holy shit he shot a child – a little girl, in cold blood. Wrestle 30 alligators or be interrogated by Captain Vidal? The choice is obvious: I’ll fancy my chances with the gators.

El Capitan; a true G

El Capitan; a true G

What’s Against Him: TheSpanish actor in the Spanish film by Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro isn’t American enough for the American Film Institute.
Accolades: He sure as shit wasn’t American enough for an Oscar nom, in my best film of 2006.

2. Bill The Butcher (Played by Daniel Day-Lewis in Gangs Of New York)
Why: First off, does Day-Lewis need a hug? Not getting enough love from Rebecca Miller? This vicious meanie outdoes even poor Daniel Plainview, who at least has table manners (and likes milkshakes). Bill is riveting to watch; unpredictable, unscrupulous, unrepentant, and totally bat-shit out of control. And the best part? He’s not insane, unlike some people (hate to mention names…Plainview…). This probably has to go down as one of the best lead performances this decade; watching Day-Lewis in action is like watching a magician play, if such play constituted impaling puppies and kittens and embalming them alive.
What’s Against Him: Leonardo DiCaprio. In a film that was a mangled mess. But more significantly: Leonardo DiCaprio. And Cameron Diaz.
Accolades: Apparently the Oscars couldn’t overlook the sorry mess that was DiCaprio and Diaz trying to act. That and Adrian Brody as yet another Holocaust survivor; can’t pass those ones up.

1. The Joker (Played by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight)
Why: He is the epitome of an Agent of Chaos. Everyone else on AFI’s list would look up to him with a mixture of awe, admiration, and dread, as evinced by the growing puddle around their Hush Puppies. I’ve never experienced as awesome, grandiose (yet grounded), frightening, menacing, haunting, brilliant, riveting a presence in a film as the first time I saw The Dark Knight. We’re talking about a guy so badass that, despite being a gal-lovin’ kinda guy (forget Brokeback Mountain and stick with me here), would gleefully fuck you in the ass and cum in your eyes and tell all your friends about it. Suddenly Jack Nicholson’s hammy incarnation of the uber-villain (#45 on AFI’s list) remembers a hernia appointment he really has to get to. But seriously: Heath disappears into this character like no other actor (not even Daniel Day-Lewis, or Jamie Foxx in Ray) ever, since perhaps Ben Kingsley as Gandhi (The Joker’s opposite in every way imaginable). It’s frightening, it’s daring, it’s mind-blowing, it’s brave, and, yes, more than a little tragic.

The new face of villainy and chaos

The new face of villainy and chaos

What’s Against Him: Nothing; even the Bat-Man’s had to install Bat-Diapers into his suit for every time he encounters his arch-nemesis.
Accolades: An Oscar, dare I say…? Wickedly deserving, in my #1 film of 2008 and #2 of the decade.

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Requiem for a ‘Dark Knight’

August 8, 2008
This marks the first weekend since it opened that I shall not be seeing The Dark Knight. I bought my ticket for the July 17th midnight screening several days in advance, and was thoroughly enthralled by the film – so much so that I never once sat back during 152mins, and didn’t even notice there was no AC in the burning building until an enraging power outage during the Joker’s monologue to Harvey Dent brought us all crashing back down to earth. (We got 2 free passes for films and concession items for the 5min disruption; I don’t intend to go see The Dark Knight for free though).

I almost saw it again that Sunday but decided to let the anticipation fester, and I was chomping at the bit by the next Saturday, when I finally got to watch it for a 2nd time. Not sated, a friend and I purchased tickets to see it in IMAX the following Friday, the Experience of which I shall elaborate on come Monday.

But now I’m worried of over-saturation, of dulling the impact of this masterpiece by seeing it 4 weekends in a row. So now I’ve made the Herculean decision to abstain for at least another week, until the anticipation bubbles over again.

It seems that it is not only for me that Dark Knight fever is slowly relinquishing a grip on. Every day to and from work I pass through Union Station, one of the busiest ports on Toronto’s subway line (which isn’t say too much about a transit system about as elegantly designed as a root canal or about as functional as the CN Tower). For a couple of weeks before The Dark Knight opened, its posters ran the entire length of the walls of that stop, on both sides. There was one of the Bat-Pod crashing out the side of a building, one of Batman in front of a burning skyscraper (‘Welcome To A World Without Rules’), and one of the Joker in all his fiendish glory. And every morning and evening after I passed through there, I found myself wishing I’d brought along a change of underwear.

It started gradually, the removal of the posters, about a week after its release. But nothing sullied the walls where the fallen TDK posters had been; they were left blank, along with the few others remaining. And even though I knew they were on their way out – it’s almost 4 weeks now; in today’s world, that’s less modern than Ancient Greece – I still wasn’t prepared for the disappointment of pulling into Union yesterday only to be greeted by the affront of all the TDK posters completely replaced. By ads for Telus mobility. That’s like swapping the euphoria of the Nexus (only Star Trek fans will get this) for the allures of a head-splitting aneurysm.

And now – oh the horror – The Dark Knight is on the cusp of being knocked off its lofty perch atop the box office. Pineapple Express and Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants 2 (of all things) edged it into 3rd place on Wednesday, which should be how standings hold up by the end of the weekend.

Nothing remains new forever, and people are fickle, but it’s sad that The Dark Knight seems to be becoming just another film. For me it was an event, an earth-shattering experience that literally saved my life and, hopefully, changed it for the better (not that big a feat, admittedly). With so much emotion and time invested in this film, I really have no idea what I’ll do with myself if, as Valerie told me tonight, I “get sick of it.” Might as well be sick of everything else, too, and be rid of it all; no?

Nightmares and Dreamscapes

August 8, 2008
I have thrown in a very mild form of sleep paralysis, coupled with lucid dreams, into my already tortured sleep process. For most people, the deepest – and sweetest – part of their sleep is accompanied by REM (Rapid Eye Movement, not the band); for me, it seems every part of my sleep is accompanied instead by VEM. Having spent all night tortured in memory of a certain someone-who-shall-not-be-named – which in turn is fueling my latest script idea that is in itself taking a psychological and emotional toll on me – and thus tossing and turning endlessly, I finally drifted asleep in the wee hours of the morning.

I dreamt of old school chums and a happier, quieter, simpler time revisited, before being dragged to the present with a dream where a flatmate and I boarded the wrong subway – one headed out of service and 2 hours out of our way (just like the Toronto Transit Commission to do that). I awoke with a start, except I wasn’t fully awake. My eyes were open somewhat, and I was staring at the coat rack near my bed. But I couldn’t move for the life of me.

And then the room started moving for me. Chugging along, exactly like a subway car, rocking back and forth as it sped down the line. And I knew I had to be dreaming but my eyes were open and I couldn’t move. Then we arrived at a station, and the wall behind my head started to part, like subway doors, only in slo-mo. I struggled to crane my head backwards, but I couldn’t quite get a look behind me; instead, I saw the slowly expanding shaft of light shining on the coat rack as the wall facing it parted.

And I was struck with a sudden, mounting sense of dread.

I tried to reach for my cell phone beside my head, to call for help, but I couldn’t coax my arm to move. Still I stared at the growing shaft of light as the ‘doors’ opened. And then, from inside my head, I felt a mounting pressure, on the right side of my head (my migraines are typically associated with the left side of my head) and it spread from my temple across my eye and down past my cheek to my chin. A squeezing sensation, as if some entity inside my head was determined to crush it without paying attention to the other half of my face (and don’t go throwing ‘Two-Face’ associations at me – it was the left side of his face).

At that point I started to scream. Or at least tried to. Nothing came out at first, and then a low, mournful groan started to escape from my throat, growing at the same rate as the shaft of light and the pressure on my face (like a tumor with a hard-on on growth steroids). And the groan increased ‘til it was a low frequency sound that was as chilling and unnerving as everything else around me. With one final effort, I struggled to move. But this time just my leg.

And it worked. My right leg jerked slightly, with just enough behind it to rock the rest of my body, which jerked me awake. Well, maybe ‘awake’ is the wrong word, since I felt awake enough earlier. But it sure as shit snapped me out of it.

Everything ended abruptly. The pain, the light, the groaning, and I was lying exactly as I had been a nano-second earlier, staring at exactly what I had been staring at, the coat rack. And all I could deduce was that, because my sleep process had been so hijacked and tortured by someone-who-shall-not-be-named, maybe that translated into this surreal experience. Certainly the most interesting thing to happen to me last night. I wonder now whether people will start to believe my assertions that I’m the brink of insanity.

My Best Films of The Decade By Year: 2001 & 2002

August 6, 2008

I started seeing films theatrically, in earnest, in December 2001, when The Lord Of The Rings trilogy started wowing audiences. I knew little to nothing about the books themselves, so I wasn’t exactly rushing to theaters (plus, despite being a child of the ’80’s, I despised sword and sorcery fantasy flicks). But I was in New York for Christmas, and my brother and cousin wanted to go, and I sure as hell wasn’t getting left behind.

The Fellowship Of The Ring blew me away, easily becoming my best theatrical experience ever (a title it held until the midnight screening of The Dark Knight), and ushered in the phase where I started to critique and rate films seriously.

Considering how (relatively) scant my theatrical jaunts in 2001 and 2002 were, I list a rather abridged version of my best of for both years:

2001

1. The Lord Of The Rings: Fellowship Of The Ring (*****; A+): Yep, wasn’t joking about it being abridged. I’ve seen this a couple of times since then, and it holds up much better than the sequels. People have complained about it being slow, but it’s merely prodigiously paced, deliberate and thoughtful with plenty of character development and internal strife to go with the battles – a rarity for a blockbuster. Enya’s musical contribution is outstanding – a perfect marriage of sound and film, and the general pathos it induces and conduces (in conjunction with the measured performances and expertly weighted atmosphere) make this an instant, unforgettable classic.

2002

5. Blade II (****½; A-): Don’t laugh; Guillermo Del Toro’s vampiric action flick is a hidden gem; gloriously bloody and excitingly plotted and paced. And it boasted a rarity in comic book flicks (besides a black hero) – a sympathetic, if ruthless villain. Sure the CGI fights are a little too much (though it’s got nothin’ on The Matrix Reloaded), but the performances are solid, the action is thrilling and the overall atmosphere and excitement beats Del Toro’s pet Hellboy projects.

4. About A Boy (*****; A): I like Hugh Grant as much as the next guy, but will gladly admit his range is limited and his shtick can get tiresome. But never has he been more wining, more nuanced and more bloody watchable than here. This is the role he was born to play. The Weitz brothers, fresh off American Pie, outdo themselves here in a story that deftly taunts then avoids the minefield of clichés it seems destined for. It’s a Christmas movie, a buddy comedy, a sweet romance, and an unconventional coming-of-age tale.

3. Spirited Away (****; A+): My first foray into Miyazaki, and my favorite. What an unbridled imagination to give birth to as fantastical as world as this, so potent that it effortlessly transports you to the mindset of a child, wide-eyed and curious. There is also a budding sense of danger in Miyazaki’s world, and it is a deft balancing act of unparalleled dexterity that pulls it off without making it menacing. Simply put, the must-see animated film of the decade, Pixar or no.

2. Adaptation (*****; A+): Charlie Kaufman won me over with this blisteringly hilarious and insightful tale of a talented writer struggling to adapt the unadaptable. Nicolas Cage put all naysayers to rest with a wickedly on-the-nose portrayal of Charlie and his fictional twin, two performances so adept that neither character needs hair, wardrobe or makeup tics to distinguish them. The supporting cast is gold, the film as a whole an instant classic.

1. Minority Report (*****; A+): Spielberg’s (short-lived) return to form, a muscular, breathless, intelligent and rousing piece of entertainment that only a true master of the game could have up his sleeve. People complain about its length or false endings, but the fatalism implied therein makes an interesting and curious counterpoint to on of its central themes. The ideas bandied about here are fascinating, the future so deliriously well realized, and the performances are raw and effective – all held together by some sublime set-pieces (the jet-pack chase, car factory fisticuffs, the ‘spyders’ sequence, and especially the abduction and escape of Agatha through the mall). With this Spielberg, the founder of the summer blockbuster, delivered the best one in years, and certainly the boldest ‘til Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.

With Flying Colors: My Film Grading System

August 6, 2008
The Four-star rating has become the most widely used by professionals – notably my two favorite critics, Roger Ebert and James Berardinelli – and has become a near-must for respectability. Since I am neither professional nor respectable, I have opted to use a 5-star rating system. It gives me greater leeway and allows for more specificity, separating the bad from the good and the good from the great and the great from the mind-blowing awesome.

To further buck the trend, I’ve coupled my rating system with a letter grading system, ranging from ‘F’ (Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Queen Of The Damned) to A+ (The Godfather, Unforgiven). That way, there is a difference between a very, very good film meriting 5 stars and an ‘A’ (The Life Aquatic), and a great one of 5 stars and an ‘A+’ (Magnolia). This allows me to dole out a handful of 5-star ratings every year, while reserving my highest grade for those all-too-rare films that are rapturous, veritable religious experiences.

Last year I gave out two 5-star ratings (Michael Clayton and Hot Fuzz), one the year before (Pan’s Labyrinth) and none in 2005 (at least until I re-examine the charms of Batman Begins). This year I have given two thus far, including one A+, my first since 2004’s Million Dollar Baby (still my reigning choice of the decade ‘til date).

In total, I have given out 6 A+’s this decade for just over 20 five-star-rated films. The ratings and gradings work hand-in-hand, with the gradings elevating or tempering the degree of the rating, and works roughly as thus:

5 stars: A (Excellent) or A+ (Brilliant/Masterpiece)
4½ stars: A- (Great but Flawed) or A (Top Notch)
4 stars: B+ (Very Good) or A- (Very, Very Good)
3½ stars: B (Above Average) or B+ (Pretty Good)
3 stars: B- (Not Bad) or B (Pass Mark: Rated ‘Fresh’)
2½ stars: C+ (Barely Worth It) or B- (Touch-and-Go)
2 stars: D (Very Poor) or C (A Flop)
1½ stars: D (Not Fit For Cable)
1 star: F (Epic Failure)

Think of it sort of the sharps and flats in playing music; after all, many will tell you that writing reviews is an art unto itself (then again, many haven’t read my reviews…).

‘The Dark Knight’ Box Office Watch

August 5, 2008

And so it happened – more records fallen by the wayside as TDK stormed on with its take-no-prisoners raid on the North American box office. Having just held off The Mummy 3 for top spot (marking its 3rd weekend up there, a feat in these vicious summer weeks), Christopher Nolan’s superhero saga sat some $6 mil shy of $400m domestically – after only 17 days. The question now is whether it can pull in the necessary bread on Monday to finish off the job in 18 days, handily beating out the previous record held by Shrek 2 – which took a (relatively) whopping 43 days for that milestone.

So now I’m refreshing http://www.boxofficemojo.com every hour or so, waiting in bated breath to find out if it’ll happen today or tomorrow (yeah I know – big difference). And all the talk at the moment is whether or not it will catch up to – and sink – Titanic.

Not to be mistaken: I’m a pretty bloody big fan of Titanic, and an even bigger one of James Cameron. There’ve been better films over the years by far, but somehow Titanic’s ludicrously lofty position in B.O. history feels…right. Biggest film, biggest risk (and don’t come saying LOTR; the hype around those films was phenomenal and it was always going to make it’s money back), biggest budget, biggest Oscar-haul, biggest B.O. It just felt right – still does, actually, so there will be a ping of regret if it is toppled, a mere 10+ years since it soared to the summit, a skilled marathon-runner vs. today’s top-heavy sprinters.

But The Dark Knight seems a sprinter with the endurance of a marathon runner, a combination never truly seen since the juggernaut days of the first Star Wars films. And I’m not saying that it’s going to surpass Titanic ($200m is still a lot of bread), but if it did, it would be the perfect film to do so. Its combination of brain and muscle, hope and tragedy – both filmic and, sadly, real – is just so palpable, making it one of the best summer movies of all time, and my 2nd favorite film overall this decade. Either way, The Dark Knight is a beautiful anomaly, a truly special film, and – if it were to take Titanic’s crown – it would just feel…right.

ADDENDUM:
According to http://www.boxofficemojo.com, The Dark Knight raked in $6.2m on Monday, pushing it to $400,038,494 – just a handful of cash past the magical 400m number. Too perfect.

It’s The Long Weekend…

August 5, 2008

I hate the long weekend. I know most people look forward to them like an oasis in the desert storm that’s the 9-5 hubris of life, but I look forward to the day when I can look forward to long weekends.

Monday was a ‘civic holiday’ here in jolly, communist, worker-friendly Canada; how worker-friendly et al you ask? So much so that they apparently invented this holiday just to give workers an extra day off. Oh how capitalists south of the border must be dreading the northern, Canuck Red Scare. I spent my long weekend in not entirely atypical style: listless, aimless, joyless, loveless. But this time I took it two shades past ugly. I ended up neither showering nor catering to other matters common to daily hygiene, as I wallowed away in my windowless dungeon of doom, trying to recall what sunlight was like.

I spent my days (and nights) watching the FX show Damages, and then the classic ’90s cop show Homicide: Life On The Streets, before capping the weekend off with John Sayles’s Lone Star, a film I rented because it seemed to bear parallels to a script idea I’m currently working on. I subsisted on a luxurious diet of nothing but cake and ice cream (I shit you not), but still manage to weigh a paltry 64kg. My metabolism (as well as my overly slender fingers and way too long and full eyelashes) is the envy of every woman I know.

And such a splendidly wasted long weekend must be to the chagrin of every 9-5er I know (my good friend in Calgary works so much overtime he only occasionally takes a Saturday or Sunday off – and of course was at work on the civic holiday). But at this stage of my life I have no life, which is why I keep on with my unpaid internship at Emmerson Denney Films, long after my tenure has expired: it gives me something to do (plus I like it). No, for me long weekends are only truly valuable – or bearable – when I’m writing.

In April, I spent 3 consecutive weekends writing my very first feature-length screenplay. It was wonderful – the best weekends I can recall in eons. It was bloody, heartwrenching, elating, glorious, mind-numbing, constipating, delirious, ecstatic, enriching. I can’t recall a more fun creative experience, even if my being a tyro – a novice, that is – showed through in the bulk of my writing choices. Writing is about rewriting, and I can’t wait to get back to that script.

But first I want some emotional distance, which is where my latest idea comes in. I was desperately seeking another script to write but, for the first time in my life, was 100% bereft of ideas and inspiration. Until The Dark Knight, which spawned an epic tragedy in my mind that I can’t wait to get started writing. But I won’t make the mistake of last time, of rushing into writing without getting the important preliminaries down. So my hands are sort of tied, and I have to resign myself to not writing my script until after I leave Toronto, Ontario CANADA in early September.

So I sit in a funk. But I’m developing an idea with some friends that we hope to fund and shoot next summer, so that should keep my agitation at bay. If all goes well with school, writing, fundraising and the whole shebang, and God smiles down mightily on us, well, by this time next year, I could really be looking forward to a long weekend. Amen.

A Super Hero: How ‘The Dark Knight’ literally saved my life when I tried to kill myself after seeing ‘Hancock’

July 29, 2008

Don’t get me wrong – I actually enjoyed Hancock. It was fun, throwaway, with some solid turns by solid actors and an intriguing finale from the end of the 2nd Act to the 3rd. No, my sudden desire to end my participation in the dog race known as life was triggered by what happened after Hancock ended.

My very, very good friend, who I was (am/will be; who knows?) in love with – despite that phase of our relationship being over for some years now – sent me a text just before the closing credits, so I called her up. We’d been a wee bit on the outs, considering that I had earlier pointed out to her that she was – as all people invariably are to differing degrees – a tad racist, citing her admitted fear of black men among other things. Plus there was my tactless marriage proposal 10 days earlier, following Germany’s devastating loss to Spain in Euro ’08 (Blog Post: Pain Is So Close To Pleasure).

Well we talked, a little tentatively and awkwardly, with her apologizing for a non-existent argument over said proposal. It didn’t stop her from divulging a secret to me that damn near fractured my fragile little mind – all with the casualness of an invite to a Sunday school picnic. Now, I’m not one to kiss and tell (seeing that I do none of the former and too much of the latter); suffice it to say that it’s the very last thing you need to hear from someone you’re so in love with you proposed to her even though you knew you’d get turned down and wind up with egg on your face.

So there I am, on the bus and trying to string together coherent sentences as she talks away and I’m dying on the inside – yet it’s like deja vu, seeing how something identical had occurred 5½ years ago. But it was so much worse this time – and the timing couldn’t be more – how shall I put this delicately? – fucked up. So I broke down and made up my mind even before she’d hung up (she somehow caught on that I wasn’t very talkative) to finally take matters into my own hands and end this debacle of an existence before fate conjured up even more colorful ways to mock my very being.

Unfortunately I was heading across town to meet a good friend who’d driven all the way from Fredericton, so I had to stay my hand. I didn’t get to his place until well after 11pm, but fate was smiling (albeit morbidly) on me this time as there just happened to be a Shoppers Drug Mart on the corner of his street. I promptly helped myself to an OTC (Over The Counter) bottle of sleep meds, before opting for 2 in case the one didn’t quite pan out. I had long figured that slashing the wrists was a girlie cry for help, while mouthing a shotgun – Hemmingway style – was the man’s way to go. Having neither the weapon nor the compunction to use it, I settled on a fair halfway point.

I was at my friend’s for over an hour, and by the time he kindly drove me back I was so drowsy it seemed like I’d popped half the pills already. I got back, left a message for my boss at work that I wouldn’t be coming in anymore and wishing him all the best of luck and shit like that, and then popped a fistful of pills.

And promptly threw them up. Don’t get me wrong – not like I gagged or choked or anything. But a series of very strong and interconnected thoughts crossed through my mind with such clarity, all almost at once. For starters, I realized why I’d chosen sleep meds – because they were, in part, responsible for Heath Ledger’s death, an actor I admired even before he was cast in The Dark Knight. I had mourned him for weeks, and the indelible image of him cut down in his prime had stayed with me subconsciously.

But his was an unfortunate accident; he fully expected to awake later that day, which made it all the more tragic. By willfully offing myself this way, I was committing sacrilege to his memory, and mocking such a monumental loss.

Secondly, and much more selfishly, I realized that I was killing myself 10 days before The Dark Knight was due to open. Considering I had never anticipated any film like that in all my days, it seemed like a fucking stupid thing to do at the time. I imagined how awesome that film would be, how blown away and enraptured I would be by it – or not, since I’d be fucking freezing on a coroner’s slab with a belly full of pills and a roomful of mocking spectators. Dweeb, they’d say. He could’ve at least stuck around for the midnight screenings of The Dark Knight. Most awesome film EVER. Then they’d leave the scalpel in my midsection as they rush to catch a screening before it’s sold out. And my cold dead ass would envy them from the grave.

And, with those thoughts racing through the fractured microchips of my mind, I regurgitated the pills I’d mouthed, caught in two minds about the validity of my decision either way.

And I of course have not regretted that decision. The Dark Knight is the most rousing piece of entertainment I can recall, easily my favorite and most indelible theatrical experience ever. I shall see it anywhere between 7 and 15 more times, and only ‘til I am full sated will I even consider finishing what I started on Tuesday July 8, 2008 – precisely 3 weeks ago today.

Until then, I adhere by more words of wisdom from The Joker; for I believe whatever doesn’t kill you simply makes you…stranger.

Drowse

July 25, 2008

Sleep is becoming more of a chore these days as I freely sample sleep disorders like hors d’oeuvres at a fully staffed buffet. On introspection, I realize this began in earnest – surprise, surprise – after the midnight screening of The Dark Knight. I couldn’t sleep afterwards, and still showed up for work b4 9am the next morning. Because of a friend’s birthday party, I didn’t get home that night ‘til 4am, yet I was wide awake at 9am on Saturday, unable to sleep again.

That night I only managed another 5 hours, much to my chagrin, meaning 10 hours of sleep in the last 84. Then, to mix things up, Monday thru Friday, I found myself unable to wake up and rise, a condition mirroring hypersomnia, which can arise from clinical depression.

I’ve never been the best sleeper – despite what people tell me – and I find myself juggling mild forms of insomnia, hypnagogic terrors, and hypersomnia – none big deals in and of themselves, but can be a real bitch when chucked together during a working week. It’s becoming a real pain-in-the-ass, but at least the hypnagogic terrors are not as bad as I’ve experienced. I’ve always wanted to try to write such a condition into a character in a script, but while the sensation is novel (and literally breathtaking) it doesn’t lend itself well to the visual medium without becoming hokey or being really far-out and off-the-wall ala Terry Gilliam (and I’m, sadly, no Terry Gilliam).

For the uninitiated, hypnagogic terrors are – at least in my case – an irrational but overwhelming fear that seizes you during hynagogia, which is the phase between sleep and wakefulness. So, on occasion, I’m unable to fall asleep because of a powerful fear, which arises only on the very brink of falling asleep, that I will never be able to wake again. No amount of logical argument dispels this, as it occurs at a time when one isn’t really in a thinking mode. If I can’t kick it, I might as well exploit it in a script, but how dramatize something so incredibly palpable and powerful yet happens only in the head?

Pain Is So Close To Pleasure Part II: aka Don’t Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve and blah blah blah…

July 24, 2008

This being a sequel (hence the ‘Part II’ in the title), it would be advisable – if you’re even going to take the time to sit through any of this – to scroll down a touch further (ok, a touch more than a touch) to fill in the blanks with the prequel.

Football (soccer – keep up) is my other great love, and after seeing Nigeria’s Super Eagles flop at the African Nations Cup and Arsenal of the English Premier League (my ‘hometown’ club) capitulate in the closing stages of the season, all my hopes were on Germany – my other favorite soccer team. And I watched live, butt clenched in tension, as they lost in the Euro 08 final. 1-0. To Spain.

So I went a little apeshit – enough to call it a last straw, bite the bullet, and do something incredibly stupid that could alter the course of things.

I proposed to Valerie. By text. If you’d known our relationship, you’d have seen why this wasn’t quite the faux pas it seems to be (plus – it rhymed! “Marry me, Valerie”? A syllabic palindrome).

She was perplexed, and we didn’t really talk until I sent another text 2 days later asking “Why So Serious?” She asked if I was serious since I thought she was racist (I had merely pointed out that all humans are at least slightly racist, and when she denied having a racist strand in her DNA, I glibly pointed out that she was scared of black men, had twice made derogative remarks about Indian people – out of anger, to be fair – and thought the Chinese were trying to kill Westerners, which may very well be reciprocal). Admittedly it was an odd thing to ask shortly after the worst fight of our 7-year friendship (one it hasn’t recovered from), but I was deathly serious.

So what does this have to do with The Dark Knight? Well, a week later I almost killed myself but for its intervention (for another post), and then waited eagerly ‘til opening night, nabbing a ticket for a midnight screening. So it was on Thursday July 17th that I last spoke to Valerie, with the intent of either kickstarting things from their depressing doldrums or terminating them. It panned out as I’d expected, so I surreptitiously ended the conversation with her for good before heading out to see The Dark Knight, more pumped yet emotionally fragile than I recall ever being.

I have never been more infatuated with a film – I’ve seen better films, but never been as moved and enervated as this before. The Dark Knight is all things – beautiful, haunting, memorable, quotable, intelligent, passionate, tragic, energetic, ambitious, successful, bloody rich – that you could want in a love interest. And I am well and truly in love. So it is that I traded one love of my life for another within the space of 2 hours. They are both fascinating yet inaccessible mistresses, and will burn – brutally – because they cannot return the love that I unblinkingly fetter on them (believe it or not, The Dark Knight is just a movie). I’m obsessed, but I’ll love her long after she stops giving (which is a ways away), and be fascinated with the richness and communion of the experience that lasted only 152mins but feels much longer (especially after I see it 10 more times or so).

Yes, I have found the new love of my life. She is The Dark Knight, and she is lovely.