Sunday, October 22, 2017

If Not Later, When?

"Parce que c'était lui, parce que c'était moi"

Rushing into a movie after it has already started sounds like the opposite of ideal movie watching to me, but you do what you gotta do when you get a free standby ticket for being a film festival volunteer. There are very few exceptions I would do this for and Call Me By Your Name is one of them. And since I walked into the theatre just having read the book a week ago, I knew the small bit I had missed and everything that was to come. So BOY was I giddy! I was immediately overcome by Luca Guadagnino effortlessly adapting Andre Aciman's tour de force novel into a beautiful escape to Mediterranean Italy.
For a quick recap (check out my previous post), Oliver, an American writer played by Armie Hammer, is invited to Italy for six weeks in order to work on his Ph.D. thesis with an impeccably cultured host family. What develops over the coming weeks is encased in the subtlest of flirting: a gentle but firm touch sending goosebumps down Elio's spine (and man parts), a glance of each other's glistening bodies at the pool, and each man teasing the other by kissing or talking about his ~almost~ sexual encounter with a girl in public. While there's no big crescendo with thick palpable sexual tension in the air between the two men, Elio's explosion (figuratively and literally) in a ripe ball of emotions is the catalyst for their raw, blossoming relationship. [Side note: I highly recommend reading the book to get a better insight into how furiously Elio's mind is overworking being around Oliver.]

Timothee, beyond talented at the age of 21, makes every scene an effortless interaction by communicating so much emotion in just one look. The final shot alone, which runs the length of the credits in one take, count stand as his reel by itself. He transforms into three or four emotional states after realizing the anguish of heartbreak, thus broadening Elio's complexity even more. Expect a Best Actor Oscar nom for Tim along with Direction for Luca, Costume Design for Giulia Piersanti, and Cinematography for Sayombhu Mukdeeprom.
And as a side note, the fashion in the film is to DIE for. I will definitely be contacting the costume designer to buy one of everything that Elio wore: his bracelet, bathing suits, shirts, even Oliver's shorts. I. Need. That. Floral. Shirt.!
From the perspective of a gay man, it is easier to understand this less as a sexual study and more of a coming of age tale for Elio. More commonly that I initially imagined, I heard friends recounting homoerotic curiosities growing up similar to that of Elio and Oliver. In a world that is finally becoming more understanding of the fluidity of sexual identity, not everything has to be black or white or stay the same way forever. Elio is discovering different parts of himself through his separate attractions to Oliver and Marzia. By the end of the summer, relationships develop and we know Oliver has to leave. So it finally makes sense that Luca would leave out the final future scenes of the novel: to keep ambiguous and unclear if Elio will eventually end up with a male or female partner. This may give hope to the hopeless romantics who think maybe, maybe someday the two men could rekindle their summer love. In the book (SPOILERS), Elio remains single for over thirty more years, more or less waiting for Oliver. If their summer love made Elio realize that he was gay doesn't necessarily need to be made known.

Luca always ends his films with a memorable sting. I Am Love still stands as my favorite ending of a film ever. Even though it does feel long at 132 minutes, CMBYN ends (oh how I wish it wouldn't end) on a different note than throughout the majority of the film. Also possibly why Luca decided not to play out the novel's ending was to make Elio's talk with his father a more significant scene of finality. "[Oliver] was good, and you were both lucky to have found each other, because you too are good" (Aciman 223). As someone struggling with his or her sexuality or just devastated by a breakup, Mr. Perlman's (Michael Stuhlbarg) words provide a profoundly accurate and emotionally comforting means to accepting grief, heartbreak, and helplessness. "Withdrawal can be a terrible thing when it keeps us awake at night, and watching others forget us sooner than we'd want to be forgotten is no better...But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything- what a waste!...I don't envy the pain. But I envy you the pain" (224-5). I longed to hear my dad utter these words of support, knowing that he would accept every part of my true self. Consequently, never having felt this is probably why I melted into a puddle (and wrinkled the pages while reading) during these humbling moments. The world would be a better place today if it had more Mr. P's in it.

In the end, it isn't perfect. I can't even recount one instance where the movie adaptation was better than the book. For what the novel accomplishes, the film seems slightly too long and omits some of the most emotional (and sensual) moments. But Luca made it perfect in its own way and he embodied in this Italian escape from reality the most heartwarming love story 2017 needs.

Overnight BrOats

1/2 cup oats
1 scoop whey protein powder (match flavor to fruit or nut butter additions)
1/4 cup strawberries, blueberries, banana and/or peanut/almond butter
1 scoop chia seeds
1/2 cup almond milk (to desired consistency)
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Mix ingredients and leave in fridge overnight. Either eat as is or blend for a morning drink on-the-go!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

A Summer, A Lifetime of Love

Being in love is never easy. There are always two outcomes: either you end up together forever until death or someone falls out of love and the relationship ends. And even with the former option- considering natural causes- someone has to die first and leave the other with a lifetime of memories to reflect on. Yeah, super morbid! But on the other hand, no matter how many times you go through it, love will always give you that unbound, visceral, ecstatic feeling of being truly alive. Nothing- except maybe skydiving- will ever come close to that intense rush of empowering emotions, that ephemeral immortality when your stars align with those of someone else. You sign up for whatever comes your way because you know you can handle anything. Sometimes the attachment comes when you least expect it. But it's there.

Forbidden love is the absolute worst. Because then you just want it more and deep down, locked inside the dungeons of your mind, you hear that trapped prisoner screaming out, "Don't do it! The end is near!" But the hope inside of you pushes him into the corner to shut him up and moves forward, pursuing your image of happiness that eventually morphs and deteriorates as you didn't think it could. All the while you kept it a secret because there was no one else you could tell. It lived in your heart alone and in every single place that your love endured. It implanted a memory, a feeling into each place so that when you return, a piece of your heart would forever stay there too, to keep the memory of your love alive.

Yet, (in the corniest line to date referencing the greatest of modern love hits), the heart wants what it wants because it knows you're the one that I want. (I warned you.) So when you first meet glances across the room, you feel the attraction pulse between you. And when you look back and find them taking a second glance too, you don't worry that your heart skipping a beat may be a medical emergency. Your first words, your first touch, the flirting, the overthinking, the deliberate avoiding hoping it'll lead to them missing you, and eventually your first kiss; courting always makes love worth it. In the end, it 100% is. Love is the act of being human and it is what connects us all.

Before I deconstruct everything about love, I should probably introduce that all of these thoughts and plenty more are thanks to my recent (less than 20 minutes ago) finishing of André Aciman's Call Me By Your Name. The fact that this is the first book review on my film blog carries its own weight, but this all comes in antici-------pation of the imminent release of the feature film directed by Luca Guadagnino. His previous works (I Am Love, A Bigger Splash) suggest a raw, deeply intimate look into his characters and their human struggles. Which, in part, is exactly what CMBYN is all about.

An American academic, Oliver, is invited to stay with an Italian family in their Mediterranean villa for six weeks. The son, Elio, and Oliver (played by Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer, respectively) create this unparalleled bond that makes the summer skip by in a heartbeat and the book's final page come with yet another torrent of tears. After I read A Little Life, I wasn't sure I had a single more tear to give. But for better or worse, CMBYN showed that I had even more to shed. It will be interesting to see how Guadagnino translates Aciman's fluid prose and Elio's borderline obsessive (don't worry, I've been there plenty of times) POV.

In short, these two friends, lovers create such a transcendent bond, they consider themselves extensions of each other. In effect, 'Call me by your name' so that we can be infinitely close to one another always. I don't want to give too much away before the film's release, but if you've read the book you know how impactful it can be. I can only hope for the same emotional roller coaster in the film. So pack your tissues, tie your heart strings up tight, bring along your memories of your first love, your summer love, and stay tuned for my review after the film! (Wish me luck that I can sneak into the Q&A with Luca, Armie, Timothée, and Michael after my volunteer shift!)


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Here's To The Fools

Now that I've had a few weeks to calm down after seeing La La Land, I can finally control my brain to actually form words about what I was seeing. It was magical, inspiring, transformative. I actually hadn't seen any articles or reviews about it before, apart from the trailer. Rarely do I go in without much insight, but this was definitely a worthy experience of losing myself in movie magic.

On the surface, it's just another love story between two beautiful stars mixed with Chazelle's characteristic music motif. But what he creates is an unforgettable journey through space and time -- just kidding (mostly). It really is an incredible two hours though. After just a couple minutes, you'll wish you were singing and dancing around LA along with the perfect Gosling and Stone.

From here on out, spoilers beware

What most people are upset about, or talking about the most, is the tragic ending. What was a delightful escape for the entire film becomes a heartbreaking end for the pair that lights up the screen. But isn't it nice to have some reality in a mostly fictitious landscape? As Mia and Sebastian do, shouldn't we live for the journey and not just the ending? In another universe, they are for sure still together and as happy as in that dream sequence. This leads me to wonder: did they need to break up in order to achieve their dreams? Possibly, but they pushed each other to persevere their own dreams. And even though they have their weak moments, they never want to give that specific dream up. Sadly, this draws them apart and into different lives once again. I live by a saying that every single person comes into your life for a reason. Seb and Mia may have become fools for each other, but they met for the ultimate reason: for their love to inspire their own passion for life. 

In that last glance with Mia in the doorway (which to this day makes me cry imagining it), their eyes say 'I love you, I'm so proud of what you've created.' And that to me is true love. Love may or may not be eternal and it definitely isn't always kind. Regardless, it recurs throughout one's life. Their love for their careers was the greatest during their relationship and without that (Mia's exhaustion being defeated through auditions and Sebastian joining a band where he knew he wasn't reaching his full potential), they couldn't even satisfy each other. 

His juxtaposition of the audiences' ideal ending with the more real and tragic end love is the cherry on top of a magnificent film. You get lost in the beauty that they have created and you don't want to escape. The classic Hollywood backdrop, a happy-go-lucky love story, is perfect to showcase the effortless on-screen chemistry between Gosling and Stone, almost tricking the audience to assume a perfect ending. So whether you love it or hate it, I think it is the most perfect way to end a movie. To make what is happening on-screen more than just plot. To not only make it surprising, but also to reshape the Classical Hollywood formula of a happy ending for modern times. (Also, if you haven't seen Mommy by Xavier Dolan, please do yourself the favor and watch that now.)

Is there anything I didn't like? No because even John Legend's interlude with 'Start A Fire' is catchy. Also, when you think you've hit the "slow part" of the movie after they're playing phone tag, Seb shows up and they fight. On the other hand, my grandma loathed the opening's unrealistic car-hopping number. But to me, the film's tightrope act between reality and fiction is what keeps you so emotionally engaged till the very end. Some parts are really fun and imaginative (who expected hundreds of people to get out and start dancing and singing on the 405?), some are pure beauty (Mia walking into the party, snow falling, the music crescendoing, the variety of bold colors dazzling every inch of the frame), and some awfully real (Mia coming to tears during first audition in her -again vibrantly- blue coat; well, all of Stone and Gosling's acting for that matter).

On another note, do I even need to say anything about the music? I've listened to the entire OST everyday for the past 3 weeks. So that's probably why I remembered the film on second viewing almost shot-for-shot. Chazelle uses jazz as a backdrop just like in Whiplash, and it is quite interesting to see music become almost a third character in the story. I'll be interested to see what he brings in his third picture-- maybe creating a jazz trilogy of sorts. 

Here are some of my favorite moments from the soundtrack that blow you away on-screen:
-The entire first number, because how could you not be rejuvenated every morning after listening to it
-The crescendo in 'Someone In The Crowd' with Mia approaching the pool (mentioned above) 
-Stone laughing while singing in her duet with Gosling. You can tell it's pure joy and it makes my heart melt for her more and more
-Planetarium. Easily the whole track but the swooping stretches of ballroom music bring me to tears 

If you can't tell, I'm trying to ramble because there are an endless number of wonderful things to discuss about this movie. It will easily win Best Picture at the Oscars among many other deserving nominations. So if you haven't seen it but knowing the ending makes you want to see it now, GO. If you've already seen it, go again! Because if loving is dreaming, then let me be a crazy fool. 

New Year, New Me

1/2 (frozen) banana
large handful spinach
1 TB chia or flax seeds
12 grapes (because why not partake in a fun Spanish tradition)
1/2 TB ginger
carrot juice, enough to cover the ingredients
1/2 lemon, juiced

Top off with ice and honey. Happy 2017!