Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Of viral infections and independent film...

Apologies to all who have left comments on the blog and apologies to all whose blogs upon which I have failed to leave comments...

I'm sitting here with a 102-degree fever, chills, muscle aches and various and sundry pains, apparently the result of my three-year-old son having bestowed upon his father a raging case of...nope, not flu, but hand, foot and mouth disease.

At least that's my Internet-derived diagnosis. It is by all accounts a rather common viral infection in infants and children. In adults however, not so much. Here I am, a mere seven months away from my 39th birthday and I've contracted a disease generally seen only in the Sesame Street demographic.

I shall refrain from speculating what that might indicate about my maturity level and general worldview, but it does sorta explain why Elmo looks so comforting about now.

Which brings me to the connection between viral infections and indie film. This is a connection I made last night around 1:30 a.m. when I woke up in a cold, achy sweat. My generally listless and zombie-like condition prevented me from reading with any degree of comprehension, so I decided if I was going to suffer, I was going to suffer in front of the television.

Now I watch hardly any television. I know it's fashionable and intellectually smug to claim that, but I truly don't. I catch Top Gear on BBC, the odd nature show with my eldest son and and I also try to keep abreast of what's on PBS. That's pretty much it. Hunting and/or fishing shows? I literally can't name one.

But I must admit that every now and then I peruse the movie channels. It's a guilty pleasure because long ago in a previous, childless life I was (cue French accent)... a cinaphile.

Seeing as how most of my friends in college were art school film majors, it wasn't surprising I was a film geek. And since I was also the only bonafide huntin', fishin', shootin' slow-talkin' Bubba of the group, and given that I was much larger than the average film major (budding filmmakers tend to be a bit sallow and puny...) I was invariably cast in my friends' class projects as either a hulking, lumpen dullard or a machete-wielding psycho.

It was much fun, but upon seeing the final version of their avant-garde masterworks, it's really no wonder virtually all of them ditched film school for journalism.

And when we weren't making films we were watching them. Sort of. My friends and I would buy a 12-pack of Milwaukee's Best, a fifth of Jim Beam and other assorted mind-altering substances (Jolt cola and Slim-Jims, mainly) and watch films we largely didn't understand but drunkenly discussed ad nauseum, topics like "are the films of Akira Kurosawa more influenced by Shakespeare or Dostoevsky and exactly how does this Gai-gin influence color our perception of Japanese culture" (I actually wrote a paper on this. To this day I have no clue what I was trying to say)

Or "What was the underlying symbolry of the last scene of "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife And Her Lover?" (rule of thumb: if the movie was completely lost on you, just make up some underlying symbolry...).

Or in more intellectually honest moments, something along the lines of "Holy shit, look at Isabella Rossellini's tits!"

***As an addendum, I forced my wife to sit through "Blue Velvet" a few months ago. A pragmatic and more intellectually honest sort than myself, she declared it the third-worst film she's ever seen. Number two was another David Lynch classic "Wild at Heart" and the absolute winner, garnering the coveted title of "Worst. Film. Ever." went to Daniel Cronenberg's "Crash." I still enjoy all three for the uh...cinematography.***

Even after college I retained my love of off-beat film, but of course that all comes to a screeching halt when you have kids. The past nine years or so have been something of a film bleakscape for me, a period of time in which I've developed an appreciation for more linear mainstream fare, like SpongeBob.

But last night, shaking and shivering, I turned on the TV hoping a movie would take my mind off my illness, or at least make me drowsy enough to sleep. And that's when I discovered that just being "indie" doesn't make a film suckproof.

In fact, I discovered that a bad movie is much like a viral infection: Once you turn it on, it infects you and you just can't seem get rid of it. Insomnia, morbid curiosity and the 272 channels of infomercials running at the same time see to that. Treating it certainly doesn't work. Believe me, I tried to clear my mind and channel my inner film geek to see what the filmmaker was trying to make me see, but in the end all I saw was a muddled, crappy, juvenile, pretentious attempt at art.

And then it hit me: I probably would have loved this film in college. In fact, I know I would have. With a start I realized the yawning chasm between what I was then and what I am now is a bit wider, a bit more conventional than I had previously imagined.

Depressing, really. So I did what any mature, self-respecting, 38-year-old suffering from an infantile sickness would do in my place: I flicked off the excruciatingly bad movie and started watching some DVRd episodes of "Rocky and Bullwinkle."

Ahhh, much better. I finally discovered the cure for a cinematic virus is a healthy dose of joyfully clever and punny 60s-era animation.

Unfortunately, the only cure for a real virus is time, so it's back to bed for me. I was hoping to get out bowhunting some this week but I'm afraid that would require the actual drawing back of the bow, an action for which I'm physically ill-equipped right now.

So I'll just drink my liquids, pop my vitamin C and keep watching to see what Rocky (Doh! I mean Bullwinkle) pulls out of his hat...


  1. Blue Velvet. How many times have i been derided as a Philistine for telling the truth about that dreadful film. It's PANTS. Never been brave enough to see Crash but while we're making a list I would like to add 'Little Nicky' as easily the worst thing ever committed to celluloid


  2. Ah, movies and flu make such a good couple. When I've got a nasty bug, I like nothing better than swilling Nyquil and parking in front of Turner Classic Movies, though I'm usually looking for something with Carey Grant or Clark Gable. Occastionally an atrocious '70s film will make me feel better too.

    Feel better, Chad!