Better a Witty Fool than a Foolish Wit

Inner Workings of My Twisted Mind.

Like an Old Friend, Come and See Me Again

The CW is finally capitalizing on the thing that made the WB and Fox successful networks, teens.  If you haven’t heard the good news, The CW is working on a companion for Gossip Girl and they made the original idea of a spin-off.  Okay, okay, spin-offs aren’t original, but a spinoff of a show that ended eight years ago, and was at its peak about five years before that, is somewhat unheard of.

So what exactly is The CW spinning off?  Only one of my all time favorite shows, Beverly Hills 90210.  Cue the theme song and the beautiful people.  Oh, and did I mention the clincher.  It’s being written by none other than the man who wrote Veronica Mars (another fav of mine), Rob Thomas.  Basically, this is my dream show.  
Teen Drama.  Check.
Possible cameos by 90210 alum.  Check.
Good Writing.  Check.
I must say, as much as I love the realistic high school shows, it sends my little heart atwitter when I get some good soapy unrealistic drama.  And, to top it all off, this version of 90210 isn’t all upper class white kids.  Apparently, there will be other races mixed in as well.  That means we don’t have to have a one off episode where a competing school newspaper editor, who happens to be black, teaches the Peach Pit crowd about race.  Oh no, we get week after week of racial tension, as well as the inevitable alcoholic/drug addict plotline, the pregnancy scares, the running to Mexico with your boyfriend, and the conspicuously absent parents.  
Yes, T.V. is hurting for viewers after the strike (apparently people discovered that there is life beyond T.V.), but with any luck, they’ll be reeled back in with gems like this.  I know I will.
Peace, Love, and Peach Pit After Dark,
Julia

May 20, 2008 Posted by | High School, Hollywood, Literature, Los Angeles, Television | Leave a comment

I’ll Be There for You

I’m having a little love affair with Friends right now.  You remember it, television show, defined the ’90s, last truly great sitcom.  Okay, we’re all together now.  Friends started in 1994, when I was the ripe old age of 10 (hadn’t quite turned 11 yet) and I vaguely remember it from then, though didn’t watch it.  I remember seeing the episode where Ross’ monkey can’t stop humping everything in sight (the first episode of Friends I ever watched), but I didn’t actually start watching Friends until I got a T.V. of my very own in the eighth grade (that would have been the Christmas of 1996).  I credit the acquiring of my very own television as the root of my love of t.v.  I had loved certain shows before, but I only watch three of them during the week (for those who are curious that would be 90210, The Simpsons, and Party of Five).  When I got my own t.v. the world was my cable box and I could watch t.v. all evening while doing copious amounts of homework.  This is when I started watching Must See T.V.  Ah, remember when NBC was putting out quality programming that didn’t involve Donald Trump or Howie Mandel?  I may have been the only person that watched nothing but NBC.  By this time my 90210 obsession had petered out and my WB obsession had not yet started, so I was strictly an NBC girl.  And Friends was the centerpiece of the week.  Thursday night was amazing.  Friends, Seinfeld, Mad About You, Will & Grace, Just Shoot Me, all staples of the Thursday Night line-up at some point in it’s amazing run.

I remember when Friends ended in 2004, I was living in London and I watched the series finale and cried like a baby (even though it was crappy).  I distinctly remember a conversation with Jewels where we realized that Friends had been on for exactly half of our lifetime.  It was surreal to think that, especially at age 20, when we felt so old (don’t yell, we did feel old).

But I realize now that I never really understood Friends.  It’s all part of this crazy post-collegiate world that I’m sorting through right now, but I’ve been watching Friends and relating to the characters in a way that I never have before.  When I was in High School and even college and watching Friends, it never occurred to me that this show had actually a basis in dealing with real stuff that people were actually going through.  Oh, how wrong I was.  Now, I’m not saying that Monica and Rachel’s apartment is, in any way, like any apartment that a waitress and a chef could actually afford, especially in New York City, especially now, but that’s not the point.  Because I hadn’t experienced that part of your twenties when you are a totally independent person, I never got that, though humorous, these were the things the early (read good) episodes of friends were dealing with.  Around your mid-twenties, when, in this age, you are still trying to figure out what you’re going to do with your life (Rachel and Chandler), trying to be successful at what you’ve chosen (Monica and Joey), trying to live your life on your own terms (Phoebe) or are starting in your adult life with things like marriage and babies (Ross), people experience a great amount of change and hardship, and Friends deals with that, and I never even knew.

I feel more and more bonded to characters like Rachel, Joey and Phoebe, who have no money and are either searching for what they want to do or trying to live the life they’ve chosen, whereas before I felt like more of a Ross or Chandler.  I mean, sure, I’m sarcastic and witty to hide the pain (much like Chandler Bing) but Joey’s a struggling actor who doesn’t give up, no matter how many rejections he gets.  I guess that is what makes a television show great.  Much like My So-Called Life or Freaks and Geeks, it doesn’t matter what generation watches these programs, if you are in High School, you relate.  Sure the clothes are a little dated, but really, who hasn’t felt those universal highs and lows that are outlined in a smartly written television show.

Some lines from Friends that were always funny, but I never really got:
“Who’s FICA, why’s he getting all my money?”  – Rachel Green

“Phoebe, do you have a plan?” – Monica Gellar
“I don’t even have a pluh.” – Phoebe Buffay

“Hey, you guys in the living room all know what you want to do. You know, you have goals. You have dreams. I don’t have a dream.” – Chandler

And my favorite:
” What are you doing?” – Ross Gellar
“Making chocolate milk. You want some?” – Chandler Bing
“No thanks, I’m 29.” – Ross Gellar

Peace, Love, and the Correct Number of Claps,
Julia

March 23, 2008 Posted by | Comedy, Culture, Friends, High School, Hollywood, My So-Called Life, Television | 1 Comment

English Class

I’m sitting here, in my apartment, watching My So-Called Life for thefifty-millionth time and it dawns on me.  On T.V. shows, we rarely seeanything other than English class as an interesting and fun class.  Ican’t think of one T.V. show where characters are in class (be it HighSchool, College, Junior High, etc.) and enjoying it where the class isnot English.There is, of course, a very logical explanation for this.  Writerswrite television and writers loved at least one of their Englishclasses.  And yes, there is always room for parallels between a bookand the theme of a certain episode of a t.v. show.  It says a lotabout characters when they have a favorite book or when they arediscussing literature that correlates to their particular situation,but let’s think about this a little more.  Basically, according totelevision, the only class that anyone can ever have fun in isEnglish.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I had some bad Englishteachers in High School, I had some great ones too, especially inCollege and yes, I did major in Literature (UCSC’s equivalent tomajoring in English), but I remember for much of my youngereducational career English class was a complete nightmare.  Forced toread books I had no interest in…a few pop into mind.  And, though Ilove to do this now, when we were learning how to pick apart texts andget deeper meaning, I wanted to shoot myself.  I distinctly rememberbitching to my mom that we were having to pick apart a text so muchthat it lost all entertainment value.  ‘Why can’t I just read it andenjoy it?’  I would plead to rather amused ears.  It wasn’t untillater, after learning how to pick apart writing, that I was able toenjoy it and pick it apart at the same time.Now, I always side with the characters on T.V. who have a greatEnglish class.  I know how great it feels to have amazing discussionsabout Chapter 3 of Bleak House by Dickens (thank you John Jordan).  Iknow how great it feels to argue about Brett and Jake and theirrelationship in The Sun Also Rises.  But for you that aren’t soEnglish-ly inclined (like that new word…Shakespeare invented words,so do I), I wonder how it feels to constantly have English beingportrayed as the best class when you’re not an English person.  Whatof those that are more mathematically inclined or biologicallyinclined?  I mean sure there’s usually the token, dissecting frogsbiology scene, but do you science people feel left out?  Do the mathpeople feel like Calculus doesn’t get its due?  I personally canrelate to the English scenes but is it Chemistry discrimination?Peace, Love, and Literature,Julia

March 12, 2008 Posted by | Books, High School, Literature, My So-Called Life, Television | Leave a comment

El Diablo

I used to think that it was just Santa Cruz that was in a bubble.  I mean, growing up in Santa Cruz, it was easy to forget there was a whole world out there.  Well, let’s not go that far.  I wanted to leave Santa Cruz for as long as I lived there.  I guess what I really mean to say is that it was easy to forget that not every town has a riot when Borders comes in.  Elsewhere in the world it’s considered alcoholism to go on a two year long bender.  Elsewhere in the world, it’s not typical to sleep with people your friends have slept with and then chat about it over your own individual $4 pitcher of beer.  I used to think it was just Santa Cruz.  I wasn’t in London long enough to realize that it had it’s own bubble, but thinking back on it I did spend an approximate six month period without ever leaving the city.  It wasn’t until I moved to Los Angeles that I started on a new theory.  Every city is in its own bubble.  Every town.  Every village.  Every hamlet is in its own bubble.  The bubbles have their own respective quirks and nuances.  In L.A. it is not shocking that these quirks often center around the film industry.  Sometimes when I’m writing these emails I forget that the vast majority of you don’t live in the L.A. area, therefore, often (if I’m talking about a movie) the film hasn’t opened in your neck of the woods or you haven’t heard of it.  I love it when you all write back and tell me I’m writing about something you haven’t heard of because it reminds me that I’m in a bubble.  The L.A. bubble.  I like that you guys keep me in check like that.That being said, I know I just said a little something about No Country for Old Men, which I’m assuming is at your local art cinema house, but I’m going to talk about another small movie right now.  It’s being talked about all over L.A. but, as I just said, I’m not sure if it’s being talked about or noticed elsewhere.  I’m pretty sure this film will win best original screenplay or at least be nominated.  It’s the little movie that could.  It’s called Juno.  I just got home from seeing it and I haven’t quite consolidated all my thoughts, but here it goes anyway.  Watching the film I sort of thought the whole time that I wished the film had come out 8 years ago, when I was in High School.  I really could have used it then.  The main character, Juno, is really awesome and unlike any other character I’ve ever seen on film.  I guess the closest we’ve seen is Thora Birch in Ghost World, but unlike her, Juno is vastly vibrant and alive.  Sure she’s disaffected youth.  She listens to Iggy and the Stooges, she dresses in jeans and flannel shirts, but she’s actually a pretty hopeful and optimistic character.  Ellen Page (remember that name because I’m betting she’ll be nominated this year) who plays Juno, is heartwarming and heartbreaking in the same frame.  She’s just such a kid in such an adult situation.  It’s a brilliant film.  I won’t bore you with all the details.  I’m just saying that you should definitely go see it.  It’ll be out soon where you are if it’s not out already, but movies have to be released in L.A. before January 1 otherwise they are out of Oscar contention.  That’s right folks Oscar season is upon us.  I’m not going to give my out and out predictions yet, it’s too soon.  What I will say is that this year is going to be a year for the independent movies.  There are only one or two studio movies that are even being buzzed about for Oscar contention (American Gangster and Sweeney Todd).  So be prepared for a year of good movies getting nominated.Peace, Love, and Diablo Cody,Julia

December 9, 2007 Posted by | Alcoholism, High School, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Movie Reviews, Movies, Oscars | Leave a comment

Didn’t We Have a Time? We Did. We Had a Time.

Okay, so I’m sure you’ve noticed that I usually write these little
rants or whatever we’re calling them and I don’t proofread or edit,
but this subject is just too important for me to leave anything out.
Often when I write these emails, I hit send and I realize that I
forgot to say a bunch of stuff that I really wanted to say, but it’s
too late, so I’ve been working on this one for a while now to try and
curb any potential mistakes.  This, as stupid as this sounds, may be
the most important rant I write, simply for the reason that I credit
this subject, to a large extent, with making me who I am today.  The
subject is a television show.  A television show that lasted only 19
episodes.  It is my favorite television show of all time.  It is the
show that made me love television.  It made me love television so much
that I decided I wanted to write it.  It made me realize the power of
television, of great television.  This show really did change my life.
It is called My So-Called Life.  And I’m aware that I wrote a rant
about the ’90s and didn’t include My So-Called Life, but it just
seemed like the show warranted its own piece of writing.  So here it
is.

Yes, it’s Claire Danes’ first real acting gig.  Yes, it was written by
the same woman who wrote the book for the Wicked Musical.  But to me,
My So-Called Life was so much more than that.  My So-Called Life was
my life on film.  It was the first time I really seriously saw how
right a piece of film could get it.  And really, as I look at it now,
it’s how I first sort of saw how my own writing would be because my
philosophy on writing, for T.V. especially, is that it should be
realistic.  I want what I write to feel real.  If I could write
something that means as much to someone as My So-Called Life means to
me, I’d be a success.

I guess I should start with My So-Called Life’s effect on my life.
Not my life as a writer, but my life as a young person.  The show
aired on ABC in 1994-1995.  I was in the sixth grade.  I, as most of
America, did not watch it then.  I watched it on MTV between
1995-1998.  That’s sort of indicative of my life back then, the fact
that I watched MTV pretty much non-stop. The fact that watching MTV
didn’t rob me of my will to live, as it does now.  But I digress.  I
just remember, in the time before TiVo, waiting the long arduous hours
until 7 pm everyday (when you get home from school at 3 pm, it seems
like an eternity).  By the time 7 rolled around I was bursting to
watch My So-Called Life.  I would record all the episodes onto a video
tape (yes video tape)  so I could watch them over and over and over
again.  In fact, I remember the first episode I ever saw was the
Halloween episode, where Angela dresses up like a girl from the ’50s,
and not like some caricature with a poodle skirt, she dresses like a
real girl from the ’50s.  She meets a ghost named Nicky Driscoll.  I
named the family in the script I’m writing Driscoll after Nicky
Driscoll.  I just remember, in that first viewing, thinking, what is
this?  It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before.  It was like my
life on the screen.  And from that moment I was hooked.

Claire Danes’ Angela Chase is, in my opinion, the best character that
has ever been on television.  I am always amazed that Claire Danes as
a 13 and 14 year old could be so good.  I mean, she hadn’t experienced
much of what her character was experiencing and yet her performance is
so nuanced.  The slight unease when she is with her mother out in
public…what teenager hasn’t felt that?  The fact that her friends
are the only thing that matter.  I always loved the first line of the
series, ‘So I started hanging out with Rayanne Graff.  Just for fun.
Just cause it seemed like if I didn’t, I would die or something.’  I
mean, god, I think the feeling that if you don’t do something you will
die pretty much sums up my rationale for every single thing I did for
approximately a 10 year period.  Maybe I even still am like this.
There’s this certain part of me that thinks I’ll always be Angela
Chase.  That I’ll constantly be partially this total geek who can’t
function normally and partially this cool person that other people
mysteriously want to be around.  Since I seem to be in a truthful
mood, I’ll come out and say it: I’ve never really understood why I
actually have the friends that I do.  I never got why people thought I
was a cool person.  I still don’t get it, and it always amazes me when
people think I’m interesting.  And that’s the part of me that will
always be Angela Chase.  That overly self-analytical, introspective,
person who lives mostly in her head and is thus relatively clueless
about her own life.  What a fucking genius character to write!

Then there was Rayanne Graff.  I always loved Rayanne and always kind
of wanted to be her (much like Angela seems to sometimes).  She was so
uninhibited, which may have been caused by the fact that she was
always drinking, but still.  I, like Angela, always admired kids like
that.  It was before I realized that those were the kids that often
ended up as raging alcoholics and drug addicts.  Back then they seemed
so cool.  They didn’t have to care about school, it seemed like they
didn’t have parents, and that seemed so great.  I obviously realize
now that it’s not so great, but back then it seemed like the life I
wanted to be living.  No parents asking me about homework or how
school was.  No one saying I couldn’t go out because it was too late.
I so wanted that.  The thing about Rayanne was that A.J. Langer’s
performance of her was so free, and at the same time so full of pain.
I never really noticed all the pain when I was younger, but watching
the show now, you can see how much Rayanne wants to be Angela.
Rayanne’s pain is the pain that you didn’t see in those kids in High
School.  The pain of having absent parents, and not having someone
care if you finished homework or ate a well-balanced meal.  Rayanne
was a total mess, but she cared deeply about her friends so you could
sort of forgive it.  And she was so charismatic that you looked past
her bad behavior and saw a great person.

Then there was Ricky, who rounded out the core three group of friends.
It’s easy to forget now, but Ricky Vasquez was one of the first gay
characters on T.V.  And the way they handled it was super classy.
First off, he was the moral center of the show.  He anchored the other
kids in a sort of moralistic reality, and that was a pretty big step
for a gay kid to be the moral center of the show (seeing as being gay
is considered to be immoral in much of this country, especially 12
years ago).  I mean, this show was before Will and Grace, it was
before Queer Eye, before Ugly Betty, before Ellen, before T.R. Night,
it was before all the gay fashion consultants strolled the red carpets
(I mean, they were still gay, they just weren’t as obvious).  They
rarely talked about Ricky’s actual sexuality.  Angela mentions that
Ricky is Bi in the pilot and then it doesn’t come up again until like
half way through the series.  But Ricky would hang out in the girls
bathroom, fixing his eyeliner, chatting with the girls, and no one
really took any notice.  That doesn’t mean that they completely
ignored it.  I mean, you saw him get pushed around in the halls, you
saw him get beat up once.  It was a non-sugar-coated portrayal of what
it was like to be a gay teen in the ’90s in someplace other than San
Francisco, New York or L.A.  Ricky may have been one of the first gay
series regulars on a t.v. show, but to me, Ricky was what I wanted.  I
always wanted that thing that Angela, Ricky and Rayanne had.  Where
they had such an easiness about them, they were friends and they cared
about her and they trusted each other, and there was none of that
sexual tension between the boy and girls, because the boy didn’t want
them.  Angela and Ricky are by far a better and more realistic Fag Hag
couple than Will and Grace.  And that’s when I realized my true
calling.  I always wanted a Ricky.  And the first boy that ever came
out to me was Ricky Mendez.  Kind of poetic, no?

Of course you can’t possibly talk about My So-Called Life without
mentioning Jordan Catalano.  The moment he appeared on screen all the
girls in my generation took one giant step towards becoming women.  I
realized lately that I’m actually still most attracted to guys that
look like Jordan Catalano.  With the slightly long hair and that
choker he always wore.  Jordan Catalano was that guy that you wanted
that was so mysterious you just couldn’t stand it.  It’s like, you
just found out anything you could about that person and you came up
with all these little facts that amounted to pretty much nothing, but
to you they were everything.  Angela said it best, ‘I just like how
he’s always leaning. Against stuff. He leans great.’  I always thought
that line summed up that feeling perfectly.  It’s like, you take this
stupid insignificant thing and focus all your attention on it because
if you didn’t you wouldn’t be able to function.  I didn’t have my true
Jordan Catalano until I was 19.  He was 26, and his name was Brendan
Brown, and I knew all this random stuff about him.  Like that he loved
‘Queens of the Stone Age’ and he drank Miller High Life…I was too
young to see that as a sign.  And I, much like Angela Chase,
embarrassed myself over and over in front of him before I finally
realized that he just wasn’t worth it.  He was my Jordan Catalano.
And I loved him for that reason alone.  But even still if you talk to
a twentysomething woman about Jordan Catalano, we all get that far
away look, like, ‘oh yeah, he was amazing.’It’s that little girl
obsession coming back, and we’ll always have it. Like Angela says, ‘If
Jordan Catalano is nearby, my whole body knows it. Like one of those
dogs that point. I’ll keep talking and stuff, but my mind won’t even
know what I’m saying. I keep wondering if there’s a term for this.’

When I watch My So-Called Life now (which I do often), I actually
relate the most to Sharon Cherski, Angela’s former best friend, turned
kind of enemy, turned close friend again.  I went through like three
different groups of friends in High School (for various reasons) and
as I watched Sharon and Angela something about them always stuck with
me.  Again I defer to Angela Chase, ‘There’s the people who you’ve
known forever who know you in this way that other people can’t because
they’ve seen you change. They’ve let you change.’  That’s always the
way I felt about my oldest friends.  Sure I went through a few groups
of auxiliary friends when I was a teenager, but there were a core
group that I’m still friends with today.  They’re the ones that let me
change.  And the thing that was always so great about Sharon Cherski
is that you could tell she was so hurt by the fact that Angela
basically ditched her for Rayanne, but she held it all in.  When I was
13 and 14 watching the show I always related to Angela, and maybe I
was more like Angela back then, but now I’m actually more Sharon than
anyone else.  Sharon was the first to sort of sacrifice herself for
anything.  She was always doing a million things like yearbook and the
school play, but she rarely did anything for herself.  I loved the
scene when her boyfriend hadn’t asked her to the dance yet, and she
says that she has too much to worry about without having to worry
about whether or not her boyfriend is going to ask her to the dance.
It just seems like such an organic and natural problem to have, at
least it seems that way to me.  Just the notion that I’ve got too much
shit to deal with for you, who is supposed to be there for me, to load
more of it on.  The other thing that is totally awesome about Sharon
is that she is the good girl on the surface and underneath she’s got a
little bad girl in her.  Those are the most interesting people, the
ones who try to hide their bad girl tendencies in good girl clothes.

‘I became yearbook photographer because I liked the idea that I could
sort of watch life without having to be part of it. But when you’re
yearbook photographer, you’re, like, never in the picture.’  Brian
Krakow, the nerdy neighbor that was in love with Angela Chase, was the
beating heart of the show.  He was the overachiever kid who always
knew the answer in class but never in life.  Brian was just so
earnest, but at the same time he could be so judgmental.  I think that
was sort of the brilliance of the show, not any character was just one
thing, no one was purely good or purely evil, they were all shades of
grey.  And Brian was one of those kids that always tried to do the
right thing, the right thing that turned out to be the wrong thing,
much to his dismay.  What made Brian so endearing, but at the same
time so annoying, was his unending love for Angela.  She was so
infatuated with Jordan Catalano and barely realized that Brian was
infatuated with her.  Or maybe she did realize it and just didn’t
acknowledge it.  In any case, Brian’s unending devotion to Angela
drove the big thumping heart in the middle of the show.  The
realization, in the final episode of the series, that Brian wrote this
great love letter to Angela, a love letter that Jordan gave to Angela
pretending that he wrote it, makes me mourn for the lost story that we
will never see because ABC didn’t know how to market a show like this
to the public.

It seems like all ‘teen’ shows have one set of parents.  Teen shows
usually center around one family unit and everyone else doesn’t really
have a normal functioning family.  I guess no one really has a normal
functioning family, but if we are looking statistically at television
teen drama and the parental figures, it seems like the main teen
character has parents and the rest of the cast really doesn’t.  Like
90210 had Jim and Cindy Walsh, but all of the other kids parents were
conspicuously absent.  Dawson’s Creek had Mitch and Gail Leery, but
none of the other kids had parents that were around.  My So-Called
Life actually fits into this mold.  Angela has Graham and Patty Chase,
but Ricky, Rayanne and Jordan don’t have parental figures around.
Brian and Sharon allude to their parents and we see Camile Chirski a
few times, but none are series regulars.  Now from a business
standpoint I get this.  There aren’t that many interesting story lines
that involve other peoples parents, seeing as this story revolves
around the Chases, I just think it’s a funny sort of trend.

I also think it’s a good way to transition into talking about Graham,
Patty and Danielle (a.k.a. the Chase family).  Graham and Patty have
to be the most realistic portrayal of parents of teenagers ever, in
the history of television.  They play their relationship as adults
spectacularly, but the true success lies in how they play their
relationship with their children, especially Angela.  I mean, the way
Bess Armstrong plays Patty’s masked hurt at the fact that her teenage
daughter is rejecting her, in the way that teenagers do, is
impeccable.  I’ll admit that I always sided with Angela in that war.
I got that she just wanted to be free of her parents, but was too
young to see that she wasn’t fully ready to be free of them.  Also the
true mother/daughter bond/divide was beautifully portrayed.  Like when
Angela states that, ‘When I was twelve, my mother gave me my sex talk.
I’m not sure either of us has fully recovered.’  I haven’t fully
recovered from mine either Angela.

Graham was the definite foil to Patty.  Patty could be uptight and
domineering, while Graham tried to be the cool dad.  And yes, they
fought about this.  The thing I loved about Graham and Angela’s
relationship was how different it was than Patty and Angela’s
relationship, even in the teenage rebellion/rejection.  When Angela
rejects Graham she says, ‘When you’re not sure you trust a person
anymore — say, a person you really trusted; say your father — you
start wishing they’d do something, like, really wrong, just so you
could be right about them.’  And when she rejects Patty she is a
little more drastic, ‘Lately I can’t even look at my mother without
wanting to stab her… repeatedly.’  I just love that she
rebels/rejects both of her parents in such completely and totally
separate ways.  And I mean, who didn’t feel that way at fifteen?  Like
you just wanted nothing to do with either of your parents, but at the
same time you still needed them desperately.  Maybe that is the whole
basis for teen angst.

In any case, Graham and Patty, though they both can be judgmental and
uptight and catty are great parents.  They are involved and caring,
and the actors give wonderful performances where they, like the kids,
show, even through the masks they wear, the pain that they really
feel.  There’s a scene in the episode where Angela meets Rayanne’s mom
(who is really more of a kid than any of the kids), where Patty sees
Angela hug Rayanne’s mom goodbye and you can see, just under the
surface, that it really deeply hurts her that Angela would be so quick
to let this woman in, when she has been pushing her own mother away.
It’s so subtle and so beautiful that it would, were it real life, slip
right by.  That’s what makes the show believable, the fact that most
of what we see would, were it real life, slip right by.

Of course, the youngest Chase, Danielle is the perfect little sister.
She’s annoying, while at the same time she worships her sister and
wants to hang out with her sister and all of her sisters friends.  She
walks that fine line between being a child and being a teenager.  And
she’s just absolutely perfect.  I think my favorite Danielle moment is
when she dresses up like Angela at Halloween.  She does Angela so
well.  But I also love this moment she has with Sharon Chirski when
they both realize that they’d rather be doing what the other is doing.
Sharon would so much rather be out trick or treating, while Danielle
thinks it’s so cool that Sharon gets to go to a party with her
boyfriend.  That’s so poetic isn’t it?  We always look back at the
past as a better time, but when we’re young we can’t wait to be older.
And this show somehow captures that with nothing more than a longing
look from two different people.

So needless to say, the acting,  in a word, phenomenal.  And of course
Claire Danes and Jared Leto went on to be much acclaimed actors in
their own right.  But really, if we’ve learned anything from these
times of strike, strife, and woe in Hollywood it’s that you can’t have
a great performance without a great script.  I think what really made
the script so wonderful was that a) they really talked like teenagers,
I loved Dawson’s Creek, but really, who talked like that? b) they
thought like teenagers, and c) there were realistic plot lines.  I
mean, I don’t feel like I’m reaching for the stars to ask for a show
where the plot somehow reflects something that may happen to real
people.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love the Grey’s Anatomy, but
really, what plotlines on that show resemble anyones real life (with
the exception of Meredith’s daddy issues)?  The writers of My
So-Called Life just had this way of writing that summed up everything
a teenager feels in one sentence.

As I have stated previously, I started watching this show in the
beginning of my teenage years.  So of course that’s when I was at my
most self-conscious, and my most awkward.  I don’t quite remember when
this happened, but I also was one of those kids who always knew there
was more out there.  I wanted more than my small town had to offer.  I
always knew that…it may have been the reason I was so miserable in
high school.  But there was one quote from My So-Called Life that may
sum up everyone’s experience in high school, be it good or bad: “It
just seems like, you agree to have a certain personality or something.
For no reason. Just to make things easier for everyone. But when you
think about it, I mean, how do you know it’s even you? And, I mean,
this whole thing with yearbook – it’s like, everybody’s in this big
hurry to make this book, to supposedly remember what happened. Because
if you made a book of what really happened, it’d be a really upsetting
book.”  I guess what amazes me so much is that I can’t think of any
show that has ever got it as right as My So-Called Life gets it, and
I’m not just talking about adolescence.  I can’t think of a single
show (except maybe thirtysomething and who wrote that?  the same
people that wrote My So-Called Life) that really just has its finger
on exactly what a certain group/demographic of people are thinking and
feeling.

I have to say, on a personal level as well, My So-Called Life did that
thing that great writing, be it literature, television, newspaper or
otherwise, it made you feel.  It made you feel like you weren’t
totally crazy for the fact that, “I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
The, like, fact that — that people — had sex. That they just had it,
like sex was this thing people — had, like a rash. Or a — a
rottweiler. Everything started to seem like, pornographic or
something. Like, Mrs. Krysanowski has sex. So does Mr. Katimsky. They
both have sex. They could — have sex together. Like right now. I am,
like, the sickest person.”  I mean come on.  I remember when that
realization first dawned on me…and it was exactly like that…that
realization that people have sex.  And sex became this ultimately real
thing that I could one day be partaking in, not just something I saw
in a movie or on t.v. where people make out and then it cuts to them
lying in bed, out of breath.  The show really laid it all out there.
I just can’t say enough about how good the writing is.

So I’ll talk about the music instead.  A few weeks back I wrote about
the ’90s and how good it was to be a ’90s kid.  I wrote specifically
about music.  Well, My So-Called Life had the best music.  It had
music that was so indicative of the times.  More so than Dawson’s
Creek, more so than The O.C., perhaps even more so than 90210, which,
I’ll admit, had some awesome Color Me Badd – tastic music.  There are
three scenes in particular that really stand out to me.  One was when
Angela is once again sad over something Jordan Catalano related
(specifically, it’s when the rumor that she slept with Jordan gets
spread around), and as her mom walks in to give her a rather awkward
and painful safe sex talk (what other kind of safe sex talk is
there?), she’s blasting the Cranberries’ ‘Dream.’  C’mon, kids of the
90’s, who didn’t blast this song in their room at least once?  I loved
that album, I loved the Cranberries, Dolores O’Riordan was the most
awesome person ever.  I always thought that it was the perfect, ‘I’m
depressed over a boy’ song.

The second scene is one of my favorites.  The song actually plays over
two different scenes, one depressing, one hopeful.  It’s Buffalo Tom’s
Soda Jerk.  The first time the song plays is when Jordan, after they
start dating, totally disses Angela in public.  But then it plays
again in that magical scene in the hallway when Jordan goes up to
Angela (she’s supposed to be in a geometry review) and he holds her
hand, and she forgets all about the geometry review (please, I forgot
about it the instant Jared Leto came on screen).

The Third song was my favorite song for much of the early ’90s (it was
in direct competition with ‘Come As You Are’ by Nirvana), a little
song titled ‘Blister in the Sun’ by The Violent Femmes.  When Angela
thinks (for about 5 minutes) that she’s gotten over Jordan Catalano,
she dances around to it in the morning before school.  Love it.  Love
it.  Love it.  God that was a good show.

Alright, so the music rocked, the acting rocked, the writing rocked,
and the cinematography rocked.  Cinematography is usually not too high
on the list of important elements in a t.v. show.  The DP (Director of
Photography or, as you know them, cinematographer) is in charge of
maintaining the look of the show, and, though I’m sure you all have
better things to do than notice this, most show usually have pretty
simple shots.  First you have the master (that’s the shot where
everyone is in it, it’s usually from far away) then you move in close
and cut between the people in the scene.  If there are two people in
the scene you start with a two shot (the one where you can see both
people) and move in for coverage (in other words get up close and cut
between the two people talking).  Most t.v. shows, especially now,
don’t do oners (that is a one shot, or a longer shot where there is no
cutting).  My So-Called Life employs this over and over and over
again, and that makes the show, a) technically amazing, and b)
visually different, and awesome.  The best shot of the series,
however, occurs in the pilot.    At the end of the pilot when Angela
and Brian meet in the middle of a street.  You might recognize the
shot from a little movie called Jerry Maguire.  Cameron Crowe admits
that he stole the shot from My So-Called Life.  You know the shot when
Renee Zellweger (before we knew who she was) runs into the street to
meet Tom Cruise (pre-crazytown) and there’s this great master shot
with the fabulous backlighting.  Yeah, that’s right folks, my man Cam
stole that from My So-Called Life.  Welcome to Hollywood…that’s how
we do shit here.

And My So-Called Life was a happy accident that slipped through the
cracks for 19 glorious episodes, and much like James Dean or Marilyn
Monroe, it didn’t last long enough to fade or lose any of its
innocence and attractiveness.  And that is both its blessing and its
curse.  And I love it.

Peace, Love, and “You know how sometimes the last sentence you said,
like, echoes in your brain? And it just keeps sounding stupider? And
you have to say something else just to make it stop?”  That’s my whole
life.  Why do you think I keep writing?

Julia

December 3, 2007 Posted by | Cameron Crowe, Gay/Lesbian, Grey's Anatomy, High School, Hollywood, Music, My So-Called Life, Sex, Television | 2 Comments

I Don’t Want to be a Traitor to My Generation or Anything, But…

When we were kids Aunt Mary used to take us on movie marathons. We
would go to a movie theater, sometimes in our pajamas, pay for one
movie and stay for two or three. Often times this was a birthday
celebration, sometimes it was just a declaration of our independence
from overpriced theaters. One thing it always was, loads of fun. So
in July of 1995, for Brian’s birthday we all went on one of these
movie marathons. I’ve said before the movies that really effected me,
I can always remember the setting in which I first saw them. This one
is no different. I remember we saw A Kid in King Arthur’s Court,
which I only remember because I had a crush on the lead kid. I forget
what the second movie we saw was, but the third movie just happened to
change my whole generation. It was Clueless. That’s right, now can
you see why I don’t tell everyone what my actual favorite movie is? I
mean, it’s a little embarrassing when you’re having a discussion about
favorite movies and people are naming The Godfather and I come back
with Clueless. So sometimes I say Almost Famous. So yeah, here we
go: Why Clueless is the best movie ever? Or How Julia became aware
of the power of film.

I’ve been working on a theory for quite some time now. The theory is
something like, if you take anyone, but mostly women, between the ages
of 21 and 28, they all have a similar way of talking, a similar way of
communicating, many similar gesticulations, they have some very
glaringly obvious similarities, and sure some of them come from
growing up at the same time and thus having the same cultural lexicon
to communicate with, but it’s more than that. My theory is that
Clueless actually changed the way we all talk, communicate, and act.
I know, I know, this is a big claim, but think about it (especially
you in the demographic I’m talking about). You probably remember very
vividly this movie coming out. You remember wearing the school girl
clothes with the knee high socks-no Britney Spears was not responsible
for this. Sure she slutted it up (shocking, I know), but she didn’t
popularize it. You remember dressing like this at the school dances,
running your hands through your now straigtened hair, like Cher did in
the scene with the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. I definitely wanted a
Jeep for years after. We all started listening to No Doubt after
Clueless. Like, as a way of pausing mid-sentence, became part of our
language. As if. I mean, I’m not saying that we still use the same
exact vernacular as they used in the film, what I am saying is that,
much like Shakespeare, Clueless opened up our collective minds to the
fact that we could actually make up our own words. How do you think
words like Gi-normous, or creep-tastic or bootylicious crept in to the
language of todays youth? It was Clueless. I mean, it’s not like
we’re totally buggin’, we just realized that we didn’t have to adhere
to the conventions of proper English, at least when we’re speaking.
So that’s my theory, maybe in 20 years I’ll finally have done some
actual research and I’ll write a book on it…if there are any
linguists in the crowd, feel free to steal, I just want Story credit.

Alright so I guess there are worse movies that I could like, love,
than Clueless. I mean, it is, perhaps, the best film adaptation of
Emma that’s ever been realized. And where better to modernize Jane
Austen than the halls of Bronson Alcott High School in Beverly Hills,
CA. I mean please, Jane Austen is nothing if not the 19th Century
version of 90210 in its heyday. I have to give Amy Heckerling credit
for the fact that she rocked the shit out of updating that material
and made it pertinent and poignant for the youth of 1995.

The thing that’s easy to forget about Clueless when we watch it now is
that it was satirical when it came out. Kids weren’t walking down the
halls at school talking on their cell phones, they weren’t having
those conversations where they start on a cell phone and then you run
into each other and continue the conversation while hanging up the
phone, no hitch in the conversation. This was not happening in
regular society in 1995. It was hysterical…now it’s just real.
Hmmm, prescient too. I guess there’s more to this movie than rich
teenagers in Beverly Hills.

It was also the first real portrayal of gay teens in the mainstream,
and what sorts of traits should set off the gaydar. I mean, now, it’s
not shocking to find out that Christian is gay. He certainly dresses
better than I do, what would I bring to the relationship? Christian
was when we girls of 1995 first learned that being a disco dancing,
Streisand ticket holding, oscar wilde reading, friend of dorothy were
all OGT’s (Obviously Gay Traits). We also learned that your gay BFF
could be your best shopping buddy. That’s where we got our education
about our gays before Sex and the City.

Not only was Clueless educational but it was also just damn funny. I
mean the freeway scene, I’m sorry but nothing on screen now can even
compare to how funny that scene is. Which actually brings me to my
next point. Clueless always just got better the older I got. It’s
the kind of humor that you get as you get more worldly. When I first
saw it at the age of 11 I never got the joke that a then chubby
Brittany Murphy utters, “You guys got Coke here?” Cher Answers,
“Yeah, this is America.” My 11 year old self thought, of course they
have Coca-Cola…where’s she from that she doesn’t have Coca-Cola.
Cut to three years later…’wait, is she talking about Cocaine?’ Oh
that’s hilarious. And there’s a whole new layer that comes when you
move to Los Angeles. When Cher’s dad claims that she should be home
in 20 minutes because ‘everywhere in L.A. takes 20 minutes.’ It’s a
sort of subtle joke that is so L.A. because theoretically everything
should take 20 minutes…and you’re still not where you should be 2
hours later.

So yes Clueless is my favorite movie. Now you know. And knowing is
half the battle.

Peace, Love, and Happy Thanksgiving,
Julia

November 22, 2007 Posted by | Gay/Lesbian, High School, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Movie Reviews, Movies | Leave a comment

The Music in You

Even the name is cheezy. So I know this is a little unprecedented for a Saturday, but I just read an article and I can’t help but respond.

For those of you who don’t have kids under the age of 15 you may never have heard of High School Musical. Indeed, I work in the business that makes stuff like this so I have to know when something makes such a huge splash. In any case, I’ll give you a little background before I totally freak out so you’ll know where I’m coming from. The Disney Channel, about a year ago, made, for very little money, a made for t.v. original musical set in High School…sort of like Grease for the new millennium. Except it’s not at all like Grease. You won’t find a cigarette, or tight leather pants, or racing for pink slips in High School Musical. In fact, in the first movie (yes, there’s more than one) the romantic leads don’t even kiss. I know, I was appalled as well.

Now, I’m not really one for the Disney channel. I mean, I’ve got a weird thing for teen drama on television, but the tween stuff doesn’t really tickle my fancy. I guess, I take issue with the fact that they sugar coat everything about that time in life. I mean, there’s these tweens running around with not many problems. Maybe they have a bad day because they have a pimple or something, but I remember Junior High as being more similar to torture every single day. Like, here, you’re at the most awkward you’ll ever be and everyone else around you feels the same way, but you all try to hide it by making fun of each other, and thus just advance the spiral. So anyway, that’s why I take issue with the Disney Channel and most of its programming.

But, I give the Paramount Pictures studio tour and we have many high school groups that come through and take the tour. I always get asked about Zac Efron (who I’ve met and is very nice, though pretty short). For my first 9 months at Paramount, however, I had no clue who he was. I had heard Kevin and Bean (the L.A. morning djs) talking about how much High School Musical sucked, but other than that I knew nothing. Then one day I was working a Press Event at the Beverly Hilton and High School Musical 2 was one of the shows doing publicity. I saw the little clips and it looked just as lame as all the other Disney Channel shows so I really didn’t think anything of it.

Then I gave a tour to some high school girls and on it they asked me about the movie RENT. I was ridiculously excited that people younger than myself still loved RENT and connected to it. Little did I know that these girls had gotten me in to quite a vulnerable position. That’s when they started talking about High School Musical. Just after the RENT…in my weakened condition I thought, well if these girls like it then maybe I should watch it…see what all the fuss is about. So I set the TiVo and the rest is history.

I watched High School Musical alone in my apartment, and have let very few people know that I actually did watch this thing all the way through. But I guess the secret is out now. Basically, as I got more and more into the movie, I became more and more appalled. It’s the corniest thing I’ve ever seen. I think what disturbed me the most (and I’m still not sure I’ve I’m more disturbed for myself or for them) is that these girls, that were fans of RENT, which doesn’t have a shred of sentimentality in it, loved High School Musical. And then I thought about it, like really thought about it…this is where I might just be disturbed for my own crazy messed up adolescence. I thought, when I was 15 would I have liked this. The answer is a resonant and astounding NO FUCKING WAY. I was drinking and doing drugs and doing boys when I was 15. I would have NEVER ever ever watched a musical where the biggest problem the characters have was whether or not to try out for the school musical because that’s not what basketball players do.

But apparently we’re in the middle of a huge backswing. The second installment of HSM earned a viewership of 17million people (it’s on cable, not everyone has cable…basically, this is the average rating for Ugly Betty – on ABC – every week). So what did I do…..simply to torture myself. I TiVoed the second freaking movie…and I watched that too. I just needed/need to know what is so appealing about this musical. It’s funny because the article I just read had a bunch of parents quoted as saying that there is no swearing and no sex so they don’t have to worry about it. I’m sorry, but that, to me means you’re a shitty parent. I guess I’m just lucky to have the most awesome parents of all time (which I do believe that I have) because my mom sat on the couch and watched 90210 with me every week. When Kelly got addicted to diet pills, we talked about it. When Brenda lost her virginity to Dylan, we talked about it. When they almost didn’t let Donna Martin graduate because she got drunk at the prom, we talked about it.

And thus I come to this conclusion, High School Musical is responsible (in cahoots with the disney channel) for the decay of America’s youth. Parents, according to this article, think that it’s better to not have to talk to their kids about issues, than to actually have to discuss something real. I guess, the other thing that really gets to me is that as a writer, I strive for truth. I want to portray the human condition accurately and realistically. I don’t believe in Sugar-coating, even for pre-teens…even for kids (see my email on Harry Potter). Basically, let’s get serious about our situation people….ignoring problems is how we got to where we are…let’s not continue. And if we need to escape to a fantasy land where everything is perfect…I suggest Brave New World or 1984 to slap reality back into you.

Peace, Love, and Reality (but not reality t.v.)

Julia

September 30, 2007 Posted by | Books, Education, High School, Movie Reviews, Movies, Musicals, Rent, Television, Work | Leave a comment

I Gave Her My Heart and She Gave Me a Pen.

Howdy boys and girls,
I’m back from a week of non-stop work followed by a week of
vacation…..what? That’s right, I said it…Vacation. I was on
vacation. It was the first time since college (actually since I went
to India 2 years ago) that I’ve had more than a three day weekend
where I wasn’t working or going to school. I went to the PNW (Pacific
Northwest) to see off one of my best friends as she goes to grad
school. It was a little bittersweet, but fun. And I have a tattoo on
my ass to commemorate it.

This however, isn’t the point. Two weeks back I promised a list and I
only did number five. So here we go again kids. Number four in
Julia’s top 5.5 movies of all time is………………………..SAY
ANYTHING. Ah, John Cusack, Ione Skye, John Mahoney, Joan Cusack, Lily
Taylor and (of course) Cameron Crowe, my hero.

So like six months ago I wrote an email about Cameron Crowe and how he
is my god. I’ll try not to repeat myself too much when talking about
Say Anything, but one thing I will reiterate is that this movie, Say
Anything, is the main reason I decided to try and write movies. This
movie evoked so much in me and touched me so profoundly that I thought
to myself, if I can move some lost kid somewhere half as much as this
movie has moved me, then I’ll truly be a success. And my philosophy
on movie making is that if you touch even one person, you’ve succeeded
somehow. So Cameron Crowe is a success in my book.

Anyway, I think what I love about Say Anything is that it’s a truly
romantic movie. And no, this isn’t the other romantic comedy on the
list. I mean, Say Anything is romantic, and parts are funny, but it’s
not really a movie I would put in the genre of Romantic Comedy. The
romance of the movie really comes from one place, Lloyd Dobbler. This
is John Cusack’s best role, the role of Lloyd Dobbler. He is
basically every woman’s dream in this movie. I mean, he’s sensitive
(he points out some glass to Ione Skye so she doesn’t step on it as
they’re walking down the street), he’s sweet, he’s committed, he’s
understanding. He’s everything most women want.

But it’s not just Lloyd’s relationship with Diane Court (Ione Skye)
that makes the movie. He and his sister, played by his real life
sister Joan, share a great and realistic potrayal of a sibling
relationship. They fight, they joke, they’re there for each other
when shit goes wrong. They’re real siblings. Sure you could argue
that it’s not really acting, but any actor will tell you that the key
is chemistry. Basically, if you don’t have chemistry on screen, the
acting will suffer. However, chemistry is a tricky thing. Richard
Gere and Debra Winger absolutely hated each other in officer and a
gentleman. Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd could not stand each
other (the reason moonlighting ended). Then again, Ben Affleck and
J.Lo. had no chemistry in Gigli, even though they were dating. So the
fact that John and Joan can play such real siblings talks more to
their acting ability than their status as siblings. And this
relationship is the anchor of the movie. It’s the one relationship
that is unmovable throughout the film.

I first saw Say Anything around the time I was graduating from high
school. And if you all remember back to that time, that’s usually the
time when you finally start realizing that your parents aren’t
perfect. Throughout most of your childhood you look at your parents
as perfect, but there’s a certain point when you realize they’re just
as messed up (actually usually more so) as you are. And I think that
even over the great romance between Lloyd and Diane (which I’m getting
to), this is my favorite part of the film. Diane’s realization that
her father is far from perfect, in fact, he’s a criminal, is just
amazing. The way the two actors play it, where John Mahoney is lying
to his daughter, where Ione Sky finally wises up and her whole world
starts crashing down. I mean it’s this act, this relationship that
leads to Lloyd and Diane making it work for real.

So at the beginning of this little email I said that I don’t think Say
Anything is a romantic comedy and I stand by this. But that is not to
say it’s not a romantic movie. In fact, it does have most of the
elements of a romantic comedy, I guess you could also call it a high
school movie seeing as the characters are both graduating from high
school, but the film really transcends all of these labels. I mean,
Lloyd is not your typical high school boy. He doesn’t want to pursue
a career where he buys, sells or processes anything. He doesn’t want
to buy anything sold or processed, sell anything bought or processed,
or process anything sold, bought or processed. And to top it all off,
he’s a kickboxer…sport of the future.

Diane, on the other hand, is valedictorian. She’s never done anything
wrong in her life. She’s never done anything, except study. Show of
hands, who can relate? I can I can. I wasn’t the valedictorian or
anything, but I can definitely relate.

Usually, in high school movies, the valedictorian is a total dork who
has no social skills whatsoever. Lloyd Dobbler is the freak who won’t
give up on the girl he likes. These two are not the typical romantic
leads of a high school movie, nor are they the romantic leads of a
romantic comedy. That’s what makes Say Anything such a unique film.
Cameron Crowe takes all these tropes from a variety of different film
genres and makes them something so unique, so original that it’s hard
to not love it.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Cameron Crowe is a genius.
I mean, not only did he create these wonderful characters, but there
are some great lines in the movie. My favorite is the title of this
email. When Lloyd and Diane break up at one point, Lloyd is standing
in a phone booth (remember those?) in the rain, talking to his sister
and he says, ‘I gave her my heart and she gave me a pen.’ This is
where Cameron Crowe’s genius comes in he just sums everything up in
one line, and it’s not even that profound of a line. I think that’s
the best kind of line, the one that’s not contrived, that seems like
any normal person would say it, but that sums everything up in it’s
utterance. That’s why Cameron’s the master; and that’s why Say
Anything is the fourth best movie ever.

Peace, Love, and Lloyd Dobbler,
Julia

September 19, 2007 Posted by | Cameron Crowe, High School, Movie Reviews, Movies | Leave a comment

You Can’t Go Home Again.

Thomas Wolf wrote a book called You Can’t Go Home Again.  A wise professor of mine once said, ‘you’re a true literature major when you can speak intelligently about a book you have not read.’  So I could, I suppose, wax poetic about Tomas Wolf’s book, but in truth, I haven’t read it (it’s in my mile high pile of books to read), and really the content of the book is not that relevant to the discussion, just the title.

So on Sunday, I went to Santa Cruz for a very short period of time.  I drove back tuesday.  It’s funny because usually when I’m in Santa Cruz I spend the whole time hiding in my parents house for fear of running into anyone I went to high school with.  Somehow, I always end up at the bars surrounded by the very people I was trying to avoid.  I always end up leaving totally miserable and unhappy that I decided to take time off work to go up there.

But when I was up in Santa Cruz it was different.  I only saw people who I really wanted to see, including my two best friends in the entire world.  It’s funny because as you grow up you sort of forget that there are all these people who you know better than anyone else.  There are these people who watched you go through all the stupid shit, they watched you as you went through your awkward phases, they didn’t judge you, but they know you, instinctively.  They can sense it when you’re agitated or don’t want to talk about something…and they don’t have to ask why. 

Those friends are the type of friends that you can go without seeing for a year and when you see each other again, it’s not awkward or forced.  You don’t have to have conversations about the weather, you don’t have to know every single thing that’s going on in each others lives.  You can just be. 

And there’s something about seeing those friends again that just sort of soothes your heart, even if you didn’t think it needed soothing.  I’m just calm and just me around those friends.  I don’t have any defence mechanisms to hide behind (and lord knows I’ve built a lot of those), but I don’t need any of those defence mechanisms to hide behind when I’m with them. 

It’s funny too because those are the types of friends that you don’t really realize that you miss until you talk to them.  It’s like, they’re so much a part of your soul that they’re sort of always with you, but then you talk to them, even for five minutes, and you realize that yeah, they’re always with you, but they’re not really with you and you want them to be soooo bad.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that Thomas Wolf has it both right and wrong.  Sure, you go home and it’s not the same, it’s never the same.  You don’t have a bed or a room in your parents house now (and it’s your parents house, not yours), and it just doesn’t feel the same, it’s not your home, in the big sense of the word.  But there are still people that are Home, capital H.  There are people that signify home and that make you feel that feeling of home that you felt all those years ago when your parents home was home.  Maybe it’s a feeling that you have now, with your husbands and wives and kids.  But when you’re my age, home is a sort of feeling that you have known, but it’s no longer there.  Like  I said, you can’t truly go home again, but your apartment isn’t quite home either.  Sure it’s the place where you live, but it’s not HOME.  When you’re with those people though, those ones that calm your soul, that’s when you get that feeling of home back. 

And I guess I’m being a little sappy, but every once in a while, you’ve got moments like those, when you’re just you.  You’re not all the labels that you can put on yourself, you’re just you.  And I think that those are moments to cherish.

So to you two (you know who you are) thanks for the great weekend.  And to the rest of you, take a second to think about those people who are home to you,  appreciate that shit guys, cause it’s kind of cool.

Sorry to get all sentimental, but I’ve got a little of that in me too.

Peace, love, and going home again in any way possible,

Julia 

July 6, 2007 Posted by | Friends, High School, Santa Cruz | Leave a comment

No Day But Today!

Last week was all about the green witch. This week it’s all about La
Vie Boheme. So this might be long because I have a hell of a lot to
say about this. But just bear with me…I’ll try to make it as
painless as possible.

So in my last email I talked about Wicked and what a great musical it
is. I referred to Rent and how it was my favorite musical of all
time. Well the thing is, I can’t stop listening to it and watching it
on DVD. And now I’m going to write about it.

When I was fifteen years old my mom took me out of school for the
first and only time ever. A few months earlier I had heard that Rent
was playing in San Francisco. I didn’t know anything about it, but I
knew I wanted to see it. So we went to San Francisco on a thursday
night to go see Rent. It was playing at the Golden Gate theater. So
anyone who knows San Francisco theaters knows that the Golden Gate is
in a really sketchy neighborhood. Mom and I drove two blocks to the
theater (true l.a. fashion) because it’s in such a sketchy
neighborhood.

Even as I entered the theater I knew I was seeing something different.
They had decorated the whole lobby area with broken dish pieces. It
was beautiful in a very urban way.

Now, picture this. Julia at 15 years old, sitting in a theater. I
had bright pink (or maybe purple or maybe turquoise) hair. I wore
huge chains around my neck, wrists, ankles, anything I could hang
chains off of. I had on a jean jacket that was riddled with safety
pins and spikes, a plaid skirt, ripped fishnets, and a tank top.
Basically, I looked like I didn’t want anyone to fuck with me because
I didn’t.

I’ve sort of alluded to this before, but it’s an event I’ve just
recently started dealing with. When I was 14 a guy I knew died of a
heroin overdose (he wasn’t a really good friend, but I later realized
that I was friends with all his friends…we would have been good
friends eventually). It effected me more than I could really ever
imagine. I think the reason it effected me so much was that I
actually watched someone tell his girlfriend what had happened. I
watched her crumble to the ground, sobbing. That effected me. On top
of that, I was a teenager, and angsty. Basically, this was the point
in time where I tried to numb myself to everything I was feeling. I
was just feeling so much, and I didn’t really know how to handle it so
I started drinking…….heavily.

But one year later I saw Rent. And as cliche as that sounds it
changed my whole life. This was a show about people I knew. Roger
and Mimi were who I identified with the most (though this has changed
throughout the years). Roger was a recovering heroin addict,
musician, who was HIV positive. He had completely shut down and shut
everyone out of his life. Well, I guess two out of four ain’t bad…I
was a musician and I was completely shutting down emotionally. Mimi
was a heroin addicted stripper who was HIV positive, but she also sang
the song that really awakened me. The lyrics go something like
this…’The heart may freeze or it can burn. The pain will ease, if I
can learn. There is no future, there is no past. I live this moment
as my last. There’s only us, there’s only this. Forget regret or
life is yours to miss. No other road. No other way. NO DAY BUT
TODAY.’ She sings this in the middle of the first act, and suddenly I
felt a little more alive.

At the beginning of Act one Roger sings One Song Glory, which is about
writing one great song before he dies of AIDS. This opened me up a
little. And I realized that with each song, little by little, I was
starting to feel. Really feel. And it was a little scary, but it was
also great. I, like Roger, became open by the end of the play. Now,
I’m not saying that I left the theater and was suddenly transformed.
That I quit drinking myself to oblivion immediately, but it wasn’t too
soon after that I settled and that I let myself really feel my
emotions instead of constantly trying to mute them or block them out
all together.

I went home and bought the album which I wore through. In fact, I’ve
worn through two different copies of that soundtrack and my copy right
now has seen better days. I absolutely couldn’t get enough of it. It
was one of the first albums that I read all the liner notes front to
back. And in doing so I realized that this was modeled after La
Boheme. Hmm….interesting. One of my favorite movies is
Moonstruck, where that opera is used throughout. I love the music. I
bought that album too, and I read all those liner notes. As I
listened and read, I truly realized what a genius Jonathon Larson
(writer of Rent) was. There were some songs, like Light My Candle,
that were almost word for word translated from the Italian. There
were themes that were stolen from the opera, but used in new
interesting ways. There’s a riff from Musetta’s waltz that, when
played on a guitar, sound so amazing and new and different, but at the
same time, so similar and comfortable.

Even the character names are similar, but in a modern, sometimes
comical way. Roger is Rodolfo, Mimi is Mimi, Mark is Marcello,
Maureen is Musetta, Tom Collins is Colline, Angel Dumont Schunard is
Schaunard and Benny is Benoit. If you know the opera it makes seeing
Rent that much richer. But it also begs one to think. La Boheme was
a musical about artists who were starving in Paris, they were being
decimated by disease, and still learned to love and live through this
trememdous devestation. New York in the late ’80’s/early ’90’s was
the same way. AIDS was running rampant, Reagan wasn’t doing anything
about it, and there were stigmas attached to it. Basically, if you
had AIDS, you were either a junkie or gay…it was punishment for
sinning to get AIDS, but in reality this wasn’t at all true. Rent
takes this devestation and achieves what nothing else has…it
respects people that are usually looked down upon. It takes these
junkies and strippers and poor people and it treats them with respect.

I think the reason I connected with Rent so much was that I saw myself
in these stories. I was so passionate about things and I wasn’t
willing to comprimise my beliefs for money or comfort or anything. I
understood these people and their plight. I had friends who were
addicted to drugs and I didn’t respect them any less because of it.
At one point a round of people sing ‘will I lose my dignity,’ Rent
gave us freaks, us artists, us idealists our dignity back.

My favorite moment in Rent is, was, and always has been when they sing
La Vie Boheme. It’s a huge celebration of life and of a different way
of life. The lyrics range from simply listing the things we find
wonderful, ‘To Leather, To Dildos, To Curry Vindaloo, To Huevos
Rancheros, and Maya Angelou,’ the things we believe ‘To Sodomy, it’s
between God and me….To S&M,’ and the best line in the whole play
‘The opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation.’ But La Vie Boheme
not just about the great lyrics and great music, there’s some great
fucking choreography in it as well. It is shocking to some people,
but that’s what the song is about…this is what we believe and there
you go. At one point the lyrics state, ‘to anything taboo’ and oral
sex is simulated between two women. Then again, towards the end of the
song we are reminded, ‘let thee among us without sin be the first to
condemn…La Vie Boheme’ with fists raised in the air ready to battle.
The choreography in this scene lends itself to the concept of La Vie
Boheme.

Most people haven’t heard most of the songs in Rent. Seasons of Love,
however, is a song that most people have heard. It’s the one that
talks about 525,600 minutes and starts off the second act of Rent. It
is an amazingly beautiful song that just evokes so much emotion, so
much hope, so much sadness. Basically, the song categorizes all the
ways to measure a year ‘in midnights, in cups of coffee’ ‘in inches,
in miles, in laughter, in strife’ ‘in the bridges she burned, or the
way that she died.’ And in the reprise, they ask the most poignant
question: ‘how do we figure our last year on earth?’

Act two goes on through the year. It follows people breaking up and
making up and trying to make things work. It shows people opening up
to love, but it also shows the intense pain we can feel when we open
ourselves. The play shows this through the character of Angel.
Angel, who is now my favorite character in the show, is the emotional
center of Rent. He/She is the one that really knows that she has to
make the most of what she’s got left.

And the part that absolutely fucking kills me is when they sing
seasons of love again. On stage, they line up just as they do for
seasons of love at the beginning of act two, but at this point there
is a distinct hole in the line. A hole where a very important person
once stood. It’s quite possibly the most poignant piece of theatre
choreography I’ve ever seen. It absolutely kills me every single time
I see it on stage (and I’ve seen it seven times).

Now, I’ll fight my urge to go through the genius of every single song
in Rent and La Boheme and all of it’s incarnations (I’m saving that
for the dissertation), but I have to say, ending a musical by singing
‘no day but today’ at the top of your lungs and having Angel run back
out on stage has to be the best way to end a musical ever.

There’s no way I could ever do justice to Rent and how much it has
effected my life. All I can say is if you haven’t seen it, go. If
it’s not playing near you, rent the movie. And if you don’t at least
appreciate how amazing it is, I don’t think I can ever talk to you
again.

Peace, Love, Mark, Mimi, Roger, Collins, Angel, Maureen, Joanne,
Benny, and Thank You Jonathon Larson,

Julia

June 27, 2007 Posted by | Alcoholism, Gay/Lesbian, High School, Movies, Musicals, Politics, Rent | 1 Comment