Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Open Windows

It's been hot in Richmond lately, hot enough where the air conditioning has to be on, at least for me. And I can sometimes sweat in the air conditioning. That said, this is the first day in a while that I've had the windows open, and it's amazing how quickly you can feel something ineffable by breathing in fresh air versus conditioned recycled air, especially everything from the trees, the restaurants, even the heady smells of garbage waft in sometimes, becoming oddly comforting. Fall is my favorite time of the year. It's the best beer season, where summer seasonals and Maibocks turn into Russian Imperial Stouts and Barley Wines, where the windows can be open all the time, and if you're cold you can throw the covers on top of you and hear the drunken meanderings of people at 3 in the morning down the sidestreets, the interminable wails of fire trucks and police cars. I'm more calm and more inspired. Usually. I hardly wrote this summer, and if the bug doesn't get me, it doesn't get me, especially with the busy year ahead. And fall technically hasn't even begun yet.


Snow Angels is officially released Tuesday on DVD. Finally. Like many others, however, I already downloaded it and watched it. Then soon after I watched it again. I slept for the first time yesterday in 48 hours last night, something I'd never done. While it was downloading, I told myself I'd fall asleep and watch it in the morning. Knowing it would probably be done in a few hours, however, that made me even more awake. I'll always be a kid on Christmas for those kinds of things. And when I woke up around 4:15 to see that it had finished, I immediately watched it, and finished it when Jess was just getting up to go to work.

When I met David Gordon Green in April of 2006, when he and Brad Land were in Durham talking about the then-imminent Goat, (which has now been taken over by Jeff Nichols, director of the amazing Shotgun Stories) I was more interested in Snow Angels. The novel is set in and around Butler, Pennsylvania, which is within an hour of my hometown in western Pennsylvania. I think everyone in the audience could've given a shit when I asked why he didn't film it there, making it more authentic, but the first thing I'll say for the movie is that I believed it was western Pennsylvania. The snow. The farmland. The dull-ish looking houses. The neighborhoods. The high school. Maybe that was the point: it could be anywhere with snow. But it was filmed in Halifax and Noca Scotia, and maybe you, esteemed film watcher, could guess easily it's Canada and doubt the rest of the movie because of that. But it felt like Pennsylvania to me, had all the grittiness of the cold, starting your car in the morning, bundling up (even though I never bundled up, which is another reason I almost died after chugging vodka in the woods by the high school bleachers during a football game when I was 14, which oddly enough seems like yesterday with how clear some of the flashes are from that night), everything about the cold. I was fooled. I felt I was in Butler. Or near Slippery Rock. Or driving to Meadville through Conneaut Lake to get to Allegheny. The location, like all of David's movies (even the L.A. in Pineapple Express to a certain degree) becomes another main character.

But even beyond that, so much was real to me. Many viewers hate his scripts, or somehow think they aren't believable, that the little tics and beats and pauses of the characters are forced, when truly they're anything but. Finally he's made indie movies (and there are others, just not many) that can be something that's not forced, but something utterly believable and in its own little world. The characters are amazing, the situations are amazing, the acting is amazing. There are scenes of bizarre weirdness and "huh?" moments, but then you realize you've been in situations like that -- you just didn't deem them important in any way, or take any stock in the things that people have sometimes said in the past, because then they didn't matter or seem of any validity or importance.

There isn't one moment where something's not engaging. And I'm not sure I've ever seen young love portrayed so emotionally and beautifully before. One of the reasons why the movie didn't do all that well (at least in theaters; I hope the DVD audiences are much more aware) is because too many people don't like reality or haven't experienced it, have lived cookie cutter lives or relationshops, have never been honest. We've all been guilty of semblances of such lives at the very least, but there's really nowhere to hide from it in this film.

Plus, near the end there's an original Explosions in the Sky song, "What Happens After," that's over one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking scenes ever put to celluloid. And the soundtrack throughout by David Wingo and Jeff McIlwain is pitch perfect, going under the radar when there's prominent dialogue, swelling in warranted moments of crisis.

I feel like this is a movie where they can be no opinion, no Randy Jackson-like, "It was just aight fo' me tonight, dawg. It was just aight fo' me..." You're either going to get it or you're not, whether you're 18 or 88. If you don't get it, I won't hold it against you, and if you want to call me a conceited asshole because I say such a thing, I could really care less. I've experienced one of the most beautiful and true pieces of art I've ever seen in my life, and it will be timeless, something that will be as ripe in 2040 as it is in 2008, and beyond.

See this movie. Watch it with the lights off. Watch it with no distractions. Watch it again.