Friday, April 20, 2018

On Our Anniversary - Miracles, My Wife, and The Tree of Life

"The only way to be happy is to love. Unless you love, your life will flash by."

It's really hard to determine the moment you actually fall in love. On February 14th, 2005, I was sitting at a friend's house when she walked in, and there was something about her that immediately grabbed my attention. That she was stunningly gorgeous, sure, but it was more than that. This was the first time I had ever been to that house and nothing else about those few hours proved to be all that memorable or interesting, but I couldn't wait to go back the next day. We barely even said a word to each other that first night and I carried zero assurances with me that I would ever see her again, but it's the only reason I went back. I had to go back.

Whenever I ponder when I first knew I was in love, I always come back to one specific night. It was way too early to actually say those three words. We weren't even a couple yet, so it's safe to say I kept my mouth shut regarding my feelings, but it was a night where her and I just drove around and talked. She shared so much of herself with me and one thing that was made abundantly clear was that when it came to her previous relationships, no one had treated her the way she deserved to be treated. I felt the weight of sadness crashing down on my shoulders and a thought kept running through my mind, not one that merely belonged to that singular moment but one that felt like more of a long term goal.

I need to make her smile.

"I will be true to you. Whatever comes."

It's sort of ironic that I'm using a film right now as the template to express the love I have for my wife on our 12 year wedding anniversary because the medium played a role in a period of time where I lost sight of my goal. My focus was on other, far less important things when it should have always been on her and our incredible daughter. At the start of this year, I woke up from the time I spent sleepwalking through life and love, recognizing that everything that made me feel whole was right in front of me in the form of two people whom I am blessed enough to share my name with. These few months since have been the best of my 34 years of existence because I have never felt more loved. I can only hope they feel the same.

So you might be wondering, what the hell does this have to do with Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life? It's simple, really. I chose the most beautiful piece of art that I have ever witnessed because my wife is the most beautiful human being I have ever and will ever know. For 12 years of marriage and over 13 years overall now, Megan has always been there for me. She brings just the right amount of energy and fun when things are too mundane but also is the perfect calming presence for when my mind tries to steer me the wrong way. She makes me laugh every day, and every night I look at her and think about how lucky I am that she is the first thing I will see when I wake up. I will never be able to thank her enough for her kindness, not only towards me but more importantly towards our daughter. Taking a step back and actually recognizing her grace and compassion as a mother is a gift that I constantly treasure. She is my best friend, the love of my life, and the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.

"Love is smiling through all things."

I have previously wrote about The Tree of Life and my main focus was centered on the idea that what Terrence Malick had created was proof that miracles exist. The film sets out to prove that existence itself is a miracle. The amount of moments throughout history that had to happen exactly as they did in order for you or I or anyone else to have even been born is astounding and something no one should take for granted. Deciding to go over to that house for the first time on February 14th, 2005 was a miracle because she walked in and gave me the life I have now and a love that I didn't think was possible. She walked in and because of that our daughter now has the chance to exist, and I hope someday she gets to experience the kind of love I feel for her mother. I will tell her to stay focused on what matters most and never take it for granted, not even for a single day. 

For years now I thought The Tree of Life was proof that miracles exist. What I didn't understand was that the proof was right in front of me all along. My wife is a miracle. My daughter is a miracle. The love I feel now is a miracle. 

For the rest of my life, until I take my final breath, I will do everything I can to make her smile. She's so beautiful when she smiles.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

My 50 Favorite Films of 2017 - #10 through #1

Took my sweet ass time getting here but it is time for my top ten favorite films from 2017. The best of the best.

10. Logan

Big fan of a large portion of the X-Men cinematic franchise but it has never been better than Logan, James Mangold's R rated film that takes us into the future to see an older, broken down former superhero having to drive a limo as a job while taking care of his mentor, Charles Xavier. With a terrific supporting performance from young newcomer Dafne Keen, Logan is terrific.

9. Lady Bird

So many positive things can be said about Lady Bird, like that it is directed expertly by Greta Gerwig, performed beautifully by every single member of the cast, and features an extremely funny script that also knows when to wipe the smile off your face. My favorite thing about this film though is how honest it is and how it channels that honesty into an extremely real portrayal of growing up, yet it also shines a light on what it's like to raise a child only to watch them desperately strive to leave home and get as far away from you as they can.

8. The Big Sick

A romantic comedy about the real life courtship of the film's writer and star Kumail Nanjiani and his now wife Emily (played terrifically by Zoe Kazan), The Big Sick is a warm, funny yet at times hard hitting treasure. I expected to really enjoy this film given that I didn't get a chance to see it until it was on Amazon Prime (which it still is, go watch it now if you haven't seen it), so I was already well aware of the critical and audience praise, but I was still stunned by how much I connected with this picture. 

7. Thor: Ragnarok

Listen, I love Marvel films. I own almost all of them, I rewatch them endlessly, they are a ton of fun, but it's rare when one ends up in my top ten of the year. Thor: Ragnarok is so damn entertaining it was impossible for me not to include it, as this easily joins the ranks of the first Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Soldier as the best the cinematic universe has offered up thus far. Despite being a huge fan of Taika Waititi prior to this, I had reservations whether his style would translate to such big budget studio fair, if they would let him utilize his style at all that is. Thor: Ragnarok is very much a Waititi film and in the best ways possible.

6. The Florida Project

I knew this film would make me cry. I had been warned, but vaguely, with no specifics offered as to what would get me. Sean Baker's entire film is brilliant but for the first 98 percent of it I had not received that gut punch I was waiting for, and then the ending happened. Good lord. The Florida Project isn't always an easy watch but a lot of remarkable cinema isn't. See this damn film (and while you're at it, see Sean Baker's previous work Tangerine as well. It's amazing). 

5. Get Out

A horror film released in February written and directed by Jordan Peele? No chance it ends up a top 5 film. Then I saw Get Out and knew instantly it would appear way up on my 2017 list. What a completely brilliant debut film from Peele.

4. Personal Shopper

Writer/director Olivier Assayas and Kristen Stewart form quite the team, first showing the world what kinda performances Stewart was capable of with her superb supporting work in Clouds of Sils Maria, and then coming back with her in the lead role of Personal Shopper, one of my biggest surprises of the year. This is a thoughtful, layered, chilling, fascinating work, telling the story of a young woman who recently lost her twin brother, and she seemingly has the ability to communicate with his spirit. What a film.

3. Dunkirk

Some films, like the previously listed Personal Shopper above, come out of nowhere and knock your socks off. Others are totally expected, with months of hype leading up to release and then the finished film lives up to those lofty expectations. That's what happened with Dunkirk, as I knew I had to see a 90 some minute Christopher Nolan war film as soon as possible. This is so wonderfully edited and realized as a cinematic experience, and seeing it on the biggest IMAX screen in the area didn't hurt.

2. A Ghost Story

Back to another huge surprise from the year, easily the biggest one (considering my favorite film was one I truly expected to love completely), David Lowery's A Ghost Story is a work that many people likely will dislike as it features no traditional narrative of any kind. We see a young couple (Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara) experience a great night together quietly in bed, the kind of happiness you hope to find in life from a significant other, and then it cuts ahead to a car accident. The husband (Affleck) dead, his head on the steering wheel. His wife must move on tragically without him, but we painfully witness his return as a ghost as he watches everything he knew and the woman he loves move on without him and there isn't anything he can do about it.

I was hit emotionally by this film in a very deep and profound way and have watched it two more times since the initial viewing. Perhaps because right now I am focusing a lot of my attention and energy on making sure I am the best husband and father I can be and the idea of losing it all in an instant is especially horrifying as I prioritize what matters most, but A Ghost Story has found a way into my soul and devastates me. This low budget film is a unique, moving achievement.

1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

God it feels so lazy for me to rank a Star Wars film number 1, seeing as how since very early in my adolescent years the franchise has always been deeply personally important to me. Despite my love for The Force Awakens, it actually wasn't my favorite film from 2015 (nothing was stopping Mad Max: Fury Road). Upon my first viewing, The Last Jedi actually wasn't at the top of this list (although I still loved it) but it took a revisit to fall in love. In my humble opinion Rian Johnson crafted a tremendous film here, one that was willing to take some bold risks rather than just pander for nostalgia. So yeah, it's expected for me and a lot of people who know me would roll their eyes at this and say "Of course" when they see it, but I can't deny it, The Last Jedi was my favorite film of 2017.