Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

Director: Ben Stiller
Writer: Steve Conrad

If The Secret Life of Walter Mitty were a food, it would be one of those giant rainbow-swirl lollipops. It's a dazzling amalgamation of colours and you will concentrate on the subtle details of particular shots with the same intensity of a child poring over a Where's Wally? double-page spread. Does this lollipop taste good? I think it does, but I also think I'd have enjoyed it more if it didn't have so many cracks. This particular film reviewer prefers his movies with a cynical edge that confirms his worldview—life is a series of disappointments, with the occasional intervening success. Walter Mitty is not the type of film that echoes such a sentiment. While the eponymous protagonist does persevere through several obstacles, the film is ultimately a sweet one that will have you exiting the cinema with a smile on your face. Most films that veer into saccharine territory have no idea how sentimental they are. They mistake goodbyes in the rain for profundity. Walter Mitty can get sickly sweet at times, but I can forgive this, for the film is inherently tied to notions of escapism. 

The film is based on James Thurber's 1939 short story of the same name. Ben Stiller stars as Walter Mitty, a LIFE magazine employee who works in the Negative Assets department. The magazine is planning its final issue and depends on an important photograph taken by Sean O'Connell (Sean Penn) which will be used as the cover image. When Walter cannot locate the negative of O'Connell's photograph, he embarks on a global trip to find the photographer himself. What Walter doesn't know is that his journey will uncover a latent lust for life he wasn't even aware he had. The missing negative is not the only thing on Walter's mind. He is infatuated with his co-worker, Cheryl (Kristen Wiig), and concocts elaborate daydreams wherein he is her saviour. We get the sense that Cheryl is the only reason Walter makes the effort of turning up to work. However, he is painfully shy and hesitates to initiate contact with her. He'd much prefer to send her a "wink" on eHarmony. Wisely, the film never threatens to devolve into a cheap "Will Walter get the girl?" scenario. Instead, we wonder, "Will Walter get himself? Will he understand what he is capable of and harness that to do something like ask out a woman he likes?"

This is such an unusual film and I beg you to abandon all expectations before you watch it. I was hooked by its beautifully-edited trailer but now I wish I hadn't seen it, as I was left slightly underwhelmed by the film as a whole. The first act surprised me with some grandiose hallucinatory scenes that would seem more at home in an action blockbuster. They are well-executed and show that Stiller understands comic exaggeration. The moment Walter leaves New York and flies to Greenland is the moment I began to lose interest. Walter's conversation with a drunken helicopter pilot is amusing but nowhere near as funny as Bill Murray's encounters with Japanese locals in Lost in Translation. The difference: the drunk pilot felt like he was written into the film specifically to be funny; the people of Tokyo could have been anything. Much of the film's second act feels like an advertisement for Walter Mitty, the human being. It was almost like I was watching Walter Mitty's showreel—an audition tape for a reality TV show on adrenaline junkies. The icy landscapes were a huge shift from the sunlit streets of act one, and I felt very distanced. The cinematography in these scenes is gorgeous, but I seldom felt involved. Perhaps this was intentional to prove that Walter does not need anyone's support (not even the audience's) to reach self-actualisation.

I have no problem with this film being sweet. I do have a problem with how it chooses to be sweet. The honey-coated soundtrack that conveniently arises during "uplifting" scenes is a distraction. We see inspirational words flash up in the background. It's worrying when a film has to literally spell out its messages for an audience. Despite the film's glaring flaws, I was able to suspend my disbelief. As implausible as Walter's journey may be, it springs from an emptiness that most of us can relate to. It speaks to the failure in all of us. We root for Walter because he represents everyone who has ever wanted to escape the trappings of deep ennui. 

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is Ben Stiller's most ambitious film as director to date. I would also say it's his best-directed film. Reality Bites is nice but forgettable. The Cable Guy is weird for the sake of weirdness. Zoolander is cinematic garbage. I found Tropic Thunder very unfunny and boring. Walter Mitty is only sporadically hilarious. Most of its humour is wrung from wry quips. But it is not primarily a comedy. It shines as an adventure film, espousing that we may have to travel miles to summon ideas that are only two neurons apart. I'll say this about Stiller as a director: he knows what looks good, cinematically. He understands how to make an audience feel something. Give him a few more years and he'll produce something really special.

3.5/5 stars.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty will be released in Australia on 26 December, 2013. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

November 2013 Film Wrap-Up

Being There (Hal Ashby, 1979) = 3.5/5

This one was a disappointment. I love films about people who live sheltered existences, and whom are finally forced to face the outside world. Bad Boy Bubby is my favourite film of this kind. Dogtooth and Rain Man both deal with similar themes. I expected to love Being There because of this subject matter, and also because of Peter Sellers and director Hal Ashby (whose Harold and Maude I quite like). Ultimately, the compelling premise fails to fully blossom. The screenplay is clever and the performances are great across the board, but the film is let down by wearisome pacing. It just drags too much. 

Les Diaboliques (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1955) = 4.5/5

I can't believe it took me so long to get around to this one. It is an endlessly intriguing work of suspense that has aged terrifically. It features one of the most jaw-dropping climaxes in the history of cinema. 


The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973) = 5/5

Regular readers of my blog will be aware of my immense, undying love for this film. I first saw The Exorcist when I was five or six years old. I found a VHS tape in my uncle's room marked "THE EXORCIST". My uncle warned me not to watch it. He said it was the scariest movie he had ever seen. Of course, this only heightened my curiosity and I put the tape in the VCR about a week later. I was confused, but most of all, I was terrified. Since then, I have seen The Exorcist around 10 times, and it has lost none of its evocative power despite countless parodies and attempts at mimicry. A lot of people find this film funny on repeat viewings. I will concede that I do laugh during certain scenes, but at its core, The Exorcist remains the scariest film I have ever seen. I love how the different story arcs overlap. You have a young girl having her body invaded by a demonic force as she enters adolescence. There's her mother, an actress who cries helplessly as she watches her only child devolve into a "thing upstairs". My favourite character is Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller), a Jesuit priest who suffers a crisis of faith after losing his mother without getting the chance to say goodbye. If you're yet to see this horror masterpiece, do yourself a favour and take the plunge. 

The Purge (James DeMonaco, 2013) = 2/5

Firstly, I should note that I didn't watch this on my own volition. I was at a friend's house and we had a movie night. This movie followed The Exorcist, which is no easy feat. I'll admit that I was very tired when this movie was on, so I didn't fully invest in it. That said, there was very little to admire about this hackneyed attempt at profound social commentary. 

Daydream Nation (Michael Goldbach, 2010) = 3.5/5

This film, about a high school love triangle, was a nice little surprise! It is well-written and entertaining, and the characters are enigmatic. Unfortunately, it does falter at the end. That's a shame...it deserved a better conclusion. 

Submarine (Richard Ayoade, 2010) = 5/5

Let me tell you about this film. It is a beautiful film. It is a film that every teenager should watch. Oliver Tate is a 15-year-old from Swansea who finds himself infatuated with Jordana Bevan. He tries to sustain a meaningful relationship with her while attempting to save his parents from divorce. Oliver is such an idiosyncratic character, and I see so many elements of him in myself. He peruses the dictionary looking to build his vocabulary. He fantasises about his own funeral and how people would react to his death. He knows Jordana doesn't like romantic venues, so he takes her on a date to one of his favourite industrial estates. Please, please, PLEASE watch this film so we can talk about how delightful and moving it is. It captures the pain, awkwardness and tentative optimism of adolescence as well as any film I've seen. It's playful yet honest, with a brilliant soundtrack by Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner. 

Celebrity (Woody Allen, 1998) = 3/5

This is easily one of Allen's most boring films. I'm trying to remember what exactly happened in it, but I'm drawing blanks. It features a stellar cast and patches of good dialogue, but an ordinary plot and vapid characters make it tough to penetrate.

The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008) = 3/5

This was a rewatch. By now, you should know that I really don't care for superhero films. I try to view them as action or crime films, but I can't see past the cape. Most of them are based on comic books, and I echo David Cronenberg's sentiments that superhero films are adolescent at their core. I was forced to watch this by a friend, and I didn't care for most of it. Two stars for Ledger's performance; one for the atmosphere. I don't see how I'm meant to enjoy this if I never grew up liking Batman or superheroes in general. 

Marnie (Alfred Hitchcock, 1964) = 3/5

It saddens me to say that this is the first Hitchcock film I've seen that I haven't liked. It's a well-acted but clunky psychosexual mystery. None of the characters are likeable and the payoff is bizarre. 

Two Lovers (James Gray, 2008) = 3.5/5

A quiet film that gets under your skin with its brutally honest depiction of human relationships. It's wonderfully acted (especially by Joaquin Phoenix), and I think it ultimately argues that the heart, by default, will love.

In Bruges (Martin McDonagh, 2008) = 4.5/5

Do you know how wonderful it is when you LOVE a film you expect to merely like? Let me tell you...it's fantastic. That was the case with In Bruges. This film is pure entertainment from beginning to end. It's violent without being nasty, and also very funny. Let's not forget those brilliant characters, either.

Five Easy Pieces (Bob Rafelson, 1970) = 3.5/5

It doesn't contain the most absorbing story, but it's still a worthwhile character study about class anxiety and isolation. Beautiful cinematography by László Kovács imbues the film with a rustic naturalism. Jack Nicholson is in great form here.

A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011) = 5/5

One of the most gripping dramas in recent years. A powerful exploration of faith, perspective, truth and responsibility, boosted by powerhouse performances. It's so refreshing to see movies like this one are still being made. It thoroughly deserved its Best Foreign Language Film win at the 2012 Oscars.

The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973) = 5/5

No, you're not seeing things. I watched this film twice in November. This time, I had the privilege of seeing it on the big screen after a Q&A session with none other than Linda Blair, who of course played Regan in the film. A big thank you to Popcorn Taxi for arranging this once-in-a-lifetime screening! Seeing as I have already given my thoughts on the film earlier in this post, I thought I'd take the opportunity to share some interesting things that Blair said during the Q&A session:

1. The Exorcist is a film about good triumphing over evil.

2. The Exorcist is a theological thriller, NOT a horror film.

3. She doesn't get scared watching the film because she was directly involved in its production.

4. Despite starring in the film at a young age, she wasn't disturbed by the things her character said or did because she wasn't raised as a Catholic. That's one of the reasons director William Friedkin chose her for the role.

5. She loves Australia because it's one of the only countries that treats her like a human being and not a monster.

6. Her final piece of advice: "If you can help another human being or an animal, do it. You will one day have the favour returned."

Oh, and I'll just leave this here:

Win Win (Thomas McCarthy, 2011) = 3/5

Disappointing considering McCarthy's previous efforts (The Station Agent and The Visitor). Not a bad film, but an unremarkable one. This is a dramedy, but I felt that the drama far outweighed the comedy, which made for an uneven, awkward film.

The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949) = 4/5

It didn't blow me away, but it's a well-directed film noir that features brilliant cinematography and a great score. The climax—a suspenseful chase through Vienna's sewers—is something special.

Whatever Works (Woody Allen, 2009) = 3.5/5

A self-indulgent and unoriginal film about compromise. Despite its flaws, the dialogue is endlessly entertaining. Only Woody Allen at this stage of his career could get away with making a film like this. If any other director had made this, I would probably hate it, but it makes sense as a 2009 Woody Allen film. 

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (Kurt Kuenne, 2008) = 4.5/5

I'd been meaning to watch this documentary for almost a year. Everyone was saying the same thing about it: "It will make you bawl." I mentally prepared myself before I hit play. An hour and a half later, I was speechless. I felt so many emotions but I had no idea what to do with them. Simply put, Dear Zachary is the saddest film I have ever seen. It also angered me to my core. If you have so much as an ounce of compassion, the film will make you seethe with rage. You will find it almost impossible to believe that so much evil could befall one family. The film is at once a loving gesture to a friend and those who cared for him, and a condemnation of an inept justice system. Do not watch any trailers or read any online comments about this film before you watch it. Go in blind. If you know the truth beforehand, the film will fail to land its visceral blow.

The Conjuring (James Wan, 2013) = 3/5

I don't get the hype over this one. Yeah, so it's a stylish horror with a few decent scares. I found there was hardly any character development, and the film is especially hampered by a rushed third act where everything becomes all too familiar. I felt the film also suffered from some miscasting. When I see Ron Livingston, I expect him to be funny. I must concede that a film like this is best enjoyed in a packed cinema, but a good film should hold up no matter how or where you watch it.

Manhattan Murder Mystery (Woody Allen, 1993) = 4/5

This is one of Allen's better post-1990 efforts. It's funny, fast, and there is excellent chemistry among the cast, especially between Allen and longtime co-star, Diane Keaton.

The French Connection (William Friedkin, 1971) = 4/5

A gritty though sublimely shot crime-thriller. It takes a while to heat up, but it succeeds in all the right places. The highly acclaimed car chase lives up to its hype. It will not disappoint.

In Summary - The Must-See Films (4.5 or 5 Stars)
* Les Diaboliques
* The Exorcist
* Submarine
* In Bruges
* A Separation
* Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Top 10 Funniest Movie Scenes of All Time

Comedy is tough. Writing gags for the screen is always risky as you never know which ones will sink or swim. A joke may cause offence. It may hit too close to home. It could be too highbrow or too lowbrow for your target audience. What matters is that the joke makes you laugh. You don't need to know why it's funny; you just have to feel it. The ten scenes in this post are all very amusing to me. Some of them have made me laugh to the point of tears, while others work on a more subtle level. If you're expecting a masterclass in what makes good comedy, don't get your hopes up. I'll try my best to explain why I find each of these scenes funny, but in some cases, no amount of explanation will account for the subjective nature of comedy. Enough of this small talk...let's get to my picks!

10. The Monopoly Guy - Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (Steve Oedekerk, 1995)

First of all, I think the first Ace Ventura (Pet Detective) is mostly an unfunny bore, and that When Nature Calls is one of the better comedy sequels of all time. This is the film where Jim Carrey peaked, comically speaking. His mannerisms are exceptionally funny. This film should be used as an instructional video on how to be funny with your body. In this scene, we have Carrey's Ace Ventura sticking it to a man from high society, who is accompanied by a woman adorned with the fur of a fox. Ace cannot stand this couple's elitism, and when the woman encourages him to "enjoy the fruits of nature", he snaps. The man's resemblance to Monopoly mascot Rich Uncle Pennybags is not the only funny thing here. Ace's confidence and nonchalance in assaulting the man is an hilarious comment on the clash between high and low culture. Of course, there's also the guttural noises Ace makes while parading the man, and his mock dance routine. What completes the scene is Ace's closing remark, "It's lovely, but I fancy myself in autumn." Ace believes he has committed no wrongdoing, just like those who wear animal furs as fashion statements.  

9. Truth or dare - The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky, 2012)

This scene is ultimately a tragic one, but it derives its comedic power from the idea that it could happen to you, as well as the overall feeling of awkwardness that pervades it. First, a little bit of context: Charlie (Logan Lerman) is a painfully shy teenager who has made some new friends in his freshman year of high school. He has developed a crush on Sam (Emma Watson), but Sam has a boyfriend. Sam's friend, Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman) forces herself onto Charlie and they become a couple against Charlie's wishes. All of this underlying tension reaches breaking point during a seemingly harmless game of truth or dare. Patrick (Ezra Miller) asks Charlie, "How's your first relationship going?" I am not going to repeat Charlie's response here, because I want you to watch the clip. I saw this film at the movies, and everyone in the cinema let out a gasp of shock before dying in a fit of laughter. It's such an uncomfortable scene...such a sad and painful line, but it is also one of the most hilarious things I have ever heard uttered in a motion picture. Things get worse when Patrick dares Charlie to kiss the prettiest girl in the room, and he doesn't kiss Mary Elizabeth. Ezra Miller is the glue that holds this scene together. We know how tragic the scene is, but it never feels depressing because of lines from Patrick such as, "Notice I charitably said girl and not person, because let's face it...I'd smoke all you bitches!" Logan Lerman is also brilliant in his delivery. He treads a fine line between stoicism and nervousness, and I'm reminded of Roger Ebert's praise for Bill Murray in Lost in Translation, where Murray was commended for his subdued comedic presence. Ultimately, this scene is funny because none of the actors (and by extension, the characters) are aware they are in a movie.

8. Drug deal gone wrong - Boogie Nights (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1997)

This scene combines hilarity and suspense in a way that few other films have mastered. Dirk, Reed and Todd have gone to Rahad's (Alfred Molina) house with the promise to sell him cocaine. That cocaine is actually half a kilo of baking soda. They sit down on the couch, and if they didn't already have enough to be nervous about, there's a mysterious child named Cosmo who is setting off firecrackers FOR NO PARTICULAR REASON! These loud bangs are the heartbeat of the scene, and I can't help but laugh each time one of the men is startled by the noise. Later on in the scene (not shown in the above clip), all hell breaks loose when Todd tries to rob Rahad. The use of Night Ranger's Sister Christian and Rick Springfield's Jessie's Girl also adds to the comedy of the scene. These songs are not a perfect fit for the action that's unfolding, but if they were, some of the humour would be lost.    

7. Impersonating Michael Caine - The Trip (Michael Winterbottom, 2010)


Okay, I realise this may count as cheating since The Trip was edited from the sitcom series of the same name. Nonetheless, if this scene doesn't have you in stitches, you may want to check your pulse. What a pleasure it is to watch two talented comics sit across from each other and trade wits. We're not laughing at how closely their impressions resemble the veteran English actor. We're laughing at how they're delivering the expressions. You may have been expecting a standard, run-of-the-mill "My name is Michael Caine..." impression, but Rob Brydon quickly dismisses Steve Coogan when he is accused of this easy, tired routine. What follows is so enthralling to watch. If you got someone to close their eyes and listen to this, they'd probably assume Caine was talking about himself in the third-person. Coogan's impression is just as impressive as Brydon's, and by the time he gets to Caine's "emotional" voice, your stomach will be hurting from all the guffawing. 

6. Meow - Super Troopers (Jay Chandrasekhar, 2001)

This is far from the most intelligent scene you'll ever see. It's a stupid scene involving stupid characters. But who cares? It achieved something that many modern comedies fail to do—make me laugh. The ineptitude of these cops is hilarious in itself. Their complete lack of regard for their duty makes you wonder how they secured their jobs in the first place. I think this scene is funny because all of the characters are in on the joke. Imagine if you were the man in that car. If you heard a cop repeatedly say "meow", you'd get curious about it, wouldn't you? Hence, it's realistic! Also, pay attention to the policeman who's doing the counting. Watch his belly move through the passenger seat window as he laughs. It's a great sight gag.

5. Any scene involving Francis the Driver - Superbad (Greg Mottola, 2007)

Again, this may be cheating since I haven't highlighted a particular scene. The bottom line is that Francis steals every single scene he enters. Everyone knows a person who behaves like Francis. If he was a character on The Office, he would be Creed. When he tells Seth and Evan that he will do ANYTHING for them if they don't report him to the cops, we actually believe him. We laugh at his subtle creepiness when he says, "You guys know a guy named Jimmy? You totally look like his brother. You totally look like his brother, man." Personally, the scene that gets me the most is when he's driving Seth and Evan to the party. He interjects to encourage Seth to have sex with Jules, and it's so fucking hilarious how oblivious he is to his own inappropriateness. The scene gets funnier when he follows that line with something that borders on a non-sequitur: "You guys on Myspace, or...?" Of course, it's no surprise when he later gets beat up by Mark, the party host. I've got to hand it to Joe Lo Truglio for absolutely nailing this eccentric character. I can't imagine anyone else playing this role.

4. Duane Hall - Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)

Everyone forgets that Christopher Walken is in Annie Hall, and I don't blame them—he gets very little screen time. It's a shame, because he is absolutely fantastic in this scene. Everyone should be familiar with Woody Allen's on-screen persona of the intellectual, nervous, neurotic nebbish. It really comes to the fore in this scene. Notice how Alvy (Allen) is condescending towards Duane without being nasty. The pitch of his voice suggests he is talking to a child rather than an adult. When he leaves Duane's room, he says he has to return to 'Planet Earth'. Poor Duane probably doesn't have the social skills to deduce what Alvy is implying. Nevermind...Duane gets his revenge when he is asked to drive Alvy and Annie to the airport. Just look at how the camera pans from Duane to Annie to a frozen, perspiring Alvy. The death-phobic Alvy knows it is no certainty he will reach his destination.

3. The accidental killing of Bill Murray - Zombieland (Ruben Fleischer, 2009)

I remember watching this film at the movies with a friend. We were just about the only two people in the cinema. When the film arrived at this scene, we were both in absolute hysterics. I had tears rolling down my cheeks caused by a minute of solid laughter. My stomach was aching. I could not stop myself. The only reason this scene isn't higher on this list is that I've watched the scene a few times since and it hasn't provoked the same reaction. This scene works because Murray is playing himself. If he were playing a random person disguised as a zombie, the scene would lose most of its power. I also love how Murray states his only regret in life is voicing Garfield in the 2004 film adaptation of the comic strip. This scene is a testament to the idea that something can still be funny even if you can see it coming from a mile away. 

2. Yard sale - Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff, 2001)

Sometimes when I need a laugh, I just go to YouTube and watch this scene on repeat for a few times. It always does the trick. Have you ever fantasised about walking into Pizza Hut and asking for a Big Mac? I have, but I've never done it. You want to do it because you're genuinely curious about how the person behind the counter would react, but you ultimately refrain because you don't want to look like an idiot. When Enid charges 500 dollars for one of her old dresses at a yard sale, that's the equivalent of asking for a Big Mac at Pizza Hut. It's just something you should never say because it's too ridiculous to be anything more than a passing thought. But it's hilarious because Enid is deadly serious about it. The customer's facial expression is priceless, but what gets me the most is the way Enid's face scrunches up when she says, "Well, why do you want it? I mean, it would look stupid on you anyway." The customer retorts with "God! Fuck you!", making for one of the greatest and funniest scenes in the history of cinema.     

1. Ted wrestles Puffy - There's Something About Mary (Bobby & Peter Farrelly, 1998)

First of all, I apologise for the poor video quality. It's the best I could find on YouTube. Now, I know many of you were shocked when I made this list of the 10 funniest films I have ever seen and you saw that There's Something About Mary took the top spot. You probably weren't expecting a scene from it to take the crown in this list, but hey, that should teach you to never assume. Yes, I can appreciate biting satire and sharp wit, but sometimes there's nothing funnier than seeing a man toss a dog around a room like a rag doll. This, coupled with my previous post about liking cats, will probably ignite rumours that I am a dog-hater. Let me put those to rest right now and say Ben Stiller could be fighting any animal (yes, even cats) in this scene and I would explode with laughter. It's just a movie, and knowing no dog was harmed gives us free rein to laugh. Actually, the most hilarious part is that the small dog seems to have the upper hand over this pathetic grown man. When Ted's nails claw at the floorboards, I'm reminded of something out of The Evil Dead. It's comic exaggeration at its very best. Seeing Puffy fly out the window is the perfect final touch to this uproariously funny scene which is not for everyone.   

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

On Liking Cats

I wouldn't call myself a cat person. Rather, I am an animal person. Human babies do nothing for me, but put a duckling in front of me and I'll squeal in delight. It is rare that I come across an animal that I do not like. There's cockroaches, but I'll save that for another post. I've grown up around animals my whole life.

Some examples of pets I've owned:
* Rabbits
* A blue-tongued lizard (only for a few days, from memory)
* Snails (don't ask)
* Mice

Dogs and cats, however, have been the two constants at the Savona household. At present, we own two cats and one dog. This is our third dog, but I couldn't tell you how many cats we've owned before the current two. Our house is a magnet for cats. It's like they just know they'll be fed if they meow on our doorstep on a rainy night. And of course, once you feed a stray, it does not want to leave. I've never had a problem with their sticking around, because I just happen to love cats. 

I am writing this post in defence of cats. For far too long, felines have copped an unfair amount of criticism for petty and often stupid reasons. I call myself an animal person, but the truth is that I may slightly prefer cats over dogs, only because I feel cats need the extra support. Think of it as rooting for the underdog (or is that undercat?)

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me, "Steven, why do you like cats?" I was stumped that someone would ask this, as it implies there is something inherently wrong with liking cats. I shouldn't have to justify why I like something that is perfectly harmless and, well, normal. Unless you have an allergy, I can't think of any reason why you wouldn't like cats. And even those people with allergies should concede that their heart is in the right place—that they want to like cats, and that it isn't the cat's fault that they developed such a disorder. 

The view that frustrates me the most is, "I hate cats because they run away from me. Dogs would never do that. They're actually loyal to their owners." See also: "Dogs have masters; cats have slaves." These are flawed mindsets that stem from pure narcissism. That cat is not indebted to be by your side. Cats are independent by nature. I understand if my cats run away when I approach them, and it doesn't bother me. If you accuse a cat of being "selfish" because it runs away from you and only returns when it wants food, doesn't that make you selfish for expecting the cat's world to revolve around you? I find it funny how people will decry neediness in other people, but will crave it from their pets. I think many people hate cats because they don't provide the validation that dogs do. I have other sources of validation; I don't need my cats to provide it. Their lives are short, so why should they spend their time hanging around people? Let them explore and have fun. 

I think so many people openly prefer dogs because it's easier. After all, no one will ever ask you, "Why do you like dogs?" Human beings are egotistic creatures and want an animal that will heed their every call. Dogs are emblematic of power and strength. The bark is a dominant sound. The meow is a passive one. Males are especially fond of dogs because liking cats would be a step towards abandoning their macho cred. Dogs are an extension of the male identity. The human male wants so desperately to be seen as loyal, so he sides with the animal that has been dubbed Man's Best Friend. A dog can tear you apart, while a cat can lacerate you at best. The male wants an animal of brute strength and aggression, because those are the qualities he wants to have. Of course, I do not speak for all males—hey, I am one too, remember?—but merely the ones who yearn for "alpha" status. 

I'm just over the stereotype that there's something miserable about you if you like cats. The archetypal "Crazy Cat Lady" is a notion that should be buried, and we need to stop joking about "dying alone with cats", as though cats are a commodity you invest in once you've surrendered all your will to live. It's getting increasingly difficult to be open about a love of cats. It's confusing. On one hand, cats are the Internet's favourite animal. I can scroll down my Tumblr dashboard and feel confident that I won't be ridiculed for reblogging a cat GIF. But in the offline world, there are still so many things people misinterpret about cats. You're forced to like cats in an ironic, detached manner. You have to convince people that you find them "cute and funny and stuff", but nothing beyond that. The moment you hint that you love them just as you love your family, you're branded a weirdo.      

This post is dedicated to my cats Lucinda and Bruno. Indulge in all the sleep you desire. I'll love you both just the same. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

October 2013 Film Wrap-Up

House of Sand and Fog (Vadim Perelman, 2003) = 3/5

The story is interesting and the performances are superb, but it's hampered by midday movie sensibilities. The heavy-handed, excessive nature of this film was really pissing me off towards the end. Director Perelman does not know the meaning of subtlety, although I might be able to forgive him as it was his debut film. A lot of people rank this among the most depressing films they've seen, but I didn't feel that emotional hollowness because none of it was believable. 

Life During Wartime (Todd Solondz, 2010) = 3/5

I expected a more substantial offering from such a talented writer. It lacks the stinging satire of Happiness (its loose predecessor), and you get the sense that this didn't spring from any burning passion in Solondz, but rather a compulsion to make something...anything. It's one of the most disappointing sequels I've ever seen. 

Enter the Void (Gaspar Noé, 2009) = 0.5/5

'Style Over Substance: The Movie'. It's virtually unwatchable, and it's the most self-indulgent film I have ever seen. I still can't believe the man responsible for Irreversible and I Stand Alone presided over this nonsensical garbage. Sure, the film looks beautiful with its kaleidoscopic colours, but like that party guest who dresses immaculately but makes bad conversation, it overstays its welcome. 

Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980) = 5/5

This is currently my favourite Martin Scorsese film, and it will take something very special to change that. This is a visceral film—one that is felt rather than viewed. The performance by Robert De Niro is phenomenal, and deserves to go down as one of the greatest of all time. He was so convincing that I was scared of him, despite being on the other side of the screen. The decision to shoot in black-and-white was not really a stylistic choice, but rather a consequence of not finding maroon, oxblood or black boxing gloves (the colours worn by boxers in the 1940s). I'm glad things worked out that way, because this film looks so wonderful.  

My Dinner with Andre (Louis Malle, 1981) = 4/5

WOW! It was SO difficult to pick a still from this movie to include in this post! So much variety in the shots! Of course, if you know what this movie is about, you'll know I'm being sarcastic. Two men (Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory as themselves) have a philosophical discussion over dinner. That's essentially what the movie is. Oh, and there's also some footage of Shawn travelling to and leaving the restaurant. You'll know if this movie is for you just by reading that plot outline. I think it's a curiously intimate creative experiment. It will test your patience at times, but those who persevere should find it rewarding. 

Code Unknown (Michael Haneke, 2000) = 2.5/5

This one left me really disappointed, considering Haneke is among my top five directors of all time. This is actually the only Haneke film I have not liked. I felt like a spectator the whole time. I did not care for anyone's fate. Everything felt stilted and the multiple arcs did not gel together well enough for my liking. 

Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg, 2007) = 4/5

This is a stylish crime-thriller featuring a brilliant performance by Viggo Mortensen. I think it does well to resist being excessive. I'm not saying the violence isn't over-the-top at times, but there's a certain believability to it and it never detracts from the story being told. I've now seen two Cronenberg films (yep, I'm a latecomer) and I really want to see more!

The Year My Voice Broke (John Duigan, 1987) = 4/5

A poignant coming-of-age drama about the pangs of adolescent love and the acceptance of our own insignificance in the vast schema of life. It will hit close to home for anyone who's gone through a phase of unrequited love. It was so great to see Noah Taylor and Ben Mendelsohn in early roles! Seriously, this is such an underrated Australian film. Watch it!

The Strangers (Bryan Bertino, 2008) = 1/5

I can forgive a cheesy horror film, but not a boring one. Writer/director Bertino seems to think that suspense can be defined as the absence of action. I didn't root for anyone to stay alive. This is an unoriginal, pointless movie that thinks it's way cleverer than it actually is. No wonder I fell asleep when I tried to watch this some years ago.

Killer Joe (William Friedkin, 2011) = 4/5

Funny, grotesque and intense. It's fun to watch because you can never predict the next scene. It's helped immensely by oddball characters.You will never look at a piece of fried chicken in the same way again.

The Hunt (Thomas Vinterberg, 2012) = 4.5/5

An absorbing drama about the damage one lie can do. We feel the pain of its characters and wish we could find a way to intervene. The script is great, and the central performance by Mads Mikkelsen deserves immense praise. It's one of those films that will appease both mainstream and arthouse filmgoers. 

Broadway Danny Rose (Woody Allen, 1984) = 3.5/5

Features some clever gags but there are a few flat spots and the premise isn't milked for its full potential. I was surprised at how good Woody was as an actor here. This is definitely up there with his finest performances.

Alps (Giorgos Lanthimos, 2011) = 2.5/5

A group of people start a business where they assume the identities of the recently deceased in order to help their clients through the grieving process. It's sad to watch a fantastic premise go to waste through such uninspired direction. This could have been something special, especially considering the expertise Lanthimos showed with Dogtooth (2009). As it stands, I can hardly remember a single scene from this...only vague impressions. 

Waking Life (Richard Linklater, 2001) = 5/5

A work of stunning originality that is pornography for thinkers. It's films like this that change people's lives. The animation is dreamy and the dialogue is endlessly compelling. It's hard to describe this film to someone who hasn't seen it. If you're into philosophy and existentialism, I strongly recommend it. Actually, no, I recommend this film to EVERYONE...because you're all human, and this film is all about capturing Real Human Moments. I should mention that this film bumped Richard Linklater into my top 10 favourite directors of all time. He replaces Steve McQueen at number 10. 

Brazil (Terry Gilliam, 1985) = 1.5/5

Yes, I hated a movie that everyone loves, but you should be used to that by now. It is over-complicated to the point where I just stopped caring. There are too many pointless scenes and it lacks an emotional centre. I couldn't wait for this gigantic mess to end.

Hour of the Wolf (Ingmar Bergman, 1968) = 4/5

"The old ones called it 'the hour of the wolf'. It is the hour when the most people die, and the most are born. At this time, nightmares come to us. And when we awake, we are afraid."

This is a macabre and mysterious work of slow-burning terror. It plays on innate human fears and repressed memories. It makes me wish Bergman had made more horror films! 

Walkabout (Nicolas Roeg, 1971) = 3.5/5

It's a film about the unease of culture clash and the failure to communicate that doesn't pick sides. The film's vastness swallows you whole. It's immaculately shot, but it's lost much of its revelatory power over time. Some of the editing techniques are very outdated, too.

The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius, 2011) = 4/5

A delightful film that feels remarkably authentic in its recreation of time and place. It's effortlessly charming, and I was relieved to see that it didn't come off as gimmicky. However, I must admit I have doubts about whether this would be worthwhile if it weren't made in the style of a silent film. Oh, and lastly, I would like to see Bérénice Bejo in more things. She was cast so well in this!

The Sweet Hereafter (Atom Egoyan, 1997) = 3.5/5

A great script and brilliant performances (by Ian Holm and Sarah Polley, especially) make this worthwhile. However, I must admit it was hard to sit through. It's just so gloomy and emotionally intense. Some people have compared this film to Ang Lee's The Ice Storm, which is one of my favourite films from the 90s. Unfortunately, The Sweet Hereafter didn't live up to Lee's film (although I know many people who'd disagree). I may revisit this one day because I think I went into it with too many expectations. 

Blazing Saddles (Mel Brooks, 1974) = 2.5/5

This is ultimately trash with a few decent gags interspersed throughout. It tries too hard to be edgy and it is SORELY dated. Maybe I was just expecting too much. After all, this film often ranks highly on lists of the funniest films of all time. 

In Summary - The Must-See Films (4.5 or 5 Stars)
* Raging Bull
* The Hunt
* Waking Life

Sunday, October 20, 2013

My Top 100 Song Lyrics

For me, great lyrics are the difference between songs I only listen to casually and songs that are on constant rotation. There's no doubt that I can tap my feet to a hypnotic beat and let a melody sink its teeth into me. But that pleasure is only fleeting. When a song contains great lyrics—even if it's just one or two brilliant lines—you can hold onto them and carry them around even when your earphones are wound up in your pocket. In this post, I have compiled a list of my 100 favourite song lyrics of all time. I have listed them in rough order from least favourite to favourite. I did not try to hide my admiration for Neil Finn and Paul Dempsey. These geniuses are my two favourite songwriters, and their music has helped me immensely throughout life. That's why their lyrics constitute about a quarter of the entries on this list. For entries 100 to 11, I have simply listed the lyrics. For my top 10, I have briefly described why those particular lyrics mean so much to me. I think you can tell a lot about a person by studying their favourite lyrics. Here is your chance to psychoanalyse me. 

100. If you'll be my bodyguard / I can be your long lost pal / I can call you Betty / And Betty when you call me / You can call me Al. (Paul Simon - You Can Call Me Al)

99. Nothing really matters / Anyone can see / Nothing really matters / Nothing really matters to me / Any way the wind blows... (Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody)

98. And if I tell you something / You take me back to nothing / I'm on the edge of something / You take me back / And I'm happy when it rains. (The Jesus & Mary Chain - Happy When it Rains)

97. Sleight of hand and twist of fate / On a bed of nails she makes me wait / And I wait without you. (U2 - With or Without You)

96. And I find it kind of funny / I find it kind of sad / The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had. (Tears for Fears - Mad World)

95. Sweet wonderful you / You make me happy with the things you do / Oh, can it be so / This feeling follows me wherever I go. (Fleetwood Mac - You Make Loving Fun)

94. Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids / In fact it's cold as hell / And there's no one there to raise them / If you did. (Elton John - Rocket Man)

93. He is alive and kicking and screaming / Calls it gymnastics / Calls it velocity. (Something for Kate - Twenty Years)

92. The ashtray says / You were up all night / When you went to bed / With your darkest mind. (Wilco - A Shot in the Arm)

91. Though I know I'll never lose affection / For people and things that went before / I know I'll often stop and think about them / In my life, I love you more. (The Beatles - In My Life)

90. Strike up the band and make the fireflies dance / Silver moon's sparkling / So kiss me. (Sixpence None the Richer - Kiss Me)

89. I've got two tickets to Iron Maiden, baby / Come with me Friday, don't say "maybe" /  I'm just a teenage dirtbag, baby, like you. (Wheatus - Teenage Dirtbag)

88. 'Cause I don't want to be a container / Or a bastard with a ten-page disclaimer. (Something for Kate - Monsters)

87. Let us be lovers / We'll marry our fortunes together / I've got some real estate here in my bag. (Simon & Garfunkel - America)

86. I want to trip inside your head / Spend the day there / To hear the things you haven't said / And see what you might see. (U2 - Miracle Drug)

85. Hey, don't look now / But there goes God / In his sexy pants and his sausage dog / And he can't stand Beelzebub / 'Cause he looks so good in black, in black. (Crowded House - There Goes God)

84. We're after the same rainbow's end /  Waiting 'round the bend / My huckleberry friend / Moon river, and me. (Audrey Hepburn - Moon River)

83. I lost my shirt / I pawned my rings / I've done all the dumb things. (Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls - Dumb Things)

82. Now it seems to me some fine things / Have been laid upon your table / But you only want the ones / That you can't get. (The Eagles - Desperado)

81. Come loose your dogs upon me / And let your hair hang down / You are a little mystery to me / Every time you come around. (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - The Ship Song)

80. Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been / Lives in a dream /  Waits at the window / Wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door / Who is it for? (The Beatles - Eleanor Rigby)

79. Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letterbox / They tumble blindly as they make their way across the universe. (The Beatles - Across the Universe)

78. Give me reason but don't give me choice / 'Cause I'll just make the same mistake again. (James Blunt - Same Mistake)

77. It's a pretty pass / How you always seem to land on your feet / A little undone / Anybody else by now would be cold meat. (Paul Kelly - (You Can Put Your) Shoes Under My Bed)

76. She lives with a broken man / A cracked polystyrene man / Who just crumbles and burns. (Radiohead - Fake Plastic Trees)

75. But I'm in so deep / You know I'm such a fool for you / You got me wrapped around your finger / Do you have to let it linger? (The Cranberries - Linger)

74. I don't mind stealing bread / From the mouths of decadence / But I can't feed on the powerless / When my cup's already overfilled. (Temple of the Dog - Hunger Strike)

73. Sweet dreams and flying machines / In pieces on the ground. (James Taylor - Fire and Rain)

72. It's like you're trying to get to Heaven in a hurry / And the queue was shorter than you thought it would be / And the doorman says / You need to get a wristband. (Alex Turner - It's Hard to Get Around the Wind)

71. What the world needs now / Is some answers to our problems / We can't buy more time / 'Cause our tender isn't valid. (Bad Religion - Faith Alone)

70. She can't remember a time when she felt needed / If love was red then she was colour blind. (Savage Garden - To the Moon and Back)

69. I'm strangled by your haunted social scene / Just a pawn outplayed by a dominating queen. (Elton John - Someone Saved My Life Tonight)

68. There is no such place / If I lower mine to yours / Would you kiss me on the face? (Augie March - There is No Such Place)

67. I would go out tonight / But I haven't got a stitch to wear / This man said "It's gruesome that someone so handsome should care." (The Smiths - This Charming Man)

66. We gotta get out while we're young / 'Cause tramps like us / Baby we were born to run. (Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run)

65. I would love / To trouble you in your time of need / Lose your way / It's a pleasure when you're in my command. (Crowded House - In My Command)

64. I'm an alligator / I'm a mama-papa coming for you / I'm the space invader / I'll be a rock 'n' rollin' bitch for you. (David Bowie - Moonage Daydream)

63. We'll choke on our vomit / And that will be the end / We were fated to pretend. (MGMT - Time to Pretend)

62. In my life / Why do I give valuable time / To people who don't care if I live or die? (The Smiths - Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now)

61. Lover, there will be another one / Who'll hover over you beneath the sun / Tomorrow, see the things that never come / Today. (Neil Young - Birds)

60. The frozen stare / The clothes and hair / These make me taste like a man. (The Jesus & Mary Chain - On the Wall)

59. Your hills and valleys / Are mapped by my intrepid fingers. (Snow Patrol - Crack the Shutters)

58. Oh, isn't this exactly where you'd like me / I'm exactly where you'd like me, you know / Praying for love in a lap dance / And paying in naivety. (Panic! at the Disco - But It's Better If You Do)

57. I'm just a slave to ambition / Tension—your permanent condition / So much you've always wanted / Too much giving you a sore head. (Crowded House - I Walk Away)

56. If you wait / I'll give all my aches to you. (You Am I - Berlin Chair)

55. Colour is its own reward. (Crowded House - Fingers of Love)

54. So we are moving to a lighthouse, you and I / While seas drown sailors, we'll be locked up safe and dry / And though our doors may knock and rattle in the wind / I'll just hold you tight and we'll not let those fuckers in. (Josh Pyke - The Lighthouse Song)

53. I told you / That we could fly / 'Cause we all have wings / But some of us don't know why. (INXS - Never Tear Us Apart)

52. I'll know you by the thunderclap / Pouring like a rain of blood to my emotions. (Crowded House - When You Come)

51.  So you dance and you shuffle into the eye of the storm / Eyes all on fire as if you've never been here before. (Something for Kate - Reverse Soundtrack)

50. And I shall drive my chariot down your streets and cry / Hey, it's me, I'm dynamite and I don't know why. (Van Morrison - Sweet Thing)

49. All I ever wanted was to be your spine. (Archers of Loaf - Web in Front)

48. Could you learn to read minds? / In the case of mine / Do you read in the dark? (Grant Lee Buffalo - Honey Don't Think)

47. Last cigarettes are all you can get / Turning your orbit around. (Wilco - Jesus, Etc.)

46. I'm the next act waiting in the wings / I'm an animal trapped in your hot car / I am all the days that you choose to ignore. (Radiohead - All I Need)

45. I'll be your plastic toy. (The Jesus & Mary Chain - Just Like Honey)

44. And you know that I love you / Here and now, not forever / I can give you the present / I don't know 'bout the future / That's all stuff and nonsense. (Split Enz - Stuff and Nonsense)

43. I warn you, if cornered / I'll scratch my way out of the pen / Wired, an animal / The claustrophobia begins. (The Afghan Whigs - What Jail is Like)

42. Have you come here to play Jesus / To the lepers in your head? (U2 - One)

41. Your freezing speech bubbles / Seem to hold your words aloft / I want the smoky clouds of laughter / To swim about me forever more. (Snow Patrol - The Planets Bend Between Us)

40. Burn down the disco / Hang the blessed DJ / Because the music that they constantly play / It says nothing to me about my life. (The Smiths - Panic)

39. Hold me closer, tiny dancer / Count the headlights on the highway / Lay me down in sheets of linen / You had a busy day today. (Elton John - Tiny Dancer)

38. And you know she will trust you / For you've touched her perfect body with your mind. (Leonard Cohen - Suzanne)

37. Not much time has passed / But already she likes concrete better than grass / And I don't think we'll last. (Something for Kate - Pinstripe)

36. No more empty self-possession / Vision swept under the mat / It's no New Year's resolution / It's more than that. (Split Enz - Message to My Girl)

35. And the waitress is practising politics / As the businessmen slowly get stoned / Yes they're sharing a drink they call loneliness / But it's better than drinking alone. (Billy Joel - Piano Man)

34. And if a double-decker bus crashes into us / To die by your side is such a heavenly way to die. (The Smiths - There is a Light That Never Goes Out)

33. So I'll start a revolution from my bed / 'Cause you said the brains I had went to my head. (Oasis - Don't Look Back in Anger)

32. All I really, really want our love to do / Is to bring out the best in me and in you. (Joni Mitchell - All I Want)

31. There's a battle ahead / Many battles are lost / But you'll never see the end of the road while you're travelling with me. (Crowded House - Don't Dream It's Over)

30. Your waitress was miserable / And so was your food / If you're gonna try and walk on water / Make sure you wear your comfortable shoes. (Alex Turner - Piledriver Waltz)

29. She can take the dark out of the nighttime / And paint the daytime black. (Bob Dylan - She Belongs To Me)

28. How can I convince you it's me I don't like / And not be so indifferent to the look in your eyes / When I've always been distant / And I've always told lies for love. (Wilco - Reservations)

27. And these children that you spit on / As they try to change their worlds / Are immune to your consultations / They're quite aware of what they're going through. (David Bowie - Changes)

26. She's a jar / With a heavy lid / My pop quiz kid / A sleepy kisser / A pretty war / With feelings hid / She begs me not to miss her. (Wilco - She's a Jar)

25. I'm a name in a black book / Attached to a face / At the back of your memory's window display / It's on the tip of your tongue, I'm sure / But I must away. (Paul Dempsey - Fast Friends)

24. And if the gods desert us now I'll turn this chapel into flames / And if someone tries to hurt you I would put myself in your place. (Neil Finn - Try Whistling This)

23. And you run like a cat to the cream / And you're acting so nice it's obscene / You put on a wonderful show / Do you really, really think I don't know? / Black and white boy. (Crowded House - Black and White Boy)

22. There's no hypochondriac novelist / Scrawling messages in your DNA. (Something for Kate - Begin)

21. I can see / That you and me / Live our lives in the pouring rain / And the raindrops beat out of time to our refrain. (The Jesus & Mary Chain - About You)

20. There's no aphrodisiac like loneliness / Truth, beauty, and a picture of you. (The Whitlams - No Aphrodisiac) 

19. And did you exchange a walk-on part in the war / For a lead role in a cage? (Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here)

18. Total surrender / Your touch is so tender / Your skin is like water on a burning beach / And it brings me relief. (Crowded House - Nails in My Feet)

17. I feel like I'm in love / With a stranger I'll never know / Although you're still a mystery / I'm so glad I'm not alone. (Neil Finn - Anytime)

16. As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset / I am in paradise. (The Kinks - Waterloo Sunset)

15. Magnetism and mystery / Wishful thinking and fantasy / And I hope that you're not / Hoping for me. (Something for Kate - White)

14. Sooner or later, one of us must know / That I really did try to get close to you. (Bob Dylan - One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later))

13. You only hide because you know I'll find you. (Something for Kate - You Only Hide)

12. The guilty get no sleep / In the last slow hours of morning / Experience is cheap / I should've listened to the warning. (Crowded House - Into Temptation)

11. I could drink a case of you, darling / And I would still be on my feet. (Joni Mitchell - A Case of You)

If I could kill only the time
That truly deserves to die

                                                     ~ Something for Kate - Deep Sea Divers

This lyric by Paul Dempsey is exquisitely simple, but it conveys that innately human desire to skip all the crap in life and get to the moments that matter. When we speak of "killing time" in everyday parlance, we are generally referring to a situation where we arrive at a place early and need a way to fill the surplus minutes or hours. In Deep Sea Divers, the notion of killing time is more concerned with eradicating painful memories from our psyches. Or maybe it's about killing those everyday annoyances (conversations about the weather, long queues at the supermarket) that befall us all, and only existing in moments that we'll remember on our deathbeds.

As is once
Will always be
Earth and sky
Moon and sea

                                                 ~ Crowded House - Together Alone 

I don't have any tattoos, but if I ever decide to get one, this lyric will be it. I love it because it makes me feel so insignificant. I am just a speck in the universe. Earth was turning before I was born into it, and it will continue to turn once I have departed it. When everyone who knows me is dead, no one will talk about me. I will be forgotten. It is an extremely humbling thing to realise and accept this. Do you ever just gaze up at the moon and think about how indifferent the universe is to you? It doesn't care about your salary or your fancy car. You are nothing to the Earth and Sky. You are nothing to the Moon and Sea. 

Don't let it bring you down
It's only castles burning
Find someone who's turning
And you will come around

                                                            ~ Neil Young - Don't Let it Bring You Down

This is Neil Young's rendition of the proverb "This too shall pass." It's a fantastic chorus to a fantastic song, and it's that image of castles burning that really boosts it. Most people would think of castles burning as a catastrophic event, but Young just brushes it aside as a slight inconvenience. He implores us to find someone who's turning, which reminds us to be happy for our friends' successes rather than to envy them. I really like this notion of "coming around". It evokes the idea of starting afresh while still acknowledging the things that broke you in the first place. 

I should've consulted my local physician
I'm stuck now forever with this tunnel vision
My periphery is screwed
Wherever I look now
All I see is you

                                               ~ Tim Minchin - You Grew on Me

First of all, I believe Tim Minchin's You Grew on Me has the finest lyrics of any song ever written. It is the cleverest song ever written. From beginning to end, there is not a single flat spot. I strongly encourage you to listen to the whole song before reading my thoughts on the above lyrics.

As Minchin explains, the song is about the type of love that creeps up on you. It smashes the myth of love at first sight. What I adore about this song is how Minchin approaches love not as a sweet, blissful emotion, but as something dark and stormy...a twisted malady. When you become infatuated with someone, it isn't pleasant. Sure, you might smile when you hear that person's favourite song. Hearing that person laugh may fill you with enough joy to subsist on for the rest of the week. And hey, if the feeling's mutual, then infatuation may not be bad at all. Unrequited love, on the other hand, is something no one ever enjoys. Minchin's extended metaphor of a love interest as an illness is hauntingly beautiful. The lyrics I have chosen here provide an almost literal interpretation of not being able to get someone out of your head.

But you stand there so nice
In your blizzard of ice
Oh please let me 
Come into the storm 

                                                                     ~ Leonard Cohen - One of Us Cannot Be Wrong

This whole song is characterised by lyrical ingenuity. You've got rooms filling up with mosquitoes, a doctor locking himself into a library shelf, and a saint drowning himself in a pool. For me, it's the final verse where most of the magic happens. Most people would attempt to get out of a storm. Cohen cleverly subverts this idea, conceptualising a nude woman as a storm. Despite her being nude, it doesn't come off as cheap eroticism, and I interpret "Please let me come into the storm" as a way of saying "Let me be a part of your life." 

Sleeping on an unmade bed
Finding out wherever there is comfort there is pain

                                                                      ~ Crowded House - Four Seasons in One Day

This one's very self-explanatory, and yet it still makes me shiver whenever I hear it. What's great is that Finn uses the image of an unmade bed, something that all listeners would be familiar with. It's not only the image we relate to, but also that crushing disappointment of discovering the flaws to something we initially thought was untainted. I think this gels nicely with the song's title, perpetuating the notion of emotional turbulence and fluctuations in mood. 

I don't pretend to know what you want
But I offer love

                                                 ~ Crowded House - Distant Sun 

Yep, another Crowded House lyric—I told you I love Neil Finn! This lyric is testament to the idea that there is beauty in simplicity. It shows you don't need an extensive vocabulary to touch another human being. All you need is an underlying sentiment that listeners can call their own. Sometimes a friend or family member will come running to you for help, and you literally have no idea how to help them. You feel like a terrible confidant, as though you have failed in your duty as a person. But there's often nothing you can do except listen. Show your love for them by lending an ear. It is worse to pretend you know what they're talking about and offer half-hearted advice. 

The finger of blame has turned upon itself
And I'm more than willing to offer myself
Do you want my presence or need my help?
Who knows where that might lead?

                                                      ~ Crowded House - Fall at Your Feet

I swear this is the last Crowded House entry on this list! But surely you must excuse me when Neil Finn's lyrics are as good as this! I'm not sure if Finn has ever explicitly stated what this song is about, but most fans believe it's about a man who comforts a woman after a breakup, or after she's been cheated on. The man is romantically interested in this woman, but she only sees him as a shoulder to cry on. This beautiful verse hints that the man finally got to sleep with the woman, which in turn makes her a cheater, hence the finger of blame turning upon itself. It's all very dark and troublesome. I love the ambiguity of that last line...how we're left with two fragile people trying to find some reconciliation. 

I am human and I need to be loved
Just like everybody else does

                                                         ~ The Smiths - How Soon is Now?

Isn't that what we all want? To find someone who won't kick us out of bed? We all want to be a part of someone else's life. Maybe not now, but being alone is only comfortable for so long. We want to be the reason someone cancels their plans on a Friday night. We want someone to come home to and sidle up with on the couch. We want someone who will accept our shortcomings because our virtues make them happier than anything else. We just want to be loved. Or maybe some of us just want to be liked. We want 10 new Facebook notifications when we wake up in the morning. We want someone to save a seat for us at the movies. We want to be told, "Hey, I like you. You're kinda funny." We want anything but the rejection of who we are at our cores. We want to be validated. That's why we get out of bed in the morning. If you don't get up and do something, no one will know you're alive. 

There'll be icicles and birthday clothes
And sometimes there'll be sorrow

                                                  ~ Joni Mitchell - Little Green 

This is it. This is the lyric that encapsulates the totality of existence better than any other. This sums up life's dizzying highs and its depressing lows. This lyric is every girl who's ever broken your heart. This lyric is finding ten bucks behind the couch. This lyric is dipping a biscuit into your cup of tea and having it break off and sink to the bottom. This lyric is the first sip of water after a long hike in the middle of summer. This lyric is peeing your pants in front of your classmates. This lyric is the time you fought the bully and won. This lyric is your grandmother's funeral. This lyric is a New Year's Eve kiss. This lyric is falling off the skateboard and grazing your knee. This lyric is putting sunglasses on your dog and laughing at how much he looks like a human being. This lyric is finding out there is no such thing as the Easter Bunny. This lyric is an electric blanket on subzero nights. This lyric is seeing your parents cry. This lyric is sucking the helium out of a balloon. This lyric is cancer. This lyric is the day you removed the training wheels from your bike. This lyric is a three-hour lecture on something you don't care about, like quantum physics or politics in Lichtenstein. This lyric is coffee with an old friend on Sunday morning. This lyric is "I think we should start seeing other people." This lyric is the smell of a library with heritage status. This lyric is your first trip to the dentist. This lyric is soft-serve ice cream from McDonald's. This lyric is the reason you check your closet before you go to sleep at night. This lyric is racing out of bed on Christmas morning and stubbing your toe on the way to the tree. This lyric is everyone you've ever known, and everything you could possibly be.