Monday, January 24, 2005

Combo Platters

When you're outside at 6 a.m. on a dark, cold morning with the wind howling, biting your dry rosy cheeks, and you look and see endless inches of snow to shovel off feet of sidewalk and driveway, it's natural if the words that get muttered aren't sweet and thankful but more of the vulgar variety.

So when I found myself in that situation already exhausted from months of sleepless nights the absurdity of being a lifelong Minnesotan smacked me upside the head and my thoughts turned from jarring to giddy and bounced around like a dropped marble on a wood floor. It was then that I was calmed by the notion of how much I enjoy whenever I stumble across unexpected combinations.

For example one of the first things I do every morning after my Tae-bo workout is read my favorite comic strip, Darby Conley's Get Fuzzy that features the antics of a grumpy pet owner and his dim but thersitical and theatrical cat Bucky, and his equally dim but forever sweet dog Satchel. This past week featured a strip where Bucky, having been locked up in his carrier cage to prevent him from ruining the house with his ferret fighting training, threatens his human keeper, Rob, by mocking Rob's love of Sandra Bullock. In the few years I've been reading Get Fuzzy this was the first reference to Sandra Bullock I've seen and it hit even closer to home than the strip usually already does. It was like breaking open an egg and finding an extra yolk.

I was also enjoying the shuffle feature of my iPod with the 3,800 songs I've loaded when up came Neil Young's "Rockin in the Free World." That particular song played over the closing credits of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911 and as obvious as the movie was, the sledgehammer song hit the perfect note of what is underlying all that is terrifying about our current path. It also seemed highly appropriate after listening to our President's inaugural speech that less than subtly hit upon the administration's latest corrupted fad phrase: freedom.

"There's colors on the street red, white and blue/People shufflin' their feet/People sleepin' in their shoes/But there's a warnin' sign on the road ahead/There's a lot of people sayin' we'd be better off dead/Don't feel like Satan, but I am to them/So I try to forget it, any way I can..."

To top things off I soon enjoyed another great movie from a pretty good year of movies, last year's Hero. The film was an abject attempt by Chinese director Zhang Yimou to top the mesmerizing great Chinese film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. And Hero does just that.

Both movies transcend their martial arts material (and genre) to be cinematic artistry at its best- telling great stories against the backdrop of stunning visuals and blissful ballet. But for me (and maybe me alone) Hero tops the incredible Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon because among the many philosophical nuggets of its story is that the pen may not be mightier than the sword but it comes awfully darn close. (It doesn't hurt matters that both movies feature the work of the most beautiful actress of today's cinema, Zhang Ziyi.)

The writing message is delivered by the nameless one (Jet Li) to the King of Qin (Daoming Chen) when he describes how he beat one of his unbeatable foes by studying the way he writes. The strokes of his pen give away his strengths and weaknesses by all that is revealed by his mere movements.

At the heart of the movie is of course the fight scenes but there is one in particular that is both breathtaking and heartstopping and wholly original. In this scene the two warriors battle each other across the surface of a lake. As they skim their way atop the water the camera follows them swooping from above to beneath the surface ultimately creating something akin to a great painting. The colors swirl and the imagery blends together in an enlightening and dazzling fashion. The scene is one of many that transcends the passive act of sitting in the dark watching a movie, and is one that snow shovelers everywhere would be well advised to take the time to watch at some point in their life if only to forget their current troubles and appreciate how things sometimes mix well in a take the time to love this moment way.

No comments: