5 Lessons on Relationships from “The Last Five Years”

From Wikipedia because I’m lazy:

The Last 5 Years is a 2014 American musicalcomedy-drama film starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan. Based on Jason Robert Brown‘s musical of same name, the film is written and directed by Richard LaGravenese.

last five years

The movie basically chronicles the love story of Cathy and Jamie in their five years together. It starts however with Cathy singing about Jamie leaving, then jumps to Jamie singing about their first night together… and so it goes, Cathy’s timeline moving backward while Jamie’s move forward until we get to their wedding day, and then we get the same moments told from the other’s perspective, ending with Jamie saying goodbye while Cathy recounts their first parting.

Presentation wise: mindblowing! Yet, none of the songs were particularly memorable. At some point they just seemed to fuse into one song… and I found myself walking out of the theater singing “For the First Time in Forever” — Yes, the Frozen song — instead of a song of the movie, which should tell you just how boring the songs were… and one or two of them probably sounded like For the First Time in Forever, otherwise why would I be singing that song??

Also, since the movie is about the ups and downs of Cathy & Jamie’s relationship, there’s really no clear plot/climax/message. Yet, watching it I was reflecting on my own relationship and realized there are very good lessons to be learned, as follows.

Lesson #1 — Being in a relationship means walking together side by side.

One of the biggest problem in Cathy & Jamie’s relationship I think was described in Cathy’s third song “A Part of That” in which she describes how Jamie drifts off to his own faraway land and while at first Cathy is happy because she gets to be a part of Jamie’s creative process, soon enough she sings the following lines: “And it’s true I tend to follow in his stride instead of side by side. I take his cue.” and eventually she questions whether she’s really part of Jamie’s world. And that’s the thing. For a relationship to truly work, both people have to be partners side-by-side. If one person feels like he/she is just being dragged along then you have a problem.

This is not to say that you both need to be successful, which seems to be the problem for Cathy: Jamie being a success while she keeps on failing. I think if a couple really are equals, then the success of one will not make the other feel neglected/invisible.

Lesson #2 — Being in a relationship means making mutual compromises and supporting each other.

This one was painfully obvious in the song “If I Didn’t Believe in You.” It seems that while Jamie tries to be supportive of Cathy, but he really has his dreams and career as his main priority. He seems to think that Cathy didn’t need to be cared for because she’s strong and Jamie says “If I wasn’t certain that you’d come through somehow… I wouldn’t be standing here now.” This song made it seem like Jamie was a nice guy who believes in Cathy and Cathy is the one who needs to fix her problems, but being in a relationship means fixing each others problems together, not soaring on while we let the other deal with their feelings.

No matter how strong a man or a woman is, the reason why she/he wants to be with you is because at some point they’re going to be weak and they’re going to need you to support them.

Lesson #3 — Being in a relationship means taking the time to make the other person feel special and important.

One of the moments in the movie when all the girls in the theater went “Awww” was when Jamie decorated their whole apartment to tell a story to Cathy and make her happy again despite having had an awful day. Well done, although at first I was about as pissed off at Jamie for forcing this girl who obviously needed peace and quiet to listen to his story as Cathy was, but okay, all is good in the end. AND YET… a few years later (though actually this scene came first), there was Cathy singing about how they could make the relationship work and Jamie went on to say that he’s going to leave soon and we find out it’s Cathy’s birthday. DUDE! You should be with your wife on her birthday, period.

Lesson #4 — Being in a relationship means keeping the flame of passion burning.

This is something that seems to be problematic for many people… at first you can’t keep your hands and lips and bodies off of each other, and then suddenly that flame is gone. And that’s when other people become attractive. No, no, no. No matter how old you get, be passionate about your partner. This is why you really shouldn’t be in a relationship with someone because you think they’re good looking because there will be a time when they no longer are, but if you love them for all that they are then it doesn’t matter how they look like, you will want to make love to them and be intimate with them all the time. And yes, that includes the time when you are no longer able to have sexual interaction. Intimacy and passion goes much deeper. But first, you have at least 10 to 20 years before the sex drive clears out, so make good use of it!

Lesson #5 — Being in a relationship means being honest with each other about everything.

If you feel like your relationship is breaking down, tell them. If you feel like you can’t take it anymore, tell them. If you are struggling with yourself because you’re finding someone else attractive, tell them! What are you afraid of? That they’d get angry at you? If you have a true relationship where you are equal partners who make mutual compromises, keep each other feeling special, are passionate with each other, then you shouldn’t have that fear. At the same time, if a relationship isn’t build on trust and honesty then you will not be able to do all of the other things.

You chose to be together, “try a little harder and bend things to and fro to make this love as special as it was five years ago.”

Movie Review: The Conjuring

I’ve been hesitating about reviewing this movie, mainly because trying to review it means having to recall parts of the movie and then I get all sorts of creepy imagery going on in my head, but oh well, I guess it’s a risk I’ll have to take.

If you know me good/long enough, you’ll know that horror movies are not my kind of thing. In fact, I believe the last time I saw a movie that would be classified as horror was probably in high school (that would be about 10 years ago), and that only because I had no choice. It was a class-outing sort of thing. Anyway, no horror movies for me, thank you. So what gives? Answer: boyfriend. My first ever movie date, y’all! I could totally get used to it. The movie dates, I mean, not the horror movies. But I digress. Let’s get back to the horror movie in inquisition. Err, I mean in question.

 

The Conjuring. Meet the movie poster:

246460id1c_Conjuring_INTL_27x40_1Sheet.indd

 

Goodness gracious that is one creepy poster right there. On a side note, I only saw the poster when we have reached the theatre and bought the tickets, so it’s not like I could back out of it now, despite his continuous teasing. Now, I had agreed on watching this movie mainly because we didn’t have any other choice considering the showtimes. Well, okay, we could’ve opted for Smurfs 2 but who wants to go on their first movie date ever and watch Smurfs?? Err, yeah, no. The Conjuring it is, despite everything I’ve read so far about how scary this movie is. By everything I’ve read, I mean tweets from various friends who’ve watched it, because obviously I don’t go around trying to find information about a movie I never planned to watch. So, went inside and sat down preparing myself for the worst… but as it turns out…

SPOILER ALERT (possibly)

The Conjuring was not nearly as frightening as I thought it would be. I mean, yes, there were a lot of seriously creepy imagery and heart attack inducing moments, CLAP CLAP to the director, but there were too many things that were in fact bordering comedic for it to be (what I expect) a horror movie (to be). Well, okay, I guess since it’s mainly based on a true story, you can’t really say anything about how the story goes, or can you?

In any case, I found myself terribly disappointed of the ending. I mean, there I was, waiting for someone other than Sadie and some random birds to die a gruesome death, but instead everyone was hugging and laughing like nothing happened like… as I tweeted that night… the director thought “okay, we scared enough crap out of people, now let’s give them a happy ending!” — I mean, I’m happy that everything worked out well for them (especially for the real family, goodness!) but this was supposed to be a horror movie, dang it! And I’m not even a fan of horror movies!!

 

And now may I continue to the series of other problems I had with this movie?

  • Annabelle, the doll who is so creepy it had to somehow be included in this movie despite the fact that there’s actually no connection whatsoever between her story and the rest of the story. What happened here? Did the director perhaps want to make a movie about the doll and decided that there’s already enough movies about possessed dolls around (the whole Chucky series, among others, and no, I have not seen any of them)? Also, I can’t get my mind around the fact that they decided to have the doll itself be ridiculously scary when the actual Annabelle is actually a cute Raggedy Ann Doll. I mean, I would understand people having compassion for Raggedy Ann, but why on earth would those two nurses in the beginning of the movie even HAVE a doll that looks like that?
  • The exorcism that turned out to be way easier than anyone would’ve thought. Because it’s problematic. We were repeatedly told that exorcisms are dangerous and must be treated with highest regards, and that only a priest could perform it, and the Vatican needs to approve it first, and so on and so forth, and yet at the end of the day Ed Warren led his first exorcism ever, done against what was supposed to be their most horrific demonic power ever, and he actually succeeded! What the… WHAT?! Okay, so the exorcism didn’t go too smoothly and eventually it was a combination of “outside” forces as well as “inside” forces namely love for one’s family that got the evil spirit away, which is a great metaphor if you ask me, but I’ll save the theological reflection for some other time, but nevertheless they got the demon away. The super powerful demon that’s been haunting the house for ages and has caused more deaths than anyone could have imagined, driven away with badly pronounced Latin (yes, I have serious problems with bad pronunciations)!
  • The lack of spirits haunting the house. Wait, what? Yes, seriously. If there have been so many gruesome deaths in that house/area, then why do we only have Bathsheba and Rory, and possibly Rory’s mom and the maid? Now that I mentioned the maid, can someone please explain what the maid has to do with anything? What did Bathsheba make her do, considering that all Bathsheba does is possess mothers to kill their children? In any case the scene with the maid was seriously out of place and I fail to see any connection between her and the rest of the story. Well, except maybe to make the cop (what’s his name again? Drew?) believe in spirits, but then again he was still semi-skeptical afterwards, wasn’t he?
  • The hide and clap game scene. Who was hiding in the closet, since it was supposed to be Rory’s hiding place and yet it was definitely not Rory clapping out of the closet. Also, who pulled Christine’s leg, and who attacked whatshername from above the closet? And how did Rory’s music box get out of his hiding place? Also, did anybody notice that there was a hanging/swinging chair at the terrace in one scene and yet afterwards there was a normal chair in it’s place? I know it doesn’t have anything to do with the story but still.
  • The clocks stopping at 03:07 — why 03:07, and why was there that one time when the clocks didn’t stop?
  • The technology used by the Warrens. I mean, I don’t know, but some of the tools seemed a bit advanced for the 1970s, don’t you think?
  • The creepiness of the Warrens… and April. Because I spent most of the movie waiting for the Warrens to be revealed as some sort of evil entities. Same with April. Speaking of April how did she get under the kitchen floor and how did she find that locket she later returned to Lorraine? Oh, okay, I guess maybe Rory helped her.

 

I can probably go on, since the more I think about it the more mysteries seem to pop-up. Let it be said, however, that I don’t think the movie is a bad movie. I mean, it is quite obviously intense and deeply engaging (hey, look at how many details I remember!), yet I don’t think it merits all the praise (or rather, frightful screams) it has been given.

As my movie-watching-partner mentions, it is more of a family movie with a horror tone to it. Although the imagery is probably a bit too much for the younger viewers. Poor things might have serious nightmares and end up sleepwalking. At the end of the day, perhaps instead of The Conjuring, we might want to call it The Confusing instead.

 

PS: Speaking of which, WHY is the movie called The Conjuring anyway? Who conjured what? Thoughts??

Movie Review: Ernest et Célestine

ImageIt shouldn’t take a genius to figure out that I would love this movie. Just one look at the poster — and a little bit of knowledge of who I am and what things I like. I love teddy bears, Ernest is a bear. I was born in the year of the rat and have always had special affection for cute rodents, Célestine is a mouse. Add to that mix dreamy watercolor-y drawings, a great soundtrack, and a story based on a well-loved (apparently) children’s book series, and you have the perfect chill-out, relaxing Friday afternoon (as I don’t work on Friday’s) movie.

I must say I had some reservations about the plot, mainly because Ernest and Célestine both help each other out in committing crimes and becoming great fugitives. On a deeper look, however, both of them committed these crimes because of the pressure of a society that was generally corrupt and against a family that were doing business in a pretty nasty way, though not that obvious.

In any case the movie was mainly about true friendship against all odds. It also spoke about prejudice and labeling — a common “crime” of society. There were also themes of peer pressure, gender inequality and misuse of authority.

All in all, as I said before, loved the movie!

Movie Review: Postcards from the Zoo

I knew I had to watch at least one movie from the array of movies being offered as part of the Black Movie movie festival here in Geneva, if only to finally experience what it’s like to go to a movie festival. Coincidentally, one of the movies they are screening is a movie from an Indonesian filmmaker, shot at the Ragunan zoo, the zoo that’s so close to my house that I sometimes consider it my backyard!

Despite my reservations about Indonesian movies (they generally lack good plot, good dialog and good acting, and have a tendency to be quite cheesy, although I’ve heard that some of them have gotten better lately), I decided that watching an Indonesian movie while in Switzerland would be well worth it. And so on Saturday night, I ended up at the Spoutnik cinema, sitting on one of their sofas (on a side note, I love the cinema for its quirkiness), watching “Postcards from the Zoo“.

PostcardsfromtheZoo

It didn’t take long for me to realize that this movie was going to fulfill my (negative) expectations. Yes, it was a confusing story (read: lacked a good plot), the dialog was rough and annoying (lacked good dialogs), and the acting was, uhm… well, stoic (lacked good acting). Yet the more I think about it, the better this movie seems to be, in its own strange way. If anything, the symbolism, juxtaposition and reflection inter weaved in this 95-minute-but-feels-like-forever movie is so intense that most people just miss it.

SPOILER ALERT AHEAD.

The story of Postcards from the Zoo centers around the little girl Lana, who we see for the first 10 minutes or so of the movie, wandering around the zoo. She was looking for her father, who apparently has left her behind. My mom did that once to my aunt’s pet monkey that kept messing up our kitchen. She caught the monkey and released it in the zoo. Little Lana thus is like an animal, presumably unwanted, brought to a new habitat. It’s interesting how little Lana doesn’t seem to be sad nor scared about this. She calls out for her father for a while, but then decided that that was enough effort and just went on exploring, somewhat playfully, observing her surroundings. The last scene we see little Lana, she’s watching a little tiger playing with his caretaker. Next scene, Lana walks into the tigers cage and tells a story to get the tiger to eat. Both have grown up, yet both still very much a child at heart: the tiger sulking, not wanting to eat, and later playing with a ball while being bathed. Further into the movie, we will see Lana getting into the children rides, dreaming away, further implying her childish innocence.

Cut to almost the end of the movie, when Lana ends up as a masseuse/prostitute. Here we get strange video cuts of scenes at the club where Lana is serving a customer followed by scenes of the zoo, more importantly scenes of children at the zoo, and Lana looming around the screen in scenes that makes you think of Where’s Waldo. With each repetition, her existence becomes more and more vague. Here, her childhood innocence has been lost and she becomes less and less significant as a person.

Now that I think about it, does the cowboy/magician, this strange character that makes the movie even stranger, also convey the same message of childhood innocence? After all, who didn’t dream of cowboys and who wasn’t fascinated by magicians? And then of course, Lana’s “dark” life began when the cowboy/magician disappeared on her. Or maybe he was never real? However, when you lose your childhood dreams and your eyes of wonder… you become stuck in a bleak world. The movie isn’t depressing though, in the end we see Lana escaping the “bleak world” in the smiling cow car (just another strange thing), going back to the magician’s lair where she finds a magic dress and then finally, in a princess like dress, manages to touch the giraffe’s belly, the one thing she has always wanted to do. So you can escape, you can reach your dreams, you just have to take action and never forget that you had them.

postcards from the zoo 01

Speaking of the giraffe, here’s a creature that shows up A LOT in the movie, either in person or being talked about. The underlying question here is of course: why? Well, let’s see… why don’t we start with what we know about the giraffe, as mentioned in the movie. First of all, this giraffe is the ONLY giraffe in the zoo, in fact the only one in Jakarta. It is alone, just like Lana (who by the way is the only female in the array of people working in the zoo). The giraffe is quite often described as being strong and powerful despite it’s feeble and soft appearance. Just like Lana?

The workers at the zoo say that the giraffe likes to step out of its cage at night and explore the zoo on its own. Adventurous. Wanting to see what else is out there. When Lana finally decides to go out of the zoo (following the magician who might or might not be real), the camera cuts to the giraffe in the zoo, yet in a place that doesn’t really look like its usual place. Hmm… maybe the stories are true? In any case, Lana and the giraffe are both out of their habitat.

It seems to me the more I write about this movie, the more connections I seem to see and realize. Like the fact that little Lana touched the belly of a giraffe statue, and grown up Lana’s dream is to touch a real giraffe’s belly. Childhood dreams vs. reality? And going back to the strange cowboy/magician, what if he was in fact imaginary, simply a fragment of Lana’s imagination as she ponders having to leave the zoo (he shows up out of nowhere after the zoo official announced that people who are not official employees will no longer be allowed to stay in the compounds). This would explain his mysteriousness, as well as the scene where Lana cuts in front of him and repeats a set of dialog the cowboy once had before, just a few moments before the scene where the cowboy disappears. Perhaps this shows that Lana took ownership again, confident with her new life outside of the zoo, thus eliminating the need of the magic protector.

Or maybe the fact is that it was just a bad movie and I’m trying to salvage it by adding all sorts of meaning, connecting dots and reading signs that aren’t actually intended to be. In any case the movie does leave you in a dreamy state of mind, and would make an excellent relaxation video if you decide to just let it run in the background without paying too much attention to it.

Movie Review: Amour, Jagten and Beasts of the Southern Wild

What do these three movies have in common? I saw them all at independent cinemas over the weekend, and they all make you think and reflect on life, love, and social justice issues.

I started Saturday afternoon with Amour. My main reason was its nomination for the Academy Awards’ Best Motion Picture of the Year despite it being a Foreign movie. I didn’t find out until later that it had already won several awards, including the Palme d’Or of Cannes Film Festival. Truth be told, about twenty minutes into the movie I was shifting around in my seat, despising it. I guess drama isn’t exactly my kind of movie, and the slow-paced silent moments (apparently the director’s signature) were driving me insane. I sat through it though, and it took me quite some time afterwards to shake the solemn bubble away, a bubble that was there because for two and a half hours I had been witnessing the lives of two very strong individuals slowly fading away with age as their world becomes confined to the walls of their apartment. This “love” isn’t a glittery fairy tale, but despite many depressing elements of it (and some rich symbolism), in the end you realize that it was a beautiful story of a very deep commitment.

Amour

The movie highlights questions of aging, parent-child relationship especially after the child becomes an adult as well, achieving your dreams versus helping others achieve theirs, what it means to live a fulfilling life and also the question of euthanasia, still relevant albeit not having been discussed as much in the last few years.

Jagten

The second movie, Jagten or “The Hunt” was recommended to me during a training on preventing child abuse, and rightly so as the movie deals with the life of a man wrongfully accused of child molestation. Yes, welcome to yet another somber movie, and one that lowers your faith in humanity drastically. Issues of social dynamics and social perception dominates, with an undertone of teaching and parenting problems as well as a glimpse into children’s minds. The Guardian talks all about the children issues highlighted by this movie in their review. By the way, I think the little girl who plays Klara should be nominated for some sort of award! She’s so good it’s really scary!

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Speaking of children actresses, the third movie I saw, Beasts of the Southern Wild basically owes all its praises to little Quvenzhané Wallis (who is the youngest nominee for Oscar’s Best Actress ever — and I actually kinda hope she wins, although maybe it would be nice to give it to the oldest nominee ever, Emanuelle Riva, who did quite an awesome job in Amour… considering that Quvenzhané probably has a lifetime of awards ahead of her). Well, her and a story that weaves issues of indigenous people, global warming and its impact on nature, human suffering, parenting against all odds, as well as a wonderful, poetic understanding of the universe and how we all fit into the bigger picture into a movie that makes you cry, smile, dream and think.

Because The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right. If one piece busts, even the smallest piece… the whole universe will get busted. (Quote from Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild).