Six Feet Under-standing

Today I finished watching the fifth season of a little HBO show they like to call ‘Six Feet Under’. I began watching Season One earlier this year with intelligent and sort of cineophile-ish Canuck boyfriend. When he began explaining the premise of the show (that it is about a family who own, operator and live at the premises of a funeral parlour) I was intrigued but hesitant (the fact that he has not once been wrong in suggesting a film to me is besides the point.)

What began in the early part of this year ended today, and to his credit, Canuck boyfriend watched the entire thing again from start to finish with me, without missing an episode. We would discuss at length this emotional, fantastic show about love and loss and everything in between.

I haven’t watched many shows from start to finish without missing an episode, and especially with the same person in the room for every viewing experience. I think the last time something like this happened I was in Hong Kong for Christmas, and my Mum and I downloaded the first and second season of ‘Archer’ a wickedly funny animated adult-ish show about a spy agency. I was supposed to be heading out later that evening, but Mum and I downloaded them all, started drinking Bailey’s in the afternoon and couldn’t stop. I have never laughed so hard, nor snorted Milk so far across a room before.

But watching ‘Six Feet’ was different. Not only are the characters so real that you miss them and hope for their safety and well-being, but the way the show progresses is in a linear narrative structure, so each episode reveals something new about the characters and deepens their journey. And while I’m sure that each episode has its stand-alone qualities (each episode begins with a death and follows a similar structure, jumping from story lines that ensnare the different characters) after watching 5 series of this show in order…I can’t imagine just flicking on the TV and catching a re-run, or skipping to episodes I think I might like better.

After five series you believe in the struggles of the Fishers (the main family) and their community, and you have also watched them grow and develop, make up and break up, so you feel like you know their past and where they might be headed.

The whole cast and crew of this show can not be commended highly enough. They take you on a roller coaster of emotion, and although I am extremely late to the party on this one (the fifth season ended in 2005) I feel that the messages and struggles within the show are relatable to each of us today.

Whether it is David’s struggle with accepting his sexuality and wanting a family, Nate’s fear of commitment and responsibility, Ruth’s fight for independence and self-image after years of playing the role of wife and Mother, or Claire’s desire to be heard, to not be forgotten about and to be loved, we have all been there, we have all felt at times like a David, a Nate, a Ruth or a Claire. This show reminds us that life is not always pretty. It’s intense and interesting, but it ain’t always sunshine and lollipops.

In a TV and film landscape where producers and film studios are still trying to feed us glittery images of a Utopia that doesn’t exist (well…maybe it does…on the backlots of LA studios) this show is refreshing a sad and unflinching when it comes to dealing with pain.

‘Six Feet Under’ says:

Hey you know what? Sometimes life sucks. But you’ll get over it.

Everyone always said to me that the last episode would stay with me. After the tumultuous five seasons, I couldn’t imagine where the writers could take us after all the hurt we as an audience had endured. But they really took it to the next level and everyone was right. The last episode was amazing.

I would recommend that people commit to the 70 or so hours of viewing, just for the last ten minutes of episode twelve, season five.

I wish sometimes that life was documented like a TV show (I’d definitely want mine to be HBO). Things happen to us in increments sometimes, just little tiny pieces of the days and nights and they add up to make big things, to change lives for the better or for the worse, but always clumping together to form hours and days and months and years. And it’s hard to see them in big picture form. Sure, you’ll remember the big ones, the day she said yes, the day you signed your name on the deeds of the new place, births, deaths, awkward school reunions…

But what about the moments of interaction with a family member – where you learned something unique about them just for a split second, where you saw them in a different light for just a moment? In TV land the character could narrow their eyes and the music could come up, but in real life those moments go undocumented. They just happen and without realizing them, or having the remote control to go back, freeze and re-watch, we are unable to perhaps identify significance – or appreciate that nuance to the extreme.

The underlying message that I took away from this incredible show is that life is short and hard sometimes, but beautiful.

I’ll try to keep that in my heart on the days I wonder what the fuck I’m doing with my life

Is there something wrong with me?

This week I have seen two films starring child actors in central roles.

The first was “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” and last night I saw “Hugo” in 3D with the boyf.

Both are based on books, and I had heard nothing at all about ELAIC but had heard rave reviews from boyfs brother about “Hugo.” On paper “Hugo” is amazing. It boasts some great actors, Ben Kingsley, Michael Stuhlbarg, Sacha Baron Cohen, Frances de la Tour, Richard Griffiths (who I met in Hong Kong a couple of years ago) and some cute, wide-eyed child actors, Chloe Grace Mortez and Asa Butterfield. Not to mention is is directed by Martin Scorsese and has captured the use of 3D superbly.

“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” also boasts some pretty big names, if you’ve ever heard about a little old actor named Tom Hanks, and some woman or other named Sandra Bullock (I think she won some kind of award or something last year before he tattooed retard of a husband left her for a woman with a swastika tattooed on her forehead – mama would be so proud). Also when I saw the trailer of the film, my first thought was “Oh god. Not another 9/11 film.”

But here’s the weird thing and the reason for the title of this blog. Hugo has 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and is generally accepted as a masterpiece of cinema, while ELAIC has a 54% rating, many people, like my initial reaction, questioning if 2011/2012 is not a little to soon to be dredging up memories of the “The worst day” (to quote Oskar Schell, the main character from the film.)

And how did I react to these films?

I loved ELAIC. I wept the entire time. I thought the cinematography was amazing. The script was tight. The characters were full-bodied, flawed and sweet. The scenery of various parts of NYC was visually delightful. The journey tore at my heart-strings apart, and then put me all back together with the final redeeming scene.

Hugo drove me a little bit nuts. I thought it was predictable, I found the main character aggravating (why are you always running away/looking teary eyed at people…yes yes I know you’re an orphan…AND?!) and I kept noticing sloppy continuity throughout the film, which fixated me far more than why the old man (Ben Kingsley) was so cranky. I groaned at some of the dialogue eg:

Weepy Child Actor: I’m sorry…it’s broken.
Gruff older man type, suddenly warmed by poor, brave little boy: (clearly talking about child) It’s not broken. It’s just perfect.

Boyf LOVED the film. “The best film I’ve seen all year” and was UTTERLY shocked that I was like… “meh.” So too boyf’s brother (a film buff and wannabe director), eager to find out if we adored it as much as he did. They have since both pronounced me fools, and although they deny it, I can see them re-evaluating my presence in their lives.

*Secret whispered conversation*

Boyf: Well if she doesn’t like Hugo, imagine what else she might not like!?
Boyfs Bro: You’re right! She doesn’t have the same judgement as us on this film…she’ll never be one of us!
Boyf: True… better just dump her now…oh? What was that? Yes coming dear. She’s onto us! Must go.

I love film, and although I’m lazy in remembering directors and actors names, I do view widely and have a very varied film taste.

My favorite Director is Wes Anderson and I most particularly love his film ‘The Darjeeling Limited.” But there are lots of other styles that have tickled my fancy, like Saving Private Ryan and Bridesmaids, which are as different as Metal and Moss (did you like that? I was going for something different from “Chalk and Cheese”).

I like to go into movies knowing very little about the film so I haven’t been swayed by my favorite reviewers or had my mind tainted by badly put-together trailers that give everything away.

So yeah, I was surprised by my reaction to Hugo vs ELAIC because I already had heard things about them.

I didn’t HATE Hugo as a film. There were a number of redeeming factors in the film, the visiting of early movie history with the Lumiere brothers and George Meilies turning out to be the cranky old man from the train station toy shop (very interesting). There is also the joyous and visually fascinating world of the inside of the clocks and mechanical devices in the train station which whir and click and are engaging combined with the wonderful time period (1930’s) and set in Paris too AND in 3D. Wow. But then that’s a small pet peeve – all British Cast in France, brummy accents, posh ones…It’s Europe…it’s close enough… (??!?!)

But definitely the major difference between the two films was that one had an actor playing a child with mild Asperges syndrome, doing an outstanding job, and then there was “The young actor in the title role (of Hugo), Asa Butterfield, (who) is a bland presence with a painfully narrow range of facial expressions.” (Joe Morgenstein, Wall Street Journal).

I don’t know, maybe that’s harsh, I didn’t act in a Martin Scorsese film at age 12 like Asa has.

Maybe (like my sweet Boyf semi-jokingly suggested) I have no heart.

But I don’t know. I weep in commercials sometimes. At certain times of the month anyway. And I would describe myself as a compassionate, liberal, loving person. So…

Boyf likened the story to Great Expectations (which I had to study in University and which I did HATE) so maybe it’s in the vein of that, poor boy coming up in the world (uhhuh…yawn).

Maybe I’ll give it another go when it comes out on DVD, but for now, too much cheese. See it for the visuals, but see Extremely Loud and Incredibly close for the storyline.

But what are your thoughts? Have you seen both? Did you have a preference?