Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lover's Walk

Today I was struck by a sudden urge to watch a Buffy episode.  So I got out my DVDs and started flipping through the booklet to see which one I wanted to watch.  Boom.  Lover's Walk.

It was a good choice.  Of course, the whole Willow/Xander story is very weird and I don't like it.  Their attraction comes out of nowhere during a time when they are both in happy relationships and I just don't buy it.  Other than that, though, it is thoroughly enjoyable.  The culmination of the story, when Oz and Cordy walk in on them kissing in the factory, is legitimately upsetting, and my heart breaks for Cordy falling through the stairs and getting all impaled on the rebar.

The most successful part of the episode was, of course, Spike.  James Marsters is simply so much fun to watch, and Drunken Spike, stumbling around Sunnydale, is some of his most entertaining work.  The important thing, though, is that Spike's presence doesn't derail the story of the season.  Far from it, in fact.  This episode could have simply been "Haha, Spike is back and he's awesome and funny."  Instead, Spike's story in this episode is very related to the story of the other main characters.
You're not friends.  You'll never be friends.  You'll be in love 'till it kills you both.  You'll fight, and you'll shag, and you'll hate each other until it makes you quiver, but you'll never be friends.  Love isn't brains, children, it's blood -- blood screaming inside you to work its will.  I may be loves bitch, but at least I'm man enough to admit it.
This quote (that is also extremely defining of Spike as a character), speaks to the other two main threads of the story: the Buffy/Angel relationship, and the Xander/Willow relationship.

It is this speech that makes Buffy realize that she and Angel aren't friends.  As she says, she can fool Giles and her friends, but she can't fool herself.  (Or Spike)  She and Angel can't be friends because they still love each other, and the more they pretend otherwise, the more hurt they will be in the end.  Just because love is inconvenient doesn't mean you can make it go away.

Willow runs into the same problem.  She decides to resort to magic to get rid of the lust between her and Xander.  Man, this is some great foreshadowing.  I can't even believe how awesome this moment is.  Here is Willow, being faced with a problem that should really be dealt with on a personal, mutual level, deciding to take matters into her own hands and take the easy way out: magic.  She even lies to Xander about what she's doing.  This is seriously awesome foreshadowing for her later development.

Of course, beyond that, the Willow/Xander story fails to impress me.  As I said before, I just really don't buy that they would even have those kinds of feelings for each other at all, and the entire ordeal screams of plot contrivance to me.  However, it is wrapped up into a satisfying conclusion.

Which brings me to the fantastic conclusion to the episode: the montage between the main characters pondering the pain that love brings, sent to an excellent score by Christophe Beck.  The acting here is fantastic.  I really feel for these characters in this moment.  I particularly love how much emotion Alyson Hannigan and Seth Green are able to play just by sitting there:  Willow with her PEZ dispenser, sitting on the floor by her bed, and Oz sitting with his guitar in the Bronze, deep in thought in a way only he can be.  I also really like Xander's moment as well.  Everyone else in the montage seems to be caught in a moment of deep contemplation of what they've lost, except Xander.  He is busy organizing books in the library, when he suddenly stops and looks forward, as though he suddenly remembered everything that has happened.  Having had many of those moments when I am suddenly overcome with a painful thought while doing something else, I particularly like this shot.  I can also feel nothing but sympathy for Cordelia, lying in her hospital bed alone.

The episode ends on a completely different tone, though, as Spike rides enthusiastically out of town singing along with Sid Vicious's version of My Way.  This is a pivotal episode for Spike, and he gets a lot of great moments that really speak about his character.  Beneath the bad boy attitude, Spike is a romantic.  He is completely and totally ruled by love.  He has an understanding of love that the other characters lack.  Of course, he really only knows half of it.  While he understands that love is not a decision, he also believes it is an ultimately destructive force.  To Spike, true love burns and destroys.  It is all consuming passion.  It won't be until Season 7, when he gets his soul back, that he will realize that love is in fact a positive, constructive force.

Love hurts, possibly more than anything else.  It would be nice if we could just decide to stop loving someone.  But we can't.  Love isn't brains.  It's blood.

 Other Thoughts
  • This episode would have been a great place to end the Buffy/Angel relationship.  Unfortunately, they decide to get back together for no good reason, and break up for even less of a good reason.  Ultimately, the reason they can't be together is not because of the curse, but because Angel needs to find out who he is.  Unfortunately, this point is never brought up and the relationship later in the season feels forced and awkward.
  • I love Spike's drunk speech when he is spying on Angel.  "Yeah.  I'll show you who's...a... cool guy."
  • I like that Buffy got really high SAT scores.  She's a sharp cookie, a fact that I think is frequently forgotten.  (sharp cookie?)
  • Angel is shown reading La Nasée by Jean-Paul Sartre, an existentialist book that was a significant influence on Joss Whedon.
  • Angel is really not very convincing to Joyce when he is trying to get into the house to save Spike.  He looks positively insane.  I wouldn't have invited him in either.
  • I love every moment Spike has with Joyce.  They share an odd connection that makes a weird kind of sense.
  • Was Oz insinuating sex when he told Willow that she did have something she could give him?  I prefer to think he was just saying that her presence in his life is good enough.  Not that I think that "sex is bad" or anything, it just seems a little out of character for Oz.  I also don't think that exchanging sexual favors for PEZ dispensers, thoughtful and cute though they may be, is a good thing to promote.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Thought of You - Ryan Woodward

Just a little piece today, passing on a work of great beauty to those who haven't seen it.

One of the most amazing pieces of animation I've ever seen.


Have you watched it yet?  Watch it before reading on.  I mean it.  It's art and you should form your own opinion about it before I tell you mine.

Okay, you better have watched it.

To me, this is a film simply about love.  Romantic love, in all of its wonder and sadness.  It was purposefully made to be very general in its emotion.  I look into it and see myself, just as you see yourself.  The great beauty of the piece is how much emotion is conveyed through gestural forms.  The power of this video comes from combining the emotional power of dance, drawing, and animation.  I love it so much.  I've watched it so many times and still find myself completely swept up in it.

This is a great example of the kind of art that ends up saying more about the viewer than it does about the artist.  Like a magic mirror, this kind of art can reveal our inner soul, the spirit that we hide from the world.  That is beautiful to me.

I hope to one day animate something that awesome.

If you like this, you should totally go visit Ryan Woodward's website, ContéAnimated.  There is a great "Making Of" video, and he has quite a bit of other work that is very exceptional.

If this video stirs something in you and you want to share, feel free to post your thoughts in the comments.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Little Things

There are a lot of really crappy stuff that happens to people.  Death, break-ups, depression, etc.  I think people fail to appreciate the little crappy stuff.  You know, the stuff that we all experience every once in a while that just makes us go, "well, that sucks."  Individually, these Little Things are simply minor annoyances, but together they can add up to turn a good day into a bad day.
  1. That thing where you are thinking really intently about something, and then something distracts you momentarily and you realize that you have absolutely no idea what you were just thinking about.  For all you know, you could have been on the verge of understanding the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.  That sucks.
  2. When you are going down a flight of stairs and you think that there is one more step than there actually is and so you step down way to hard on the ground and almost fall over.  And then you also look like an idiot.  That sucks.
  3. That thing when you are accidentally staring at someone without realizing it.  That sucks.
  4. That thing where you suddenly become paranoid that someone THINKS you're staring at them (especially if they are noticeably handicapped in some way), and so you try to make it clear that you're not but you also can't just avoid looking at them, so you become overly aware of how much you look at them and in the process get completely stressed out.  It's probably really obvious what you're doing too.  That sucks.
  5. Sometimes, you have a craving for something.  And you can't get it.  And the craving doesn't go away.  And it drives you crazy.  And then you finally get a chance to have it, and you no longer want it anymore.  That sucks.
  6. Thinking it's a Friday when it's not.  That sucks.
  7. Waking up in the middle of the night and looking forward to more sleep, only to realize that you have to get up in 5 minutes anyway.  It's always 5 minutes too.  Not long enough to actually get any good sleep, but long enough that you can convince yourself to go back to sleep.  That sucks.
  8. Running at breakneck speed, trying to make sure you get somewhere on time, only to find out that everyone else is late anyway.  That sucks.
  9. If you have long eyelashes (I do), sometimes the top eyelashes and bottom eyelashes will get tangled up in a process I like to call "eyelash mating."  And no matter how many times you separate them with your fingers, they WILL continue to do it until they feel like stopping.  That sucks.  Especially if someone likes to try to get them to do it on purpose by rubbing their hand over your eyelashes really quick.  (You know who you are.)
  10. When someone thinks that they are close enough friends to you that they can tickle you, but really they're not and it's just horrible and uncomfortable.  Especially if you are too wishy-washy to tell them that and instead tell them that it's okay when it's really not.  That sucks.
Yes.  All of those things suck.  And there are more.  Many, many more.  I figure that the only way we can combat these forces of negativity is by laughing about them.  And then crying about them.