Generation Rewind

They say this is what going H•A•M’s like, so remember it–total recall. My generation’s backwards? We’re the originals to your sequels.

It was the winter of ’08, still living in the 856, listening to 808s & Heartbreak, rocking Windows 98.

I was with my cousin. We don’t really talk anymore. We don’t really talk at all. I don’t hate him, just never realized we had fallen off, after living in apartments, condos, and houses together.

That was back when I had a flip phone. Fuck it man, I still do. Maybe nothing’s changed and it’s me who’s not equipped to handle this shit that doesn’t resonate with people who don’t communicate.

When I was a kid, we used to play in boxes, not Xboxes; when our play station was outside, and the concept of “we” didn’t contain two i’s; when my mom bought all of my clothes from the Strawbridge’s section for boys, while my brother and I got lost inside of KB Toys.

I had a landline. That was my timeline. But people didn’t call me. I didn’t really seem to mind.

I come from a place where a square peg isn’t as outcast. It’s whiskey neat, off the rocks, and poured in a square glass. This peg doesn’t fit in holes, just inside of assholes, turning life into a black hole.

Hello? Animal control? I don’t want ’em anymore. Just take ’em all to the vet, put ’em down, and get me tested. They’ve caused enough sleepless nights, I just wanna’ be well-rested. And pain-free. A new me. Scratched yes, but no rabies.

I’ve since opened up my eyes, and gotten over Time over time; gotten over my fondness for crescent moons, and realized that they’re not all lucky charms. Our life was just one letter away from being filmy, without us having to become that talk of the town like Gigli.

No longer a dog chasing cars, she was parked just way too far, and I’ll probably get a ticket if I refuse to quit this. Tow away my heart. It flatlined. Leave a pink slip. I’ve been chalk outlined.

Jas will return with AfflecK‘s Argo

Say You Will See You In My Nightmares

The doorbell rings.

I continue to stare at a sample LSAT, tapping my pen on the page, playing eeny-meeny-miny-moe with the multiple choice answers. “Which of the following must be true?” “Which of the following CANNOT be true?” “Which of the following is a complete and accurate description?”

The doorbell rings. My phone vibrates.

Why would she make calls out the blue? Now I’m awake, sleepless in June.

I rest my head on the back of the chair. The phone continues to vibrate, moving in a semi-circular motion at the corner of my desk, like an ant that has just been stepped on. Whoever is at the door will eventually go away. There are no cars in the driveway. I peer out of the window from the balcony door. There’s no movement down below.

The doorbell rings again. My phone stops vibrating. The ant has died from one missed call or text.

Shoving the phone in my pocket, I parkour my way downstairs. Jumping steps and running on the wall, I land with a thud that shakes the nearby plants. My mom would probably be more concerned if I knocked one of those plants over than if I broke my leg. From the front door’s kaleidoscopic window, I can make out a figure. No adults or children with books, dressed in their Sunday best on a Wednesday. It’s not the UPS guy, and I’d do anything for it to be someone selling girl scout cookies.

Hey hey hey hey. Don’t say you will, then play you will, I pray you will.

I observe myself in the closet’s mirror, standing in plaid pajamas and a Tim Horton’s Camp Day t-shirt. My hair’s disheveled and my beard’s not tied up. I open the door, only to find myself staring face to face with myself. He’s standing there wearing jeans, a green-black-blue-red and yellow lined plaid shirt, with a red t-shirt underneath. His turban looks like he’s been wearing it for an entire day. He looks tired. It must have been a Thursday from whence he came.

That worries me. That means he’s not from the future. He’s from the past. He’s not here to warn me, or give me specific instructions about what to do or avoid doing. He has no say in this time, so why is he here? What could he possibly want? He continues to stare at me, like he’s never seen me this way. Maybe I should’ve at least combed my hair.

“What, you thought you were the only one who could time travel?” He speaks with a slight smirk on his face.

“Funny, I don’t remember knowing how to do that back then.” I open the screen door that separates us to let him in. It’s like opening up a portal.

I wish this song would really come true. I admit I still fantasize about you.

He makes his way into the house. There’s a moment when we’re both standing in front of the closet’s mirror and I think back to the days when I was a kid, trying to make multiple me’s appear on each mirror face that opened. He makes his way around the different rooms, observing things that have changed or remained the same, before entering the kitchen.

“Have you had breakfast yet?” He stops at the fridge, and takes out a two gallon jug of milk. He effortlessly moves to a nearby cabinet, and pours it into a tall glass. That’s my glass. He finishes the milk in a single swig and puts the jug back in the fridge. “Do you have any muffins or something?”

“I don’t understand the question. What are you doing here?” I lean against the stainless steel fridge. I’m cold.

“Just making sure you have breakfast before you leave.” He rummages through the kitchen cabinets.

“Where am I going exactly?” I begin to keep my distance from him. I think hard as to all the times I’ve worn that particular clothing combo, to narrow down where he might have come from.

You always thought I was wrong. Well now you know.

“I’ve been reading your blogs. Is that really what I sound like?” He finally finds a plastic container with homemade cake in it. He takes out a small bowl and puts two pieces into it, before putting the container away and setting the bowl next to the empty glass of milk. “Please tell me at least graduation made us happy.”

“It’s not until November.” It occurs to me that he has nothing to lose. He’s in the future. There’s nothing he can mess up that would alter the space-time continuum in any way, other than being short some milk and two pieces of cake.

“You mean I don’t even graduate in time?” He appears visibly upset. He puts the piece of cake down. “What the hell did you do?”

“I…we…were short a credit. It was my fault. I should’ve checked it sooner, if not in September, then at least over winter break.”

“Great.” He thinks hard. Calculates. “That makes two things I’ve got to fix.” He finishes up the cake, wipes the crumbs from the counter, and puts the glass and empty bowl in the sink. He pulls out a gun.

“Funny, I don’t remember having that back then either.” I stop leaning against the fridge and begin to walk backwards.

After tonight, there will be no return.

“Suicide by way of homicide.” He begins to walk towards me. “Those are really not the clothes I would want to go out in.”

“Why are you doing this? It makes no sense. No one from the past travels to the future to kill what they’ve become. If they don’t like it, they can just go back and change things. You need to change what I did then that put me here. And then this future will never even exist.”

“You don’t think I know that? This is just fun for me. I drop in, you’re not where I’d like me to be. So I stop it, go back, and try it again.” We’re back in front of the closet mirrors again. It looks like a paradoxical Mexican standoff.

“What exactly are you going to go back and change this time?” He points it at me.

“I’m going to do what you couldn’t. What you said you would, but didn’t.” He aims.

“Wait, I wore those clothes when I–” He shoots.

I watch myself get hit and go down from the mirror. It’s this weird out of body experience where I wish I was my mirror self because it looks less painful. I’m already on the ground when he walks over me. He opens the front door and is gone. He even locks it.

My phone vibrates, as I shrivel up on the tile floor like an ant that just got hit with the sun’s ray off of a magnifying glass. I reach into my pocket to pull it out. I read the name on the screen. I’m cold. I wasted money on LSAT books. Flipping open the screen, my finger can’t reach the green phone key.

The call disconnects. The phone stops vibrating. The name disappears. Pretty soon, so do I. This is not my timeline.

Tell everybody that you know, that I don’t love you anymore.

Jas feat. Kanye

Close the Loop

Looper

Looper (2012)

Directed by: Rian Johnson

Written by: Rian Johnson

Cinematography by: Steve Yedlin

Starring: Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt,
Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano, Noah Segan

Rating: A

I can honestly say, that I haven’t been this giddy for a [sci-fi/time travel] film since Marty McFly and Doc Brown traveled back to 1955 in order to retrieve the stolen Grays Sports Almanac from Past Biff after it was stolen from Future Biff in 2015, creating an alternate 1985.

If you didn’t get that reference, we can never be friends. Ever. In any timeline.

Don’t get me wrong. The Hulk was amazing in The Avengers, and I loved (and mimic on an almost daily basis) Bane’s accent from The Dark Knight Rises, but this film genuinely surprised me in ways that absolutely surpass the aforementioned, or even any of the other films I’ve seen this year. As an aside (the first of many), fall is my favorite season for films. The entire season just gets me. It’s where my kinds of films emerge and showcase the reason I got into film in the first place. January to about March is where these types of films usually go to die (my love for 2007’s Zodiac was never reciprocated). Then there’s May to August, the so-called “summer blockbuster” season, which completely overshadows such films. They’re fun, but not always memorable. When I revisit them in the future, it’s usually just to watch select scenes that I remember enjoying, but the film as a whole doesn’t always stay with me. September to December is where I [will] bask in the glory of such films as the one I’m currently reviewing, as well as Argo, Cloud Atlas, Skyfall, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Killing Them Softly, and Django Unchained.

Let me also start off by saying (consider this my second aside), that I’m extremely biased when it comes to films revolving around time-travel. And I mean all of them. I’ve seen The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009). I didn’t mind it (naked man acting like a chomo to a young girl who will later go on to become his wife because he Inception-ed that shit into her mind during a tea party, aside). There’s just something about time travel as a concept that I will forever love and be intrigued by. Looper is no differentIt understands that concept/genre, and takes it in places that are both familiar, and brand new, yet never loses its real importance: the characters and the story. The best moments in time travel films is very rarely the time travel itself. The T-800 emerging naked in an abandoned alleyway isn’t the most appealing part of The Terminator (1984). Neither is climbing into a man-made box in a U-Haul storage facility like in Primer (2004). Though, to be a hypocrite for a second, the DeLorean re-entering the space-time continuum at 88 miles per hour, is the sound by which I receive all my texts, and it is awesome. But I digress.

In the first ten minutes, you’re told absolutely everything you need to know about this film. Time travel’s been invented, but outlawed in the future (2074), utilized solely by the mob to get rid of its enemies, by sending them back and disposing of their bodies in the past (2044). Led by their boss from the future, Abe (Jeff Daniels), the hit men assigned to this job are called Loopers. Every so often however, in an act of “closing the loop,” they must dispose of their Future Selves, assuring a good life for at least the next thirty years. “Letting your loop run” is when a Looper fails to kill his Future Self. So when Past Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) encounters Future Joe (Bruce Willis), he hesitates, allowing for his Future Self to escape. This sets both men up on a path of course correction, while being hunted by Abe and Kid Blue (Noah Segan).

The film at this point can honestly go in a myriad of directions, introducing alternate timelines, and potential paradoxes, all in an attempt to blow your mind with its so-called time travel logistics. Looper doesn’t quite do that. I mean, it does, but it keeps things confined, and dare I say, even simple. Yes, there’s the complex elements we’ve all come to know and love–like the Future Self changing to reflect actions done by/to the Past Self, not to mention the Sarah/John Connor Complex of finding someone and killing them before they are ever born and/or put on a conflicting path with the time traveler–but it is never confusing, and it’s never boring. Despite Future Joe and Past Joe being the “same” person, they are entirely different characters, and thus, are easier to follow. Past Joe is more than content to have his loop closed, while Future Joe is just fighting to keep the timeline (and the woman he loves) clear in his head, and to keep his Past Self on a similar path.

At this point, I realize it’s getting tedious to read/write the words “Past Joe/Self” and “Future Joe/Self” over and over again. So, from this point forward, I’ll just call them JGL and Bruce Willis, respectively.

For Bruce Willis, this is his once chance to eliminate the problem at its source. There’s a man in the future, called the Rainmaker, who is gathering all the past Loopers and sending them back to once and for all not only close this particular loop, but to close the entire Looper game itself. This isn’t as simple as merely avoiding your other self, as to not set forth a chain reaction of events that would forever alter the space-time continuum (because really, haven’t we all been there?). It’s much worse than that. The stakes are incredibly high. Bruce’s biggest enemy is not even the Rainmaker, so much as it is JGL. Killing the Rainmaker only allows for this confrontation with JGL to perhaps never occur. JGL however, won’t have any of this. He despises the mere sight of Bruce. Thirty years in the future be damned, this is his present, and JGL just wants one thing from Bruce: “Why don’t you do what old men do, and die?”

One of the most crucial elements in the film is how memory works/interferes with one’s mind, especially when both sets of people, the past and the future, exist within the same present. There’s a scene in the diner, where the two men sit across from each other and attempt to discuss what will happen next. Bruce isn’t having any of this “time travel shit,” while JGL is being smug, and just wants to know Bruce’s game plan, asking “Do you know what’s going to happen? You done all this before, as me?” As an audience, we’re asking the same thing: how does that work? Where as in most films dealing with time travel, the traveler is confined to whatever memory he or she arrived with, Looper throws at us a very interesting twist. JGL’s memories are fresh, and are made as they happen. But for Bruce, those memories are cloudy at best, but are suddenly getting clearer, as he really has already done all this before. He knows what will happen, because in retrospect, he should’ve already done it. He knows where JGL will be and what he’ll do next. The kicker? Given JGL’s present actions, he might slowly start losing the future memories he holds onto so dearly. When Bruce tells JGL about the woman he loved in the future, JGL displays a menacing sense of disgust at the idea, asking to see her picture so when he eventually saw her, he’d turn and walk the other way, preventing that future from ever happening. It’s heartwrenching stuff. Likewise, there’s a scene where we find Bruce hunched over in an alley, starting at his pocket watch, at her face, and he keeps repeating, “The first time I saw her face” in a desperate attempt to conjure up her face, if not the entire memory. It’s getting harder to hold onto, and it’s heartbreaking to realize that even our memories, the very things we hold dear and think we’ll always have, can slip away without a choice, without so much as a second thought. Instead of her face, he keeps seeing another woman’s face, because unbeknownst to him, the timeline is changing.

Bruce Willis seems to bring his A-game when his more sci-fi orientated flicks are concerned. His Joe isn’t much different from his James in 12 Monkeys (1995). He’s a man burdened by his role in changing the past, and thus, changing his present, what we know as the future. When he arrives, he channels the cool and collected personality that’s come to define him, but he knows as well as we do, that this journey will be anything but. This man is driven by [lost] love, and will do anything to achieve his goal, even if that means getting out there and T-800-ing little kids he thinks will grow up to be the Rainmaker. It’s cold and it’s calculated, but we understand why it needs to be done. I haven’t seen such range in Willis’ performances for a long time. Here’s hoping he maintains it, and doesn’t succumb to more Expendables and pointless Die Hard sequels.

This film is nothing without JGL. Even with the sometimes glaring make-up, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that halfway through the movie, it just starts to work and come together. The make-up is just one part of the performance, and not even a crucial one at that. There’s a certain sense of awe seeing Old/Future Joe sitting across the table from Young/Past Joe. Visually, it’s a remarkable shot, akin to watching Pacino and DeNiro finally interact at a diner in Heat (1995). Yeah, I know they don’t look like exactly alike (sometimes not even remotely like one of them is the other’s thirty year counterpart like say, Jeff Bridges in 2010’s TRON: Legacy), but that’s not jarring to me. To watch Joseph Gordon-Levitt out-Bruce Willis Bruce Willis, in his mannerisms and whispered speech pattern, while still maintaining a sense of character separate from the other, is remarkable. Like Bruce’s transformation/realization at what his task will need, JGL too, goes through an arc. When he finds the real Past Rainmaker, Cid (Pierce Gagnon) on a farm with his mother Sara (Emily Blunt), and attempts to be their Kyle Reese, he is no longer the spiteful version we saw in the diner. He’s still very driven by his goal, but the stakes are a lot higher. It was like watching Warrior (2011) and rooting equally for both men to win.

The film slows down when it gets to the farm, to not only build suspense, but also its new characters and dynamics. Emily Blunt is magnificent here. She manages to convey a range of emotions, from being a protective, badass mother, to being a woman who is terribly vulnerable, and ultimately has no real control over the situation that has presented itself to her. She’s matched, almost step by step, by this little kid, Pierce. He holds his own in every scene he’s in, and sometimes, even overshadows the others. He absolutely nails the part.

The supporting cast is amazing as well. Paul Dano as JGL’s best friend Seth, who is the first to let his Future Self run, sells us on the dreary world and job of the Loopers. In order to obtain his Future Self, they mutilate Seth and watching his Older Self succumb to those injuries thirty years later is the most chilling thing I have ever witnessed on the screen this year. It’s not painful, and it’s certainly not torture, considering these wounds would’ve healed themselves in thirty years. But the anguish in the reveal is sickening. Likewise Jeff Daniels emerges from The Newsroom a better actor finally getting his due. For those who have never seen The Lookout (2007), his dynamic with JGL is brilliant (“I’m from the future. Go to China.”). The other standout is Noah Segan. I don’t know much about him, but every time he was on the screen, I did not know what Kid Blue was capable of. He’s twisted, he’s driven, but ultimately, he just wants approval, and he’ll do whatever he can to get it. It’s an electrifying performance.

This brings me to Rian Johnson. This is only his third film, but it is by far, his most polished, and is just a perfected piece of filmmaking. Brick (2005) proved he understood how to get deep into the mind of a genre and conjure up those nuances wherever he saw fit. Looper isn’t merely a sci-fi film. It’s got elements of a western, film noir, and gangster picture, all wrapped into one, and it never feels silly or out of place. The script is almost air tight, and hilariously clever when it wants to be. It poses questions two steps ahead of us, and drops subtle references and callbacks that will only make repeated viewings of this film all the more enjoyable. Every line means something. The design of the future isn’t in your face. Yeah, we’ve got flying cars and futuristic buildings, but they’re mere afterthoughts in this world. They exist, and do nothing more than enhance an already well established world. This could very well be the future, a shitty dystopia attempting to hide itself from itself under the guise of a few technological advances.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the ending. I saved it for last, so anyone reading who has still not seen the film, avoid the next paragraph if you do not wish to be spoiled.

Gripping. You’ve had your quick reveals, your diner shootouts, and have even had time to quiet down on a farm, enjoy the rich Kansas landscape, and possibly catch your breath. That all changes in the last twenty minutes or so in this film. “And the path was a circle, round and round. So I changed it.” JGL’s sacrifice to save Sara from dying and Cid from becoming the Rainmaker worked for me. It made sense. He couldn’t shoot Bruce because we’re told his particular gun is useless outside of a certain range. He had no other option. Could he have shot himself in another location besides the heart? I don’t really know what difference that would’ve made. It would’ve maybe bought him some time, but Bruce would’ve healed from a thirty year old wound, while JGL bled to death. It wouldnt change anything, because Bruce would’ve found a way to kill Sara at least, setting Cid down the dark path where he’d be hell bent on closing loops and taking over the mob anyway. Killing himself, and taking himself out of the equation completely was the only way Sara’s earlier plea with him about Cid “grow[ing] up good” with her will come true. That’s all that matters. Bruce became the JGL he once hated, driven by blind rage and an even blinder love, while JGL became the Bruce he’d eventually have become, saved by a woman, and doing everything he could to protect her.

I’d do anything to protect her, to love her, and still close the loop.

The Fall [Out]

Shout out to Caron, who cares on, and gets me, but never really gets her, it’s written, I’m sorry.

It’s grey outside, but it’s black inside of me.

Home is where the heart is, and I don’t want to live there. My heart lives across the street, across the border, and across my dreams. Clean up on ground zero. Love broke hearts and heroes. Love left no namesake in its wake. Just debris everywhere. Just me everywhere. Missed the calm before the storm, when people spoke in all hushed tones, pondering all of love’s “what if’s,” when I just wanted it’s “if only’s.” So lonely, this destruction seems. Just hold me, no one near screams. It’s near you? It’s lost me, in a dust bowl of feelings.

Unreliable silence. Our lack of words divide us. There’s only one thing I like more than the sound of my own voice. So make a choice; that final ultimatum, which made us fall out, from the depths of a fractured mind into a pile of shattered hearts. Your moonlight gets lost amid the skyline’s reflection on the Hudson. My abandoned pier’s full of history, of what you mean to me; always near, but out of reach. Unexpressed silence. My eyes and your smile hide us–they confine us–from the tear stained pages of memory.

I’m glad we didn’t grow up together.

Lightning lines of fate across the sky’s palm, cloudy futures from overcast pasts. Fireworks are present, trapped fireflies in glass jars, and the patriotic blur of sirens going every which way. We burst, disperse, and extinguish. Uncertainty is the absence of proximity, but an abundance of time. Comedy and tragedy are two sides of a one-sided coin. Your smile, your gaze, and your voice–make ashes of darkness, turn feelings into phoenixes, yet our memories remain nothing but myths–gone with the wind.

I hear sirens. The city seems full of them. I imagine that’s what I’ll tell James Lipton when he asks me, “What sound or noise do you hate?” I’ve been preparing answers to that questionnaire since I was fifteen. Alarm clocks would be a close second. Both have a rather disturbing way of bringing one back to reality. Sudden, relentless, and always able to make my head turn. Growing fears even as it grows faint. Suffocating while it snoozes. Both in silence. Heroes made by being shaken violently from their dreams.

I haven’t left my house in a month and a half.

I’ve become scared of car doors, and kids chasing ice cream trucks. I wonder for how long I’ll hide behind Tropicana no pulp, Kraft singles, and a jar of empty mayonnaise. Ritz is on ration, no cookies or cake mix, with cereals desperate to escape their plastic prisons. I’ve become scared of neighboring noises, and a baby’s first steps. Colorful chalk outlines of aliens on my driveway. Missing jump ropes, training wheels, and dolls litter the sidewalk. I’ve become scared of doorbells, and unanswered phone calls.

I’m still chasing, even wondering that maybe I’m wasting, other people’s time, their dreams, and lives. Tired of calling bluffs, maintaining a poker face, when the only cards I ever had were some hearts and the Ace of spades. The Joker’s gone, tossed around like deuces, stuck in the deck, not knowing what he did. When people ask? It’s just a metaphor. So what you being so meta for? I’m just tired, and I want no more–no drama–Queens or otherwise full houses.

But then the phone rang.

Often times I wonder, where did it all begin? When I started writing scripts that we never filmed? My own personal Argo, what up Affleck? No Oscar, I just backtracked. Took some methamphetamine for this meta fate of mine. Tried to erase my past, by deleting that crucial one line. I remember every word you said, like you were a teleprompter. I’d rather watch the sky fall, than ever want to hurt her. You thought this shit would heal us? These battle scars will kill us. They’re meaningless, especially if she’ll never read this.

Here are some certainties of my life.

Reality and dreams can never co-exist, for one collapses and the other constantly lets you down. I don’t remember when my written word became your written word, your spoken voice, or your precious face. I’ve lost you in my eyeline. You tore down the skyline. Now you rely on lying to my face while we both lie. Awake. The passage of Time was ruined by the Kindness of strangers, of people I thought I cared for. It is a sad day. That one day I’ll forget you. Welcome to Heartbreak. Population: we’ve lost count.

James Bond will return in SKyfall

One Track Mind

Loop her in your dreams, your memories, your every times and sometimes. Where icebergs are shaped like lost islands, and my Titanic’s been on a constant, unsinkable voyage. Hemingway’s on deck. Fitzgerald’s in the foyer. “Draw me like your French girls?” I lost Zelda back in Paris. It was a mistake to ever pair us. You’ll find me in a field, staring at those familiar eyes, waiting to close the loop. Everyone becomes the past at some point.

Send the cat back in time. He’s nothing but a nuisance; in that I haven’t really liked him since he was new, and I really knew him. I thought I knew me. Have you ever seen a DeLorean cut off an by albatross? Gull wing doors don’t mean shit to a seagull, however metaphorical. The future’s living on past’s debt. The present cure is gone, and I’m better off with Death. But I skipped that bitch’s housewarming. Didn’t even get a gift. It took everything I loved from me. Keep the receipt.

You were a drug to me. Now you’re wearing off. Turned me into Charlie. Poor Algernon. I thought there would actually be perks to being a wallflower, until I met you and saw what Roses mixed with Daisies could really power. Gatsby was a joke, Amory was an asshole, and Dick was a–wait, that shit’s too easy. It practically writes itself. We practically plagiarized. Two hearts with only one soul and no hope. I’m stuck being a hopeless. Romantic doesn’t factor in this equation of bullshit, of broken hearts, and jazz playlists.

Never knew her back in time. Now I don’t know my own timeline. Is this the darkest one? Or an alternate, in which we never met? She erased me from existence. I miss our study group. I miss making eyes at you. Watched the forever happily after turn nightmares into dreamscapes; turned time travel into mental burdens; turned memories into ashes of unwanted feelings. All I know is I want to know us forever, and never really know us. Hey Joe, I’m ready, close the loop, just point and shoot.

JacK to the Future

[Currently listening to The Longest Text Message Ever]