Happy Endings

Three weeks ago, I didn’t know any of you,
except by the attributes given to us by a bingo board,
where one called herself “brown eyes,” while another cited “red shoes,”
and I was the self-proclaimed hater of brussel sprouts (or maybe it was broccoli).
When all was said and done, Costner asked me if I had a unique hobby, and all I could muster up was an “I suppose,” and that was all you heard of me (at least for that day).
Since then, scented marker battles have ensued,
as we shielded the flip chart with our bodies,
as intruders tried to make cherry lines atop our mint colored words.
Matching tops and expressive personalities became a common occurrence,
rather than a rare combination, and “hey me” became a not so secret greeting,
even when we were two feet apart, and not supposed to be speaking.
Han Solo vests, matching socks, and polka dot dresses collided
with magic carpet shirts, a magician’s tuxedo, and a referee’s outfit.
Downtown party bus after dinner at the CN Tower,
I switched desserts multiple times to avoid all the song and dance,
only to find myself translating Hindi songs to unsuspecting victims,
and to a bus driver who endangered lives on a daily basis,
and never said “you’re welcome” even when we all said “thank you.”
We had all the world’s stress in the palm of our hands,
and life was an easy button directly at our fingertips (unless it was in French).
We learned to be BOS’es with boxes stacked up with binders,
full of office supplies that we’ll probably never use again,
except for maybe those multi-colored highlighters, or trademarked water bottles.
We were nicknames gone rampant, we misused, and asked too many questions,
like those pesky neighbors dumping all their stuff behind the garbage bin.
We cared about percentages, profit margins, and competing for excellence,
complete with access cards, and repeat lunches,
though we never did get those sandwiches again;
here’s an apt time to shout out to Scottie Bippen (spelled and said with a B not a P).
I’m headed back to work tomorrow, as I’m sure you’ll all do the same,
but I can’t help feeling that I don’t want this to be my new routine,
because I was already at a branded site that I would love to maintain,
if only you could all come along after this last stop before the real world.

Iss musaafir ke saath chalne ke liye shukhriyaa;
For walking alongside this traveler, I thank you for the company;
afsohs keh hum raasteh mein izhaar naa kar sakeh joh baath zubaan par thi. 
regretful I shall remain about those words that I never shared along the way.

Immortal Restraint

The WolverineThe Wolverine (2013)

Directed by: James Mangold

Written by: Mark Bomback, Scott Frank

Cinematography by: Ross Emery

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto,
Rila Fukushima, Hiroyuki Sanada

Rating: B+

A few reviews ago, I praised Iron Man 3 for allowing itself to be a standalone film in an ever expanding cinematic universe, and hoped that such an outlook would be adopted by other films of that genre. It turns out I didn’t have to wait long, because The Wolverine takes a page out of its own origins (no, not that one), and delivers a pretty great adaptation of one of its most iconic stories.

While still tied to the universe established by X-Men (2000), and containing passing references to the events of The Last Stand (2003), Logan’s journey remains primarily confined to his time in Japan, where he must deal with his own immortality among a cast of yakuza, ninjas, and samurais. Logan has self exiled himself because the burdens of his ability and of his past are too much for him to live with. He’s outright vowed to never be the Wolverine again. This film not only gives him a chance to fulfill that vow, but takes it one step further, and delivers a character study only hinted at in previous installments. This is Wolverine at his most vulnerable, as well as at his most dangerous.

Credit there goes almost entirely to Hugh Jackman, who even after six stints with the character, still finds ways to inject him with life, making us once again care about an immortal mutant clad with adamantium claws, perhaps even more than before. Jackman plays Wolverine reserved, and eventually rageful, but he never loses focus of the haunted character in between all of the action. Helping him along the way is a predominantly Japanese cast, best among them Rila Fukushima’s Yukio and Tao Okamoto’s Mariko. The appearance of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) also helps greatly not just with continuity, but in understanding Logan’s mindset, and psychological angst. If there’s a weak link in the cast and/or story, it’s hands down Svetlana Khodchenkova’s Viper and the eventual third act appearance of a robotic samurai who seems more infused by studio than silver.

James Mangold, the underrated director of such films as Cop Land (1997), Walk the Line (2005), and 3:10 to Yuma (2007), was an apt choice to explore the more bleak nature of the character, with an exceptional handle on the material. He manages create a film that very much feels like a miniseries–fitting given the inspiration–with an abundance of quiet character moments and surprising and suspenseful action scenes. This film is as brutal as it is breathtakingly beautiful, bringing to mind a particular scene involving Wolverine, a picturesque Japanese town covered with snow, and ninjas with arrows and lots of rope. There’s also a sequence on a bullet train that, in lesser hands, had all the makings of being an over the top mess, but Mangold manages to keep the action as engaging and genuine as the conversation Wolverine and Mariko are having onboard it. That fine balance is extremely important, or an audience finds itself anxiously waiting for the next scene they’ll like, and not the film as a whole. The scenes with Mariko and Logan are just as necessary to the story as the action pieces are, and Mangold brings a level of confidence to the proceedings that is easy to spot if you’ve seen any of his other works.

I keep coming back to this idea of restraint within film. It truly is a lost art form, to be able to tell a story without resorting to unnecessary add-ons. In fairness, The Wolverine has its share of side stories and plot points that aren’t in line with the rest of the film, but for the most part, they’re not distracting, and the final film stays true to not only the script’s standalone nature, but ultimately to the roots of the character. There’s a post-credits’ scene that is the only moment of sheer indulgence on the part of the filmmakers in expanding upon the character/universe, but it’s insanely welcome because it wasn’t insufferably shoehorned into the narrative that preceded it. May other directors, studios, and films take notice: it is possible to branch out and create something that is almost entirely self-contained and still be valued on the same scale as something expansive, albeit less expensive. Quiet, intimate storytelling is severely lacking in this particular genre, if not in this particular atmosphere of films, and I’m happy to say that The Wolverine, parts of its third act aside, hits all the right notes in capturing that essence.

Eternity can be a curse; a man can run out of things to care for, lose his purpose.

Memoruins

That first month or so was the purest time. None of us knew anything.
None of us knew each other. We just knew we were making something;
granted it was something stupid, but never had I met and enjoyed such company.

Slab; white walls now cover up those white voices, while cubicles show us that we were perhaps never needed. We weren’t diversity in name only, even though that’s what the whole school probably wishes. Not enough of a response was given? All we had were our emails, never used along with our females, and I’m pretty sure we were all homeless at one point, double sided glass acting like our window-sill, where drawn on mustaches were eventually replaced by phallic symbols, and heartfelt messages about how we were all still single, and still had futures. We were hardwired for three years, to inspire mostly just ourselves, and to continue living in our own world, where respect was only earned through a complisult at our own expense. Now I wonder where that time all went, and why I can’t recapture it.

I don’t think I gave that place anything. I certainly don’t take credit for anything.
If I did something, I think it was finally making us be our own focus.
That might’ve been our greatest strength, and perhaps our ultimate downfall.

We were nameless, like a cloud formation, seen from afar, but your mind couldn’t place us. Not enough of an ad stream, we never made posters, and the only one I ever saw, I vetoed, it was pure shit. There was never any stage fright, because everything was confined until equipment went missing, or people didn’t show up. Our eyes shined bright, and our mouths never stayed closed, and our thoughts were always too big for our vision. Our material now feels old, you’ve already heard it practiced, podcasted, and we can’t forget amateurly acted. We didn’t seem happy? We were living a type of dream, complete with access cards, and stolen furniture, not to mention a blanketless couch, empty fridge, and notes on the microwave. Meetings didn’t happen because meetings weren’t what we had to gain. We were a company made up of company. We were clueless, like a wrong season, felt for a moment, but your mind couldn’t care less.

The narrative being put together was becoming more and more obvious:
I ruined a good thing, and I ruined the best thing to ever happen to me,
for crumble the empire must, but I didn’t mean for it to destroy what we had.

Night’s pitch black, so let’s be honest, I’m probably going to settle, I’m probably going to forget it, but please don’t tell my parents, who place bets on my marriage, not knowing money is my matesoul, and who don’t think twice when I’m talking to that Asian girl at computing services, thinking I’m asexual, when she’s really aromantical, towards anything that I say or do, though I guess it was always about me, and not you. Elevator smelled of weed and booze, and leftover wings, cheesecake, and pub food, where Pam was our designated driver, who heard it all, from confessions to professing feelings, and losing her amid thunderstorms. Stolen bell, we were all ringers, hunchbacks with our own lost lovers, atop not a church but a brotherhood’s prayer space.

I wasn’t the leader, and I was barely the glue.
Everything I was, it was all because of you.
We were far from Not Ready for Prime-Time, we were the Not Ready for On-Line crew.

We came out of the rabbit hole, and never brought Alice; she was just some random girl who emailed about working with us. We told her no thanks, we were already overrun by Cheshire cats, who started off all smiles, and disappeared by year’s end. Sometimes I felt invisible. Sometimes I feel responsible. I think I’ll miss that editing suite most, both the dungeon and the hotel room; still have my key but, she’s not here to take her there. We made and lost a lot of best friends, and wingmen, and girl-friends, and best friend’s girls, and the occasional club who didn’t know what they were in for. To those that said they always watched, to those that said they never did, to those that remained nonexistent, but were shouted out and pointed to; to that once [un]faithful audience, lift those glasses up top, because we’re going down that well again: we never gonna’ stop.

[Static.]