a thousand words

Monday, May 5, 2014


This is a real conversation. It happened earlier this year at a little cafe in LA. It has been polished a little or maybe this is just how I remember it.

MY FRIEND: Aren't you happy about 12 Years A Slave?

ME: I'm happy for the winners. They all seem like good people.

MY FRIEND: I meant the Black people. Don't be cute.

ME:  They would be included in "the winners." But don't you see the larger symbolism in this year?

MY FRIEND: Oh God, you are not going to throw salt on this, are you? You know, you think way too much about stuff sometimes.

ME: Something I would never accuse you of.

MY FRIEND: Smartass.

ME: I'll take that. My mother would just hit me.

MY FRIEND: A good woman. Okay, Captain Salty, what do you mean by symbolism?

ME: The two movies 12 Years A Slave and Gravity perfectly illustrate the relative positions of the two races in modern pop cinema. 

MY FRIEND: So? They are both good movies. But 12 Years is our movie.

ME: But think of what they are about. One takes place in space, above all of mankind, raised by superior intellect, technology which three hundred years ago would have seemed like alchemy. The other takes place, well three hundred years ago.

MY FRIEND: I don't get it.

ME: Our movies, as you say, are still very much earth bound. We seemed to be stuck in this perception of the pain and wretchedness of our past as if the Industrial, Manufacturing and Computer Ages never happened. While movies have soared to the limits of imagination, orbiting the world, we are still riding the same Cinema Comedy and Guilt Train to the same destination like it's the only thing we've ever done. We have been slaves and kings, heroes and villains, geniuses and fools, poets and scoundrels and our history starts at the dawn of man. Why can't it extend to the stars?  

MY FRIEND: Can't you just be happy for the damned movie? Dang.

ME: Of course I can, but I would have been happier if Django Unchained had won the year before. It was heroic, romantic and imaginative. That would have been progress.

MY FRIEND: I didn't like that movie. Too much violence.

ME: Because 12 Years A Slave was a feel good film, right?

MY FRIEND: That was different. It was based on a true story.

ME: And pretend violence is worse than real violence?

MY FRIEND: (laughing) I really hate you right now.

ME: Thinking way too much will do that.