THE MOVIES AFTER NEWTOWN by Noah Buschel

Usually around this time, it’s movie time for me and my family. It’s the time to go see five movies in a row, sneaking in and out of theaters. It’s the time my Uncle Leonard makes his list of the year’s best, the year’s mediocre, the year’s worst, and the year’s so-bad-I-couldn’t-stand-even-five-minutes-of-it,-it-made-me-so-fucking-nauseous. You know, it’s the holidays.

But this year it’s different. Uncle Leonard’s lists lack their usual fervor. Critic lists seem more and more hollow and confused and all over the map. Daniel Day Lewis played Lincoln and… who really cares? Alright, okay, Daniel Day—you’re great, you’re great—but the movie and the performance didn’t touch my heart.

Then again what does touch the heart these days? Seems like almost everything just solicits a shrug. Obama wins—but there are no tears of joy this time. No illusion of him being a great leader of men. Just the relief it wasn’t a Mormon who strapped his dog to the roof of his car.

And then of course it seems like every few months there’s another shoot ‘em up by some psychotic with his own army of high-tech arsenals. America, it’s clearer all the time, is a suicide. You watch it, wearily, hoping it remembers to be gentle, and to love, and to love itself. But most of the time it looks too crazy and far gone to save. We tense up, brace ourselves for what’s next. The trauma is building at our doors, with the newspapers, locking us in.

The holidays come. I go to the movies. And there’s Tarantino doing his thing. And he’s shooting the shit out of slave owners and slave traders—and I guess he wants me to think that he’s a man of justice avenging the do-wrongers. But to be a man of justice, don’t you have to be clear-eyed and have calm? You can’t just paint yourself as a hero in this world, can you? Don’t you actually have to go there for real? Confront your own demons? Or, well, I guess you can paint yourself however you so please—but leaving the theater while Tarantino hung Jamie Foxx upside down, I thought of Adam Lanza, the Newtown shooter. How maybe if Adam Lanza was talented and clever, he might have made a film somewhat like Django Unchained. With the masturbatory comic strip violence and the baffled demonic retaliation.

Then I went into David Chase’s rock-and-roll movie. A solid film, but it felt irrelevant. I tried Walter Salles’ On The Road, and that seemed even more irrelevant—frivolous even. And then I stole into… shit, I don’t even remember.

On TV, for me, there’s nothing to see. I’m told to check out Boardwalk Empire and Mad Men, but all I see are expensive sets, clichéd writing, and jumbled attempts at Sopranos level profundity. I’m told to check out Girls on HBO, but either I’m too old or it’s a very closed-up show about a sociopathic narcissist.

(Gordon M. Grant/The New York Times)

So I sit underneath the tree. My mom tells me Peter Matthiessen, the great writer, ecologist, Zen master, Native American defender, Paris Review starter, and generally real life Indiana Jones—he’s very ill and not long to live probably. And I wonder who to look to now. Who’s left? Who’s left to go to during the holidays? Who’s left to believe in? There’s gotta be somebody, somewhere, saying something. There’s gotta be somebody, somewhere, who can help me understand all these kids being shot up and what Jesus Christ’s birthday means and what a New Year’s resolution means and what’s going on? Where’s Marvin Gaye anyway? His dad shot him. He’s gone away.

I can learn from ghosts. From old movies. From Thelonious Monk recordings, and Issa poems. But those people, they’ve already left the building. So I go outside and walk around. And there’s nothing playing nowhere with no answers. There’s no movie. There’s no movie in the world. There’s just some snow, and some wind. And I think I see my pal, Gray Madder, across the street—but then I remember he’s dead too. I rub the white whiskers on my face, buy a coffee, walk.

Who knows, right? Maybe something good will happen. Maybe this new year—maybe we’ll finally ban semi-automatic weaponry. Maybe Hayao Miyazaki will come out with a new masterpiece. Maybe we’ll all be kind to each other. Maybe we’ll all look into ourselves and face our shadows. Maybe the electronic car will start to be everywhere and all the soldiers will come home. Maybe. Maybe. Hey, maybe I’ll see you around.

— Noah Buschel

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