The Art of Redundancy

August is the Sunday night of the summer. It is the month where the illusion of believing a two-month vacation will last forever is fatally impaled by reality. It starts the internal sobering up process after months of developing an inverted sleep cycle and forgetting how to adult. As for myself, such is the case. I remember finishing my final final, feeling liberated from the heinous workload of college and the stressful undertakings of my job at a retail pharmacy. I finally had the chance to do whatever I wanted! I thought of so many things to do, but over time, those promises made to myself met a slow, crushing demise. I was supposed to be a pro at guitar. Now? I’m pretty good at solving 500 piece puzzles. I’m actually working on a 1,000 piece one on based on artwork from Breath of the Wild, genuinely one of the best games I’ve played in many, many years, so not all is lost, right?

If I haven’t lost you yet, (which is pretty likely by now), allow me to indulge and loathe over the beauty of a two month vacation while also hating the very concept of it. This is a rather reactionary piece so parts may be off-putting for some, but as a “writer” who likes to think he has a shred of integrity and decency, believe me when I say the following is completely and utterly genuine.

A few months ago, I posted an article about Snapchat filters and how detrimental they can be. After posting said, umm, post, I was on a creative and productive high, something that seldom happens. I like to think I’m a productive person, but by no means a consistent one. Pointless side statement aside, I felt compelled to write on a consistent and constant basis throughout the summer, an idea that seemed attainable and by all means practical.

“I will do a weekly blog!”, I internally declared. “The spring of redundancy will be no more! (yes, I legitimately thought that. That actually developed within my mind and I unironically liked it)”.

The result of this epiphany? A review of Midnight in Paris a whole TWO MONTHS later. An article, of which, was entirely situational that would have never been written had I not seen the film on a whim. Needless to say, my crusade to become a summertime writer died, not from the extreme Texas heat, but the sheer toxicity of redundancy.

It’s easy to be in a creative rut. Not only as a writer, but in any facet of life that requires an ounce of productivity. This case is further proven when a whole chunk of time, once used for schoolwork, is completely free of such burden. The sky is the limit with free time, but only if you use it wisely. Redundancy is a fatal sin that affects not only society, but the very foundations of a person’s life. To do fruitless tasks on a consistent basis without passion or investment is a startling concept to me. I once wrote how “practicality is a sin”, and while I truly believe that within my heart of hearts, I am not ashamed of admitting that I don’t always practice what I preach. I was fully cognizant and aware of doing monotonous actions, a heartbreaking revelation that was met with even more monotony. Redundancy commenced its silent cycle and made me a leper, chipping away the flesh of any  creativity and ambition. It ate, and it ate, and I just accepted it. This not only applies to this instance, but of my young, involuntarily adult life. Whether it was a video game or the volatility of social media, redundancy has a fully realized, sentient part of my life that no matter how aware I become of it, nothing is done to combat it.

And it’s still like this to this very day. No matter how much I tell people to rid themselves of conformity or complacency, I can be seen falling into the very actions I condemn. I can drive home after a long day and declare that “today will be the day. Today begins the rest of my life”. Either reincarnation exists, and I’ve lived hundreds of the exact same life, or I’m full of shit.

In any event, who knows where we’ll end up? You can quote scripture all you want, and feel like you’re doing right by an omniscient being (which is great), but you may be depriving yourself from controlling your own destiny, no matter how pretentious that sounds. It’s been the same song and dance for me, soaking up the familiarity of things that were once new and exciting, but now are overlong and flat-out boring. I’ve embraced repetition, because it was familiar and within my comfort zone; a well intended action, but a gutless, lethal attack on the very essence of creativity. I hated it, I still hate it, and I will forever damn the idea of redundancy, because I’m good at that: declaration, talking about the action, failing to realize the vision all the way through to completion. Always stuck at square one, playing with the spectacle known as ideas.

Aye, there’s the rub: Ideas. The very anecdote that can act as a catalyst for change. Ideas hold such powerful potency that can change an entire life. They can shake the very foundation of a person and cure them of conformity like holy water to leprosy. they can also get you out of bed in a respectable time. It can also rid you of that obsessive, compulsive impulse to check your phone every five minutes, a luxury that has gradually become a lost art. If you get anything out of this overlong piece, I would hope it’s this: time is valuable, so much so that no form of currency can grant you more of it. Checking on meaningless affairs on a constant basis lessens its value and can lessen your place in this world. Ideas don’t mean anything if they’re not acted upon in time, just look at my love life.


Midnight in Paris: A Nostalgia Trip by Hollywood’s Favorite Cynic

I’ve never been the biggest Woody Allen fan. I feel should preface this piece with that statement because I seem to be at odds. Though I haven’t delved into the entirety of Allen’s mammoth filmography, I can honestly say Annie Hall and Manhattan left me cold and lukewarm with their respective experiences. They had a soul, a beating heart with profoundly great intentions, but those moments came too little, too late for me. Maybe I’m crazy, maybe you’re crazy, or maybe I should’ve taken an Advil prior to watching either of those films. In any case, the same cannot be said about Allen’s 2011 opus Midnight in Paris, a 94-minute thesis about the wonders of the past that showers praise all over nostalgia, yet condemns its very concept. It’s a delightfully fantastical picture with brilliantly well realized characters played by more than capable actors. It’s a genuinely sweet love affair of a film, written and directed by a man who wears his cynicism on his sleeve. Ironically enough, it’s a match made in heaven.

Midnight in Paris introduces us to Owen Wilson’s Gil, a Hollywood script writer trying to make it as a novelist, not unlike the artists he idolizes over throughout the film. He’s seen drafting up his novel while on vacation in Paris with his fiancée Inez, played by Rachel McAdams, and her parents. Gil dreams of living in Paris, while Inez would much rather settle for the American suburbs. She loves shopping, whereas he imagines if he is on the same, hallowed ground as Hemingway.

Wilson’s Gil is the Woody Allen character, the lead who is at odds with the circumstances given to him. While touring the Musée Rodin, the character Paul, condescendingly mastered by Michael Sheen, practically plays tour guide with his wife, Inez, Gil and an actual tour guide. Paul oozes pretentiousness, making every word he says met with eye roles by Gil and blind lust by Inez. Gil’s trip of a lifetime is being hampered by the whims of a controlling and unambitious fiancée, and the world’s smuggest man who happens not to be Floyd Mayweather.

Later at night, after the clocks toll midnight, Gil walks upon a 1920’s era car, with its passengers inviting him in. He obliges their request, transporting to the that very decade and era in France. In pure astonishment and bewilderment, he meets the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, Pablo Picasso, and Ernest Hemingway himself. He is transfixed to be at the time he constantly fantasizes over meeting his literary idols. That is essentially my bloated synopsis of this film without spoiling the truly brilliant moments sprinkled throughout.

Owen Wilson brings an openness to Gil that can be contrarian, yet charmingly so. You can recognize the rut he’s in with his career and love life, yet conveys a cool calmness through his social interactions. He can spark up a conversation, in hopes to find ingenuity in whomever he’s talking to. Rachel McAdams and Michael Sheen play their parts to the tee, offering well intended yet morally shallow characters who become the antithesis of Gil’s mantra. The historical figures are played by a slew of now well-known actors, so I dare not reveal any potential surprises to the reader. But know that these roles are not parody, but glowing representations of each respective artistic icon.

Then there’s Marion Cotillard as Adriana, Picasso’s mistress who may or may not fall in love with Gil. The less said about this character, the better, as her introduction serves to be a turning point in this narrative; a turning point that gives Gil’s problematic vacation even more dilemmas. It’s great stuff.

In the end, however, this is a Woody Allen film, meaning there is no shortage of small talk or banter. While watching Annie Hall, I found this to be distracting and almost compromised the film from delivering its messages. It is perplexing, however, that this is Midnight in Paris’ strongest aspect; the characters are effortlessly well written, having conversations behind the alluringly beautiful Paris backdrop that drips of nostalgia and wonders of pastimes. Here you see a writer/director at his absolute best, with Allen writing his characters the only way he knows how, yet delivering a condemnation of nostalgia. Gil dreams of living in 1920’s, because he is so sure times were much better and simpler then. However, while in the 20’s he meets those who share his sentiments about the mediocrity of their respective contemporary age. The film, like its protagonist, starts as a love letter to ideas and remnants of the past, yet simultaneously realizes how “nostalgia is denial, denial of the painful present”.

Conclusively. Midnight in Paris perfectly encapsulates the experience with falling in love with nostalgic imaginations, yet realizing the past is almost always romanticized because of the drab, unspectacular life the present seems to be. The night scenes, where France transforms to its “Golden Age” are thoroughly entertaining and delightful in a verbal sense, yet beautifully immersive in its filmmaking right. It is an absolute treat to have seen this film with a beautifully yet brutally honest message about the past without being too preachy or on the nose. The best films leave some things to the imagination, with a gracious hint of subtlety to leave so much to the imagination. The time travelling aspect is never explained, or even mentioned as such, and that’s the point. Allen doesn’t give time to explain how it works, and nor should he. Gil doesn’t question it, and in the case of this infectious picture, neither should we.

Final Grade: A+