Tag Archives: movies

Seeing The Seventh Seal in Sweatpants at the Film Forum

the-seventh-seal

The neon on the Film Forum marquee’s dark blue and the programming’s stacked on white slates lettered black. There are weathered thin filmic strips between the titles. I am walking down the sidewalk and eying the marquee closely for multiple reasons. The first reason is that I have never been to the Film Forum despite kinda-sorta being a Cinephile. I have mainly been a Lincoln Plaza Cinemas fella, most recently for the underappreciated Loving Vincent. Incidentally the Lincoln Plaza seems to be closing temporarily for repairs with many fearing it’ll be shuttered permanently like the Landmark Sunshine Cinema despite contrary assurances from the property owners. So tonight before I see The Seventh Seal the Film Forum marquee takes on resonance as a symbol of imperiled authenticity.

I take a picture of the marquee with my phone for the purposes of Instagram posterity then turn and cross the narrow street into a bar. I have arrived early for the showing of The Seventh Seal and will need to pass some time. It is Friday night.

I made it early for the screening because I didn’t have much else to do. The fact that it’s a Friday night and my only plans involved seeing The Seventh Seal accompanied by my trusty notebook suddenly feels questionable inside the bar. Because it’s happy hour and my contemporaries are enjoying each other’s company. They seem contentedly absorbed into their personal dramas. The men wear expensive looking suits or sweaters. They do the things that men with friends do in bars: wave a straggler back toward the group in case he’s weighing leaving his whole life behind, smile widely at a stranger and keep nodding because they are inaudible, summarize incredulity over a miscommunication that was totally not his fault. I’m wearing black sweatpants and a black hoodie. The strain of context pushes down on my shoulders. I purchase blonde ale and find a chair nestled in a nook where I can place my notebook on a slab. I open the book and scratch my pen point on the empty page. There’s too much time to kill.

Been a long time since I gave a damn about Friday night. Makes me feel like I’m fifteen. Then again everything goes back to being fifteen. I wanted to be a writer when I was fifteen. I wanted to be different when I was fifteen. I ordered an Ingmar Bergman box set through the mail when I was fifteen. Wish I could recall the company. The name was something nostalgic, conveying a mansion of wisdom scented by mothballs. I didn’t know who Ingmar Bergman was aside from being one of those important names you hear when one white-haired wizard compliments another reverently. On the phone with a girlfriend I gave my interpretation of Hour of the Wolf, slowly realizing that it pertained exactly to our situation. She was an insomniac and it had actually put her to sleep fifteen minutes before my breakthrough. When I hung-up it was 3 AM. The irony was lost on me. Those were days in a life under a hoodie. And I probably only wanted to bring him with me tonight. That boy who watched everything in that set besides The Seventh Seal because it felt like something to save for a perfect occasion.

As the years went by I realized I simply desired the set unfinished. That was the explanation. I didn’t want that time checkmated, where the good parts were about having a mind on fire about creativity.

But considering the question of the incomplete viewing also made me wonder whether I just found Bergman boring. Even though I’d be locked onto his films while I was actually watching. But making that commitment to watch was a struggle. There were many easier things to do in life than watching an Ingmar Bergman movie. Could that be perceived as a problem with his work?

There was nothing typically American about my laziness in this regard. In fact I was pretty new wave for a young-blood who got loaded at Queens junkie bars using a fake ID. Truthfully the issue seems to be addressed by Bergman himself, right in the nihilistic endings of The Seventh Seal and Shame too.

Bergman creates challenging work, work that requires contemplative movements of the mind while in progress. Such a state could be deemed similar to meditation or trance. Tapping into a less reactionary, reptilian region of the brain. One does not alienate themselves from Bergman characters. One feels guilty for thinking about being alienated from them. Like poor Raval… he may have been evil but he was afraid to die just like you or me!

But Bergman acknowledges that our lives will always be dictated by the chaotic outcomes of culture, even if we do attempt thinking critically and empathizing with the people around us. Bergman is so obsessed by the question of why that one may naturally wonder why they should watch his film. Of course when one does make the decision to watch, they will be rewarded by exquisite filmmaking. But the pull of not watching has always felt particularly strong to me when thinking about his work. Not watching a Bergman film feels like a concrete decision in a way that other films could never imitate. One looks at the Bergman box set in their DVD library and turns away, in that moment understanding himself as the person who will not be watching, opposed to the other who is. Because usually it is not the day or time to be in Ingmar Bergman’s world, in the quiet of midnight, alone in a room, preferring an escape. Life just has to be easy and not some of the time but a lot of the time to be bearable, a comic book with ever-familiar colors.

Indeed, one decides not to watch Star Wars because the Yankees game started on the other channel. One decides not to watch Shame because they still want to believe in humanity. In this twisted sense, Bergman’s films work so well that if someone were to tell me I could no longer watch them, it wouldn’t be a tremendous bother. I don’t feel that way about other directors I love. It’s as if Bergman’s strength is his weakness, and he’s aware, communicating with that fact in the work. Such as the beginning of Hour of the Wolf, which immediately announces itself as a movie with sounds from an active set. In case we were considering the mistake of losing ourselves.

The Seventh Seal is an excellent film because a Crusader named Block plays chess with Death. Along the way Block befriends carnies and they manage a hillside picnic despite the collapse of civilization. It’s a movie that taps into the psyche.

Every aspiring screenwriter fancies writing a film that taps into the psyche, a wish holiest at an early juncture when phrases like tap into the psyche seem to actually mean something. Such gallantry must be unmasked. Ultimately, for those who stick with the questionable endeavor, writing something that simply works becomes an attainable goal. Note the phrase working as fashionable in describing good fiction these days, as if one were describing an air conditioner.

We’re better than ever at putting people and ideas into boxes. To be an intellectual these days is to be an efficient categorizer. It is also crucially about having an awareness of your own box. Getting comfortable inside. Instead of tearing through the cardboard we furnish ourselves a little flap of a desk, maybe even with a lamp. That depends on our individual skill at interior decorating. Maybe finish the space off with a miniature TV and beverage holder. Be completely boxed-in by culture and by preference.

Filmmakers don’t put forward big ideas anymore. Not enough. They don’t ask the questions that’ll be on our minds if we have time to consider our own deaths. That’s the kind of death proceeding in an orderly, businesslike fashion. Opposed to the kind of death I once read about in a newspaper when I was twelve years old: a plastic surgeon in his corvette on the freeway and a loose hubcap bouncing on the road, going airborne…

But if one has the luxury of questions: What was the point of all this? What did I know as love? What did I fear? What was it that happened that time I became someone else? These are questions impossible to address through categorization. Solving an existential crisis is an existential crisis. People don’t want crisis emerging from crisis. In a more confusing world than ever, people want to feel like they know who they are.

It’s a lonely, confusing time for many people. But paradoxically, artists are more influenced by culture than ever, especially as novices. Consider a novice existentialist fiction writer in a workshop. Let’s put ourselves right in his or her Skechers. We’re taking the train afterward, pulling the stack of papers from our bag several stops from home. Because why wait to cry in private, as is proper procedure? Then we see the notes upon our pages, “this is exposition masquerading as dialogue,” or, “too long,” or, “what does this have to do with what your story is about,” or, “interesting but why,” and on and on. So someone with a similar sensibility to Ingmar Bergman, just as a young fiction writer, will never again try the extended monologue that the former uses effectively time and again in his films. As much as workshops have been invaluable to my development through the years, the tendency for people to assess someone else’s momentarily unsuccessful risk as an unsalvageable failure is quite high. Its just natural that when people see someone fail at something they would never try, they will advise that astronaut to abandon the mission altogether. Bob Dylan describes the tendency quite well in his song Farewell Angelina.
The camouflaged parrot
He flutters from fear
When something he doesn’t know about
Suddenly appears
What cannot be imitated
Perfect must die
Farewell Angelina
The sky’s flooding over
And I must go where it is dry

Movies, music and fiction are different beasts of course. And maybe our writer on the train is actually a hack incapable of being helped by any advice or even encouragement. That all comes down to the individual, and the individual can never truly be hypothesized. But consider also the mixed reaction to Kathryn Bigelow’s most recent film Detroit, which, among other things, asked the philosophical question of whether material success could erase one musician’s intense feelings of persecution and humiliation as a result of the events portrayed in the film. The answer was no. And it felt earned. But most critics did not bother writing about Larry’s character arc. It seemed more important to frame the movie in a moral context from a viewing standpoint. That seems a relatively new development: judging the quality of a film not based on its intentions and execution, but instead its moral rectitude. Such developments could be perceived in a positive fashion. But if we reach a point of canceling the basic attempt to tell a story based on the artist failing to meet socially agreed upon qualifications, what will be lost? And will that limit risk as a basic tenant of creativity?
This is not to say every critic had similar feelings about Detroit. It is to say the reception to the movie was not enthusiastic. And it’s more likely to be obscure years from now opposed to cultural signifier. And that may also have to do with the culture it is signifying. There was a time when that message meant far more than the ethnic background of the director. And maybe that was too convenient. Either way the world has changed. And it’s not just the taste of the popcorn.

Ultimately I find it challenging to consider that the culture from which I emerge on a daily basis like a sarcopterygian fish crawling from the sea and returning to his desktop can produce the type of fiercely intellectual filmmaking that defines Bergman and The Seventh Seal particularly.

Nobody’s a metaphor in the movie, a totem through which the viewer may be welcomed to try understanding or idealizing themselves. Even Death! Death is just Death. It feels like sometimes he wants to check his watch because it’s been a long day at the office during “busy season.” To top it off, the flick is actually funny too, which makes no sense whatsoever. Like when Death chops down a tree to kill a guy who had just pretended to be dead. Skat thought he pulled a fast one climbing up that tree after the party left him lying. But there came Death from down below with a hacksaw. And the best part: maybe that wasn’t even supposed to be funny.

After The Seventh Seal concludes I walk out of the Forum take the subway and sit alone in a different bar trying to make sense of the notes I’d been taking throughout the evening. Which of these could be catalytic?

I had written down,

“homeless man with sign outside Penn. Sign says Jesus is the Answer.”

I think about the sequence where the festival was interrupted by the flagellant procession. How despite the ways in which we can personalize drama for a better understanding of our condition art remains interpretative while fundamentalist religion simply tells people what they should be feeling and doing. Bergman seems to suggest that art’s overpowered when these two forces are placed in the same space. To the majority of people Skat and Lisa’s frolic can simply never have the instructive meaning of a ritualistic flagellation. Because joy – instead of being celebrated as a vital component to our experience – is perceived more as a luxury compared to the reality of suffering.

I also wrote down,

“while crossing Greenwich Avenue on way back uptown pretty girl passes by wearing headphones singing to herself in low register and we pass each other closely because sidewalk’s crowded her voice hits me like a thin warm wind these are the kinds of nice things that can happen in the city.”

And that has me musing over Bergman’s ability to make his films prosaic primarily through extended monologue, perhaps most memorably done with Alma’s monologue recalling random, satisfying sex on a secluded beach in Persona. Or he’ll even present a scene, like Shame’s intensely uncomfortable rendezvous between Colonel Jacobi, Eva, and Jan at their dining-room table, in a single shot as if one were suddenly watching a play. Bergman pushes the limits of the cinematic form by mirroring other forms, whether through aesthetics or emotional impact.

Similarly The Seventh Seal has these moments, though the film feels more surrealistic and mythical than postmodern. And instead of exploring an individual’s psyche, like through the personalized horror of memory in Hour of the Wolf, or delving into a specific relationship, like Shame, The Seventh Seal seems more concerned with existential torture as a communal experience.

I was particularly struck by how the shots in the castle, where Death pays a visit to our party, often featured most (if not all) all the characters in the frame. Like Bergman is saying we experience Death together, not just as individuals. And that includes the whole ride: from the mystery to the terror to the acceptance. And there is comfort in that sentiment even if it’s not necessarily reassuring.

Despite the resonance Block’s one-on-one chess duel with Death, communal expressions of primal emotion flashed just as prominently to my mind: whether it was Raval encouraging a mob frenzy against Jof and forcing the artist to dance for his survival, or it was Jons and Block’s utter powerlessness to save the condemned heretic, only offering herbs, or that discomforting final image of Death’s dance party. Bergman, as he also did in Shame, seems to be connecting the individual to the universal. Block playing chess with Death is also us – we are individuals — but we are also individuals bound together by the same rules. Dancing the same dance.

I wrote other notes, like one speculating that Terrence Malick took a cue from Raval’s death scene for a moment in The Thin Red Line where the sun breaks through cloud cover after two men are ordered to their demise. That could be a coincidence. It felt like more of a coincidence when I made the connection.

Bergman does have that gift. He makes art feel connected, and life too. He’s not about style, though he has plenty: his work is about a love for thinking and communicating, even when those things cannot hold the center. His films will make you feel included, not excluded. While me and all my selves walked back uptown I felt lucky to have spent a Friday night looking into The Seventh Seal and continuing to live my odd little life, remaining outside the box for another solitary evening in the city.


Good Will Hunting and Mental Illness

Watched the ending to Good Will Hunting on Youtube. Beautiful as ever, though obviously seen in a different context. It was draining, hearing Elliott Smith sing and seeing Robin Williams close that door. “Stole my line.”

But I felt something else too, something unexpected. As I watched Will drive toward the horizon in the car his friends built, I was struck by the thought that, to me, this was a sweet notion of how to deal with mental illness. You have problems, you see someone for a month, and then you drive on a highway in a painting. I’ve read critiques of the actual therapy scenes in the movie, but haven’t come across a detailed questioning of that ending. Is Will really going to be OK? How far removed is he from the person who brawled in the park? Aren’t emotional issues more complicated? When he hits adversity, will he regress into his angrier tendencies?

Maybe the movie never suggested it was a completely happy ending. After all, he’s abandoned a high paying job that someone who cared deeply about his future setup. Maybe that’s the thing with most movies in general (and I’m saying that as someone who loves movies) You look at a scene like Will riding the train, by himself, back and forth, around Boston, and there’s a romantic quality to that isolation — maybe its because Matt Damon is a handsome fella, maybe its the lighting, maybe its because we see Fenway Park over his shoulder, maybe its the score. But it’s a guy in his early twenties anguished by his past who assaults people and rides a train by himself, but way more importantly, rides a train to nowhere. There’s nothing romantic about that. But in the movie, it has to be. Why? Because we can’t handle it? We can’t handle this character being way uglier than he is presented? Maybe what I’m getting at is — being intimate with your own ugliness can be really hard — and there’s an intimacy that the movie has with elements of that character — but not with the ugliness. And the crazy thing is — I accept these problems with the movie and still think its great — because the answers are so elusive, so hard to convey through character, narrative, in a film.


Boyhood and giving yourself as a Gift

I don’t remember how old my sister was when I gave her a DVD box set of Unsolved Mysteries for her birthday. It was somewhere in her early twenties. I’ve never felt two years younger than my sister. I always felt much younger. That’s probably because I’m the youngest of three, out of her and my brother. I was never expected to take situations under my own command. I learned to observe and have gifts credited to me, when in actuality, I had nothing to do with the purchase. There was an assumption that acting like an adult was beyond me, the perpetual baby. But for that particular birthday, the Unsolved Mystery birthday, I really did want to make an effort. I wanted to show that I cared very much about my sister. The specifics escape me. Maybe it was because I had seen her pass out one morning that summer, due to medical conditions basically unexplained to me. (Or they were explained and I ignored the explanation because my brain said she’s OK now and that’s all that matters) Maybe that was the reason. I bought the Unsolved Mysteries set because I thought it was interesting. An interesting choice. An interesting gift. But I didn’t care about those motivations. I really just wanted her to see that I was an interesting person. That her little brother had some strange esoteric beliefs and that if she could see the unsolved mysteries of the world through my eyes by using her eyes, she would know me better. I was giving a piece of myself. I was thinking only of myself.

The same way Ethan Hawke’s Dad character in ‘Boyhood’ was thinking when he gave his son Mason a burnt CD collection of the Beatles’ prime post breakup single work as a birthday gift. Dad relates very well to Mason most times, despite only being able to see him every other weekend. They can talk about girls and Star Wars. But Mason just doesn’t feel his father’s connection to music. While bound for a campsite when Mason is twelve, his father attempts to describe the beauty of a Wilco song called ‘Hate it Here.’ Dad has basically lived the lyrical content of ‘Hate it Here,’ attempting to keep his apartment clean (without help from Jimmy, his roommate) even though his girl won’t come back. She won’t ever come back. Dad talks about the way the song was recorded, expressing deep admiration for the old school stylistic choices made by the band and the producer. Perhaps the close relation of the lyrics to his own living conditions, as a struggling, divorced musician, hit him subconsciously. Maybe when song speaks to us, a musical love takes over. A silver lining love that transcends the pain of our present circumstance and transports us to less individualistic thoughts. In that sense, to dad, music and family are the same. He has no choice but to pursue music.

Mason seems confused by what his father feels for the song. He’s confused because his father has made an assumption that his son can automatically speak the language of music. The scene is a precursor to the birthday present sequence. Mason has joined his father, sister, and dad’s new wife for a trip to see her parents. The trip coincides with his birthday. Mason is older now, fifteen. His second and final stepfather gave him a camera. Small moments. Dad’s mild approval of photography as a passion during a conversation with the stepfather, Jim. At least he’s into something. But why not music, we can sense him thinking to himself. Small moments. Mason’s uncomfortable grinning at being given the collection his father called The Black Album. Mason showing more emotion earlier in the conversation because his father sold the car that should have been his. (the GTO whose speakers blared the Wilco) Small moments. Mason managing to show appreciation for the gift but still the confused passenger. To me the gift said, I love you, I want you to have this piece of me, and all the good things in that piece live in you. Love is an Unsolved mystery, like the place where insecurity and family come together to dance reality into being.


Eyes Wide Shut review

eyes-wide-shut-2-1024

Eyes Wide Shut’ is brilliantly photographed, (there’s a scene in a Manhattan cafe near the end of the movie where the winter windows are fogged over. Perfect.) and Nicole Kidman gives an awesome performance. Plus, the Glen Cove mansion sequence is one of the most memorable party scenes in the history of movies. The flaws in the movie rest with the Bill Harford character. Too often in the film, there’s simply not enough of an explanation for his behavior and decision making. We don’t have enough of a sense that this person existed before the movie began, unlike with the Alice character, who is haunted by something specific in her recent past.

The Bill character feels like a conduit for the themes of the screenplay to be explored. In certain moments, he seems like a lustful adventurer, and you’ll notice Cruise often leaning forward in his chair during those scenes, eyes agleam. In the scene when he convinces his old friend Nick to give him information about the party, Cruise has an expression on his face reminiscent of Jack Nicholson. We can see that character having a spontaneous interaction with a prostitute because he is insecure about his masculinity, (then bringing pastries to the same prostitute in a later scene) we can see that character charging into a depraved mask and ice cream social and then staying despite being warned to leave. We can see that character desperate for information about his possibly missing friend, despite being threatened by forces more powerful than him. In those moments, Harford is reminiscent of the kind of character Nicholson would have been at home playing in 60’s or 70’s noire. Unfortunately, there are scenes which contradict that kind of emotionally spontaneous, dangerously curious, occasionally courageous personality. What about when he has absolutely no reaction to his dead patient’s daughter saying that she loves him? (though he does call her later to hear her voice, then hangs up when the husband answers. Right, but he seemed to have hardly an emotional reaction when she first told him) What about when he pays little mind to the disgusting exploitation happening at the mask shop? How about his interaction with Nick in the first party scene, where he seems perplexed that his old friend didn’t take a more rational approach to life? Wait, so you’re telling me Harford has the guts to go back to the mansion in broad daylight, but then allows the gross Sydney Pollack character to use profanity when referring to Nick, then buys his lies about the beauty queen? His presence in that last scene harkens back to the boring Dr. Bill we meet in the beginning of the movie.

I found myself concluding that the character’s unpredictable behavior could be a metaphor for the unpredictability of people in general, but I think that lets Kubrick off the hook for thinking the themes of the movie were more important than the protagonist feeling like a real person. Despite all that, I think the movie is brilliant. Great film, though the script was not perfect.


End Credits

End Credits

Manny goes to the movies 
Sits by himself in the dark

His friends get loaded 
In the park

Manny watches the credits 
And waits until they ask him to leave

The people on the screen disappeared 
Like his lovers in a dream

Manny wanders outside the theater 
And feels the heavy summer air

He never tells his father he left 
His father doesn’t care

Manny has to return 
To what he left behind

What he abandoned for the theater 
The place where there’s peace in his mind

Why end the movie 
Why end the movie 
Why end the movie 
Why end the movie


Sharing Air

I would like to share with my readers a short film script I little over two years ago that has yet to be shot. Hope someone out there enjoys it, that’s more than it can do sitting in my hard-drive…

 

SHARING AIR

 

A Short Film Written by

 

Matt Waters

 

FADE IN:

 

EXT. PARK — NIGHT

 

A drunk slumps against a peeling green park bench. His name is Drew Jefferson. Drew is alone.

 

Drew is 24 years old. He is scribbling onto the pages of a small black notebook, making quick strokes with a cheap pen, biting on his lower lip. He is a short man, a physically unimposing individual, wearing a leather jacket. Broken autumn leaves collect near his feet.

 

Drew gasps, choking for a moment, before catching his breath and having a laugh. He wears faded grey jeans over an old school pair of red Chuck Taylor sneakers. His short, brown hair hangs downward in a wild clump. Drew is clean-shaven.

 

He scrawls with his pen relentlessly.

 

DREW (mumbling)

A void. Avoid. Avoid a void. Avoidance. Avoid a void using avoidance. A void dance. Dancing in a void. Avoid a void using a void dance. I need to dance. Dance, dance, dance, otherwise…

 

Drew peers around the empty park, which streetlights bathe

in a dark orange tint. He closes the notebook, sighs, bowing violently lurching forward, phlegm dangling from his mouth.

 

DREW (CONT’D)

Who am I kidding? I’ve got no rhythm…

 

Drew closes the notebook, shoving it into his jacket-pocket, from which he produces a flask.

Footsteps, arriving from the far right, catch his attention.

 

FADE TO:

 

INT. CENT ANNI RESTAURANT — NIGHT — FLASHBACK

 

Cent Anni is a quaint Italian eatery, wide booths lined against a wood wall adjacent to a fully equipped bar.

Drew sits in a corner booth across from SHELLEY MICKENS.

 

They are in rapt conversation.

 

Shelly is 30, a very petite blonde wearing loosened business attire. The collar of her white, buttoned-down shirt has been unfastened, and a tiny, black vest is wrapped around the back of her chair.

Drew is dressed as he was in the park, but his hair is neatly combed backward, general disposition far more refined.

 

Both Drew and Shelley are sipping wine. A white, lit candlestick is placed in the center of their table.

 

DREW

Do you like lawyering, at least?

 

SHELLEY

I liked the idea.

 

Drew takes hold of Shelley’s left hand, caresses. She gives him a glance askance. He pulls away, scratching the back of his head.

DREW

Hey… Shelley, I really respect your work. It’s righteous. Someone has to prosecute scum. That’s a noble calling. Should help you sleep at night. Know what I’m saying?

 

Shelley slides her left hand under the table, smile forming.

 

She lowers her eyes at Drew, focusing on him.

 

SHELLEY

That’s exactly what I told myself. Years ago. But ideals can set you up for disappointment… like…

 

DREW

Dreams?

 

SHELLEY

Yeah. What was yours?

 

DREW

I wanted to be a writer. So that’s what I do. Freelancing. Which can be another way of saying something less prestigious…

SHELLEY

Ah. Another disillusioned soul. We should get along great.

 

Drew chortles.

 

DREW

Sure. I wanted to be William Shakespeare. But I don’t have a steady job. Not even close, in fact. Which is hard for me to admit. Because I figure someone beautiful such as you has certain expectations.

 

Shelley shakes her head, finishes her glass.

 

SHELLEY

Well… I haven’t quit yet. I just don’t want to be around cynical washouts. So long you haven’t fallen that far–

 

DREW

Fuck nihilism.

 

Shelley grins. She taps the table with her fist. Other patrons stare.

 

SHELLEY

I’ll drink to that!

 

Drew tugs at his collar, momentarily, before offering his glass for a toast.

 

EXT. PARK — NIGHT

 

Drew is thrown out of his seat, slamming onto the ground.

 

The flask also goes flying.

 

Drew lays prone on his back.

 

He finds himself surrounded by two intimidating teenagers, who loom over him, side by side.

 

GARY JENSEN is 17, white. He wears a black, straight rim hat, sans logo. His face is pimpled and pocked, fishlike eyes reddened.

 

JEFF COVERT is 17, black, wearing a white shirt and shorts. The shirt hangs low. He also sports a stylish pair of glasses, and a nasty cut on his lower lip.

 

GARY

Who the fuck are you, and what the fuck you doing in my park?

 

SMASH CUT:

 

Drew groans. Gary kicks him in the stomach.

 

GARY (CONT’D)

Answer me!

 

 

DREW

Who… what…

 

Gary kicks Drew five times in succession. Jeff peers into the distance, eying the streets.

 

 

JEFF

Let’s be out, punk is crunk. Must be lost. There’s no reason–

 

GARY

Stop being a pussy!

 

Gary pulls Drew up by the collar of his jacket. Drew can barely stand, totally wasted, beaten down.

 

JEFF

This is foul, G. We should let him go.

 

Gary shoves Drew toward Jeff. Drew latches on to Jeff, nearly collapsing, grabbing hold of his shirt for support.

 

Drew looks into Jeff’s eyes.

 

DREW

Can you just help me? Just help me. I’m lost, man.

 

JEFF

How am I supposed to do that? I don’t understand…

 

DREW

Please understand… I just want to go home…

 

Gary tears Drew off Jeff, sending the former sprawling once more onto the concrete.

 

SMASH CUT:

 

INT. CENT ANNI RESTAURANT — NIGHT — FLASHBACK

 

The couple’s table is littered with empty glasses, remnants of red liquid dotted inside. Drew is slightly hunched over, right fingertip pressed on his chin.

 

Shelley wipes her mouth with a napkin, gaze trained on Drew, eyebrows arched. The place is way less crowded, thinned out.

Shelley rocks backward in her chair. She is smoking a cigarette.

 

Drew takes a deep breath, scanning the place.

 

DREW

What do you think of all this?

 

SHELLEY

What?

 

DREW

Where we are.

 

SHELLEY

The service was a little slow. But other than that, it’s a pretty charming place.

 

DREW

No, you misunderstand me.

 

SHELLEY

Oh. Thought you just struggled changing subjects.

 

DREW

Maybe I should have.

 

SHELLEY

Hey, you looking for a philosophical discourse? I’m game.

 

DREW

I don’t doubt it. Just may be a little heavy for a first date, no?

 

Shelley takes a long drag from her cigarette.

 

SHELLEY

You want my take on everything?

 

DREW

Everything. The moon, the stars, the sun, the shit. Lay it on me.

 

SHELLEY

It all happens for a reason.

 

Drew flips a spoon in the air. It drops onto the table with a clank.

 

DREW

Oh… never mind… you’re one of those…

 

Shelley frowns.

 

SHELLEY

Is that condescension I hear?

 

DREW

Don’t take it personally. You seemed more… enlightened.

 

 

SHELLEY

Excuse me? What happened to the ‘fuck nihilism’ guy? He was here just a half-hour ago.

 

 

DREW

Not a nihilist. A realist.

 

SHELLEY

Oh, nice, I see what you did there… that rhymes. Real cute. Catch any good movies lately?

 

DREW

Too late to stop now… A rock floats

in a space nobody understands. Nothing is revealed. The trip eventually ends. Curtains close.

 

Shelley’s eyes dart toward all the empty wine glasses.

 

 

SHELLEY

Maybe we should have cut off. With the wine…

 

DREW

Hey, what kind of lawyer are you? Where’s a rebuttal?

 

SHELLEY

Are you satisfied with a faith free existence?

 

DREW

I’m an evidence oriented individual.

 

SHELLEY

I feel sorry for you.

 

Drew laughs, eyes intense.

 

DREW

People like you naturally assume everything fits into a grand predetermined plan. Because your life must have made some kind sense. You press that belief on other people who weren’t so blessed. Blessed with what? Faith? Try luck, sweetheart.

 

SHELLEY

I press my beliefs on other people?

Who started this conversation? I think people like you hate looking in mirrors.

 

Silence. Shelley ashes her cigarette.

 

 

DREW

Wow. I’m sorry. I’m drunk. That got

out of hand.

 

SHELLEY

Don’t apologize Drew. I’m not a

frail flower. Is that how you’d prefer seeing me? Cute little clueless catholic…

 

DREW

Oh, you’re catholic? So am I… well… was…

 

SHELLEY

It’s been nice meeting you.

 

Shelley begins to stand. Drew takes hold of her hand, once more.

 

DREW

Look, I do think good things can happen. But my life…

 

SHELLEY

What?

 

DREW

I don’t mean to keep you.

 

 

Drew takes out his his wallet, removing a business card, handing it to Shelley.

 

DREW (CONT’D)

Nice meeting you, too.

 

Shelley turns and departs.

 

DREW

Well done, Drew, you fucking idiot.

 

Drew turns around in his chair, seeing if he can catch one more glance of Shelley. He does not. He tips an empty wine glass toward the exit.

 

DREW (CONT’D)

Strong convictions.

 

EXT. PARK — NIGHT

 

SMASH CUT:

 

With Jeff watching a few feet away, Gary shatters a bottle of malt liquor over Drew’s head.

 

Drew is knocked flat unconscious, a puddle of blood forming under his head.

 

GARY

Time to snatch.

 

EXT. LITTLE LEAGUE FIELD — DAY

 

FADE TO:

 

Drew stands at home plate, decked out in a fine business suit, hair combed neatly, not bleeding, not a scratch on him.

 

He looks around, confused, but seems at ease, struck by a sense of wonder.

 

This is a small diamond, the fence a mere two hundred feet from home plate, naked wooden pines towering beyond the playing field. Wooden bleachers are visible behind both dugouts.

 

The sunlight is strong, surroundings dripping in a dreamlike hue.

 

DREW

How did I get here…

 

Drew glances toward center field, where a figure approaches, image washed within the park’s otherworldly luminosity. As the figure draws nearer, his features become clearer. It’s a man, also in a perfectly tailored suit. He has jet-black hair, slicked and shiny. A blue hankie is visible in his left breast pocket. His eyes are sleepy, a glazed, peaceful expression on his face. This is JOSEPH JEFFERSON. He is 28 years of age, and smiles broadly upon seeing his befuddled brother.

 

Joseph halts in front of Drew, who is nonplussed.

 

JOSEPH

You don’t recognize me?

 

DREW

Joey… But you’re grown-up…

 

JOSEPH

Let’s talk, bro. I see you’ve wandered off the trail. Just a bit.

 

DREW

It’s not possible. You’re… you know.

 

JOSEPH

Dead? Only technically, Drew.

 

Drew hugs Joseph, still in disbelief. They separate.

 

DREW

Only technically? What the fuck is that supposed to mean?

 

EXT. BASEBALL FIELD, BLEACHERS — DAY

 

Drew and Joseph sit side by side, halfway up the bleacher set. The sky above is cloudless and clean, unpolluted blue.

 

DREW

Why here?

 

JOSEPH

I wanted to remind you of a time when you weren’t so closed to possibilities. Dreams came true here, for both of us.

 

DREW

Didn’t last.

 

JOSEPH

In the moment. Remember when we

wrote our names in that wet cement on Atlantic Avenue? I was ten… you were so small… the marks are faded, but still there. I think you’ve forgotten what really does last.

 

DREW

It’s not fair what happened to you.

Everything feels like some kind of accident. Universe doesn’t give a flat fuck about what’s positive and negative to some life-forms on a little blue planet.

 

Joseph gives Drew a pat on the shoulder.

 

JOSEPH

Ever consider how I felt? You try living with that kind of death. I had such high hopes for us. But you are still doing special things. Which you give yourself absolutely no credit for.

 

DREW

Such as?

 

JOSEPH

Your poetry, for one.

 

Drew recoils.

 

DREW

Who knew death bought out such optimism in a person? You used to rip pages of poems out of that

notebook Uncle Bill gave Christmas. Used them for toilet paper.

 

Joseph grimaces.

 

JOSEPH

Regrets, I have a few…

 

Drew smiles. Joseph holds out his hand.

 

DREW

We going to teleport?

 

JOSEPH

No.

 

DREW

Too bad. That would have been killer.

 

EXT. BASEBALL FIELD, CENTER FIELD — DAY

 

Joseph and Drew stroll together through the grassland.

 

DREW

You know, I have trouble even seeing your face anymore. Without a picture. And that sickens me. But what I really can’t accept is the constant memory of that feeling…

 

JOSEPH

Tell me…

 

DREW

When you got hit by that car…

 

Drew stops walking. Joseph does as well.

 

DREW (CONT’D)

I panicked, running around, screaming for help. And something about that emotion always… mocked me. Because I realized, you know.

 

JOSEPH

Realized what?

 

DREW

I felt like an animal. A scared animal. And I hear these people talk about angels and saints and destiny and divinity, thinking they know something that I don’t. Makes me laugh. The real truth is that I know something that they don’t. Seeing you dying in that street… I would have given the world to save you. And you’re just this beat- up piece of flesh and I’m helpless. That was my revelation. Nothingness. I remember gasping for air, at the hospital. After I found out you were gone. I’ve seen so many days and nights, since then. But I never caught my breath.

 

Joseph puts his right hand on Drew’s shoulder.

 

JOSEPH

Something I learned about this feeling called fear. Really, it’s just the restriction of options. A strong emotion. So we assume it reveals something about our base. But that day didn’t define my life. And it doesn’t define yours. You’ve taken in your share of air, since I went away. And that’s a gift, never a guarantee. Every breath is priceless. Like a winning lottery ticket, understand?

 

DREW

How would you feel? To live every moment of life feeling like you were closer to death than everyone around you? Like they’re all living oblivious to some truth staring you in the face? I’m alone.

 

JOSEPH

No. You’re forgetting your options.

 

DREW

Bullshit, man, bullshit! You’re forgetting how hard this is! You say that like some asshole behind the desk at a pharmacy!

 

Joseph explodes with laughter.

 

JOSEPH

Yeah! I love it! I just want you to remember, Drew.

 

DREW

What?

 

JOSEPH

Who you are.

 

Joseph grabs Drew by the arm.

 

JOSEPH (CONT’D)

It’s time to resume.

 

DREW

Wait, what was the point of this?

 

JOSEPH

You’re asking questions again. But the listening part, you still need a lot of work on. Here’s the game. The only way you’ll ever remember this conversation is by listening very closely to your heart. Create connections with people. Write your names on the wind.

 

Drew steps away.

 

DREW

Nice. You read that on a postcard, bro?

 

JOSEPH

Fuck you, little man.

 

Joseph hugs Drew, whispering something in his ear.

 

FADE TO:

 

 

EXT. CENTRAL PARK — DAY

 

Drew sits on a bench, wearing a cream colored fleece, writing in a little black notebook, a varied cluster of New Yorkers passing by, roller bladers and runners, businessmen checking the time.

 

He has company, a hipster named BRAD. Brad, 23, is seated beside Drew, wearing baggy sweatpants and a long sleeved Bob Marley shirt. Brad has a black, bushy perm and scraggly facial hair.

 

BRAD

Real warm for November, don’t you think?

 

DREW

Let me ask you a question, Brad.

 

BRAD

Shoot.

 

Drew stops writing.

 

DREW

You ever wake up completely sure of something, but you didn’t know what? Like knowing the answer to a question you forgot?

 

Brad thinks.

 

DREW

It happened to me. Once. After that date with Shelley.

 

BRAD

Ah, yes, Shelley. The Brooklyn lawyer. Thought you two would really hit it off.

 

DREW

This realization… it was after I woke up. From getting beat down. Maybe I was just happy to be alive. Lucky.

 

BRAD

That was the same night? Never put it together.

 

DREW

Stunning from a storyteller of your caliber.

 

BRAD

Hey man, you really need to stop insulting me. Writing partners should respect each other, real talk.

 

DREW

I got to run. Let’s finish the comedy later tonight. Even though something feels off about it.

 

BRAD

We must need to tone down the subtlety.

 

Drew shakes his head, amused, before standing and beginning to walk away. Brad calls out to him. Drew does a 180.

 

BRAD (CONT’D)

This whole epiphany deal… maybe your date had something to do with it? Shelley’s a rare one. A real lottery ticket.

 

Drew rocks slightly backward, as if tapped by an invisible force.

 

DREW

Maybe.

 

Drew spins around, resumes walking.

 

BRAD

Where you going, anyway?

 

DREW

There’s something I wanted to do today! Back home!

 

EXT. ATLANTIC AVENUE — DAY

 

Drew walks down a crowded street featuring a front of restaurants, many specializing in Middle Eastern delicacies.

 

His eyes are lowered toward the sidewalk, as he accidently bumps into pedestrians. Finally, after a few more paces, he finds what he is searching for, crouching down for a closer look, smiling widely at the cement.

 

DREW

Unbelievable… you can still see the names…

 

Drew is distracted from reverie by a pair of high heels, stopped directly in his line of sight. He stares up and can hardly hide his surprise upon seeing Shelley, who is equally incredulous at his presence.

 

She is wearing her work clothes, grey business vest and slacks.

 

SHELLEY

Drew? What are you doing in Brooklyn?

 

Drew takes a moment to collect himself, rising upright.

 

DREW

This is my home.

 

SHELLEY

I thought you lived in the village?

 

DREW

Right. Sorry. This was my home. When I was growing up.

 

SHELLEY

Oh.

 

DREW

You on lunch break, or something?

 

SHELLEY

No. I was feeling stressed. Took a walk.

 

DREW

Some kind of coincidence. You never called, Shelley. Guess I can’t blame you.

 

Shelley looks away.

 

SHELLEY

I heard about what happened to you. I felt responsible. Because we were having a great time and I cut it short. Then you almost get killed. We were drunk, shooting our mouths off… it’d been so good up until then.

 

DREW

I was. Drunk. And shooting my mouth off. It wasn’t your fault. None of it.  So… any plans at the moment?

 

 

 

INT. SHELLEY’S APARTMENT — DAY

 

Shelley’s place is modestly sized, but lavishly decorated, walls covered with abstract artwork. No television is present, a packed book-shelf propped across the leather living room couch.

 

Shelley is sitting on the couch, Drew walking around, checking out the paintings, particularly captivated by one comprised of scribbles.

 

DREW

Who did this?

 

SHELLEY

It’s an imitation Gorky.

 

DREW

Imitation Gorky? Sounds like a good punk band.

 

 

SHELLEY

What brought it out of you?

 

DREW

I don’t get–

 

SHELLEY

The anger. That night.

 

DREW

It wasn’t me.

 

SHELLEY

Didn’t think so. But how often does the other guy visit?

 

Drew shakes his head.

 

DREW

Maybe we should drop it. Move on.

 

SHELLEY

My dad was a cop who got killed on the job. That’s why I became a prosecutor. Not because my life always made sense. Because it never seemed to, not after that. Reason is something I look for everyday. I pray because I have to pray. I never met someone living who had an answer that made sense.

 

DREW

I lost my big brother. He was hit by a car. We were just kids.

 

SHELLEY

I’m sorry.

 

DREW

I’m sorry too. About your dad. About saying your life made sense.

 

SHELLEY

It’s OK, Drew. Just breathe with me a second.

 

They each take a breath, staring at each other. Drew races over to Shelley, and they kiss, falling backward on the couch, holding on to each other.

 

INT. SHELLEY’S APARTMENT — NIGHT

 

Drew and Shelley are nestled together, under a white blanket, on the couch. Shelley has her head on Drew’s shoulder, neither clothed.

 

 

DREW

While we were walking here, I noticed a stationary store. Across the street from your apartment.

 

Shelley bursts out laughing.

 

SHELLEY

So? What are you talking about?

 

DREW

Listen. Are they still open?

 

SHELLEY

Why?

 

DREW

It’s not midnight, yet. And I’m feeling lucky. I’m going to put my pants on and play lotto.

 

SHELLEY

God. You are out there, Drew.

 

DREW

I’m feeling the universe. In the flow. For real. Going by instinct.

 

SHELLEY

Yes, the place is open. Pick me up some candy. Any kind, I don’t care.

 

DREW

Sure. It’ll go good with our fortune.

 

 

SHELLEY

Oh, so it’s ours? In that case, what are you still doing here? Get moving!

 

DREW

Right away.

 

They kiss.

 

INT. STATIONARY STORE — NIGHT

 

Drew walks into the modest abode in high spirits, unable to conceal a grin, miniature bell above the glass entrance signaling his arrival. The store is lit with fluorescent lights, hung from the ceiling and humming. The white floor tile is sullied near the entrance, by dirty shoe prints. The aisles are closely packed together. Drew surveys the scene, quickly whirling toward the checkout counter, which is stocked with candy and decorated with lottery advertisements. He immediately looks down, toward the candy shelved on tiny racks.

 

The cashier has his back turned, adjusting a neon sign near the front window.

 

DREW

Hey buddy, how’s it going tonight?

 

Drew picks out some taffy for Shelley, placing it on the counter near the register, next to a fishbowl filled with bubble gum.

 

DREW (CONT’D)

Listen, I feel like buying a Lotto ticket. But I want to pick my own numbers, you know, none of this randomness shit, if you’ll excuse my–

 

The cashier turns around, returning to his post near the register. It is Jeff. He is wearing a nondescript work outfit, shirt covered by a green apron.

The two notice each other simultaneously.

 

JEFF

Oh–

 

DREW

You. You and your friend–

 

JEFF

Wait–

 

DREW

I don’t remember everything. But your face…

 

 

JEFF

I was trying to help. It got out of hand. You have to–

 

Drew swipes aside the fish bowl, sending gum flying all over. He grabs Jeff by the collar.

 

DREW

Who did you think I was, huh? Some fucking yuppie you could just leave bleeding in the street? You know where I grew up, you piece of shit?

 

JEFF

Stop! Please!

 

DREW

Why did you do it, man? Why did you do it?

 

JEFF

I didn’t do anything!

 

Jeff pushes Drew backward, with a forceful shove.

 

JEFF (CONT’D)

I mean… I really didn’t do anything. I watched him hurt you. And I should have stopped it. But I didn’t. Because…

 

Drew breathes heavy, a little hunched over, spent after all his yelling. He stands up straight.

 

DREW

You were scared?

 

Jeff swallows hard.

 

DREW (CONT’D)

I was scared too.

 

JEFF

I don’t know what I was thinking.

Fuck, I don’t even know what I’ve been doing. I don’t know the people I’ve been hanging with. I don’t know anything anymore.

 

DREW

You must be forgetting.

 

JEFF

Forgetting?

 

DREW

You have a choice.

 

JEFF

I swear to God, man. I didn’t lay a hand on you. But do what you’re going to do.

 

Drew approaches the counter, reaching into his fleece pocket. He slams down two dollars.

 

DREW

I’m paying.

 

Jeff rings up the purchase. He holds out Drew’s change.

 

JEFF

I think about it, everyday. That night. I can’t take it back. I can only ask for forgiveness.

 

Drew grabs Jeff by the hand, leans in closer.

 

DREW

You didn’t have to ask.

 

Jeff is stunned. Drew moves Jeff’s arm, up and down. They are shaking hands.

 

DREW (CONT’D)

My name is Drew.

 

JEFF

I’m Jeff.

 

DREW

Yeah? Remember that. Keep the ticket.

 

Drew turns abruptly, separating from Jeff, exiting the store without looking back, bell clanging behind him.

 

FADE TO BLACK.

 

[Roll credits. Song: The Waterboys — Universal Hall]


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