Sunday, April 18, 2004

On Personal Traumas and Movie Therapy

By Susan Thea Posnock

I can honestly say that dodge ball scarred me for life. Well, at least for adolescence. I'm not kidding. Whoever thought a game that teaches sadistic bully kids how to effectively humiliate their "weaker" peers would be appropriate for school kids? Obviously, sadistic bullies invented the game.

I mention my obsession with its evilness because I'm giddy with anticipation over the upcoming Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. That's right, time for payback as the heroes of the story, led by Vince Vaughn, go
up against exercise and dodge ball tyrants in the guise of mullet-wearing Ben Stiller and his team of muscle-heads. Here's hoping the best joke isn't the hair. Yes, I know there are little films like Troy, Spider-Man 2 and Harry Potter 3 coming soon, but right now I'm pumped for D-Ball.

I admit the trailer looks really dumb, and this probably won't be attracting any Oscar attention, but films like this (if they're actually done well and not just one-joke wonders) often one-up the escapism factor: they add a sense of personal vindication or satisfaction. In this case its "I guess I wasn't the only kid who freaking hated that stupid game." And, I'll cheer the opportunity to see its stupidity glorified in a movie.

Just hope it doesn't cause flashbacks to painful memories.

Speaking of painful memories, the best movie so far this year (please don't let its early arrival impact Oscar chances) is all about erasing them. While I'm not ready to dedicate a regular Oscar column to it, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a lot more than a movie that happens to include my beloved Frodo. Jim Carrey is my first official "can't miss" in terms of getting an Oscar nomination. He's been ignored for good work before, but this time the man lets us into his mind, (so to
speak). It's a beautiful thing. While there is certainly the aspect of the Charlie Kaufman "zany premise," I can't recall any recent film that has taken such a poetic look at love and relationships. It isn't the trite "love conquers all" theme either, but looks more at how we choose love, even when we know it will end in pain. I guess that sounds kind of depressing, but for some reason it makes me hopeful.

While it may be in the form of a comedy, Eternal Sunshine is also a riff on the importance of memory in our lives. I've certainly had love affairs I'd like to erase-if only to forget how stupid I was to fall for said jerk. But, the only way we can actually learn anything is by our experiences. And it doesn't hurt to remember how much we've loved people, even if our feelings change dramatically over time. I think ultimately the film makes the case
for remembering-the good, the bad, and the ugly, then lets the characters decide. Definitely a great twist in the oft-banal Romantic Comedy genre.

*This post originally appeared on OscarWatch.