Sunday, January 20, 2008

epics and disasters

And so ends the epic internet drought of 2008. Yes, I faced seven whole days without internet at my home, seven long dreary days with nary a visit. It is a sad, sad reality, but without internet my world sort of sputters. I would like to be a journalist so this is a little embarrassing to admit, but I rely on the internet for my news. In my defense I do try and click on the link that shows the exact print version of the New York Times, but I also like to be able to check at 5pm and see different stories than were there in the morning. Plus I don't like getting my hands all inky before I've even had my morning coffee. I'm sorry. I am an internet junkie. Without working wireless, I stare blankly out my window in the mornings, a sweater in one hand and a tank top in the other, wondering, guessing, what the temperature is since I can't check (never mind that I could go out on my side porch two feet from my room). I find myself calling old friends I haven't spoken to in years, asking them what their "status" is. Basically I stop functioning and am forced to spend hours reading or organizing my sock drawer instead of perusing youtube or So me and my roommates decided that instead of waiting for our downstairs neighbor's internet to miraculously start working again (he knew we were stealing it by the way, he even encouraged it), we should probably call Comcast and set up our own connection. So voila. I'm back. Much has happened in the last week and a half, including the beginning of classes, a Barack Obama rally, a new kitten in the house, etc. but I'll just touch on a couple of things for now.
So it's right in the thick of the Australian Open right now, and the first few days were kind of eh. Lot's of one sided matches and unsurprising results. But good Lord almighty, the last 24 hours have been un-freaking-believable. I stayed up until 5:30am last night watching Roger Federer get taken to five sets by Janko Tipsarevic, an unseeded, Serbian who had never even gotten to the third round of the Australian Open before. The match lasted four and a half hours, went to two tie breaks and ended at 10-8 in the fifth set. Which in and of itself makes for a classic. But this was Roger Federer, probably the greatest tennis player of all time, a legend, someone who in the last couple of years has only had trouble at one grand slam event of the year (and that's the French against Rafa). This is the Roger Federer who has been number 1 in the world for 210 some consecutive weeks, the Roger Federer who has rarely been pushed to tie-breaks in his grand slam matches, never mind fifth sets. And he wasn't being challenged by Rafa Nadal or Novak Djokovic, not even Andy Roddick. He was being pushed to his limits by some guy a lot of people had never even heard of, a 23 year old Serbian, long overshadowed by the three other top Serbian players, a Dostoevsky reading, dorky sports glasses wearing kid. And what was incredible, what made it such an epic match, is that Tipsarevic wasn't just hanging on or having a lucky night. This guy had the audacity and courage and heart to believe for every point of this match that he not only could win, but that he would win. Roger Federer's dominion over the last few years has been great in a lot of ways for tennis, but it has also resulted in a lot of lackluster matches, because not even some of the best players play him with any kind of conviction. And it's hard to blame them. Because they're not really playing a man or an athlete, but a walking, living legend. He's become bigger than the sport. So what a shock and surprise it was, for Tipsarevic of all people to walk out onto Rod Laver arena without a sliver of self doubt. From the first point of the match he played to win. Even when he was down break points or being blasted away by Federer's serve, he never for a moment looked like a guy in awe of Roger Federer the great. He looked like a guy who didn't care about history or record books, a guy who went out onto that court simply to play his game. Tipsarevic never had a chance at match point, and I'm sure for him it sucked to lose after playing so beautifully for so long. But for me as a fan it was an unbelievable match to witness. I think the Australian Open really separates true tennis fans from just fair weather ones, because the time difference means matches starting past 3am here and lasting well into the morning. I was exhausted before the Federer/Tipsarevic match even started, but once it got going I couldn't take my eyes off of it. And I didn't even think about turning off the television until past 5am when it ended. It was one of those matches that tennis fans live for, dramatic and tense and thrilling. Call me sentimental, call me obsessed, but watching these two athletes out on the court after more than four hours, pushing themselves beyond physical and mental limits, somehow managing to bring out their best shots at the very end, well it was nothing short of transcendent. And that's not even going into the Hewitt/Bahgdatis match that also went to a fifth, or James Blake coming back from two sets down for the first time in his career, or so many other amazing matches that have happened in the last couple of days Down Under. So don't take my word for it. Watch it yourself :)
So I finally saw Cloverfield today. I don't know why but I have been dying to see this movie since I first saw the preview. And I hate scary movies, like really hate them. I physically cannot keep my eyes open during any scene where there is the possibility of something scary jumping out. So scary movies which basically consist of only scenes like this are really pointless for me to go to normally. Plus I have way too big of an imagination to see scary movies regularly. Normal people can go see, oh I don't know, Freddie vs. Jason and be like "oh that was silly and stupid, so what do you want to do for dinner?" But I see such a movie and find myself checking under my bed at night and sleeping with a light on for a week. Yet I wanted to see Cloverfield. And I think it's because in some ways I'm a disaster movie junkie. I have seen Deep Impact far too many times to name (although the majority of those times were on tv). I watch movies about tornadoes (again really stupid on my part since I am terrified of tornadoes in real life). I guiltily love Dante's Peak and Armageddon. And I don't think I'm alone. These (usually) awful movies do so consistently well for a reason. Watching Cloverfield, it's impossible not to think about real life events. Early on in the movie a famous NYC building collapses and the street clogs with smoke and debris. People hide in stores until it passes and then come out to see other people milling around, dazed and coated in white ash. I can't imagine how this wasn't intentional on the filmmakers part (Side note: This is the only thing that annoyed me about an otherwise silly, harmless monster movie. There's a difference between respectfully referencing a tragedy and exploiting people's memory of one. I think this scene was exploitation in its most glaring light. I don't understand how more than six years later, the entertainment industry is so often clueless about how to deal with one of the most important events of our time. It's either the towers being digitally erased from the skyline in a pitiful effort at tact that ends up simply being insulting. Or it's this heavy handed imagery, like in the Transformers movie when a plane flies directly into an office building and paper and people go everywhere, or the aforementioned Cloverfield scene. Entertainment is not real life and I don't believe in obsessive political correctness, nor do I believe in pretending that 9/11 never happened when it comes to entertainment. But I also don't believe that it's okay to use this tragedy as a place holder for authentic movie emotion. A monster attacking a city or a robot attacking a city should do what movies are supposed to do, affect the audience because we care about the characters, dazzle us with its cinemetography. It shouldn't rely on real life tragedy to manipulate us into feeling a certain way. It's easy and it's cheap and it's offensive. Stepping down now from my soap box). Otherwise Cloverfield was fun, and very true to the whole disaster movie formula, lots of destruction. Speaking of the whole real life vs. entertainment conundrum, I think that disaster movies are so popular because there's something at once cathartic and reassuring about them. Disaster movies show us are worst nightmares, cities destroyed, death and destruction. All of these terrifying things that are sometimes in the back of even the most optimistic minded person's mind are thrust onto a screen, plain for all to see. That's the catharsis. But the reassuring part is the sheer inauthenticity of the medium. It's plastic and fake. The projector can be turned off. The upside down world of a disaster movie, with all of it's scary echoes and reflections of real life, is always, in the end, only a work of imagination. Maybe it's reading too much into it, (as I often do), but people do go to see disaster movies for the thrill of seeing the world fall apart, but I think more than that they go for the moment when the lights go up, and the world is back together again.
So it's late, and despite the fact that I have much more to discuss, I'll have to postpone it for another time. As for me it's around 2am, so it looks like another beautiful day of tennis :)

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