The Bill Paxton Effect

Despite our presumed differences, it’s safe to say that we’re all looking for that elusive “something” that makes us feel complete. Our specific pursuits are irrelevant when we stop to consider that, deep down, we’re all desperate to find meaning in a world that seems devoid of logic, especially now.

Film and television are notorious for bringing such feelings to light, for it’s in the eyes of the actors that we can see ourselves. Bill Paxton’s body of work—his characters, in particular—personifies our innate desire to seek what’s just out of reach. But if there’s one thing we can learn from what the beloved actor and director left behind, it’s that what we want and what we need don’t always align.

Source: CraveOnline

Source: CraveOnline

Paxton’s roles often looked to the outside world for direction. His unhinged persona in Frailty believed he was destined to rid the world of demons, for instance, while his adventurous alter ego in Twister unearthed renewed purpose when chasing tornadoes. But it was his turn as Brock Lovett in 1997’s Titanic that demonstrated how tunnel vision might distract us from the critical lessons of life.

“Three years, I’ve thought of nothing except Titanic, but I never got it. I never let it in.”

Spoken by Paxton’s Lovett at the end of the film, these words emphasize the character’s epiphany. While he’d spent years searching for the Heart of the Ocean, a rare diamond once worn by the now aging Rose Calvert, he neglected to explore the rich history buried deep within the ship’s wreckage. Lovett longed to find artifacts, forgetting that each item pulled from the ocean floor carried the stories of those lost and found. As he said, he never let the immensity of the disaster sink in, so to speak.

Source: CinemaBlend

Source: CinemaBlend

But isn’t that how most of us go about our daily lives? We are selfish. We rarely stop to observe what’s all around. We are oblivious to both the beauty and the injustice right before our eyes.

Though we live in an increasingly enlightened time—an era filled with activists who wish to fix the faults of our ailing society—many people opt to look the other way. Face forward and eyes down, they trudge through life with little regard for those who are suffering. If they stop to acknowledge these issues, they run the risk of derailing their own efforts. One step off the beaten path could mark the beginning of the end for their personal success.

Nowadays, we call that privilege. Historically, we call that ignorance.

But now, more than ever, we need to open our eyes and our ears. We must extend our hand and heart to our neighbor, both near and far. Local communities may be close-knit, but we’re all global citizens now. We owe to our people and our planet to seek solutions to the problems that affect everyone worldwide. We must spread the stories and amplify the voices of those in need to educate the selfish and encourage the selfless.

Source: YouTube

Source: YouTube

During an interview with “Film School Rejects” in 2014, Paxton expressed his boundless fascination with human-interest stories. “My father always read obituaries to me out loud, not because he was maudlin or morbid, but because they were mini biographies. ‘Listen to what this guy did! Look what he said. Look how he started out.’”

Human-interest stories, those that truly touch our hearts and inspire change, are born from an interest in humans from all walks of life. But to learn the lessons our friends and strangers have to teach, we must commit to walking with them, hand-in-hand, even if only for a short while.

Fans will surely quote Paxton for generations: “Game over, man!” For those blessed with life, however, the game has only just begun.

But we’ve got to be in it to win it.

Let’s allow Paxton, the director, to call the next shot. Let’s show more interest in our fellow humans, for it’s in every human’s best interest to cultivate an overarching culture of curiosity and compassion. From this core value, we can achieve anything as long as we do so together.

Source: SunStar

Source: SunStar

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Knock It Off, Nostalgia!

iStock_000002879254_SmallIf George Santayana was correct, and those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, then those who become consumed by nostalgia are doomed to dwell in another era. Pop culture buffs, in particular, have created this trap from which the entertainment industry cannot escape.

Nostalgia has become the primary impetus behind creativity throughout Hollywood, according to recent memory, driving numerous endeavors to “reboot” or “remake” the movies and TV shows of yesteryear. Yet, while this wave of inspiration—or lack thereof—appears to be motivated by an unyielding yearning for days gone by, one may also perceive this trend as an attempt to capitalize on prior successes. (Who am I kidding? That’s exactly what they’re doing…)

Most studios and investors prefer to sink money into ideas that are essentially past their expiration date simply because these once profitable entities still remain vivid within our collective consciousness. But these lackluster attempts to restore characters and concepts to their former glory could very well be the key to their imminent demise. You see, it’s their memory that holds the appeal. TV shows, such as Full House, and films, such as Poltergeist, remain popular in their original form because they carry an innate timelessness that cannot be replicated. Despite the1980s vibe, each exists outside the confines of the given decade, allowing generation after generation to enjoy what attracted audiences in the first place.

Of course, remakes and reboots are by no means new to the industry. Hollywood’s history is chock full of unnecessary spinoffs and sequels. (Please see Three’s A Crowd, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), and every installment of the Leprechaun series for reference.) But today, it’s as if nearly all major films and franchises are born from what already exists. It’s as if there’s simply no room for unique thought and creativity in today’s entertainment space. Just check out this list of upcoming movies as assembled by Grantland:harris-sequels-2

Also, if you can’t get the original cast to sign on, that clearly means you shouldn’t pursue the idea any further. The Prince and Me and its subsequent straight-to-DVD iterations, for instance, defy industry expectations, ultimately representing all that’s wrong with the entertainment world today. Not only was the initial film rather lackluster and poorly received, overall, but also its three follow-ups—which I can happily say I’ve never seen—steadily deteriorated, as the creators grasped onto farfetched concepts despite the exit of their primary star, Julia Stiles. (I wish I could tell you that 2010’s The Prince and Me 4: The Elephant Adventure was something I just made up myself, but alas, even I was unaware that this atrocity existed.) Who decided to spend money on these $5 bargain bin liners instead of investing in something worthwhile? Even something risky would’ve been more profitable, I’m sure.

Our society desperately needs to open the pathways for innovation and invention. Yet, instead of rewarding unique concepts, we get too-soon remakes, like She’s All That (which came out in 1999, mind you) and Girl Meets World, the more modern, slightly urbanized version of its original incarnation, Boy Meets World. If Hollywood continues down this road, we will be forced to indulge the same ideas over and over, leaving no room for new forms of nostalgia to blossom. Our children will only have our stale, used memories to revel in themselves. Let’s nurture future creatives by allowing the new to become old again.

Take 5: 2010’s Most Overrated Films

Last year, Paranormal Activity had audiences all across the nation screaming in terror.  Having always been a sucker for the horror genre, I believed the hype and committed to an hour and a half of laughable scenes that made me roll my eyes at the current state of our society.  (They obviously have a very thin skin, those poor saps.)  Ever since, my trust in public opinion and the five-star rating system has wavered tremendously.

Now, as my filmmaker boyfriend builds me into a burgeoning movie buff, I have come to see the things that constitute true cinema, as opposed to those that only qualify as spectacle.  And as 2010 comes to an end, my opinions decided to hop on the countdown list bandwagon.  The films listed below, though all enjoyable in their own right, garnered an abundant amount of praise.  Such intense over adulation can only lead to inevitable disappointment, hence why I’ve come to consider these blockbusters to be a tad overrated, for everything that’s overhyped creates the potential for letdown.

**Spoiler Alert: The following blurbs may contain information regarding key plot points. If you haven’t seen a given film, skip that one and go on to the next!**

5. Inception – With amazing effects and shifting architecture, Inception’s greatest optical illusion may still be Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s striking resemblance to the late Heath Ledger.  Upon second viewing (or mere contemplation), viewers will begin to notice numerous plot holes that cannot be filled. However, the fast-paced progression and confusing nature forces the audience to ignore the things they cannot readily answer, pushing forward so they do not lose their place.  And though the film proves to be entertaining and thought provoking, I simply hope this speedy style of storytelling doesn’t become Hollywood’s new way of glossing over less than perfect writing.  However, leaving the ending entirely ambiguous was the only way to proceed, for a concrete finale could have very well killed the magic of the film overall.

4. Black Swan – Once again, we find ourselves faced with incomprehensible confusion, culminating in what must be Natalie Portman’s most demanding, provocative role of her career thus far.  However, her Oscar-worthy performance still cannot overshadow the overly sexual, “in your face” atmosphere that pervaded the entire film.

Black Swan depends on the visceral imagery and perplexing plot line to distract audience members from the fact that one cannot and will not ever figure out which moments were real and which took place solely in Nina’s (Portman) mind.  The only scary thing about this film (other than Portman’s toes) is how moviegoers everywhere are afraid to speak their mind.  I have yet to find one person who adamantly hates this film, finding only those who claim this movie has “blown their mind” and that “you must see it for yourself.”  Unfortunately, Black Swan has blown most minds to bits, casting dissenting opinion to the shadows for fear of looking dumb due to confusion.

3. Despicable Me – Everyone keeps boasting about the endearing super villains, adorable children and silly aliens, claiming this to be one of the greatest children’s movies of all time.  Not just the year – all time.  Unfortunately, Steve Carell’s voice infuses his stale comedic style into an already bland atmosphere that makes this computer-animated film less appealing than most.  Why the exhausted concept of a reformed bad guy has won the hearts of so many still baffles me, especially when there was no shortage of animated pictures this year.  (Insert unyielding praise for How to Train Your Dragon here.)

2. Toy Story 3 – While families flocked to theaters across the country (with children who weren’t even alive for the first two installments), we 20-somethings headed to the movies floating on a cloud of nostalgia.  However, I grew wary of this film’s actual intent when Andy’s mom insisted on wiping his room clean and erasing him from the house when he was only going away to college.  (He’s got to come home for break eventually, and if he’s like those of us who grew up along with him, he may just be moving back in after graduation, too.)  Yet people have spent the last six months praising a film that rubs our faces in how much it stinks to be an adult.  What’s next, Pixar – Up 2: Carl Kicks the Bucket?

1. Shutter Island – Leonardo DiCaprio stars as a man haunted by the memory of his dead wife in this stunning, visual thriller.  Wait, that sounds familiar… Thankfully, DiCaprio makes a delightful deranged widower.   Unfortunately, the wonderful imagery cannot quite cover up the ridiculously predictable plot.  Having heard the end brought about a “shocking twist,” my mom, sister and I made the trek to the theater in search of a good ol’ surprise (and Mark Ruffalo).  Unfortunately, it seems that the majority of moviegoers have never seen a movie, nor had a thought of their own, in their entire lives, for anyone could have seen that DiCaprio was the very psychiatric patient they were searching for within the first 20 minutes.