Friday, December 25, 2015

If 'How to Marry a Millionaire' Were Set in Present-Day San Francisco

Proposed Title: How to Join a Unicorn

Schatze Page (Cara Delivigne), self-proclaimed visionary, creative, and change-maker, just got out of a no-good gig at a phony startup. She is young. Broke. Idealistic. Naturally, her next move is to start an incubator in the most expensive neighborhood of San Francisco.

Schatze rents a Mission-style mansion in Sea Cliff. She invites one friend, the talented engineer Pola Debevoise (Kim Kardashian), whose good looks have held her back at previous programming positions, where she has not been taken seriously. Pola invites the tech salesgirl Loco Dempsey (Kirsten Dunst), who is not actually crazy. She just was born to two parents out of Berkeley.

(The owner of said mansion, former Google executive Freddie Denmark, is currently in Europe under suspicious circumstances. His latest Instagram, which showed a glass of chablis resting next to a worn copy of Albert Camus' L'Étranger strewn with a pair of heavy framed Christian Dior eyeglasses, suggests he decamped to France, but "location" was turned off.)

By day, Schatze, Loco, and Pola are elite escorts for socially-inept techies and product managers. They specialize in providing company during power lunches, product launches, and Ralph's runs (all three, in addition to their business savvy, are good with coupons.) By night, they convene on their outdoor patio to discuss headlines in Techcrunch over André and Nathan's hot dogs and online-shop at Delia's. Like any respectable start up-aspiring girls in Silicon Valley, all three dropped out of their senior years of high school in the past year.

One day Loco invites Tom Brookman (Tom Hardy) over for kombucha. Brookman, while attractive, wears a suit and tie. He actually listens to the women. He precedes every sentence with "Hey girl." Not really your obvious unicorn material. Brookman hits on Schatze, respectfully. He sends her lots of Snapchats. But: Fat chance. The first rule of Schatze's incubator is: Gentleman callers have got to wear a hoodie.

Schatze, meanwhile, has scored a networking-party invite from an older-twentysomething Snapchat engineer named J.D. Hanley (Jesse Eisenberg). It's in the Mission. Loco and Pola accompany her to the party and end up snagging business contacts of their own—an older Uber marketer (Hugh Laurie) for Loco, and an eye-patched foreigner (Olivier Martinez) who's a real smooth talker. All three go out for Blue Bottle coffee in Palo Alto afterwards. They drive two hours through traffic to get home.

Loco joins the marketer in Big Sur over the weekend for what he told her was "an Uber-related conference." In actuality, it is a private business meeting for his side project, a dating app for people who like to hike. Loco is ready to leave but Big Sur, unfortunately, appears to offer neither Wifi nor 4G. Loco comes down with a nasty cold incited by lack of climate control. The one perk to the otherwise disastrous trip is that she meets the marketer's driver, a California park ranger with a cabin on the top of a cliff. He teaches her how to camp. He is kind of hot. When she's with him, Loco doesn't even miss Candy Crush.

Pola gets on a plane that she thinks is headed for Rio to meet the boss of her eye-patched contact. It is actually destined for Cuba. On board, she coincidentally sits next to Freddie Denmark (Oscar Isaac), who reveals he is, in fact, a fugitive from justice. Pola has her own secret to tell. Pola wears non-subscription Warby Parkers in order to look less like, well, a programmer escort. He tells her eye damage is worse than being taken for a bimbo, even in Silicon Valley. It's love at first sight, basically.

J.D. rejected Schatze because he thinks she should pursue opportunities at a younger company. Feeling low, Schatze starts viewing Tom's Snaps. Mostly selfies of him by various feminist texts. One a group pic with Sheryl Sandberg. The last, a picture of his new tattoo, which reads "I'm With Betty (Frieden)." She is perturbed. She nevertheless agrees to go on a date. The two grab burgers at Super Duper. They smoke weed in Golden Gate Park. She tells him about all her visionary, creative, change-making ideas.

Just as she starts to warm to Tom, J.D. shoots Schatze a text. "ive made a mistake. srry." It's a job offer, a project manager job: rote work, but not a bad way to break into that unicorn life. There would be a high salary, but, more importantly, free hot dogs every day at Snapchat's cantine. She tells him she will let him know her decision at Techcrunch Disrupt, which is taking place the next weekend.

Schatze decides on a white dress and matching floppy hat that no one recommended she wear. She enjoys the flowers J.D. sent her, and the self-driving car. However, once she gets to Disrupt, the entire plan is, well, you know.

Here's what happens: Loco and Pola meet her at the Nathan's stand. They had both heard about her job offer and came to congratulate her. Loco is now an attendant in the Big Sur visitor's center, a job she got through the park ranger. She's happy. Pola is now a literary tourism social-media superstar working for Freddie Denmark. You can find their posts on IG and Twitter at #thelitlife.

Schatze notes how fulfilled they look, how challenged they say they are. She flees to the Disrupt bathroom. She stares into the mirror and contemplates the soul-crushing emptiness of the project manager gig. She also thinks about her attraction to Tom's unplugged, weed-hazed approach to life. She throws her iPhone in the toilet and tries to flush it. It gets stuck in the bowl.

Schatze finds J.D. at the Snapchat booth. She feigns an ankle injury, gets him to escort her, limping, outside, and then declines his offer. He asks her if there's been another. She mentions Tom Brookman's name. Says she'll probably end up a teacher's assistant or a paralegal. J.D. knows she's deluded. Tom is actually the CEO of Mythological Creatures, Inc. J.D. doesn't tell her, but he does go fetch Tom.

"Do you think I oughta tell her?" - Tom
"Are you nuts? She clearly prefers teachers and lawyers to unicorn CEOs. What do you want to do? Disillusion the poor girl?" - J.D.

Schatze leaves the building. Tom runs after her, even though his new Supergas are really tight. Schatze yells at him when he catches up to her. But her voice is soft.

Schatze, Pola, Loco, and men get together at Super Duper Burger for a celebratory nosh. They joke about how much stock they have to their name. All believe Tom is joking about his 20% shares of Yahoo and Lyft. That is, until he goes to input tip on the table's iPad. $1,000.00. "Keep the change," he tells the voice-recognition system. For dramatic purposes only.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

When a Member of Your Own Gender Picks Up a Lightsaber

Oh, I see, the scavenger is a Strong Female Character. Who also looks conveniently appealing in a head scarf.

She knows her way around a speeder. Handy with junk, too. And her blue eyes glint winkingly in the desert sunlight. Luke's proxy, huh. Progressive indeed, J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt. Progressive, indeed.

Smart and talented scavenger girl currently accepting quarter portion from Pancake-Face alien. What is this. Maybe more Aunt Beru than Zam Wesell (RIP!).


That chemical cake looks tasty.

Why do the sympathetic and cute robots cultivate special bonds with the girls in these films? On second thought, Padmé never had a robot buddy. I guess she didn't need one, because she was buds with very early Keira Knightley.

 Sorry, hon. 60 portions aren't going to bring your parents back.

The way she wields that staff, it's like she was trained by a Tusken Raider. Spinoff idea: The Sand People: Conquest of the Moisture Farms.

It's not even taking much disbelief right now to imagine Strong Female Scavenger swallowing all of John Boyega's lies.

SFS is way more competent than John Boyega at pretty much everything. Still. He's an original character.

Harrison Ford, professional wisecracker: legitimately impressed by SFS. Adam Driver, professional disinterested Millennial dude: actually attempting to read SFS's thoughts. Chewie: doesn't want to pull her arms off.

How did J.J. pitch this character? "Perfect woman meets the hauntedness of Frodo meets the resigned dignity of Harry Potter"? Meets "possessing of the only British accent in the film that is not evil and/or occasionally tinged with a hint of German"?

John. You're cute. But you're never going to be of any use with SFS's lightsaber.

Adam. You can't, actually, have anything you want. You can't have SFS's pure soul or budding, exceptional talent with the mind-control Force, for instance. That said, no protest if you become Damon to John's Stefan. In fact, it would be welcome, as long as you two don't turn out to be siblings or something.

You know what's refreshing? When a woman in a movie escapes her captors not by showing her boobs, or flirting, or kicking ass like a dude. WHEN, INSTEAD, SHE USES THE FORCE OF HER MIND.

There was more chemistry in that hug with John than there was between Anakin and Padmé and Leia and Han in prequels and original combined--though I wouldn't go so far as to say it approaches the sparks between Leia and Lando. Woo-whee.

Poe Dameron: "I don't think we've been formally introduced." SFS: "No, we haven't. Probably because J.J. is saving a romantic rivalry between you and John for future sequels." Poe: "A damn shame." SFS: "Yeah, everyone else thinks so, too."

Cinematography in snow fight on the Starkiller Base: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Patronus sequence plus Oldboy last scene plus Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I depressing sequences in the forest.

You know what would just put this movie just over the top? Ralph Fiennes.

1. Adam Driver can act 2. It is probably über-unfeminist that I am already thinking about love triangles in which SFS can be embroiled right now 3. Is the spoiled, misfit nerdy child with stringy long hair the villain of our times? 4. Adam Driver sounds the same with the mask on and off. 5. Vader nor Maul nor Dooku nor Grievous ever made me so internally conflicted.

The lightsaber's wedged in the snow, which recalls a certain sequence from Empire Strikes Back. I honestly wouldn't be suprised if a wampa just jumped in and fought on SFS's side for this whole fight sequence, a changed creature, because he was so damn charmed and impressed.

I have seen Empire. I know SFS was going to wiggle the lightsaber out of the snow. It is actually kind of hokey, all these callbacks to the original trilogy. So reboot culture, to pander to the fans this way. It's shameless. Where is the effing wampa when you need him?

Guess this means I'm a big fan.

Lightsaber: in her hand. Tears: streaming down my face.

I cannot believe I am crying harder in Star Wars: The Force Awakens than I did watching Brooklyn.

My desire for this moment: buried for a long time, I guess, like that lightsaber in the snow.

Age 7: I can't take the Queen makeup off my Padmé Barbie doll. Age 10: I get the Attack of the Clones score for Christmas and listen to "Zam the Assassin and the Chase Through Coruscant" on repeat to replay the scene in my head. Age 13: Jimmy Fallon's skit of "Anakin, you're breaking my heart!" becomes my most-viewed Youtube video ever. My most-viewed Youtube video is a hate-watch.

The movie is ending. John is injured. Isaac is not. Adam has an appealing slash down his face. Luke is bearded and cool all of a sudden. Plot developments don't matter, though, after something like that. Sheer amazement and wonder: that's how Rey looked, and how I feel. Some might say that this is J.J.'s homage to the Spielberg Look of Wonder. His close-ups of characters following a money shot serve as a proxy for how he is guiding the audience to feel. But Spielberg never had a woman take down a budding Sith Lord. I don't need a reverse shot of Rey to feel wonder.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Here We Go

To Kathy:

I don't usually get emotional. I blame movies. You see something in a movie and it's like you've experienced the thing for real. Even when something genuinely dramatic unfolds in front of your eyes, all you can muster is a sense of déjà vu. Person in your rearview spins into your bumper? How similar it looked to the end of Bonnie and Clyde! Receive your hard-earned college diploma? From the stage, everything looks like it was shot by Roger Deakins! True cinephiles go through life entirely unfazed and unimpressed by everything. Maybe that's why so many people in LA wear dark-rimmed glasses; to give people something to look at other than dead eyes.

When I do get emotional, it means I'm feeling something I haven't felt in front of a screen. It's rarer than you'd think. Which brings me to your email and, by extension, the title of this blog. To recap: You wrote me this long email. You sent it to my mom, who forwarded it to me. It was kind of harsh. You know it will be when your mom prefaces it with, "I feel that if anything, you should find more time to relax and slack off."

Let's revisit those first two lines. "Your mom tells me you want to write more. So write more." That killed me. I haven't cried that hard since Brooklyn. I could make a bunch of excuses, but lucky for you, I just deleted all of them. They sounded terrible. And you're right.

After reading your letter I crawled into a fetal position and sobbed for a bit. Am I a writer? What if I'm not? What if my life so far, which has been premised on this one identity, has been a grand delusion? After the initial, deadening realization that I couldn't say, it felt liberating not to have an answer. I don't feel you can, ever, until you do.

So: This one's for you. I can't promise I will write too much about horse movies. But since that was your request, I will certainly check out Black BeautyNational Velvet, and Gucci saddle bags. There's a lot to be said, too, about Forio in Marnie. I haven't forgotten the debt I owe to you or horses. When I was in sixth grade, you sent me a bunch of books about horses to review. Remember? Where, exactly, would I be without the equestrian blog that chose to run musings by an 11-year-old who'd neither ever been published, nor been on a horse before?

My day job requires one kind of writing. I'm going to experiment with other formats here. I'm pretty useless when it comes to embedded video and GIFs, though. You have been warned. Especially because this blog will inevitably revolve around my one defining passion in life: the movies.

Thank you. Seriously. Maybe, someday, we'll meet a second time. Maybe by then I'll have an answer.

From, your college roommate's daughter, who went to your college, who is a fellow Star Wars fan, who kind of started writing thanks to you,