Terrification

The more you understand something, the less you need to fear it.

Usually.

The anxiety dreams and nightmares of my youth have been all but erased due to my understanding of the world, understanding about my lack of knowledge, and other mechanisms for action within my own psychology. When I first saw the below animated GIF, I immediately understood why it would be perceived to be terrifying, hilarious, both, or neither. It also triggered an association for what was for me another association trigger: One of the most disturbing films I’ve seen, David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive.

terrification animated gif

Not scary per se, but disturbing. Unsettling. An unplaceable oddness. In Mulholland there is a masterful build-up, starting with a cryptic scene in a diner, which ultimately has the character who is describing a state of pure terror to another, walk outside to confirm that fear, as a horrid creature slides out from behind a corner in a most inhuman way—not only is the figure petrifyingly ugly, but the way it moves is the clincher: nothing human moves like that, in a linear, gliding fashion, and in such a triggered manner.

That scene reminds me of one of my most fear-inducing recurring dreams as a child: alone at my house, walking downstairs from the safety of my room, all the windows dark with night, and as I walk towards the kitchen, the head of a figure, presumed to be a robber intent on killing or harming me, quickly pops up—the moment of paralyzation occurs, the head slides away from whence it came, not slow, but not too fast; it doesn’t mind being seen. The paralysis melts, and I have to wake up, because that’s it: that’s the end. The unanswered nature, combined with the uncertain demise, is what makes it so terrifying. The chills that I would get in Lynch’s surrealist mind-maze were the same that I’d feel in that dream and others.

That a few frames of a presumably screeching elderly woman exiting stage-left in a weird manner can elicit the heights of cinematic tension through mere GIFfery is fascinating, lending versatility to how the web can provide media-feels in an instant. But it also further defines the five minutes that Lynch crafts through his singular direction—it is a scene that will live on, beyond the ephemeral meme-sharing thrills that come from a copy & paste, and into how we relate our waking- and dream-selves to ourself and to those around us.


Further reading: Alex Gladwin does an excellent job of analyzing the whole scene in his write-up, The Tuesday Zone: The Winkie’s Diner Scene from ‘Mulholland Drive’.

Original GIF post here.

insomnia dream reversion

argh, can’t sleep. but at least i’m remembering my dream from last night: following an epic Open Range style shootout in an idyllic river-town the likes of which i’ve never seen, the dream transitions into a showdown in some opulent ancient ruins with beaming sunlight filtering through sky-high trees onto the crumbling stone below (a strong Tomb Raider theme (the game, not the movie(s)) is also present here).

the duel is between me and a master, in the style of a hybrid (tribrid?) Jodorowski, Tarantino, and P.T. Anderson film. actually, maybe exchange Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon for P.T. and the battle goes on for a while. it’s mostly quiet, except for various projectile ricochets. i eventually have to commit honorable, warrior-grade, mid-air, slow-motion, blade-induced suicide as it reaches a point where I surely have lost versus my superior and am falling to an almost certain doom anyway. maybe the outro slo-mo is a nod to Wes Anderson. yeah, let’s go with that.

this, naturally, signals the end of the dream.

my futile attempt at analyzation involves my want to see PT’s The Master, my chomping at the bit waiting for QT’s Django Unchained, recently having heard CTHD‘s score mentioned on my buddy’s podcast (Matt Knudsen, i was playing catch-up with the top 10 film scores list episode of We Like Movies. tho yes, it was Oscar’s pick), thinking Moonrise Kingdom was just dandy (its/his techniques still linger with me), and probably having played way too many video-games for several lifetimes over.

post-script: i’ve never had a dream in space. if that’s not hella weird (or whatever modifier is of equal or greater pertinence than “hella”), then i clearly have not been tricking my brain with skills commensurate with my dreamtime desires.

Wondering Wandering Thoughts

How i’ve been a critic–or at least a constant critiquer–most of my life. Quick to complain, though usually with good intentions of improving the issue/item at hand. Wanton idealism?

I’ve been aware of it now for a while. Sorry, Alcoholics Anonymous, but Step 1 shouldn’t be “admission”, it should be “awareness”–you have to be aware before you can truly admit. I feel I’ve been wanting more and more to curb this habit of critiquing left and right. I’m always curious about the disconnect between subjective and objective, formalism of opinion, contextualism of the self. How it’s unwritten law that we are to assume when someone says that “x is great”, what they really mean is “I think x is great”. Sometimes they think what they think is great coincides with what really is great, whether universally or just humanly.

But I digress. I’ve ignited efforts to stop my own wanton criticism, to focus on spreading word of what I like (with the assumption that those around occasionally want to know what my tastes are), and not so much saying this is bad or that is bad, unless we’re formally deconstructing something.

[Ratatouille semi-SPOILER ALERT! (go watch this film tonight if you haven’t seen it yet)] A salient reminder: Ego’s review/monologue at the end of Pixar’s superb Ratatouille. So eloquent, so pithy. I get chills just thinking about the ending, especially this quote:

“We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.”

A film about taste, aspiration, friendship, creativity. I still know people that will call such works “cartoons”, often ignorantly and not condescendingly. Regarding Pixar’s talented Brad Bird, via wikipedia.org:

“When Bird and producer John Walker recorded the Director’s Commentary for The Incredibles’ DVD, he jokingly offered to punch the next person that he heard call animation a genre instead of an art form.”

How delightful! Ratatouille and Pixar’s others are no cartoons: They’re finely-crafted stories that evoke, explore, and teach some core, true human emotions, usually while dazzling the eye and ear. In middle school “awkward phase”, I’d dream of entering college so I could forever be done with [list your favorite worst memories here], and either A) design video games, or B) help create animation in what was then a new “genre” of film: Pixar. Since graduating college some five years ago, I’ve done one of these things to a satisfactory level of success. Perhaps one doesn’t have to indulge all of one’s idle “dreams” that were solidified by the stale walls of brick and book reports. But it never hurts to be inspired.