You can be going along minding your own business, doing your level best to keep real life at bay, but real life has this way of reasserting itself and knocking the crap out of your best-laid coping mechanisms. The past several months, dealing with a serious illness in my immediate family, with so much to handle and juggle and attend to, the cultural politics of the moment feel even more remote and insignificant. Between the buzz-laden bandwagons, the critic-polls, the award shows, the terribly earnest ? or meta-ironic, assuming there's even much difference today ? presentation of these slabs of self-anointed significance "for your consideration," it's enough to make you feel like you're trapped in a giant headache-inducing echo chamber.
Or a frantic, deafening game of Trivial Pursuit. The more accolades and statuettes My Chemical Romance or Babel amass, the less interest in them I'm able to muster. Godspeed them to their myriad rewards, but while someone's got to listen to or watch this stuff, why should I want to join the annual Running of the Lemmings? I've got more pressing things to worry about and don't have enough time or patience or disposable income/attention to waste on keeping up with the latest trend-setting instant masterpiece that nine and a half chances out of ten will end up as footnote roadkill by the time the next voracious season of dispensations from on high rolls around. I'll just have to catch 'em further on down the road, maybe in the five buck remainder bin at Wal-Mart or Circle K.
Not that I've entirely renounced the contemporary: I did manage to make myself watch a few moderately representative, semi-highly touted "little" films ? Little Children, Little Miss Sunshine. The former is steeped in the kind of pseudo-literacy and symbolic figurines prized by well-intended High School English teachers everywhere, but below all the chamber-movie trappings and carefully clipped performances, it is really a classed-up, sedated version of Desperate Housewives. Likewise Little Miss Sunshine plays like a very extended pilot for the next Arrested Development, the sort of not-as-hip-as-it-imagines-itself sitcom front loaded with the kind of daring gambits and critiques that pack all the trenchant punch of Lucille Ball and Gale Gordon dressing up as hippie peaceniks on a rerun of The Lucy Show. It is however still nice to see Alan Arkin working ? I'd like to see someone team him with Jerry Stiller; maybe Paul Mazursky could come out of retirement or limbo and make a real social comedy with that bilious pair. But instead of wasting a couple hours with the Littles, any halfway sentient being would be infinitely better off catching up on missed episodes of Deadwood: a divertissement, perhaps, but what a concept, McCabe and Mrs. Miller with a soundtrack by Lenny Bruce instead of Leonard Cohen. I find that word-drunk blood and mire soothing somehow.
Even though The Death of Mr. Lazarescu sounds like it could actually live up to its heavyweight reputation, I don't think I'm going to be watching it anytime in the near future: I've spent far too much time in ERs and hospital rooms lately, and have soaked up all the free-floating dead-end despair I can process for the time being, though I look forward to watching it at some less fraught date. Sooner than later, I hope.