Day 168: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Augsut, 24)

Do wathever, just stay alive...

I've seen The Secret Live of Walter Mitty when it premiered here in the movie theaters, in a cinema with a big screen and great sound system. It was almost two years ago, and since then I watch it regularly. I'm serious. I love this movie, and each time it becomes more special to me. It hasn't made an appearance here yet, but you sure will see it a few times during OMAD.

On this day, I was so awfully tired, I couldn't see myself enduring two hour in front of the TV - I wasn't able to make any movie justice. So I called on the magic shuffle and turned on the TV. and there's was Walter Mitty, in its first scenes. There's was any doubt then that it would be the movie for my day. Again. 

There was something that I haven't realized yet: this movie begins with a guy in his daily life, one that he didn't choose but hat to embrace after his dad's demise. He is simply trying to talk to a girl from work that he's interested in. But he can find the guts to do that. As he is not able to live the life that he constantly imagine he could live.

An entire life lived inside our heads. Who does not do that? Maybe not in the same explosive heroic extraordinary way of Walter, but it is not difficult to imagine other life than one that seems pretty boring sometimes. Or everyday. I used to ask myself obsessively if I was living the life I should. Until I realized that there's not such a thing. I looked at my life up front and saw that I was in the place I want to, in the present moment. There are dreams to fulfill, they never cease to be in me... But in my actual circumstances, I'm where I must be. 

Walter had so many plans to his life when he was younger, but the need to support his family after his dad died put him in another track (there's a dialogue about it that is so heartbreaking and honest and simple). Life does that with us like nothing or nobody else. It is life's bigger skill, I think. As I've said here before, dreams are the matter of life, but they change, as we change. And sometimes we have to let the older ones go in order to open some space on us to new adventures.

Water works for Life magazine, and everyday deals with photographs ans stories about people that are adventurous, that risk everything when he couldn't risk anything. But Life (the one we live, no the magazine :) presents new opportunities to Water to achieve what he had dreamed when he was younger, and he accepts the invitation.  He jumps from helicopters, skates in Iceland (I love this scene), climbs mountains... Just to go back to his life in the exact point where he left: trying to talk to a girl. But the man that leaves the island is different from the one that comes back - that's the hero's journey, and every man is a hero in his daily life. 

Even the smallest characters here are important - I love how Todd from E-Harmony turns out. There's also Shirley MacLaine, and we never should forget about her. As Walter's mother, she reminds us that there's a time to let go of things that we have cherished for too long. Kristen Wiig I tried to dislike for a time, but it was in vain. The connection between people here is very precious, actually, and it is a fundamental reason for why this movie is so good. 

Ok, not every character is so endearing, Ted is a little too stereotyped for my taste, as are some lines, but that's it. The rest is perfection to me. A good use of music makes everything more beautiful (Major Tom always makes me cry). At the same time, silence is a part of the soundtrack here. There are amazing carefully constructed details, that never cease to amaze me - and so it is not a surprise that I see this movie again and again. The letters on the places around Walter remind us of what really matters here. The dialogues are witty - the one about Greenland and Iceland not being the same is funny. The action scenes are extraordinary (very good, actually), but the people are just the ordinary ones that we meet everyday. Going through life trying to understand what we for God's sake are doing here after all. 

That's the purpose of Life. 

And if we think, the extraordinary is with us in our ordinary days.

Sean Penn's photographer is a bit of a cliche (the Indiana Jones of photography...)
but a cool one :)

The Strange Life of Water Mitty. Directed by Ben Stiller. With: Ben Stiller,
Kristin Wiig, Jon Daly. Writer: Steve Conrad from a short story by James
Turbher. USA/Canada, 2013, 114 min. 

PS: I was seeing a part from a movie that I've watched some time ago, and there's a dialogue that goes more or less like this: a man and a woman that have just met (in weird circumstances that link them). They are in a pier, and there's a boat leaving the shore. He asks if she would embark on that boat and to where she would go. She says that yes, and that she would go to Iceland. Why?, he asks. I don't know, she says, I saw it in a movie and thought it was beautiful. I don't remember what brought me the strong wish to be in Iceland. The movies, of course, as always. My niece Mari told me once that Iceland is one of the few places where the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (the biggest mountains chain in the planet, the most of it is under the ocean) is on the surface. At that time, I  already wanted to with to go to Iceland, though - and this fact increased substantially this desire. There's also a book by Neil Gaiman that ends in Iceland - I will not tell you which, because this was a big surprise for me, many years ago... But if you're curious and have read everything by Gaiman, here's the link for the book. Even then Iceland was already a special place to me. How to find the beginning of a dream? But, as I have been seeing these days, many productions has chosen this Nordic Island as a scenery for their stories.

PPS: One day I was thinking that I had to introduce Rodrigo to Water Mitty's soundtrack. it is so amazing, I though the would enjoy it. At the same time, he as telling me about a Swedish musician called José Gonzáles - yes, he said, I know. Who would guess that, with a name like that, this guy is from Sweden? So, another day, I decided to send Rodrigo one of my favorite's Walter Mitty's songs... and he replied telling me that THAT was José Gonzáles. Synchronicity rules :)

PPPS: All this talking about Iceland reminded me a story that I wrote some time ago. 

A Titans duel: drunk, lost and covered in ash

The following events occurred on last Saturday, 05.21.2011,

Pedro was starting his journey back from his adventures in the Icelandic fields when he saw a tall guy, alone by the road, asking for a ride. There was no one else nor anything around him. Iceland is a fit place for those who seek isolation. Right there, near the biggest glacier on the island, Pedro thought he would come across a lack of human contact. He had spent ten days in a friend's cottage – a way to be alone in order to figure out his next story. He wanted to jump into the void to reach a feeling of solitude. That was his first idea, but in reality he made many new friends around Vatnajökull. His time spent in Iceland turned out to be more of a nice vacation rather than work time. Well, good ideas are born in leisure time too, that's a fact.

The small village was very cosy, but, from the moment he returned the cottage keys, entered his rented car and took the road towards Reykjavík to catch his flight back to Spain, the land around him had become a ghostly place. Thirty minutes into the ride, and he had seen no one. No one. That is, until he saw the guy in the middle of nowhere looking like nothing but a ghost, for sure. Pedro pulled up the car and lowered the window on the passenger's side. “Hijo de la Putíssima Madre. What the F*&#?” That was not possible. Or was it? Dumbfounded, Pedro said: “Hola, amigo. Do you need a ride?”

Let's move back to the other side of this story. 

Amidst the terrible pre-production bureaucracy for his new movie, QT had freaked. He was completely spent. The only alternative he could foresee was to get away from everything. He had put some clothes inside a duffel bag, headed to the airport and got on his way to Iceland. Yes, that’s right: Iceland. In Reykjavík, he’d met with an old and good friend, who had a cottage near the biggest glacier in the Island. But there was someone else there already. Besides, he had to go to Cannes soon, where he planned to stay for a few days during the festival. Afterwards, he would enjoy some deserved free time in the French Riviera, before start shooting his new movie. But he almost collapsed before his vacation. Hence the runaway to Iceland.

That's why QT was alone in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. What happened next, however, was not very clear to him. He had tried some sightseeing, met some crazy Aussie tourists around the city... His rest time became a sort of Nordic rave. He woke up that morning with no memory of the night before, and so he decided to escape before the Aussies could wake up. With a few belongings on him, he took a bus to somewhere. To anywhere. After that, he wandered the deserted roads of Vatnajökull. Many stories came to his mind as he wandered around the empty roads. Middle Age and the Nordic invasion in an end-of-the-world plot that began to unravel in his head. A crack on the Ridge would split the earth again, and new species would be created. The only survivors would be the US Cowboys and the Eskimos, who would meet in the new land to repopulate the world.

Finally, he stopped at a kind of Inn, in the tiny village, to have lunch and get some rest. He wasn't sure as to where he was actually going. And after too much lamb and a long, weird chat with one of the Inn's owners – who didn’t recognize him –, he grabbed his things and resumed his journey. To everywhere.

It was getting late; the day was nearing its end, although the sun didn't set at that time of the year. Which was very weird, even for him. He stopped in the middle of nowhere and stood there, hoping for someone to drive by. When he finally noticed a car moving his way, he thumbed a ride, and as it pulled over, he could not believe who was driving. Not even in the craziest plot could he imagine such thing to ensue.

Window still open, Pedro waited for an answer to his offer. “I have to go back to Reykjavík. Is that where you're headed to?” Pedro thought the guy was a lucky bastard, after all. “I am”, QT replied. “Get in.” QT took the passenger seat, and Pedro got back on the road. They remained silent for a while. They knew who each other was, but hadn’t met before. The situation, so far from ideal for both of them, turned the recognition into an awkward meeting – the worst of them was Quentin, of course. Scruffy, terribly hungover, and almost frozen to death in the Icelandic Summer, lost in the middle of nowhere. And so, they went by some time without talking, until Pedro got uncomfortable with the silence and decided to put an end to that nonsense embarrassment.

“Tarantino, right? I have to fill the tank. Do you mind if we stop at this gas station?”
“No problem. Hey, look, hot dogs. It’s amazing how you can find hot dogs everywhere here. Even in the middle of an ice field, maybe.”
“Or especially there...”, said Pedro.
“That's true”, Tarantino nodded as he stepped out of the car. “They barbecue around here, in the middle frozen gardens.”
“There's no other way, I think, in a place with six months of snow each year.” Pedro felt like a Tour Guide. He could imagine his introdution to a bus full of bored faces: “Iceland: low population densities, hot dogs, snow and midnight Sun...”  If the silence had been weird, the conversation was even worse. For reasons unknown to him, he was being weirdly shy.

QT headed to the restroom. Pedro filled the tank. Each one on their own pace. Finally they met at a table outside the gas station, near the hot dog truck. Another amazing thing in Iceland: even in the cold weather - and it was summer, believing or not - people used to eat outside. Peculiar people in a cinematographic land. Their love for vanilla ice cream, shopping carts and hot dogs had an almost sacred feature. Pedro and Quentin looked around. A deserted and overwhelmingly beautiful place. 

- I'm thinking to shoot a film here – Quentin broke the silence at last, at the same time he took a big bite from one of his three hot dogs - A western. 

Pedro nodded in agreement. Genius crazy bastard. 

- In the other hand, you wouldn't find any challenge in filming here. 

- ???

-  It is an extremely liberal community. Icelandic gay guys  Gays in Yeti suits wouldn't have a great impact. 

And the man could put the foot on his mouth too. He would never shut up now? 

- You know, – the chatterbox kept going on – Clinton had a heart attack soon after eating one of these hot dogs. 

- Here?

- What? No! In Reikjavik. The world's best hot dog. Haven't you tried it?

- No, I've left to the glacier as soon as the plane landed. I haven't spent much time in the capital. 

- Hmmm.


Another silence. and Pedro couldn't decide what was the worst. 

On his turn,Tarantino had to admit: one of the most creative filmmakers in the world, the Spanish guy wasn't able to keep a conversation though. He, for other side, was. This way, he looked for a familiar subject to both of them. 

- Hey, I really enjoyed Los Abrazos Rotos. – He just declared, surprising Pedro by the subject and also by his not so terrible Spanish.

- Sí?

- Absolutely. It is wonderful, genius - His enthusiasm was coming back. - Penelopeissobeautifulinthatscenewheresheseesherselfonscreenandputherhandoverherselfansalsotheresomepartsthatremindedmelapeliculaataquedeniervos.... 

It was unbelievable how fast the guy could talk. 

-  An outstanding homage to the cinema. I was absolutely overwhelmed with amazement in the movie theater when I saw it the first time. 

- Gracias, man. You made a great homage to the movies in Basterds too. Both films are from the same year, right? 

- 2009.  I usually don't hear such comment about Basterds

- Entonces, that was what called my attention in it, besides Pitt crazy accent and Christopher Waltz, of course. He is too good. But cinema as a place where we can change history is a fantastic idea... Who doesn't went through the WWII knows Hitler mostly from the movies. The holocaust is a cinematographic experience for those that wasn't there, and maybe even for them. It's a kind of testimony, more then the history books actually. So, if there would be an ideal place to kill Hitler it should be a movie theater. I've seen the film three times. 
Now Pedro had  seated on the talking chair, and Quentin had not other option than to be uncharacteristically quiet. Two amazing features for such a short speech. Quentin had another admission to make:when the man decided to talk, it was for real. 

And he wasn't embarrassed to also admit how proud he was about that unusual compliment to Basterds

- Most of times we don't realize how our views about the world comes from the movies. Sure, we're both live to create those views on film. But as individuals in this disturbed world, we are also influenced by the photographic, surreal, unreal and incredibly close cinema's images, such as Hitler's face being totaled by a gun. 

- Genius idea, wasn't it?

- Yep. Genius. And the fire on the screen... So... A beautiful tribute to movies. 

Another silence came over them. What had reunited them, the cinema, was also responsible for another shy moment in two men that wasn't used to this feeling. However, one didn't know what hos to deal with the other. 

Not even the Icelandic wilderness was big enough for those two giants. 

- What’s that? – Quentin  broke the silence one more time - and he didn't know yet, but at this moment all the awkwardness was beginning to vanish too. What would follow next was with no doubt an icebreaker, After all, going through a volcanic eruption, closed airport and too much malt+applesin was ahead the two crazily genial men. 

One looked to the other. Almodóvar could already see a smoky cloud in the distance, in the direction of Vatnajökull. It was too big to be a failed barbecue.

- There's a volcano near here, right? – Asked Pedro.

Quentin thought for a minute,but he wasn't able to remember the location of the infamous volcano.  

Really? An eruption? Wasn't it last year? No, it couldn't be another one. Or could? Again? Who would think Iceland could schedule a volcanic eruption once a year?

Peculiar visitors, fantastic place. Surreal, unreal, e incredibly close.

NoteIn my previous blog, published in Portuguese, the idea was to comment about movies through a fictional short (tiny, actually) story. I had this idea after watching 2012, the movie. I thought how the world had ended so many times in cinema, and so I had the idea for a story and, therefore, for a blog to publish them. It was part of my doctorate project, that is no more, though. Nevertheless, I think it is interesting to bring here one of those stories. What motivated me to write it was how Quentin Tarantino and Pedro Almodóvar, two genius filmmakers, had presented in 2009 what I thinks as two beautiful and strong homages to the cinema - Inglorious Basterds and Broken Embraces. I had envisioned this story during the volcanic eruption in Iceland, but I took too long to write it. But one year after, another event in Iceland allowed me to resume this idea and finally put Tarantino and Almodóvar together, as they had been in me with their two amazing films. Their feelings and words in the story are my own - no way I would dare to guess what both madly genial filmmakers actually say to each other :) At last, it is important to explain that the story's translation to English was the reason why I took so long to publish this post. 

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