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(500) Days of Summer (Marc Webb, 2009) November 7, 2009

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Hollywood, Music.
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500 days of summer

Written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber
Directed by Marc Webb
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Chloë Moretz

If I were to write this in the third person, I might not make it till the next paragraph. For a film like (500) Days of Summer I don’t think such distance in description is necessary. Prior to the film the last time I felt the need to talk with a lot of people to know what they think (or what’s wrong with me, friends?) is Slumdog Millionaire. It’s not like any other talk; it’s talk with laps of shouting and arguing, almost with a hint of endlessness. Thankfully, with one’s inability to articulate, which comes in the most appropriate of circumstances, the conversations had to end. I lean on emotional writing with regard to these things. Such expression of thoughts can be helpful to accept that the difference of opinion is healthy. But I am pretty sure that no amount of writing—and no power of persuasion in writing—can dissuade you from loving the film. Since we mostly relate to it emotionally, here’s what my wires have told me.

(500) Days of Summer may all boil down to J. D. Salinger. Tom and Summer love “Bananafish.” Whatever Tom is referring to when he said that, it brings to mind Salinger’s famous short story. To make matters weirdly incidental, the name of the actor who plays Summer alludes to one of the writer’s characters, Zooey Glass. But I’m not hitting on those. What I want to introduce for discussion is one of Salinger’s under-published stories, “The Heart of a Broken Story.” It ends with these words:

And that’s why I never wrote a boy-meets-girl story for Collier’s. In a boy-meets-girl story the boy should always meet the girl.

The boy should always meet the girl. Of course. It wouldn’t be a boy-meets-girl story if the boy doesn’t meet the girl, right? In Salinger’s story, the boy never actually meets the girl. The bulk of it tells what may have happened if they meet, narrated humorously in the writer’s wickedly deadpan voice. Salinger is said to be poking fun at the trend of short stories getting published in American magazines that time, thus his mention of Collier’s, and “The Heart of a Broken Story” makes it clear that one can get out of the box to write a meaningful yet entertaining play on the subject. With these opening lines how can that be disproved:

Every day Justin Horgenschlag, thirty-dollar-a-week printer’s assistant, saw at close quarters approximately sixty women whom he had never seen before. Thus in the few years he had lived in New York, Horgenschlag had seen at close quarters about 75,120 different women. Of these 75,120 women, roughly 25,000 were under thirty years of age and over fifteen years of age. Of the 25,000 only 5,000 weighed between one hundred five and one hundred twenty-five pounds. Of these 5,000 only 1,000 were not ugly. Only 500 were reasonably attractive; only 100 of these were quite attractive; only 25 could have inspired a long, slow whistle. And with only 1 did Horgenschlag fall in love at first sight.

That’s how it has always been. There is the observer; and there is the one being observed. The case of (500) Days of Summer is not the boy-meets-girl but the boy-meets-girls. It is the boy who makes the move, the boy who wants to meet the girl, and the boy who ends up alone but hopeful. But that’s clearly a matter of formula. The film follows that crazy old pattern of short stories that Salinger is making fun of, only in a different place and time, different films and music to allude to, and different ways to express acceptance or rejection. But as I mentioned, it is the boy-meets-girls.

In this context, the boy may actually represent all the boys in the world. Well, to make it specific, the boy may all be the boys who relate to the film (not gender-based, of course), all the boys who believe in true love, and all the boys who believe in happily ever after. In short, all the boys who believe. But in this subgenre of love stories, the girls are not similar to them in terms of what they want and who they want to be with. They are presented as vague, confusing, indecisive, fickle, and cruel beings who leave the boys in trauma. They are mostly beautiful—as what most of the popular boy-meets-girl films show, and as what most descriptions of fictionists want us to believe—because that’s what attracted them to the boys in the first place. Their beauty is not just physical though; they also possess a certain difference, a certain quality that makes their slightest movement like an elaborate sensual dance in the boys’ eyes, their spoken words like music to their ears. The boy pursues them. With the low-profile personality he possesses, unlike the jocks in school or the boy-next-door type that the girls swoon over, the boy uses his charm. The girls never show any hint that they don’t like to be pursued. And the boy and the girl, the first to be pursued, start to have a relationship.

In Tom’s case, the charm is music. The narrator tells us that Tom “grew up believing that he’d never truly be happy until the day he met the one,” a belief which stems from his “early exposure to sad British pop music and a total misreading of The Graduate.” He believes his affection for Summer was confirmed when she expressed her admiration for The Smiths. He wears Joy Division shirts. He sings Pixies in a bar. He dances in the street accompanied by a Hall and Oates song. Music, in (500) Days of Summer, is like the air that keeps resuscitating it. To stay on track, it plays music. To not lose us, it plays another cool song. When Tom decides to move on, it plays The Temper Trap again. Its constant allusion and incessant borrowing calls for the pastiche police—the hodgepodge lessening the otherwise meaningful use of music, and making it flat and disappointing upon recognition.

expectations, reality

Expectations and reality work here. I expect that the music will hold water—considering my professed love not only for sad British music but also for sad music in general—but in reality it is just there to be played. Like when I was in college and I was making short films, I wanted to have that “La, la, la, la, la / La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la” hook in the refrain of Blur’s “For Tomorrow” to be included in my work because I thought it’s cool to have it there. And no one, conceited me thinking, would recognize it. I was looking forward that someone would ask me where’d I get the song, and they would think, “Oh, that guy, he listens to cool music,” and that would make me feel good. But that didn’t happen. I had more problems in writing the script than putting some good pop music in my film. Anyway, I wouldn’t dare accuse (500) Days of Summer of using songs just to make it look cool, but when I realize numerous times while watching how just a mere reference can unmake a beautiful story, and how a music played is different from a music usefully contributing to the film, I have to concede disfavor.

(*On second thought, hopping from one film to another, even if you remove all the songs in Pretty in Pink and leave only the Ottis Redding lip-synch number of Duckie or OMD’s “If You Leave” in the prom night ending, it would still be the most memorable love story of its generation. But not the same will happen to High Fidelity; you remove the music, and it’s butterfly effect.)

(**Also, take this obese word and you’d be surprised by its four-letter root word: OVERINTERTEXTUALITY. That’s the thought that crossed my mind, and it’s not yet in the Google search engine dictionary. (500) Days of Summer balloons the Text into a fat, fat idea. There is no disrespect in terms of music use—it’s sweet and pleasing—because there is nothing to say about it at all. And that’s I—I—first person, my opinion, so keep the gun in the holster, please.)

karina deschanelTom and Summer break up after seeing The Graduate, the film whose ending he was said to misinterpret. He believes that love is like that, finding the right one and ending happily together. But where is the misinterpretation in that? Nichols has made it certain to be uncertain. It is us who interpret the fading smile, the uncomfortable look on the lovers’ faces, and the Simon and Garfunkel music as the bus drives away.  Summer cries while watching that scene. Unlike Tom, she knows all along the sad reality ahead of her, the blank truth of love. That’s why she says to him, “There’s no such thing as love. It’s fantasy.” She lives in that state of reason, of pragmatism. Like Anna Karina in My Life To Live watching Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc, she cries for reasons that the film has provoked in her, but she can’t tell what. She crumbles when that happens.

Going back to our Salinger reference, I am just saying that in the interest of this type of movies, the ratio is one to infinity. One boy is to infinite number of girls. That’s why it should be boy-meets-girls. The boy always needs to meet a new girl when the previous one dumped him. And the girl who dumps the boy, what happens to her? We don’t know. We don’t really know. Not that we wanted to know, but the film is not curious about her, so we are just as limited as the film itself. There is a conscious effort to make Summer appear mysterious—distant in such a way that knowing her more will gravely affect her image—because after all, as always mentioned in reviews, Summer is not just a person but a phase in a boy’s life, part of his growing up, of his maturity. It is the boy’s life that is regarded more importantly, his feelings, and his moving on. Girls are just around, waiting to be pursued.

Now, to put an end to these thoughts, I am calling the attention of hipsters. A friend, whose generation is slightly behind mine (and by slightly, I mean that as a kind friend), called me a hipster for not liking it, and told me that otherwise, I’m just pretending to be one because I can’t be cool all the time. Damn, those S Club 7 and LFO songs he saw in my iPod gave me away. But then again, there is confusion as we deal with definition of terms. According to Wikipedia:

Hipster is a slang term that first appeared in the 1940s, and was revived in the 1990s and 2000s often to describe types of young, recently-settled urban middle class adults and older teenagers with interests in non-mainstream fashion and culture, particularly alternative music, independent rock, independent film, magazines such as Vice and Clash, and websites like Pitchfork Media. In some contexts, hipsters are also referred to as scenesters.

Hipster has been used in sometimes contradictory ways, making it difficult to precisely define “hipster culture” because it is a “mutating, trans-Atlantic melting pot of styles, tastes and behavior[s].” One commentator argues that “hipsterism fetishizes the authentic” elements of all of the “fringe movements of the postwar era—Beat, hippie, punk, even grunge,” and draws on the “cultural stores of every unmelted ethnicity” and “gay style”, and “regurgitates it with a winking inauthenticity” and a sense of irony.

Hipster, for sure, operates based on what is perceived as non-mainstream. It is meant to avoid the choices of the status quo. But since times are always changing, what qualify as hipster qualities also change, not to mention its slippery meaning, which varies depending on the place and the people who define the said culture. Essentially, there is the usual labeling and hierarchy—sub-hipster, sub-sub-hipster, pseudo-hipster, semi-hipster, punk-hipster, metal-hipster, rock-hipster, etc.—and there goes the perils of counterculture. There is always contradiction, and there is always ignoring the said contradiction. Summer doesn’t believe in love—that’s cool. But Summer got married in the end—that’s still cool. Perception changes, that’s hipster culture. As long as you are alienated, you are hip.

i am a hipsie

For a moment, I felt that my dislike for (500) Days of Summer is brought about by my backward mindset—that I was too old to appreciate it, that my love for lyrical movies will never be matched, and that I am just that: backward. I am thinking, if (500) Days of Summer is told chronologically, would I find it effective? If Summer’s character is explored, would I still be looking at Zooey Deschanel as the wife of Ben Gibbard singing “Sentimental Heart”? If I hadn’t known The Smiths and Pixies before seeing it, would I download their songs right when I get home and share with my friends how cool they are? And finally, if I were a believer of love as much as Tom is, would it strike me as heart-tugging the way it ends with such hope of finding an Autumn after Summer? But if all these ifs happen, would it still be the coolest film of the year?

* Salinger, J. D. “The Heart of a Broken Story.” Esquire XVI. p. 32, 131-133. September 1941.

Comments»

1. Edgar Allan Paule - November 7, 2009

On the contrary, Summer also meets a lot of boys. More than Tom, actually. Though Tom is the main character, we were actually given a breakdown of Summer’s boys (and girl, hehe). The rower, the puma, the rockstar, and her new husband.

“The girls never show any hint that they don’t like to be pursued.” But Summer flatly stated that she didn’t want a relationship, right?

Anyway, nitpicking. hahaha. Good points.

2. Richard Bolisay - November 7, 2009

Wow, great memory Edgar. That slipped my mind. With the quote I was actually referring to girls in general, how most girls are portrayed in boy-meets-girl films as hard to get. Or maybe just in local films? And Summer might be playing it that way. Haha. Anyway, thank you for nitpicking and visiting! :)

3. Abi - November 7, 2009

Great job! Hindi ko masyadong binasa may spoilers kasi. Pero dinadownload ko ngayon to see what the fuss is about. hehe. Will get back to you if it’s a disappointment or not.

4. Richard Bolisay - November 7, 2009

Haha, palabas pa a! Salamat sa bisita! Ansaya ng tumblr mo. Tumatambling.

5. Encore Entertainment - November 8, 2009

God. So much to say…firstly, great post..I love how it meanders?

Two. Daschnel’s character really needed to get some sort of life, it was vastly underwritten.

Though I gave this B+ in my review I was disappointed. I wish that they’d just let Summer keep her hate of love or whatever. It seemed like such a cop-out to have her [happily?] married.

And by the way, came across your blog looking at Atonement reviews. Umm…I really like Atonement. Just throwing that out there.

6. Richard Bolisay - November 8, 2009

Hi, Andrew. You have a very prolific blog. I love that scene from From Here to Eternity too! I like the film version of Atonement, but it’s just gravely overshadowed by the book. Thank you for visiting! Come back if you have time.

7. Encore Entertainment - November 8, 2009

I’ll be back [he said sinisterly]. I’m glad I came across your blog.

Thanks for the compliment…

BTW I hate you on principle because you’re bilingual. Closest I came to that was miserably failing my French finals.

8. bittergrace - November 9, 2009

I love this quote on Summer:

“As Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s elusive girlfriend in (500) Days of Summer, Zooey Deschanel has all the external trappings of individuality — aloofness, a sly smile, vintage clothes and indie tastes — but she has no more inner life than Petrarch’s Laura. She’s there to break the hero’s heart and rekindle his ambitions. What will she become? Someone else’s wife.”

I found the movie cute, mostly because of the soundtrack and in spite of its faults but maybe I wasn’t really expecting too much. haha.

9. Richard Bolisay - November 9, 2009

Thanks Andrew. I can understand French half of the time, but the other half I’m just some lousy idiot trying to figure out the phonetics.

Ayn, where’d you get the quote? Gusto ko yung “What will she become? Someone else’s wife.” My expectations were so less they weren’t even met. Hehe.

10. Richard Bolisay - November 9, 2009

Thanks to Ayer for the correction. Turns out that the obese word was far more obese: it’s OVERINTERTEXTUALITY. There.

11. ayn - November 9, 2009
12. Richard Bolisay - November 9, 2009

Oh, a very GABRIELA review, haha. The review’s very enthusiastic.

13. dodo dayao - November 10, 2009

Zooey’s staunch individuality and aloofness (a bit cliched and generic if you go by every hipster-marketed movie that’s come down the pike since John Hughes. How many times have me met this character before? Too many times. “No,I’m Sid” is a truly excruciating line that tries so, so hard) was, of course, a facade. It’s psychological shorthand almost – child of bad divorce, cynical about relationships blah blah blah. I don’t think she suddenly “discovered” love in the end more like found what she’d been looking for all this time but didn’t admit it The line that sums up who she really is under that hipster disguise was,of course . . .”I just woke up one day and knew I was sure of what I wasn’t sure about you”. And you give youself away,girl.

Like Summer’s character, 500 Days is an unremittingly romantic and old-fashioned and sentmental film that pretends it’s oh -so ironc and oh-so blase. Doesn’ t help that movie clihe is like its second language – every scene with the actors behind a shower curtain guarantees the curtain be ripped from its rings at some point, and yeah that omnipresent multiple staircase shot, can we not resort to it every time someone goes down a flight of stairs?

The music’s fine and all that but the referencing is a little too self-conscious “look-Ma-I’m-so-hip-I-namedropped-a-Belle-&-Sebastian-album-in-my-screenplay-and-had-one-of-the-characters-sing-a-Pixies-song-in-a-karaoke-scene-and-made-fun-of-that-old-fart-band-Hall-and-Oates-by-making-their-song-a-part-of-a-Bollywood-dance-number-and-yes-I -referenced-Bollywood-too-ain’t-I-hip”.

Right.

The endless “Amelie” comparisons people keep making can get tiring but you sort of which it was a lot more like “Amelie”. Or “Umbrellas of Cherboug” or “Bande A Part” or “The Graduate”- – – obviously the filmmkers had a thing for un-hipster cinema. (The cinema spoof was one of the better parts) Less of the ironic distance,more of the unguarded (that is,un-ironic) effervescence would’ve upped this a notch. Oh well. It’s a Hollywood indie for hipsters. Could’ve been worse. Could’ve been “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Shallowness”. As it is,pleasant and harmless timekiling fluff.

Terrific essay,Chard. (let’s not call it a review,as those things are sampu singko) Merely OK movie, though.

14. Richard Bolisay - November 10, 2009

The Summer character feels more of a recurring character in this type of movies – -the underdeveloped kind, the pathetic bin of clichés to stress her use- – and the emotional reaction towards her, particularly yours, makes her stereotyping case serious, She’s more prominent than the lead character himself, ironically, because of that. Or maybe intentional? What is it in the female character does she really represent? Is it the male unconscious?

Though this critical thinking I am willing to compromise, if only the film is entertaining, and if it is not as flat as it turns out to be scene after scene. But for these hipsters, does it really matter what we think? Coolness is relative. So cool it, Do, haha. Enjoy Bong’s Mother!

15. dodo dayao - November 10, 2009

Coolness is about not giving a shit and about not even trying. Summer’s character tries to hard to come off as someone who doesn’t give a shit. That’s uncool. But a lot of people missed that ,embracing instead the notion (or possiblity) of someone this aloof and ironic to perhaps look up to and emulate. (Impossible for us, though. Pinoys don’t do ironic. It’s in our DNA) Too bad. I thought it was one of the cleverest (albeit subtlest) misdirections of the film.

The last conversation on the bench hit me a little harder than expected. Maybe it was the unforced Jaques Demy-ish aura. Or maybe it was how Zooey’s character was finally brave enough to believe in something so uncool as love. Or maybe it was that line ‘ – – -“what I wasn’t sure of about you”. Or that other line – – “you were right but not about me” Dovetails into that conversation we had at McDo, about destinies passing us by and us not knowing any better. Oh well. I’m sticking with “Once” if it’s all the same with you. And “Chungking Express”. Hehe.

And “Mother” is a blast. Hands down yearend best.

16. Richard Bolisay - November 10, 2009

Well, Once and Chungking pulled it off, magically. Music-wise, plot-wise, character-wise. Every -wise, I believe. The last conversation hit me too, hit me in such a way that I thought I’d have a change of heart. The lines said it right, real, truthful, somehow way beyond I expected the lines would be. Though on second thought, there’s no other way to say them. Also, Summer’s coolness is “mystified.” Although the film gives us her face, we don’t really see much depth, only character, only plain character. But then again, that may be intentional (as it has always been). I am still trying to figure out what you have always been telling me – – that case on Pinoy culture not being ironic, that WE don’t do ironic. I see where you’re getting at, but I can’t exactly agree. Tell us more.

And Mother, lend me that.

17. Oggs Cruz - November 10, 2009

I’m such a sucker. That last conversation actually did it for me; made me forgive the film for all its pretenses and cliches. I was quietly affected (with matching tear in one eye) as to how we trust fate (that we are fated for each other, that we are fated to meet, blah blah blah) that it becomes an excuse, a free comfort. But when fate strikes back (that I was fated to be a mere element in the fate of the person I love meeting the person she loves), it hurts, it aches. Then he met Autumn, and my love affair with 500 days of Summer ended.

18. Oggs Cruz - November 10, 2009

Dodo, you can re-post your comment here as your review in your blog, para mag-celebrate ulit tayo because you have a new post… hehe.

19. Richard Bolisay - November 10, 2009

Wow, Oggs becoming personal and teary-eyed! That’s rare! Write it now!

20. dodo dayao - November 10, 2009

Lav said something the other night in a drunken haze about how everything is emotion and that we – – Pinoys,Malays,Asians – – -are predisposed to all emotions – – -love,grief,happiness – – -without the ironic distance Caucasians like to put between themselves and those things. Para sa Pinoy, love is love, grief is grief, happiness is happiness. Pero para sa karamihan ng mga puti,para sa mg kagaya ni Summer, it’s something else,quite possibly something clever that would make a good soundbite or song lyric. Fashion statement, stance,whatever, nevermind. Meh.

(The interview montage with Tom’s best friend (“she’s better than a dream girl, she’s real”) and boss (“yes I got that from one of our greeting cards. doesn’t make it less real.”) probably rang truer to me than the filmmakers would have wanted. Or maybe not. Maybe Marc Webb and cohorts are full-bore romantics.)

In the end, Chard, when all our half-baked attempts at the very American concepts of coolness and aloofness and ironicness falls apart, a Mariah Carey ballad can break our hearts and we all dance the night away to Madonna and 2NE1. Pero bilang Pinoy, kaya nating aminin at namnamin without qualifiers. That’s better than irony. That’s real.

21. dodo dayao - November 10, 2009

Oggs sobra kong natuyuan sa mg pinagsusulat natin, kahit re-post hindi ko na kaya. Hahaha. Isang araw na pahinga na lang magsusulat na ulit ako,. Birthday ng Sesame Street ngayon e. Hehe.

22. dodo dayao - November 10, 2009

The bench scene was the point where the film grew up a little. Fate works both ways – – -we got that. Open-ended and hopeful is how it should have finished, The sequence with Autumn was cute – -well,Autumn was cute at least ,cter than Summer really- – -but a cop-out. We didn’t need to see that as much as we didn’t need to see what happens to Marketa and Glen or to Faye and Tony. Oh well. Hollywood, what can you do?

23. Richard Bolisay - November 10, 2009

Naging personal bigla yung banat sa dulo, haha. I think we’ve changed through the years (vague, I know, but change is something you don’t notice most of the time) and I can’t tell if we’ve progressed too- – not that it’s relevant or useful in that said argument. Like I said in that fateful McDonald’s conversation (imagine, McDonald’s! American! even the place is “ironic”), we have imbibed that way of responding to things. Imbibing the culture is widely encompassing, that even “the ideal response” is passed from one race to another, from cinema to literature and other forms of communication. I look at it not as something bad- – apparently we always joke about me being mostly American and you and Thor favoring British- – but that’s what I like about it, the said plurality of understanding, the difference of opinion, the disagreements, these long comments in particular. Globalization- – such obese word, and such powerful idea too. Sadly films strive to be “global” – -or is it the other way around? The audience strives to be what they see in the movies? Maybe I can no longer differentiate which from which, Asian from European, American from British- – again, not that they are massively significant (’cause they are)- – but I am just content reading films based on emotions, responses, violent reactions. Like Summer crying in The Graduate, for example. And those comments of yours are sufficient enough to be a review, hehe.

24. Richard Bolisay - November 10, 2009

But Tom meeting Autumn is very. . .crucial, for the lack of better word. It had to be there, or else. . They cannot risk it.

25. dodo dayao - November 10, 2009

Yeah. Tom not meeting Autumn and the film ending on the bench would have been another movie. Something French. Or Korean. But I think I get your point – – or maybe not so much, expound please,specially about the risking. Hehe. I can forgive that scene, sure, but I prefer that it happened offscreeen – – – and maybe in real life, hahaha. Still hanging out at the shuttle terminal more than I probably should. Hehe. Maybe I should go apply for a job as well.

The ironic distance I’m talking about is when we think we’re above emotions and that we’re sober enough to make up some clever theory on what it is we’re actually feeling – – -love ,grief,happiness – – -ohter than what it really is – – -love,grief,happiness. That’s very American. That’s very Summer – – least on the outside. Happiness,in particular, is something American pop culture (specially from the 90s) reiterates to us is nothing but a naive fantasy. When Pinoys get this way, it rings false, cracks me up. We smile through fucking catastrophes,after all. Our parents never complicated the uncomplicated the way the next generations after them did. They had no Kurt Cobain to fuck them up.

Magpakatotoo, di ba? Masentimyentong tao tayo kahit pagbali-baliktarin mo pa ang mundo. At masayahin. At mababa ang luha. At mapagmahal. Nasa dugo ika nga. Hindi cool siguro. Sige na nga. Uncool is the new cool anyway.

26. Richard Bolisay - November 10, 2009

Risking- – Webb may be thinking that an ending without Autumn wouldn’t sell much to his target audience, which would narrow us down and help us reveal who they are. Or maybe I’m wrong, it’s reverse psychology, and open endings don’t work anymore. But come to think of it, PLAYING MUSIC IN THE BACKGROUND still does, it’s a staple of filmmaking. Offscreen- -haha, suggestive? Like the next scene, autumn finally came, hehe. Real life sucks!

Oo, pero hindi ba, times they are a-changin’? Tama ka rin dun sa huling talata, pero ‘di ba nagbabago rin? At kumusta naman yung mga hindi natin kapanahunan? Hindi na sila Pinoy?

27. dodo dayao - November 10, 2009

I dunno. Chungking was kind of an open ending. The Breakup was kind of an open ending – – -and one that I found particularly moving. Maybe the movie could have ended with Tom stopping midway to the interview then cut to the numbers reverting back to. Or not.

Of course kahit puro “girl” at “dude” ang bukang bibig, kung dito pinanganak, Pinoy pa din. At sige na nga, Pinoys with ironic distance – – siguro nga sincere siya, hindi siya stance, hindi siya denial at hindi siya pagkukunwari. Times are a changin,sure, and if that’s what we’re changing into – – cold,distant,aloof paragons of cool, then I suppose that’s good. Maybe we are better off as a people,as a race, as a genration, nonchalant at funerals of loved ones and saying “I’m not sad. Sadness is an illusion.” in the coolest,most ironic Summer voice. (I was just being snarky with that last line. Pay no mind.)

Could be I’m too old – – -and have been too sad,too happy and too in love many times in my life and continue to do so – – – to feel any of that, or subscribe to the theory that grief is a fantasy, happiness is an illusion, love isn’t true. If they are, I don’t want to know. Tobusy enjoying myself – – -lovelessness and punishing deadlines be damned. Took me this long to get this lust for life – -a very Pinoy thing,I might add. I’ll be damned if I spend my time moping about it ironically. :)

28. dodo dayao - November 10, 2009

Specially when I can mope about it for real. :)

29. dodo dayao - November 10, 2009

I remember Thor and I having a conversation before about how I never bought into the whole life-sucks-angst-grunge thing because no matter how hard I tried, life just didn’t suck enough for me to empathize with Eddie Vedder, not even when people close to me died. For all my whining, I was born predisposed to some measure of happiness, Silver lining guy, I guess. Bwiset. Napagusapan din natin ‘to sa McDo,I think. That whole grunge vs.britpop conundrum and how I prefred the latter because it was celebratory even if most of it was melancholic. It’s just my DNA and upbringing that’s been talking all this time. hehe.

Getting off the soapbox now.Time to put on 2NE1 and dance. :)

30. Richard Bolisay - November 10, 2009

I mean open endings to Hollywood romance stories.

Aww, see when things get too personal. Haha. At least (500) Days of Summer did us some good realizations, mostly self-related I think, thinking whatever is wrong with disliking it, or are we just too old in taste, in judgment, in character, in values, in everything. Is it really a matter of age and maturity? I am old school- – or I’m just be pretending to be one as may be argued- – but I guess I am more tolerant to these things than you do (not that you aren”t, haha, you watched Nick and Norah’s; I didn’t). I sometimes wish movies aren’t too close to life. :)

31. dodo dayao - November 10, 2009

Open-ended Hollywood romantic comedies are indeed rare. Probably why I liked The Breakup. And Sideways — that don’t count,though,no? An old fart romantic comedy, that was. Hehe.

I probably would’ve loved 500 Days a lot more than I did if it tried a little less to be too aloof and distant and (here we go again) ironic and ,really,too indie-friendly and hip because, thinking about it now, Tom and Summer – – – and pretty much everybody else in the movie – – -are really not that diametrically opposed. Practising the same religon,if you will, except Summer had a crisis of faith because of her parents’ divorce and Tom is on an evangelical boil – – -or something like that. Pardon the religious metaphors. Hehe.

Age and maturity has to do with everything and with nothing I think- – -can’t grow any younger,no matter how much I want to, so I can’t be too sure of that ,though hahaha. I’m just a little more resistant to this very specific, very American brand of teenpic (again, that word – – hipster) – – -Nick and Norah, yeah, and you can add Garden State to the list, too. You know, where music (very demographically specific – -OK,indie) becomes a shorcut to everything. I’m thinking if the song selection in 500 Days had been radically different, say more like a Cameon Crowe movie, would it be embraced as much by its target market? And without the Belle & Sebastian references, how different would it be in temperament to Pretty In Pink or My Sassy Girl or even Don’t Give Up On Us?

Oh well. I do remember liking Adventureland, Napoleon Dynamite, Linda Linda Linda, Ping Pong , Nana. So maybe I’m not – – – we’re not – – too old for this. Too bad sometimes we can see through the disguise,as not too young people are often wont to do. :)

Apologies for verbosity. If I could translate that to blog updates, I would.

32. Richard Bolisay - November 11, 2009

Verbosity is fine, haha, the luxury of cyberspace.

Sorry, last point before I move on with the topic of irony. Given Pinoy thinking is not ironic, would you concede that, indeed, it is our situation that is ironic? Our country, our living, our relationships? Don’t those things count and contribute to the “ironic distance” we see in our films?

33. dodo dayao - November 11, 2009

That’s just it , Chard, I don’t really see there being any ironic distance in our films, Thing is, we (Pinoys in general) don’t inetllectualize or rationalize things like love and grief and happiness. Well, I don’t at least. And a lot of people I know don’t. And characters in our movies – – even in something like Lav’s Melancholia – – -don.t. (Well, Perry Dizon’s character does,to a degree but then we get to that devastating Riverbank scene and everything changes) And,personally, I don’t see why we should in the first place. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it gain, ironic distance is for pussies. That’s just me, of course.

What’s ironic about our situation in the first place anyway?
We live in a poor third world county that has been bedeviled throughout the centuries by everything from colonialists to poverty to typhoons. What do we do? We roll with it and joke a lot, sometimes to a fault. Is that ironic distance? Or resilience? To quote Morrisey: “I dunno.”

Better than solving your stomach cramps and issues about fame with a shotgun in the mouth. IMHO.

34. Richard Bolisay - November 11, 2009

For the most part, I agree with you. But I guess it’s the television, which I am exposed more often, so often that I am fathered by it, fathered by primetime programming and cable shows, that makes me consider otherwise. You expose yourself to a lot of things and you miss what you really were, or the thought that it’s important at all. Where do you go from that?

35. dodo dayao - November 11, 2009

Cancel your subscription,then. Hehehe. But seriously, we all laugh at Ricky Gervais and Steve Carrell and Woody Allen. But aren’t our laughs a little heartier when it’s Kimmy Dora we’re laughing at? Or Roderick Paulate? Or Temptation Island? And there’s always the local cinema cinema cinema you consume (more than me,really). You’d be surprised how sometimes it takes so little to remind you of what you thought you lost.

36. Webs - November 27, 2009

I found this text while googling for Salinger + 500 days, and while I am thankful for the mention of “The heart of a broken story” of which I’ve never heard, I have problems understanding what exactly you didn’t like about the film. It’s either my Englisch not being good enough to get your points, or you not really succeeding in getting your criticism across as such. At the same time I liked your text a lot, so here are just some thoughts that come to my mind when reading about the alleged shortcomings of 500 days:

– the big achievement for me is that the film takes the boy-meets-girl formula only to turn it upside down and present a counter-morale: You may be sure that you have found the right girl, but the girl may be of another opinion. This is a topic rarely ever touched on in the said genre, other than the “he/she will come to her senses eventually and realize we’re meant to be together”.
Of course this pales in comparison to the authentic tone and seriousness and depth of decision-making in a film like “Once”, but in my opinion it achieves what it sets out to do – satirizing a genre full of hypocrisy and corniness – before succumbing to it again in the needlessly sugary final scene with Autumn.

– This main point of the movie would remain even in the absence of the music. Also the songs are far too mainstream-indie to allow viewers to feel as hipsters or distinguish themselves.(so it doesn’t really allow what we in German call “Distinktionsgewinn”).
As to the whole intertext debate: why not just enjoy a bunch of good to great songs in a good movie (here, the word OVERSCRUTINIZING comes to mind)? I mean, did you actually question the use of the music in Once, for example? Granted, that movie was about the importance of music to the protagonist, but isn’t 500 days the same in a way?

– Summer ‘s may not be as defined a role as Tom’s. But it doesn’t have to. This is after all a story told from his point of view, so as long as the other characters are not overly flat (and she definitely isn’t) I see no problem here. (I find it also interesting that I haven’t heard a woman voice her concern about this so far, but only men)
The reason why she is mystified (in Tom’s mind, therefore also for us) for me is obvious and easy to follow.
Maybe it is something you can relate to only if it coincides with your own experiences, and in my case, it oh so does.
Almost every woman I still think of more often than I should has dumped me (or otherwise stopped seeing me) when I still hadn’t figured her out completely, thus remaining an eternal mystery and all the more interesting to me. Summer and Tom didn’t see each other that long, so this probably is the case with him, too. You could also stress that Tom is unable to see the real Summer because of his exaggerated romantic ideas, so the movie in fact criticises the one-dimensional views about love of the likes of Tom.

– Ironic distance is seen by many people not only as a means to protect yourself from harm, but also to protect others from harm done by you. Many nations, including mine, have experienced how emotions can be manipulated and used to do cruel things to others and sustain a totalitarian regime. So maybe your reaction to it does have something to do with your heritage and upbringing, rather than just being for sissies. ;)

So, although I do not agree with some of your points, I found this an inspring read and will try to follow your thoughts on movies etc. from now on.

Best

P.S.: I was a little disappointed that you didn’t elaborate on the Salinger analogy. Tom’s sister has got to be Phoebe from Catcher, surely?

37. Richard Bolisay - November 28, 2009

Hi Webs,

First of all, thank you for such a disarming comment.

I know it’s unfair to say this, and I have someone arguing with me against it, but I have to tell you, most of the time, cinema all boils down to taste and personal experiences. As you have mentioned, you believe Summer’s mystified character works for you because you met someone like her- – which I have to admit I also did – -but she just comes across to me as something forced and ineffective. Or maybe because of the film’s direction or its lack of regard for her. But afterward, I learned about the Manic Pixie Dream Girl from a friend, and it sort of made sense.

I’m just copying this from Wikipedia but here it says: the MPDG is “that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.”

I have nothing against that, of course. From that same article, it mentions that Katharine Hepburn’s character in Bringing Up Baby is one of the earliest examples of the MPDG- -the film which I hold close to my heart because of her character. Films use a lot of these stereotypes, sometimes to good effect, sometimes otherwise, but then, that’s fine. Stereotypes either work or don’t. I realize it’s a matter of sensibility, which I have to concede, is unfair in terms of discussion, but sensibility is something I will always put forward in defense.

I have to disagree about the boy-meets-girl formula you liked. In essence I just find it too mushy, and most of the time I’m just disinterested while seeing it on screen. I have no issue with tone, as you said about the “authentic tone and seriousness and depth of decision-making in a film like Once,” but how it is delivered, how it is shown, how it materialized in the audio-visual medium, is important. That’s where taste comes in, I guess.

I may be OVERSCRUTINIZING though, but doesn’t the film deserve it? It has amassed millions of dollars in box-office worldwide, why shouldn’t we give it our piece of criticism? The songs are great, right, but I don’t think that the movie has done enough to deserve them.

With ironic distance, Dodo (the commenter above) initiated the discussion about how Filipinos are not characteristically ironic; and that irony is just something we got from being exposed too much from other people’s culture, especially the Americans. Which I thought was unfair, but then it’s the type of discussion that never really meets a specific answer, something that will not yield an overwhelming amount of truth that encompasses the years of the Philippines being a colony of culture. Which again, I tell you, will open up to an eternity of discussion which I wouldn’t want to crack. I’m sure German history, much like Chinese history or Philippine history, has a lot of experiences with regard to that, as you say about having something to do with heritage and upbringing.

The article I wrote is not something I envision to cover the entirety of (500) Days of Summer, because certainly, that’s impossible, right? Especially for a film so “culture-crowded” like this. I recognize my fault as a writer if it didn’t work out for you or if I wasn’t successful in stressing my points clearly, but then that’s as much as I could write about. I wish to expound more on Salinger, the recluse guy being one of my favorite writers, but then I would be talking about his works more than the film, which I think isn’t my priority in the first place.

Here we are, Webbs you German, me Filipino, and we’re talking about an American film with a mix of English and American indie music, and you finding about my blog because of an American author. Don’t you think that’s strange? Well, in a good way.

Wow, that’s a long comment. Thanks for dropping by. Your English is good (like that Tokyo Police Club song). Keep in touch. :)

P.S. Yes, Phoebe from Catcher. I just hate it that the film makes a lot of reference and does not stand by them. :) Phoebe in the film becomes a know-it-all; Phoebe in the book is a lovely sister, someone I would want to hug every morning.

38. Webs - November 28, 2009

Hey Richard

Thanks for your answer.
I think apart from taste and sensibilities our different approaches to the movie also have something to do with this:
with regards to movies, I am ready to lower my standards to a fair degree – I don’t know why that is, though – or maybe age has made me soft, hehe.
So I am thankful for a Phoebe-like character, even if it is merely a bad copy, and a movie that combines fairly entertaining with fairly brainy. I respect that you hold up your standards with regards to this noble art form, though.

Also, on a professional note, as a future teacher, I like the fact that a movie I consider as more profound than most of the Hollywood schmonz gets that type of recognition – as most of the time I marvel at the low quality of the pop culture my pupils are exposed to.

Just noticed that you wrote something about Rachel getting married – off to that page now, before I head to the cinema to work (collecting leftovers of a Twilight-New Moon audience is no fun, believe me).
Have a nice weekend.

39. Richard Bolisay - November 29, 2009

In my defense, I don’t regard the films I watch as “high” or “low” – -if I like a film I like it, if I don’t I don’t. I may have liked 500 Days of Summer if I were much younger or older for all I know, and what I wrote in this blog wouldn’t have mattered at all.

And also, I believe pop culture should not be regarded less just because it’s popular or catered to more people. I say it is as important as other “art forms.” As my friend would say, Entertainment is art, and Art is entertainment. The use of caps intended.

And how I envy you for being a future teacher and having cinema as work! That’s my dream.

Thanks Webbs, a nicer weekend to you.

40. sunshine - December 2, 2009

couldn’t help but comment on this:
“(I find it also interesting that I haven’t heard a woman voice her concern about this so far, but only men)”

i really liked the film. i’ve always been more of a TOM than a SUMMER, and i was really delighted to see a reversal of roles. finally, it’s the guy who’s delusional or blinded by infatuation. my other girlfriend (meaning female friend) however, really hated the film. she says chick flicks shouldn’t have men as protagonists. and she really had a very violent reaction to this movie, which i found funny.

i enjoyed this post, especially with all the lengthy comments that sort of sent my head spinning. i was kind of disappointed you didn’t like the movie. but hey, i’m still a big fan of your blog. :)

41. Richard Bolisay - December 2, 2009

hehe, thank you sunshine (aka TOM pag gabi hehe).

it’s good if we disagree sometime, isn’t it? maybe i’m just old, or i’m just around with a lot of hopeless boys, including myself, that the film didn’t strike me that way.


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