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Tag Archive: Roger Ebert


Escape from Tomorrow banner

Something peculiar lurks in the shadows behind the critically acclaimed 2013 Sundance release Escape from Tomorrow.  You can even make out the shape of two giant ears and a large white gloved hand forming one of the shadows.  The story behind the film is a story surprisingly underreported by the mainstream press, and when it has found coverage since the film’s festival release it typically centers around expressions of shock and surprise at a filmmaker who would dare to cast Disney–yes, Disney–in anything other than a sugar-coated, happy-go-lucky light.  This week was no different with the news that Escape from Tomorrow has found a distributor and is on its way to theaters across America.  Shock and awe again.  “No one really believes it will actually get released” and similar sentiments abound.

The response seems so much like the family and “friends” of Billy Mumy’s character Anthony in the classic episode of The Twilight Zone, “It’s a Good Life.”  If you haven’t seen the episode, drop everything and get thee to a Netflix.  Little, sweet boy Anthony has the power to destroy anyone around him and everyone treats him with love and care not because they want to but because they have to.  Disney’s power is like that of Anthony, the Mob, the Crown, the Pope, the Company… all rolled into one.  American families happily hand over their children to Disney as they would their church or pastor.  After all Disney is all about “families,” isn’t it?  They really do know best, don’t they?  We’re safe leaving our kids in the care of Disney videos, right?  Disney is synonymous with love.

Escape From Tomorrow - 2013 - film poster

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If you were asked to determine what single piece of film should be put in a time machine to preserve what it means to be human for future generations, or to send a synopsis along with a new Voyager space probe to a distant world so they could learn about us, what would you select?  For me, there is one documentary series that rivals all other documentaries and non-documentaries alike, that required so much thought, cooperation, and coordination over the years that it is amazing it was even possible.  That series is Michael Apted’s Up Series.  At a basic level, this true life tale of class and social inequality may very well be the closest we ever get to time travel.

Roger Ebert has called the series “an inspired, even noble, use of the film medium.  No other art form can capture so well the look in an eye, the feeling in an expression, the thoughts that go unspoken between the words.  To look at these films, as I have every seven years, is to meditate on the astonishing fact that man is the only animal that knows it lives in time.”  It’s also on his list of the 10 best films of all time.

In May, British TV released 56 Up, the eighth installment of the Up Series, the reflections on the 56th year of the life of a group of 14 British citizens first chronicled in 1964 in Granada Television’s film for the BBC titled Seven Up! directed by Paul Almond.  A researcher who helped select the original 20 seven-year-olds for the project, Michael Apted, came back every seven years thereafter to interview as many of the original students who were available and interested in participating. The premise of the film was taken from the Jesuit saying “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man.”

The series is probably the most important film ever made, simply because it is a camera’s eye on real-life people discussing every day life over the entire course of their lives.  Fans worldwide have eagerly awaited each episode, and it is truly the first reality series ever made, and with that has come the good and the bad.  The good is allowing the participants themselves to see how they have changed over the years and allowing us to share in that.  The bad is the antics of fans of any subject, made up of ongoing questions:  Who will participate next time?  Who has prospered?  Who has had hard luck?

The scrutiny has apparently affected the participants in many ways.  One installment suggests the negative light in which one man’s wife was viewed in a prior installment may have led to a divorce.  Members have dropped out, and come back again later as their perspectives on the series changed, one man helped another who was in trouble, another shot from homeless person to a surprising role in politics.  Apted has commented in recent years that he wished they had included more women, and that they initial intentionally pulled participants from the extremes of society.

Worldwide, those who watch the series find they much watch all prior installments–it is very addictive.  You also note commonality, such as participants experiencing bouts of family death all in the same year span of their lives (just as would happen with others throughout society).  You also find yourself cheering for the success of each person, or maybe the person you most relate to, in subsequent installments.  The participants have been a mix of commoners to a taxi driver to professors and politicians, consisting of Bruce Balden, Jackie Bassett, Symon Basterfield, Andrew Brackfield, John Brisby, Peter Davies, Susan Davis, Charles Furneaux, Nicholas Hitchon, Neil Hughes, Lynn Johnson, Paul Kligerman, Suzanne Lusk and Tony Walker.

If you’re a Netflix subscriber, you can stream the series now up to 49 Up.  And it’s available at Amazon.com.  It’s engrossing, engaging, and addictive.  Once you start, plan on watching it all.

As for 56 Up, Americans will have to wait a bit longer, although it is expected that niche arthouse theaters will be showing 56 Up on the big screen across the country by year end.  We can’t wait!

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

Dealing with depression from both sides presents an interesting quandary.  As a friend to people that may be suffering from it, you want to be there, you want to support them, but when people are depressed they just aren’t that interesting.  A quote in the opening paragraph of Roger Ebert’s All the Lonely People says it best, “You know what a bore is, Travis. Someone who deprives you of solitude without providing you with companionship.”

On the other side, when you are depressed, getting out of bed seems like a chore, let alone leaving the house.  If that’s the way you feel, no wonder when you go out and about and try to socialize and lift your spirits, the only thing you’re thinking about is your couch, since going to sleep in your bed at 5 pm feels wrong no matter what your mental state of mind.  You know you’re a bore, but you don’t care or don’t understand how people don’t see it and you just have to occupy yourself until 10 pm somehow, so you can sleep for ten hours.  You never know, tomorrow might be better.

It doesn’t feel like there is a difference between depression and melancholia, and doing a quick bit of research, considering depression is used in the definition of melancholia, I’d say no difference.  There’s even a combination of the two into melancholic depression.  So would they look the same?  Could you tell the difference between melancholia and depression?  Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia gave me a quick “no” as the answer to that question.

Charles Corbet's depiction of Melancholia (1910)

I’ve never been married, but having been to weddings, probably not too much like the one in Melancholia, but definitely in the ballpark, I understand the urge to go take a long bath.  I understand going for a walk on a golf course.  There’s something nice about going to be alone when no one is around rather than being alone with hundreds of people surrounding you.  It’s why the bed or bath is such a welcome sight.  It’s why you continually look at your watch wondering what the perfect time to excuse yourself without hurting anyone’s feelings is.  If you can hold out for one more song, one more hit from the 80s, one more choreographed dance song, you can leave and walk to your room, drive home or just run, literally and figuratively.

I’m trying to think of another film that captures that feeling so well.  Looking at the profile of major league pitcher Taylor Buchholz and his bout with depression, you see a couple of the same symptoms in the performance of Kirsten Dunst (and the writing behind her acting): extreme irritability and the inability to laugh.  If we saw the back story that led to her wedding, I’m sure we’d also get a glimpse of her faking happiness to such a degree that her future groom truly believed she loved him and wanted to marry him.  Only at the reception did he finally see something different, as she couldn’t fake it any more.  Most everyone encouraged her to do so for various reasons, not least of which, because of all the money being spent by her future brother-in-law (played very well by Kiefer Sutherland.)

As you battle with faking it, with your irritability, your self-criticism and an occasional malaise, forgetting the bed and just sleeping every day and night on the couch seems like the perfect solution because you can go to sleep and wake up with the TV to keep you company.  That could be the result of loneliness, which is a separate thing, as this analysis of the Community episode Advanced Dungeons & Dragons points out, but can feel and look the same.  In fact, author Casey Jones puts it very succinctly, “Depression is anger pointed at yourself.  Loneliness… man, that’s just despair.”  The question becomes, what if your depression causes your loneliness or you’re depressed and angry with yourself because you can’t make or keep friends?  They can feed off of each other and I would say there is probably some high correlation between the two things.

As you can see from the collection of links (and the upcoming ones) I want to see how others deal with these same issues. I want to watch Melancholia even though I know it is going to be heavy.  I want to read Darkness Visible to see about William Styron’s struggle to overcome depression.  I want to read about how Rob Delaney learned to cope with it and come to grips to taking medication to help him.  I want to read about Stanley Jefferson, former major league player and New York City policeman who was on duty in Manhattan during 9/11.  I want to see or read about the ways they learned to cope or how they struggle to find a way to cope, from watching endless amounts of TV, to baths, to drinking or to just finding something to fill up every moment of your time so that you don’t have to think about anything.

Edvard Munch (1891)

Maybe you’re the same way, you like to see these things too as it helps to know that you have company. Maybe there are other people that consider watching every episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent on USA Network replays over a jam-packed month to be a worthwhile pursuit.  Maybe it’s because you see hope in some of the stories and you can feel hope for the stories of others because you pushed through that stage of depression yourself.

On the other hand you may not want to know how some people suffer.  You don’t even want to see hints of it because those views might generate powerful emotions within you that you can’t hide.  You don’t want to think about it in others because it will remind you of what you see in yourself, the fear, the anxiety, the worry.  You might break down and cry in front of someone and generate more anger at yourself for showing weakness like Buchholz.  Then again, you can try like he did to be around people, regular people, happy people so that you can forget all of those things that are wrong with you and you can pretend to be happy and maybe, just maybe, that dream of happiness will come true.  It’s possible.  As much as we think we know about the human mind and body, we still learn more and more every day and maybe a study will show that happiness rubs off.  You can sense it and feel it and happiness of others becomes whole in you. You at last become whole again.

Albrecht Durer's Melancholia (1514)

Still, the opposite of that is not to be around those happy people, cheerfully going about their daily lives because then you see the emptiness in your own.  By being around them it reminds you about how unhappy you are and so then you close yourself off, you seclude yourself because the pain of seeing people is too much.  Sometimes it feels better to feel sad; to know there is something wrong with you and to know it needs to be addressed.  Wallowing in it makes it more visible in your own mirror and may motivate you to do something about it.  You shut yourself off to find this point in yourself and then the loneliness enters your life.  Then a different vein of self-loathing exists for your depression to tap into and a different cycle starts anew.

I slipped into using the second person in this essay pretty easily because I realized that doing so made writing about it easier.  I never know what a different day will bring.  Maybe it’s a day I want to be around people. Maybe it’s a day where I don’t.  Maybe it’s a day where the idea of even taking off my clothes to shower seems like a chore.  Maybe it’s a day where buying new underwear sounds so much easier than sorting clothes, carrying them to the washer, carrying them to the dryer and then putting them away.  Maybe it’s a day when I write 2000 words on a subject and reward myself with video games.  Maybe it’s a day where I just play video games and criticize myself for not writing anything.  Maybe it’s a day I play video games and feel happy because I just have fun. Maybe it’s ten days in a row and the only thing I wrote was emails.  Maybe even emails get tough to write.  Maybe I’ll just watch 12 hours of Psych, Doctor Who or the whole run of Spaced and laugh a little bit, for once.  When I say “you” I mean me, though I do know a few examples of friends that do or have dealt with depression and or loneliness.  I’ve dealt with it a few ways myself.  It’s trying to find the way to deal with it the best.  So, like Kirsten Dunst’s character, maybe I’ll work in baths.  I’ve tried long showers.  They help some.  Every day leads me closer to a solution as I work through ways to overcome my own depression and my solutions are definitely better than a meteor coming to strike the Earth, I’m sure.  Definitely sure on that one.  For with the dawn of a new day, there’s always hope that it will be better.

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