I thought the five-day positivity challenge was great, and I think the effects lasted a lot more than five days. Having said that I was ready for more stuff, but wasn’t sure what. This list of movies that have stuck with you is another “unpacking life” exercise that has me looking back on what made me. Fun and informative. Here they are in no particular order (slightly chronological but not completely).


STAR WARS: I was 8 when this came out in the theaters and that summer/year I saw the film about 14 times (which you could afford to do back in those days). This really launched me into wanting to make films (well space fiction films) and turned me into a total nerd for most of my life. Then Lucas started reediting the film (Han shot FIRST!) and made all the prequels… I still have to go online to see the movie I saw in the theaters (and show that one to my daughter; won’t show her the “special editions”). My mom gave me a copy of the fourth draft of the screenplay as a birthday gift, but I regifted it to a friend in high school.

APOCALYPSE NOW: In high school I majored in video production, and in junior year, my professor had us research/analyze one film of a director we had done a presentation on the past semester. I did Francis Ford Coppola, so I chose Apocalypse Now. I dissected that film, read up on the production problems and everything surrounded it so very little of what happened in Hearts of Darkness was a surprise to me. I still think its Coppola’s magnum opus and pushed what film could do as an expressionistic narrative art form. I still have a copy of an early draft of the screenplay by John Milius.

PSYCHO: I actually picked Coppola fro the high school project because Hitchcock was already taken. I saw Psycho with my dad on public television when I was about 8 or 9. It didn’t diminish the suspense of the film and still held up when I eventually saw it on the big screen years later. The final close up of Norman Bates (with or without the superimposed skull depending on what version you see) still sends chills through me. It still holds up to this day and is one film most filmmakers chase after.

BLADE RUNNER: My sci-fi addiction was heightened with this film. Never saw anything like it before and it spawned many, many, many (did I forget many) copycats, but the look and feel of the original has never been matched in my opinion. I also dove into the behind the scenes design after seeing it to get an idea of the work behind it, which is mind boggling in its own right. Even the various director cuts haven’t ruined the film (one of them I think is better than the original cut). It’s one of those films that have not only influenced movies, but also music, sci-fi writing, and other pop culture elements.

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK: Semi-blasphemous statement of the day: I don’t like Spielberg movies. Except for Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and this movie, I never liked his films. I felt ripped off watching the “special edition” of Close Encounters, and I felt E.T. was a manipulative saccharine flavored nightmare—even at age 12. But I do like the 1930s RKO serials of Zorro and Flash Gordon that I used to watch on public television with my dad when I was younger (6 or 7). Spielberg grew up on all of them and he put all of that love into this film, and it works. For a little while in my youth, I wanted to be a stuntman/stunt coordinator and seeing this film, and the behind the scenes work on the film drove that home.

THE MUPPET MOVIE: I was born 6 or 7 months before Sesame Street premiered on TV and I loved all the Muppets there, especially Kermit. Jim Henson is one of my childhood heroes along with Charles M. Schulz, so the Muppets on the big screen was a big deal for me. I still watch it with my daughter and I swear it doesn’t age. The vaudeville humor spans the generations and still provides honest laughs today. I was lucky enough to have an internship at Jim Henson Productions and meet the man himself once, and I am proud to have grown up in a time when he was alive and the creative force behind muppet storytelling.

ANIMAL HOUSE: My mom dragged me and my sister to see this film when it came out when I was 8 or 9 (my sister was 5 or 6). She said we had to see this anti-authoritarian sex comedy. My mom said my favorite scene was in the climactic parade debacle when the playboy bunny goes sailing into the little boy’s room and the kid looks up to the ceiling and says “Thank you, God.” That might still be my favorite scene today, though John Belushi on the ladder is a close second.

NETWORK: I saw this film in college (though knew about it before it) and still try to watch it at least once a year (my last full viewing was 2 weeks ago on cable). The concepts are still too frighteningly real, and I feel if you only change a few company names in the Ned Beatty monologue, it is still a potent commentary on our times. One thing that is dated about the film is its use of the English language: very few people are smart enough to know every word in the film, but it is a film worth trying to grasp in order to stop dumbing material down to an audience. If you must, view with a dictionary nearby.

BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN: I am a big film school nerd and so I am required by law to have this film on my list. However I have no problem with that. What Eisenstein does in this movie is magic. Every film geek knows the Odessa Steps sequence and its effect on film editing today is still prescient. While his first film Strike was a better impassioned call to arms for the people, this was the film that launched him to the top of the film pantheon and rightfully so.

RASHOMON: At the same time I was starting film school in college, the cable channel Bravo (when it actually showed good movies) had a two month long retrospective every Friday night on films by Akira Kurosawa. After watching Rashomon, I was hooked and tuned in each Friday for a film education on one of the best Japanese filmmakers (certainly the one most influenced by the West). The whole concept of “truth as ego” that permeates the film has stuck with me; so much so that when I see films or TV shows doing Rashomon, I’m quick to see where the directors missed points that Kurosawa makes so well in the original. It’s an original formula that everyone else seems too miss the full scope of, but Kurosawa hit it perfectly.

RAN: The other Kurosawa film on this list. One of my students’ teacher evaluations wrote “No more Kurosawa.” I teach with him because he is a master and can do something unique with the medium in each film. Ran was a bit of a culmination of his decades long career. Kurosawa adapted Shakespeare’s “King Lear” (my favorite Shakespeare play) for feudal Japan and shot it from a God’s eye view, and the results are stunning. Shots of clouds, the attack on the home compound with the lord fleeing in the middle, and the final shot of the blind young man along the cliff are still ingrained in my head.

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT: I’d rather not remember this one, but it has stayed with me—but not for film study reasons. I finally realized I can’t watch horror films after this movie. A friend of mine said this is a horror film for people who haven’t been camping, but it worked wonders on me. The final shot completely freaked me out and I spent two weeks sleeping with my lights on. It didn’t help that the shadows of trees moving in the wind landed right above my bed.

HOUR OF THE WOLF: I got introduced to Ingmar Bergman films in grad school. While I agree Fanny and Alexander is his great masterpiece, Hour of the Wolf is the one that hit me where I lived and sometimes dare not go. It’s dark and moody, and has two scenes that seriously creep me out: the killing of a boy/demon at the seaside and a minute of silence (an actual timed minute) between Max Von Sydow and Liv Ullmann alone in their cabin. The scene with the Sydow and his mistress near the end is intense and a marvel of cinematography.

THREE COLORS: RED: This film is the reason Citizen Kane isn’t on this list. Introduced to Krysztof Kieslowski in grad school as well, watching the entire Decalogue and Three Colors trilogy was life altering cinema for me. My favorite of them was Red from the Three Colors trilogy. It’s similar to Shakespeare’s “The Tempest: and sums up everything he was doing in the other two films. It’s stunning to look at and struck a chord with me like no other film as something to aspire to and has changed how I approach writing for film. This really should be seen and experienced by all lovers of film.

PI: Darren Aronofsky’s debut feature film is a stunning mix of film noir, sci-fi, numerology and theology. I remember desperately needing to run to the bathroom for the last 35 minutes of the movie, but refused to leave my seat not wanting to miss a damn thing. I also met him at an independent film conference and I got a chance to email him a question several months later to which he responded and never forgot. Very daring indie film stuff that still resonates with me today.

This is my most recently completed bit of flash fiction (or a short-short, I forget the word count for both). Wanted to get this on my blog, though I’m looking to put this in a small collection of short-shorts by the end of the year. Enjoy.


 

EXECUTIVE DECISIONS
by
David A. Concepcion

After the first bust of gunfire, Jack discards the rain poncho. It was more effective against the light rain than concealing the rifle and tactical vest. He still feels the vest was a tacky choice. If you want to be a tough guy you need the vest to finish the look. But a look is all it is. This isn’t about being a badass; this is about justice and Kevlar vests don’t stand for justice. He wasn’t going to get killed when security showed up. 80% of them are unarmed and those who were were on the upper wings with a bad response time. He wouldn’t be around when the cops showed up, so why bother he thought. Maybe his vanity got the better of him.

Despite emergency plans, the office is in full panic mode. As stated in memos, people in cubicles are to stay low behind their desks and, if you can, move unnoticed towards the fire exits. If in an office, lock the door and hide under desks until help arrives. Anyone nearest the gunman when he/she is reloading should tackle him/her to the ground and subdue them. The problem is while people know how to remain calm if a fire alarm goes off, very few people know how to react when gunfire rings out. Some freeze, a lot run. Two by the copier stare at Jack, not sure what they’re looking at. Jack takes each one out with a shot apiece. Nothing personal against either of them; they’re in his way and he needs to keep moving. People cower behind their chairs, deke in between cubicles, watching Jack heading for the back hallway. Once out of his sights, those not stone shocked run the opposite direction, memos be damned.

Jack continues down the hall. Abruptly a man from accounting runs straight for Jack and halts. The man didn’t expect the gunman to be so close. Jack’s rifle shot slams the backtracking man to the ground and splays blood against the wall. Jack walks over the bloody rag doll towards the back, focused on the department manager’s office. That’s his target. He’s the one who “let him go.” That term still rings bitter in Jack’s head. Not that hearing “you’re fired” would things better, but there’s something too sterile about “let him go” that lodges in his throat. It ignores your history with the company, the personal sacrifices given up to stay put in rough economic times; to stay with the company because you believe in them and know they can make it through the turbulence, and be eventually noticed for that loyalty; to learn new procedures that will eventually cause your replacement. “Let him go.” It’s a phrase from a high tower view at a bottoming out company that throws out loyalty and faith like encumbering ballast. “Him” might as well be “it.” To those in charge there is no difference; to Jack, there’s all the difference in the world.

Jack checks the chamber before kicking in the manager’s door. The foyer is the secretary’s space, the manager’s office is past the open door-frame on the right. Jack peers in around the empty office. He moves further into the office through the door-frame, squeezing the pistol grip in his palm. Leaning down, Jack spots a patch of khaki under the desk. He swings around the desk to see the manager trembling underneath, hands over his ears almost in disbelief. He lets out a strangled squeak as he sees Jack bearing down on him. Jack glances at the manager’s face—quivering lips, horrified stare, the absence of tears—and squeezes the trigger. The burst slams the manager’s head back against the steel—the rest of his body slumps in place—and sends an arterial spray onto the black leather executive chair. Jack extends a small grin at the poetics.

Jack’s smile fades as he realizes his next choices are murky. Jack can wait for the armed security to finally show up and suicide-by-cop that way. He can take out other executives still in the offices or even pick off people in the yard from a window. With the main job done, he could simply end it now. Jack takes a second to realize he can’t make the choice standing in the boss’ office. Distant footsteps and screams on the main floor echo in multiple directions; waiting in a back room does nothing for him. Jack makes for the hallway again to clear his head.

Entering the secretary’s space, a woman tries to stand against the opposite wall, but screams and lands seated as she spots Jack. He trains the rifle on her. She flinches, arms flailing defending her face. His name leaves her mouth, not so much a bellow as a stifled cry, but Jack clearly heard her call his name. “Christine?” he thinks. She hasn’t been here long, maybe less than a year, but she was always polite, friendly even. Is it Christine or Kirstie? Holding his stare, he finds it hard to remember what her name is. Her mouth quivers as she tries to speak. From the effort to move her lips, she has a lot to say, but all she can manage to eek out is “Jack… please.”

Jack regards the young woman slumped in front of him on the floor. Christine or Kirstie—why is he stuck on that? Her brown hair matted on the right side, her eyes inflamed by tears, cheeks stained black from the mascara. Her corneas now, slightly pink, offset her blue eyes. “Funny, I always remembered her eyes being green,” Jack thinks to himself.

In one fluid move, he flips the rifle barrel under his chin and reaches the trigger with his thumb. Christine lets out a short strangled screech as the rifle fires a final shot. Grey matter and blood splatter the ceiling. Jack hits the ground, his head slumped against the foot of the wall. Christine flinches again as the rifle crashes next to her. She turns towards the wall in spastic sobs. Her mascara runs black rivulets on the lines of her palm. Jack’s blood coagulates in the fibers of the carpet.

I’ve been watching the latest celebrity photo computer hacking situation with some interest, though not exactly sure what to say on the matter. While I’m sure every guy feels he has to say something in defense of the patriarchy, I didn’t and thought I probably shouldn’t say anything. But I am the father of a pre-teen girl and will have to explain this to her at some point—either out of her curiosity or talking about rape culture—so I can’t say nothing. So thinking about what I should tell her when the time comes, I’ve come to this:

What happened to Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Jill Scott and others, was rape. At the very least they were sexually violated: they didn’t give consent for their photos to be released publicly even if the photos were for private use; so this is hacking was a type of “revenge porn” which is a form of rape. For those who doubt revenge porn is rape, read these articles—one where the victim had a former relationship with her attacker (Time Magazine blog), and one where the victim had no relationship with her stalker (Marie Claire online). Hopefully the authorities will catch the hackers and the law will catch up to the technology.

Having said that, I personally don’t understand why anyone—woman, man, or transgender—would choose to photograph themselves nude if it wasn’t for a job. Believe me I’m not being a prude—I have too checkered a sexual history to claim that—but I am concerned with how this society acts. We are a patriarchal society; many are working to change that but it is a slow process. But we are also a society where locked diaries haven’t gone out of style since the 1960s. As great our achievements, the human animal is still a voyeur by nature; and in an age where the word “selfie” has recently been added to the Oxford English Dictionary, that isn’t good. Or safe. I know there are parents out there that are teaching their sons not to rape, and I am grateful for that. But I also know that there are many boys who will never learn and some who don’t care—and that scares me, especially as a parent of a girl who has to live in this society. Sexual freedom is important for life; so are boundaries. Both need to be respected.

In trying to think of what I would say to my daughter, it’s this: it’s your body, your life, your sexual expression. Be who you want to be (not what someone expects you to be) and never be ashamed of your body or who you are. Respect yourself, know yourself, love yourself. Consent is everything. Set boundaries and make sure your partners know what they are and they respect them, and kick them to the curb if they can’t. If you want to “capture the moment,” that is up to you, but be advised doing that is much like getting a tattoo of the name of your boyfriend/partner/fiancee: it’s truly something that doesn’t end well. And while tattoos can be removed, photos on the internet can’t.

Some other great articles on this whole kerfuffle that help perspective are from the GuardianEsquire and Buzzfeed.