Tag Archives: Love

The Best Valentine’s Date There Is: You

I was 19 years old when I kissed a girl for the first time. I was about ten when I hugged one. I was six when I told a girl “I love you”. I’ve never been in a serious relationship.

Yeah I know, boo-hoo me, right? I’ve been in this song-and-dance routine long enough to know how this game goes. Yes, I’m single. Valentines Day translates to me as “Single Awareness” day. You tell people your sad romance story, people go “aw” after your confession, and you go about your own way so you can sulk about. Right?

Well to be honest, I haven’t felt like that in a very long time, and its strange because growing up, that’s the only way that I’ve ever felt.

It all started back in high school. I was attracted to one of my pretty brunette friends that sat in my English class with me. This is the kind of girl that you need to take a snapshot of and save it on your phone. Her hair was long and silky, and spread down her back like a river over a waterfall. Her figure was fit and voluptuous, looking more like a sculpture than a human body. She had this perfumey aroma that was both sweet and addictive. Saying that she was beautiful didn’t do it justice. She was spellbinding.

But physical beauty isn’t enough to make a fitting partner: she needs to be beautiful on the inside as much as outside. And in regards to her, I didn’t know which was more beautiful.

We got along well. Very well. We shared the same taste in movies, books, and television shows, we had the same interests, we both went to Church, we both believed in the importance of family and spirituality, and most importantly, she believed in being happy.

So what happened? Well, despite our friendship, I wasn’t a sociable person back in high school. Quite contrarily, I was a creep. I’ve struggled socially speaking to people all my life, and it was even worse when it came to girls. When it came to my advances, she was instantly intimidated and swatted any of the notions out of the way.

I was devastated, and for my first few years in college I sought a filler for this empty spot that laid in my broken being. Long have I struggled to find the answer until one day it was just handed to me.

I was at lunch with a few of my fraternity brothers. We were all laughing, talking about hot girls we would hook up with and what teacher was the worst at his job. All laughing stopped, however, when I got a message from one of my brother’s girlfriends, saying that she was going to harm herself if he didn’t call her back.

I panicked and showed the message to my brothers. One of them called another friend to try and mediate the situation while another sent a message to her, saying he wanted to reach out. The message was long and endearing, but the part that hit me like a train was this:

“Your happiness can’t be dependent on another person. People can encourage you and be your companions along your journey. However the decision to be happy is up to you.”

I looked at this message long and hard, trying to understand the meaning of it and how I could apply it to my life. Finally, I stopped thinking about it and decided to start doing it: I was going to be happy.

It took a long time, and I’ve had some bumps in the way, but I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can be independently happy without someone else’s influence. Happiness doesn’t come in a relationship. It doesn’t come in a kiss, or a hug, or even in the words “I love you.” Happiness comes in a personal decision and mindset to being happy and being satisfied with who you are, even if you’re a flawed individual. Being in a relationship doesn’t add or lessen your happiness: it’s just an opportunity to share that happiness.

So to the single folks out there who are sulking about their situations, I implore you to think differently. Yes, you’re single. So what? There are thousands of other single people out in the world right now, and they’re in the exact same situation as you. I know that I’m the best valentine date there could ever be, and the best part about that is that its true for you as well.

Happy Valentines Day, everybody.

-David Dunn

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“HER” Review (✫✫1/2)

What on earth did I just watch?

How do you fall in love with a computer program? Throughout the entire runtime of Her, that’s the only thought that was peaking through my mind. I wasn’t thinking about Joaquin Phoenix’s deliberate performance. I wasn’t thinking about how sweet and serene Scarlett Johansson’s voice sounded. I didn’t think about how clever the story was or how passionate Spike Jonze’s direction was. The only thing I was thinking about was how hard it must be to maintain a relationship with a piece of machinery. Can you imagine how awkward those morning encounters must be?

Taking place in the not-too-distant future, Her follows the story of Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), an introvert and manic depressive who writes love letters for a living and has recently gone through a divorce with his wife Catherine (Rooney Mara). Theodore is not in the most stable mindset as the movie begins, and as an effort to feel less lonely, he purchases an artificial intelligence who names herself “Samantha” (Scarlett Johanson) to help him with his everyday needs. What goes from there is a grand journey of self-discovery, identity and romance as these two gradually come closer with each other and eventually fall in love.

For those of you who have seen the movie, does that paragraph just about do it justice? I could go deeper into the plot synopsis, but why would I? From just those three sentences, half of you have already decided whether you would like the movie or not. There are, no doubt, some introspective and provocative thinkers out there who will find joy and enchantment with this story, while other viewers will watch it and ask themselves what on earth they just watched.

For me, I went in an open book. I knew that the movie had an opportunity to woo me, that it was a strange and outlandish idea to begin with, but that the idea doesn’t matter as long as it was handled and carried out well. How did the movie do with that?

Eh. I’d rather watch 1 Night In Paris. 

Like its central idea, Her is a strange movie, a surreal and against-the-grain picture that challenges a lot of misconceptions about love and relationships. While I like that and think it has a lot of great ideas to offer its viewers, I find them so hard to focus on while we’re watching Joaquin Phoenix having sex with a machine.

Yes, there are sex scenes in the movie, although I hesitate to even call them that. There are two that we actually see, but from their conversations we actually infer that there were plenty more.

The first one isn’t really a sex scene, but more or less a copycat of phone sex with Scarlett Johansson’s voice (which I’ll admit, didn’t bother me that much at all). The second one, however, was out of this world weird, with Samantha hiring a surrogate (prostitute) for Theodore to have pretend sex with. They’re trying to justify it by saying that she isn’t a prostitute and that she’s just trying to be a part of their experience, but that argument is null and void. She’s provided sexual services in exchange for something else. She’s a prostitute.

Don’t get me wrong: there are many emotional moments that the movie handled surprisingly well, and there’s an undeniable sweetness and sentiment to the story that can’t help but be noticed. Despite her being a machine, Samantha has a surprising amount of layers to her, being an in-depth and interesting character and love interest in her own right, while the human characters contribute the more grounded relationships that make more sense than that of Samantha’s (Including a recently-divorced Rooney Mara and Amy Adams, who offer very interesting parallels to Twombly’s exotic love story).

Joaquin Phoenix, however, is the flesh and blood of the film. His performance is nothing less than exemplary, playing this shy introvert so convincingly that its hard to imagine that he at one point portrayed Johnny Cash. His character reminds me of many of cinema’s most memorable introverts, ranging from the autistic-yet-brilliant Raymond Babbit in Rain Man to the hyper-obsessive and socially distant Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, or the paranoid John Forbes Nash Jr. in A Beautiful Mind. All of those movies focused on characters that struggled romantically and socially, and how much they struggled with their identity and being themselves. I love it when movies reach into characters that deep and personally, and if the film focused more on Twobly’s personality rather than that of his love and attraction to his operating system, the movie could have ended up being way more successful.

I can’t help but keep thinking about how small Her’s audience will be. In this day and age, art films are getting harder and harder to advertise and appeal to mainstream moviegoing audiences, and this movie is definitely no exception. I know the film’s premise doesn’t matter as much as how well that premise is handled, but there are some movies that just can’t get away from their bizarre ideas. Case in point: did anyone really expect Quentin Dupieux’s Rubber to be a good movie?

I stress this again: the main character is in love with a computer program. If you can buy that and get over that to enjoy the movie, good for you. But there are no doubt others who will not enjoy this picture, and I can’t help but think that they will be a more sane person because of it.

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“12 YEARS A SLAVE” Review (✫✫✫✫)

Over a decade of injustice and cruelty.

12 Years A Slave is quite possibly the best film of the year.

It is also the most disturbing.

Based off the 1853 autobiography of the same name, 12 Years A Slave follows the true story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man who lives with his family and plays the violin in Saratoga, New York.

One evening, he becomes acquainted with two young gentlemen who claim to be circus performers looking to hire him for a one-night gig. When he wakes up the next morning, he is in chains, and realizes that he was drugged, kidnapped and sold into slavery by his captors. During his years as a slave, Northup goes from one owner to the next, from a kindhearted owner named William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) to a cruel, racist and mean-spirited pig named Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender), who presents the greatest trials he must face if he is ever to survive.

12 Years A Slave is a film that not only lives up to all of its built-up hype and expectations: in many ways, it exceeds them.

Its quality as a work of art is so striking and powerful that it can be compared to other historical tragedies, including The Pianistand Schindler’s List.

Director Steve McQueen, who made the morally reprehensible and eerily bleak film Shame back in 2011, redeems himself here as a filmmaker. McQueen, in collaboration with cinematographer Sean Bobbitt, is not only masterful with framing his articulate, beautiful shots with 12 Years A Slave, but also brilliant with orchestrating scenes between his actors, showing us the bleak realism and truth of the slavery years in America.

Ejiofor, who portrays Northup in 12 Years A Slave is endlessly captivating. In moments where you think he might just be phoning it in, or just going along with the motions, he surprises you and releases an emotional intensity in ways no other actor has this year, not even Forest Whitaker in Lee Daniels’ The Butler. Newcomer Lupita Nyong’o plays a young female slave in this movie so passionately that you forget she’s an actress and slip into her character’s tragedy as a human being more than you do as a movie character.

Most noticeable perhaps is Michael Fassbender as Edwin Epps, who is so hateful and so spiteful in this role that all of the audience’s energy, anger and frustration is focused on him and his sadistic acts. Fassbender was brilliant in his portrayal, and I sincerely hope that he at least gets an Academy Award nomination for his performance.

Every other aspect of this film can be praised endlessly. The script by John Ridley, who wrote Three Kings in 1999, was endlessly emotional and captivating. The score by Hans Zimmer was quiet, humble and breathtakingly beautiful, encompassing both the truth and tragedy of Northup’s heartbreaking story.

However, let there be a strong word of caution: 12 Years A Slave will elicit violent reactions from its audiences. You will laugh. You will weep. You will grind your teeth in anger and frustration, maddened by the many years of cruelty, prejudice and barbarism that no human being should ever have to experience. But it compels you to care for the character, to reach deep down in your heart to feel what he is feeling, to experience compassion and sympathy in ways almost no other film can do, not even with Schindler’s List. 

And let this be a testament to the film’s quality: at the end of the showing, there was a white man who could be heard weeping in the back of the theater. In between his hiccups, tears and hysterical reactions, he turned toward the black viewer sitting next to him, shook her hand and after introducing himself said to her, “I’m so sorry for what my race did to your ancestors.”

That man felt a powerful feeling of guilt and shame for the things that he saw in 12 Years A Slave.

That man was me.

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