Saturday, March 19, 2011

Scott Pilgrim vs. My Mind

From the first time I saw the preview for the movie Scott Pilgrim vs. The World I knew that I would like it. All the random jokes, the tone, the look of it, seemed built for someone of my generation. It was an interesting blend of geekiness and coolness, meant to be appeal to nerds, pseudo-nerds, hipsters and other assorted sorts of subcultural wallflowers. I found myself the first time I watched it, constantly poring through the dialogue, the sounds, the music, the background, the t-shirt art, for all the friendly fan service that I knew was coming.

Over the past few days I have ended up watching Scott Pilgrim vs. The World several more times. My daughter Sumahi loves the movie and wants to watch it not just everyday, but a couple times each day. She doesn't watch it intensely, but wants it playing in the background and at certain moments she'll turn her attention that way and check it out. Sometimes commenting on what she sees, sometimes cheering a character on. She likes Scott and Ramona, the main characters. I regularly ask her, sa' hafa ya-mu Si Scott? and she usually responds, "sa' guaha palao'an-na." or she likes Scott because he has a girl. This of course means that she really doesn't actually like the character of Scott Pilgrim, but actually likes Ramona Flowers, Scott Pilgrim's main love interest. When I ask Sumahi, "sa' hafa ya-mu Si Ramona?" she usually responds "ya-hu gui' sa' meggai kulot i gaputilu-na" referring to the fact that her hair color changes throughout the movie. This means that at some point in the near future, Sumahi may request the chance to change her own hair color to purple, green, blue or pink.

I have always enjoyed watching movies multiple times, just as I have always enjoyed reading books multiple times. Unfortunately, since Sumahi has become more assertive about what she wants to watch on TV, she forces me to play movies several more times in a far shorter period than I would want. Every year there's a few books that I like to read again, but can you imagine, reading a book and picking it up again the moment after you finish it? This constantly playing of the same movies, has led me to end up disliking alot of movies that I once loved or really enjoyed. A case in point is the film UP.

I loved that movie so much when I first watched it, and so did Sumahi, even though she was still young at that point and fell asleep halfway through. The first segment of that film is the best, which is both funny and moving, giving you the backstory on why an old man would try to float his house down to South America by tying hundreds of balloons to it. The rest of the movie is still cute and cool, and features a chubby Asia kid and a talking wide-nosed dog as the co-protagonists. The film is magically and features numerous absolutely impossible things which take place. When I watched the film for the first time I was willing to overlook these things as part of the experience and accept that even if  it was very unlikely, the idea of a house floating by balloon power was cool. But when you watch the movie several more times in a very short period of time, you start to both notice things you didn't before, and see things you already noticed in a very different light. At present, I guess I still like the movie UP in the abstract, but when I watch it now I constantly cringe. Especially during scenes where the old man and chubby kid perform their extra-human feats of strength and endurance. It almost becomes unwatchable after a while, it makes almost no sense. How is this old man leaping around South America? How is this fat kid who spends the moving being so completely helpless suddenly able to tie a handful of balloons to himself and then using a leaf blower to navigate himself through the skies? And how does a balloon house hip catch up to a dirigible anyways? So many stupid things that I didn't notice or care about before, now drive me insane!

A similar shift has take place in how my mind processes the movie and content of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. But instead of finding myself nitpicking through the impossibility of it, I find myself more and more hating the two characters that you are supposed to love in the film, Scott and Ramona. From the first impression of the film Scott is supposed to be cute and clueless, Ramona is supposed to be cool and sexy, but after watching the film so many times over the past two days, I can't stand either of them or what they represent.

What makes Scott and Ramona perfect for each other is that they are two of the most self-absorbed people on the planet. They are both either completely clueless or completely accepting of this fact and go through their lives destroying everyone around them in terms of relationships and love. Both of them are meant to be seen as victims through the storyline. One is the victim of a cabal of her exes who are working to forever more control her love life, the other is a victim of that same cabal who seek to destroy him for trying to date Ramona. This is the lens through which the film is supposed to be viewed, and so the struggles that keep them apart are meant to define them, as being the victims of said struggle, but constantly throughout the movie, there are references to the trail of victims that both of them have left.

There are ridiculous scenes at the end where Scott if meant to reflect upon those victims and learn a lesson (which is almost pathetic) and almost as an afterthought the coalition of seven evil exes is meant to be Ramona's punishment, but it is interesting how little to nothing of the anguish over their victims is internal. Ramona in particular appears to not be built for feeling remorse or sadness over those who hearts she has broken, in ways in which she readily admits to were callous and shallow. Scott, doesn't even have the ability at times to even remember that things ended up badly or that people were hurt in the process. In the comic book for example he at the end of the story he realizes how he has completely changed how he remembers things in order to absolve himself of what he had done, to almost edit himself out of the story. The cluelessness of Scott Pilgrim is not part of his cute personality, but is a result of his primal defense mechanism, a way of transforming his almost cruel self-absorb personality into something which comes off as being charming, silly and almost stupid. Rather than loathe Scott Pilgrim as so many characters in the film seem to because of his behavior, you have to feel sorry for him, because he comes off as just about the dullest knife in the drawer, and so his puppy love is so cute. He couldn't hurt anything, anyone, he's almost adorable in how the image he portrays and the self-image of himself are so harmless.

Despite the stupidity of these two characters, there love is real, in the sense that they do share a very powerful connection, namely that they are both horribly shallow. They complement each other well in terms of having almost no clue as to what is going on around them or what other people, including each other are feeling. It is almost perfect for them to be together. They can't even resent each other for their pasts, because they would require more depth than they actually possess.

In the extras for the DVD, they have a alternate ending for the film which I actually enjoyed, and wish had been the ending they eventually used. In it, when Scott is dreaming in the wasteland before he uses his extra life, an apparition of Ramona appears to him and says what she says in the normal edit, but one extra part is added in, where she mentions that Knives Chau (Scott's 17 year old Asian, Catholic school high school girlfriend) is fanatically in love with Scott, and she wished that someone had felt that for her at some point. The inclusion of this line changes everything afterwards. It reveals that despite the shiny, aura around Ramona, there is a startling shallowness to her and that even if she does feel something for Scott, it will always be governed by the same shallowness that she has treated every other man. Although, it is debatable as to whether or not Knives really does love Scott or she is just infatuated with him, her emotional attachment is stronger than anything Ramona has ever seen or felt.

In the end, Scott ends up with Knives, not Ramona, and there is a poignant scene, the deepest and most interesting of the film where both of them admit to and apologize for their shallowness. Then, Ramona walks away to her infamous door and walks through alone, and Scott and Knives walk towards Toronto with the sun rising above them. For all the drama which happens throughout the film, this is probably the most emotional moment for Ramona, as despite the chaos happening around her, she appears to feel very little. When she walks away, she appears to be on the verge of choking up, showing, at last, some sort of emotion other than aloofness.

One thing which I should note is that while I hate Scott and Ramona the more I watch the movie, the more I watch it the more I actually like the soundtrack. I didn't really enjoy the soundtrack when I first saw the movie, but crappy, garbled, pretentious soundtrack is starting to get under my skin. So earlier today when Sumahi wanted to watch Scott Pilgrim v. The World, I told her we could watch it and then just fast forwarded to all the songs by Sex Bo-Bomb.

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