Balcony

He looked out from the balcony of his apartment and drew from another cigarette. There was not much to look at at 2AM, each of the cars in the parking lot had frost on them, the streetlamp flickered between the two trees that looked like brooding gods, everyone else was asleep in the world except for the diligent ones, the insomniacs, and the drunks. At best he was two out of the three. The languid vapors of gin shivered like heatstroke in his head and the dizzying combination of nicotine sent him clutching against the railing for support, but he could not take his eyes off the night sky, even as the roller-coaster of sensation made his body feel as though it were on the undulating wave of some impending time on the far side of a blissful oblivion. What could be captivating in this world if not the night sky.

He could hear the music from the end credits of the third movie he had watched in a row wind on from the other side of the sliding glass door and he wondered if he was keeping his neighbors up. The chase scene and the dramatic death of the climax had only been a few moments ago, gunshots and yelling and emotion that had captivated him so thoroughly the rest of the world ceased to exist and there was only the world of dreams and possibility that film brought to him. He wondered if that kept anyone up, that the music now might be calm and soothing. After the end of movies the real world comes rushing back in so fast, and the thoughts of neighbors and the wasted day pinged against the walls of his meandering mind.

The details of it all, of life and everything returned like a storm that circled around him and he hated himself for having nothing to show for all that brooding and wondering and hoping and wishing, and noticing. He hated how he had not done something with his time, that he was letting his days slip by with no advancement, no achievement beyond his own self gratification. Drink, movie, masturbate and make food. The couch, the balcony for a cigarette, his bedroom. The work he had to do sent away and the obligations that weighed his soul down unfettered for glimpses and grasps at fantasy before they ended and it all returned like a stone.

He had spent some time trying to separate used cooking oil from water. Two chicken breasts had spent the previous night and day marinating in spices and some kind of glaze.  The taste and scent of cooking them still lingered, but the oil had bubbled and burnt in the cast iron pan. The used cooking oil he had tried to distill into something that could be burned in a lamp. Heating it to get the water out, straining it, letting it separate, freezing it. He wanted something flammable to feel like he had done some kind of science, even going so far as to read online about the qualities of water and oil. But, it never got to that point and in his failure let the opaque brown fluid sit in a jam jar on the shelf over the kitchen sink.

The detail in which he went about this was only the minutia of someone very alone. Someone who was pining for something but afraid or too lazy to do it. He was fed up with the games that people play. Primitive games. But…Nothing deeper now welled within him, he was not at a loss, not regretful, just alive and between sleep and a living dream. Regret could wait for when time was no longer on his side, even as he lived the life of an old man, he was young and voices telling him to get out and enjoy life all sounded tired and played out, predictable and overplayed. What good were other people when their words and actions and emotions and thoughts were so easy to decipher.

Perhaps it was just him. He presently thought, that the reason the world seems so predictable, suffering through what he already knew or thought he knew was because of his own actions and trust and games that he played with the world. Perhaps that was why he was so alone.  Perhaps it was all a big game played on him or he was playing the game with himself. It was so easy to break the 4th wall of his life, and the shuddering waves of reality surrounded him quite suddenly and the brick walls of the building, the parkinglot and the night sky and the passage of time became quite real and yet surreal in their appearance.

He turned his back to the clear stars and looked down at his last puff of cigarette, and then focused on his robe and scarf and then on the concrete floor of the balcony, the ashes tumbled away from him in the cold wind, ashes like days of his life, ashes from his once full cigarette.

He leaned back against the balcony railing.

He tilted his head back and felt his chest rub against the inside of his sweatshirt. He took the last puff. The music repeated itself over and over from within, it was sweet and beautiful and the feelings of that last movie lingered on him like the breath of nicotine and the fullness of his stomach and the scent of oil and the haze of gin.

The dizzy spell continued then, overcoming all the previous sensations and the railing pressed into his back. He felt like he was flying.

Then it ended. He flicked the butt behind his back and over the side. Stumbled forward and re-entered his apartment finding that the TV was too loud for 2AM.

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Movies

There was a time when movies had an exhibition, characters were well developed with complex traits. They were dynamic and didn’t just fill some archetype even if they were the anti-hero or the Villain. Action was built up so that when a gun was drawn or the strike of steel clashed, audiences saw it drive the story and invested in what would happen. The movies of the 40’s or even the 90’s didn’t have CGI or special effects. It took ingenuity and cinematography to pull off a believable shot, and the humanity in the story was what counted.

I’m not badmouthing CGI I think that it can really make things happen that previously could have never been done. And older movies have their pinnacles, but not all of them were gems.

Never the less, CGI isn’t a get out of jail free card. The hobbit (1 and 2), Tin tin, and the Scroge movie with Jim carry among many other culprits have make the fatal flaw of sacrificing story for extended action scenes.

I just saw the Hobbit 2 so I’ll use it as an example. If you compiled all the scenes of elves jumping everywhere, Orcs and Wargs just being evil, Smauge getting trapped in wires and cables, and Barrel riding, you’d have a 3+ hour movie down to, maybe an hour. The scenes were predictable because there wasn’t the most brilliant writing or interesting character dynamics. It was “where can we get to the next plot point to incorporate a CGI battle/chase scene”.  The parts that aren’t numbingly complex and fast action scenes are slow and predictable because the characters are transparent. I’m not even going to get into what plot points were changed because The first trilogy changed things from the books too.

And lets compare the two trilogies (as they are now). I know it’s not fair because the Lord of the Rings was groundbreaking, well written and they stood alone as great films. But I’m just going to stress the point that they did more with less aiding them. Lets not forget that there was plenty of CGI in the lord of the rings movies. Not the crazy stuff now, but 2001 CGI which was painfully less advanced. The difference is how they employed it.

If you look at the Balrog scene “You shall not pass”. The Balrog is CGI. But the color scheme covered up the fact. The Dark shadows and the Bright orange flame. Armies ready for battle from a distance. The story still had to drive those movies and the believability of it was helped when  pointless action wasn’t the main focus.

I mean why would you care about a dramatic exchange of dialog between two main characters when you can see a dragon become encased in gold?

You cant blame a tool for mistakes and having action for the expense of story doesn’t help your movie become great.

valkyrie, “do you recognize my voice?”

So I recently watched The movie Valkyrie which was the story of an assassination attempt on Hitler. Anyone who grew up watching the history channel before it became all aliens and puns on pawn might have heard about it and throughout the whole movie I was expecting what to see at the end. What I didn’t realize was how close the Germans were to actually overthrowing Hitler’s regime and ending the war.

It got to the point where the reserve army commander had arrested the entierty of the SS and had an order to take Goebbels and Hitler’s inner circle.
The coup de ta was so close under the assumption that Hitler was dead. Except the something like the scene below changed the reserve commander’s mind from following through with the coup.

“Do you recognize my voice?”

“…ummm…Gunter?”

“nein it’s me…you know yah?”

“pshh, uhh, not sure. say something again?”

“How could you not tell who I am from my voice?”

“People sound different over the phone, I don’t know what game your playing at. This is a serious situation.”
He puts down the receiver and points a gun at the propaganda minister. The cyanide capsule clicks in Goebbles’ mouth and the government changes hands ending WWII.

I don’t know, I know suspension of disbelief and all, but I can’t imagine that’s how it went down.

That said, this scene was very powerful

The uniforms seemed pretty accurate and there must have been a pretty good production budget for the Messerschmidt in the beginning and the desert battle. That said again, Nazi’s talking with British accents never really stuck to me. Everyone but Tom Cruse had one.

7/10