Over the weekend, I sent a friend of mine a care package—as I so often do— this one containing a movie that’s special to me. In the course of conversation, I mentioned the film “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind”, a movie I hadn’t seen in years. I shared that it was slightly ironic that many years later, people who were important to me at the point in my life during which I highly identified with that movie still felt a strong attachment to me when they watched the movie, or couldn’t deal with watching the movie at all.

It’s a little sad, but since it goes along with the premise of the film, that relationships touch our lives and create memories that are worth holding on to no matter what happens in the end, it’s also somehow appropriate.

Tonight, I decided to watch it, because I couldn’t really remember what it was that touched me so deeply about that movie. It’s a good movie, but it always affected me on a very personal level, and when I thought about it, I couldn’t remember why. I’m sure I saw a lot of resemblances between myself during those years, and the main female character in the film: a very unfocused, reckless, impulsive person who couldn’t stand two things in life: being bored, and not being loved. I’m sure I empathized with how painful it could be to be in a relationship with someone who hurt you and made you feel rejected just for being you, because opposites don’t always attract. Or, opposites sometimes do attract, and then leave one another completely shattered.

While watching the movie, I was reminded of someone I dated at the time. Our relationship was very complicated, very emotionally draining, and in some ways, very toxic. I always felt like being with him was being with someone who’d dismissed the possibility of me being “the right kind of person for him” the moment we met, which is not a kind of judgment I buy into. It just isn’t how I see relationships. If people knew instantly who or what was right for them, we’d have many more examples of positive relationships in the United States today. I’m incredibly intuitive, and I’m the first to admit, I don’t know right away. It takes me some time to “see how things develop”. Sometimes, things develop out of situations I never would have seen coming. Other times, things that make logical and emotional sense and seem perfect on paper just never happen. I don’t know; chalk it up to timing, destiny, whatever.

I am intuitively wary of people who claim they know who or what is right for them based on preconceptions; they’re usually wrong, they’re usually in the process of finding themselves—or closed off to possibilities that don’t fit into how they imagine life working out, which is usually exactly how life works out—, but getting too attached to anyone who judges a relationship before it even has a chance to develop is masochistic. Some people are open to the unexpected, to “you never know what life brings your way”. Other people will do their best to force life and relationships and opportunities into a certain mold, and end up spending year after year looking for the thing they think they want, while ignoring so much of what’s passed through their lives. (yes, I know more than one person who fits into this category. Most of them, unsurprisingly, are still single many years after I happened to pass through their lives.)

Anyhow, this ex of mine was one of those people who knew I wasn’t right for him, and yet, remained in my life in one aspect or another for a very long time. As it turned out, he wasn’t right for me, and I wasn’t right for him, and we didn’t really connect deeply on any level. We could never really bond on that emotional level you need in a relationship where someone just “gets” you, and when it did end, the next person in my life was someone with whom I shared that very naturally. Yet, something kept us together, or coming back to each other, and I don’t think I’ll ever really get it.

One day, I found an e-mail under his bed, one he’d written to me but never sent. I don’t remember what all it said; it was basically a rant about all the reasons he shouldn’t be with me. One of them that stuck with me, though, was reading “How can I take a grown woman seriously who puts butterfly clips in her hair and wears glitter everywhere? How could anyone take someone like that seriously, much less think about marrying her or having a future?”

It was one of the most hurtful things I’d ever encountered in a relationship; finding out the truth about how someone who claimed to love me really felt about me. I don’t really think I ever got over that. It was something else that made me less secure in myself, knowing that even those closest to me were incapable of accepting me and loving me as I am. And, yet, I knew he wasn’t the only one who felt that way. There were at least three people in my life at that time who claimed to have feelings for me, wanted to be involved with me, fell for me on some level, yet ended up with more “sensible” and “practical” partners.

Today, I know that if I have a right person, that person will love glitter and butterflies and my quirky fashion sense and not judge other aspects of my personality, especially my intellect or capability to take life “seriously”, on the fact that I like the parts of me that are winsome, childlike, and want to enjoy the world. People aren’t exactly one dimensional. I never traded in my butterflies and flowers for a business suit, and I don’t think I’ll intend to. I sleep with a stuffed animal every night, and don’t particularly care who thinks I’m far too old for such nonsense. I’ve learned to take being judged less personally, because I know it isn’t about me, it’s what you get when you mess with someone’s conception of how you should be.

In any case, this is not a tangent, but rather, what allows me to experience this extremely personal connection with “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind”. Being hurt and betrayed and judged, and going through the hell of severing an intensely personal connection with another person, even if you knew it wouldn’t last forever—well, that’s just part of the human experience. When I think of people who were once central to my life and are now less so, usually romantic relationships that didn’t work out, I don’t have a single person I’d like to erase. I have memories I wish never happened, things that a decade later, still hurt beyond belief and make me realise someone can never again be a part of my world, no matter how deeply I loved them (or perhaps because of it.) Yet, there’s nothing I would erase, or take back, or given the option to never cross paths with someone again, that I’d make that choice.

I know there are people out there in the world who’d probably like to erase me, and have likely done so, as much as possible. But I always hope there are one or two memories that haven’t been deleted, that come back every now and then.

I think that’s why I sob through three-quarters of that movie, and tonight was no exception. I can’t think of anything worse than being forgotten. I think that’s why I take so many pictures, keep so many journal entries…so that one day, if I’m old and all my memories aren’t there anymore, they are still alive somewhere.

I’m strange, I know. I feel too much, too often, too intensely…or not at all, not in the right way, or not in a way that makes sense. But, I have the sort of heart from which nothing is ever deleted. Once you occupy space, you’re kind of there for a lifetime…even if we never speak another word to one another again, even if our paths never happen to cross, even if we don’t particularly care to see one another.

Love is one of those strange emotions that may not always actively exist between you and another person, but the moments when it did can’t be erased. I hope other people feel the same way. I hope the pieces of myself I’ve given to others over the years somehow mean a little too much to be deleted.

I don’t think I’ll watch that movie again for another few years. It still hits me really hard, on a really personal level.

Everyone has a dirty little secret about themselves, one they don’t necessary announce to all of their friends, for fear of being judged and/or mocked mercilessly. It may be the Britney Spears album you still own and break out when you’re feeling blue, or that you secretly sing disco songs in the shower in the morning, or the pair of Hammer pants still sitting in the back of your closet from your high school/college years.

In case you were wondering (and if you’re reading this, I must fascinate you enough that you are in fact wondering…:P), here’s my dirty little secret:

I love the movie “Titanic”.

Yes, I know. It’s not cool to admit you love “Titanic”, or that you used to sing that Celine Dion song at karaoke bars (and did so well enough that strangers would buy you drinks instead of throwing them at you. But, I do. It’s an integral part of my college years, holds fond memories, and is just a pretty awesome movie, aside from the personal connection I have with that movie.

I could go on about how I love the movie because like Kate Winslet’s character, I survived a tragedy in my life that claimed the life of someone I loved, and had to learn to move on from that. I could mention that I love the movie because Kate Winslet represented something I wasn’t used to seeing in movies at the time, a female protagonist who was not only strong and spirited, but resembled me, in the way of being someone who was charming because of her curves and vivaciousness and bright red hair, and not in spite of those unconventional things. I could even mention that it was an awesome movie because, back then, Leonardo DiCaprio was cute.

However, those aren’t any of the reasons I love that movie. I love it because it’s sweet, romantic, utterly unrealistic, cheesy, dramatic, tear-jerking, and has every emotion in the universe packed into three hours, on a big boat. All the things I hate about chick flicks, romantic comedies, unrealistic adventure movies, and cheesy dramatic moments…they all show up from time to time in “Titanic”, but it didn’t stop me from seeing it in the movie theatre 7 times, and probably another 20 on DVD. If I were not still too sick as a result of the vestibular disorder to handle the movie theatre, I’d be there watching the 3D IMAX version repeatedly, with a box of M&M’s in one hand, and tissues in another.

Oh, and for the record, I never had a crush on Leonardo DiCaprio like the rest of the girls my age did when that movie came out. For some reason, I was irrationally attracted to Billy Zane, who plays one of the biggest douchebags in the history of any movie. Of course, this immediately followed my Hugh Grant phase, so I apparently favour dark-featured British guys who are total assholes, even when pretending to be charming (at least in movies.) I also went through a phase of liking guys who are clearly gay. Life would have been much simpler for me at that time in my life if I’d just found Leonardo DiCaprio a little more physically attractive. :P

I also love the movie “Notting Hill”, but that’s another story for another time.

Let the judgement commence. :P

Oh, and if you’re interested in reading thoughts more interesting than mine on blogs far more entertaining, learn about one-night stands, and how to have them. (This, of course, reminded me why I no longer have them, and causes me to wonder why I ever did…though those are dirty little secrets for another time and place.)

Being involved in theatre and the arts from an early age, one thing I’ve always had a huge love for is the Academy Awards. Although I was never one to go through that “I want to be a famous movie star when I grow up” phase that other kids did, I love movies, and have a huge amount of respect for the many different talents that need to combine forces in order to put out a successful movie. The Oscars always seemed to me to be a very special way to celebrate that huge amount of hard work and dedication necessary to create a film. Though the event itself is full of glitz, glamour, and self-congratulatory speeches, anyone who’s ever worked on a movie knows it’s a distinctly unglamorous job. I’ve always loved the Oscars because it is the night that Hollywood celebrates everything that it collectively does, and all those things play such a huge role in American culture. While there’s plenty of award shows–the Tonys, The Emmys, The Grammys, etc.—none of them are able to capture the same style and camaraderie the Academy Awards are known for.

While I can’t exactly hop on over and attend the Oscars in person, I love Oscar Night parties, and am looking forward to attending a formal charity gala this evening that allows us to watch the show on the big screen, in a large theatre that’s typically used for the Atlanta Opera and other large-scale live performances. It’s a definite upgrade from sitting at home in my PJ’s, eating junk food, and painting my toenails during the 4-hour show.

On that note, here’s my thoroughly uneducated guesses for who’ll be taking home the honours tonight. I’ve actually only seen about half the Best Picture nominees (it’s much harder to see them all since they’ve expanded the nominees to 10 films, and Inception has literally been sitting on top of my DVD player for a month.), but I enjoyed almost all those I did see. “The Social Network” is the one I personally enjoyed the most, but “The King’s Speech” featured some tremendous acting. I’m a huge fan of both James Franco and Natalie Portman, though I didn’t see either of their respective movies, and I’m wondering if I’m the only person who thought “The Kids Are Alright” was a bit overrated, since it was enjoyable, but mostly just alright.

Alayna’s Oscar Picks:

Best Picture: “The King’s Speech”
Best Director: David Fincher, “The Social Network”
Best Actor: Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech”
Best Actress: Natalie Portman, “Black Swan” (though the relatively unknown actress from “Winter’s Bone” was impressive, and far eclipses Annette Benning’s performance in “The Kids Are Alright”, Benning seems to be the favourite in this category.)
Best Supporting Actor: Geoffrey Rush, “The King’s Speech” (yep, I’m the only one out there who doesn’t think Christian Bale is a lock.)
Best Supporting Actress: Hailee Steinfeld, “True Grit”
Best Animated Film: “Toy Story 3″
Best Original Screenplay: “Inception” (it is not favoured, but I think it’s the more creative of the nominees.)
Best Adapted Screenplay: “The Social Network” (Aaron Sorkin of “The West Wing” definitely rocks!)
Best Foreign Language Film: “Biutiful”
Best Art Direction: “Alice In Wonderland”
Best Costuming: “The King’s Speech”
Best Cinematography: “True Grit”

I think this year is an example of a varied field of films, each with a particular set of strengths and weaknesses. Unlike years where one blockbuster hit sweeps the field, the 2010 season provided a good diversity of films, most of which deserve to be recognised for the one aspect of the film that was simply head and shoulders above the competition.

I don’t know how Anne Hathaway and James Franco will stack up as hosts, but, hey, at least they’re better looking than Billy Crystal. ;)

….and, no, it had absolutely nothing to do with Sarah Palin. ;)

Tonight, although the world was pretty much back to normal and Atlanta decided to venture out again, The Guy I Am Currently Dating was still stuck inside his house, due to an excessive amount of ice in his driveway. Since our plans for tonight involved a trip to the movies, I decided to have movie night on my own.

I started off with “The Young Victoria”, a lovely period piece about the coming-of-age of the future Queen Victoria—a historical figure I know relatively little about, despite my great love for both the intrigue and drama of the history of the British monarchy, and literature/drama/fashion from the Victorian era. It focused not only on the political intrigue of the time, but on the love story between the young queen and Prince Albert, depicted as one of feminism, idealism, and equality, in a society when none of the above were popularly-held ideas.

Though some will likely find the story a little dull, as it focuses on character development much more than action, I thought it moved at a fast pace and was thoroughly engaging. I’d certainly recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of historical drama, period films, or quaint love stories—or anyone who sat through Showtime’s “The Tudors”. :)

Next, I decided to watch “Eat, Pray, Love”, based upon the book of the same name, which I read while in New York last month. Although I didn’t hold particularly high expectations for the book, it was enjoyable enough; it was something I could relate to, and so I figured I’d give the film a try.

Unfortunately, the author’s words simply don’t translate well to the screen, and after reading the book, the mental image I’d formed of the main character has little to do with the casting of Julia Roberts. It almost seems as if a different type of character—one 50 pounds thinner, 15 years older, and with lips that announce collagen injections gone wrong (I haven’t seen such painful-looking lips since Goldie Hawn in “The First Wives Club“.)—was created with the casting of Julia Roberts, and although Julia is typically very endearing, it actually makes the character far less likable than the one portrayed in the book.

The most annoying artistic choice, and the one worthy of the title of this post? During a scene where the Julia Roberts character first arrives in Italy and discovers the wonder of a good meal, she is in an Italian trattoria, and they have a sweeping operatic aria playing in the background.

This would be a great choice, given that Italy is the birthplace of some of the greatest operas in the world, and there are many recognizable Puccini and Verdi choices to be had. However, this film chooses one of my favourites, The Queen Of The Night’s aria (“Der Holle Roche”), from The Magic Flute. For those who don’t know, The Magic Flute is a great opera written by Mozart—in German!! In fact, the choice is an indirect slight to Italy, since at the time, many composers and opera fans considered Italian more low-brow, music for commoners.

I believe this sense of annoyance is what sci-fi geeks feel when Star Trek opts for a plot device that is just scientifically impossible. *laughs* If you’re going to make a film about a woman who falls in love with Italy, it would be a good idea to actually use examples of things from Italy. (Why was music from “The Godfather” playing when they were in Naples? I thought that family was Sicilian? However, I could be wrong.)

I didn’t make it much farther than that in the movie, since I’m kind of tired, and the film wasn’t worth staying up until 4:30 to finish. I’ll watch the rest tomorrow. But, unless you’re bored and have a free rental code from Redbox, don’t bother with this one. It’s more work, but much more entertaining, to actually read the book.

Yesterday, at the Top 25 trivia tournament (where we did not win, but finished a perfectly respectable 7th place), one of the questions referenced The 1001 Books You Should Read Before You Die. Today, The Guy I Am Currently Dating sent me a list of these books…and of course, I was curious to see how many I’d read. The answer? Far fewer than I’d imagined, and I generally consider myself a well-read, well-educated person.

So, it seems that I have a brand-new, exceptionally-long term project to work on! I am going to attempt to read 50 of the books I haven’t read, as well as to see 50 of the movies I haven’t seen, from the “Before You Die” lists. While I easily read 50 books and likely see 50 movies a year, the challenge in this task lies in the fact that my entertainment consumption habits aren’t always exactly along the high-brow, “classic” lines. Sadly, they’re more likely to be stories about glittery teenage vampires, socially-relevant-but-predictible novels by the likes of Jodi Picoult, an hour here and there with Vogue and Cosmopolitan, and television shows about strangers eating rice for 30 days in an attempt to win a million dollars, and unnaturally orange 20-somethings with anger management issues.

In attempting to cross off 50 memorable works from these lists each year, it’s more of an attempt at broadening my horizons and turning my addiction to all things media-related a little bit back toward the cultural, enlightening, and artistic, rather than a genuine belief that I’ll ever finish the list. (At 50 a year, it would take me almost 20 years to complete these lists; plus, since new additions show up on the list, it is truly a lifetime project…provided my lifetime expands that far into the future. Either way, my attention span rarely covers a year, much less a lifetime. ;P)

So, there we are. I am going to read 50 classic novels and watch 50 classic films this year—and, of course, share them all with you. I’m not sure if this will cut down on my occasional feelings of “There’s nothing interesting to do”, or just turn me into an introvert, but it’ll be an interesting experiment and new goal for 2011.

I’ve included both lists on the site (links on the right hand side), along with a running tally of those I’ve read/watched. Anyone want to play along for the next year, and increase your own “classics” knowledge? :)