30 January, 2006

Michael O'Leary's Year in Film

Well, here it is, finally: Already 1/12 of the way into the new year, here's my favorite films of last year. Despite all the press the film industry was getting this year because of a drop in ticket sales and the growing prevalence of DVD and home theaters, I was pretty impressed with the crop of films audiences were offered this year. Here, I have listed every 2005 film I've seen, put it in its respective category and given a short commentary on it. Enjoy.

Basically, complete wastes of my time:

Fantastic Four- I saw this while I was up at Cornell over the summer, where I was immersed in cinematic classics and deep profound film discussion. Perhaps that had set my sights too high in terms of film quality. I always found the Fantastic Four idea to be fairly cliché and trite, but this film could have definitely been made better. It had it's exciting CG action moments, but they were few and far between. The twenty-minute-or-so X-Games plug was terrible and some of the dialogue was just so lame. I figured I could have at least gotten some exciting fights and special effects, but those really only showed up in the final 15 minutes, and they weren't even that great.

The Longest Yard- Perhaps it's unfair to include this one on the list. I slept through about half the movie. However, I did catch the beginning and the end, which were pretty terrible. I figured this film would at least have some good crude jokes, certainly I wasn't expecting smart, witty humor, but the jokes it had barely got a chuckle out of me. I came in expecting this film to be mediocre, and it was less than that.

Films I found very entertaining, but I did see better this year:

Hooligans- This film saw a very limited engagement in September, however, I saw it last spring at the Tribeca Film Festival. I found it very entertaining, with healthy doses of intelligence and drama included. I felt like I had seen some of this before though. Some parts seemed reminiscent of Fight Club (1999) and other films I can't recall specifically. It was very entertaining however, and I'll at least rent it when it comes to DVD, and perhaps buy if I can find it well priced.

Howl's Moving Castle- This was a fairly limited released Japanese anime film that came out over the summer. Anime has never been my thing, I find it very peculiar and I find the animation itself very jumpy and hard to follow. Including this one, I have only seen three full anime films in my life (Ghost in the Shell (1995) and Akira (1988)) and this was my favorite of the three. Maybe I just need a little more exposure to such films in order to get into them, but I still find them hard to watch. This one I didn't find as hard to watch as the other two I've seen and I enjoyed it to a degree, but I still don't think anime is my thing.

George Romero's Land of the Dead- I was very excited for this movie, being a big fan of Romero's other works. It felt much different to me, since the undead were now being fought off by military operatives in a post-apocalyptic world. In the other Dead films, it was mostly ordinary people, still living in our world that were the main characters. I find the old formula a bit more fun, as I find it more relatable, if such a thing exists in zombie flicks. I have also found that recent zombie films, especially 28 Days Later (2003) and Shaun of the Dead (2004), have moved away from the traditional zombie flick mold and I have found them extraordinarily fun/scary/etc., all the emotions Romero's older films, more specifically his first two Dead films, brought about. I've read that Romero plans on making more films in his Dead series, and as a fan, I will continue to see them as long as he keeps making them.

War of the Worlds- Steven Spielberg's second best film this year (of two) was a more traditional Spielberg film in which it cost a lot to make, it had a big star in the lead role, all the children survived and was released as a summer blockbuster. I've heard a lot of people rip on this one, but I found it very enjoyable. I did find the ending a little abrupt and too tidy, but I found the rest of the film very good. I still find Dakota Fanning fairly annoying, but Tom Cruise and Tim Robbins made the movie for me. It was good to finally see some malicious alien invaders in a Spielberg film too.

The Wedding Crashers-This is one of the funniest raunchy comedies I've seen in quite awhile. However, this year, it was overshadowed by the best raunchy comedy of the year, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, which I happened to see right before this one in a double feature at the drive-in. I was reasonably tired when I watched this one, and hopefully I'll find it even better upon repeat viewings with a larger, more awake audience, no offense to the small audience I saw it with. A very funny film, but The 40-Year-Old Virgin is my favorite raunchy comedy of this year.

Notable films that I have not gotten a chance to see:

Brokeback Mountain-Yeah, it's probably the most talked about film of the year, but there are just other films out there that I want to pay 10 bucks for before this one. It's not that I'm homophobic, the movie strike me as being all that interesting to me, despite all the praise. Sure, I'll see it eventually, probably once it hits DVD, but right now there's too many other things I want to see. I don't even think this one's playing around here yet, so maybe I'll have a change of heart and see it in its theatrical run. For now I'll stick to my Sam Peckinpah and Sergio Leone westerns and save this "wethtern" for later.

Capote- When this first came out, it looked very interesting, and I had made it my goal to read Capote's In Cold Blood before I saw this. As that was my objective, and I never made it very far into, let alone finish, In Cold Blood, I just didn't get a chance to see it. Hopefully, I can finish the book before the film comes to DVD and see it then.

Syriana-I really wanted to see this one, but didn't get a chance to and now it's kind of fading from the theaters. This looks very interesting, and I will see it as soon as it comes to DVD, which I hope is fairly soon since this was probably released a month or two ago.

The Squid and the Whale- I knew nothing about this movie until it was already in the theater. This film received a fairly limited release, but has seen very good reviews since coming out. This one will have to wait until DVD too since a theater that's still playing it will probably be a drive to get to.

Walk the Line- This one looked very good to me when it came out in October too. I wanted to get to see this one, but the chance never came around. Like last year's musician biopic released in early fall (Ray) I'll probably have a chance to see this one on DVD fairly soon.

The New World- This film version of Pocahontas' and John Smith's story was released limitedly at the end of last year, and won't hit theaters everywhere until the end of this month. I look forward to seeing it when it comes to a theater near me. I've heard the film on the whole is great, and that visually, it's one of the most beautiful in years. This looks very promising, I just haven't had access to it at the time of this posting.

Honorable Mention:
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-
I really enjoyed this one. I was very happy to see a new film from Tim Burton, not to mention, a very worthy follow up to the underrated Big Fish (2003). I’ve never been a huge fan of the original, and I was very impressed with this one, especially with Burton’s willingness to make it very weird. I was also very pleased with Danny Elfman’s score and songs, all very different from the original.

March of the Penguins- As far as documentaries go this was a great one. It was fairly run-of-the-mill subject matter, nature. However, it was a very enjoyable story to follow, not to mention, it is a very extraordinary journey that the film covers. I was impressed with the film’s ability to make the viewer forget that the penguins are not human, but simply animals.

Layer Cake- This is a very awesome British crime thriller that’s already out on DVD. Daniel Craig stars as a big time drug dealer trying to go clean. The film basically shows his attempts to get out, and to perform one last deal. Daniel Craig seems very promising to me, with this film and Munich under his belt, he still has the next James Bond film, Casino Royale to come, a film I’m very excited for.

Me and You and Everyone We Know- This is probably one of the least known films on this list. It’s the debut from director/star Miranda July and is very different than any film I’ve ever seen. The film analyzes aspects of everyday life through an unconventional story and presents the viewer with some unusual characters. It took me a few minutes to get into this one when I first started watching it, but eventually became very intriguing, and an excellent film all around.

Oldboy- This is the middle chapter of director Park Chanwook’s “Vengeance” trilogy, but the first readily available for American audiences. It’s a difficult film to follow at parts, but it all makes one great film by the end. This is one of the more graphic films I saw this year, and one of the best, obviously, being on this list. I really liked it the first time through, and I hope I get a chance to see it again soon so I can better understand and come to love this one.

My favorites of the year:

20) Red Eye- For a full review, see “Stealing Mr. Ebert's Ground.” I really liked this film that I was not anticipating at all, because the trailer made it look like total garbage, not to mention director Wes Craven’s films have never really interested me. However, I found this film to be great. It was a fairly simple thriller that at points reminded me of Hitchcock. Cillian Murphy plays the antagonist of the story, in a very chilling turn. I look forward to seeing more great films from Wes Craven in the future, and many more great roles for Cillian Murphy.

19) Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior- I’ll admit, this is not one of the “best” films of the year, in terms of technical details. This film is very fun though, and features extraordinary stunts done completely without aide by star Tony Jaa. Tony Jaa unleashed one hell of a debut with this film and his forthcoming films will be awesome, despite any technical shortcomings they may have, because this man is seemingly super-human.

18) Kung Fu Hustle- This is one of the most unique films I’ve ever seen. The easiest way to describe it is a spoof of martial arts movies, with some fantastical elements. The film is very, very cool and the martial arts aspect of it is flawless. The fantastical elements make it like a Loony Tunes cartoon at times, and give it a light hearted mood, but the martial arts aspect keeps it from getting too silly. This film successfully spoofs the martial arts genre, while at the same time, existing as a film of the martial arts genre. This one is very cool.

17) Melinda and Melinda- This film was released very early on in the year and I don’t really remember it making much of a splash at all. It came out on DVD some months back and has sat on the shelf at Hollywood Video without me giving it much more than a passing glance. However, amidst my current Woody Allen binge, I figured I’d pick it up. This film marks the first (and not the last…) Woody Allen film on this list. This one does take a few minutes to get going, but it quickly becomes very intriguing as one character’s story is told as a drama and a comedy, with the scenes flipping back and forth very smoothly between the two separate universes. Some parts in the middle are a little slow, but on the whole, this is an excellent film.

16) The 40-Year-Old Virgin- The funnies movie I saw this year. Steve Carrel is emerging as a comedic genius, with this film and his starring role in The Office. The concept of this film by itself can make you laugh and it was executed perfectly. This film successfully infused drama and comedy, without getting corny and utilized the raunchy elements to the greatest degree without becoming repulsive. This film is hilarious.

15) Batman Begins- Christopher (Memento) Nolan’s entry into the film universe of Batman brought this dying franchise back with a bang. This is without a doubt the best Batman film ever made and one of the best films of the year. Batman Begins is longer than the other recent Batman films, but it ventures deeper into the man’s origins and makes for a much better film, and certainly not your typical comic book adaptation. The entire creative team behind this one has hinted at a trilogy of films in this film’s universe, something I look forward to greatly.

14) Murderball- The second documentary mentioned here, and the first documentary on the Top 20 list, is Murderball. This was surprisingly uplifting story of a group of quadriplegic rugby players. The film’s main focus is on several of Team USA’s most prominent players. The film explores these players’ backgrounds, including how they ended up as quadriplegics and how they discovered this sport that has brought new meaning to their lives. Matching these players’ stories with that of a newly injured quadriplegic who is just picking up the sport is one of the film’s most remarkable focuses. This film isn’t just an inspirational sports movie, as it is graphic and real, and is much more emotionally riveting than a fictional movie in that vein.

13) Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith- The highest grossing film of the year was this relatively little one with the words “Star Wars” in its title. The Star Wars saga came to a close this year with the third prequel, and by far, the best of the three prequels. I enjoyed this one so much, I’d say it’s the third best of the entire series, placing right behind A New Hope (1977) and Empire Strikes Back (1980). If this film had any flaws, I was willing to forgive most of them because this one was just so much better than the last two, which I actually enjoyed also, despite the popular notion that they should be hated. Despite how much I enjoyed this one, Darth Vader’s “NOOOOOO!!!” towards the end still rubs me the wrong way.

12) Cinderella Man-Star Russell Crowe and director Ron Howard team up once again for this depression era boxing film. The film tells the tale of real life depression era boxer James J. Braddock and the struggles he experienced, despite being a top contender for some of the boxing world's greatest prizes. The film had a very disappointing turn at the box office, but has revived a little bit since its release to DVD and some recognition among the season's award ceremonies. This film continues to prove that Russell Crowe can seemingly do no wrong on screen, since about 1999 with The Insider, although some may cite Proof of Life (2000) as his sole misstep. I feel we would have heard much more of this film this year had it made a little more money at the box office and had America not just fallen in love with another boxing drama, Million Dollar Baby (2004), only months earlier.

11) Good Night, and Good Luck-This is one of the best films of the year, despite being one of the most technically simplistic ones. In terms of what was on screen, this film was reminiscent of 12 Angry Men (1957) in that both films are among the most visually simple films I've ever seen. This film did not have a very large cast, was shot in black and white, and had very few sets. I don't recall any special effects, as the film did not really call for them and it was a fairly short film. Despite a lack of frills often seen in today's films, the tale of pioneering newscaster Edward R. Murrow still seemed very relevant as journalists still struggle to do what's right while still trying to satisfy "the man." The films main point of focus is the on air feud between Murrow and infamous politician Senator Joseph McCarthy. The film's use of black and white film stock and depending heavily on stock footage really made the entire thing feel like a relic of that time period. I hope this film sees some success in this year's award season, as it deserves any award it wins.

10) Millions-Danny Boyle (Trainspotting (1996), 28 Days Later (2002)) delivers another masterpiece with Millions. This is a totally different kind of film than either of the above mentioned R-rated features. This PG-rated film is one of the most beautiful films of the year, both in terms of visuals and the film on a whole. The story is wonderful and fantastical, and uses many elements of magic realism throughout, similar to some David Lynch films, although done in a much lighter context here. This film proves to anyone doubting Boyle that he is a versatile filmmaker and I can't wait for this year's "Untitled Sunshine Project" that I know nothing about except that it reteams him with Cillian Murphy.

9) King Kong-Anyone interested in seeing my complete thoughts on this one can check out The New "King" of Cinema. This film was well worth the time and effort to go see it at 12:01 AM on its opening day. The studios did an excellent job in releasing the original in a beautiful DVD set shortly before this one came to theaters, in order to get viewers to fall in love with the 1933 Kong just in time for this one to come out. This formula worked beautifully with me at least, as I had seen the original about four times in the time between its DVD release and the theatrical release of this one. The original is now one of my favorite films and this remake did the original justice, while at the same time, managed to be one of my favorites of the year.

8) Hustle and Flow-Perhaps it's atypical for Michael O'Leary growing up in the suburbs of New Jersey to love this film about a struggling pimp and his attempts to become a rapper in the slums of Memphis, TN, but that's really how you know this film works. The film is gritty and might not be for everyone, but I found it an incredible experience. Terence Howard delivers the best of his two stellar (Hustle and Flow and Crash) performances this year in this one. Despite not being much of a fan of hip-hop, I also found myself downloading the film's two most prevalent original songs and listening to them over and over after watching the film. The film's context may seem like something from another world for some viewers, but it shouldn't. The gritty story of the film takes place in the same country we live in, should we want to accept it or not, and on a deeper level, it really is a universal story of having a dream, and doing what one has to do to complete that dream.

7) A History of Violence-David Cronenberg's film about one man in a small midwest town suddenly being revisited by his dark past came to the theaters without much hoopla and left without making too much of a mark. However, just because the film maintained a pretty low profile doesn't mean a thing. This is one of the most challenging films I saw this year, but one of my favorites upon further contemplation. Upon first seeing it, I had some difficulty as to what to make of it, but eventually I realized how good it was and how anxious I was to see it again. This is a very good film that isn't afraid to be graphic and really makes the viewer think. I hope soon enough I'll be able to see it again and pick up on things I missed the first time around.

6) Sin City-The award for the most visually stunning film of the year has to go to Sin City. This film has an awesome cast of new and old faces that all deliver top notch performances. Sin City is unrelenting in terms of the intensity of what is on screen. Much of the action and violence is stylized, but still manages to unnerve the viewer at points. Films with multiple plot lines occurring simultaneously always have a certain sense of intrigue, just in the viewer waiting for them to intersect, and Sin City is no exception. This film has perhaps my favorite soundtrack of the year, a score that fits the neo-noir atmosphere very well. I look forward to the sequel(s) that have been discussed since this film's success.

5) Grizzly Man- This film is absolutely amazing. This film is easily the best documentary I saw this year and one of the best I've seen ever. It plays out much differently than I initially expected. I was expecting some sort of nature documentary infused with a somber look back at one man who loved the animals he documented, until he was unexpectedly killed by them. However, the film was much more about the man than the animals. It was not wholly a sad look back at a glorious life, but explored this very complicated man's life, a life about which the filmmaker did not have only positive things to say. This documentary presents a very watchable story and is very different from anything I've ever really seen before.

4) The Constant Gardener- Director Fernando Meirelles' follow up to his debut masterpiece, City of God (2002), is an extraordinary film. City of God is one of my favorite films ever, and although the first time through it I enjoyed it, it left a much greater impression on me through repeat viewings. I found The Constant Gardener much easier to appreciate the first time through, although I believe it will also be much more appreciated the second and third times I view it. Admittedly, I did find the first thirty minutes or so a little slow, most likely because I had no idea where the film was headed and didn't understand what any of this was leading up to. However, when things start unfolding, it becomes apparent what these first thirty minutes are there for and the viewer is hooked. I hope people get to see this film, something I don't think has really happened much since it was released. I feel this film will become a forgotten classic unless more people see it and/or it sees some recognition this awards season.

3) Munich- The final three films on this list were the hardest to decide between. I knew these three were my three favorite of the year, but I had trouble putting any one of them ahead of any of the other two. For my complete thoughts on this one, see “Taking a Trip to 'Munich'." This film proves that master filmmaker Steven Spielberg is still in fine form, despite any disappointments that may have arose as a result of War of the Worlds or his films of the last couple of years. I hope this film sees some recognition this awards season, and I also hope it sees a very nice treatment when it comes to DVD.

2) Match Point- This film is extraordinary. This film snuck up on me, as I was only a casual Woody Allen fan and had zero anticipation for this one, however, when it came to the big screen near me, I went out to see it. Upon seeing this one, Melinda and Melinda watching Annie Hall (1977) again, I'm pretty certain Woody Allen is a genius and now I'm seeking out all of his films and reading his prose. This film marks a fairly rare turn for Allen, as it is a drama, basically through and through. The film integrates elements of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, as the protagonist is reading it in the film. The film begins in a somewhat cliche and uninteresting manner, but in no time becomes absolutely incredible, and the viewer just can't stop watching. This one was so close to being named my favorite film of the year, but the film that took that...

1) Crash- Before I crown this one my absolute favorite of the year, it is the only one of the top three that I have seen more than once, which I do believe gives it an upper hand. Despite that, this film is undoubtedly one of this year’s absolute best films. I had heard very little before this one came to the theaters in May or so, but it received very good reviews upon its release and on a weekday night, I saw it with a few friends. The film was instantly captivating, the characters are all so excellently created and there is not, in my opinion, a single weak link in the entire cast. This is one of the few films that I’ve seen in the theaters that was so intense that I, along with those who went with me to see it, basically walked in silence for a few minutes before being able to comment at all about it. I did have some problems with it after the first time I watched it, but after the second time, the film really established itself as my favorite film of the year.

Well, there it is, my complete commentary on the films that I've seen over the course the last year. I'm looking forward to what 2006 has to offer, and will continue giving my insights into what I see at the cinema this year. I've realized lately that I've become very focused on film related posts, and I hope to continue this, but I am going to try to get a little more social/political commentary on here, as I find that very fun to write about, and even more fun to argue about in my comment section. I might do some more media exploration, but stray away from film a little and discuss books and music and things like that. Whatever I end up doing, I hope you loyal few who read this continue to, and even if you don't, I'll probably keep writing because I enjoy doing it. Now that I have finished this gargantuan piece, I'll start something new that will hopefully be a more reasonable length pretty soon.

25 January, 2006

Updates soon...

My end of my year in film post is coming shortly, but it's become much more of an undertaking than I had initially envisioned. I get carried away in writing "brief" reviews and reasoning for positions and the entry is very large. I also had some technical problems that seem to have fixed themselves. Hopefully, I'll have it up some time next week, and perhaps this weekend, but I'm going to be in Chicago for the weekend, but I'm going to have my laptop, so some free time may help this one get done. I don't think anyone is actually up-in-arms over this brief hiatus but I feel more comfortable in setting these goals for myself and thinking that the masses are demanding my next entry.

07 January, 2006

Taking a Trip to "Munich"

Well, somewhat fresh off finishing the post (at least I was when I began writing this one) on the new King Kong, here I am to write about a film I'm even more passionate about. I'll come right out and say it: Steven Spielberg's Munich is extraordinary. In terms of this year's films that I've seen, I'm trying to figure out if this is my favorite one, but I'm not sure about that yet, but hopefully I'll have another post soon about my favorites for this year after I've seen a few more of this year's highly regarded flicks. This film is unlike anything I've seen this year in terms of intensity, and is the best I've seen Spielberg in years. I love Spielberg, despite critics often citing him for being to effects oriented and having no depth to his films. Among my all-time favorites is Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), a film I feel far too many people look over as being a high point of Spielberg's career. I have also really enjoyed a lot of Spielberg's recent films that haven't faired as well at the box office or in the eyes of critics. Therefore, I was very excited about this film, from the moment I heard about it months ago. Upon viewing it recently, it was everything I had wished for, and very different than I had initially imagined.

The context of the film is the action Israel took in response to the kidnapping and murder of Israel athletes by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics. Despite how easy it would be to make a film about the debacle that was the handling of this incident, the film explores the covert actions taken by an Israeli force to seek vengeance for the Munich incident. These actions consisted of hunting down the men responsible for Munich who remained at large throughout Europe, and killing them. The film's main focus is on Eric Bana's character, Avner, and his struggle with logistically carrying out this mission, accepting the morality of the mission and maintaing his family all at the same time.

I'd go as far as to say this film would be hailed as Spielberg's masterpiece had Schindler's List (1993) never existed. This is the most intense Spielberg film since Schindler's List. I wouldn't say it's the most violent, because Saving Private Ryan (1998) takes that, but the implications this film's violence has on the characters and the flowing of the story give it that more intense mood that I'm talking about. This film, despite being about events that occured some 30 years ago, is very relevant for today's audience. The main conflict, that of the Palestinians and the Israelis, continues to this day. But what I think is more important is the film's sub-surface conflicts and themes. The film's exploration of right vs. wrong is a universal concept that has been tested and examined for years, and will be tested and examined for years to come. The protagonist's struggles with morality and nationalism are very relevant and riveting to follow through the film.

One of the best parts of the film is the chilling reenactment of the Munich incident itself. Although this film isn't the story of that incident, the reenactment serves as a prologue and is infused throughout the film. I found the entire reenactment very scary, because it was depicting a real event, an event that ended tragically. Besides serving as the prologue of the film, scenes of the Munich incident play out through the film as Avner struggles with grasping the morality of his mission. Having seen the superb documentary One Day in September (1999) that did explore the Munich incident itself, I realized how much care had been put into this segment of the film that may at first seem unneccesary to the film's main focus. The reenacted scenes were very much like the actual events that are shown in One Day in September and were amazing to watch.

The central conflict of the film, that being Avner's ability to carry out this mission while at the same time remain a good man, takes a little bit of time to expose itself, but plays out brilliantly and intensely for the remainder. The idea of nationalism and ethics are infused into this struggle and attempt to make suggestions as to how to properly carry out this mission. In terms of this conflict, it sees its climax when Avner discusses with a Palestinian agent their two nation's conflict. These men meet by chance and engage in the most thought provoking moments of the film.

This is a great film and one of the few that really left me thinking about the film after it had ended this year. The ideas presented in the film are ideas that mankind has struggled with for ages and will most definitley continue to struggle with, especially considering the same political turmoil in this film is remains around today. I hate to comment on the length of the film, but since the average moviegoer has made film length such a pressing issue when considering what to watch recently, the film is more than 2.5 hours, but it's a beautifully crafted and mentally riveting. It's great to see Spielberg work on typical films, the big budget CGI extravaganzas, but to see him step away from his normal path and pursue something smart or off-beat as we've seen in Munich, The Terminal (2004) and Catch Me if You Can (2002) is very exciting too and I hope to see more of this in the future.

Final note: I am working on a list of my favorite films of 2005, but I haven't seen a couple of the most praised films of the year. However, I'm doing my best to get them under my belt before I go ahead with the list. I'm going to try to see 1 or 2 more and then just go ahead with the list, noting the films that I have not seen.

04 January, 2006

Folio Short Story

Foreword: I decided at the last minute to churn something out for the Folio short story contest. The resultant work is the following stream of conscious/allegory/reflective piece. I found it easy to write about what I wrote about, and that's why I did it. I haven't heard any results from any of the various Folio contests, and certainly an accolades from that contest would be nice, but I found it very relaxing to write this and I hope you all can enjoy what I've written and relate to it. I figure I'd post this as a bit of a change of pace and to fill the void between my last post and the forthcoming Munich post, which is taking me longer than I expected to write. Enjoy.

Drive, Michael O'Leary

The world is glorious on this day. For most, this is just going to be a regular day, a nine-to-five work day, run-of-the-mill. However, I’m not going to let myself see this day through in that fashion -- no, I’m going to be bold and extraordinary, at least in my own right. I wonder why I feel so wonderful, why I think I understand the glory of this day. School’s out, that could have something to do with it. But school’s out a day later than it should have been courtesy of a few too many missed days in midwinter due to weather. No need to feel bitter though; the summer is here and graduation has come and gone. Graduation brings with it quite a sense of accomplishment: I have finally conquered the drudgery of years and years of public schooling. When I conceived this idea, this idea of a short self discovery drive, I was fresh off of finishing finals, on the verge of graduation; I thought I was on the top, perched nicely atop my laurels. This notion gave me the idea that I had to be bold, I had to explore and see places no man had ever seen before or in the very least, somewhere I had never been before. Through years of mild youthful delinquency and an overly inquisitive nature, I had seen all that my community had to offer. I now feel I have to go further from my home than I’m used to.

I’m done with high school, and I naively feel that my life is fulfilled, but it isn’t even nearly fulfilled, the prospects of college and of being propelled into the “real world” lie ahead. The open road is finally here; it’s so boring having to take all the local roads and minor highways before hitting the interstate. But I have reached it, should be wide open from here. I guess I’m driving in order to isolate myself, allow myself some self time to think about college. I need something to come on over the stereo, something that’ll inspire me, or at least serve as mellow background ambience. Another Led Zeppelin song about the Lord of the Rings just won’t do the trick. No bother, I just need to keep on ramblin’.

First priority: get on the right track. I’ll be lost forever if I don’t steer myself properly so early into this trip. Let’s see, Route 80 West should do nicely. I think it ends in San Francisco or maybe Los Angeles, either way, with such an ambitious goal as either of those, I should see plenty of open air and be left with numerous decisions as to how to get there most efficiently. Here we go, the Velvet Underground’s “Cool it Down.” I don’t really need this now; there’s a time and a place for the encouraging of taking it easy, but I think I’m pretty chilled already, no need to really take it any easier. Not to mention, on such an uncertain journey as this, I should probably keep on top of things and stay focused.

High school was so spoon-fed; I don’t know how I’m going to manage next fall. Any spoon I hope to feed from at a university next year will most likely be atop a pillar high above a pit of spikes and hellish creatures. Weird imagery. Suffice it to say, it’ll be tough to find a spoon from which to feed from here on in. These highway signs sure seem to get less clear as I move away further from home, but that could just be an effect of venturing into unfamiliar territory. This is good, a little bit of Primus’s “Tommy the Cat.” What am I talking about? I have no idea what this song is about. Nice bass line though. No matter how many times I play through this song, I just can’t grasp what it’s all about. What’s the point, what are the artists trying to say?

I probably should have invested a small sum into a map; on second thought, there’s probably no point since this lame drive is probably a passing obsession. It just seems I don’t have any direction right now, what am I doing? I should go back to what I’m familiar with, get ready to go to college and enter the real world. But it’s so tempting to follow this road where so much uncertainty lies ahead; I want to see it all through. This was going to be a day of discovery and self glorification. The highway could provide so many options. But I need to get back to what I know, what I’m certain of, so that I can more easily venture into the unknown. I think I took a wrong turn a while back.