' Cinema Romantico: Cold Weather, Raiders of the Lost Ark & Everyday Life

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cold Weather, Raiders of the Lost Ark & Everyday Life

On Sunday afternoon I partook in my third helping of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" on the big screen since my move to Chicago lo so many years ago. It was, as it always is, transcendent and I left the theater feeling transcendent and my walk back down the leave-strewn sidewalks of my residential north side neighborhood with Ra Ra Riot gloriously filling my eardrums was transcendent and I was going over in my mind this particular post that I wanted to write about "Raiders", something that had never truly dawned on me to such an immense degree before, something I promise I’ll get to eventually on another day, and it was just that perfect post-moviegoing high with which everyone reading along here I’m sure can totally identify.

Except then something dawned on me – namely, I had to get groceries. I’d had so much going on all weekend I had totally neglected grocery shopping and I needed something to make for dinner that evening because, you know, I didn’t want to go hungry and so I was forced to make a detour into the Trader Joe’s on a Sunday afternoon which is just as bad – if not worse, because you can’t swear in the privacy of your own car – as being stuck in rush hour Windy City traffic. And I’m navigating my way through the crowded aisles, constantly having to pause for those people who stop their cart directly beside another stopped cart, thus blocking every single person directly behind them who just want to get through from getting through and……ugh. I’d lost the high. Vaya con dios. Such a sad, sorry state of affairs.


That night after finishing the dinner I’d just purchased and then rustled up in my kitchen I sat down with my newly purchased "Cold Weather" DVD and got myself good and lost it in its wonderment for the third time. I’ve written about this film before and while it may seem strange to suddenly throw this proclamation out there in the midst of this mostly personal diatribe I’m going to go ahead and do it anyway – "Cold Weather" is my favorite movie of 2011. I’m aware we still have a ways to go in this movie season, even though it’s nearly December, and many big time award-seeking heavyweights are still to come but I know. In fact, I’m pretty darn sure I knew deep down in my heart the moment I left the same theater where I saw "Raiders of the Lost Ark" on Sunday after seeing "Cold Weather" all the way back in March that it was going to be my favorite movie of 2011 regardless of what else happened. You can’t argue with the heart, dear reader. That’s an argument you can’t win.

The film, in theory, is about Doug (Cris Lankenau) a college dropout turned ice factory worker whose ex-girlfriend goes missing and who he attempts to track down via the help of his more responsible sister Gail (Treiste Kelly Dunn) whose Portland apartment he has just moved into. There are many more details to Aaron Katz’s miraculous little movie than those, of course, but that’s the gist of it and there comes a point midway through when Doug, who had been going to school with the hope of earning a degree in Forensic Science, is attempting to crack a code that might aid in learning the whereabouts of his ex. Suddenly, he thinks he’s figured it out but he needs a little assistance to completely crack it. He needs his sister. He tracks her down……at the grocery store.

"Cold Weather" is very much about Doug but it’s just as much about Gail. The (essentially) opening scene that features Doug and Gail dining with their parents enlightens us as to Doug’s situation, yes, but it also enlightens us to Gail’s. She’s just taken a job in an office. A routine, regular, paint-drying-on-the-wall office. Her mom asks her how it’s going. “It’s good,” she says. “The people are really nice. I’m really lucky.” Pause. “It’s really good.” That’s the giveaway – the second It’s Good. If you have to repeat the It’s Good that means It’s Not Good, that means you’re just trying to trick yourself into thinking it’s good. She’s got a job and a place to live and a car and the whole deal but Dunn takes great – screw it, brilliant – care in playing her character in that way to suggest she’s just sort of sleepwalking through her existence. And so when her brother’s girlfriend goes missing and they wind up in this strange sort of hunt to find her, you can slowly see Gail beginning to re-enter the game of life.


And that’s why I love that Aaron Katz sets that particular scene in the grocery store. She’s just slogging through the most ordinary of activities, one we all go through, often several times a week, one I’d just gone through much to my chagrin several hours earlier, and then Doug bursts onto the scene blathering about code-breaking. The juxtaposition there is so gigantic, yet so simple, it’s really sort of breathtaking. Off they go then, off into a world of a guy in a cowboy hat and a briefcase full of money (“What do you mean, a briefcase full of money? You mean an actual briefcase full of money?”) and a car chase and a close escape and, in turn, an escape off into this other place where the stakes are higher, life is just frickin’ lived and no one worries about what’s on the grocery list.

I’ve argued with so many people over the last shot of this movie and each time I see it the stronger I believe in its truth and justice and succinct, sublime cinematic way. And it’s crucial because it’s not a shot of Doug – it’s a shot of Gail, smiling, childlike, while her brother rewinds through a mix tape he made her in high school. High school! They’re kids again! That’s all we want every now and then, isn’t it? Just to be kids again?! Sometimes it has to do with codes that need to be broken and briefcases full of money, sometimes it’s just going to see a matinee of one of your favorite movies as a kid on the big screen.

Why didn’t I get groceries BEFORE Raiders of the Lost Ark?

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