Concussed thoughts on Little Miss Sunshine

Concussed thoughts on Little Miss Sunshine

 

 

After a significant fall over the weekend, I have lillypaded between some migraine-strained thoughts  and an impetus to document more given how much memory presupposes certain skills and virtues, particularly academically. In addition, I wanted to see if any third-party adjudication would confirm the suspicious effects of concussion. It seems good so far, yet I could have lost thousands of brain cells. Anyway, given all the free time I’ve had after quietly falling out with the University of Law (another time, another place it’ll invariably arise somewhere else) I’ve taken to re-watching a rare gem of ‘Indywood’ cinema, ‘Little Miss Sunshine’. This was perhaps, my 30th visitation to the film. I wouldn’t mind writing a dissertation on it.

 

 

 

1. The armslength presence of two dead 19th-century Europeans, Nietzsche and Proust (through Dwayne and Frank respectively), in the film might suggest certain critical outlooks to screenwriter Michael Arendt’s ethos or authorial message. This concerns primarily a world, an American world specifically (this is important, I feel) predicated on the uncompromising binary of success or failure; and of appreciation in one’s own time, and the value of one’s remunerative potential given the brevity we all face.

Both Nietzsche and Proust were critically and commercially lacklustre during their lifetimes, both largely confined to their beds and their bedrooms but can, we draw any inferences about the present-day failures of the Hoover family from their inclusion? It seems unlikely that Frank’s scholarship on Proust will be read in a hundred years although not impossible, yet this seems to be a marginal point to an otherwise larger question: both Nietzsche and Proust were, to place it modestly, suffered the indignities of health problems, that resulted in their early passing. Yet, their texts, while not easily distilled and prone to contradiction express a commonality in soaring to new prescriptive lifestyles that would overcome the personal limits of their bodies. Perhaps the only reason America doesn’t have more Nietzshchean and Proustian types owes to the fact most of them are in working in Hollywood or parochial academic environments. Maybe there’s a profounder point that will reveal itself on closer reading of Proust (just purchased a rather lovely edition of Swann’s Way).

 

 

2. Although at the dinner table scene and a host of others, there is an evident animosity between the step-paternity of Richard (Greg Kineear) and Dwayne (Paul Dano) yet both in their personal ‘philosophies’ strive to some greater emancipation. Dwanye, with his affinity to a certain strain of Nietzschean overcoming (whether misunderstood or otherwise, given that Nietzsche’s highest expression of the will to power does not prescribe a daily work-out in pursuance of the vocation of fighter pilot) that he holds will lead to wish fulfilment. So too, Richard’s ‘Nine step refuse to lose programme’ an almost totalizing pseudo-philosophy (perhaps not as any more juvenile, ill-thought and prone to fallacy than Nietzsche anyway) that will be all-too common to  those that have attended any large hotel-hosted corporate expo or the more exotic shores of LinkedIn, expresses a desire to live a life without deteriorating Volkswagon vans and so on.

 

 

 

3. What conclusions can we draw about success from the film’s final scenes? Despite the spectre of bankruptcy, suicide, the adverse effects of colourblindness, death, academic demise and above all the realisation of a childhood, we are left with an open-ended narrative that leaves the door open to a predictable, if warm and fuzzy, ‘third way’ free of haranguing and sermonizing. If it is not as if these ills do not exist, merely that the film’s creators suggest that they dissolve under certain conditions. ‘Grief support groups and success, both academic and economic may play their part but the key thing that matters in excelling is suffering’? To what does this pertain? The film doesn’t romanticise itself to suffering, merely resign itself to the fact it is an impersonal force that must be accepted: “Sir! You are not the only person who has had someone die here today okay?!” the Janus-like Linda hectors after a consolatory entrance. Frank may hold a dissimilar outlook in the Redondo Beach scene: “You don’t get better suffering years than that!” Suffering is just a given, like American military intervention or inequality. Is that unfair? These ideas need further embellishing.

 

 

4. I am conflicted to ascertain whether the film’s outlook tilts towards conservatism or a certain kind of progressivism. There is a certain kind of strained optimism of the family unit that emerges, but it is certainly not the kind of family unit that would win endorsement of ‘Secretary Rumsfield and I [George Bush Jr]’, as seen in the motel scene. With statistics this next narrative point is blind, yet we can say, that with average wages for the median American family in relative stagnation since the seventies, the economic prospects of the Hoover family could serve as a metonym for what the average American looks like in a time of corporate ascendancy, albeit one with more fuzzier, risqué edges. The film might be, in the amplest sense, populist, appealing to the broad possible human themes. The Volkswagon van, almost inseparable from the iconography of a carefree counter-culture, may not be a coincidence. In addition, during the “police search” scene as the trunk is opened, a faded bumper sticker reads “Honor Student”. Is this a paean to past, yet unfruitful, success or just a ‘happy accident’ on the part of the production/props department? No philosophy, nor time and hard-work can bear fruit. After all, Olive works tirelessly for a wildly incongruous routine that proves inappropriate for a pageant that is both pornographic and prudish.

 

It is not as if problems are up for a happy-clappy dissection and slap on the back. Indeed, Richard attempts to supress details of Frank’s suicide; Richard and Cheryl, Richard and Stan Grossman all argue away from the eyes and, what they expect, ears of others, just like any adult person would.

Thought for 21.11.2012 (Nietzsche)

I won’t make a habit of posting entire sections of Nietzsche’s ‘Beyond Good and Evil’ but I was required to for philosophy class. It captured my attention more than anything other eloquent rhetorical-argumentative polemic on our failure (perhaps of time, perhaps of discipline or perhaps of technology) to assimilate new concepts, seeing what we wish to see. In addition life as self-creation and self-enhancement: ‘one is much more of an artist than one realises.’

And so it goes.

 

192

Anyone who has studied a particular science will find that its development serves as a guide to understanding the oldest and most common processes in ‘knowledge and cognition’. In both cases,  the first things to develop are over-hypotheses, fabrications, a tried-and-true ‘belief’, a lack of scepticism or patience – only later,  and never completely, do our sense learn to be fin, a tried-and-true ‘belief’, a lack of scepticism or patience – only later,  and never completely, do our sense learn to be fine, loyal, cautious organs of cognition. On any given occasion, our eye finds it easier to reproduce an image that it has produced many times, rather than retain what is divergent and new about an impression: the latter requires more fortitude, more ‘morality’. It is painful and difficult for the ear to hear something new; we are bad at listening to strange music. When listening to another language, we arbitrarily try to form the sounds we hear into words that sound more familiar and more like our own: that is why, for example, when Germans heard the word arcubalista, they fashioned it into word ‘Armbrust’.[i] New things also find our sense averse or hostile; and in general, with even the ‘simplest’ sensory processes, it is the emotions, such as fear, love and hatred, or the passive emotions associated with laziness, which dominate.

Just as a reader today scarcely distinguishes all the individual words (let alone syllables) on a page (of every twenty words he randomly selects five or so instead, and ‘guesses’ the meaning that probably corresponds to those five words), so we scarcely see a tree exactly and completely, with regard to its leaves, branches, colour, shape: it is so much easier for us to dream up something approximating a tree. Even in the middle of our strangest experiences, we still do the same thing: we fabricate the greatest portion of the experience and can barely be forced not to observe any one event as its ‘inventor’. All of this is to say that we  are from time to time immemorial fundamentally – accustomed to lying. Or; to put it more virtuously and hypocritically, more pleasant in short: we are all artists much more than we realize.

When holding a lively conversation, I often see the face of my conversation partner in terms of the thought that he is expressing, or that I believe I called for him, with a degree of clarity and precision that goes far beyond the power or my visual faculty – have been added by my imagination, The person was probably making a completely different face, or none at all.


[i] Crossbow 

UNTIL THE STARS COME DOWN (quite possibly the worst thing I’ve ever written)

An odd concept: A poem incongruously dedicated to feminism and equal gender rights (fiercely anti-misogyny, anti-patriarchy etc.)  and the indifference of the cosmos as well as something of an unashamed tribute to Wittgenstein too (I’m over reaching here) all compounded into one virtuoso (or not) poem. Stanley Kubrick in a 1968 interview (ironically with a surprisingly philosophical Playboy magazine, no less) once spoke this of the seeming Nietzschean nihilism of the universe: ‘The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death – however mutable man may be able to make them – our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfilment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.’

This could potentially be the worst poem I’ve written, particularly the ‘supernova sacks’ line. Anyway enjoy, it’s poorly saturated with unnecessary references to psychoanalysis, philosophy, neuroscience and all that. Enjoy. 

UNTIL THE STARS COME DOWN

Discord

Dissonance 

Screaming lullabies 

Punch and kick

Green

Purple

Brown Goodbyes.

Midas more

Golden Black 

The Lacanian abyss 

Bearing these supernova sacks

Let’s have some more.

She swings from the  Event Horizon

Vertically

 Kitschy sycophancy

And collective infancy (of the hedge funders)  

Thinking

about thinking

about thinking

about real emotion

Meta-layers of madness 

Across a cognitive Kingdom 

>

The circumstance of brain drain 

Rhizomatic  and Emblematic 

Demystify every sign 

Multiplicity and  emphatic 

Until the heart ceases 

Eighths and quarters  benign

Remember  when you sought her 

Object Petit a

And found nothing but inky darkness?

>

Cosmic Justice

A grand jury of Stars watching 

Bearing this leering injustice with patience 

Until the Stars come down