Universe Part Two: Flashback! To “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World…!”

I got this for Christmas, Bloggers!

Every once in a while, my family pulls a rabbit out of a hat.  How did they know?

I loved it, of course.  Cannot explain how much I loved it.  As I asked Ed, who’d come over to watch it because he hadn’t seen it either:  “Christ, it’s really good isn’t it?”  He spread his hands:  “oh yeah,” quoth he.

“Suddenly I feel like a real asshole for never getting around to reading the comic, you know?”

“Oh yeah.”

And so it was decided.  Although…

…Once I figured out that Ed had read the last volume at the library, I started peppering him with questions about the final big battle.  Did he think that somewhere in here was where the film script finally parted from comics-logic, in the name of conventional closure?  Or — or was I reading this wrong — was it simply the fidelity to the comic’s presentation, transposed directly to the big screen, that made the filmic part of its web of influence more apparent, made it seem like something more assiduously conventional than it was, because once you put something influenced by film back into film it just looks like…well…film? I couldn’t tell, you see:  because ever since David Golding laid it on me that all the most impressive film-influenced accomplishments of Watchmen would look trite when actually put into a film (“oh my God I think that guy’s having a flashback about something FOR CHRIST’S SAKE SOMEBODY GET ME SOME B-12…!“) I try to be alert to how overly-faithful replications can amount to horrendous plot-losing…

Or am I overthinking it, Ed?  Or what?

“Oh yeah.”

I think he might’ve meant:  “well, kinda…but not really. Except a little.  In a way.  Maybe.  Shut up.” But then again I suppose I can’t be sure that’s what he meant, because I sort of forgot what the question, uh…?

But anyway, right or wrong, true or false, north or south…it sort of got me thinking.

I really liked this movie…I mean, I really liked it.  I felt, in a way, like it was made for me.  But…

…That couldn’t be right, right?

So, since it couldn’t be right, and since therefore I could probably not really trust my own impressions about it to be those of who it was made for, I decided to phone a friend.  Now over in snowy Toronto, best beloved, lives a good friend of mine who could probably win a Hallowe’en costume contest if he went dressed as Michael Cera…a bright young fellow, he reminds me of me at that age if I’d only been cooler and more talented and more tuned-in.  Where I am lead, he is palladium;  where I dully vibrate, he sings, and after a while his song begins to chain.  So since it’s all aimed at him anyway, I thought, maybe I just better ask him.

“What’d you think about Scott Pilgrim?” I asked him.

Quoth he:

“I sort of felt like it was fucking with me, on a personal level.”

Now this came as something of a shock to me, Bloggers;  because I’d really been expecting him to say “yeah, that part’s a condensation” or “no, that part’s just like how it is in the comic” or even “you have no idea how much sense that bit makes in terms of the gaming thing, and that’s what you’re missing”, but one thing I most definitely did not expect to hear him say was that, if you know what I mean…

…He hated The Breakfast Club.

There, I said it.

I said it, and I’m glad.

Except…

Not really.

***

Is Edgar Wright his generation’s John Hughes?  Well, that’s obviously a terribly unfair and ludicrously high-concept sort of comparison, and not just because it appears to try to slot Edgar into some stupid “moral” comparison he obviously doesn’t deserve, but also because it takes as read that John Hughes is someone we don’t have to consider as a person or an artist — I mean, just take a look at his biography and filmography to see that he goes deeper than some self-serving “generational” prejudice, or better yet take a look at THIS, for God’s sake — I mean do we just judge people now, we modern media trackers, in order to shore up some self-concept of our own?  Is that what we do, just obsessively “rate” every possible person in order to construct a constellation of taste we can belong to, that we feel is immune from exterior assault?  Well, some people do, obviously:  you can’t really even go online at all without seeing this horrible objectification taking place, these vile motives so cleverly and self-servingly exposed.  And it is perhaps something very like a confusion of politics and ethics that we can observe there:  in this case, though, as a deliberate tactic in the juvenile mind’s favourite argument, an odiously scornful zero-sum equation that reflects a paranoiac need to be better than somebody by setting up a rigged game.  Politics and ethics, ethics and politics, which card is the Lady’s, ha-ha YOU FAIL AT BOTH.  EPIC FAIL.  It’s the morality of a game of marbles:  the attempt to make nothing important if you can just knock it out.  So…“is Edgar Wright his generation’s John Hughes”, that’s a question that decomposes rather easily in an alert reader’s mind to the statement “I am a venal and self-interested hipster whose only interest is in having a bigger slice of a smaller pie made of nothing”, but that is not why I bring up the idea of such a comparison Bloggers, I swear.  But rather I’m just interested in the effect Scott Pilgrim had on my young Torontonian friend…

…Which is to say, I am kinda interested in myself, but mostly I’m interested in seeing how this guy copes with a cultural context he inherited from me and his mother and all our friends.  Because I didn’t expect him, of all things I did not expect him, to resent the Scott Pilgrim movie, and feel like it was “fucking with him”.  I thought he’d just naturally love it, as I did and do.  But…

Can I just get back to that, in a minute?

(Some of you may want to get a cup of coffee, for this part.)

So there are a couple of things about this younger generation (although GOD but I detest loose-witted “younger-generational” excuses for “older-generational” self-dissatisfactions, but just for a moment please!) that have been made popular in the general mass media but that turn out not to be true…that very plainly to us, Bloggers, have no substance to them whatsoever.  For example, how bankrupt is the idea that there was a generation of people (ugh) whose special province was the exploration of influence, the charting of artistic continuity, and that the ones that came before them made little insular kingdoms of taste, and the ones that came after were just ahistorical remixers who did excessively brilliant cut-up art but never saw a linking thread that wasn’t magical in its character:  working by the ancient laws of sympathy, proximity, or similarity, and tossing aside the secret logical connections of Kingdom for the inspired collisions of Plasma?  Answer: very very fucking bankrupt, is how bankrupt that idea is.  Were the young people of today not supposed to care about history?  Was history just supposed to fold around them and dissipate when it met its own outer edges, in some sick Childhood’s End fantasy of the last generation’s poignant Living Will?  It’s not an expression I like to use, Jeeves, but:  tchah.  The “younger generation” types (like that even means anything!) have turned out to be far better and far more responsibly literate historians than many of their “older generation” predecessors, and the myth of their short attention span is like a misery-loves-company wish-dream;  the loss of what they now call “cursive script” in schools is not on the kids but on the (bad) teachers, who want the kids to not have the Good Tools because (just like the principal dude in The Breakfast Club!) they’re more interested in their own past disasters than they are in the future…

Sorry;  rant! But listen, I tutored a lot of these teacher-type clowns when they were undergraduates…and I can tell you pretty authoritatively, there are a lot of them that prefer cracked mirrors to open windows…

(And, don’t come back from your coffee just yet…you may want to put an extra sugar or two in there, or something…I mean what I’m saying here, in plain English, is stall…)

…So, but what I meant to say before I got started on that rant, is that when The Breakfast Club came out it was not seen then as it is now:  through the two-foot airport glass of nostagia.  Instead, it was loathed as much as it was loved.  Yeah, check it out:  it was loathed, as much as it was loved.  And there’s a reason for that, and the reason’s called “realism”.  Some people saw themselves in that movie, and admired its fidelity to their experience.  Others saw it as a colossally over-romantic slap in the face to life as it’s really lived.  And these differences didn’t exactly cook down according to party lines…at least, not the very obvious party lines that were drawn-out by the movie itself…but even so, more of the “outsiders” probably were annoyed with the thing than any of the “insiders” were, because there was a feeling afoot at the time that this movie was more for the “insiders” than their outer-dark brothers and sisters…and this really polarized the general “generational” view of John Hughes as time went on.  Sappy “feel good about yourself” crap, is how black-painted people in their mid-twenties tended to characterize the movie “Home Alone”, as though anyone even asked them to see it…maudlin faux-nihilists beyond the very most excessive dreams of even Michael Moorcock, these proto-hipsters seized on the dehumanization of unlikely, lucky, intelligent, funny, and humane filmmaker John Hughes as a weird point of pride:  I am against this…!

All because, probably, just a few years earlier they had been seduced by the comforting lesson of The Breakfast Club…because they were, in fact, the ones much closer to “inside” than “outside”.  So in a way the canard was true, but then again that it pretty much had to be true is not really the fault of John Hughes:  since how could the “real” outsiders in my town think either this or that of The Breakfast Club when like Napoleon Dynamite they just stayed in their rooms drawing ligers, and were never invited to Movie Thursdays in the first place.  Eh?  They didn’t even know this polarization was something to be a part of.  It was only the people who might find something in it, who did find something in it, and then began the campaign of coolness against John Hughes long long long after they should’ve cared…

…Because it had claimed to be realistic?

Well, it never did claim that, actually…but those who are flattered by a thing always see realism in it, you know.  Some cops used to say Hill Street Blues was realistic;  some doctors used to say that ER was realistic.  Absurd, of course…I mean it’s like saying Battlestar Galactica is realistic, or something…

(Maybe stir a little cream into that coffee?)

So the fun thing here is that Scott Pilgrim is completely not realistic, and cannot even be mistaken for being so in the smallish ways that John Hughes’ movies somehow mistakenly were…and yet it’s all of a piece here anyway, because we never were expecting Mike Leigh or Ken Loach or anything from most of our filmic or televisual entertainments, were we?  And “real” realism is not really a real thing, that we talk about in this way in the first place;  we know perfectly well that this word stands more for some sort of topical consanguinity than it does for any actual representational truth, so “fidelity to experience” or the reading of realism in flattery…well, that’s just playing with our descriptors the same way the movie plays with our images.  Sixteen Candles, as a matter of fact, is a lot like Scott Pilgrim in its creation of a convincing analogic world where impossible, forbidden, and deeply longed-for transactions can occur in just this way…and the internal trivia, the trivial logic, of world-building takes hold very firmly to make it so.  The themes, the arcs, the conclusions are all simple as can be, purest boilerplate really, and obviously pure fantasy…but each makes a special aesthetic feast of those generic frozen-chicken-finger ingredients, that is the viewer’s aesthetic:  flattering, funny, forgiving…hopeful.  Well, but The Breakfast Club actually is “realistic”, by those lights…!

Except that it ended up being vexed in a way that Sixteen Candles was not, and so the word was harder to apply in a casual, dare I say apolitical way.  Which is naturally down to the movie’s very ambition:  seeming to give an easy answer, but all too conscious that the answer in reality is not so easy, it shows it and then it takes it away, in a movement most profound to the mind of its intended audience-member.  And you can’t not see the drawing hand behind that sort of thing:  it has a point, but the point’s much more like the point in a play than the point in a movie, and so in a way it’s garbage.  It’s thoroughly artificial, and so is deemed to be a cheat.  Although it really is not

But then…in a way…

…It sort of still is.

And that’s in the play, too.

***

(Okay, you can come back from your cup of coffee now.)

Let me just say that there was always something in me that resented the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off…I mean, resented it like hell.  And maybe that’s why I kept on seeing it over and over.  I saw The Breakfast Club over and over too…because I was one of those people who had just graduated high school, had not yet found their own new thing to do.  For guys like me, dating girls still in school, feeling viscerally tied to that weird conceptual environment…it was hard to break free.  I mean:  I wanted to break free, but it was hard.  And so to me it all had something of a secret message, a subtextual trivia-reality that I could locate my misgivings in…and yet still not have to do anything about them…and so it was very forgiving indeed, and even better than that it was useful

But enough about that, as we get back to Edgar Wright, whose Hot Fuzz (and to a slightly lesser, or possibly just more cryptographic degree Shaun Of The Dead) is a movie I can’t believe American audiences even liked…! Because it’s built on influence so very strongly.  Beyond the callback to The Avengers in the final battle in the model village, which any normally-hip person is sure to pick up on, its televisual anglophilia runs so deep and spreads out so wide that myself I expected to see Penelope Keith in the thing and maybe I even did…! Expected to see Robbie Coltrane wandering around in it and maybe that even happened…! Why it shocked me to my core that there was not a portrait of Helen Mirren on a wall somewhere in this movie, I expected to see Saffy as a vampire, Felicity Kendall viciously slam Simon Pegg in the gut with an organic artichoke, this was JLA/Avengers stuff here, and it was no less pretty and no less ugly, and wasn’t Timothy Dalton just fantastic in that episode of Midsomer Murders? He really was, wasn’t he.  And so this is the Northrop Frye thing, really:  if you’re trying to read John Donne and you don’t know your King James, you’re not going to get more than 40% of the logical density.  Well, I said the “younger generation” aren’t exclusively ahistorical remixers, but that doesn’t mean they don’t do any remixing, you know…!  And yet still, Edgar Wright is no more of the generation he appeals to, than John Hughes was of the generation he appealed to.  Born in 1974 (according to Wikipedia, anyway), the director of a couple movies I like a great deal and one that I LOVE UNREASONABLY (if I may just remind you) is not quite as much older than my Torontonian friend, as John Hughes was older than me…but he is close, and that puts him in about the same ballpark as the Old Master, and arguably doing the same sort of difficult things excellently:  i.e. setting a beat that others can drum along to, recognizing as their own.  But more than that, absolutely Edgar Wright at…what, 36 or something?… is most definitely old enough to have absorbed some of the flavour of the young-adult Nineties (as Brian Lee O’Malley is just a bit too young to really have done) where I made what you might call my second adolescence.

Every generation is encumbered by the “coolnesses” of the previous one, you see;  it takes time for that stuff to work itself through the cultural alimentary passage.  And so here are the T-shirts, here are the shoes, why no wonder I liked this movie so much here is even my generation’s riff on Audrey Hepburn, the Unobtainable Girl with the ever-changing hair colour.  My shit’s still not over, it seems:  it keeps gaining vitality.  Skateboarding with the good trucks?  Invented it. Video game logic/music?  In at the start. Basement-suite living?  Jesus, no wonder Ben was driven crazy by this.  The shoes, the quokes, the party scenes…that’s all me, isn’t it?  Me and mine.  I me mine.

But all through that beautifully-rosy two inches of nostalgic airport glass.  “Fuck you, Twenties, you can’t hurt me anymore!” I think that’s what I felt.  “Fuck you, Bueller!” It really was a wonderful moment, because where Ben saw it and thought, “oh movie, why you gotta rub my nose in it like that?” I saw it and and thought “why what wonderful virginal blood you have, movie, all the better for me to bathe in and now I shall NEVER GROW OLD, NEVER NEVER…!” Honestly, the Unobtanium Girl, the fantasy of how she is nevertheless-obtained is my own personal cry-yourself-to-sleep-at-night Alvy-Singer-play that’s-how-it-would’ve-gone-if-she-wasn’t-a-person distortion…and I would almost feel like I need a royalty from its use, except oh movie, oh movie, you did give it to me just the way I always wanted it, didn’t you?

Well…

It did, actually.

Because when I entered the early Nineties, where just about all this hip shit came from (what, you thought hipness was reinvented every seven years? nope, that’s Disney audiences), I had a very odd experience indeed.

“It’s called paedogenesis, Ben,” I said to him.  “The amount of time an organism spends as a juvenile, it’s changing in front of our eyes.”  And this much anyway, Bloggers, is true.  Fifteen years ago, the Canadian government defined a “young adult” as anyone up to the age of thirty-four…and this year it’s actually crossed forty.  The cause of this is schooling, one of the most powerful technologies ever invented by the human mind, macro-circuits like in Neil Gaiman’s version of Jack Kirby’s “Eternals”…big factory/prison style buildings, with input and output and throughput, Plato’s Academy only with the changes of efficiency and equality wreaked on it.  Biologically, we’re adults as soon as we hit puberty — “shaddup and drink yer gin!” — and it takes us the longest to get there, even in the pure bio-state, of any other land-walking animal on the planet! — but school changes us, my dears.  In that, as a certain two-time winner of the George Orwell Award For Clarity In Language might assert, it erodes the distinction between childhood and adulthood, erodes its marks and erodes its privileges on both sides, and puts the young into a peculiar position indeed…as now unlike any other creature on the whole Earth, being of reproductive age and achieving maturity don’t mean the same thing anymore, for us.  I mean…

…Heck, it isn’t even close, really.

But we’ll get back to that my dears, back to it…back to it…I mean we obviously can’t get to it now, can we?  Not, at least, when it seems the topic of how childhood and adulthood are constituted is itself such an alarmingly vexed one…so constructed, so fluidly-changing, so interpenetrated with all the other practical (read: social) issues of “how to be in the world” and indeed what that world even is…in the London streets of Dickens one sees it very clearly as the interference produced by several overlapping worldviews that the individual must find a way to transit, and for the poor at any rate the necessity is absolutely urgent, so the boundaries between interpretations are correspondingly more permeable.  After all, if “childhood” is in some way the creation of the state of being wealthy, it only seems to stand to reason that as one’s environment gets wealthier one’s guiding definitions about childhood get harder to perturb…but on the streets, where being alone and unsupported is the most dangerous thing in the world, the notion of childhood/adulthood itself becomes fungible, and the cultural dialogue that surrounds it becomes correspondingly more interreactive.  One “is” not one thing or the other, but one is a much more active identity-seeker than any “is”-type category would allow.

Which is the whole problem/burden/unexpected joy of adolescence…not being one thing or the other, but instead being an active seeker after identity no matter what one’s socioeconomic class happens to be.  Because paedogenesis puts a strain on all of us…

As it put a strain on me too, of course…but then off I went to university, into a comfortable paedogenetic limbo of sorts, where those forces were balanced in a new activity.  Aha, except that then I bombed right out of university, and the superposition of states failed:  and back into my own hands fell the liquidity of a “youthful” identity, which really amazed me because I totally thought I was too old to have it.  However, starting work, starting roommate living, out from under any sort of umbrella of purpose…I’m not saying it isn’t something we all do, I’m saying that it is something we all do, but what’s interesting to me, about my story, is that the second adolescence had two components.  One being that it came right on the heels of an abject social failure

…And the other being, that it was a wonderfully freeing time, a time between, an untethered time that felt a lot like adolescence, except that this time it was without the paedogenetic frustrations that run through teenagehood like Judd Nelsons through hallways.  And once having tasted that absence of frustration, who would ever go back to it, eh?  Con-sider yerself…!

But we’ll get to all that later, because now we finally are on to the business of Scott Pilgrim.

And you know, one of the great things about this for me was the Canadianness of it…I deeply recognize the locales as wonderful analogues of the places I lived in, the places I went to.  BACK THEN.  Through the airport glass.  But for my good friend over there, they actually are the places he does live, they are actually the places he does go…and there ain’t nothin’ analogic about it, and besides that it isn’t great.  Because they are loving looks at those places, but they are not his loving looks.  Though not a single soul will ever come riding to the rescue of an averagely white guy who feels colonized, still that’s exactly how he feels, and he’s not wrong.  We’re all colonized, some time or another.  But some of us, strangely enough, are supposed to like it.  And not start complaining when you get absorbed by your own stuff.  Because that doesn’t make any sense, right?  How can you colonize you? How can you think you have a leg to stand on, if you want to complain about that?  However, as I always say, the people in the world who complain about the Americanization of their culture — your Nike, your McDonald’s, and so on — really would do well to stop and remember that these things colonized America itself first, and that’s even something that’s still being fought over.  The slang of California, the music of the Rockies, how to broil good beef and boil good bagels…southern-fried poker, with its weird in-between hands like Little Dog and Blaze.  All the myriad folkways of an America that was, that people are trying to hang on to, but having trouble articulating why, what’s so valuable about it, etc. etc.  And as well, the America that may be, the melting-pot of the twenty-first century…all that stuff, too, is threatened by “Americanization”, is it not?  That great modernist steel-and-glass superskyscraper, good to no one for nothing, except it makes money.  Real culture has to go underground, in the sight of that monolith…

…And, just try to make the best excuses it can?  Up in Canada, we see that pretty clearly, and identify with it.  The thing you’re forbidden to complain about it, because it’s you, and other people don’t have a problem it, and it’s you…and other people don’t have a problem with it.  Oh, just because it’s a bit weird up here, you see?  Not to jump any guns, but Canada is strange because although it’s a post-colonial country — like Rhodesia minus the diamonds! — it still isn’t a post-revolutionary one, and so although it loves being part of stable old North-North America, the super-Anglo part, and feels for the most part rather cushioned in its nice-and-wealthy viewpoints (we are talking about the white people here, obviously, and don’t worry I will get back to this in a more complex and cautious way, for now I’m just dashing paint around) it still is true that we’ve got a little bit of what they call in ivory towers the “colonial mentality” — that weird pushme-pullyou perspective in which identity is always contested, and doing the contesting, all at once.  So…

Scott Pilgrim.  No wonder I loved it, but also no wonder my friend felt like it was touching him in a bad place, and couldn’t quite get his head around how to say that without having people jump all over him and tell him he was being insane.  And I confess, I’ve never had anyone make a movie about me before, only featuring someone who’s exactly not like me, acting out my own colonial-mentality second-adolescent drama to himself while I watch and wonder how not to be insulted at being made to take that stance with respect to my own story

(“It was like you and American Splendor, only I didn’t like mine…!“)

…I wouldn’t know about that, because (you see) the biggest movie anyone’s ever made in my town, that went to my places, is still Rumble In The Bronx.  Not exactly a threat.  The North Shore Mountains leaping and soaring over New Jersey and Manhattan:  hovercrafts beaching near where I was swimming.  “You are all cabbage.” It was like the ultimate triumph of Canadian locations being used for Anytown, U.S.A., Canadian actors being used as Anypeople, U.S.A.  Simply as crazy as it could get, and I loved it.  I felt, in a strange way, almost vindicated by it…

…And American Splendor, that was just a whole other thing, obviously.  But it was vindicating too.

So, those two things were very nicely split up, for me…!

But not for Ben.

And is it not bad enough that he is walking around in all the cultural detritus that me and his mother and our friends left for him?  Because he is, you know:  the T-shirts and the shoes, the little hipnesses and the dream-girl we invented.  My story, perhaps…and so not his.  By the time “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”‘s source material was done, Brian Lee O’Malley was thirty years old.  Dude, that’s old.  As old as the chick who wrote Juno.  It’s like his life is going in reverse, played out onscreen:  things that we are removing from your imaginable possibilities.  Oldies:  gone for good.  And so what’s a guy to do?  They just come for you now, eh? And it’s just movies, other people don’t have a problem with it, how can you possibly pretend to feeling “oppressed” or anything, I mean isn’t that just ridiculous?

I must say, though I’m not feeling what he feels there with movies, there is something that this all reminds me of, and that’s…

The Olympics, of course.  That one felt like a hovercraft riding up over my head.  And I really, really, really hated that aspect of it.

Seven evil rings.

But of course, I never beat them.

Because I got so in the habit of mistaking one thing for another over my lifetime, that I forgot the big lesson, and fell between the stools.

***

Yes, in case you were wondering:  my new little nephew’s name is Oliver.

But, what were we talking about?

Gee, y’know…that’s the problem with blog-posts that go on too long, isn’t it?  Eventually you stray from the clear focus you had at the beginning, and that’s when you’re bound to make a misstep, say something you didn’t mean, or can’t defend.  Does it all add up to anything?  Is any of it true?

Well…

That’s a good question, isn’t it?

But any question can go more than one way, I guess…

…So anyway there’s that!

And so that’s that.

LOVED. THIS. MOVIE.

But get those links while they’re hot, eh?  Because I think Sony’s taking them away even as we speak.

Okay!

34 responses to “Universe Part Two: Flashback! To “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World…!”

  1. It is a really good movie, and I also recommend the comic books to you. I reread them after seeing the movie and was struck by how much of the movie was lifted directly from the comic book. Like, the part where you see Scott go flying through the air and crash into Casa Loma? It’s practically a motion comic of O’Malley’s panel. But still: the video-game theme of the comic book works much better in the movie, because in a movie you can do a) sound, b) colour, and c) motion and duration. Makes a big difference.

    The big difference between the comic and the movie is the increased role given to Knives Chau in the ending, and I kind of like that change. It wasn’t necessary, but it’s welcome.

    I dunno… I’m younger than you, and I’m sorta from Toronto, but I never thought that the movie was made “for” me specifically (then again, I’ve never been personally acquainted with any of the hipness that would be necessary for that), although I’m sure it was made for me generally. But then, a) there are all kinds of things made for me generally, and b) SPvtW was made for lots of other people generally too, including many who aren’t that much like me. So it’s not remarkable. Your friend in Toronto… had he read the comic book? Maybe one aspect of it is that if you have, you’re largely responding to the movie as an adaptation, so its primary relationship isn’t with you but with the source material, and your primary relationship is not with the movie but with that relationship. If you follow me.

    Don’t worry about the culture of the Millennial generation, or their influences or their art or their anything. If they’re anything like how the G.I.s were as compared to the Lost, they’re just gonna sweep us aside and come up with stuff that has nothing to do with us at all and we’ll never know what hit us, and they will eventually pretend that we were never there*. And that’s fine. But whatever they’re going to do, we can’t see it from here.

    My Grade 10 English teacher thought The Breakfast Club was a terrific movie; he seemed to think it had some generational significance long before anybody realized that GenX existed. This was in, oh, 1985, I guess. So that kind of idea was out there even then. And I think it’s perfectly valid. And I like the movie. But I never saw myself in it (I’ve always been okay with the idea that I’m atypical for my generation), except that I was a bit miffed that Anthony Michael Hall (whom the dynamic of the movie forced me to identify with) was left alone at the end of the movie doing everyone else’s homework while the other four paired up.

    But I don’t know if Scott Pilgrim, the movie or the comic, was ever supposed by anyone to be generationally anthemic in the same way. I mean, everything’s a generational artifact of one kind or another, but some things stand out as being generational exemplars, and I never got the sense that Scott Pilgrim was one of them. Or did I just miss it?

    You know what you need to read? A book called The Battle for Christmas, by Stephen Nussenbaum. I read it a couple of months ago and was fascinated. It touches on this whole thing about childhood that you’re talking about here, it’s about modernity and childhood and class and how Christmas was a sort of tool for handling all this in the 19th century.

    So, like your friend, I recognized a lot of the places where the movie was shot, but then again I also saw that old Elliott Gould/Christopher Plummer movie, Silent Partner, recently, and that was also shot in Toronto, and I wouldn’t say that I felt “colonized” by either one. It’s more, “Hey, check it out! I’ve been there!” Because normally we don’t see stuff we recognize in movies and on TV. But people in (say) New York do. Is it a big deal for them? Can’t imagine it would be. Well, hey, the magic box isn’t stealing our soul; why shouldn’t movie-world be as big as world-world?

    And it’s not like I’ve never resisted where a movie was going, either; I dug in my heels firmly against Wag the Dog so that I could enjoy it my way and not their way. I didn’t have any kind of a problem with SPvtW, though, because it was just really good. Of course it’s not “about me”; I can’t conceive of a movie where the issue would even come up, so neither side of that question could ever be one of my criteria anyway.

    I wonder how this movie’s going to age. In 25 years, what will people think of it? Will it perplex them entirely? “What were they smoking back then? The hell is this with the coins?” Oh well.

    * And then their kids will reject it entirely.

  2. As I mentioned on the Twitter, my son loved the movie without qualifications and he devoured the comic soon afterward. (And please allow me to also recommend the books. The 6th chapter was my favorite comic of 2010.)

    My only problem with the movie is the same change that Matthew E. applauded. In the comics, Ramona plays a larger role in the final battle against Gideon that makes the story a “coming of age” tale that’s just as much about her as it is about Scott.

    While I understand why the movie had to streamline aspects of the comic, I was disappointed that the SPvTW turned her into a damsel in distress so Knives could get her big Hollywood payoff.

    (Of course, the movie originally had Scott go off with Knives instead of Ramona. Looking at the alternate scenes on the BluRay DVD, I’m glad they didn’t stick with that version.)

    Still, it was a wonderful movie and as always you present a lot of interesting issues to consider.

  3. Aha, Marc, so that’s what was missing from the big battle scene! Yeah, I can see how that would’ve made a difference in the way everything crashes together — interesting to look at the consciousness of that in the idea you can even see in the movie itself, that we flirt with the idea of a different reconciliation with Knives. Which took me back a step as I was watching it, because I thought “now I know that’s not how this is supposed to go”, but when Knives shows up to do her thing against Gideon I couldn’t be sure. These kinds of movies have their own logic, that’s for sure, their own necessities they have to mind, that comics don’t…and is it wrong for me to be instantly put in mind of Pretty In Pink and Some Kind Of Wonderful, as I say that? Not by any means the originators of romantic cliches, those movies, but certainly ones that got in deep to the cliches, and I’d suggest even got in over their heads in them. Hmm, well it’s all about getting to the end of the “arc”, I suppose, and making sure every character gets to have one…for right or wrong, those are the closures we’ve come to expect from our movies.

    Like I said, though: I really, really LOVED this movie, and didn’t have a single qualm about it — could not have even written a word about it apart from “THAT WAS AWESOME…!!!!” were it not for my friend’s puzzling reaction. As a movie, I think you’ve got to love it…and probably not having read the comics made it real easy for me to take it on just that level. Toronto is of course a location I “know”, and even know very well — I had a fairly detailed mental map of downtown in my head before I ever went there, mostly walked around astonished at how accurate my preconceptions of the place were. It’s always been a dreamscape, for me…much like, I suppose, John Hughes’ fictional suburbs were for Chicagoans. So that’s another way I really connect with SP, another way in which its loving looks at the big T.O. were a lot like mine were anyway.

    And Matthew, I think you hit it on the head with talking about how one sees something like this through the “adaptation” filter…my young friend looked at the comics but wasn’t particularly interested by them, certainly didn’t feel threatened or weirded-out by them, but film being a unique mass communication method, as concerned with public, shared, contemporaneous experience as TV is but preserving a special power to punch you in the gut that TV can’t touch…that I think not having that filter on it gave him a freakier reaction to it all. Mind you I should say that he didn’t hate the movie, but just said its “personal-ness” was a really unwelcome and pretty constant distraction to something he could’ve, and probably should’ve, liked…

    …But at any rate he’s conscious of it being held up as “anthemic”, and I’d have to say I agree, since…well…

    …As I say, I really felt that part, on my own account!

    Mind you, you’ve got me really thinking now, about how the negative reactions to some John Hughes movies were sort of about his fumbling of the matter of closure, when it came to certain characters…and how maybe that got pretty “personal” with people in a similar way, at the time. Yeah, the geek kid just ends up doing everybody else’s homework. When it’s a girl, she passes over the Best Friend and we’re supposed to cheer; when it’s a guy, he chooses the best Friend over the Dream Girl. It can get a wee bit muddled, the “go to him/her” stuff, it’s the natural crescendo of a particular sort of romance and when you goof around with it too much you can end up messing with some very important expectations to very little point. Like: you can distract people from your movie, put them in a weird relationship to it where they’re conscious of themselves as a disquieted viewer, where that stuff becomes part of the movie too, and maybe you don’t want it to but you get trapped by the conventions’ logical necessities…

    Or, y’know…maybe not. Is it “Fuck You, Bueller”? Hell, I don’t know, I’m really just spitballing here. But anyway, as to the “younger generation” and their culture…you know, I’m just happy that all the crap culture-narratives my generation has tried to load on them over the years are turning out so embarrassingly non-viable. “They’re like this, they’re like that”…no, those “theories” were all just lame attempts at a pre-emptive strike on their vitality, like trying to get Creationism taught in schools so the boy will be laughed out of Harvard and Yale and have to come back and work the farm like his old man.

    And I’ll look for that Christmas book!

  4. Yeah, man, when I first saw Pretty in Pink as a teenager (ALSO a movie with an alternate ending!), I was PISSED. Of course, y’know, Duckie’s a considerably more mixed character all these years later, but at the time it was like, “What the HELL, John Hughes? Why would you set up this movie so that I totally identify with Duckie, and then he DOESN’T get the girl? THAT’S WHAT I HAVE REAL LIFE FOR.”

    Also I had to identify with a movie that was about 14 years old at the time, because as a kid who grew up in the 90s, I was (and still am) made to feel ashamed about the pop culture my decade produced. (Except for Seinfeld.)

    The video game stuff in Scott Pilgrim was all stuff I recognized and that felt familiar to me (one of the first things my brother and I HAD to talk about after the movie was the way it recontextualized the fairy fountain theme from Zelda games as the dream-girl-fantasy theme song), but the rest was never really my life. Not that I needed it to be – I totally loved this as well, and my only complaint was that I thought Sex Bob-Omb was TOO GOOD and I wanted to tell Scott that in no way does his band suck. But even that kind of works in the logic of the movie.

  5. I’m just about your age, Plok, and I also had the unsettling feeling of a movie highlighting my twenties-self with an arc-light. The comics, the video games, the bad band (I thought Sex Bob-Omb were wretchedly unoriginal, as most rock music is these days), and most of all the lifestyle and its purposelessness. And the inability to take things seriously enough.

  6. Great post, Plok. The bits on John Hughes go way beyond the obvious tip-of-the-iceberg stuff to chart the huge mass that lies underneath. A real crucial bit of exploration, that – my coffee still tasted nice, but it went down better with your report, oh yes!

    Of course, you already know that I ripped this post off here, and that I was also clever enough to publish that before you published this in order to disguise my crime.

    I’ll be coming back to this post again soon though – just watch this space!

    In the meantime, this bit from the comments really jumped out at me:

    “…interesting to look at the consciousness of that in the idea you can even see in the movie itself, that we flirt with the idea of a different reconciliation with Knives. Which took me back a step as I was watching it, because I thought “now I know that’s not how this is supposed to go”, but when Knives shows up to do her thing against Gideon I couldn’t be sure. These kinds of movies have their own logic, that’s for sure, their own necessities they have to mind, that comics don’t…”

    Ah, see, now I think the romantic reconciliation with Knives makes sense, IN AN EDGAR WRIGHT MOVIE, even though it doesn’t make sense for Scott Pilgrim (the movie/the character). Wright’s such a tidy worker, and the original ending has the sort of circular structure that he favours – think of the way that Hot Fuzz has to come back to the Aaron A. Aaronson joke in its finale, just so you know that everything is in its right place.

    In the original ending Scott’s smile fades during the final moments as he looks into Knives’ eyes, which… Wright flags this up in the commentary, a little Graduate riff, he calls it. So… that cut of the movies collapses back into all that’s easy and pleasurable and “childish”, but then says it might not be enough. The theatrical version forgoes all that for another sort of childishness, but… well, Scott Pilgrim (the movie/the character) is all about the pursuit of that unattainable girl, and I’m glad they went for the messy, open, let’s try again finale instead. Looking glass hearts forever, that.

    Still can’t shake the feeling that, in the movie at least, Scott is still Ramona’s Knives, but… there’s maybe something more to be said for the way fans of the comic interact with the movie version, especially with respect to the colonisation theme, huh? I shouldn’t write too much here though – not when I’ve got my own post to finish!

  7. Hey, Justin and David…yeah, that Pretty In Pink thing, I remember all the movie reviewers were going on about how wonderfully noble Duckie was, and how that made the movie so exceptional and all…which reminds me now of how they went on about how the end of Matrix: Reloaded was so sophomoric because it was basically just like a cheap rehash of Philosophy 101 and therefore insulting to the reviewers’ intelligences…

    Which I thought was hilarious, because what kind of insane community college has a Phil 101 class like that? “Your question, while certainly the most relevant, is also simultaneously the least pertinent”, and the whole class is like the bank of alternate video-screen Neos crying, throwing up, screaming “fuck you”, all dressed in black leather trenchcoats and groovy shades…

    No. Never happened. At the most, the reviewer was just so damn lost in his Phil 101 class that he felt like all those Neos, and now he’s coming on like “oh yeah, totally understood every word of that when I speed-watched the movie to get my story in on time, yawn, so jejune, heard it a million times before”…which is horseshit of course, I did well in Phil 101 and I couldn’t process the Architect’s little speech there, I went back over it in slow motion like a dozen times, laughing my head off all the way…I mean I loved that! “So, you liked the first movie and thought it was all deep, huh? Fine, now choke on THIS…!” Loved it, loved it, loved it. Still cracks me up. “Hey, mind if I borrow ten minutes of your time, moviegoer? PREPARE FOR DOWNLOAD…”

    Beautiful, insane stuff. No good as a movie, of course. But insane? Yes…

    And then when the Marky Mark Planet Of The Apes came out, same thing, why you should’ve heard these guys going on and on about how the original was practically Candide or Gulliver’s Travels or something, “let me take you back to the turbulent Sixties, dear reader”…YIKES…

    (Sorry guys, not much sleep last night…)

    …So their opinion of Pretty In Pink was about as questionable as all that stuff, as I recall. Then for Some Kind Of Wonderful I was all “just go off with the dream girl, I don’t care, I hate you all anyway!”

    It’s a far cry, though, from the contemporary obsession with neat-and-tidy closure, for sure. I do like how Edgar is skilled enough to not let this turn on him, as so many others do, from not-so-hot stand-up comedians all the way to Aaron Sorkin. That’s Sorkin’s one cathartic trick, the signpost that says “now the callback is here, it’s safe to get teary-eyed”…that Mr. Wright is clever enough not to actually let the beats overmaster him, to actually use that stuff as a tool instead of adopting it as a fetish, would be reason enough to like him even if he did nothing else well, I think…

    I do tire of it after a while, though. There’s more than one kind of perfect dismount.

    Man, I’ve got to make time for watching all those bonus features, I really do…!

  8. Apologies, Clone, you got stopped as spam! And…

    Good, so it’s not just me. Oh yeah, the bands, I forgot about the bands! Though I didn’t have any real difficulty with the bands, but…man, they did take me right back.

  9. Well, wait. Wright and O’Malley are GenXers themselves, born in ’74 and ’79 respectively. So maybe what they’ve made here is a GenX movie out of its own time, and that’s why you guys are responding to it like that. How old’s your friend in Toronto, plok? Because one thing that can happen sometimes, not that I’d try to categorize someone else’s experience for them, but this does happen, is that he’s a Millennial and he feels like this movie trying to fit him into a GenX hole. I know I’ve felt like that watching movies that are supposed to be (and in some ways are) GenX movies, like they’ve got certain assumptions about people that are reasonable when it comes to the Boom but mostly off base for GenX, and I’m watching it going, no, that part’s not really like that.

  10. Matthew: maybe so, although you probably remember I don’t subscribe to the “Gen X” thing…

    My friend was born somewhere in the mid-late ’80s. I was born in the mid-’60s, John Hughes was born in 1950 I think?

    You may very well be right, although this wasn’t really what he was saying — for myself, I’d parse it more as “generational” trends in fashion and music and entertainment taking a while to be replaced, especially if they’re propped up by some kind of corporate profit-making machine, which is ironic because some would argue trends and fashions only roll over because of the need for profit-making…

    For him, though, I’m not sure if it is a generational-type problem, anyway…

    …But I’ll mention it to him!

  11. I don’t subscribe to the “Gen X” thing…

    Which itself is a very GenX thing.

    I’d parse it more as “generational” trends in fashion and music and entertainment taking a while to be replaced, especially if they’re propped up by some kind of corporate profit-making machine

    That definitely happens, but the expectation is (I say that, although it’s happening already) that the profit-making machines will switch from GenX to Millennial (born 1982-????) a lot faster than they did when they went from the Boom to GenX.

    All that having been said, resenting when someone is trying to market to you is not, I think, particular to any generation.

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  14. which reminds me now of how they went on about how the end of Matrix: Reloaded was so sophomoric because it was basically just like a cheap rehash of Philosophy 101 and therefore insulting to the reviewers’ intelligences…

    Oh god, most hated thing! With Inception the thing to say was “and what’s all this about it being complicated? It’s just a straightfoward heist movie” (as if that’s not an oxymoron), and then in the next breath they’d reel off a list of plot-holes and things that didn’t make sense…

    It’s literally, objectively complex! A thing with many moving parts! I’ve also been staggered by how many people didn’t get what the last shot was supposed to ask, but that’s besides the besides the point…

    Scott Pilgrim! The books (and/or O’Malley) lost me, but I loved the movie. Edgar Wright’s best film by a long, long way – those first two were so overshadowed by Spaced as to be redundant, for me. (Instead of series 3 – the time for which had passed by the time Shaun was on DVD, surely – my fantasy is for Stevenson and Pegg write themselves a low-key romcom for Wright to direct. Never gonna happen.)

  15. “Straightforward heist movie”, MAN that’s funny! For me, I expect Nolan’s movies to be interesting formal exercises that aggressively and intentionally don’t quite add up in the plot-hole sense, ever since I realized what I realized about The Dark Knight…which is that plot holes are part of the fun in a Nolan movie, not mistakes. So I fully expect to kind of love Inception

    Now I just gotta see it…

    I’m looking forward to reading SP extra-specially because I’m starting to wonder if I might even prefer it in movie form, crazy as that sounds: so many neat tricks!

  16. Wow, I’d somehow neglected your Bat-posts until now… really incredible stuff. I look forward to Plok vs. Inception.

    I think – without wanting to spoil – that those “straightforward” people were talking about some of the nearly-straight-to-camera exposition that goes on. I guess they didn’t notice that none of that makes any sense, either…

    The last time I watched the Prestige I thought the plot was impressively airtight, completely contrary to my first viewing, but I’m very easily wrong.

    Sorry to get off SP. I thought the editing was amazing, Oscar-worthy (whatever that means). COMMENT JUSTIFIED

  17. You’re too kind, James! Man, I really liked TDK — it’s almost worth looking at again as a kind of Lord Of The Flies thing, or…maybe Inception, at that? So easy to explain its inconsistencies precisely as dream-logic, never that far away from movie-logic…as in movies everything is foreshadowing anyway, so whenever a dream comes up it’s a whole other, bigger ballpark: practically commentary. And Nolan does seem like the most cognitive of filmmakers, doesn’t he? Verging on neurological. Maybe TDK is the story of how Bruce Wayne gets Incepted, into his dream comes another dreamer who may or may not be a splinter of himself — everything’s going just jim-dandy for him, bizarrely so, until the Joker shows up. But we never find out who the Joker is

    Great stuff!

    Man, I gotta get on that…

  18. Saw it last night.

    This is what happens to Enid Birch when she gets off the bus she got on at the end of Ghost World, I’d like to believe.

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