A series of not entirely unconnected thoughts:

1. I had a motivational, communication-improvement seminar training thing at work today, which is actually not bad; I only lament that this is the probably only place I’ve ever worked for any amount of time where I don’t feel like such training is desperately necessary. I keep hearing things and I think, “I wish this kind of communication had been facilitated among co-workers at the nightmarish workplace I went to straight out of law school; those couple years would have been a lot more bearable. But I’m pretty sure a prerequisite for instituting this kind of program is having management with the insight to realize that such a thing is helpful, and when you have that, it’s not so desperately needed.

Still, I don’t mean to complain about working in a functional workplace that lets me take two hours every once in a while to sit around a room with pleasant people and talk about our goals. It’s just that, at one point in the session, as we were going around the room talking about, “Who Do You Want to Be?”, I listened to some really sweet and candid statements from my co-workers, and I started — as you do — to make up a story in my head. In this story, there’s a character in a similar situation, listening to a co-worker they don’t know well talk (I use ‘they’ because I hadn’t worked out the genders), and the person talking gets a little more personal/vulnerable/revealing than you’d expect in that situation (this didn’t HAPPEN in my session, but fiction lives in life’s little what-ifs). The listener is inspired by the speaker, consequences ensue, there is a love story, etc. I jotted something to this effect down in my notebook — I haven’t started any new projects lately, but you never know. Then, as I was driving home, it hit me: that’s totally the plot of the movie Say Anything. . .

I mean, it’s not exactly the plot. But storywise, the fundamentals are there. At the beginning of the movie, Diane, the sweet and seemingly perfect valedictorian of her high school class gives a speech — a thoughtful, literate speech (even if the jokes fall flat), in which she foregoes the usual platitudes about hope and achievement and simply says that, when she looks at the future, “I am really scared.” From this point, our hero, sweet and directionless slacker Lloyd Dobler is inspired to ask her out. Consequences ensue, there’s a love story, et cetera.

It’s not, actually, surprising that I had Say Anything. . . in the back of my mind during a motivational seminar. Really, it would be fair to say the movie was in the front of my mind, since a couple other phrases scrawled in my notebook over the course of the afternoon were, “How hard is it to decide to be in a good mood and be in a good mood?” and (during the discussion about life goals), “I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career.” (Yes, both Lloyd quotes from the movie). In the commentary on the 15th anniversary DVD release, writer/director Cameron Crowe says that Lloyd and Diane’s story is really about “optimism as a revolutionary act.” We see how much life can suck, and we try to do something about it anyway. It occurs to me that a slightly more erudite paraphrase of that mission would be, “The audacity of hope.” I’m not saying that President Obama was thinking about Lloyd Dobler when he wrote his campaign biography. On the other hand, he seems like the kind of guy to watch DVD’s with the commentaries on, and I know from experience how deep Lloyd can dig into your brain. And it’s a more interesting motto than, “With great power comes great responsibility.” I’m just saying.

One last thought on my love for Say Anything. . ., and why I adore when so many films of the ‘romantic comedy’ genre it gets grouped with leave me cold. The most famous image of the movie is undoubtedly Lloyd (John Cusack) standing in Diane’s driveway with a boom box over his head. Even in the context of the movie, it’s a weird gesture, borderline stalker-ish (especially if you take into account that he’s standing in her driveway because she won’t take his phone calls, and the song he’s playing, Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes”, was playing in the car the first time Lloyd and Diane had sex), and to me, Lloyd only gets a way with it because (a) he’s a teenager and (b) he has a LOT of good guy cred to burn from earlier in the movie. But what’s most striking about this scene is that it doesn’t resolve the problem in the relationship. It doesn’t resolve anything, because Diane’s problems aren’t about Lloyd, but about problems going on in her family. (I don’t want to spoil everything for people who might not have seen it; because you should, because it’s the most amazing movie, and I’m not biased about that in anyway). The romantic plot only gets resolved some time later when Diane takes action, after having made the choices necessary to deal with her own problems.

And I’ll tell you, I remember when I hated this about the movie. I didn’t see it when it came out in 1989. I’m kind of sorry about that, because I think it’s a story I could have used when I was fourteen. But I didn’t catch it until it ran on TV, some time in my first couple years of college. I didn’t really care about Diane, then, or her family drama; I was in the movie for Lloyd, and his wacky friends like Lili Taylor’s grunge-singing Corey. When I first saw Say Anything. . ., and Lloyd showed up with that boom box, I desperately wanted Diane to take him back. Because it was so clear that the two of them made each other happy, and I wanted them to stop being apart. Re-watching the movie over the years, though, I’m very grateful that Crowe let everything develop the way it did. Ridiculous, overwrought teenage gestures can be awesome, and even important — Lloyd wanted Diane to know he wasn’t giving up on her, that he’d be there when she was ready. But, while so many contemporary rom-coms seem to feature characters who want to be teenagers forever, I appreciate that this movie about teenagers lets them grow into their adult choices.

I don’t know if any of this means that I’ll try to write that story, or that I won’t. By the time I’m done with it, it might take place on a space station.

(Now much shorter thoughts on a couple items I saw today):

2. Bryan Singer is directing a new X-Men movie. I think I’m supposed to be excited about that, because the X-Men films were my entry point into the crazy rabbit hole of comic book fandom. And, you know, I like those movies pretty well, but I’m not convinced they’re actually all that good. Granted, a lot of the not-so-good involved the hashed-together scripts, and this one is supposedly going to be made from a screenplay by Josh Schwartz. Schwartz works on some TV shows I’ve never watched, so that in itself doesn’t excite me much. But having a prestige writer attached to the project suggests that maybe the studio will pay some attention to the script, or at least that there will be a script.

Still, I’m not sure I have enthusiasm for another X-movie in me. Reports don’t make it clear if it’s a prequel or a sequel. X-Men: Origins: Wolverine convinced me once and for all that prequels are almost always a bad idea, and any potential sequel would run into the problem that most of the characters in the movies I cared about are either dead, or Wolverine, who already has his own solo project. At this point, the only way I can imagine getting enthused is if they made a sequel and centered it around Anna Paquin as Rogue and Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde. I guess it could happen, because they’re a couple of appealing actresses with built-in fanbases. But I’m thinking the audiences of True Blood and Juno aren’t especially what Fox has in mind for selling a superhero movie. I’d say “their loss,” but it’s not like I know how to make a movie that makes money.

3. Leaving behind movies that don’t sound like they’ll be up my alley, I can make the happy transition to a comic book that seems aimed at a core audience of me. X-FACTOR FOREVER is one of those nutty vanity projects where a writer takes up where a previous comics ran left off, years ago, and I wouldn’t care except that this is Louise Simonson picking up X-Factor after issue 64. Let me tell you, Internetz: if I were magically given the opportunity (and you know, the qualifications) to start writing any comic book series at any point in history, I would probably say, “X-Factor, picking up after issue 64!” As Simonson tells it:

Scott has asked Jean to marry him, but Jean has refused since she’s having trouble integrating the confusing and terrible memories left her by the out-of-control Phoenix entity – a being that once impersonated her and became a destroyer of planets – and the Goblin Queen, who tried to sacrifice her own son. Though Jean is no longer telepathic, she’s beginning to have low-level telepathic flashes. Because this seems linked to the Phoenix persona, she’s not quite sure how to react.

You guys, that is everything I want to read about in a comic book. EVERYTHING! I do not pretend to have any expectations about the quality such a book is likely to have. I don’t really pretend to have any illusions about the quality of the original X-Factor, for that matter. I just love the overwrought psychic soap opera of it (as discussed in this comic book guilty pleasures post at Fantastic Fangirls) and it tickles me that somebody decided there were still people out there who would care enough to read it. Even if it turns out I’m the only one.

4. Anybody who slogged through the above and desperately needs synthesis between my pressing need to discuss comic books and my pressing need to discuss Cameron Crowe movies (N.B.: This is not even my first post in two weeks of blogging that I began by discussing a Cameron Crowe movie). Once I was having one of those conversations with friends about, “What if Say Anything. . . was about the X-Men, and Lloyd was Scott, and Diane was Jean. . .or maybe Lloyd was Jean and Diane was Scott. . .in which case Wolverine would have to be Corey, and her ex-boyfriend Joe was one of the government agencies that screwed Wolverine over and made him do terrible things against his will?” All of which allows me to leave you with the image of Wolverine as a teenage grunge singer, belting out angry songs about Nick Fury.

You’re welcome.

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