I saw the movies Lion and Manchester by the Sea back to back days Saturday and Sunday. So I had myself an emotional weekend watching millionaires play make-believe. As a self-proclaimed movie snob, I like to be up to date on all the nominees for best picture at the Oscars in the United States. I pride myself on being a lockbox of actors names and their various roles. I like to think that I can name any actor from any obscure movie in existence. What that entails was spending a lot of time on my couch, alone, watching movies throughout my life.
I full blown cried in Lion, tears ran down my cheek. My eyes watered slightly in Manchester. There were audible sobs in the theater at both movies. Lion was powerful and bolstered by the authentic and performances of Nicole Kidman (plastic surgery notwithstanding) and Dev Patel, albeit a bit predictable in plot. The first hour of the movie they only spoke Bengali and Hindi and it was subtitled in Spanish so I got some mental exercise.
Manchester by the Sea was a plainly depressing and crushing movie for the protagonist. I find Casey Affleck to be unexpressive and constipated as an actor. I understand his allure as some kind of enigmatic, stoic, masculine hero but in a different actor’s hands, the role could have had much more emotional depth. Kyle Chandler could have played the lead role, for example, he was the co-star. Although, throughout the movie, Affleck is reluctant to live anymore at first yet slowly discovers this fortitude he has inside himself and the responsibility to his dead brother’s kid. I would recommend not reading a single review or summary of Manchester as it has a delayed and calculated disclosure of each major layer of the story. It is slow moving and 135 minutes long.
One last note on Lion, as a straight male, I have to say Dev Patel is magnetic as a leading man and I hung on his every word. He has the boyish sex appeal that all the mega-stars have, DiCaprio, Damon, Cruise. The virtuosic performance of the 4 year old kid, who plays Saroo as a boy, was what stole the show though.
The first movie I saw with French Maria. We tried two different theaters and the second one had available seats for Lion. On Sunday I went to the movies alone. Yes, I do this. If I came to Spain alone, then why wouldn’t I see movies alone? It’s called being cultured. Maria is a native of Madrid and a connoisseur of French culture. Her refinement was immediately apparent on our first meeting when she ordered a wine that the bar did not have in stock. She spent 8 years in Paris and was a fluent French speaker. This filled in the puzzle piece and cemented my view of her as a fetishizer of culture.
“French men sound very feminine when they try to speak Spanish.” She said, at this upscale hotel bar that she chose for us.
“I dated this guy from Canada that spoke fluent French, but it was French-Canadien, it was really ugly sounding. Eventually we broke up after a few months.” She continued.
She showed me a painting she had done of Leonardo DiCaprio. It captured the nuanced detail in the wrinkles and creases of his face perfectly. French Maria is a video editor and had attended the Goyas, basically the Oscars of Spain. She once showed me a Spanish movie that she had been the lead video editor on and broke down the play by play of a fight scene. She said there were an endless amount of takes and angles required to portray an authentic looking fistfight.
After we had met a few times, Maria’s privileged treatment as a result of being a beautiful woman came into focus. Sitting in the hotel bar, a small group of older men in suits, Irish, in their 40s and 50s found some excuse to talk to her and flirt as she moved her chair past them. I did the mental math. It made perfect sense that being complimented and valued for external features throughout a life can cause a person to constantly thirst for more and more validation. We originally met through an intercambio and she is 34 years old. An artist in every sense of the word. She works her own hours and expresses her self through many different artistic mediums: writing, painting, video, piano. Full disclosure: I don’t have any friends in the entertainment industry so I may be unfairly judging.
Shoe Store Maria
I met Shoe store Maria last night at Starbucks. She contacted me after I put up an ad on tusclasesparticulares.com. She had dramatic facial expressions that seemed like they being directed by a crew team, the cocksen doling out the orders for “Cheery face!” “Confused!” “Excited!” She appeared as a trained actor teaching emotions through facial expression to a class of students with autism who are unable to intuit other’s emotion correctly. Over text, she was a bit stubborn and ignored my question about meeting at a specific bar.
“Ok, so 4:30 at Arguelles metro station! See you then.” She texted. I could see from her WhatsApp picture she was very pretty.
I was confused when the language exchange concluded. She made up some excuse to leave and and said “See you soon!” with a peppiness that made me uncomfortable. She made a face that you would make when your saying “coochy coochy coo” to a baby and there was no double cheek kiss. Therefore I received her subtle implication that we would not be continuing this intercambio. She smiled for almost the whole conversation and seemed inordinately impressed by her own thoughts and actions.
“I work at this shoe store in Sol (Madrid city center). But I want to travel this summer for a month in Thailand.” She said, with a glint in her eye and a toothy smile.
“Oh, that’s cool. Are you going alone or by yourself?” I said.
“I’m going with this girl, we aren’t really friends, but I just figured I should have someone to go with.” She said.
She then proceeded to tell me that she is going to do part of the Camino de Santiago with a friend and wanted to do the entire thing but her friend could only go for 2 weeks.
“Why don’t you do the rest by yourself? I think it can be very beneficial to do alone.” I suggested.
“I don’t think I would like that.” SS Maria said. I picked up on a general guardedness and a vigorous protection of her precious box of life that she protects like a fierce mama bear. She didn’t seem to consider anything outside that little box that might upset the status quo or mess with her positive view of her goody two shoes self.
After we parted, I had the distinct feeling that I was boring and felt that she didn’t like me. I could barely muster a smile throughout the labored 50 minutes of conversation and was drained from having to slog through the boring conversation. I realized that she tricked me, and probably successfully tricks herself every day into thinking she is actually a fun and interesting person. I could not feign excitement with this girl because everything about her seemed to be forced and fake. I had a physiological aversion to agreeing with her or smiling a genuine smile at her. Her elaborate facade was no doubt influenced by her preferential treatment throughout her life as a result of her exterior features of beauty. Maybe she doesn’t have the patience or tolerance for a guy that doesn’t hang on her every word and pretend to be interested in her.
Why do I waste my time with these fake people? Shoe store Maria probably had the gossip and assassination of my character cued up for when she would get home. I would venture to guess that she has spent her life stifling anything negative because to confront any unpleasant truths would be to make them real. The result of this is that her smiles appear like she is a puppet with a puppetmaster pulling the strings up and down to make her tightly strained face look happy. People like her put all their energy into being the best in their field and trying to fit this contrived portrayal of positivity and success. Mostly to keep their head propped while they do all the right things, to maintain the faith they have in their little box. I find these fake, uptight, puppet smile type-A personalities repulsive.
Motor Mouth Maria had cleavage that kept hijacking my attention and a high skirt revealing thick legs. She was outspoken and exhausting to hang out with, I felt as if I was checking off a box as soon as I climaxed. All of a sudden, I could sense and smell the musk of her sweat and I was instantly turned off sexually, as happens with me. She had those pure Spanish intentions and innate integrity that will always make me feel like a bad person in comparison.
I met with a girl named Roxy off Tinder, not a prostitute, but a self proclaimed “foodie” who attends press releases and is impossible to make a plan with. On the first date she said, “I hate guys who play games” and “I have no obligation to a guy to show a guy that I read his text, so I keep my read receipts off on WhatsApp.”. She takes a full two days to respond to messages on average. She called me “very serious” on the first date, and acted as if I was odd because I didn’t understand her sophisticated and high-minded humor. I’ve been concluding lately that most girls, or more generally, most people, suffer from some kind of pathology: narcissism, OCD, whatever it is, a lack of self awareness. Learning to brush these people off and stop being co-dependent has been a challenge for me this year.
Angela was a slender, pale girl with fluent English studying for a diplomat’s exam, Skinny is not usually my type so it was a novel experience. She sympathized with my expat experience as she had lived in Idaho for a year. She gave me the book of poetry “Love is a Dog from Hell” by Charles Bukowski which I loved, but I now have to see her again to return it.
When I see these girls, sometimes I drop a “Tienes novio?” into the conversation, on the first or second intercambio, the question feeling less heavy when I say the words in Spanish. I probe her situation to see if she has “amigos con derecho a roce” the Spanish friends with benefits, Or “friends who rub each other” literally. I can’t help but be annoyed on the few dates where the other person’s English is terrible and its like teaching a 5 year old and my Spanish is way better than their English.
I can never get the song Because I got high out of my head. Sometimes I try to sing both parts simultaneously like I am a member of Frankie Valli and the Four Tops
When I encounter people on the subway who listen to blaringly loud headphones, I expend an unhealthy amount of mental energy wishing lifelong, permanent hearing loss on them, as if I am trying to cast a spell.