#16: Time Will Tell
Spring is here!
First off, a Substack glitch caused last week’s newsletter to send twice to many subscribers. If this happened to you apologies for the inbox clutter. Substack says it has been fixed.
Secondly, I want to apologize for calling you all “Soup homies” in last week’s newsletter. It’s been a busy month and I’m a little low on sleep, but that’s no excuse for my actions. I’m learning and growing every day and I hope you’ll forgive me.
Thirdly, cancel your weekend plans and run, don’t walk, to your nearest theater to see Everything Everywhere All at Once. Yes, it’s as heartwarming and tear-jerking and laugh-out-loud funny and epic as everyone says.
When I was a teen, one of the reasons I wanted to move to New York was because the really good movies always premiered here earlier. Finally, the tens of thousands of extra dollars I’ve paid in rent have paid off. I saw it two weeks ago, before it was released nationwide, and I’m still not over it.
We desperately need more movies that are as ambitious in scope and theme as this one. We need movies that aren’t afraid to be earnest, movies that can lift us up and out of the navel-gazing era of cinema in which so much is either superhero nonsense, a morality tale, or worse, both.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the article I mentioned in my last newsletter, about using sci-fi to combat climate change. So much of our current sci-fi is less about new ideas than it is about finding the appropriate metaphor in which to situate interpersonal drama.
For instance, I’ve been watching Star Trek: the Lower Decks, which is, to be fair, an entertaining and delightfully fan-conscious show. Despite this, it has little to say about the future. Instead, it’s about a fraught mother-daughter relationship, workplace politics and foibles—with action-packed sequences and comic relief as filler. But there are few if any “what ifs?”
In her famous National Book Foundation acceptance speech, Ursula Le Guin said, “hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope.”
What makes Everything Everywhere All At Once so powerful in its exploration of other worlds, is that instead of using big ideas to tell a story about individual characters, the Daniels (the collective title used by the two filmmakers, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) use a story about individual characters and their interpersonal relationships to explore far more ideas than any two-hour movie has a right to.
If none of this entices you, here’s Michelle Yeoh herself (also of Star Trek fame, IYKYK) talking about the film, which sells the film all on its own:
On Tuesday, I saw King Pleasure, an exhibition on Jean Michel Basquiat’s life and work, presented by his family. Truly it was more a Jean-Michel exhibit than an art exhibit, containing a replica of his childhood living room and his Jones street studio, paintings of him and his family done by Andy Warhol, and the fridge door he painted for a friend who let him crash in his pre-fame days. After the show, my friend and I had a picnic on the Highline in the beautiful weather, and it was yet another of those days that reminds me of why I still love New York.
The back-facing camera on my phone isn’t working, which was actually kind of a boon. I’d forgotten what a great in-the-moment experience an art exhibition can be when you’re not deciding whether or not to take a picture of each thing you see. I was stuck behind a bunch of people who apparently meant to get around the distraction of having to choose which worthy objects to photograph by photographing everything instead, and I was much less annoyed knowing they were probably not having as good a time as I.
With the help of my friend, though, I did get this one picture of the replica of his studio, for the newsletter obviously.
I’m changing up the format of the Soup Season newsletter a little bit. Instead of a longer essay and a weekly top five, I’m going to include two to three shorter “essays.” This will give me more time to focus on writing well-researched, longer-form essays for the newsletter once a month.
One of the primary inspirations for this newsletter was a YouTube channel called Every Frame a Painting, which uploaded just 28 videos about filmmaking between 2014 and 2016, and then abruptly stopped.
I flew through these when I was bored and self-isolating at the beginning of the pandemic. Afterward, searching for any clues about whether they would return, I found their Postmortem, an essay that has been a guiding light for me as an artist.
When I say that Every Fame a Painting is heads and shoulders above the vast majority of YouTube content, I’m not exaggerating. Their meticulous process and their commitment to form, cohesion, and overall quality are proof that creating things online doesn’t have to cheapen the process.
I knew when I started this newsletter that I only wanted to create something worth cluttering your inbox, and I want to give myself the time and space necessary to do my best work. So I hope this new format will make that possible.