That's where I am with my senior thesis right now.
I'm not completely finished. I told my adviser that I'd like her to critique it one more time before I even come close to getting bound something that I'd consider a final copy. But essentially I'm done with the writing of the thing---so all that is left is, I guess, to revise, add endnotes, write a bibliography, etc.
I actually was able to get it up to about 40 pages total. That's amazing---I didn't even think I'd have enough for the Livingston College Honors Program minimum of 25! Guess I have a lot to say on the subject of Jean-Luc Godard versus Quentin Tarantino (the latter of whom has temporarily gotten on my critical good side with Death Proof---his mostly wonderful contribution to Grindhouse---which I'd like to write about soon in a future entry) after all. Of course, it's quality, not quantity that counts...but still, 40 pages. Take that, you State Theatre usher who told me 25 pages "wasn't a thesis"! I have 40 now---is that thesis enough for ya?
Anyway...now all that's left is to worry about my upcoming presentation. I will have to present my thesis to my fellow Livingston College Honors Program peers on Saturday, April 28 over on Livingston Campus. I guess it shouldn't be too bad; I only have to speak for 10 minutes and maybe field questions for about 5. Still, I've never been the most confident public speaker around, and I'm not all that great at improvising or thinking on my feet. And the Q & A? Expect a lot of stuttering and flailing! Everyone tells me "anticipating questions" is the key. Well, it hasn't helped me all that much in the past. I couldn't stand being asked questions when I took IPLE---a high school form of Model Congress---during my senior year of high school because every time I did, I'd inevitably look and sound like an idiot after delivering a decent speech. It was usually pretty embarrassing...and considering how self-conscious I am, it's something I always tend to get nervous about.
Of course, I can hear my mother now: "Think positive." Of course, if I think negative, I'm automatically labeled a pessimist, when perhaps all I'm being is realistic. Either that, or it's all just a big defense mechanism.
But that's for later next week or the week after. Next week I'm probably going to be working on a paper I'm writing for my Cinema Studies senior seminar. It's on Ross McElwee's famous 1986 documentary Sherman's March, a first-person documentary way before Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock came around and imposed their (sometimes entertaining and enlightening) thuggery on the format. Before picking it for my paper (and presentation, which I've done already), I had only heard about its reputation. But it's actually a really good film, folks---witty and touching and interesting, as long as you're not inclined to think of someone who films himself as he tries to struggle with his relationships with women as insufferably self-absorbed. I guess McElwee is a bit of whiner. But at least here he's taking on universal subjects---male/female relationships, history, art vs. life---and doing it in a compellingly confessional style that I find rather endearing. Either that, or I just identify with the guy a bit too much (although no, I don't have dreams about thermonuclear war).
Anyway, I have to write a paper about the movie now, and at this point I only have a bare idea of what I want to discuss. In my presentation, I talked about how McElwee tries to get at the intersection of art and life in Sherman's March: how he explores the idea of art shining a brighter light on our lives, and how he perhaps concludes that art isn't always adequate in that regard (especially for him, since he pretty much ends his recreation of General William T. Sherman's ruinous path of destruction in the South during the Civil War no closer to a personal understanding of his troubles than he did at the beginning of this strange project). No one in the class seemed to really bite on that topic, alas. I'll still write about it, but I hope I have enough for 10-15 pages.
Speaking of movies: again, I haven't seen much in the theaters recently and, with the exception of Tarantino's half of Grindhouse---Robert Rodriguez's self-consciously campy Planet Terror strikes me as pretty disposable and as soulless as his overrated Sin City, even if it was intended to be disposable and soulless---not much I've seen has been worth spending much time on.
Reign Over Me (** out of ****) was a particular disappointment. Adam Sandler is hardly an actor for the ages, but, while back in the day---when I wanted to come off as smart and sophisticated about movies---I used to fall squarely into the anti-Adam Sandler bandwagon, recently I've come to recant my Sandler-phobia. He's not a great actor by any means---his range is extremely limited, and most of the movies he's been in has played variations on his passive-agressive manchild persona. But I can't help but give him a lot of credit for his sincerity and his occasional adventurousness. He was one of the best things about James L. Brooks' underrated Spanglish, and I still don't think the critically-reviled (but popularly-embraced) Click was nearly as bad as many of the mainstream critics suggested. Shamelessly sentimental in parts, perhaps, but it was also disarmingly sincere and had some agreeable things to say about modern overreliance in technology.
In Reign Over Me, Sandler plays an emotional victim of 9/11: his entire family was wiped out on that fateful day, and he hasn't gotten over it since, deliberately sealing himself off from the world and indulging in odd bits of business like decorating and then redecorating his kitchen. As in Punch-Drunk Love, Sandler isn't so much playing a totally different character from his norm as he is playing off his usual persona and trying to suggest more emotional depth. He doesn't always succeed---sometimes his attempts at emotion simply seem like, well, child-like attempts---but more often than not, I found writer/director Mike Binder's use of him fascinating and judicious. Sandler keeps your eyes glued on his character, especially when he's playing off the typically-marvelous Don Cheadle, who plays an old college roommate who is trying to help him out of his frail shell.
The best that can be said about the rest of this movie is that it itself is sincere. But sincerity of intent is often nothing without the execution to back it up, and Reign Over Me is so sitcom-ish and clumsy so often that, after a while, I had trouble buying any of the characters and the situations. As hard as Sandler tries, his Charlie Fineman is basically an abstraction, meant to be some kind of symbol of 9/11 grief. Sandler, alas, isn't quite imaginative enough an actor to glue all those pieces together and come up with a convincing human being. But at least you keep rooting for him. As the movie veers into melodramatic courtroom drama territory, I just kept getting dread hints of Big Daddy, with its equally shameless climactic courtroom dramatics. Reign Over Me is, frankly, a mess, full of one-note characters (Cheadle's wife, Saffron Burrows in a stupid subplot about a potential harrassment lawsuit) and unconvincing situations; even Oliver Stone's nearly-as-sentimental World Trade Center came up with more authentic portraits of grief during a time of crisis (mostly embodied by the women, Maria Bello and Maggie Gyllenhaal).
If Reign Over Me reeks of insufferable good intentions, though, this whole Don Imus brouhaha reeks of bad ones. You know the story by now: the old-school shock jock calls the Rutgers women's basketball team "nappy-headed ho's" (among other things) and suddenly finds himself in hot water because of it. Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are calling for his resignation, and just yesterday a whole group of Rutgers students rallied on College Ave. calling for the same.
Now, call me insensitive, but doesn't this sudden outcry of rage against Imus's comments strike some as a little over-the-top? Why is his job suddenly in danger now and not five years ago, when I'm sure he was saying similarly racist and sexist things on his "Imus in the Morning" show? Where was the outrage when he called Gwen Ifill "a cleaning lady covering the White House"? I'm not defending Imus in any way, but he's been getting away with this for years (and believe me, I think I've heard his show enough to get an idea what kind of a person he is). And hello...First Amendment??? I know even free speech has its limits, but I don't really think Imus has overstepped any bounds with his derogatory speech. He's exposed himself as a bigot and a sexist, maybe, but that's his problem.
I dunno. This outcry calling for his head just strikes me as akin to a mob crying out for blood---a group of understandably angry people blowing things out of proportion and falling into the rarely-helpful revenge mindset. Despite what you see enforced in your usual Hollywood action movie, though, vengeance rarely gets us anywhere, and I don't see how getting Don Imus to resign will solve anything. Does Sharpton, Jackson and the rest of the people in this country who want him to get the hell off the air really think this will strike a decisive, seminal blow against racism or sexism in this country? It's nice to think that it would, but I, in my usual circumspection, am not so sure.
Sorry, but that's what I think. Either that, or I'm just trying to justify my own indifference toward this whole matter. You can read it either way, I guess.