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March 25, 2000

Think good thoughts for Saundra, whose entry for today tells of a distressing experience.

Last weekend there was only one movie I wanted to see. This weekend so many movies opened at the Rialto that I had trouble deciding. Most of these are films from last year that didn't get a lot of support in their original release. But they're perfect for a semi-art house like the Rialto, which is building a reputation by catering to independent movie goers.

Mom and I went to see Tumbleweeds there this afternoon. It's about the relationship between a mother and daughter, and how they help each other grow up. Janet McTeer is wonderful as Mary Jo, an earthy but frazzled woman who can never seem to find the right man. And Kimberly J. Brown is amazing as the twelve-year-old who both learns from and teaches her mother, about life and perspective and priorities.

I think the reason I like movies that are driven by character rather than action is that I have so few people in real life that are close enough for me to feel I really know them. I'm drawn to the more intimate films where you're allowed to feel the characters' emotions with them, learn how they think and feel. It takes great writing and acting for this to work, but the reward is the kind of art that draws the audience into an artist's vision of how people relate to each other and how they cope with problems big and small.

It's an amazing gift for an actor to create sympathy and understanding for a person you wouldn't give a second glance if you saw them on the street. I'm thinking, for example, of a gritty film like Boys Don't Cry, depicting small town life far removed from my world, and how Hilary Swank breathes life into her character and makes you understand her and ache for her.

I go into a movie like this with the expectation that I'll want to be part of the lives of the characters. It's the same attraction a well crafted novel has, but it doesn't even have to be inspired literature for me to appreciate it. The plot is just the framework on which to hang a deeply hewn, complex portrait of an individual I want to spend time getting acquainted with. If I can't care about the people I'm reading about, I can't finish the book.

In real life, I'm not that easy. My expectations are low, but it's because I'm in the lead role and I can't imagine anyone watching my movie. I bring so little hope into a personal encounter because I don't want to be disappointed when the reviews come in. I'm not surprised when people walk out after the first act. I'm used to playing to an empty house.

Reading online journals is an extension of the way I approach movies and books. I get to know so many people, as much as they care to reveal, from the point of view that only living inside their own skin can impart. It's a more gradual process than a two-hour movie or a four hundred page novel, of course. You get a little bit with each entry, and if you care enough you keep coming back.

Some revelations are a writer's deliberate attempt to be understood, while others accumulate from the details. It's a cross-section of human nature that we see here, and it's a gratifying way to close the gap created by time and space and circumstance, and catch a fleeting glimpse of how it feels to shuffle around in someone else's shoes.

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Latest recommendation:

Tesserae, Lantern Waste, March 23, Grey

Other recent recommendations can be found on the links page.