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..:: CONTENTS ::..
   Volume V, Issue II

..:: POETRY ::..

..:: PROSE ::..
..:: OTHER ::..

..:: ETC ::..
   Contributor's Notes

..:: ARCHIVES ::..
   Volume I, Issue I
   Volume I, Issue II
   Volume II, Issue I
   Volume II, Issue II
   Volume III, Issue I
   Volume III, Issue II
   Volume IV, Issue I
   Volume IV, Issue II
   Volume V, Issue I


Number One at the Box Office
some synopses of films about the lives of numbers and other things
Dolan Morgan


The Multiplicative Identity (R), 2005, 98 min.
     1 is a secret agent, a talented assassin and dashing young gentleman. An avid gambler and car aficionado, the film starts with him winning a hand of poker while racing down the freeway at 110 mph in pursuit of a dangerous but beautiful woman, armed to the teeth. Throughout, they alternately have sex with and shoot one another until there is little difference between bullets and people, numbers and violence.

The Lion and the Lampshade (G), 2008, 88 min.
     An unlikely pair is thrown together in the ultimate attempt to go from point A to point B. This fun family adventure throws an uproarious spotlight on the power of friendship. The bond shared between the lion, a grumpy but goodhearted killer, and the lamp shade, a depressed but able mover-and-shaker, will remind us all what it means to fight for what is right. On their way to B, they must use their wits to climb a steep mountain across enemy lines, meeting great characters along the way. In the journey into the unknown, they discover that the only variable you really need is hope! Parents and children will have much to discuss when the film culminates in the realization that B is really just the same as A!

The Additive Identity (PG-13), 1981, 2 h: 21 min.
     Zero wants nothing more than to be somebody. In a harrowing tale of determination, perseverance, and will, Zero fights his way to the top of the boxing world with no hands or feet -- just an immense desire to win, vindicating the belief we all hold that if you want something badly enough you will get it. And if you don't get it, you didn't want it badly enough. Zero knocks out fighter after fighter in a parade of slow-motion head-turns and tear-filled training montages, all bare knuckles and blank biceps. Zero's will cannot change him or anyone else, though. A winner is just a winner, and Zero is nothing else. Medals slung about his neck, the credits run over Zero stumbling through the city unnoticed, untouched, and unheard. He reaches out and his hands go right through people and things. The same triumphant music never stops playing.

Murder at Monty Hall (PG-13), 1999, 122 min.
     Detective Hower thinks he's on vacation at Monty Hall, but when the resort becomes a murder scene, he's back in palm-frond action. Hot in pursuit of the unlikely murderer, 66%, whose trademark move involves a game of deadly dice, the action gets improbably thick. And when he meets the voluptuous 33%, whose waist, bust and hips move in waves, the romance gets a chance more steamy. But when he learns that 33 is 66 and 66 is 33 -- and that in life, trading one for the other is always better than staying with what you've got -- Detective Hower doesn't hesitate. He shoots the girl point blank and kisses the villain in the face. With a crescendo of cinematic fireworks, the film ends by zooming into the dead woman's body -- where deep inside of her is a brand new car. What's inside the villain? Two goats.

Eleanor (R), 2004, 101 min.
     Eleanor is a maid in the house of Mersenne, a wealthy lineage of Prime Ministers and dukes. She carries a secret, however -- one sought by throngs of power-hungry upstarts. Her blood cures cancer -- and the Mersennes have selfishly kept it from the world for uncertain political advantages. Yet, even inside the house, she is not entirely safe. 127, an older member of the family, hounds Eleanor, harassing and leering at her, cornering her in rooms and breathing on her neck. If a voice didn't call her at just the right moment or if a phone rang just a second later -- something untoward would certainly happen there in the corners. Yet, voices call and phones do ring. All else is reasonably comfortable -- until the drills come up through the floor and the androids attack. The first hour of the film details how the Mersenne family fights back, the aristocrats battling the humanoid robots. The Mersennes ultimately lose. The family dies. Fortunately, so do the androids. All lay about the great marble staircase and atrium where the last battle takes place.
     Except Eleanor and 127, the lecherous old man -- who has saved her life by fighting off the android hordes, keeping her sheltered and never letting them pass. 127 professes his simple and pure love for her, something he could see only in the face of death, and he swears to keep protecting her. Knowing the androids were after her secret blood, he believes they will be back with stronger forces, and he begs her to let him morph his body into her shape, to let him be a decoy, a protective reflection, a distraction that will keep the androids off her scent. This is a request she can only grant by scraping the tissue from her cheeks and submitting it to a chamber. The honesty in his eyes and how honorably he has fought makes her consent -- and he uses the house's body morphing tubes to change slowly into her. When 127 finally becomes an exact body double of Eleanor, there amongst his dead family and scattered electronic limbs, he strips off his clothes and stares. Eleanor backs away, watching her body be molested under the hands of the old man -- her own hands, there is no difference, but she searches for the difference with darting eyes.

Step Function (NC-17), 1928, 29 min., silent
     None of them had anything in common. Some were long, others short. Some lived in the far quadrant, others the near, and even some toward the center. Each of them started somewhere and, presumably, ended somewhere as well. Yet, they weren't satisfied with this. They spent years and days and months and seconds and eons devising a way of connecting their finite and discriminate parts. They managed to string some ideas together that made them happy. It described how they fit, what made them connect. It was a thesis on what they had in common. Yet, if you plotted it out, if you really sat down and thought about it, it was simply a detailed and efficient description of how they could never connect. It's the only thing holding anyone together.

Xibalba: The Origin (R), 1977, 103 min.
     The film opens on X determinedly moving in one direction. She treks forward, rucksack over her shoulder and pants dragging behind. Y, meanwhile, travels in another direction -- reluctant but directly, hair long and beard scruffy. The film attempts to make a statement about the world by comparing the trajectories of the two travelers. When Y is on the farm, X takes the subway. The images overlay to display pigs on concrete, cows on rails. When X swims the ocean, Y rakes the desert. The cacti dive through the reefs, the sand sifts through fish. The film alludes to a single place where they both come from, and we imagine it to be true. The images lend themselves to the belief that at one time, X and Y met and were indistinguishable. Still, there is no trace of that anymore. Only a feeling. Yet, long after we leave the theater, we keep feeling it.

Balancing (PG-13), 2007, 3 hr: 58 min.
     This movie is terrible. N walks on screen, kicking dried leaves with his scuffed-up loafers. By coincidence he bumps into S, spilling her bags and coffee. After treating her to a new cup, they fall quickly in love. The film is simply a series of scenes describing their absurd closeness and the beauty of their relationship. Soon, though, we see N growing a sort of uneasiness, just as S starts to have an air of apprehension as well. They go through the attentive motions, but something is clearly missing. As the film probes their inner thoughts, we find that the two of them are dealing with the very same problem: they aren't tired of one another at all, but rather are frustrated by not being able to get any closer. We see shots of them embracing, pressing their bodies as hard as they possibly can against one another. N and S grate haltingly one upon the other like sandpaper and rock. "I love you," they tell each other, but feel as if they love maybe only "a shell of a projection of an idea of each other." In the final scenes, we see them smashing their heads together, kissing through broken teeth and fractured skulls, blood and neurons slipping from one body to another. Is this an action movie or romance? we wonder, hearing their thoughts tossed together. We zoom in on a closeup of the cells and synapses to see them not entwined but still bouncing against each other, their frames colliding but not melding -- like sandpaper and rock. Far be it from some ethereal amalgamation, some romantic chimera letter or sum: N plus S can only, ultimately, equal N plus S.

Martin Gale (G), 1995, 2 min.
     Mr. Martin Gale is an avid horse enthusiast with a predilection for gambling. It is no small wonder then that most of the film takes place at the races. Set in late 18th century France, the film at first details Mr. Martin Gale's attempts to find and hone the perfect betting strategy, but after Mr. Martin Gale discovers the safest and most profitable bet is a bet made against oneself, he tracks a sub-Martin Gale down. The remainder of the film focuses on one night's series of intense wagers, all made in the deserted moonlight of Longchamp track. He starts with a simple one Franc bet, but he doubles every subsequent wager, the amounts progressively reaching higher and higher -- eventually heading towards wholly inconceivable amounts that only exist as a sort of gesture or abstraction agreed upon between the two Martin Gales. In the film, we see these as bursts of color and sound. Even the two gamblers start to lose track of much else besides the fact that they are doubling. Each bet in this way becomes equal to every other bet -- all are simply double the last bet made -- but what was the last bet made? How much was it for? Just keep betting, the Martin Gales decide. Facing each other, they double and double and double.
     Then, as if at the eye of a storm, their betting suddenly stops. The colors fade and sounds give way. Mr. Martin Gale checks the bet in hand: one Franc. Looking about, we see that he is the only Martin Gale at the tracks. Longchamp is empty and Mr. Martin Gale is left wondering which Gale he is -- the one that stayed or the one that blew away. And we are left wondering whether or not it matters. The credits roll over the images of people screaming at horses running in circles, anger and elation melting together into a roar -- a roar in which these emotions are little more than sudden bursts of color or sound, muted gestures and dumb abstractions.

Manifold Destiny (X), 2009, 89 min.
     A period piece set in early America, we see a group of pioneers arrive at the Californian coast. They are worn out from the cross-country journey, emotionally drained from the loss of family and friends, yet hopeful at the sight of the Pacific Ocean breaking against the edge of North America -- wearing away the land in much the same way that these men and women envision hard work can slowly erode the obstacles in their lives. They form a small town, fall into a routine, till the land and enjoy the bounty of their efforts. Yet, each in turn finds they are wandering alone towards the ocean -- staring into it, across it, and above it. By chance, or perhaps design, the whole town one day happens to stumble to the ocean at the same time, surprised and embarrassed, awkwardly moving their fingers and feet. "We should just keep going," one finally says to the rest. "But there's nowhere to go," says another. "Follow me," says yet another as he trudges into the water. No one follows but all watch. Eventually, his body washes up on the shore, some seaweed trailing about his ankles.
     For a time they give up, heading back to their routine, but all of them keep thinking about how much they miss the prospect of getting somewhere, of moving toward something, of finding new space. By candlelight, an old man works on charts and maps, trying to find a path. A meeting is called and the man presents his findings. Using over a thousand maps arranged in the shape of a sphere, he has constructed a path that seems to cut through space to uncharted territory. The people pack their wagons, harness and yoke their oxen, and parade across the California sand. As they approach the water, they don't disappear so much as something else becomes visible. All around them streets and paths and meandering roads appear, soaring up and over the waves. Their wagons split apart, taking all the paths possible, settling towns across nothing. Later, each of these settlements in turn tires of waiting and settling. They draw up new charts and pack their wagons. They surround their town in an enormous circle. They aim at each other and move toward the center. More settlements and more journeys are made. With each subsequent journey, they lose family and friends, and though they claim it is the need to travel and seek new places that keeps them going, it is really the need to get away from each other, the need to lose each other that keeps them going -- whether packed together or not. They move forward as far as they can go, each furiously waiting for the others to be picked off by age, disease or vultures -- all while they sing, dance and cry, smiling arm in arm with an ancient blood in their teeth, cannibals of intention.

The Open Road (PG-13), 1983, 77 min.
     In this film, 36 steals his mother's car, picks up his best friend, 90, from work, and heads out across the country. Along the way, they discover a series of important things about themselves, each other, the world, women, fertility, futility, love, and friendship. Mostly, though, it's just futility.

The Function (PG), 1999, 6 d: 3 hr: 4 min.
     In this picture, a young number 10 -- just out of college -- finds himself freshly employed with a large publishing company in New York. On his first day, Human Resources hounds him about attending some upcoming functions. "They're mandatory," bespectacled men and women say through their wrinkles, "but you can pick and choose which ones you want -- so long as you go to something. You can take your time signing up if you'd like." And he does. 10 deems it best to get acclimated to his routine and coworkers before jumping in. When, at the office, HR exhausts the means to corner and berate him about filling out the proper forms, he is woken up in the darkness of his room by a polite, suspender-clad and overweight gentleman. He introduces himself as a member of HR, understandably one that 10 has never met given that he works the late shift, apologizes for waking him, and reasserts the importance of taking part in the functions the company offers. When 10 begins to protest, "on principle," as he puts it, another man appears in the doorway -- and a woman crawls like a worm through the window, whispering, "Apologies, Mr. 10, but we're just doing our job. Nobody likes the late shift." For the first time, 10 notices that each of them has something resembling gills pulsating on their throats. They bounce pipes and boards in their palms -- gently, but all the more menacing for it. He signs up for a Saturday slot, and HR bids him farewell. On the Friday before, he receives a fruit basket with a heartfelt apology card. Despite the surreal events of that night, his work is not merely mundane or normal, but invigorating and assuring.
     On that Saturday, 10 reports to the address he's been given. The function is boring but luckily quite short. He learns a few tips about marketing and design elements that he hadn't considered before -- but listens to quite a few more that he had. Afterward, 10 reads, showers, has a short date with a woman he met at a regrettable yoga class, then retires to his apartment after a quick meal, and -- while changing for bed -- notices that his left foot is covered entirely in a thick black fur. He immediately goes to see a doctor, of course. In the meantime, though, HR is back on his trail, trying to sign him up for ever more functions. The pattern thus continues. He enjoys his job and his life, signs up for functions, and subsequently finds some small deformity on his person -- a patch of hair here, some scales there, a new bone under this, or a chunk of flesh over that. Doctors find no causes or cures. He is simply different. When 10 goes into a function, he comes out as something slightly other, without explanation.
     10, confused and irritated, starts to investigate the pattern. Spying on the people at work while in the bathroom or covertly peeking under desks, he begins to trace other deformities hidden beneath skirts or behind facial hair, under watches and beyond knee socks. Breaking into the records department after hours, he finds a list of all the iterations of functions his coworkers have attended. Given a well-maintained list of distortions for each worker, he can trace their histories back to the beginning, stretch their shapes toward an original form. Comparing N's foot-eye back through two window-display and fifteen editing functions, he finds that it leads toward, confusingly, the number 10. Yes, one after another, he follows the path of the functions backwards only to find one source: 10, again and again. In the dim red glow of an exit light, we see 10 for the first time more as a 28 -- something emerging through his gills just doesn't settle as 10 anymore.
     The film ends with numbers walking into buildings and coming out as fish; fish entering rooms and returning as deer or elk -- deer or elk that quickly enter large carpeted halls only to come back as confused fractions and roots: reductions and expansions of one singular thing that we struggle out here in the audience to even name, though we all agree we feel it -- like a vice to the chest or down-comforter at night. It's there somewhere, this one thing -- of that much we're sure -- but what it's for? No, we can't remember.

Perpendicular (PG), 2002, 34 min.
     With an accuracy mocking measurability, X and Y return home at the exact same moment, each taking the other by complete surprise. They both have traveled infinitely to get here (and that only after having gone equally as far to leave home, long ago). Walking into their shared home, a home remarkable only in its being so unremarkable, the two look each other over, contemplating whether or not X is really X, whether or not Y has become some other Y. It having been so long since they've seen each other, they can't come to any conclusions, but refuse to move on until they put it all together. Both of them are stopping home only briefly, just picking something up before checking out the other side of eternity -- but neither will leave until the other reveals something true, something that confirms or disproves their assumptions and suspicions. They sit down at the table to think, waiting for clarity. Soon, though, their minds begin to wander. They imagine what lays before them on their journeys, what they might discover once they've figured it all out. Their speculations about the future move onward, in different directions, across Z, a lost love, and toward forever. Once they've imagined that far, their minds turn back and eventually arrive home again, just as confused as when they left, but maybe better for it. Either way, X and Y sit together, impossibly close, trying to know each other, succeeding only in correctly guessing the other is just as clueless.

Julia and Mandelbrot (Unrated), 2001, 49 min.
     This documentary probes the remarkable lives of impossible twins, Julia and Mandelbrot. As tests show, on the genetic level these two are almost exactly the same, every nucleotide mirroring the other's. Yet, it is just one small difference in DNA that makes their relationship so magical. In Mandelbrot's DNA there is but a single nucleotide that changes each day -- causing all sorts of strange growths and aberrations on his body and in his mind. Julia also, like her brother, has but a single nucleotide that varies with every passing day. And though they do share this remarkable genetic feature, they do not have in common which nucleotide varies. So, here's how it pans out: these two siblings look exactly alike -- but only underneath the ballooning limbs and twisting muscles that manifest all over their bodies. Yet, beyond this phenomenon, the documentary shows the twins to be even more remarkable: though their mutations and contortions are never the same, there is a direct relationship between how they are different. When Mandelbrot's head enlarges, Julia's feet shrink. When Julia's mind wraps around her head like a blanket, Mandelbrot's hands are sucked into his organs. And when Mandelbrot's body is transformed into an emotion floating in the room like a gas, Julia's head is filled with more organic tissue than it can hold, flesh and teeth and hair spilling from her ears like fine puree.
     Some scientists speculate that they are not even twins, but triplets, the relationship they share a third, living, breathing thing. Still others believe that this relationship is all that they are -- that they aren't triplets or twins at all, but really just one person living as a pattern between two people that aren't actually there. As the documentary demonstrates, in fact, no one really talks to or sees Julia or Mandelbrot -- at least not so much as they see and obsess over what happens between them. Their exchange is monitored, but neither one of them alone is ever watched. We are shown, with increasing regularity, detailed images and computer simulations of the pattern that bounces back and forth from one twin to the other -- and increasingly fewer images of Julia and Mandelbrot themselves. The film goes on to show how this is true in your life as well, but it's all kind of lost on you really because by the time the movie is over, you've already forgotten exactly how to distinguish your life from the person next to you -- or why you (who?) would even bother in the first place.

Your Average Hero (PG), BC 1302, 86 min.
     This film valiantly takes on the lives of twelve monumental figures at once. By taking their lives individually and molding them together into one entirely fabricated life, we are given secrets and new insights about each. The story details how they all, whether they did or not, rose from an impoverished background, fashioned their abusive childhood into great art and strong politics, let their ego get the better of them, fell prey to drugs, passed out on stage, and eventually lead the hordes in a fight for freedom in the open fields of their country -- and will forever be immortalized on a t-shirt that at once displays their glory and their unrequited love for the one that got away. Interviews with family members are well shot but boring and unnecessary. The film score is available at local record stores and consists of a series of mistakes that can't be forgiven. You are not featured in the film.

Matrices (G), 1987, 99 min.
     14 has money and suits and cars and style and a great gleaming smile. His hair is like a scoop of fudge -- you just want to eat it up. In fact, the man might as well be candy -- he looks like he belongs in your mouth. In an early scene, a woman asks 14 if he "uses that line on all the girls." While the camera scours the stubble around his smile, either sardonic or bored, 14's voice-over tells us that, "No, of course I don't use that dumb line on every girl. You see," he continues, "these lines? They have to vary from person to person, from girl to girl, you can't use the same one again and again. But all that aside -- I do use the same line on every girl, without fail exactly the same, but it takes me months to say it. I use my car and my absence and whole conversations, long email exchanges, weekend trips, and the rhythm of weekly temperaments, to say it slowly and in as many languages as I can. It always works."
     We expect the movie to be about 14's encounter with a woman that challenges his methods, shows him up at his own game or simply breaks him down with romance and love, but nothing of the sort happens at all. Rather, the entire film is simply a series of vignettes in which 14's intricate web works again and again. The matrices in which he traps women do not come crumbling down around him -- no, it's simple math and it never fails. We've known this to be true, we realize, all along and wanted vainly for this film to redeem the world in our own image. As pretty as we are, there's no redemption because there's nothing to redeem. Hell, you try redeeming a web.

Outliers (PG-13), 1911, 105 min.
     A group of people living on an enormous abstract curve have established a way of life. When, disillusioned by the inequity prescribed by the curve, a group of teenagers begin rebelling, the people of the curve banish them further out along the bell. 33, the son of a wealthy arc-magnate, finds himself entwined with the outliers when he falls for a girl from the outer banks. After a disagreement with his father over corrupt management of the curve, 33 slides downward into a world of long views and flattened ambitions. The film offers glorious panoramas of the enormous curve -- which towers over the plains and lowlands that the outliers call home.
     Their troubled lives and 33's self discovery are continuously overwhelmed by the omnipresence of the steep slope. For all their talk, mischief, fun and love, the outliers' bohemian and idealist existence is further and further marginalized by the growing curve. It is both immovable, unchangeable -- and forever racing upward. Today's nobility are shuffled hastily aside to become tomorrow's second-class and next week's unmentionables. Many on the curve call it progress until time pushes them outward as well, leaving everyone to decry progress as injustice. Above the bickering and in-fighting, the film eloquently depicts it all as the selfish will of the curve itself. Like a sink at capacity, the curve makes an outlier of all its inhabitants, washing everything over to the tiles below without discrimination or pause. We are left to wonder how an abstraction could do so much, let alone anything at all.

[Ex/O]-ponnent (R), 1964, 14.5 sec
     Dr. Thirty P. Four, oncologist at Yale New Haven Hospital, is a hot-headed but talented specialist. Despite his value in the field, he constantly finds trouble because of his volatile temper and resistance to authority. When he is presented with the case of a young Miss Six and a Half, the doctor must face down his flaws. The cancer in his new patient responds to the doctor's anger, growing in direct proportion to his temperament. Every time he gets upset, the tumors grow larger, the cells reach further out into the body. Yet, calmness doesn't make the beast recede. Rather, it simply plateaus, waiting patiently for the next opportunity to grow. Nor do traditional methods have any influence on the cancer or the patient's health.
     In desperation, the doctor tries to experience every emotion separately and in combination, the process of which is rigorous and mentally taxing. What he discovers, though, is not that any emotion makes the patient's cancer recede, but rather that each emotion makes someone else's worsen. That is, every emotion he has corresponds and contributes directly to the exacerbation of some patient's cancer. Though he has devoted his life to fighting this illness, it appears that the doctor is a cause of it, that he is in some way a root of it. However much good he may have done is dwarfed easily by the sheer number of people he must have hurt, even killed. There have been so many ups and downs in life. He tries not feeling anything at all, but this too kills people.
     He begins to wonder: if he is the cause of cancer, then on some level -- through some lens -- might he not be considered a part of the cancer as well? And if he's a part of it, shouldn't he be growing too in response to his own emotions? Research confirms it: in the phonebook in New Haven there are over 300 Thirty Fours. As a test, he tries feeling a few emotions and then rechecking the books -- and yes, there are more of him after the fact. National research matches up. Not only is he the cause of cancer, he is the cause of himself. And Thirty Four is left wondering -- was he the originator of all this, or is he just one more product of some carcinogenic emotion? That is, is he the cause of himself -- or was he merely caused by himself? And if so, which emotion is he? And if he is so dangerous, shouldn't he go about the country hunting himself down? Or worse -- was some other him already doing it? And could he soon be the next to go? Or would he always be able to elude himself?

The One (G), 2008, 16 min.
     In a dystopian future, society has collapsed into perfection. The air is a camera that watches itself, and the plants are recording your every thought, vision and feeling. Everyone is a grocery store clerk, selling non-perishable goods to one another forever. There are two shifts, night and day. Each clerk shops while the other works. No one remembers sleep. The trucks deliver and unload themselves, rumbling quietly to and from a distant and unknown factory. In this world, there is only one who can change the fate of humanity, one lowly grocery clerk destined to rise up above the rest and save them all. This film details his rise to power, his journey into the distance and triumphant victory over unseen forces. And then it details the next One's journey, and the next, until every One has vindicated humanity and individuality and narcissistic fantasy until only you are the one, The One selling groceries to the rest, watching the trucks roll in and out like trucks from a grocery store.

The Cave 2: Continuum (Unknown), 12:15 p.m., 72 yr: 154 d: 11 hr: 32 min.
     This film does not begin. Or at least, it does not begin just once. It begins constantly and in as many ways as possible. When you start watching it, you realize you can't remember sitting down to do so, but instead that you only remember being there. Of course, you still remember being other places before hand -- but when was that? And why did you come to this movie? What was the first scene? Every time you try to recall it, you remember another earlier one. It can't possibly go on forever, though, because you are not infinitely old, but in fact much younger than that. We use your age, therefore, as a temporary cap on how long this movie has been so far. Okay, when was your last birthday? How old did you turn? Right, that was a good party. And only six months ago, roughly. Let's cap the length of this movie so far at no more than six months then. That's as accurate as you can get though, and you are plagued by the feeling that you are forgetting something important and that this brief attempt at logic is doomed by something you don't understand. You remember that this is how you usually feel and decide to think about something else.
     The movie seems apt. It's here and easy enough to think about. Or is it? In fact, a better question might be: where is it? The movie could be anywhere you realize. You are in a dark room, yes, with other people, yes, and you are all seated, sure, and there is sound and light, but it's hard to focus. Where is it coming from? That wall? This wall? Which way is everyone else looking? What a great question, you think. If we're all watching a movie, surely you can just look in the same direction as everyone else -- but what's this, people are looking in every direction? Or is it no direction? Either way, you have no idea which way to look and join the ranks of people not looking at anything. You realize that even though you haven't learned anything, you've fallen into step somehow with what's happening here. Anyone else wondering what to do could look to you, just as much as they could look to anyone else, and they'd be prepared to fit in here. And you don't even know what you're doing or looking at!
     And then the film ends. You aren't sure exactly how you know, but you are certain that you do. But, at the same time, it ends again. And again. The thing just keeps ending. You can tell, perhaps, by the rapturous applause or the ushers coming to clean things up or the house lights coming on. But people hush, the ushers leave, and things get dirty and dark again. It's still ending. The ending is longer than the movie itself you think, if that's possible, which it is, you realize, because it's happening just that way right now. My god. Hesitantly, you act on an idea you aren't quite sure of yet, but you believe you have to try it or you'll always regret it. You sneak out. You leave the movie, right during the last scene no less. It's an important one you bet, but you didn't really understand it anyway. Outside the theater, your life is waiting for you. You drive home, you eat, you work, you marry and you love, all in a variety of orders. Then you sneak back into the theater to see how things have come along. Still ending! You watch for a bit and then head back out.
     Eventually you get pretty confident about this back and forth thing. No longer hesitant, you come and go from the theater as much as you'd like. You start to resent the gas prices, though. You have to drive to and from over and over. And the time wasted! You're either going to have to move that theater into your house or your life into the theater. You aren't a stakeholder in any cineplex, that's for sure, but you are definitely a stakeholder in your family. So, you ship them all off to the theater where you can all watch the movie together, trying to figure out what the hell is going on. They are here somewhere, you know, but somehow you've misplaced them. It's dark in here, and everyone looks the same.

Siren: Secret Tangent (G/PG/PG-13/R/NC-17/XXX/Unrated/Unknown), Always
     The film is about things in the normal way: there are characters, 6 and 17 and 42 and others, and there is a conflict and a climax. There is dialog and there are twists and turns and surprises. Yet, though these events happen much as they would in any other film, there are a number of things that are touched on briefly, but significantly enough that we begin to imagine other movies we are not seeing. In fact, the bulk of the meaning and impact of the film happens in other, as of yet unmade, films that we are subtly directed to through the otherwise humdrum events of this mediocre film.
     Though the central portion of the film may be trite and reminiscent of so many other things, the glimpses of the films we aren't watching are fantastic, groundbreaking even. Taken as a whole, the many tangents constitute an oeuvre that rivals many of the great auteurs of film, a body of work that, despite being only a fleeting gesture of misdirection, is a body of work rich in character, technical grace and universal import. To that end, as well, we begin to see the way these tangents thematically connect, and how they pay homage to a whole history of movies and works that we can only pretend to imagine. The tangents themselves form a kind of ring, a circle of ideas, off of which we can think of ourselves envisioning another work, a mirror image of the film we are actually, physically sitting through with great pains. Somewhere on the other side of these references and gestures is the inverse of the mediocre movie we are laboring through, and if we can connect the lines and measure the angles just right, we might be able to deduce it, boil its greatness into a single equation, a string of numbers imparting all the things we've not experienced throughout the course of the film.

Angler (PG), Now, 65 min.
     Harry, the film's protagonist, is an introspective fisherman, often alone, but by no means a hermit. That he is a fisherman is incidental so far as the plot is concerned, but with regard to its themes, the fisherman "angle" is more an unfortunate and unnecessary play on words, one that the film would simply be better off without. That aside, though, the movie beguiles and entertains. It follows Harry's newfound obsession with his social relationships. He imagines himself and others as two points, though not connected by a straight line. He is a spiritual man and believes in a higher power. Harry imagines that what binds him to other people must in fact be a vertex, a point somewhere off to the left or right of his relationships, the central hub of an angle on which he and his friends, family, and lovers might exist. It looks great on screen.
     Next, Harry decides to find these mysterious third points, and each vertex proves stranger than the next. Through deep meditation, a lot of advanced geometry, and some religious guidance, Harry is able to deduce the location of what binds him to other people -- for his mother, he finds that the vertex is a pair of old Nikes left in a parking lot just outside a nearby city. For his son, Harry discovers the vertex to be a young girl working the cash register of a major department store. The vertex of his past girlfriends turn out to be, in order of appearance in Harry's life: a Toyota Corolla, a section of open field in Ohio, the third window to the left on the second floor of the Flat Iron Building facing east, a cat's grave abreast a child's playground, and a series of peppers strung about a Spanish deli.
     Eventually, Harry realizes that as a relationship changes, so does the vertex! Through trial and error, Harry manages to morph his uncle's vertex, a fern located within a national preserve, into a deck of cards for sale at the pharmacy; Harry not only changes the vertex he shares with his dog, the breast of an elderly woman up the street, into an entire supermarket -- but he also shifts it back.
     Harry spends an increasing amount of time with the vertexes themselves. Alone and removed from his real relationships, however, the vertexes begin to change. Calculations reveal that he can no longer sit by the orchard to be near the vertex of his father, but instead must travel across the state to a paper factory. Each one continues to change again and again, and Harry continues to track them, to watch what they become as he leaves behind the actual lives of his friends and family. In time, however, each vertex stops changing, settles on a final form. They halt when Harry's relationships with other people reach a state of meaninglessness from disuse, weakly bound only in that there once was something meaningful. And as each one finds its final vertex, it is without fail the same: untraceable ocean waves. Like numbers, at once the same and different, immutable but exchangeable, each one rolls off to lap an unknown shore.
     The film ends as you begin to swim.


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