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Synecdoche, NY

I loved Synecdoche, NY in a hundred ways. It is one of the most moving examinations of human mortality and ambitious films that I have ever seen. It is dense and complex and, despite everything, actually quite funny. Charlie Kaufman has a way of plucking specific elements from dreams, neuroses and fantasies and projecting them into the real world so that when you encounter them, they ring so emotionally true that you wonder how he got inside your head: the flying of time, the absurd ailments that Caden spends his entire middle age thinking will kill him (Caden: "Is it serious?" Doctor: "We don't know. But yes."), the worst-case scenarios that play out off stage (the details of his father's death, his daughter's imagined diary), etc.

Then there's the ambition. He covers half of a lifetime and tackles some of the most fundamental and difficult questions of the human condition—how do we live with the knowledge that we will one day die? what do we do with our time here?—telling one man's story for all of us (a synecdoche in itself, if I may). Yet at the same time it's self-aware enough to recognize that grappling with these questions can be a trap and that life needs to be lived. The film also deals with the inability of the artist to successfully address these questions, yet in portraying Caden's failure, Kaufman succeeds in doing exactly that. There's a wonderful reflexivity throughout that is incredibly enriching and reminds you how meticulously the ideas were thought out and executed. I honestly can't imagine a more ambitious project existing. What could he possibly follow this with?

This film is also as personal as it is ambitious, so I think it makes sense that it has been polarizing. If the visual style doesn't hit the right note for you or if you can't identify with Caden's neuroses then it could be a pretty tedious couple of hours. Everything came together perfectly for me, though, and it was about as good as it gets.

Further reading, if you're interested:

May 31, 2009 | Comments (1)

Pepsi with Real Sugar


Pepsi Throwback tastes exactly how you'd hope it would taste—like Pepsi, except a little less sticky sweet (due to the sweetener change, I'm guessing). Sadly, it's only supposed to be available for a limited time so I'll be stocking up now (read: buying the twelve cans that I drink per annum).

Pepsi Natural does not taste exactly like you'd expect (if you're expecting regular Pepsi, that is) but it is excellent in its own right: less fizzy, smoother and less acidic mouthfeel, with some hints of apple and what I'm assuming is genuine cola nut. In the initial taste, I also thought I detected a hint of the familiar yet unclassifiable Lipton instant tea mix that we drank gallons of in the Wisconsin summers of my youth but maybe that was just my memory carrying me off to simpler times.

May 06, 2009