Saturday, June 20, 2015

Understanding Joy - A Deeper Meaning of Pixar's Inside Out

DISNEY PIXAR may have down their best work here with INSIDE OUT, and I'm not just talking about the stunning animation, brilliant cast, witty dialogue, or the John Kratzenberger cameo we all listen for. These are all things we have come to love about any Pixar movies, but Inside Out is something else, something more brilliant.

When the movie was over and I was still soaking in the visionary splendor I turned over to my 11 yr. old and asked her if she liked it. "Oh, sure mom, it was good."

Good? What do you mean GOOD? It was amazing! But then an idea hit me... "Mia, do you know what this story is about?"
She shrugged. "I don't know."

Typical 11 yr old. I mean, didn't we just watch HOW the 11 yr. old brain works?

"This movie is about understanding joy. To truly understand it you have to feel sadness in some form."

She smiled as if she understood what I meant . . . but she doesn't. And I tried as I could to explain how the movie made me feel, understanding the importance of memories and imagination.

As I was spilling out my own thoughts my beautiful 8 yr. old said to me, "Well, mom, I understand the movie. I'm a really smart girl."
"Of course you are, but you don't know what it's like to be 9."

Me, on the other hand, knows exactly what it's like to be 9 or 12 or 16 or 21. And every heartbreak and disappointment and emotional meltdown that comes from those years. That's one of the beautiful things about growing older, the trials that make us and define us and have molded us into who we are.

The Science of Thought  

In my 10th grade health class I once did a class presentation on Inner Voices and had my brother draw some seriously creepy illustrations of who these inner voices were and how we could cope and learn to live with them. It went over really well and I think it was the art that helped convey what I was talking about. Feelings or emotions are not specifically physical objects. As a visual learner I need to see something to understand it.

Disney Pixar took this gift of memory and conceptually engineered it into a tangible thing - a functioning machine. Seeing this visualized on screen opened up my own mysteries of collective thought. I felt like I was back in my college psych class learning about the different theories of psychosis. Believing and applying these psychological concepts paints a picture for us, so we don't have to wrap out brains around the deep hidden meaning of something that doesn't physically exist. The "Train of Thought", room of "Abstract Thought" and the "Subconscious" (where the scary clown lived) are just excellent representations of theory. But seeing it with my eyes connected the dots and made a picture for me to follow and understand.

My 11 yr. old came home and immediately started researching (she is a smarty pants) psychological theories on feelings and emotion, because she kept asking about feelings that were not represented there. We talked about different theories and I told her that not one is wrong, but should study and understand all of them, because each has something to offer. Disney Pixar did the best storytelling with five, that's good writing sense and character arc. For Disney Pixar to tackle such an out-of-the-box topic of feelings and behavior in children wrapped up in a beautifully animated movie is ground breaking.

CORE Memories

The message behind INSIDE OUT was not just "It's okay to be sad" or "Look for the positive in bad situations". What I connected to was "You have to feel SADNESS to UNDERSTAND JOY." This is a concept that several youngster do not know yet, because they haven't lived long enough to understand what a gift hindsight really is. Those are our Core Memories, the inner structure of who we are and how we got here.

Everyone has trials. Everyone goes through them. No one misses out on the things that test our strength or increase our knowledge. We all have a foundation in which we built on, becoming stronger with every trial that comes.

Getting personal now, this movie has made me reflect on my own core memory strength building - my own way that I learned to understand JOY.

Infertility is the hardest trial I have faced. It was a daily battle with myself. When the only thing you wanted in life was outright denied you. When others were overly blessed with children, I sat and watched and cried to myself and wondered - how is that fair?

We went through a cycle of Trying Not Trying, because every time we went through another infertility treatment I had to mentally prepare myself because of the emotional damage it caused, and every month thinking I was pregnant, absolutely - this is the one, this time it worked - to complete devastation that it didn't, I'm broken, I'm stupid for convincing myself that I was. This went on for six years.

Do I look on those years as a waste? No. Where they hard? Absolutely. Would I trade that experience? Not a chance! Many trials that define us are things that we wouldn't give up. We EARNED that badge. We earned that REWARD!

The Gift of Hindsight

This was a blessing not a curse. I could say the time prepared us, got through schooling, bought a home together, but that's not what I learned. I learned the VALUE of life, my OWN life, and a feeling of JOY that I couldn't understand until I looked at that little thing I created.

This is where the deep underlying message may get missed by the kids - they just haven't lived long enough to appreciate the blessings that come with trails. But what Pixar illustrated to theses kids is that trials will come and your feelings will learn how to deal with them. That is SO POWERFUL for them to understand. There is no easy fix when it comes to such core building problems, but the pain felt will add another brick to their foundation. You are stronger than you think you are. You can do hard things.

I wanted to thank Disney Pixar. Thank you for this beautiful example of how we function. It was pure magic imagining with you. And thank you for the insightful look at ourselves from the INSIDE OUT!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Mutant Power Strikes Again! The Tony Awards Edition

I don't share my mutant ability with everyone, but I have one, I DEFINITELY have one. Over the last 20 plus years I have retained this mutant ability with impeccable clarity, to the point that I feel a little embarrassed.

I am a Broadway Musical Information Magnet, 

specifically "The Tony Awards."

I got interested in theater my 8th grade year. I pursued it pretty vigorously until my college years when I started focusing on writing instead, a decision I don't wholly regret, but sometimes makes me wistful. In those tender years of youth I got very involved with the happenings of Broadway, feeling that was the pinnacle of a stage performer's career, a MUST! And as a result I was fed on a diet of Hal Prince and Stephen Sondheim with a side of Lloyd Webber, (I say side because Evita was my favorite and I never truly loved Phantom - that is how I know people know theater like me - Phantom is NEVER their favorite), sipping it down with the newest thing to hit the Great White Way.

So somewhere in my brain holds a storage of information that is basically useless, unless you care about musical theater.

I know, not great for saving the world, but an impressive party trick, possibly, if people cared enough to listen. The power does have limitations. My first time in New York was last summer, so experiencing Broadway was a totally different magnet collecting thing, and can I say, totally mind blowing - and completely drives my husband crazy.

Marrying a NON-musical type has kept (some might say rescued) me from full blown Broadway maniac, but my mutant power has not gone away, it tends to come out in strange spontaneous moments...

For Example:

A few years ago I watched the Tonys, because I do (no apologies), and thoroughly enjoyed the little production number for "Spring Awakening" knowing Barely Breathing's Duncan Sheik, (which, BTW did win Best Musical 2007). Later, a few YEARS later, a little show started called Glee. I half-watched/half-listened to the commercials, thinking in the deep recesses of my mind that it would be something I would go for. (Singing and dancing down the school halls? Of course I'd love something so ridiculous.)  I see or better yet, HEAR the lead girl and instantly I knew her, I had seen her somewhere before. It took my brain about two seconds to connect that I thought she may have been on Broadway, possibly Spring Awakening. Thank goodness for You Tube or I would had to research my hunch. Yes! Lea Michelle was in there singing her heart out about sexual freedom in Germany. I remembered her because her voice was unforgettable!

Does this sound familiar to anyone???

Little things like this happen all the time, and I find conversations with my family rather silly.  

Who is that? "Don't you know her? That's Patti Lupone!" Who? "She's Broadway royalty! She was in the original cast of Evita with Mandy Patinkin." Who? "You know, Inigo Montoya - You killed my father, prepare to die." Oh, okay.

What else was that guy in? "He was in The Book of Mormon Musical."   ...crickets...

"Wait? Kristen Chenoweth is coming to Deer Valley?" Who? "She's in everything." Like what? "She was the original Glinda from Wicked with Idina Menzel." Who? "Umm... she was Elsa." Oh, cool. 

This kind of thing happens all the time. . . unless I am with theater people, then the exchange instead delves down into Nether Broadway, where only the true mutants survive. 

This again happened last Sunday watching the Tonys. Like everyone else, I was stunned by how amazing Fun Home was and how spellbound I felt listening to little Sydney Lucas sing. And as they went through the awards the Male Lead for a musical came on and I thought, "well that guy looks familiar." I recognized his name "Michael Cerveris." My Sherlock brain kicked in and I started deducting. I'd known that this wasn't someone I had seen recently. This had to do with my past life - as an actor, on stage. That pushes it back into the 90's, college, maybe high school. Where did I know him from? Something important. Something different. Wait . . . a moment in time flashed through my vision. I had a hunch and quickly picked up my phone and began to search.

I went to IMDB - I have the app you know, very, very useful and which I praise the collective that created this wonderful website, and looked him up. He was in various TV shows that I wouldn't have seen, but it did mention TV spots... like the 47th Annual Tony Awards. Bingo! This was what I needed, the little spark that my hunch might be true. I clicked the link and was transported in time. I remember very vividly watching this specific awards show at my friend Kirt's house. Liza, yes - THEE Liza, hosted and the musicals were very diverse. That year a lot of my friends were rooting for the Goodbye Girl starring Bernadette Peters and Martin Short. Me... ME? No, no, no, no... for me I wanted THE WHO'S TOMMY!

DING! Mutant power again! The Who's Tommy the Musical! I knew it! I remember secretly praying that they kept in the Baked Bean scene for the movie. I wanted it to win the entire night even though my friends thought I was crazy. Kiss of the Spider Woman won, and Chita Rivera also won (who, btw, didn't win on Sunday - boy, she's in everything!). This was the first listed show for Michael Cerveris on IBDB and though he had been on Broadway several times after, it was that first impression of him in my youth that stuck with me. I would always remember him. I bought the soundtrack and have loved every minute of it.

My mutant power may be about something utterly ridiculous, but it's important to me. Those details in our lives that happen at fundamental times shape us and define us. I wonder what your mutant power is.