Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sick-day movie surprises

Forgive the misleading title, if you think I'm going to talk about how Akira Kurosawa's Kagemusha "surprised me" with how good it was. That's actually not what I want to talk about today.

Rather, I want to talk about how it is incumbent on you to watch something entirely random when you have an unexpected sick day.

First off, let me tell you about the sick day, which I hope will be just the one. On Monday night -- while I was sleeping, no less -- I threw my back out. That's what I'm calling it now after being disabused of several other theories. I woke up Tuesday feeling like I had slept on it wrong, and when the pain was still there Wednesday morning, I started going to more alarmist places. Appendicitis? Diverticulitis? Hernia? See, my groin was now involved in the pain, so I start moving away from the notion that I had just slept awkwardly.

So I called in sick today and hauled myself off to the doctor first thing in the morning. She ruled out some of my more creative self-diagnoses (slipped/herniated disc), which I thought might actually be on the mark because I self-diagnosed each of my prior two hernias (one in 2000 and one in 2008). But she did send me off to get an ultrasound to rule out the hernia, which the ultrasound actually did. So we're back to just "I slept on it wrong and it still hurts three days later," though I am officially skeptical that this is all it is.

Although I actually found myself out of the house quite a bit today (more than three hours, a lot for a sick day), I was determined to complete a daytime movie today as well. That's a true rarity in this day and age, and I definitely had a couple movies banging down my door. I need to watch both Cries and Whispers, my final Ingmar Bergman movie (so I can return them to the friend who loaned them to me), and A Cry in the Dark, my September movie in my Australian Audient series (because it's almost no longer September). 

But having two young children, perhaps I wasn't in much of a mood for crying, and ended up with Kagemusha.

I had been wanting to see a Kurosawa movie generally, and Kagemusha specifically, for some time now. Kurosawa is a bit like Bergman for me, actually, in that I count him as one of my favorite directors, yet have seen comparatively few of his films. In fact, I'm basing the "one of my favorite directors" designation off of just Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Rashomon and Ran. I even considered, and perhaps am still considering, following up my Whole Lotta Bergman series with the far more awkwardly titled Whole Lotta 'Sawa, but the Bergman series was inspired by my direct and easy access to five of his films. I don't have that same access to Kurosawa's films, though with Kagemusha on Netflix, I should really check on some of the others.

Why Kagemusha, specifically? Well, because of that SNL skit where Chris Farley plays an American tourist on a Japanese game show, where he is expected to know all sorts of Japanese cultural trivial -- with the punishment of torture for wrong answers. Rather improbably, he actually manages one answer that is close to the right answer, and it's "Cage-moosh?" At the time I first saw the skit, I didn't know about Kagemusha, but years later when I discovered the film, I was all "That's from that SNL skit!!"

But I am wandering way off the path here.

Why Kagemusha, more generally? Because it's 160 minutes long, and I decided that was the way I really wanted to use my movie-viewing time during my sick day -- to watch something whose formidable length usually ruled it out as a contender to start at 9 or 9:30, when my wife branches off from our communal viewing for the night and catches up on some shows I don't care about.

Why Kagemusha, even more generally? Because just as I had very little idea when I started the day that I was going to call in sick -- I initially felt better when I first awoke -- I also had no idea that today would have a Kurosawa film in store. And there's something fun about that.

See, sick days are like borrowed time. You didn't really think you were going to have this time to begin with, so why use it just to tick off the next movie on your personal viewing list? I probably could have seen both Cry and Cries today, if I'd played my cards right. But sick days feel like a time to dive into the deep end of your Netflix pool, find some movie that's been in your queue for at least two years and tick that off the list instead.

So Kagemusha it was. I started around 10 a.m. and I finished at just after 5. As I said, it was a busy day for a sick day. 

Unfortunately, I didn't love it. It's an easy choice for my fifth ranked of five Kurosawa films. But that's beside the point as well. Even if a sick day is a time you are seeking out comfort, making a favorite film a valid choice as well, it's also a time when your malady might prevent you from loving whatever movie you end up seeing. Might as well take a chance on something you don't know if you'll like, but will be glad to say you saw.

Besides, if I ever find myself on a masochistic Japanese game show, maybe I can avoid getting dipped in that giant vat of soy sauce. 

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