Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sadness Update #2.

Sadness Update #2 (October 8 – 26)

Films/games watched by me: The Fall, 127 Hours, 2010 ALCS Game 3, Away From Her
Films watched by friends of the blog: Schindler's List 

First, let me apologize for my infrequent posting of late. Many of you might consider this something to be celebrated, not apologized for, which I think is a bit rude. But I promise to pick up the pace in the coming weeks, and introduce more fun exciting gimmicks to the blog. (More celebrity guests! Music reviews! Fake tournaments that are in extremely poor taste! Etc.)

It’s been going more slowly of late because, as you may recall, I recently got a job, and can no longer fill my days with watching sad movies. My days are occasionally still sad though, beyond the standard soul-crushing tedium of a 9-to-5:30 office job. Without getting too specific here, I work for a nonprofit organization that is devoted to a certain rare and incurable disease. Before the development of new treatments in the past ten years, patients afflicted with this disease could expect to survive for only a few years, and while the new treatments do help, the prognosis for many patients is still quite grim. I have only been here for a little over two weeks, and already I have received staff-wide e-mails about patients that we work with who have taken a turn for the worse, or, in one instance, passed away. I don’t mean to make it seem like it’s a really sad place to work; the staff is really nice and positive and enthusiastic, and there are plenty of smiles and good mornings and how was your weekends and all of that. But occasionally the reality of what we’re dealing with creeps in and casts a pall over the whole office for a few minutes, and it kind of sucks.

At the end of the day, though, I continue to be relatively unaffected, personality-wise, by this experiment/this other new sad thing in my life. This could be a function of the movies I’ve watched, the continued resilience of my awesomeness, or some other factor. But we’ll be taking it up a notch soon.

I wanted to use the majority of this post, however, to discuss other, semi-related blog issues. Namely, the haters. (I feel like Kanye West. Or Pruane.) In the month since I’ve started this blog, two friends have told me, rather bluntly, that they are refusing to read it. (In one case, I hadn’t asked; she told me this out of the blue.) Both of them generally took issue with the conceit of the blog; one asked, “Why would you want to be sad?” I’m sure that this critique is in fact shared by plenty of other people (or would be shared, if more people read it). And it’s almost a fair critique. But it’s actually not really, or at the very least it misses the point. First, it’s generally never a good idea to dismiss something out of hand without actually seeing if it actually is what you imagine it to be. I think this is particularly true of this blog; I’d imagine my friend’s baseless conception of it does not include the many wildly inappropriate jokes that have appeared herein.

Second, and most importantly, despite the fairly sensationalistic subheadline that I threw up here on the first day (used entirely because of my enjoyment of the wordplay, and not because it accurately describes the blog), I really don’t think I’m actively trying to "descend into sadness." If this truly is a social "experiment," in the high school science class type way that I'd like it to be, ideally, then there’s no intended outcome here. We can all submit hypotheses or whatever beforehand, but the real guts of the experiment here is "the collection of data through observation and experimentation," in as controlled an environment as possible for a 24-year-old guy who really likes to watch sports.

So here I am, watching all of these sad movies about all kinds of different things, and seeing if they make me personally sad too. I don’t really see the problem here, especially because it’s not like no one goes to watch these movies.

[Quick sidebar: here is a list of all of the movies we’ve covered, in order from most to least profitable (in terms of worldwide box office grosses, with frequent wild guesses and caveats included):
  1. Schindler’s List: $299 million (cost $22 million, made $321 million).
  2. The Pianist: $85 million (cost $35 million, made $120 million). These first two movies prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Holocaust is box office gold.
  3. Steel Magnolias: Somehow, the budget of this movie is a mystery, unable to be found anywhere on the Internet. C’mon now. It made $95 million worldwide. The most expensive things in the movie were probably the hair products, so it couldn’t have cost that much overall. I’m slotting it here.
  4. Boys Don’t Cry: $9.5 million (cost $2 million, made $11.5 million). One of those low-budget indie hits. I’d imagine this made most of its money after Hilary Swank won her Oscar.
  5. Away From Her: $5.6 million (cost $3.4 million, made $9 million).
  6. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days: Welp. The budget for this film is listed on IMDb and Wikipedia in Romanian lei, not US dollars. I actually tried to work out the exchange rate, even reading the Wikipedia article on the Romanian leu (FYI, in 2005 the leu was briefly the world’s least valued currency unit). Life’s too short. It didn’t cost very much at all, probably less than a million dollars, and it made about $10 million worldwide, since it did well at Cannes and tore up the international art-house circuit or what have you.
  7. 127 Hours: Not yet released. I bet it will make money though. If there’s one thing people love more than Danny Boyle, it’s watching someone cut his own arm off.
  8. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape: -$1 million, kinda (cost $11 million, made $10 million in the US). No worldwide figures available for this one. This quick sidebar is taking me a goddamn hour to research.
  9. The Fall: Again, no budget information, although Wikipedia says that Tarsem Singh largely self-financed the film, which as you’ll recall was made in like 85 different countries. It made $3 million, so it almost certainly lost a good amount of money.
Well Jesus Christ that was annoying.]

Anyway. My point here is that a lot of sad movies make money. People actively choose to go see them. So it’s hardly like I’m going on a hunger strike here.

What I mainly take issue with, I suppose, is a concept that I really want to explore in greater depth throughout this blog: that is, that “happiness” and “sadness” are two mutually exclusive and separate states of being. More specifically, I don’t buy the notion that these emotions are like two separate paths that go off in opposite directions. (I really didn’t pay attention at all in any of my college philosophy classes, but I’m sure this has been written about extensively in the past.) It’s already happened a few times in watching films for this blog, and I’m sure that it’s happened to you in the past: the emotional reaction that we have to any really good movie is far too complex to reductively classify as either “happy” or “sad.” This is especially true when we relate these movies to our own lives. 

(For example, I would argue that, to some people, romantic comedies are as depressing as Holocaust movies. They can be a nice diversion, but when the movie’s over, and the two attractive people have sorted through all the often-unrealistic problems that the movie arbitrarily threw in their way and decided to fall in love and live happily ever after... you can't help but think about the fact that it can't possibly be that easy, or witty, to actually do something like that. Furthermore, the world can seem like a really lonely place if you’ve never experienced something like that, or if you don’t look like Julia Roberts or Hugh Grant or whoever. And the sadness that we might experience in this instance is no more or less valid or justified than the sadness we feel after watching Schindler’s List.)

My point is, I’m not actively seeking sadness, and even if I were, who knows if I'd really be able to find it just by watching movies. I really don’t know how this is going to turn out. But for the time being, I’m still doing just fine, thanks. More updates to come. 

(Also a special thank you to known master thespian and friend of the blog Josh Benjamin, for his shout-out to Taste My Sad during this past weekend's production of James and the Giant Peach at GW. Josh is hereby invited to write a guest post about any sad film score of his choosing.)


  1. As a devoted reader/commenter of Taste My Sad, a devoted blogger in my own right, and a person devoted to making fun of you, I'm awaiting your invitation for me to make a celebrity guest appearance on the blog. I can guarantee you some tears; I cry at every movie. I've never seen Sophie's Choice (I know, I can't believe it either) - let's do something about that.

  2. Done and done. We'll work this out shortly.

  3. Sophie's Choice.... that's an epically sad movie. Cliche-level sadness.

    Your paragraph on romantic comedies is very true. Not that I'm in a glass case of emotion or anything.

  4. Taste the happy, John! Taste it!

    Tastes kinda like sad...