and we'll sleep in a real pile.


I could tell you lots of things about "Where The Wild Things Are." I could tell you that the cinematography was fantastic, that I loved the vast deserts and dry autumnal forests with no leaves and the oddly circular wicker houses that reminded me of the baskets I tried to weave once at a scout camp in Arizona, except that my baskets would always turn out lopsided. I could tell you that I loved Max Records (yeah, that's the kid's real name) and think he's going to have lots of great roles in the next few years.

I could tell you that I thought the film was a little overlong, that I didn't really love the Karen O. soundtrack (though it did fit the mood, it's not something I'd buy or listen to outside of the movie), but that I loved when the script got whimsical ("We haven't formally met -- I'm Ira, I put the holes in the trees, maybe you saw those?") or showed childlike interpretations of mature concepts (like when one Wild Thing brutally whacking another with a tree branch is explained away by the statement, "They're in love").

It's not a perfect film, but there's plenty of beauty and subtlety, strangeness and wonder.

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My favorite thing about the film -- well, "favorite" is not the right word... most affecting, maybe -- was the way it captured the loneliness of being a child whose time is spent mostly in his own imagination, a loneliness that hasn't ever really left me. What the Wild Things -- these massive, furry, weirdly ancient physical manifestations of Max's subconscious life -- desire most from Max is a way to "make the loneliness go away," and his greatest selling point isn't his magic power or his influence over the Vikings, but his "sadness shield," which is big enough to cover everyone.

I'd like one of those.

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Every time I'm around young children, I'm reminded of how dramatically they view life. There's no sense of perspective, no way to mitigate what's happening with knowledge of what has gone before or what's to come. Each moment is the ultimate zenith of existence, for good or ill.

It's most often in the "for ill" moments that this melodrama becomes apparent. My father frequently remarks, in a sarcastic but not unkind way, "Life is hard, huh?" when confronted with a child weeping over a seemingly trivial matter. I don't think he says it as a means of comfort or sympathy to the child (who is going to keep crying anyway), but more as a reminder to himself of how immediate and important everything can seem, and that those emotions, while perhaps irrational, are still valid.

I think as an adult I miss some of that cleansing vibrance.

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There aren't any sadness shields, though, and in the end, child-kings in wolf suits can't make the dull ache of loneliness go away. And you can save your pep talks and cheap reassurances, because in the end, you're just Max, and that's not much. It's a hard reality to face some nights, when (in JD's words) you're sitting at home, staring at the ceiling, just wishing you had someone to talk to.

It's more rewarding when you figure out ways to stave it off yourself, impermanent though they may be, and when you rely on the care of those that love you, imperfect though they may be. I try to remember that.

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If there's one thing children know how to do, it's play. I try to remember that too.

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