His Way

Yesterday, the Academy Award nominations were announced. And among them is my brother, Todd’s, latest movie – Tar, starring Cate Blanchett. I haven’t seen it yet because I couldn’t find a theater in original voice – voce – Spain.

I only learned about the awards because my insurance agent in Melide messaged me to tell me my brother was nominated. Or really to ask me if this was his movie. She was excited. And then, I was too. I haven’t followed the entertainment awards season this year. I’ve been too busy.

This was not his first full length feature film. There have been two others, both in the oughts. They were nominated for eight Oscars combined. In the Bedroom (2002) and Little Children (2006). Kate Winslet won Best Actress for Little Children. Both films are dark family tragedies, but masterfully woven tales of perfect shiny families. And then Todd spends the next two plus hours dismantling the myth of it, and characters brick by brick. One small brutal moment after another. And by the end of each film he has taken the heroes and the anti-heroes and moved them so close together that the movie goer isn’t quite sure which one is the villain. His signature sleight of hand.

Todd is a master storyteller. And a gifted artist. His embrace of dark cinematic and cultural themes is where he shines. Reveling in the audience’s discomfort as they recognize themselves onscreen, and then wriggle uncomfortably in their seats as the glossy exteriors of the characters they identified with at the start of the film slowly falls away.

As The Story Goes

My mother always said that Todd never forgave me for being born. The little prince lost his throne. While that might be true, what he didn’t realize is that I never coveted his crown. I’m no princess. In truth, I had no interest in living in a castle. I wanted to live in a treehouse outside the walls. Inventing things. Building things in the land of the misfit toys. Climbing my trees and dreaming of a world far from the kingdom where we were born. I wanted to be Peter Pan. As a result of this early misunderstanding of intentions, we got off on the wrong foot. But our roles in the family hardened long ago. Anything different would require a greater time commitment than either of us has.

I haven’t seen my brother since right before our Dad died. Shortly before Covid struck. We were both at our parent’s house and we knew the end was in sight. Lucky for me, Todd had packed his invisible controller with wires connected to my last nerve. And an array of my least favorite buttons that only he knows how to push. On this particular day he was hitting them with an emotional sledge hammer. I was dressed in my favorite oversized overalls. A rag-a-muffin, as my Mom used to call me. But, he used a different nickname from when we were kids.

‘How’s it going, Hobo Kelly?’

It shouldn’t have bothered me so much. But it did. On that day, I could only take so much ‘kidding’. So, I pulled out my childhood nickname for him ‘Motherfucker!’ Oops! I said the inside word out loud. In front of my parents. It was so shocking in that setting, Todd laughed until he was purple. And suddenly, we were wrestling on my parents old wool couch. No, it wasn’t a good look. I’m not proud of it. When you find yourself in your 50’s wrestling with your sibling as your 80 year old mother shouts at you both to ‘Knock it off!’, you should probably take a beat. Perhaps a moment of introspection is called for. But the upside is that it just proved he was still my brother. The same annoying guy. Nothing had changed that.

Going His Own Way

When Little Children premiered in Seattle we were living there. Todd invited Jeff and I to come to the screening. We sat down and Jeff asked where Todd was. I pointed to the projection room up above.

‘He’ll be up there.’

Todd had worked as a projectionist at a third run movie theater on Portland’s east side when we were in high school. You could see a matinee for next to nothing because the movies they showed were at least six months old. I went to that theater for a date with a boy in high school to see Friday the 13th in 3D. A horror film perfect for high school dates. I thought nothing of it. The next day the boy found me at my locker in the hall.

‘Your brother just told me I should watch where I put my hands or I’ll regret it. I don’t think we should go out again.’

Unbeknownst to me, my brother had been on our date with us. From the projection room. I smiled. Not because the boy wouldn’t be taking me out again. But because Todd had confirmed something I had long suspected. He cared about me. That priceless piece of knowledge was worth losing a high school boyfriend.

Roll The Credits

I imagine since one of the central characters of Tar is the film’s music with big orchestrations, Todd will, again, be fanatical about how it sounds wherever it plays. Every inch the perfectionist.

It’s been 16 years since the release of his last full length movie. And it speaks to something I have long admired about him. Todd never gives up. He may slow down, or speed up. Sometimes he will have to crawl across broken glass. But, like most artists, paintings are not painted in acrylics or oils. Books are not written in ink. And movies are not celluloid. Words and pictures are laid down in blood, sweat, and tears. And he’s shed more than his share.

My insurance agent called again. She found a theater in Madrid that has Tar in original voice – aka Ingles. Even the name is evocative. A hot boiling mass that eats the light. Monica has volunteered to take care of Fergus and LuLu for us.

‘You must go see it, Kelli.’

She’s right, of course. Perhaps it’s time for Jeff and I to hop on the high speed train and go to Madrid for an overnight. Buy some popcorn and sit down to experience Todd’s latest, hard fought masterpiece. It, and he, deserves our effort.

But, either way, one thing is for sure. In the wee hours of Central European Time on the morning of 13 March, as they call Todd’s name to the stage in Los Angeles for one of the Oscars he’s nominated for this year, and as he grips that gold statue, if he listens closely through the applause and whistles in the room, he just might hear it. His little rag-a-muffin sister, 7000 miles away on a farm in rural Galicia will be jumping up and down, hugging Jeff and shouting at the screen louder than anyone. ‘Well done, Motherfucker! You did it your way. I’m so happy for you!’

Cut To The Farm

The next time I see my brother I’ll probably be finishing up with a customer in the food truck. I’ll look up and he’ll be standing at the gate with his hands in his pockets. Dressed in Tom Ford. Looking like its nothing that he’s here.

‘What are you doing here?’ I’ll ask, frowning.

He’ll smile a lopsided smile and chuckle. Rub his chin. ‘The taxi dropped me off in that little village up the road. When I asked after where you live every hand in the bar pointed this direction. By the way, I don’t think your competition likes you.’

Telling me nothing I didn’t already know.

‘No.’ I’ll say. ‘I mean Here.’ Pointing to the ground.

‘I was in Madrid.’ He’ll respond, unfazed. ‘I had meetings with Penelope and Javier.’ Looking around distracted. ‘Maybe a new project.’ As if Madrid is just down the road near Palas de Rei.

I’ll wait until finally he’ll shake himself out of his musings. And he’ll smile. ‘And I could use a coffee.’

<fade to black>

<roll the credits>

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