Staring into the void

If you’re anything like me, your vacations are filled with existential angst and nausea brought by on by the realization that there is no God. While others hit the beach or the bar, I watch the paint peel on my walls and mutter monosyllables to myself, unable to form words that can express the ceaseless anxiety I feel in the face of the void. But I like to have fun, too. Sure, it’s not the sort of fun preferred by hedonistic college students, whose idea of heaven is drunkenly "hooking up" with a total stranger and successfully dodging the venereal disease that might have put a damper on the rest of their week in Cabo. My kind of fun involves intense reflection, serious self-examination and the viewing of films that frighten and disturb me out of allowing myself even a moment of bad faith. Here is a list of a few such films, along with my reasons for choosing them.

"Def Jam’s How To Be A Player" – The horror, the horror! Those who think they know fear have not witnessed the witless flailings of marginally talented comedian and MTV VJ Bill Bellamy. Watch as self-described "playa" Drayton Jackson spreads his seed around town, while at home the women he’s played in the past plan his downfall. No movie in the history of cinema so perfectly articulates the futility of an existence ruled by dumb desire and performance anxiety.

"Pearl Harbor" – I often wake up in the middle of the night, sweaty and terrified, Faith Hill’s "There You’ll Be," the theme to "Pearl Harbor," echoing through my mind like the cries of the condemned. They say war is hell, and this movie spends every second of its three-hour running time proving it. If the price of freedom is a love triangle featuring two of the worst actors in Hollywood and Kate Beckinsale, the cost is too high. The French existentialist Albert Camus spoke of the Sisyphean burden humanity must shoulder, forever metaphorically moving a boulder uphill only to watch it fall back down. It is the brave human who engages in the Sisyphean test of our modern age: watching the entirety of "Pearl Harbor."

"Double Jeopardy" – What if, due to a legal loophole, you could murder someone and not be punished for it? In a lesser movie, questions of morality and ethics would have to be considered. But in the absurd universe of "Double Jeopardy," where husbands frame their wives for their own murders so as to run away to New Orleans with their mistresses, morality is not a factor. Elizabeth Parsons (Ashley Judd) is going to kill her conniving husband, and the law, represented by Parsons’ parole officer Tommy Lee Jones, can do nothing to stop her. Judd was brave to forego her sweet Southern girl image to play an antihero who can only find meaning in the brutal act of vengeance. Sure, there are questions of bad faith to be considered, not to mention concerns about how courageous it is to murder someone when you’re certain you’ll face no punishment, but damnit, that jerk of a husband has got it comin’!

"What Women Want" – After hotshot ad executive Nick Marshall is accidentally electrocuted, he finds he has the ability to read women’s minds. To his horror, he finds that their thoughts consist entirely of banal clich�s from the pages of Vogue magazine and advice culled from back episodes of Oprah. Poor Nick, once a womanizer who worshiped the beautiful mystery of women, now finds that they can be easily satisfied with the triple threat of cuddling, conversation and cunnilingus. What is a man to do? Faced with soul-sucking disenchantment, Nick does the only thing he can: steal women’s thoughts and sell them back to them. "What Women Want" is a horrific parable that will haunt men and women for centuries to come.