3/26/2021
Present tense (again)

I have riffed before on one of the first things Sir Doy, one of my college professors, said in class.

"Always use the present tense," he said in, I think, the first day of our introduction to film class. "Everything that happens on screen happens in the present tense."

He was talking specifically about how we should approach our term-long assignment, where we had to write "notes" on every film we decided to watch in the next thirteen weeks. That means both the films we watch for class, the films we to watch in between classes, and perhaps the films we watch on the weekend.

I remember taking that a little too seriously. I mean, I'm a "writer". I would do that. But by "a little too seriously" I meant "too much formatting in my reports", as if I was submitting a page-long dossier per film. It says something that I have most likely lost those notes - and I somehow kept most of my papers from college, or at least the screenplays, never mind how my riff on my supposedly strong sense of direction is cheesy and convoluted in hindsight.

This morning I learned that the actress Jessica Walter had died. In her sleep, in New York, age 80. I haven't seen her in a lot of things, inevitably, but I enjoyed her performance in Arrested Development, one of the shows I wouldn't mind rewatching. (Although I didn't like the newer, Netflix-powered seasons. It seemed to sully a good thing.)

Only recently have I gotten into one of her more recent shows. I don't know. I've been meaning to watch Archer since I began working as a writer about television, but I only did so eleven seasons later. (Conveniently, all on Netflix.) Shalla and I weren't exactly running out of things to watch, but we don't watch everything. Personally, I take a while before committing to watch something. So, Archer it is, then, even if Shalla was initially unsure, because she didn't enjoy it when she tried it out the first time.

We're now eight episodes into the seventh season. We haven't been bingeing - there is a lot to do - but we've been watching at least one episode or two over dinner. We're finally catching up with "phrasing" and "danger zone" and all those other things.

It's going to be weird now, because we know Jessica Walter - Malory Archer, who is actually described in casting calls as "Jessica Walter in Arrested Development" - is dead. So much for the mother issues.

("Mother!" said Sterling and Buster.)

But, you know, that thing about everything happening on screen being in the present tense. That seems to be more important now that we're stuck at home and can only really burn through whatever shows are on our preferred streaming service. And I get it, too, because when you watch those shows you don't really dwell on the fact that the actor has passed on. I didn't think that when Leslie Nielsen said his famous "and don't call me Shirley" line. (Also on Netflix.) It was just a damn funny line that comes out of nowhere.

And then you remember that they're dead, and, for me, well, I go dwelling on my mortality again.

So, Jane, Lily, Martin, Sam - don't die just yet. You have to finish shooting that last season of Grace and Frankie.

And your responses...

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