Mental health. That seems to be a thing now. I mean, it’s always been a thing but these days, it seems like everyone is an expert on it or needs it or can’t stop thinking or talking about it, just like old people can’t help but tell you how many new Covid deaths there’s been after they get their bi-daily WhatsApp update.
Me, personally, I don’t know too much about it. I’m trying, like we all are, I suppose, to hold it together. What’s surprising to me is how few movies and TV shows I’ve been watching. This is shocker to me considering that I grew up adoring and worshipping cinema in general. I owe so much of what I do and who I am today to movies.
I guess, when I think of all the things that caught my attention as a child and have stayed with me into adulthood—movies, comics, toys, books—the one thing they all have in common is that they all act as doorways, openings to different worlds, which is where I’ve always wanted to be. Somewhere else. Not in the sense of “Oh, I wish I lived in Bangsar instead of Taman Tun” (I don’t, by the way) but I want to know what it’s like to ride on a flying dog-like creature, to stand on the top of a skyscraper, looking down on a city that I’ve sworn to protect, or waking up to discover that my parents aren’t actually human.
Escapism. Isn’t that the ultimate way to ensure good mental health? Knowing when to check out?
So I’ve been trying to come up with the perfect cinematic/literary/musical/graphic novel cocktail to send you on your way towards complete happiness and total f**king enlightenment. And I’m gonna ask you to bear with me on this, because although I confess that I’m mostly pulling this out of my ass, I promise it’ll all make sense by the end.
Okay, here we go. First, the perfect film.
What are you nuts, there’s no such thing. Yes, of course, there are perfect films to me. But there’s no one film that I can point to all five of you reading this and know without any doubt that you’ll agree with me. But what I can say with absolute surety is this—every single one of us, without exception, has at least one film that they absolutely love and adore, and will defend to the death. It doesn’t even have to be a great film but for reasons that are unique to you, it’s a classic. It makes you happy. If you turn on the TV and it’s on, you watch it.
What’s that movie for you? Some people are lucky, and have more than one. For me, it’s ‘The Shawshank Redemption’, ‘Grosse Pointe Blank’, ‘The Big Lebowski’ and ‘Point Break’. I’m not saying that these are the best films ever made. I’m saying that these movies make me happy. If they’re on, I’m watching them. Plain and simple.
Same thing with books. I love Stephen King. I mean, I like to read all kinds of stuff but reading Stephen King makes me happy. He just speaks my language, and I’ve spoken to some people who turn their nose up at King’s books, like it’s not real literature or something, like anyone one of these fools could write anything nearly as good. And sometimes, it would be tempting to go along with them, to agree with them and say something along the lines of “Yeah, it’s a guilty pleasure”.
Screw that. I’m a fan. And there’s a a special kind of happiness that comes with owning your interests. Some of you might not like novels, maybe you’re more of a memoir or humorist type of person, if that’s the case I highly recommend the late, great William Goldman’s ‘Which Lie Did I Tell?’, which is a scathingly funny insider’s look of the inner-working of Hollywood, featuring insanely funny and and personal anecdotes. Just for a little context, Goldman was the screenwriter of ‘Misery’, ‘The Princess Bride’ and ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’. If you have any interest in Hollywood and movies, trust me, this book is a scream.
Maybe you’re not much of a reader. Maybe you’re like “I read documents all day, every damn day, I don’t wanna come home and read some more.” And you know what … fair enough. Play some music, preferably something that got your juices flowing when you were younger and y’know … happier. I can be in the worse mood but put on ‘Take On Me’ or ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World’ and suddenly, I’m a lot less inclined to commit murder.
Sure, this is all very surface level stuff but most of the time, we’re pretty damn surface level ourselves. Most of the time, we song that reminds us of how much fun we had in college is exactly what we need. That movie I was talking about earlier, that one movie that we have … you didn’t choose that movie just because it’s good, you chose it because of the history surrounding it, where you were in your life when you first watched it. All these things make a difference and being able to identify them is a reason to be happy, because they’re memories, snapshots of a life well-lived. How can I be sure of that? Because these moments were real and they happened to you. Hold on to these moments, because that’s where real sanity lies.
And look, I know that life can suck sometimes. I know there are no permanent solutions. But I like to believe that the answers aren’t quite as complicated as we think they are. I mean, who knows … maybe sometimes mental health is as simple as putting whatever’s pissing you off on hold and … I don’t know, watching your own personal Point Break?