Small Apartments

Small Apartments is a movie that could have become a touchstone of my everyday life. It's a series of interconnected vignettes about a bunch of weirdos that live in an apartment complex, and I have certainly lived with my share of weirdos. I've never lived with someone who was obsessed with playing the alphorn at odd hours, but I have lived with people who regularly made too much noise. I've never lived with a retired crank who was obsessed with painting obscene paintings, but I have lived with my share of curmudgeons. And while I've never had my asshole apartment manager be murdered on site I have lived in buildings that were run by assholes. There are enough characters in this movie that either seem like people I have known or seem like people I could someday know that I should have been able to connect this movie to my life, especially since I watched it during my most recent bout of roommate drama.

However, in the months since I saw Small Apartments I've barely thought of it at all, and once it's marked off my list of movies to review I doubt I'll think of it ever again. Part of this is because the film just wasn't very engaging - it was going for a dark comedy tone but mostly came off as crass, and it felt very uneven since it never quite figured out how surreal it wanted it to be. Another part of it is that I actually don't think about those shitty roommates very often - once they are out of sight they are out of mind - so making a movie about bad roommates is not really the right way to burrow into my heart. But I'm not sure if either of those justifications actually explains why I forgot this movie immediately after I finished watching it, because I'm actually not sure if there's any reason why one movie becomes part of your life and another doesn't.

You see, lately I've been thinking about how I can't stop thinking about Muppets Most Wanted. It is inexplicable to me that I've become so obsessed with it. When I saw that movie last year I liked it but I didn't love it, and there's no reason for it to still be relevant in my life because there is no direct correlation between it's plot and my everyday existence. In case you missed it, Muppets Most Wanted is about an evil frog named Constantine who knocks Kermit the Frog out and takes his place as the traveling Muppet stage show's ringleader because that will provide him some much needed cover for a series of jewel heists he's planning all across Europe. None of that remotely applies to my life, since I'm not a frog, a doppleganger or a jewel thief. But I'm not obsessed with the plot or any of the characters, I'm obsessed with Constantine's catchphrase. Every time a Muppet asks "Kermit" a question Constantine tells them what they want to hear and if there's a follow up question he answers by saying "Sure, who cares?" I can't get that "Who cares?" out of my head. Every time someone at my work asks me to pick up another project I'll hear his voice saying "Who cares?" in my mind because I just want to tell them what they want to hear. Actually, it isn't just at work that this happens - anytime someone asks me to do a favor that I don't want to do I'll grumble about it until that "Who cares?" pops up and ends the discussion. There are so many situations where that thought comes up, and it makes me laugh almost every time.

Now, there are some real differences between Small Apartments and Muppets Most Wanted - for one, Muppets Most Wanted is actually good, and it's easier to remember a catchphrase than a general vibe - and that might explain whats happening in this specific case, but I'm not sure if that explains the general phenomenon. After all, there are a lot of movies that I watched over and over when I was a kid, but I hardly ever think about (say) The Sword in the Stone but I think about Beastmaster all of the time, and that's just... random.

In case you missed it, Beastmaster is a movie about a barbarian who has a psychic connection with a few animals - mostly he does business with some ferrets he keeps in a sack on his belt, and he's also good buddies with a hawk. These animals will do his bidding, and also he can see through their eyes when he needs to. I hardly ever think about making animals do my bidding (I'm not a total nutjob) but I do regularly think about what it would be like to see through an animals eyes. Specifically, when I'm feeling tired at a place where it would be inconvenient to take a nap I like to imagine that my cat is sleeping somewhere comfortable, and then I imagine using my Beastmaster powers to plug into her mind and absorb some of that nap-feeling through our mental bond. For some reason this comforts me, even though it doesn't make me any more rested, and it also makes me feel like I would be a better Beastmaster than the guy in the movie because all he did with his animal powers was steal some stuff and defeat a child-slaying Warlord.

I know this all sounds trivial, but I've been thinking about this topic a lot lately because it exposes an unreconciled tension in how I write about movies. On the one hand, it's good that I try to write about every movie that I see instead of just writing about the movies that I'm thinking about because I think about the same movies over and over; this website would be pretty boring if all my essays could be boiled down to "well, here's another way that I would use Beastmaster's powers if I had them." On the other hand, it's kind of dishonest to spend the same amount of words dissecting a movie like Small Apartments as I did writing about Muppets Most Wanted as if they both took up the same amount of space in my brain when they don't. There's a trade-off between conveying how I felt about a movie (which I can do in one review) and how much I felt about a movie (which would require a bunch of reviews over time). I'm not sure there's actually a good way to balance out those two things while being equally honest and interesting because the truth is my honest feelings aren't always that interesting; sometimes I just think dumb things over and over again. But the more I think about this topic, the more I realize that there is a way out of this particular conundrum: every time I get too absorbed in my "should I repeat myself or pretend I'm always original?" debate I should just adopt my best Constantine voice and go "Who cares?"

Winner: Draw

Small Apartment on IMDB