CINÉPATHÉTIC: TRAVIS SCHAFFNER
A note: This is the fifth in the Cinépathétic series, a interview-style back and forth between me and the interesting people in my life, jabbering about movies and why we love them so damned much. This week, I’m interviewing Travis Schaffner, DoomRocket’s sysadmin, its very own Uatu, The Watcher. He is also the proprietor of Wormhole Coffee in Wicker Park and HalfWit Coffee Roasters in Logan Square. Tonight, we discuss the beauteous Charlotte Gainsbourg, hating Natalie Portman, and being in awe of Gary Oldman. As usual, be wary for spoilers throughout, and please, enjoy.
Travis: You’re almost certainly correct about that. This will be totally sweet, however, so yeah. Let’s do it.
DR: What movie would you like to start with?
Travis: Start at the von Trier masterwork, if it pleases you.
Travis: The same.
DR: Lars von Trier’s 2011 love letter to despair. I’m in lust with this movie. Why did you pick this?
Travis: Space is the place, and I was immediately drawn to it by the… Whatever the expose of foreshadowing was at the onset. It’s so enticing. And dark, and the woman are lovely, and batshit crazy. It’s rough to get through it, but it really makes life worth living, if you consider the planet-smash outcome, and everyone around you being abhorrent. It’s very moving, and yeah, space is the best, isn’t it? We cannot get there, and the underpinnings it provides to the movie and the parallels to the minions within the flick… Celestial bodies all sorts of intertwined. Loved it so much. I’ll always adore it, I think.
DR: That ending shattered me. I remember taking a very long walk after seeing this the first time. Von Trier never shied away from the visceral, but there really isn’t anything less subtle than two planets plowing into each other, is there?
Travis: Probably not. That imagery backed up by the soundtrack was soul-shattering, and that doesn’t happen these days. These years. Everything is by default mediocre, this movie was intense, wildly fulfilling for me. I don’t mind being crushed. I welcome it. And, yeah. Moonlight on the bodies. You know, it all worked quite well. Almost too well. The director has 0.00 ability, remaining. All used up.
DR: (laughs) Von Trier using that prelude to “Tristan and Isolde” gives the film this elevated sophistication to the proceedings, but the subject matter is very messy stuff. Justine is a trainwreck, and sabotages her own wedding. Depression is a tremendously monumental ordeal to endure. Seems fitting that the director would juxtapose that against the end of the world.
Travis: Certainly. It’s almost impossible to overcome that thing when it really gets inside a heart and mind. It takes a serious fate-shift to sidestep it… For sure, the Earth couldn’t avoid being eaten and melted, neither could anyone close to Ms. Dunst. Really supremely well constructed flick, I watch it every other week, sometimes whilst afflicted. It never fails to really make perspective happen… Focus on the things that matter. I mean, you could be worse off, self, and the Earth could be absorbed by Neptune next week if something really gets wrecked out there.
DR: I think that’s exactly right. Justine sinks into a near-catatonia with her depression, but there’s more going on there, isn’t it? She’s so far removed from the world at times, it looks as though she’s dreaming through her waking life. When she closes her eyes at the end, it seems that she’s actually waking up. She’s so calm.
Travis: She welcomes the next phase of existence. You know, the afterlife, or unlife. Big time stuff happening there. People reboot into different timelines to get their spirits doing better things. She was doing pretty much the opposite of good things, she was looking forward to being done. Or perhaps even, a clean slate. But then again she was sold on there being 0.00 life here, there, everywhere soon so perhaps it was just the void, period, that she was after. Super hindu dude in training here, is me. Only wish I had more time for it.
DR: (laughs) “The abyss gazes also” kinda thing.
Travis: You are getting really deep dude. Marianas trench style. Keep pushing it. Push it, push it, some mo-ah.
DR: Von Trier is notorious for putting his stars through all sorts of hell, but damn if the man doesn’t get results. This movie reminded me that Kirsten Dunst could act. It’s a long way from Spider-Man. And Charlotte Gainsbourg. Get the fuck outta here.
Travis: Charlotte Gainsbourg is just ridiculous. She’s alabaster chaos, always. That was the only part of sisterhood I could believe about them though, the pasty-perfecto of that element. Charlotte is so classy/beautiful and expressive in that “whoa, how is that happening, why is she so great at that,I’m shocked, thank you, Charlotte” type of way. Dunst is just whatever. I’m glad she showed up for that. She really nailed it and then some. But once again, I think she used up the rest of her “acting powers” vial. And that’s fine.
DR: Charlotte Gainsbourg is my moon goddess, no joke. Her song “Trick Pony” is my reason for being, make no mistake.
Travis: it’s so good. bring me Nymphomanic, plz?
DR: I’ll totally go to a screening of Nymphomaniac with you. I’ll even buy the tickets.
Travis: I’ll be as naked as I’m allowed to be. Done and done.
DR: (laughs) What’s next?
DR: Minority Report.
Travis: That’s the one.
DR: Stephen Spielberg and Tom Cruise’s first ever bro-down. Why is this here?
Travis: I think because I grew into respecting how very, very, VERY cool that future is, and so many portions have started or have become a part of our lives here in ‘Murica, (And Japan has had that tech for centuries) It was one of the movies that really became a prominent thinker for me, considering how far we will go to protect ourselves, especially with the neo-con SuperStars happening when I was turning twenty or what have you. the Tom did well, Colin was tremendous, von Sydow is always, always, in my top five or seven, what have you. It was shot so well… The filter of weird wonky futuresight/green-goo-murkiness… It’s tough to top, I do enjoy it, I do. On the whole I like touching base with that flick frequently to see what elements in the ‘Murica that we live in are becoming dangerous close to being a thing. Really, some scary shit, always going on. And we’ll never know even 3% of it.
DR: I won’t argue with you there. I like Minority Report a lot. I own it on DVD, watched it with the Bird not too long ago… I remember seeing it in the theaters at least twice. And you’re right. The future the film depicts is not a far cry from where we are right now. Which only adds a layer to the “free will or predestiny” argument the film has. As the technology swallows us whole, we are ever at the mercy of those more powerful than us. The murder mystery captures that perfectly.
Travis: There is some great chemistry in that movie that seldom happens with those particular acting boys, the youngers. So the sweeping crazy of DC taking dumps all over the place aside, I love watching those scenes unfold, even with the precog scenes which are beyond painful for me to endure – perhaps that was intended… They did some good things. It’s intense, it’s got science, it’s good times, it just looks so much better to these eyes than anything else that’s made depicting Earth in a hundred years. Really standing up for a decade plus, you have to respect it.
DR: Totally. Absolutely. It’s pop bliss. But it’s still dystopia, and Spielberg dystopia to boot, so of course there’s a happy ending. Which I hate.
Travis: I don’t understand why Samantha Morton is in movies. I’m going to need to see her acting papers, honestly. Yes. I wanted her turned to slag, more than anything. But she got a lovely english cottage. Outrageous. I’m guessing ponies, too. Which is fine. She can have one. But not seven.
DR: (laughs) Wait, you don’t like Samantha Morton?
Travis: She was yelling a lot. It was overboard, Sir. Plus, she’s some sort of shapeshifter, I never recognize anything that happens with her because of her constantly morphing into stuff. She frightens me, and I don’t know why, but I’m seeing someone about it. Ok, that was a stretch. Also, she’s from Nottingham. Just verified that. Nothing good ever came from there. Except Alan Rickman’s incarnation as the stud sheriff. Obviously.
DR: Obviously. She’s lovely. Sweet And Lowdown, arguably one of the best Woody Allen films of the last twenty years, features an amazingly minimalistic performance from her. And Morvern Callar. That film is tattooed on my soul. For forever. Getting back to Minority Report, what did you make of that ending? Real or fake?
Travis: My lexicon o’ knowledge of the Morton Estate lacks those entries. So I might as well just shut the yapper until the world ends. I bought the entire ending, happily. I will supply Spielberg with boundless support for his glorious rectifications if the rest of the movie was very good to great.
DR: I suppose I just want the world to be miserable, because I just can’t shake that this ending is just Tom Cruise dreaming in that mental prison coffin, or whatever he was in.
Travis: I still use “Goodbye Crow” when I’m leaving conversations. Prematurely, 96% of the time, and nobody knows why. Probably just sounds like slurred nonsense. Weird.
DR: You never said that to me. I know, because I would have hugged you.
Travis: I just need to enunciate. Which will never happen without hypnosis. But I’ll keep at it.
DR: That’s a guy. What’s next on your five?
Travis: The Professional. I got MIXED UP, a tidge. Léon, to be clearest.
DR: Luc Besson’s slick little blood bath. I LOVE THIS MOVIE. Why did you pick this one?
Travis: Gary Oldman is arguably my favorite actor in history. Which seems odd, maybe, but then you realize that he masters roles which are completely out there. Could anyone else do that? No. I think not. The development of tiny-Amidala and Reno is the best, it’s absolutely believable, it’s heart-killing too, of course, at the finale. Everything about this gem is gripping and for all of the human-affirming reasons. When characters grow like this and guns are involved and it’s well constructed, directed, and yeah, everything’d, it’s a masterwork that cannot be avoided. Which is to say I watch the uncut option at least monthly. I really want someone to deliver Italian to me, right now. Grenades too. That’s fine.
DR: I still have a copy of this on tape. Gary Oldman is on my top list, all the time, for the rest of time. I use the word “chameleonesque” when I speak about him. “I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS MICKEY MOUSE BULLSHIT” couldn’t come from anyone else but him. The fury, the exasperation, the villainy. My god.
Travis: The charades situation is so well crafted. Besson honestly does a fantastic job on making sure we’re all involved in the care of the young Swan thingy lady from Naboo. Gotta have respect. Gary is intense. He’s allowed to do whatever he wants, he can push it to 200,003% on the reactor of nuttery and be absolutely believable, in the moment, in any twisted scene… He can push it, he can be so incredibly believable as an insane person. The Beethoven thing. It’s all so endearing. Yes, that’s a movie where you really wanted everyone to win. Those are the best. When you’re cheering on all sides. Even when you’ve already seen the thing ninety-four times. I didn’t want Gary to die, Jarrod. Not then. Not ever.
DR: Without a doubt. But there can be only one. From a scenario like that, I’m surprised anyone walked away.
Travis: Highlander. I just laugh/sobbed.
DR: But Natalie Portman, at 12 years young, is amazing in this movie. Your allusions to The Phantom Menace seem to harbor some thinly veiled distaste. Thoughts?
Travis: Of course, she done and wrecked my life when she decided to be a part of the prequels. It’s great to be able to peer back in the Before Time, the Long Long Ago to see a young’n doing an astounding job. Of course, it was spotless, her role. Nearly. I hate what she’s become at this point, but cash is nice to have, I suppose. She did so, so, so great for Besson though. Unreal great. Ain’t gonna forget that.
DR: Your benevolence knows no bounds. I remember seeing this when I was 13 and thinking to myself, “that girl needs to be my girlfriend.” I was just talking to Birdy about how creepy that feels to me now.
Travis: You’ve really matured. Nobody can take that away. Not even the new pope, who, apparently, has boundless powers. I will stop being irrational about despising all of the prequels’ cast someday, I’m sure. No Chance. Sorry, tangents for years.
DR: What drug do you think Oldman was popping in the movie? I want to believe it’s like animal nitrate laced with PCP. Not that I like to speculate on such things.
Travis: I thought that was supposed to be some speed/cocaine hybrid. I know everything about drugs. Just ask! Wait… is cocaine speed? Joke, I know everything. Just ask! Honestly, he should have won an Oscar for the sound his teeth made cracking into those capsules, alone.
DR: (laughs) Gary Oldman once said it was “intentionally unknowable”. That it would add to his animalistic mystique. I feel that’s adequate.
Travis: The mastery of the mandibulae, could you even imagine.
DR: Who could ever know?
Travis: Sirius Black will do. What Sirius Black. Will do.
DR: Good evening, Commissioner.
Travis: For some reason I’m citing his silliest role instead of Jean-Baptiste Emmanuelle Zorg. Please don’t murder me, for that. Just like Branagh, Kenneth, taught me. he taught me so good. WELL then. Well then, indeed.
DR: (laughs) You’re asking me to forgive the unforgivable, Travis. What film did you pick next? What’s number four?
DR: MY GOD THIS MOVIE. Alfonso Cuarón knocking me dead, as per usual. And Gael Garcia Bernal. I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve seen this one more than a few times. Why did you pick this?
Travis: I think it’s all about the maturation thing. And doing it through the lens of a different world entirely, and doing it with that lady-goddess guiding them, and with all of their disjointed-ness between them. I connect with it in a thousand-billion ways, because I was a total weirdo boy-child until like a year or two ago. It’s too easy for me to totally embrace what those dudes are doing, what they are struggling with, and the adventure they launch themselves headlong into. Team Julio, that’s me. Maribel (Verdú) is so good. So, so, so, so good. She’s good at being a real lovely, uplifting lady, despite all of the nuclear missiles life is throwing at her. The narration is really interesting. It really adds a lot to this. I just recalled how… odd… yet effective it is, throughout.
DR: You completely nailed it. Maribel’s Luisa is the guiding force for these two knuckleheads aiming somewhere and nowhere at the same time. She gives and takes away in equal doses. And you’re right, she’s doing this as her own life is falling apart. That’s tremendous grace, and it’s too much. It’s intoxicating. I needed her in my life around 22, I’m pretty sure. I could be running this show had that been the case.
Travis: She’s a well-constructed young lady. She’ll be young forever, probably, and she deserves it. I don’t know, Dude. Her being wiped out at the end was a serious problem for me. But a problem I was totally fine in being irritated or worse about. There was zero ceremony to it. It hurt. But yeah. I’m Julio the entire movie utterly connected to his plight – and Tenoch to a lesser extent – so I probably was feeling exactly what Cuarón wanted, out of these particular loins. It is just really great. Realistic encounters, shot with realism, it is something I can absolutely get behind. Documentary-esque, in the most powerful way, I suppose. Every random person, rando-scene like that, added something. Quite a lot, at times. Learning happened throughout, for all of ’em. Love it. I’ll love it forever.
DR: It’s a jarring rate with which these two boys grow. But it doesn’t seem strange that in their experience, particularly the last night the three spend together ever again, that they would choose to walk away from each other indefinitely. It’s aggravating. And sad. When Tenoch tells Julio Luisa knew she was dying the entire time, the Earth gives out from underneath your feet. I’ll never forget how I felt after that. It’s a beautifully shot film.
Travis: I know. It’s under the radar and that vexes me quite a lot. NOT AFTER THIS TALK, Jarrod. We are the coolest. Everybody’s been saying so.
DR: Well, isn’t that true?
Travis: I have to check a voicemail from my Moma, first. But yeah. Pretty certain.
DR: (laughs) But even though the ending seems to come from nowhere, it does – at the same time – add a pall over the entire film that preceded it. It makes it more beautiful for me.
Travis: A cloak of infinite sadness. One that we are all too aware of, and fond of, despair for days. It is the way of the avenue, Milwaukee. For sure. You rehash the entire thing in your head. And yet, it’s still so good, despite the heart-damage.
DR: This is what I like to call a “three bourbon” movie.
DR: Man after my own heart. You nailed it. What is your final pick?
Travis: I just told you.
Travis: Shawshank is so glorious. I’ve been trying to dislodge it as #1. For years uncounted. Also, I want to move to Zihuatanejo, immediately. Because it sounds cool.
DR: That’s on a lot of lists. I’ve read people using the word “flawless” when talking about this film, which typically annoys me, but I can’t deny it. This film is fucking flawless. Belaboring the obvious, tell me what you love about this film.
Travis: I think the entire rectification process is so… completely and triumphantly followed through on, that you spiritually have some sort of a clean sweep power cleanse when you make it through that thing. The warden sort of dodges it, escapes but at least he’s wiped out, which is chill enough. It really is so fulfilling. Every time. It feels good. The boat, the music, the tree in the countryside, Morgan Freeman guiding every scene with precision and maximum endearingness; he’s sort of wonderful at that. Clancy Brown is also like a sleeper cell of great. Gunton/Warden, just perfecto, Mate. So atrocious. So absolutely spot on. Robbins does a very good job though, too. Normally, I loathe the lad. He’s good here. Real good.
DR: I always felt Clancy Brown was woefully underrated as an actor. He’s Lex Luthor, you know.
Travis: And that’s fine. But then again, he was a part of Earth 2. Yes. That was on the television set.
DR: (laughs) You’re not wrong.
Travis: CAP’N HADLEY, BYRON. It’s so strange. You go from being like, “that dude is alright, beers, that’s chill.” And then he’s back to ruining everyone’s shit a scene or two later. And you fall for it every time. I do. The best movies do that with absolute effectiveness. I’m down most of that movie, and then, I’m overjoyed.
DR: How can you not? When he beats that poor, sobbing man to death at the beginning of the film, you want to hate him SO MUCH, but he still endears here and there. That’s a hallmark of an amazing screenplay.
Travis: It’s so ridiculous that somehow, said screenplay was spawned of what, one hundred eleven pages of a Stephen King collection tome?
DR: Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption, it’s true.
Travis: Whoever casted Shawshank Redemption deserves gold and silver treats for life.
DR: Have you ever read it?
Travis: Absolutely. It takes 90 minutes to read, if not 60. Different Seasons King is like, from another dimension, entirely.
DR: Yup. Still have my dusty paperback copy of that on my bedroom floor.
Travis: Very cool.
DR: Infinitely cool. Ron Howard’s doing The Dark Tower. What do you think about that?
Travis: Very probably vomitous. But I’ll download the entire thing as soon as I possibly can.
DR: I’m with you, I’m with you.
Travis: Once again the”‘Tank o’ Skills” of that particular director hath been tapped out. I hope I’m wrong, though. I really, really do.
DR: I don’t think so. Darabont just put out Mob City over at TNT, and from what I hear, it is a mess. Man walked away from Walking Dead, and just seems to be fucking up all over the place. It’s sad, really.
Travis: Oh, dear lord, no. NBC executive style decision making, that’s the disease he’s got.
DR: What did you think of Darabont’s next prison flick, The Green Mile? That one exhausted me.
Travis: But what that said, he did spawn the movie that my brother and I quote more than any other, with Shawshank, so I’ll forgive him forever. Green Mile. Absolutely grandiose. Of course, I fall asleep frequently, but not at the same intervals.
DR: So you’ve gotten it all in.
Travis: After the seventh time, absolutely. Sammy Rockwell for the ages, in that one. Michael Clarke Duncan should have a lifetime award for being cuddly, as well. What a complete stallion.
DR: Oh, Sam’s just fantastic in everything. He made Iron Man 2 watchable, no small feat. Duncan got an Academy Award nom for that role, you know. Same year as Haley Joel Osment, for The Sixth Sense.
Travis: Are you shitting me. Well fuck, there is a god. Multiple deities, actually. WELL JUSTICE WAS SERVED, then. Joke. That’s terrible. The tiny one got it?
DR: (laughs) No, they both lost.
DR: (laughs) Any honorable mentions before we wrap this up?
Travis: No, because I’m the hungriest in the world and I won’t be able to scalpel out any additional data for you. I’m going to load up Megamind and see what can be done about this. I really enjoy movies, and I cannot wait to endure the Desolation of Smaug, part two of nine, some weekend soon. Yes, it will take the entire weekend.
DR: Understood. Well, thank you again, so much for agreeing to do this, Travis. I really mean it.
Travis: You’re a very keen gentleman. I’ve said it since we were young. Ain’t nothing going to change it.
Almost entirely, Travis Schaffner is a sysadmin and he does other things, like the coffees, and business development for arguably any sort of thing that could pertain to the coffees, to the webservers, and everything in between. He really thinks that making things happen is the best thing. Keeping busy, you know. Keep busy and make the earth a bit better if you can.