As anyone who reads xkcd knows, today is the 10th anniversary of the release of The Matrix, a film so far ahead of its time that it still seems fresh and amazing today, unlike other dystopia-type movies that I won't name here. The movie itself was engaging, hyper-violent, well-written, but it was the special effects that changed moviedom forever. Like Jurassic Park before it, here was an application of new technologies that not only showed that certain special effects could be done, but spawned entire movies based on those special effects. In other words, it wasn't just the Special Effects houses that the movie affected with the new style, but the entire industry from top to bottom.
It's hard to believe it's been 10 years. I went to see it on opening day, at about 12:30 or so in the afternoon for a matinee showing. As proof that anyone who had any sense of what the Matrix was about had no hand in the previews, the trailer showed a fairly run-of-the-mill action film, like any starring Vin Diesel or Jason Stratham. But we were bored and, since my school wrapped up at 11 at the time, as did Graham's, we decided to go see it. I remember standing in a sea of middle-school girls waiting to buy tickets, both of us towering over them so much that our view of the ticket booth was completely unobstructed. When asked by one particularly precocious preteen what we were even doing there, one of us (I honestly don't remember which, and it really doesn't matter, because this is the sort of thing each of us were thinking and equally likely to say) replied in the most sarcastic voice we could summon "OoOooh, we're here to see Ten Things I Hate About Yooouuuuouuu". A testiment to their naivete: she seemed surprised and said, "oh. Us too", as if there were any doubt.
We had the theater completely to ourselves. Literally the first showing of the Matrix we could have gotten our hands on and the theater was ours. Five minutes into the admittedly "hooking" starting sequence, we looked at each other, grinning like idiots, having run out of words to describe our joy, and thumbs with which to point up.
If you're reading this, Graham, I'll never forget that.
On a more somber note, today is also the 15th anniversary of the discovery of Kurt Cobain's body. Most Seattleites were affected by Cobain, whether they liked it or not, and the news of his death was startling and sad. He had such a broad range of sadness that showed in his lyrics and music that any kid listening to Nirvana could claim to identify with him, from the shy loners to the disaffected, entitled Rich Kids, as he could, in turn, identify with each of them.
Just a few months earlier, at the end of November, he had recorded Unplugged In New York, singing his own songs, as well as a few of his own favorites. The raw feed of the show is amazing, and well worth your time if you can get your hands on it. No, it sounds like crap, but that's what the CD is for. The footage shows Kurt playing with his idols, Cris and Curt Kirkwood of the Meat Puppets, and making his typical self-depreciating jokes (He balked at the idea of playing Polly after Dumb, as he incredulously admitted "they're the same song!") in between songs.
The CD was released after his death, the label waiting out of respect, nearly a year after recording. Even if you're not a Nirvana fan, it's worth listening to at least a couple times. It shows a tremendous depth and range that shows why bands like Matchbox 20 can really only ever try to emulate the aptly-named Nirvana, reaching only the foothills.
Cobain was 27 years old when he shot himself, the same age I am now, and it's hard for me to undersand why he did what he did, while at the same time being a no-brainer. He joins other musical luminaries, like Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones and Janis Joplin, together forming what people call the 27 Club. I know I'll never be as accomplished as Cobain, who with Nirvana released 4 albums, and certainly not as accomplished as he could be, today, at 42. I feel the same way about Buddy Holly, who was famous, and then famous for dying young, at 22 years of age. It's somewhat depressing to think about how much these folks accomplished in that time (and for me, especially Cobain, being the only one who worked and died in my lifetime), but it isn't nearly as depressing as the fact that Cobain, one of the most famous musicians in the world, target for local paparazzi, an icon for garage bands everywhere, and a founder of a genre so popular its influence is still seen today, 20 years later (take that, Disco!) wasn't discovered for 3 days, having killed himself April 5th.
I could take the easy route here and do a musical tribute with "All Apologies", a song many feel to be a pre-emptive suicide note, but I think I'll choose to comment on the solidarity within the rock community of the early 90s (the spoon necklace Chris Cornell wears in the video for Black Hole Sun was famously made for him by Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, who died at 28, prompting Cornell to stop wearing it) by posting this song, written by Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains, from his 1998 album Boggy Depot as a tribute to Cobain.
The Matrix is a good reminder to those of us who would bemoan the ostensibly early cancellation of a series (many of which can be found in this bizarrely comprehensive list, under the section "formerly broadcast by Fox") that sometimes, one is enough.