Saturday, May 28, 2016

And Now, Our Feature Dream

I feel a bit of sympathy for people who don't remember their dreams after waking up. Dreaming can be quite fun, and mine seem especially so. I've had exciting dreams. I've had entertaining dreams. I've even had more than a few lucid dreams; far from every night, but often enough that I have a reality check to confirm that I'm dreaming when they happen.

However, one night last week I had a feature film. Produced by my subconscious. And delivered as a dream. That's never happened before.

In fact, it was actually remarkable because of its complete omission of dream-logic. Sure, it operated according to movie-logic which is no more realistic, but even a bad movie riddled with plot holes has a certain coherence to it that even lucid dreams generally lack; even after waking up from it, I was willing to suspend disbelief in much the same way I would for, say, a Doctor Who serial. (That the dream had the aesthetic of a no-budget film from the 1960s or 1970s certainly helped in that regard.)

The dream/film was set in New York City in/around Columbia University. No time period was specified, but it was presumably supposed to be the late 1960s or early 1970s; the dream looked like a movie from that era, the protagonist looked a bit hippie-ish, and the streets immediately outside the campus looked extremely rundown; the neighborhood around Columbia (called Morningside Heights) genuinely was rundown in that era, but when I was there (in the early 2000s) it was trendy and expensive.

Curiously, while no computers or mobiles or other era-inappropriate technology made any appearance, the cars were suspiciously current and did not resemble those of the era. I didn't register this fact until after I woke up, though, so I suppose it was just a facet of the scene being cobbled together from my own years-old memories of the neighborhood mixed with a few historical facts and photos and not actually part of the scene itself.

The film's protagonist was a long-haired 20-something hippie-ish man who I could have sworn was given a name but I don't remember it now. (I'd look it up, but IMDB does not cover private screenings for one provided by my own subconscious. I'll just call him George.) He was a student at Columbia who, one evening, walked into a restaurant near the campus and discovered that its patrons had all slid about halfway down the slope of the Uncanny Valley. Looking at them, it was impossible to point to any one thing wrong with them and yet, their mannerisms were just inhuman in some indescribable way— and this fact became apparent to both George the protagonist and me the viewer (and I still felt it having woken up). Shaken by the sight of them, George left immediately. He returned to the restaurant the following day around noon, only to discover it was abandoned— not just closed, but nonexistent; no tables or chairs, the storefront clearly available to let. That evening, he returned yet again only to find the restaurant once more quite existent, and quite busy with creepily inhuman patrons. Working up his courage, George went in and inquired about the place; a smiling (and decidedly normal-human) hostess cheerily informed him that this was a parallel universe restaurant situated in between a number of different worlds and open to all of them. She showed George a few strips of shiny gray metal tacked to the doorframe and informed him that the presence of that metal indicated a portal between universes.

Inspired by the discovery of parallel universes accessible through metal-marked portals, George met with his girlfriend (who had a name I've again forgotten; I'll call her Max). The two of them set out to investigate portals and parallel universes and through their investigation learned that the neighborhood was absolutely lousy with them. They also learn that the few people who've done enough research to know about portals and alternate universes can be granted their own private universe which serves as a paradise in which they can live the remainder of their lives in bliss.

Through research and investigation, George and Max successfully make arrangements to receive their own private paradise and are advised to go to a particular building on the campus to reach it. When they do, they find the building locked but they also find the distinctive portal-metal on the doors and so figure out how to enter the portal located on the threshold without physically opening the door. On the other side, they find a small garden with a portal-metal archway at its far end, to transport them to their destination. In the penultimate scene, they pass through the archway portal— and end up chest-deep in a disgusting swamp/sewer thing from which there is no means of escape; the portal that took them there only goes one way.

The final scene takes place in a classroom (presumably at Columbia, though never explicitly stated) in which a distinguished elderly professor lectures on the history of humanity's interactions with the elder gods, with particular emphasis on the fact that humans who make arrangements with them inevitably get screwed. Elder gods lie, you see. Their promises of paradise are not to be trusted.

All told, the story was actually a bit boring and certainly loaded with plot holes. No one can see the portals that are right there in the open. There are apparently portals on nearly every building yet George never explores them. The final scene comes completely out of nowhere; there were no mentions of gods at any point prior to that. If this were a real film, I'd say it was a bad one and not necessarily an endearingly bad one despite its no-budget-1970s vibe. Frankly, the novelty value of having a feature film as a dream is really the only reason I'm even bothering to write about it.

Incidentally, according to Google Street View, the location of the extra-universal restaurant from the dream is occupied by a real restaurant called Vine Sushi and Asian Cuisine. That's... actually a little bit creepy, I think. If you happen to find yourself in the area, can you just check to see if that place has two vertical strips of shiny gray metal nailed to each side of the doorframe?

Rating Summary:

Medium: Dream
Genre: Sci-fi
Availability: Nonexistent
Bechdel Compliance: No (apparently, my subconscious is sexist?)
Rating: I literally slept through the whole thing.

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