Monday, February 3, 2014

Sisyphus IV: Shovelus Maximus

Well you all know I’m a fan of the Sisyphus series ("movies" of the “snow” genre).

For anyone who isn't hip to this great franchise, the main character, a 40-ish married woman (played by the inimitable Carla Ulbrich), is based on the Greek mythological figure Sisyphus ( who was punished for chronic deceitfulness by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this action forever. Only in this case, it's shoveling snow in a New Jersey suburb.

So far there have been 4 movies:

Sisyphus: One woman. One shovel. one big ol' pile of snow
(this one ended in a cliffhanger- she hasn’t worked out in a couple months- will she really go out and shovel another 6-8 inches later?)

Sisyphus 2: There’s more (a continuation of part 1)

Sisyphus 3: This Time It’s Personal  (favorite quote from Sisyphus 3(After the snowplow dumps the snow she just shoveled right back into her driveway.): “maybe you can’t step in the same stream twice, but you CAN shovel the same snow twice.”)

And today brought the release of Sisyphus 4: Shovelus Maximus.

This episode of the Sysiphus series had a totally different opening. At first, I wondered if i was watching the right movie.

In the first scene, we see throngs of fans heading to superbowl.
It’s 50 degrees out on Feb. 2, in New Jersey. Kinda hard to believe, but, hey suspend disbelief. It’s the movies.

Setting is Secaucus station (huge station very close to the “MetLife” stadum).
It’s so jam-packed it’s 100 degrees in the train station. People are passing out from the heat. Security just gives up on checking people’s bags, but it still takes 2 hours for anyone to get to the game from there. People on the train are chanting “Jersey sucks! Jersey sucks!” That’s when I knew i was in the right theater.

Cut to Monday (the next day). Sysiphus had a long busy weekend (not at the superbowl). She wakes wakes up early and sees snow, then rolls over and says to herself “i’ll take care of it later. There’s only 1-3 inches predicted.” Hours later, she wakes up and to drooping trees and 8 inches on snow on the ground.

My favorite line from this episode:
 “someone somewhere made a bet that prediction was accurate and lost big time.”

After a quick protein shake and some vitamins, she puts on a ski suit over her tshirt and sweats, plus a hat, scarf, and battery-operated heated gloves. However, unlike all previous Sysiphus movies, it’s relatively warm out- 30 degrees and no wind. She is totally overdressed and sweating like a pig.
Hearing her grunting at the heavy wet snow, an Indian neighbor walking by offers to help. Sysiphus declines out of pride, and because she has no 2nd shovel. That would mean not accepting help, but just letting someone else do it. She jsut smiles and says “No thanks -I’m almost done.” (She's not).

Meanwhile her husband (in a way, the real Sisyphus- perhaps a reveal in a later sequel?), pounds away inside the condo on his laptop and phone for his corporate job, feeling like a schmuck because his wife is shoveling snow while he sits inside. he doesn’t believe her when he says she actually enjoys shoveling snow (even though she used to enjoy cutting grass, before moving into a condo). he feels cheap for not hiring someone. she secretly enjoys the workout and sense of accomplishment. but if she had to shovel a 2nd driveway? no.

Also different this time, the snowplow, usually a foil, is working FOR her. that’s new. It’s coming around the circle the opposite direction from usual, taking the snow away from her driveway and dumping it in front of the yard/ further down the street. so not *everything* is working against our protagonist this time.

This time, a couple neighbors walk by, griping about the condo association. Why do we pay $300 a month and have to shovel our own snow- AND pay to use the pool? Good question, but that scene goes nowhere. Except maybe to show that Sisyphus doesn't get riled up by it.

For the first time in the series, the snow is heavy and wet, so the movie is reallllllly long. there’s an entire hour of just shoveling and interior dialog, broken up only by the snowplow or a neighbor walking by.

I have to ask though: why, EVERY SINGLE TIME, does she clear the walkway and driveway, then look surprised that she has to clear the car and then the driveway again? It happens every time- why is she still surprised? Though amusing, I find this part a little far-fetched.

I kinda wonder why they keep making movie after movie with the same plot, but i guess it’s better than going back and getting Sysiphus’ backstory, with a child actor and way too many CGI and special effects that not only are the dialogue and directing neglected, they seem to be forgotten about completely.

But who am I to criticize? I keep attending the sequels. I have been and will attend every sequel, even if it snows.

The movie ends with Sysiphus watching the news, and the husband bringing her a glass of water (no ice). There’s footage of Superbowl fans stuck in the Newark airport, about 30 minutes from her house.

Given the opening and closing scenes, I guess what we’re supposed to learn from this is human suffering is universal. Struggle is part of life. People stuck in a massively overcrowded train station, or an airport full of canceled flights, or someone shoveling snow off the same driveway for the 4th time in 3 weeks.

But I’m not sure she learned the lesson, as her last line is her yelling at the TV “Hey, at least you eventually get to leave!”

Rumors are swirling about a sequel being made *this weekend* (already?! Guess they’re striking while the shovel’s icy cold!) with 4 FEET of snow. I’m skeptical, but if it happens, I’ll be first in line to enjoy the show.

Asked if she would be up for another sequel so soon, the lead actress did her best Sylvester Stallone impression: “Absolutely.”
(Yes, this is what I think about when I’m shoveling- "what it would look like on the big screen?" It keeps me amused and enjoying the task past the point of where I would have naturally enjoyed it, which is for about 10 minutes).


Carla Ulbrich

The Singing Patient

Humor, song and hope for people  who need it most- patients and healthcare workers