Friday, March 26, 2010

Rachel Getting Married: 2/5

Directed by Jonathan Demme, screenplay by Jenny Lumet, cinematography by Declan Quinn.

I confess: I am a big fan of Anne Hathaway.  It began with Ella Enchanted, then the mountains of Genovia, and finally Agent 99.  But not even the muse of the Bard could save Rachel Getting Married for me.  Her acting---heck, all the acting---was superb; I really cared for and believed in the characters.  And the cinematography really tore down that fourth wall.  But . . . too little plot, too much confusion, and not enough communication.  I spent half the running time trying to figure out what I was missing.

Ms. Hathaway: You did extremely well.  Ms. Lumet: not so much.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Web 2.0 for movies

So I've been active on this website,, for a few weeks, and I thoroughly enjoy it.  Except for one thing.

According to my profile, I have watched 426 movies, consuming 29 days, 23 hours, and 24 minutes of my life, and picked a favorite 1,818 times.  But that same profile has been viewed once.  And it tells me this depressing fact:
You've got no friends!
Dang.  Exclamation point and all.

So if you like movies and you like talking about them, sign up.  We can be friends, compare our lists, and have pillow fights.

Or just talk about movies.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

So Sideways I'm Lost


From C.S. Lewis's The Voyage of the Dawn Treader:
"Child," said Aslan, "did I not explain to you once before that no one is ever told what would have happened?"
In this, the final the season of Lost, the creators have caught some flack for their new experiment, "flash sideways," explorations of what would have happened in a World Without the Island.  Ben sacrifices his ambitions for Alex's good; Sayid kills his brother's creditors; Jack works through his daddy issues; Locke comes to terms with his handicap; Kate lets Claire keep her baby.  Some people think this is lame.

A friend of mine suggests that he can't decide whether Jacob or The Man in Black is the real bad guy of the series.  I'm firmly on Team Jacob, but I am keeping my mind open.  Consider this, on the nature of literary tragedy:
After all is said and done, the audience should not feel impotent rage, denial, confusion or having been cheated. They should feel that the ending is a natural outcome to the hero's actions, and that in having faced punishment for those actions they [the audience] are purged of anxiety and worry. The world does make sense, the guilty are punished.
Is't possible that the purpose of the flash-sideways is to give us, the audience, a chance to see what would have happened if Jacob hadn't interfered with everybody?  Maybe the flash sideways are meant to telegraph the end of the series, to explain to us that the world does make sense and the guilty are punished.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Don Quixote and Lady Macbeth

From Stephen King's Firestarter:
Andy moved slowly away from the van.  The other fellow . . . had his gun out now.  He pointed it at Andy.  He was less than fifty feet away.  "I advise you very sincerely not to move," he said in a low voice.  "This is a Colt forty-five and it makes a giant hole."

The young guy with his wife and baby at the picnic table got up.  He was wearing rimless glasses and he looked severe.  "What exactly is going on here?" he asked in the carrying, enunciated tones of a college instructor.

The man with Charlie turned toward him.  The muzzle of his gun floated slightly away from her so that the young man could see it.  "Government business," he said.  "Stay right where you are; everything is fine."

The young man's wife grabbed his arm and pulled him down.
Query: Between the young guy and the wife, who is being practical and who is being romantic?  Who is being reasonable and who is being irrational?  Who is really trying to save lives and who is merely pretending?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Surprise, based on the blog Alico Dreams by Jeremy Masten

Out of the mouths of multinational corporations:
The Sandra Bullock win really surprised me. Not to say she didn’t deserve to win, but she was going up against Meryl Streep as Julia Child and an awesome performance by Gabourey Sidibe in Precious, which I believe is based on a book or something. It’s hard to tell, because nobody ever mentioned what it’s based on. I guess it will remain a mystery.
Scooby dooby doo---where are you?  We've got a job for you, now.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Spoiler Alert

One of my favorite things about movies is that, if done right, they end with a question you have to ask yourself.  Everything is done to build up to that question.  The greatest movie of all time asks a question that every successful suitor faces, and what some movies might call the 6-month question:
Now that I got the girl, what do I do?
Similarly, the best movie of 2009 asks a very difficult, very ubiquitous question.  For centuries, war has asked women one question (What if my son/brother/husband doesn't come back?) and men another question (What if I don't come back?).  We always assume that, if you make it back, society will wrap you in its arms, build you a statue, and try to make it worth your while.

But since the Vietnam fallout, war has asked us a different question, one that has taken us a few decades to work out:
What if my son/brother/husband/I make it back, but he/I can't handle the real world anymore?
The movie doesn't give us the answer, but it asks it very beautifully:

There's also a Russian (or something) dubbed, longer version on YouTube, but this one works.

According to Screenwriter Boal himself:
Both of those scenes, and the juxtaposition between them, sum up the film. . . . The supermarket scene is one that veterans in particular have pointed out to me - it's probably the single scene that they talk about the most, which is surprising to me. It really seems to ring true to a lot of them in the sense of capturing that feeling of being lost when you come back to a normal life.
So that's my two cents.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Stranger in a Strange Land: 3/5

Today, I finished Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land.*  The book has two versions, between which I alternated.  The 1961 publication ran for 160,067 words and won the Hugo Award.  In 1991, the Widow Heinlein published an expanded, original version, which weighed in at 220,000 words.

*I also discovered a new and interesting website.

Since learning to read circa 1988, I have read over 230 books, including 11 in 2010; seen at least 350 movies, including 19 in 2010; read a bazillion cases and statutes; and heard probably over 1,000 sermons and lectures.  Perhaps hypocritically, I appreciate brevity.  I believe that books longer than 500 pages and movies longer than 2 hours should have a blankity blank good reason for the surplus.*  There comes a point where thoroughness gives way to self-indulgence.  I simply don't have patience for that.

*Interesting note: Shakespeare never wrote anything longer than 5 acts.  I'm just sayin.

And I'm afraid that self-indulgence marred an otherwise good story here.  I began in the 1991 version but ran out of steam about three-fourths of the way through.  I got tired of reading extended "conversations" between characters that served little more than to either (a) set the table for something coming or (b) give the author a soapbox.  So I switched over to the 1961 version and still waded through the last 50 or 60 pages.  By "waded," I don't mean to say that those pages were boring or uninteresting; I mean to say that they began as interesting and just went on a little too far.  Even the very last page went one sentence too far.

UPDATE: Just ran across Niven's 4th Law for Writers: "It is a sin to waste the reader's time."

Monday, March 01, 2010

Balto, the STL, and the KC

Yesterday, I noticed that Baltimore has been abandoned in three of the four major North American sports.  After some quick research, I learned that no other city has been abandoned four times, but St. Louis and Kansas City each have lost a team in three sports.

First, what you already know.

The New York Yankees were founded as the Baltimore Orioles in 1901, but left after the 1902 season to meet their destiny.  This year's Super Bowl runner-up joined the NFL as the Baltimore Colts in 1953, won three NFL championships and Super Bowl V, and left in Mayflower trucks in 1984 after stadium renovation talks fell through.  And the Washington Wizards played ten seasons in Baltimore (as the Bullets) before moving a little west in 1973.

Now for what you might not know.

The (second*) Milwaukee Brewers moved to St. Louis for the 1902 season and began play as the Browns.  Fifty-one years and a pennant later, they moved to Baltimore for the 1954 season, reviving the old Orioles nickname.  Angry about that loss, the City of St. Louis responded by luring the NBA's Hawks away from Milwaukee for the 1955-56 season.**  The St. Louis Hawks won the 1958 NBA championship, but couldn't take Mid-American winters.  They skipped town in 1968.***  Finally, the Chicago Cardinals moved to St. Louis in 1960, piddled around for almost three decades, then moved to the desert of Arizona in 1987.

*The first Milwaukee Brewers played 36 games in the American Association in 1891 after Kelly's Killers folded.

**Milwaukee and St. Louis should have bitter rivalries.  What kind of town steals from another town twice?

***Atlanta must have been the place to be in the late '60s and early '70s.  The MLB's Braves moved there (from Milwaukee, believe it or not) in 1966, the NFL's Falcons were founded the same year, the NBA's Hawks moved there in 1968, and the Atlanta (now Calgary) Flames came along in 1972.  To recap: in 1965, Georgians had no local teams; less than 10 years later, they were represented in all four major sports.  Los Angeles is jealous.

And . . .

The Philadelphia Athletics, trying to push Connie Mack into the grave, moved to Kansas City in 1955.  After serving as the Yankees' farm team for 13 seasons, they headed west in 1967.  Five years later, the Cincinnati Royals moved to Kansas City, played their 13 seasons (including 1979, when they won the Midwest Division) and headed for Sacramento in 1985.  The Kansas City Scouts didn't get the 13-year memo.  They joined the NHL in 1974 and moved to Colorado in 1976.  Eventually, they would win a hat trick of Stanley Cups as the New Jersey Devils.

Who will be the next thrice-abandoned city?  Five American cities have been abandoned twice:
  • Philadelphia: Athletics (1954) and Warriors (1962)
  • Minneapolis: Lakers (1960) and North Stars (1993)
  • Seattle: Brewers (née Pilots) (1969) and Thunder (née Supersonics) (2008)
  • Chicago: NFL Cardinals (1959) and Packers Zephyrs Bullets Wizards (1963)
  • Milwaukee: Brewers (1901) and Hawks (1955)
I think it's high time St. Louis stole another team from Milwaukee.  It's been a half-century or so.*

*Or I suppose a team from Philadelphia could make its way west to Oakland, but that would involve making a new joke, and Mrs. Moak always told me never to introduce new material in the last paragraph.  That probably includes a footnote to the last paragraph.  Aw snap.