29 February 2008

Post 95


Spring is here! I don't know where else it may be, but it has certainly arrived here in P-town. Not that any flowers are out or anything--all the foliage is still very dead--but the sun is shining, a gentle breeze is blowing, the temperature is threatening to break 60F, the birds are singing, and I--I am happy.

This week has taught me a lot about myself. As it turns out, I am not a creature of very much complexity: during the long nights and cold days of winter, I am a somber and cynical intellectual, but, as soon as spring hits, I'm a total spaz.

Par example (see? that's French--total French spaz!), I just went and took a test--and danced all the way home, sometimes skipping, sometimes running, occasionally bounding, generally jumping and spinning around corners, and always singing.

So, in summation, spring is here therefore I am spastic. The implications for this blog remain to be seen....

23 February 2008

Post 94

This is not the post wherein I make the synthesis that I implied in my last post that I wanted to make, though I do hope to make that synthesis before the weekend is over--no promises that I'll ever make it, though. No, this is not that post; this is the post in which I review Maverick.

I love Maverick. It's one movie I am very proud to own--but that's how I feel about most of the movies I own, so I don't suppose that means anything. It is very hard for a comical movie--especially a modern one (meaning made in my lifetime)--to please me. Though I think that I, at heart, am a fun-loving kind of guy, I generally prefer my movies to have something in them that causes serious introspection. Maverick is one of the very few movies I appreciate that is just plain fun, and that earns it a good deal of my respect.

Though I call it "just plain fun," I don't intend to imply that it isn't quality because it really, really is. I could point to a few different examples of what makes Maverick a fine film, but the characters are what I really want to rave about; they are all very well defined and consistent. I find it amazing that, even though it's surprising at the end of the first viewing that Coop is Maverick's father, the movie is actually more fun during subsequent viewings when you are aware of that relationship. It's obvious that William Goldman (genius that he is) didn't just toss that surprise onto the end; he knew from the very beginning, and you can tell when you watch it. I love that! It's brilliant!

Another thing I love is that, even though the little supporting roles are all awesome--Joseph, Angel, the Archduke, Johnny--they don't take away from the awesomeness of Maverick himself, which strikes me as a hard balance to maintain. How can you have all these really amazing little characters running around without distracting from the hero? I don't know, but Maverick is proof that such a balance is possible.

Hm. My body just suddenly shouted, "HEY! I'M TIRED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" I thought, "Hm. That's strange," but then I looked at a clock and realized that it's nearing 1:30am--so perhaps fatigue is warranted. So, I guess I'm done.

21 February 2008

Post 92

Okay, this is big!

Shoot. I'm at a moral dilemma here. There are two posts on other blogs that you must read, but, if I link to them, you probably won't read them (I probably wouldn't, at least; I'm not very good about following links, which is why I don't use them much these days), and, if I copy them in full, this post will be so ridiculously long that you won't read it anyway.

-angry sigh-

Right. So. Please, please, please, please, pleeeeeease read this post by Trevor and then read this one by Schlange. They deal with very different subject matters (the parallels between mass media and cheap pastries aren't extremely obvious, really), but they make essentially the same point, and I think that it's a good point to make.

If you want an even better chance at having the same experience I had in reading these posts, you might consider listening to Paul Simon's "Kodachrome" in the background while you read (that opening line--"when I look back on all the crap I learned in high school/It's a wonder I can think at all"--brilliant! Perhaps my favorite line in all of popular music).

I was gonna write some of my own thoughts on the two posts, but I should really go to bed right now, so I shall refrain. This strikes me as good for the potency of this post in two ways: 1) it will prevent me from typing incoherent nonsense in a daze of halfawakedness, and 2) it will keep this post short, which may encourage you to actually follow the above links.


Post 91

Are you sure this is a good idea?

There's a store not too far from here called F.Y.E. They buy, sell, and trade movies, CDs, and video games (they also sell books, but I don't think they buy and trade them). Every so often, we get some junk mail from them, and sometimes it includes a coupon. Twice that I've noticed, they've sent a coupon saying, "40% off any used CD or DVD," and I used both of them to work the system and get movies for far cheaper than they intended.

Judge me, dear readers; am I dishonest? A couple months ago, they sent that coupon, and I saw it but didn't pay much attention. A couple days later, I was perusing DVDs at DI and noticed that they had K-Pax in its original shrink wrap and that they were selling it for $5. I had never seen K-Pax--still haven't, as you will soon learn--but I've had it recommended to me a couple times, so I bought it.

I brought it home and asked my roommates whether they would recommend it. They all agreed that it was okay but nothing really special, nothing that any of them would go out of their way to own. So I called F.Y.E. and asked them what they'd give me for K-Pax in its original shrink wrap (they really don't give much for DVDs; I offered them a copy of Pirates 2 once but decided to just keep it when the best they'd offer me was $1). The person who answered the phone told me that, if it was in its shrink wrap and still had its stickers, I could just return it; they wouldn't be able to give me cash if I didn't have a receipt, but they would give me in-store credit for a brand-new movie. So I hurried over, returned it to F.Y.E, got, like, $20 in-store credit, picked up Jakob the Liar, used the 40%-off coupon, and had in-store credit left over (which I later used to pick up a couple of CDs--though it didn't totally cover their cost, it was still a discount).

Today, F.Y.E sent us another 40% off coupon for a used CD or DVD. So, I took this one movie I've had a while that I really don't care about, took it to F.Y.E, got $3.13 in-store credit for it, picked up a used copy of Cast Away, used the coupon, and left with a movie I love, having paid only $1.35 out of pocket.

I love this game!

17 February 2008

Post 90

Readership of this blog seems to be expanding. The frightening thing is, most of the people coming to The Eccentric Sage are people who actually know me, and I really have no idea what sorts of expectations they have when they come exploring. So I've really been wondering what kind of blog I want this to be, but I haven't really come to any solid conclusions.

When I started blogging about six months ago, I really had no idea what sorts of things I'd write about; I just kinda let the blog go, watching to see where it'd take me. Looking back now, I see that it's taken me for quite a ride!

I'm a very confused young man. A close friend of mine once told a girl who was trying to figure me out that I am the most confused person he knows. I do not reject this rather dubious honor--the proverbial shoe fits far too well--and I think that this confusion really shows through in some of the things I've said on this blog.

I don't really imagine that confusion is a condition that is unique to me, though. In fact, I imagine that most everyone is confused about something--I just happened to be confused about everything. I'm wondering, though, from a blogging standpoint, if this unilateral confusion that's afflicting me isn't actually a blessing; it certainly gives me a lot to blog about!

So if you're new to The Eccentric Sage, I think that the best description that I can give to you of this blog is that it's my place to be publicly confused about whatever happens to be confusing me at the moment--sometimes a book or a movie, sometimes other people, sometimes life in general. So I hope that this is a place where we can come and be confused together. And, though I consider myself to be at least moderately cynical, I hope some of the things I say make you smile from time to time 'cuz I'm trying to be a happy cynic.

If you're looking to explore, I recommend my recent resolution concerning happiness or my attitude toward physical pain or my declaration of morals. Also, let me point out my topical guide along the left-hand side of the screen--my favorites are probably "cows" and "rants," though I like to think that some of my movie reviews have been rather fine too. Of course, if you wanna good look at my confusion and madness, "me" is probably the best place to start.

Anyway, welcome to my blog. I don't know why I'm putting this information here, but I hope it serves somebody. Feel free to poke around; there's quite a bit to see.

16 February 2008

Post 89

I'm tired, folks, and I'm way behind on my movie reviews. But I'm not the type of person to say anything unless I have something worth saying, anyway, so this'll be especially brief.

I just watched A.I. I was pretty impressed, and I'm starting to worry that some day I may have to recognize sci-fi as a respectable genre--a real blow to my pride, so don't count on it happening any time soon. All I really have to say about A.I. is to ditto everything that I said about how scary immortality is in Post 83, and to quote a recent bit of chat between me and Theric in which I said, "It was very--different
I dunno
I don't know that I've ever seen a movie with an ending that let me down so gently
It was
kinda refreshing and relaxing, though also very sad
In its speculative fictitious way, it was too pretty to be terribly sad
Watching that movie was like experiencing a deep sigh
the kind that clears your head and makes you feel better
despite the fact that it's motivated by sadness
A deep, refreshing, sad sigh
That's what the movie was

I've also seen Forrest Gump, The Maltese Falcon, and The Thin Man without blogging about them. Forrest Gump was--visually pleasing, but I wasn't sure how to receive it and can't say that I loved it. The Maltese Falcon was very good, but that's all I really have to say about it. The Thin Man had a very impressive dog in it--by far the best actor in the show, and none of them were very terrible.

Good night.

14 February 2008

Post 88

Happy Luv Day--I suppose.

It being Valentine's Day, I'm at a loss what to say--not because I can't think of anything but because there are just too many things to choose among! I mean, I could talk about February 14, 2004 when I dressed in drag and did a fan dance at a spaghetti dinner put on by my high school's choir--that might be fun. Or I could whine about how, of all the depraved, capitalistic holidays on our calendar, Valentine's day is the worst because you could buy a girl flowers and chocolates every day day of the year except today and still qualify as a caddish, insensitive prick--today is the day that, if your love isn't backed by presents, it's no sort of love at all. Or I could discourse on how, in my proactively naive opinion, the seeming incompatibility between men and women can be expressed clearly and easily in six little words and how I'm considering writing a book entitled Girls Are Crazy; Guys Are Dumb--it'd have the title printed in huge, flashy lettering on the cover and have nothing but blank pages inside because those six little words say it all.

Hm. Or I guess I could just list off all the things I could talk about and then not talk about any of them. Yeah. I like that idea.

13 February 2008

Post 87

So, I've got this really killer headache; it's so bad that I occasionally have to laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of the pain 'cuz dang! This hurts so bad, it's funny!

Call me crazy; you may be right, who am I to say? When it comes to physical pain, though, I find I can breast storms a lot better when I talk to the pain. "Hey Migraine!" I say (aloud), "suck it! You're not the boss of me! What, you think you can get me down? You think you can make me stop livin'? Bring it, Migraine; I'm not afraid of you. You picked the wrong guy to mess with, yes sir; I'm not afraid of you! You thought that, by waking me up in the middle of the night, you could keep me from getting up this morning? Well, you thought wrong, sucka! I am up! And there ain't nothin' you can do about it. If it's a battle of endurance you want, just let me remind you that, when I die, you can't go with me, so get your kicks in while you can 'cuz I'll spend most of eternity forgetting all about you. Bring it, Migraine; I'm not scared a you."

I did this a couple weeks ago when my stomach got so angry at me that I could hardly stand up sometimes, but I told that pain who was boss and, though I don't think trashing talking my ailments makes them go away any more quickly, I find that I'm eventually laughing at me and my strangeness and not really caring about the pain at all.

So. Yeah, my head hurts so bad that I can feel it all the way down my spine and in all my joints, but who really cares?

Bring it, Migraine; I ain't afraid of you!

09 February 2008

Post 86


I just saw Stranger than Fiction. I've been wanting to see that movie and trying to hunt down a copy for a couple of months now, but I finally got to see it tonight and--perhaps it was a very different experience for me than it is for many people. Perhaps not; I have the tendency to believe that I am far more different from the general population than I actually am. Every time I get to thinking that I'm weird, I notice something about my peers that makes me realize that I'm not weird--not in the ways I thought, at least. I still harbor secret hopes that I'm generally perceived as outstandingly unique--not superior or inferior to those around me, just different in more than the usual way.

I am an obsessive journal writer--obsessive I say. I just finished off a 200-sheet notebook a couple weeks ago. Four hundred pages, and you know how long it covered? It started on October 1, 2007 and ended January 31, 2008--four months in four hundred pages. Writing in my journal is what I do; it's how I define myself, sort out my problems, grapple with reality and my various fantasies. And I occasionally find myself narrating my life as I live it--consciously, in real time, imagining what I will say about the day when it concludes. Sometimes my thoughts make it to my journal, often they do not; if every narrative thought that crawled across my mind crawled onto a page somewhere, I can't imagine how many notebooks I'd go through in four months--a lot more than one, I'm pretty sure.

But I can't imagine that narrating one's own life as it happens is all that crazy; the problem is that I try to narrate the future, as well. Unfortunately, I'm a terrible prognosticator; my predictions are very often wrong, and this really makes me sad because I have these secret fantasies that one day I'll look back on my life, gather all my various journals together, and abridge and revise them into the next great American novel. Oh, sure, I'd settle for an autobiography that'd be worth reading, but I really have no ambitions to do anything in my life that would cause people to want to take a book down from the shelf because it has my name in the title. No, I don't want to be historic; I want to be fantastic.

So it's very hard for me to describe to you the way this movie struck me. Especially the line, "Sounds like a comedy; you should develop that." To get far more personal than I think is prudent (because my inhibitions go to bed at a fairly early hour), I am often very disappointed in the way the female supporting roles in the story of my life fail to play their part in the delightful romantic comedy that I've composed in my head--and I think about these things in those terms. See, mostly I want my life to be a story worth telling; I see so many opportunities to live funny little subplots, and I think of them mostly in the frame of reference of relating the story to future acquaintances. It's strange, but I can describe it to you: a little basement apartment with a low ceiling and poor lighting, an overstuffed couch whose pinstriped upholstery is worn and patched, a coffee table that is in less than perfect condition, and a couple of white wicker chairs opposite the couch. I sit, partially reclined on the couch with my girl next to me, and we tell the most charming little stories to the couple sitting in the wicker chairs--well, I do most of the telling because I'm naturally narcissistic and have high confidence in my mastery of the artful exaggeration, but my wife (who is naturally brilliant and probably has a keener sense of humor than I but loves me enough to let me tell the story) makes her witty little additions here and there, and thus we keep our guests entertained all night long.

The scene is always the same; it's the story we tell that is constantly changing. It's funny, the vision is clear enough that I can describe the room and furnishings to you--the carpet is beige and not at all fluffy; the wall behind us contains sparsely filled shelving; the walls are white; the ceiling is uncovered rafters--but the vision is simultaneously abstract enough that I have absolutely no concept of what my wife looks like, how old I am, who our guests are or why they're visiting us--no, the setting (including the people there) is all secondary to the story I'm telling.

Well? How the heck can that become a reality if I don't have a cool story to tell? And how am I ever going to get a good story to tell if my life doesn't start being more clever? Huh?

It is a great frustration to me. I could claim that Hollywood has poisoned my mind, but I think it's just the way I am. It's kinda sick, really. I can't tell you how many apparently funny coincidences in my life have actually been carefully planned and performed. I mean, sure, sometimes I'm spontaneous and sometimes funny just happens--that's how it is most of the time, in fact. But I've done some pretty devious things to appear witty--things that, even at 12:30am, I have enough inhibition to keep to myself.

So anyway. The movie. Sometimes I feel very much like Harold Crick, but my frustration is not that my life is dictated by the narrative of some unknown author, it's that my life refuses to be dictated. Not that that would be any fun, really, but there have been some pretty amazing scenes that have fallen flat--and not just romantically comedic scenes; all kinds of scenes.

So anyway. The movie. It's a good one. I think it's the sort of movie that I may have to watch again before I'll be able to form any really solid opinion on it, but up until the ending, it was pretty much my favorite movie e-ver. The ending wasn't bad, mind you--au contraire, it may have actually be very, very good--but I'm really a fan of finality, and the point of the ending seemed to be that life goes on and is actually worth living.

What a depressing thought....

Post 85

[Gleeful, demonic giggling.]

Kay. So, I just saw Across the Universe, and I'm about to tear it to shreds. Before I do, allow me to say that I did not hate it, and I hope that it meets some success because I like what it was trying for (or what I hope it was trying for). So, good job, Across the Universe, I hope you're the first in a long trend of progressively improving movies that may one day beget a movie worth my praise.

As sort of a backdrop to my feelings regarding this film, I wanna say that I like the idea of a musical, but I don't like a lot of musicals. I was very happy when Disney stopped making their animated movies "musicals." Right around the turn of the century, Disney started making a change in the way they did musicals--a change that I think was brilliant. It's been a very long time since I've seen Tarzan, but looking at the above linked list, I think it marked the beginning of a new tradition in the musical genre--at least as far as Disney animated movies are concerned. Instead of having the characters actually sing, they made original songs to play in the background to replace dialog--a sort of montage effect that I really like. Disney has done this in several of their newer animated features (none of which I've seen very recently, but I know they did it a lot in Brother Bear, and I seem to remember at least one instance in Lilo and Stitch), and I think it's generally a better idea than the traditional musical--the musical genre of movies had died long before Disney let it go, and I think it was broken long before it died.

Take Bedknobs and Broomsticks for instance. I watched that movie today, too--haven't seen it since I was a kid--and I was kind of disappointed. I know that musicals can be awesome, but by the time B&B came out (1971), it really was a sold out genre; the story stops for long periods of time for totally random dance scenes, and the trip to the Isle of Naboombu does absolutely nothing for the story--a red herring that stinks of a special effects expose like we see in a lot of modern movies that are saturated with CGI nonsense. The story is a lot of fun, but it's totally lost in all the tangential musical numbers and SFX sequences.

What I'm saying, I guess, is that I'm glad that Hollywood musicals finally died out, but I wanna say that I think musicals can be great, and I hope that Across the Universe is the beginning of their return to mainstream America--a new kind of musical that employs a lot of the artistry that can be seen in some music videos. I think Across the Universe was about as high quality as Bedknobs and Broomsticks, which makes me worry that we may just jump back onto the downhill slide we were in before, but you gotta start somewhere, so perhaps we will see a phoenix rising.

Anyway. About the movie. The story was secondary to the music, so the movie became so tedious that, by about halfway through, I was wishing it would wrap up. It was more like a bunch of really nice music videos strung together on the string of a tenuous plot--a plot that I think had a lot of great potential that it fell dramatically short of. I think it's a good movie for people who like to say, "Oo. Pretty colors! This must be artistic." They made a valiant effort, though, and, as I've said, I'm happy to see the attempt.

The movie had some good points. They made good use of the screen--the whole screen. I've been hoping that the advent of wide-screen TVs and the demise of the VCR would encourage cinematographers to start using the edges again; I've noticed that a lot of modern movies place all the action in the center of the shot--presumably because they knew the sides were just going to get formatted out of the picture anyway. Across the Universe made good use of the whole area, and I remember one part of one song (though I don't remember which song) had Jude's profile singing on the far right side of the screen--definitely far enough to the side that, had it been formatted to fit my square TV, the image certainly would've been lost. And I liked, too, how diegetic sounds (eg ticking clocks, bouncing balls, windshield wipers) often worked themselves into the percussive lines of songs--that was fun. And some of the singing was really good--Jude had a good voice, though there were times that it had obviously been subjected to digital filters, and Max did okay for himself, and Lucy wasn't at all bad, nor was Jojo. And that brings up another thing: the names are all allusions to Beatles songs ("Hey Jude", "Maxwell's Silver Hammer", "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", "Get Back", "Dear Prudence", and "Sexy Sadie"--and I can put my listing commas on the outside of the quotation marks if I want: this is my blog!). Other Beatles allusions throughout the movie's dialog were fun when I caught them, though I'm not cultured enough to have caught them all. The "killed you grandmother with a hammer" comment stuck out like a sore thumb (harharhar--hammer, sore thumb--harharhar), but the others all fit well enough that I missed most of them (one of my very knowledgeable roommates pointed several out to me as we watched).

So those are the good points. On the flip side, Prudence appeared to have no purpose other than to allow "Dear Prudence" to be sung; Sadie's renditions of songs were all pretty terrible; when Lucy was singing "If I Fell", she failed to change the pronouns, making it sound as though she was singing to a girl instead of to Jude. Also, I haven't seen Titanic in a looong time, and I've only seen it once, and I was doing my best to ignore it most of the time because I found it terribly uninteresting and was only watching it to appease a couple of my female family members--but even under such circumstances, I couldn't help but wonder if the writer(s) watched Titanic at one point and thought, "Oo, that's good. Let's toss in a guy who's really good at sketching and his love interest's bared breast for him to draw. It's brilliant! If anyone catches on, we'll just tell them it's a--what's the word? Oh yeah: allooshun. That's right. Good. This movie has lots of allooshuns to the Beatles; why not toss in some Titanic allooshuns?"

On a grander scale, I think they had too many songs that they wanted to fit into a two-hour flick, many of which they utterly failed to incorporate into the story at all. I mean, I don't think that writing a story around popular songs is a bad idea--quite to the contrary, Singin' in the Rain demonstrates that it can be a very, very good idea, and I myself think that it could be very effective if you had a specific point you wanted to make or emotion you wanted to evoke--but Across the Universe just had too long of an itinerary: it had nearly twice as many songs as Singin' in the Rain had. If they had trimmed down the list a little and spent more time with the characters and story, I think the movie could have been very powerful. But the story was overwhelmed by the music and lost in the psychedelic milieu.

Also, the ending: unimpressive. With about 20 minutes left in the movie, one of my roommates (same one who kept me up with the allusions) asked me how I thought it'd end, and I speculated and he speculated. We disagreed on what Max's fate would be, but we agreed on how things would end up between Lucy and Jude--in my roommates words, "This movie doesn't have the balls to keep them separated."

Well spoke! The phrase is a mite bit crass, but the fact of the matter is that this movie doesn't have any balls. If they could have found some satisfactory resolution that didn't involve Jude and Lucy getting together in the end, I would have applauded it no matter what it was. And Max? Shoot, I'm okay with keeping him alive, but why not show how soldiers were sometimes treated when they returned to the states--ya know, back to the homeland, hooray hoorah, why the heck are my fellow Americans throwing their rotten produce at me? Nope, Max comes home, slightly injured, it seems, but not seriously--somehow he managed to go to war and not be affected by it in the least. Granted, I've never gone to war, but I hear it has a way of changing a man--in ways I can't imagine, I imagine.

Anyway. I guess what I'm saying here is that, even though I didn't like it, I hope more movies like it are made and that it starts a glorious trend that will one day produce something wonderful. I'm told that Mulan Rouge was a similar kind of movie, but I haven't seen it, so I don't know, but the same sources tell me that it, too, was less than stellar, but still--let's make more of these movies; perhaps if we make a hundred of them, we'll manage to squeeze one or two good ones out in the mix.

08 February 2008

Post 84

Ready for your warm fuzzy for the day?

People, the world has gone crazy. I'm all for optimism, but fatalism seems a lot more reasonable lately--especially looking at politics. So, even though I'm not generally one to endorse happy-feel-good kinds of stories, I saw this one taped up in the stall of a bathroom I was cleaning and was immediately taken by its charm, so humor me and read it.

It was a hard one to find online; there are a few different versions floating around, but this one (with a few stylistic alteration by yours truly) is the best, I think.



In 1986, Dan Harrison was on holiday in Kenya after graduating from Northwestern University. On a hike through the bush, he came across a young bull elephant standing with one leg raised in the air. The elephant seemed distressed, so Dan approached it very carefully. He got down on one knee and inspected the elephant's foot and found a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it. As carefully and as gently as he could, Dan worked the wood out with his hunting knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot. The elephant turned to face the man, and with a rather curious look on its face, stared at him for several tense moments. Dan stood frozen, thinking of nothing else but being trampled. Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned, and walked away.

Dan never forgot that elephant or the events of that day.

Twenty years later, Dan was walking through the Chicago Zoo with his teenaged son. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to near where Dan and his son Dan Jr. were standing. The large bull elephant stared at Dan, lifted its front foot off the ground, then put it down. The elephant did that several times then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring at the man.

Remembering the encounter in 1986, Dan couldn't help wondering if this was the same elephant, so summoning all his courage, he climbed over the railing and made his way into the enclosure. He walked right up to the elephant and stared back in wonder. The elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of Dan's legs and slammed him against the railing, killing him instantly.

Probably wasn't the same elephant.


See? Don't you feel better now?

Look, we can't be despairing here, folks--leave that to the people at Yahoo. I mean, yeah, the world's gone to crap and we have the unequaled joy of rolling around in it--well? So what! At least we'll keep warm.

Old man trouble--I don't mind him. You may find him 'round my door, but I'll just make a big ok sign with my hands around my head and shake, shake, shake my blues away.

[If you could help me find a graphic for that, Th., I'ld appreciate it--I know his allusion was to "My Favorite Things" rather then "I've Got Rhythm," but I type it like I feel it; you understand.]

Here. Go listen to this. It'll make you feel better.

04 February 2008

Post 83

Time for some movie reviews. It's been a while; I've seen a few:

Groundhog Day

'Tis the season, no? I watched this with some of my roommates during the span of time when February 1st became February 2nd. It's a good movie; it was fun; I enjoyed it. As far as romantic comedies go, thisun's top-notch. But today I was pondering on it, and it got me thinking about a lot of things--so my opinion of this movie is improving exponentially since my stance has always been "if it makes me think, it must be good." And the more I think about it, the more I like thinking about it because it doesn't present itself as any sort of moralistic movie or self-proclaimed thought provoker.

When Phil first figures out that he's stuck in one day, that there is no tomorrow, that his actions can bring no long-term consequences, he decides to do all those bad things that he normally wouldn't do--get chased by the cops, have random romance, punch Ned in the face, pig out on pastries, steal money, and so on. Finding no satisfaction in this, he despairs and turns to suicide, killing himself in every way he can think of (many of which we don't see, judging by the list he rattles off to Rita). Thus the parameters of the social experiment are set: if all long-term consequences (defined as results of actions that happen more than 24 hours from the time of the action), good and bad, are taken away from man, how will man find meaning in existence? This is mortal man completely outside of his natural element--time. Normally, every aspect of our mortal existence is impacted immeasurably by time; what if that suddenly wasn't the case?

I recently read a children's novel called The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo. It was a nice story--the kind I imagine myself reading to my little larvae, when I have them (I'm a butterfly, remember)--but really it gave me some not very nice thoughts about eternity.

The thought of immortality frightens me--mostly because I have absolutely no concept of what that would mean. About a year ago, in a fit of bitterness, I wrote a description of eternity that is probably the most cynical thing that I have ever created. It was a story comparing the afterlives of two men, one who is "saved" and one who is "damned." My thesis was that, in popular Christian theology, there's no important difference between heaven and hell--in one of them, you sit and moan; in the other, you stand and sing--but who can remember which is what, and what's it really matter anyway since, in the end (which never comes because we're talking about eternity), you're still spending FOREVER doing nothing that really matters, and, let's face it, that's gotta get old at some point. As I recall, the story ended when, after four or five eons, the god in my story capriciously decided to send everyone in heaven to hell and bring everyone from hell to heaven so he could have some new faces in his choir (which had been getting progressively less and less enthusiastic over the millennia), and when this happened, all the people in heaven and hell rejoiced--yes, rejoiced--because something had finally happened to shake up the monotony of immortality.

Now, that's a pretty pessimistic outlook on the afterlife, and it really isn't how I feel--it certainly hasn't any similarity to what I actually believe, and I try not to paint the beliefs of others in such disparaging tones--but I include it here because some of those feelings were dredged up as I read about Edward Tulane.

Edward Tulane is a porcelain rabbit doll and is, by virtue of the book's targeted audience, fully aware of everything that happens around him. But his is not the sort of story wherein toys come to life and walk around, going on grand adventures. No, Edward is a very realistic sort of doll in that he can't move on his own or communicated with those around him--basically, even though he is conscious, he is unable to affect his environment in any way. His story is one of pain and disappointment because life--or existence, I guess--just sort of happens to him, and there's nothing he can do about it. Of course, the blatantly obvious happy ending that I saw coming the whole time did, in fact, come (though there were some rather surprising bumps in the road getting there), so I suppose that this book counts as a happy story, but it really isn't. Edward is a nearly immortal being dwelling in a very mortal world, and so he is constantly faced with loss. To me, the thought of being ageless in an aging world is a thought far more frightening than death.

But I'm wrong; immortality is only a cruel fate if 1) you, like the people in my cynical story, have nothing to live for, nothing to do, no reason to exist and/or 2) you, like Edward Tulane, are unable to act. If you have a cause, and if you are capable of working for that cause, so long as your cause is eternal, eternity is never too long.

In Groundhog Day, Phil ultimately discovers that life becomes meaningful when it is spent in the service of others--he still wishes that he could get out of February 2nd and move on, but so long as he's stuck in the 2nd, he makes it the best 2nd he can. There is nothing in the film that necessarily denotes that it is his righteous living that releases him from his prison--the inference is there to be made, and people often interpret the movie that way, but it's just as likely that the glitch fixed itself or the bug ran its course or the deal expired--but regardless of why or how he was freed from his trap, the important thing is that he learned what really living actually entails.

I'm still Mr. I-hate-anything-that-doesn't-relate-directly-to-real-life, though, so that thought alone isn't enough to make me like this movie. Using all I've said as a backdrop, then, let me tell you why I decided that I love this movie:

There is a quiet place where I know I can be alone that I walk to from time to time. I go there to pray aloud to the only Person who really understands me, and I seek to understand myself, how I fit into His plans, and what His plans require of me. Occasionally, He gives me bits of inspiration and direction, and I have sometimes sprinted away from that quiet place, knowing that there was some action I had to take immediately. Far more often, though, He just smiles and shakes His head, and I get the silent assurance that I'm doing alright--all my stress and anxiety fade away and are swallowed up in the words "Trust Me." Through such experiences, I have come to realize that the future is not mine--it rests safely in God's unfathomably competent hands. The present is mine; it is the piece of the future that God has given to me to do with as I will. When I get caught up in looking ahead or behind, wishing that time would pass more quickly or slowly, I realize that I am being rather ungrateful.

I would not want to get trapped in a single day--there isn't any day that I wish I could relive. All too often, I have supposed that I have been a royal screwup only to find out later on that I did the exactly right thing, and the opposite is true too--"The best-laid plans of mice and men," dontchya know. No, I am happy that time continues onward in its ever-quickening tempo and hope that it continues to do so until the end. The reason that I love Groundhog Day is that, if it has any underlying message, it's an admonition to live in the present. Don't live for tomorrow or dwell on the past, just live--and live well. "Take no thought for the morrow" certainly doesn't mean to take advantage of everyone today; it just means live well today and leave the future up to God. In one scene of the movie, Phil catches a kid falling out of a tree; after setting the kid down and watching him run away, Phil says something like, "Yeah, you didn't thank me last time, either." We can't do kind things in the hopes that we will be repaid--not even with a thank you--but we have to live in love and charity because that's the only way to really live. Maybe tomorrow never will come and all the nice things we did today will be forgotten and go unrewarded, but what's it really matter? Was it really love if you offered it in hopes of reciprocation? As one who has attempted such acts, let me assure that doing so will only leave you very, very jaded.

Okay, well, I've spent enough time on that high horse; I still have other movies to review!

I, Robot

What? What's this?? Schmetterling saw a sci-fi movie‽ Yup, and it wasn't really wretched or anything--I actually kinda enjoyed it, I'm sort of ashamed to say--but let me tell you why it wasn't really fantastic, either.

Maybe I missed something, but the whole premise of the movie struck me as very flawed--and I don't mean in the sense of robots taking over the world and such; despite my lack of love for speculative fiction, I won't attack it for being speculative. No, the thing that rubbed me the wrong way was that the old man knew there was a problem, knew how to fix the problem, and had made a robot that was capable of fixing the problem--so why'd he leave a trail of breadcrumbs for a detective to figure out and then commit suicide? And that the detective was able to figure out the trail--darn near deus ex machina, I'm afraid to say.

That said, the overall effect of the movie was pleasing--a mildly entertaining story without a repulsively contrived ending--and I don't think watching it would make you a worse person (which, coming from me, is pretty high praise for a sci-fi flick). Sure, the movie's estimation of what 2035 will look like is totally out of the realm of possibility, but that doesn't make it a bad movie, I guess.

Well, that's plenty enough content for one post, I'd say. I saw a couple of foreign films a week ago, but since I missed the beginning of one and have very little to say about the other, I don't really feel inclined to say anything about them. So, that's all for today. See ya.

01 February 2008

Post 82

I realized recently that I am not a very dedicated sort of person in some ways. I've started a lot of books that I've never gotten around to finishing, and in the last six months, I've held four different jobs. I don't think that this says much for my character, and I worry about the implications for the future. I mean, what if one day I