Tag: movies

Emotionally investing in other worlds

Regarding his new film, Inception, Leonardo DiCaprio was quoted by the London Daily Star as saying:

This is my first science fiction film.  I have a hard time with science fiction.  I have a little aversion to it, because it’s hard to emotionally invest in worlds that are too detached from what we know.

I can only assume that DiCaprio was referring to science fiction films, and not written science fiction.  I, too, find difficulty emotionally investing in much of the science fiction films that are out there, but I simply can’t see how this is possible for written science fiction.  It begs the question:  what, if any, science fiction has DiCaprio read that he has found it difficult to invest in?

Well-written science fiction is all about getting the reading to emotionally invest in what is happening in the story; suspension of disbelief requires this.  This can be a difficult challenge for writers (and why so many writers say that the most difficult kind of writing they do is science fiction).  The fact that they can do it successfully again and again is a testament to the skills of the writer.  It doesn’t matter that the worlds we sometimes visit are detached from what we know–we still fall in love with those world, come to feel a familiar bond with them (think Dune or Foundation, for instance).  And yet the implication that all science fiction is about worlds too detached from what we know belies an ignorance of the genre.

Think of Robert Silverberg’s brilliant novel Dying Inside, which takes place in New York City in the 1970s.   Think of Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War, the setting of which might be unfamiliar, but the theme of which–the purpose of war–is something that touches us every day.  Ray Bradbury writes stories about familiar and unfamiliar worlds, but in each of them we recognize ourselves, our gifts and our follies carried with us.  These stories shine a different kind of light on the human condition, allow us to examine ourselves in ways hidden from a classical narrative.  Every world we visit in science fiction, not matter how unfamiliar, is a world we know.

Sometimes, clarity gets lost in the storytelling.  In the same interview, DiCaprio says of the script:

It’s a very well-written, comprehensive script.  It’s completely original.  But you really had to have [directory] Chris [Nolan] in person to articulate some of the things swirling around in his head.

If the director of the film had to explain the concepts that underlie the story to its lead actor, what does that say for the rest of us?  Sometimes, lack of clarity in writing can make it difficult to emotionally attach to something, be it familiar or unknown.

The Oscars

I’m disappointed in the outcome of last night’s Academy Awards.  Perhaps part of the reason is that I saw only three of the pictures up for awards:

  1. Vicky Christina Barcelona
  2. The Dark Knight
  3. The Wrestler

Of the three movies, The Wrestler was far and away the standout of the batch, and Mickey Rourke’s performance in the movie was better than anything I’ve seen in a long time.  Vicky Christina Barcelona was the first Woody Allen movie that I didn’t like.  It’s not that I just didn’t like it.  I thought it was terribleThe Dark Knight while a fun movie, didn’t come close to what was capture by Batman Begins.  Yes, Heath Ledger made a good Joker, but I didn’t think it any better or worse than Jack Nicholson’s performance in the same role.  Of course, Jack is still alive and Heath is not and perhaps that made all the difference.

I didn’t see Slumdog Millionaire, but I’m not surprised it won as much as it did.  In a bad economy, people are looking for hopeful stories.  It was an underdog and had buzz and that is why it won.  The story it told is a very old one, and from what I’ve gleaned there was really nothing new that it added, except perhaps setting.  It’s touted as a story of triumph, but I mean, come on, we’re talking about winning a trivia game, right?  Rich or poor, no matter where you are in the world, if you have a trick memory, you can do it.

I was pulling for Mickey Rourke for Best Actor and Marisa Tomei for Best Supporting Actress.  What we got, with the possible exception of Sean Penn in Milk, was mediocrity.  I mean really, why bother anymore?  We got the same actors playing the same roles that we expect of them in the way we expect them to play.  Perhaps that’s what we call an award-winning performance these days, but I think we are setting the bar way too low.

Going my way

If you’ve ever looked for something fun to do early on a Sunday morning, pop in an old movie. Kelly and I watched Going My Way (for which Bing Crosby won the Best Actor Oscar back in 1944) and it was terrific. I’d seen it before, but it was fun to watch on a fall-like Sunday morning.

Yesterday, after our breakfast adventures, we headed into Georgetown, found a place to park for the day, and then walked over to 37th and P where Todd, John, Matt and Jess were busy working on a documentary film. We watched them for a little while before walked back onto the main Georgetown strip. We stopped in at Gap, where I got a couple of new pairs of jeans and a new shirt. We stopped in at Banana Republic where Kelly did some shopping. Then we tossed our stuff in the car and walked over to AJ and Denisse’s.

We had a late lunch with AJ and Denisse at Austin Grill. We then headed over to Gallery Place with the intention of bowling or seeing a movie. There was a 1-1/2 hour wait for a lane, and there were no movies that leapt out at us as “must-see”, so we headed to Pentagon City to do more shopping. We went into Best Buy, and Costco (where we called kruppenheimer to wish her a happy birthday), and then headed over to the Pentagon City Mall and wandered through several departments in Macy’s as well as other stores.

Around 7 PM, we headed back to Foggy Bottom and said our goodbyes to AJ and Denisse. The weather cooperated with us all day, and it was a perfect, fall-like Saturday.

My plan for the rest of the day is to maybe, just maybe, get some writing done. I’m embarrassingly far behind on the NaNoWriMo pace, but I’m not using that as an excuse to give up. I hope to make some decent progress today. My new pace, given what I have left to write is a hair over 3,000 words a day. Writing anything is better than nothing but I’ll do my best to hit the target.

United 93

Last week, I was watching a 2006 episode of Inside the Actors Studio featuring Tom Hanks. I heard him praise the film United 93. I have not been able to watch the movie so far, but after hearing his praise for it, I had Tivo hunt it down and record it. It was there today when I was flipping through the Now Playing list.

And yet I still cannot bring myself to watch it yet. Somehow, it’s still too soon, and I’m not ready for it. Intellectually, I know this is silly, it’s just a movie. Emotionally, though, it seems as though it’s something completely different.

Maybe someday. I’ll keep it around for a while and see.

Harper’s Ferry and L.A. Story

Saturday was a fun day. With clear skies and mild temperatures, Kelly and I drove out to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. I was there once before but I got to see a little bit more of it this time.

The town is about 70 miles away and we had a pleasant drive out there. I only got “lost” for about 5 minutes, when I missed a turnoff (I hadn’t been paying attention to my GPS). We hit a little traffic coming into town, but other than that, the roads were clear.

We parked down near the train station, and then spent a couple of hours roaming the town. We walked along the train bridge, and then down by the river. We wandered through the main street of the town, in and out of a variety of shops and historical sites. We climbed up to Jefferson’s rock, and then hiked beyond, up to the Harper’s Ferry cemetery, where we wandered among graves dating back to the 1700s.

We left Harper’s Ferry around 5 PM, and headed back, stopping at the Olive Garden for dinner. By the time dinner was over, I was so stuffed that I couldn’t even finish the chocolate gelato I’d ordered for dessert–a crying shame!

After dinner, we watched a movie. Kelly wanted to see L.A. Story. She’d seen it before, but not since living in L.A. and who was I to argue, as it’s one of my all-time favorite movies. So we watched L.A. Story and it took all of my effort and will-power not to quote every single line of the movie. Even so, I think I might have slipped up every now and then.

Kelly headed home after the movie and I spent a little while catching up on some chores around the house.


I slept in this morning, getting up at just about 10 AM! I watched the Red Sox pound the Yankees late yesterday afternoon, and then watched a couple of movies before going to bed. It was pretty late when I finally got to sleep, which explains why I slept in so late this morning.

Tivo had recorded Singles, the one Cameron Crowe movie that I somehow never managed to see, so I watched it this morning. As always, good cast and great music. I watched Real Time with Bill Mahr afterward and he had me rolling in the aisles.

Thinking about getting started cleaning out the garage today. There’s a ton of junk in there that can be gotten rid of and I need to start somewhere. I want to get it done before winter when it’s too cold to be out there for any amount of time. I’ll probably work on it slowly, over the next couple of weeks.

The weather cooled off today. In fact, it was downright chilly last night. It’s not cold today, just cooler, much more like fall than summer.

Big Yankees/Red Sox game tonight at 8 PM on ESPN, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to watch it. I’m planning on getting up at 4:20 AM for the gym and that means getting to bed pretty early.

Morro Bay, day 2

[Written on 9/4/2007]

I was up at about 7 AM. I had started The Reagan Diaries on the plane yesterday and continued reading it this morning until Dan and Megan were up. I figured that I’m so biased against Reagan as a president that I needed to read something that might alter my opinion of him. However, so far, his personal diaries have only reinforced what I suspected. Still, it is an interesting read.

We had a quick breakfast and then headed out. First, we went bowling. That was fun. I won the first game easily and then grew majorly overconfident. I bet Dan on the second game, and so confident was I that we bet big. I’m sure you can guess the results. I lost. Both Dan and Megan beat me. I did make a comeback in the last few frames, but it was not enough. Fortunately, Dan, sweetheart that he is, didn’t hold me to the bet.

We had Mexican food for lunch in San Luis Obispo and then went to see the movie Superbad, which Dan and Megan had already seen twice, but which they insisted I had to see. It was pretty damn hilarious, but I think they may have raised my expectations of the movie. I don’t think I’d pay to see it three times, although I’d gladly watch it again on DVD.

Later in the afternoon, we went to Avila beach and saw a couple being married right there on the beach. We wandered around the pier for a while and then headed back to meet some of Dan and Megan’s friends for dinner at an Italian place. I had a meatball sandwich that was excellent.

That night, we rented some movies and watched one of them before going to bed. The weather was super all day long. I’ve really missed hanging out with Dan and Megan and it was great to be back to visit them.

Bourne to be wild

I left the house at noon and headed down to Washington Circle to meet A.J. and Denisse. When I got there, A.J. was not yet back from getting his hair cut and Denisse was in the shower, so I waited patiently out front, absorbed by Up From Dragons. A.J. arrive shortly thereafter, and we sat around chatting for a little while before heading off to the movies.

We saw The Bourne Ultimatum, which I had been looking forward to and by which I was not disappointed. It didn’t exceed my expectations, but it certainly met them and that’s all I hope to get out of my $8.50. It was fun and entertaining and even–for a wonder!–not too long. (Movies these days seem to go well beyond the 2 hour barrier, often unnecessarily. This was was 1:50 and just perfect at that.)

After the movie, we stopped briefly back at A.J. and Denisse’s place so that I could get my book and also because A.J. wanted to show me a few scenes from the movie Kung Pow, which he had on DVD. They were, as kruppenheimer would say, “um, interesting”. After that we headed over to Austin Grill. I was craving their chips and guacamole. We killed a few hours there, eating, drinking and talking and in general having a great time. A.J. and Denisse even insisted on picking up the check which was extremely generous of them. After dinner, we walked to the Mall, chatted for a little while, and then headed our separate ways home.

I’m anxious to get through more of Up From Dragons. In fact, I’m finding that a lot of what it talks about is useful in one of the stories I am (attempting) to write. I’m thinking that up next will be another attempt at Steven Pinker’s book, How the Mind Works, in order to keep up the momentum on this fascinating topic. On the other hand, I received Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows yesterday and I don’t want to wait to long to read that as I have been wearing myself out to avoid hearing any spoilers about how the saga ends.

Albany day 2/Stony Point day 1

I was up at about 7:15 AM this morning, in time to see strausmouse head off to work for a little while. I hung around the house with rmstraus and little Damian until Eric got back. We went for lunch along the Hudson River at a nice riverside cafe. There was a great breeze blowing and it was not too humid out either. After lunch, we headed back to Eric and Ryane’s house and I got my picture taken with Damian. Then it was time for Damian to head to the doctor’s office and time for me to make the drive down to Stony Point.

It took a little under 2 hours to make the drive and toward the end, I was going against traffic, which was kind of nice. vickyandnorm live on the edge of Harriman State Park, and the drive down Palisades Parkway was a nice one. I arrived at their house just before 5 PM to find their cars parked on the street–apparently, there was some work that still needed to be done to all of the curbs in the neighborhood, and their driveway still requires it’s final surfacing as well.

And their street doesn’t exist yet. At least, as they explained to me, they have to go to the post office to pick up their mail. Until their street shows up on some map, I guess it simply doesn’t exist. I wonder if they could get away with temporarily being their own country?

It was nice to see the house completely finished and furnished and it looked great. In fact, I was jealous and I decided at once that I’d never be able to buy a house because I’d take one look at the places that I would be willing to pay for and picture Norm and Vicky’s little kingdom and be disappointed with what I had. I got the full tour, of course, including the long awaited “Jamie Rubin Memorial Bedroom”, which was done up in a beach motif, like the other “beach room” in the house.

At 6 PM, we headed out to the Palisades Mall in order to go to Tu Tu Tango for dinner, which is a kind of tapas joint. Very, very good, especially thanks to the spring roll recommendation by strausmouse. Vicky had gotten us tickets for the 9:30 PM showing of The Simpson’s Movie. We finished our dinner with plenty of time to spare and so we wandered over to Coldstone for some ice cream. By the time we got in line for the movie, it was just being let into the theater.

The movie itself was hilarious and I really enjoyed it. I’ve only ever seen a handful of episodes of the cartoon, but I could imagine myself seeing more. It’s the kind of movie which, when released on DVD, could be watched over and over again, with something new being discovered each time.

Tomorrow, we pick up Norm and Vicky’s new kitten.

Arriving in London: Cheers!

Today I flew from Italy to Munich and then Munich to London. I flew Lufthansa on both flights, and both flights were very good. We were served small sandwiches and Twix bars, as well as beverages, even beer and wine at no cost, which is better than what most American airlines do. I had to pass through passport control coming through Munich, as well as through London. Why is it that most of the passport control people seem very mean and cold? It is the repetition of the job? Well, in London anyway, the woman at passport control was very pleasant and was very glad to hear I was spending the rest of my “holiday” in London.

London, here I come

Eight Below

Over the weekend, I had Tivo record the movie Eight Below. I remember being a fan of Call of the Wild as a kid (which is why I am taking that book on vacation) and I thought I might like it.

I did.

I watched it tonight and I thought it was terrific. I’m not usually a fan of Disney movies, but I really enjoyed this one. All of the actors were good (no big names, except for Jason Biggs), but the real actors of the movie were the dogs, which were outstanding. Anyone who likes dogs should see this movie.