Saturday, October 18, 2008

I am Legend

This borders on the type of movie that I do not see. Too much jump out and scare you monster stuff for my liking. But beyond the few moments where I jumped out of my seat this was pretty good. Will Smith is able to carry this movie with ease as very nearly the only character. And while movies that disturb you are not necessarily bad, I was disappointed that Smith had to lose absolutely everything. Must the depravity of man be complete for this to have made its point. Must there be absolutely no hope? Must the end result of human "ingenuity" be destruction? While we try to end on a positive note with the discovery of the colony, the arrow of this film does aim directly for the heart of the ethical challenges that humanity will face this century. And if the film maker is more prophet than entertainer, our choices will be destructive. The "hopeful" ending does not wash away the pessimistic vision of the future offered up, and does not wash away the hopelessness experienced by Smith throughout. The subtext wins out in this story, and while completely unbelievable, is perhaps just a bit too believable to allow me to walk away happy.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Thousand Years of Good Prayers

This is a fine story of the difficult relationship between father and daughter, between the one living in a new culture and the one still holding on to the old, between the one hoping to redeem themselves through the lives of others and the one who is the supposed redeemer. Set in beautiful Spokane in the fall, Yilan and her father work out the day-to-day routine of living together. Neither is really comfortable. The Chinese formality of language (respect and deference first) comes across strong in their relationship and one senses that if the language was English, different things could be said. This gives some insight into the English language and culture, how we treat parents and elders and how the individual rights/needs supercede the family/relationship. In the end, the relationships are simultaneously true, funny and depressing. Father and daughter learn a little bit about each other, probably more than they ever expected to know, and yet neither is completely satisfied in the relationship, nor completely able to feel understood. And in the end, this is probably more realistic that we like to admit.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Occasionally, a few days get strung together with a bit of entertainment variety. Nothing I did this weekend was unique, but all together, it was a good combination...

Friday started with movie Ghosttown, featuring Ricky Gervais and Tea Leoni. Gervais plays an excellent bumbler, stumbling over words in an awkward fashion that makes you want to cringe at times. It is awkward and yet somehow endearing. Hugh Grant had this same ability in Four Weddings and a Funeral and Sense and Sensibility. The premise of Ghosttown is familiar, with some event allowing a living person to see ghosts and needing to figure out how to reverse the curse. Gervais plays a dour, introverted dentist who happens to be quite witty and charming when he is around people. Ok, so no one said a movie had to make sense. In the process of trying to help out some ghosts, he finds that what really holds a ghost is not the dead persons unfinished business, but the living holding on. So we all learn a life lesson, chuckle a little bit, and [spoiler alert] the dentist gets the girl in the end [end spoiler]. But if you couldn't see that coming, you probably are seeing Ghosttown as your first movie ... ever.

Saturday if finished reading Brisingr. This 3rd book in the Inheritance Trilogy turned out to actually be an announcement that the trilogy is a ... quadrilogy? So my main beef with this series is that I now have to wait 2 more years to hear the end of the story. Otherwise, I am enjoying the series. It introduces several ideas that are worth thinking about. I like that Eragon struggles with battle, and the ethics of killing. I like that the elves are the "humanists", embracing logic and rationality over religion and supernatural, while still being the strongest wielders of magic. How they integrate these disparate worldviews is curious. I like the idea of a true name, and the idea that a true name can be changed if one changes themselves fundamentally. This suggests that change is possible. I find it curious that suddenly in this volume, the dragons have names for things in "dragon speak". For example, hard-bone-breaking-ground refers to the ground if a flying dragon were to fall. This dragon speak is a new style. I find it curious that dragons rely on magic to fly. Overall, I am easily entertained by books like these and while impatient, will read the 4th book when it is finally written, and will reserve judgetment on the whole series until then. But for this volume...

Saturday Evening led me to the Greek Theater to see Iron & Wine and Swell Season. First of all, while both of these names sound like musical groups, really they are musical people. Iron & Wine is really Sam Beam. And he is really good. I like his music, and I like his stage presence. While it was only a short set, it was really very good. And sitting in the last row at the Greek didn't diminish the evening at all. We even got to see a Racoon family walk by behind us. Swell Season on the other hand is really Glen Hansard, made famous by the movie Once. While Hansard has a couple of good songs, once you have heard those, you seem to have heard them all. Start soft, build to a strong middle (often with an expansive yelling portion) and end soft. All but one of his songs tonight followed this pattern. So I would definitely see Beam in concert again, but don't need Hansard.