ScrimismsPresently suffering a dearth of witticisms

January 2007

Movies and News30 Jan 2007

Last Monday I saw “Volver“, a tale of murder and restaurant management set in Spain. Oh, and the main character, played by Penelope Cruz, is visited by the ghost of her dead mother, who pretends to be an illegal immigrant and frequently hides under the bed.

I’ve made it sound a bit silly but it actually isn’t. The director (Pedro Almodóvar, for anyone who knows Spanish cinema) did a great job of making it feel very natural, despite the supernatural stuff going on.

It’s really good. Definitely the best movie I’ve seen in a while. Shengrong decided to tag along at the last minute and really liked it as well, and our tastes are partially divergent, so it’d probably appeal to a lot of people.

My only minor complaint was that the subtitles went by quickly. I guess the Spanish talk too fast.

The film also lead me to some new music. At one point in the film, Penelope Cruz “sings” a song called “Volver” (which means, “To Return”), and the voice you hear is that of Estella Morente, who, I gather from the interweb, is an up-and-coming flamenco star. I bought an album of her’s from iTunes and am enjoying it a lot.

Speaking of returning, “Volver” might be the last movie for me for a while. I ordinarily attend the Monday night screenings put on by the local film co-op, but my TA duties this term put me in the computer lab on Monday and Wednesday nights. I’m helping to teach Matlab programming to a bunch of first-year engineering students. I’ve never done Matlab before. Amusingly, I found out I was supposed to be in the lab a couple hours before the one on last Wednesday night, so I had to “learn by doing”. But, programming is programming, and fortunately the other TAs have used Matlab before so if I get stumped by a question I can ask them. Fun times.

Links and Musings25 Jan 2007

I got in an argument with Kouvon over the plot of “24″. I was arguing that the fastest (if messiest) way to disarm a nuclear bomb is to strap conventional explosives on the side, set the timer, and run like hell. Nuclear bombs are kind of fragile. If you smash the plutonium into small bits this effectively prevents it from reaching “critical mass” (since what you are left with are a bunch of small masses).

Anyway, my method has the downside of scattering plutonium all over the place, but the upside of saving L.A. I think Jack Bauer probably chose something cleaner and more heroic.

During the course of my googling for evidence to support this thesis, I stumbled on this radio play: The Sixth Annual Bomb Disarming Contest. It’s the ultimate in “extreme sports”.

(P.S., I have a couple other blog entries mostly written and mouldering away on my hard drive. I promise, you, my dear and lonely reader, that I’ll post ‘em eventually. I’ve been rather busy of late.)

Movies17 Jan 2007

Over the last few days I’ve taken in Children of Men and For your Consideration.

The premise of Children of Men is that, a few years from now, all women have become infertile and no babies are born. Fast forward to 2027, and the world society has largely collapsed as people come to grips with the inevitable extinction of our species. (It was at this point that Shengrong, recalling the title, began keeping an eye out for pregnant men).

The story centers on an illegal immigrant in totalitarian Britain who has somehow managed to become pregnant. She quickly becomes a pawn in a political struggle between the government and a terrorist group called the “Fishes”. Her unlikely protector is a weary former activist who is charged with getting her to the coast where a boat is waiting to take her to some better place. The movie is quite gripping and contains a lot of memorable images from a dystopian world. We both quite liked it.

For Your Consideration is a Christopher Guest film (Spinal Tap, Best in Show, etc) about a bunch of has-been, not-yet-to-be, and clueless actors and film-makers trying to make a family drama called “Home for Purim”. Purim, I learned, is a Jewish holiday. Don’t worry, the title of the film-within-a-film gets changed to “Home for Thanksgiving” after the studio directors ask for “less Jewish-ness”.

“Award shows are the backbone of this industry”.
“This is an industry known for having no backbone.”

For Your Consideration was funny but a little tedious. There is a natural human tendency to become enthralled with one’s own image in the mirror. Sadly, this reflection isn’t really a novelty to the rest of us – we see your ugly mug every day, after all. I think there is a bit of that going on in this film, Guest and co. are too busy staring at themselves (Actors, filmmakers, Hollywood) to make it interesting for the rest of us. In fairness, I should say that I think Hollywood is difficult to satirize since it is very extreme to begin with.