Tag Archives: movies

Lots of Good Movies This Year

We might have to make a few exception this year to our decision not to go the theater anymore…hopefully won’t have experiences like the last time

Rudeness is destroying the arts

or Why I Don’t Leave The House Anymore

“Am I disturbing you?”

The last movie I saw in the theater was the 3-D version of Beowulf. The theater was fairly empty–maybe 30-40 people total. Two teenage girls sat two seats to my left. A man was in front of me. The two girls talked loudly through before the movie and when it started, they didn’t stop. They continued to talk and laugh loudly until the man in front gave up first:

Man: Excuse me ladies, the time for talking is over.

Girl: I ain’t talking to you! You turn right around and shut up. I ain’t disturbin’ no one.

Main: if you don’t stop talking, I will go get a manager and have you thrown out.

Girl: You shut up. Turn around, turn around… turn around mister.

Girl: <to me> excuse me, sir, am I disturbing you?

I looked at her and said, “Yes, you are.”

She shut up after that.

That wasn’t all in this showing. A man/woman couple behind me had the following exchange:

Woman: shut off your phone!

Man: I ain’t shutting off my phone! I don’t shut off my phone for anyone–I don’t even shut it off in church!

Woman: shut it off!

Man: No way!

(this repeated a few times in a similar vein.)

This man got up and left half way through the movie when his phone went off. He came in 20 minutes later with a friend, and they stood in the doorway and talked VERY loudly to each other and on the phone. The man in front of me got up and asked them to leave, and they did..after a minute or two.

What goes through the heads of these imbeciles?

“Thanks for coming to our bachelorette party!”

My mother, grandmother, and family friend were in London. They got tickets to see Dirty Dancing (which they thought was good, but not as good as the movie of course). Apparently that show is popular as a destination for girls’ bachelorette parties. The entire performance was punctuated by screams and yells every time the lead male came out.

I’m not against a good time, but this is the theater not a private party. Most of the audience is there to see a show. The theater should advertise certain days as more appropriate for this thing–theater aficionados beware.

“It isn’t real Texas theater unless you get drunk off your rocker.”

When my wife was visiting family in San Antonio they got tickets to see the touring Phantom of the Opera. They had nosebleed seats, which made the experience even more unfortunate.

Apparently, the theater serves beer throughout the performance–not just intermission. The guys in front of them got up half a dozen times to refill their beer glass throughout the show, blocking their view for a significant period of time. Add to this, the glare from the beer glasses, the opening of cell phones during the performance, bathing everyone in bluish glow, talking, and basically acting as if they were at a rodeo.

What is wrong with people that this is accepted behavior? Why aren’t these people kicked out more often? we (I’m including myself)willing to tell them their behavior is unacceptable and get management to act  ? And I mean without a refund–maybe even a fine or a ban.

Edit: My wife was so upset at the experience that she wrote the theater a letter of complaint.

Yeah, I’m a snob. So what–it doesn’t make me wrong.

All of these stories come down to rudeness at a basic level. People just don’t care what effect their actions will have on others. Sooner or later, this will creep up into the higher arts–classical music and opera, if it hasn’t already. Nobody will enjoy anything because of the few who just don’t care and ruin the experience for everybody.

I actually don’t think I’ll ever attend the theater to see a film again. We finally bought our first TVand a sound system. It’s modest, but it’s better than having expensive experiences marred by idiots.

How to catch a NetFlix thief

Via Geekologie comes the hilarious tale of a man (boy, really) caught stealing NetFlix DVDs from a mailbox. The comments are funny, too. Some seem like they’re obviously written by the neighbor.

One issue I didn’t really see addressed in the comments on the post is the overall issue of mail safety. People need to consider the seriousness of stealing mail. There’s a reason the fines for it are so severe. A reliable and trusted mail system is the foundation of a good portion of our society and its communications mechanisms.

Having lived overseas, and having had many family members live all over the world, I can personally testify to the need for a secure mail system. There are countries I would not mail a package to–it would just be a waste of money. The security of our system *HAS* to be enforced harshly or people will lose faith in it and it becomes a system of corruption and scamming. This kid got off lucky. If he were older or there were stronger evidence he were stealing more valuable items, or he were being less discriminating in what he stole, I think he could have gotten a far worse punishment.

Thoughts on Writers Guild of America Strike

This strike is a big deal, but it’s much bigger deal for Hollywood, the producers and writers than for the rest of us. I think they are facing some specific dangers that they had better think about before they drag on too long. The actual points the union and producers are arguing about are probably valid, some on both sides, but whatever–that’s irrelevant for my point. For the viewing public–I don’t think we’ll notice or care as much.

I’m thinking about hockey–they used to be the #4 sport, then they had a strike. Now, more people watch POKER on ESPN than hockey.

And airlines–when their workers go on strike, I think it definitely hurts the airline as a whole, because in the end we the people don’t get our service. We choose something else. And we might not come back.

I think Hollywood needs to examine some facts: TV viewership is going down, way down. There are only a handful of shows that really do well. The 90% of the others will be what’s hurt by this strike. People will come back to Leno, the Daily Show, The Office, and the Simpsons, etc. The other ones are in danger. TV has very stiff competition from the Internet, DVDs, video games (video game industry is MUCH larger than Hollywood), satellite radio, YouTube, ipods, and tons of other little distractions. Sure, lots of online content is derived from traditional content, which comes from Hollywood, but much of it is user-generated or at least independent. If TV goes out, it’s so easy for people to find other avenues for entertainment. I wonder if the same writers that are striking will lose their jobs a week after they get back to work when their shows are canceled because nobody’s watching them anymore. (Of course, they’ll just move on to the next project, but it’s still disruptive.)

I’m also curious (with any union)–how many of the members are really happy with how the union does things. I really don’t have any idea–but at some point a union might not be the best way to do business, especially in today’s global economy.

The strike by itself isn’t anywhere close to enough to doom the TV/movie industry, but put together with all of these other forces, they could be in real trouble. Meanwhile, we’ll just look for the next big star on YouTube rather than Hollywood… (more people watch Ask a Ninja than some TV shows, after all)

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Neo Must Die – Give us the Matrix

We don’t want to be free. Neo is our enemy, not our savior.

Most of us have seen The Matrix, or are at least familiar with the story. Neo is our hero in the movie, a virtual god in training, selflessly seeking to destroy the Matrix and free the enslaved humans therein.

Yet, curiously, one of the freed humans desires to get back into the Matrix. “Ignorance is bliss,” proclaims Cypher. Tired of the grit of the real world, he wants to enjoy his virtual steak in a comfortable booth in a nice restaurant in oblivion. Obviously the bad guy, he makes a deal with the Agents and betrays Neo and the crew.

Pointless to ask which character do you identify with more?

The ironic truth is that we humans are willingly inserting ourselves into the Matrix. We don’t need to wait for the Machines to come get us. We’re building them and strapping them on, plugging them in, and embedding ourselves within them.

Think of these trends:

  1. iPods – It seems like there are nearly as many pairs of white ear buds as humans. It is easier than ever to block out the deafening silence with music, podcasts, and tiny videos for the attention-challenged masses. Do I have an iPod that I listen to while cooking, cleaning, building Legos, driving, falling asleep? You betcha.
  2. World of Warcraft, Second Life, other MMORPGS – I think the resemblance of these to the Matrix is actually more superficial than anything else. They are obvious fantasy playgrounds. And yet…we read about WoW weddings, offline guilds, and more. Companies have virtual presences in Second Life. Real estate is bought and sold. Compare the experience of Mildred in Fahrenheit 451 and her 3-walled interactive-TV enclosure. Is that some way between virtual realities and alternate, livable realities? Does your Second Life avatar look just like you? Why not?
  3. 24-hour news – It’s clichĂ© to rail against the 24-hour media, and I don’t want to do that specifically. But it is another aspect of being “plugged in” to the world. We always have to know what’s going on everywhere (ignoring for the moment that most TV news is now tabloid and worthless).
  4. Facebook, mySpace, etc. – These online communities have replaced many of the traditional face-to-face interactions we partake in. We count our friends, visit their pages, listen to their music, understand and comment on their thoughts, sometimes without ever actually meeting.
  5. Twitter – is there anything more Borg-like than being continually updated with the status of hundreds of other individuals? Once we harness this power we, in effect, become individual cogs in a great machine.
  6. Rise of Video over Literature – Books are still incredibly popular and probably will be forever, but the potential exists for books to be superceded by video-on-demand. We’ve always had a “Matrix” in our minds–a place to escape to, interpreting the words on the page however we like. With video, however, the vision is placed upon us and we become part of it, rather than it becoming part of us.
  7. Simplifying life by placing organization burdens on computers – PDAs, Getting Things Done, Outlook. Unburdening our crowded minds, allowing the computer to track our lives for us, freeing us for more important pursuits. Rather than mindless tasks that we all must do, we can focus our energy on our creativity.

What happens to the human race as our reality is supplemented so heavily by virtual realities, by computers, by constant flows of information, and yet coincidentally we have so many automated processes to filter and store that information for when we need it. Do we become hyper-productive and fantastically creative? Do we enjoy the fruits of nearly infinite resources like learning and exploration for its own sake? Or do we become lazy and unproductive, mere taskmasters over the computers which run our lives, stuck in fantasy worlds more exciting than our own?

It’s not that any of these things are bad. What is evident now is that the Matrix itself isn’t bad. Neo is the Luddite trying to hold us back, pull us out of the hyper-connected, multiplexed virtual realities of the 21st century into the grim shadows of “real” life. Real life–that which deals pain equally with joy, sadness with happiness, tough breaks with outstanding successes, where you’re paid to work, not play, not be a hero.

Of course, the Matrix portrays a world equivalent to our own, with the real world being brutally harsh for human existence. But the difference is only in degree. Either way, we’re happier being in a virtual world that is somehow more attractive than the one we physically exist in.

Neo must die. Leave us alone to enjoy our fantasies, our electronically-fueled dalliances in worlds unknown.

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The Fountain

We just got Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain in the NetFlix mail today, and we loved it. Definitely worth watching, a thinking movie, a feast for the eyes. The use of lights was spectacular. It was in the same realm as What Dreams May Come (though I liked that one better), but it also made me think of Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead. I’m afraid if I say why it will give too much of the movie away. It just needs to be seen and experienced.

See it–a wonderful movie.

Fahrenheit 451

I just read the book Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. This is the first time I’ve read it, never having come across it in school, like most people seem to. To me, it was the greatest argument against getting a TV. My wife and I decided towards the beginning of our marriage to never subscribe to cable TV. My parents never did while I was growing up. We will probably get a TV at some point, but it won’t be hooked up to anything but a DVD player.

The theme of the book was not exactly what I expected: I had always heard it was about government censorship, and it is–sort of. The more important theme running through it is the danger of intellectual laziness. It portrayed a world where various minority groups demand that offensive books be banned, eventually leading to the solution of burning nearly all non-trivial books (operating manuals and such).

The point is that the problem started with the people, not the government. They demanded softer forms of entertainment: TV in it current form, comics, music. And all of those media were dumbed down to the point of banality as well.

Those media don’t HAVE to be so mindless, but in their present form they largely are. Books that challenge or expand our thinking are crucial parts of our society and personal development. This is something I’ve been taught since a very young age–and it’s why I’ve got about 2,000 books in my home right now, waiting to be read or re-read, and why I can’t resist buying a new book almost every month!

Copying Beethoven

I was lucky enough to score some tickets to an advance promotion of Copying Beethoven from Washington’s Classical Station, WGMS. It opens this Friday. I was pretty excited. It was in the very nice E-street Landmark theater in downtown DC. Apparently, they had given away hundreds of tickets, but no more than 30 people show up. It’s a week night, but that seemed pretty low.

The movie tells a fictional account of the last few years of his life through the eyes of a young, female music copyist. The plot is fiction, but the insights into his mind and passion for music are the heart and soul of the movie; and these, I believe, are not that far off the mark. I am not an expert on his biography, but I have read a volume of his letters and the man in those was certainly portrayed in this movie: prone to a fiery temper and bouts of rashness, but then kinder, sadder, yet always passionate. This constant fluctuation of moods was appropriate and definitely inspired a sympathetic understanding.

I very much enjoyed the discussions of music, inspiration, God, and his family (in the form of his nephew): they also confirmed the sentiments I gleaned from his letters. The fact that Beethoven was a bridge between classical and romantic music is not-so-subtly represented, especially in one amusing scene.

The highlight of the movie, however, is the premier of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. Obviously, the entire Symphony could not be represented in the movie, but significant portions of each movement are played with great dramatic effect. The camera movements brought you directly into the orchestra with him, the musicians, and the choir. After this, the movie slowly winds to a close, somewhat anti-climactically, but this was probably accurate in real life as well.

Ed Harris does a wonderful job–I wasn’t sure I would get used to him, but after a while I forgot about the actor and just saw Beethoven. Diane Kruger also does a wonderful job in her fictional role.

7/10. If you truly appreciate Beethoven, you will love this movie.


We just watched Flightplan on DVD, and I have to say I thought it was a pretty good movie. It was interesting how it made you feel by taking place completely on an airplane (albeit a very large one). There were some weak moments, but all in all it kept me interested.

Dear Blockbuster,

Our relationship has been a long one, but at long last the time has come to go our separate ways. I can’t say our relationship has been a happy one. I remember the long nights of walking up and down your aisles, looking in vain for a decent movie, only to return home empty-handed to watch something I already have.

But I’ve found someone new–someone who will give me the movies I want to see, the movies I can’t find in any of your stores–good movies. New movies, old movies, classics, thrillers, TV shows–anything I’ve ever wanted to see, but couldn’t fit in a store.

I’ve moved to NetFlix and I won’t look back. With nearly 80 movies in the queue and counting I’m looking forward to a good year or more of movies I haven’t seen.