Archive for the ‘film’ Category


November 24, 2012

We don’t go to many movies, now that neither of our girls requires a chaperone. Nor (given Hollywood’s low-standard fare of late–“Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter”?!) do we very often want to. But we did want to see Lincoln, so yesterday we fought our way through the throngs of crazed Black Friday hyper-consumers in Green Hills. It was worth it.

“He stood where he thought he was right and crushed them with his candid logic,” wrote his assistant Hay. But he almost always set them up with an amusing story first. I try that sometimes too, in the classroom, but I don’t get as many laughs as he did.  Next time the room fails to respond, I’ll quote Abe: “Gentlemen [& Ladies], why don’t you laugh? With the fearful strain that is upon me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die, and you need this medicine as much as I do.”

So now I must read Team of Rivals, all 750 pages of it. But it may not fit into the time. Holiday break may not be long enough this year. 

Midnight in Paris: “brilliant”

June 27, 2011

Finally saw “Midnight in Paris” yesterday. Loved it, especially its skewering of the insufferable pedantic pseudo-intellectual professor. Shades of Annie Hall’s Marshall McLuhan. “Boy, if life were only like this.”

Also loved the moment early in the film when Gil tells Inez that

it is perfectly fine for your father & I to disagree. That’s what a democracy is. Your father defends the right wing of the Republican party and I happen to think you have to be like a… demented lunatic [to think that way]… Doesn’t mean we don’t respect each other’s views.

The serious message, beneath layers of literary nostalgia and visually-delightful ’20s Parisian charm, is that the Golden Age exists only in our imagination. If we imagine richly enough we bring it to life in the present, which is where everything nourishing has to live. We must endeavor to infuse our own time with vivacity and interest. Sentimental longing to live in the past denies and cheats the present. As John Dewey pointed out: “we always live at the time we live, and not at some other time.”

But sooner or later, count on it: someone will get misty-eyed and revisionist about our time, just as many youngsters now seem to be for the 1970s. Believe me, as one who was there: that time was not Golden.

On the other hand, some great Woody Allen movies were made then. If I’m not mistaken.

500 days

January 22, 2011

You never know what you’re gonna get, when Older Daughter picks the Friday night flick. But I liked 500 Days of Summer a lot. Roger Ebert did too:

…so rarely in the movies do we find characters arguing for their aesthetic values. What does your average character played by an A-list star believe about truth and beauty?

Here is a rare movie that begins by telling us how it will end and is about how the hero has no idea why.

It wasn’t as cynical about the redemptive possibilities of True Love as I thought it would be, and it featured one of my favorite Alain de Botton books too: The Architecture of Happiness. We do have to build it, don’t we? And most times we do take our original inspiration from one source, and end up living with another. It had a nice, happy, not-totally-Hollywood ending: the possibility of love and happiness suddenly appears, for the re/dejected hero who’s been busy making other plans. But there’s no promise of “happily ever after.” He and we can live for now on possibility, just like young Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate (cleverly evoked in this film).

It joins my short list of favorite stories featuring greeting card writers. (Richard Ford’s Lay of the Land is the other.)

But what about True Love, and the One Right Person? That still sounds too Platonic for me, in the way of the Symposium:

Each of us when separated, having one side only, like a flat fish, is but the indenture of a man, and he is always looking for his other half…

And when one of them meets with his other half, the actual half of himself, whether he be a lover of youth or a lover of another sort, the pair are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and would not be out of the other’s sight, as I may say, even for a moment: these are the people who pass their whole lives together; yet they could not explain what they desire of one another. For the intense yearning which each of them has towards the other does not appear to be the desire of lover’s intercourse, but of something else which the soul of either evidently desires and cannot tell…

The “something else” Plato imagines is the eternal abstract essence of Beauty. Real love is more precise, particular, transient, and lower-case. Isn’t it? Tom loves what about Summer? “I love her smile, her hair, her knobby knees…” But also how she makes him feel like a better person, makes him happy enough to break into gleeful (Glee-full!) song and dance on the way to work. That feeling doesn’t last forever, but it’s a good one.

And that was a fun flick. “Ive just seen a face” is the beginning, and the end, and the beginning…

just a thinker

December 23, 2010

“No limos, no bimbos…just a thinker”-Woody Allen’s Professor Levy:

It is only we, with our capacity to love, who give meaning to the indifferent universe… And yet, most human beings seem to have the ability to keep trying, & even to find joy from simple things like their family, their work, and from the hope that future generations might understand more. Crimes & Misdemeanors

Professor Levy, no Sisyphus, took his own life: a cautionary tale for all would-be “thinkers” and philosophy-documentarians. [The real Levy]

But what a terrific film.