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A Beautiful Mind

My Second Favourite Movie of All Time
First off, let me get past commenting on those who derided the fact that the movie played fast and loose with the facts -- that it wasn't a documentary. Pfui! It wasn't presented as such. Okay, that's that.

*** SPOILERS ALERT *** (Stop reading now if you haven't seen the film)

I had a rough idea of the plot: a brilliant mathematician is brought down by schizophrenia. This had a special meaning to me, because I once heard a presentation by a man (let's call him Fred) who conquered his schizophrenia using the power of logic. Doctors told him it was impossible, and this is precisely what Doctor Rosen tells Nash. They may be right in most cases ... but not always. Nash did it, and so did Fred.

Yet I didn't truly understand Fred's accomplishment until I was slapped in the face by this movie. When Doctor Rosen reflects on what it's like to find out that people you know never even existed, I was struck hard by the brutality of the notion. From that point onwards in the film, I kept wondering, "What if you had to doubt absolutely everything?"

I was intrigued by the way that we're given hints that certain elements are delusion. My first big clue was the digital readout embedded in Nash's arm. It was an huge anachronism on the heels of some other less stark anachronisms. From that point onwards, I started wondering if Parcher was real, but I couldn't see how that was possible. And because I couldn't resolve the matter in a tidy way, I obtained a faint inkling of what Nash's affliction was like.

One scene that hit me hard was when Nash passes Charles' little girl on the steps after telling her he couldn't talk to her again. She holds open her arms for a hug, and he has to keep going. In that moment, I saw how tempting it could be to slide into the delusion. He also has to turn his back on the ideal buddy, and his Duty To Save The World!

I could go on and on, but I've only got 1000 characters. I expect you're wondering if I'll mention what my FIRST favourite movie is. It is "Talk Radio".

Train 48

Strangely Compelling -- Watch Before You Criticize
I've NEVER watched an entire episode of a soap opera, so I wasn't expecting to like Train 48. Yet I caught snippets of it while channel-surfing and eventually got drawn in. The two characters responsible for that were "Randy" (a nerd's nerd) and (believe it or not) "Brenda". (I hadn't seen "Johnny", but if I had I would have tuned in earlier.)

I'm amazed by the negative comments posted here about Train 48. The show is more difficult to write and act in than a typical soap opera because it has to reference the day's news. Yes, they just tuck in a minute or two for that, but that's on top of the already difficult challenge of putting on a soap opera. That is to say, the writers and actors never get enough time to carefully hone their craft. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the script changes are written on paper napkins. Considering the pressure, I think the writers and actors do a fine job.

I do agree that they could use a new theme song. The "Na, na, na, na, nah-nah traaain" song doesn't have much in the way of lyrics. Maybe it was hastily scribbled on a paper napkin.

Bob Roberts

I saw this movie shortly after it came out and I was awestruck. I just rented it again (August 2003) and find that it is as relevant now as it was then -- perhaps even more so.

I like the fact that the movie doesn't try to explain what exactly is behind Bob Roberts's campaign. There are some hints that he may be a pawn, and there are some hints that he may be playing a pawn. Wheels within wheels.

I also like the fact that they didn't take the easy route and make him into some kind of neo-Nazi. Yes, there was the guy with the intense eyes and "Bob" written on his forehead, but Bob was given a broader appeal and a message that sounded (on the surface) very positive.

Also subtle was the depiction of the media. When Bob's competitor (Paiste, played wonderfully by Gore Vidal) loses ground in the polls, the media keeps dragging up the "accusations", even after it's no longer news and has been fully debunked. We wonder: are they pandering? Is somebody telling them what to say? Or are they just incapable of reporting news competently? The movie leaves it to us to decide.

Another subtlety crops up when Bob falls off the motorcycle. Without writing a spoiler, I'll just say that we briefly (and not blatantly) see evidence that his "free spirit on a motorcycle" image was carefully designed and managed. (If it's not clear what I'm referring to, I'll just say "the other white suit".) The same level of subtlety occurs when one of his campaign workers leaves "by mutual agreement". It's not completely clear what her mistake was, but the stage-managing of the whole event (e.g. the "Dom Perignon" comment) is quite enough to make the underlying point that she wasn't sufficiently committed (or bamboozled) for whatever the heck was really going on.

I expect that if I saw this film a third time I'd see even more little tidbits like those.

Incidentally, I watched this movie with my jaw permanently dropped.

Aaagh! It's the Mr. Hell Show!

Deliciously negative!
Here's a show about various kinds of evil. Of course, you've got the lead character, Mr. Hell, who delights in bringing suffering to others (provided he can do it with a certain flair). But you've also got the evil that arises from just plain life. The character Josh keeps trying to tell us about reincarnation but, well, always goes on to his next life before he can finish the first sentence. A psychopathic harp seal kills people when he experiences flashbacks of an earlier time. A Victorian lady can't accomplish anything because of her time and place.

In other words, the show doesn't portray evil just to be shocking. Rather, it strips away our blindness to bad things and lets us laugh at them.

Take, for example, the parody of "The Lion King". While the father is telling his son about "The Circle of Life", the other animals (a.k.a. prey) start complaining that the circle seems pretty lopsided. The father tries to justify his explanation, but one animal (who is the process of being eaten) dismisses his argument with a pithy (and necessarily brief) remark.

I liked that parody because it attacked a very silly Disney movie that made snuggly little cuties out of carnivorous beasts. Case in point: note how the son in "The Lion King" eats grubs for most of the movie so the kids don't have to see how lions REALLY eat. The Mr. Hell Show is an antidote to that kind of "let's not think or talk about it" attitude.

The fact is, there are some sucky things in the world, and turning a blind eye for the sake of our comfort doesn't make them go away. However, if we can laugh at the absurdity of it all, maybe we can find the strength to actually DO something.

I think that is a sub-text of this cartoon. One reason I say that is that occasionally something pleasant DOES happen on the show, for no particular reason (e.g. the "Golden Baby" bits). In other words, the show isn't just wallowing in nastiness, but examining it with great deftness.

Smokey and the Bandit

For the time, this was just perfect!
I rated this movie as a "9". Yes, I know it wasn't insightful, and it didn't open up new vistas to me. However, it was a wonderful reflection of the time.

I fondly remember the CB radio craze of the 70's. I was very into that. I also enjoy tearing around in fast cars. (Actually, I had my CB radio installed in a motorcycle, but the idea is the same.)

"Smokey and the Bandit" will stand the test of time, because it is a snapshot of the 70's. Yes, it is silly and inane, but it wonderfully captures the spirit of that decade. There's no deep philosophy, here, but it is a glorious romp. The movie doesn't try to teach us anything about the human condition, but it does seek to entertain. In that respect, it succeeds very well.

Every movie has a goal. In some cases, the movie tries to enlighten us. However, this movie sought merely to take us away from our mundane lives for a while. It accomplished that very well indeed.

Young Frankenstein

More homage than comedy
I'd heard for so long that "Young Frankenstein" was a must-see movie that when a commercial-free station aired it, I made sure I taped it. However, halfway through viewing it, I stopped the tape and went off to do something else. A little later, I watched the rest of it out of what I can only call a sense of duty.

The 1930's feel was well done. The acting was also good (Gene Hackman was superb, as always). Teri Garr was so beautiful I found it hard to breathe. So there were many reasons I should have given this movie a rating better than 5. However, the movie simply failed to make me laugh. I don't think I even cracked a smile.

In fact, while watching the movie I had to find ways to amuse myself. For example, after the first Frau Blucher/horse joke, I knew it would be a running gag, so I tried to predict each time it would be inserted. I nailed most of them.

If this movie deserves an "excellent" rating, it must be because (as some have remarked) it treated the mythos with care and respect. However, since I've never been a fan of the Frankenstein films, I could only assess it by whether or not it made me laugh (which was the reason I watched it in the first place). Unfortunately, it didn't elicit any mirth.

This may be just the right movie for you, but I wouldn't watch it again.


I wore out my fast-forward button
I'm a history buff, and while my area of expertise is WW-II, I figured that I should watch this movie to find out more about the American Civil War (which I believe strongly contributed to the push for the Confederation of my country -- Canada -- in 1867).

I should have watched "Glory" again rather than this pompous atrocity. I got sick of watching people standing ramrod straight, wistfully gazing into the distance as they deliver a long, melodramatic soliloquy. Gosh, who knew the army was so full of philosophers?

I'd better read up on the battle from another source. Otherwise, whenever I think of the Battle of Gettysburg, I'll picture a bunch of guys standing around making speeches which are occasionally interrupted by a bit of a brawl.

The problem with this kind of presentation is that you know that the writers are just making stuff up (i.e. putting protracted proclamations into the mouths of people who never uttered them). As a result, you just don't know how much else was made up or bent to fit.

Also, the movie doesn't have any sense of proportion. The coverage of the first day focused on a valiant defense by one group, but there's barely a hint that any other men are doing more than composing their next oratory endeavor.

Definitely a film for Americans to watch if they want to remake their history into something even more epic than it already is. Definitely not a film for anybody trying to learn some history, as I was.

Talk Radio

I've seen this movie five times and I'd watch it again
This is a film about passion. The passion it depicts is largely misdirected, even for the leading man. But therein lies the incredible power of this film: it shows us that what we believe can be contaminated by nonsense, and can even lead us to do things that are destructive -- to ourselves or others. Moreover, those who try to escape from acquiring passion (watch the druggie who visits the studio) also risk self-destruction.

The world needs to hear the message of this movie more often.

Fight Club

A Near-Life Experience
Brilliant. Just totally, utterly brilliant. When the credits were rolling at the end, I simply sat there stunned.

I thought I was renting a fantasy about men "finding" themselves. I actually got it simply because I hadn't seen it before and figured it might be good for a laugh. I had no idea that it would be so deep, asking so many questions and keeping me both baffled and entranced.

If ever there was an example of "Don't judge a book (or DVD) by its cover", this is surely it. If you think you know what this film is about ... my first rule here is: don't ask any questions. Just see it!

THX 1138

I watched it on TV and quite enjoyed the commercials
I really truly hate to write negative reviews, but this movie ... uhh, let me say that it isn't for everyone.

If you like watching a bunch of people wandering around in a semi-comatose state wearing white coveralls in white corridors with all kinds of sciencey things going on, this is the movie for you. If you like watching yet another "1984" rip-off with a sub-text stolen from "Brave New World", this is a film you'll enjoy. If you are seeking a film that starts off confusing, stays that way, and ends that way, this is a must-see cinematic experience.

Personally, I was bored rigid. At no point did I care the slightest bit about any of the characters. Moreover, the movie was predictable -- I knew a good 40 minutes before the end how the last five minutes of the movie would evolve. What I didn't expect was the actual ending, which was as inspiring as having the main character say, "... and it had all been a dream!" (No, that's not how it ends, but when you see the movie, you may understand how that ending would have been perhaps more satisfying than the one we're given.)

Cinema buffs have told me that there are brilliant things about this movie. Well, okay, I saw a few good things. Most movies have them. Maybe a few clever camera angles and a superb job of wresting good visuals from a limited budget are worth applauding, but that doesn't mean I'm going to recommend the film to a friend.

Man on the Moon

Cinematic Rubbernecking
Throughout this film, I didn't know whether or not to be impressed or disgusted by Andy Kaufman. I had the same feeling one might get while driving past a car wreck. We wonder, "Is the driver all right?" but even if that's not the case, it's hard to look away.

Was the "driver" in Andy Kaufman's head "all right"? The movie makes some hints that he was. It even drops some hints that he might have been beyond normal understanding and in some ways a genius. On the other hand, it also gives you the option of seeing him as a raving loon.

There is one aspect of this film that is not evident until the very last seconds (no, this is NOT a spoiler) that leads me to believe that a LOT of people saw him as a genius: many of the people who worked with him had cameos in the film in which they portrayed their shock and dismay, yet they were not listed in the credits. Was this an homage?

How often do celebrities spurn the scrolling letters at the end of the film? They DO often remove their names if they are disappointed in the movie, but since they were playing themselves, and were showing their shocked reactions, it's hard to see how leaving their names off the credits would be any kind of statement.

You couldn't have paid me to watch Andy Kaufman, but I think that underneath his heavy-handed theatrics he did have some kind of message. I'm not sure the writers of this movie knew what that message was, and I'm not sure if Kaufman knew. Something about the perception of reality? Programmed reactions? Our ability to be manipulated?

I'm going to be thinking about this movie for a long time.

The Spanish Prisoner

Well, I Figured It Out!
I enjoyed this film because I had solved the mystery within the first few minutes. However, I'm not a mystery fan, so if I can figure it out, I expect that a real mystery fan would find this film far too easy. There were plenty of hints, and all you have to do is pay a bit of attention and have at least some knowledge of the kind of thing that this movie deals with.

I did not like the ending, though, because it didn't tie in to the clues as tightly as the rest of the film. Yes, there were hints, but I don't think there was sufficient evidence to figure it out. Mind you, if I WAS a mystery fan, I probably would have noticed a few items that (at first glance) seemed like mere window dressing but later turned out to have some bearing on the ending.

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