January 26th, 2005

Time Considered as a Bowl of Poorly Cooked Porridge

Time is lumpy. You read it here first, this will be my official date and place of publication for Nobel prize purposes. Think about it. Nothing else in the Universe is evenly distributed. Not matter, not energy, not gravitation. We live in time, and cannot truly perceive it, although we feel its passage, like fish in the water, or birds in the air. I predict that when we are truly able to measure time (not just the passage of time) it will be found to have varying densities and currents. Our perception is good enough that we just barely notice its local variations--the time that seems fast, then slow even though we are not moving at relativistic speed, or not moving at all. I also predict that time will be found to be a quantum phenomenon, like light, and I hereby dub the so-far theoretical time-packet a "croton" (for photon+crouton).

A Very Long Engagement

The next movie we saw was this French film, by the maker of Amelie, and starring the same actress, Audrey Tautou, for whom the term gamine might have been coined. Unlike the first movie, which was a happy farce, A Very Long Engagement is a bittersweet piece. Tautou is in waif mode as Mathilde, a young French girl mildly handicapped by polio. She becomes engaged to her childhood friend, Mathieu, just as he is haled off to the trenches of World War I. When she is informed that he has been put to death for cowardice, she refuses to believe it, and, once the war has ended, begins the search to find him and find out what really happened. The story of her hunt is told alternating with the stories of other persons whose lives were affected by the same events, and flashbacks exposing the stupidity, cruelty, and brutality of the conduct of the war. This really is a marvelous piece. It has the same beautiful photography, open frankness, and wonderful acting as Amelie, but with a more mature, powerful plot. In French, with subtitles. Nudity, a couple of tasteful sex scenes. Highly recommended for mature viewers.

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

Going from the sublime to the ridiculous, A Series of Unfortunate Events was good fun. The movie adapts three of the popular series of black comedies, The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, and The Wide Window, into a humorous melodrama. Cut into sections, the film would have made a great “Perils of Pauline” style cliffhanger serial. Jim Carey manages to look uncannily like the illustrations of Count Olaf, and hams it up appropriately for the kind of “Snidely Whiplash” villain he is supposed to be. The children are well cast in Emily Browning as Violet Baudelaire, Liam Aiken as Klaus, and twin girls as baby Sunny (only Karis Campbell is listed on the internet, but the movie titles listed both--), and are ably supported by Billy Connolly as Uncle Mortimer, Merle Streep as Aunt Josephine, and Timothy Spall as Mr. Poe. A good feature of the film is that Lemony Snicket’s lugubrious narration, which some readers find to be the worst feature of the books, is kept to a minimum.

House of Flying Daggers

And back to the not-quite-sublime, but nevertheless very good. House of Flying Daggers is being compared on a regular basis with both Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which is not really just. House is not as stylized as Hero, nor as magical as Crouching Tiger. What it does have is a marvelously convoluted plot of intrigue and betrayal, enhanced by just enough of the magical level of martial arts. It stars Zhang Ziyi (of Crouching Tiger and Hero) as well as veteran actors Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro. A lot about this movie is swift and brutal—both the fighting and the sex. In fact, the “sex scenes” are quite pure with no nudity. In fact, it got to be rather an unintentional running gag that every time someone wants to have sex with Mai (Ziyi), they end up wrestling on the ground—we conjectured that she would ultimately choose the man who offered her a real bed—but ultimately the competition for her crosses path tragically with the ongoing rebellion and counter-rebellion. While still very good, I would class this with other serious historical dramas rather than the mythic works such as Crouching Tiger. Recommended. In Mandarin, with subtitles.

Rant One: Bush's Second Inaugural

In my opinion, the speech was one long fatutity from end to end. In my opinion, when he dared to boast that "the pretentions of tyrants would be laid bare," the Spirit of Freedom should have appeared and torn his clothes off--.

I'm generally against death penalties, but--

--in my opinion, it would be perfectly just to take this fool who caused the train wreck in California out and tie him to the tracks, so that what he started could be finished. (For those not having heard this story yet, a man in Glendale, California, drove his car onto commuter railroad tracks and stuck it there, intending to commit suicide, and then funked it and jumped clear at the last moment. The train collding with it derailed and struck an oncoming train, resulting in ten deaths (so far) and 200+ injured. The man has been apprehended and will likely be charged with multiple counts of manslaughter.)