Hi everybody! Happy September. I hope everyone had a good Labor Day weekend. Mine was well-spent and unusually eventful. I saw Arianna Huffington speak, attended the Decatur Book Festival, saw two movies, drove to Tennessee, ate bad food, and bought cheap cheap books. For me, that's pretty damn good for a holiday weekend. But before I get into any of that, a bit of blog business.
One thing I neglected to mention on Thursday's post was that it marked the one-year anniversary of the launch of this blog. It was way back on August 31st, 2005 that I decided I would litter the internet with my own scattering of useless thoughts and uninformed opinion. You can read that goofy post of yesteryear here. You can read the first real post here. I have to admit that, in the beginning, my motivation to blog stemmed from something a literary agent blogger had written. She said that anyone who wanted to publish something these days needed their own blog. The gist of her posting was that if you queried a literary agent and they googled your name and found no blog or a web presence of any kind, you were sunk. I took it to heart then, but now, of course, I see that's not the case. Hardly any author I've read keeps their own blog, and certainly not with any frequency, but I guess I didn't think too hard about that then; someone whom I thought was in a position to know had written it, so I thought it must be true. And because it had the added bonus of being something I could do to help get my fiction published that didn't actually involve writing fiction, I was all for it. And here we are a year later.
I'm having an inordinately tough time trying to figure out a way to pithily sum up a year's worth of blogging and can't find a way to do it that doesn't make me sound like I'm obliviously self-involved, suffering from delusions of grandeur, or not in posession of a sense of perspective, so I'll leave off with the retrospective. I do want to say, briefly, thank you to everyone who reads this thing, (See! Already it sounds like an Oscar acceptance speech), and finds time to post the comments. I do greatly enjoy the comments. And also it's good practice for writing. Writing complete sentences and coherent thoughts isn't always easy, so doing a little bit every day can only help. Anyway. Here's to the next year. May it be an improvement over this one.
Onwards. Like I said, I saw two movies over the weekend. On Saturday, after getting my fill of the Decatur Book Festival, Peggy and I went to see a film that was listed on both Moviefone's website and voice recording as "Untitled Mike Judge Comedy". The film's actual title is Idiocracy and Sony, the studio releasing it, has unceremoniously dumped it on American theaters without marketing of any kind. They didn't even cut a trailer for it. Which was surprising to me because the film's pretty damn funny. There were a lot of little laughs, some big laughs, and no small amount of social commentary. I was impressed with the finished product and can't quite figure out what Sony has against Mike Judge that they would treat him so disrespectfully. Hasn't Office Space earned the studio a hundred million dollars or so on DVD by now? Shouldn't they have accorded him at least a baseline level of courtesy and told the people who wanted to see Judge's follow-up to Office Space by airing a commercial or two? If you cut a trailer for Idiocracy and have the announcer say, "From the director of Office Space", you get at least a $20 million dollar opening, don't you?
But then again, maybe the suits at Sony know something I don't. For example: Peggy and I were two of the five people in the theater during the screening. Ten minutes in, the two older ladies behind us filed out, and then about 20 or so minutes from the end of the movie, the older guy in front of us walked off and never came back. Then again, they weren't really the kind of folks who would have found Office Space terribly funny. The old ladies didn't like the cursing, I think, and the old man, I don't know. He was laughing pretty loud every now and again.
I've been talking about Idiocracy to everyone in my family mostly because it's a premise that's pretty fun to describe. Here's the plot: Private Joe Bowers (Luke Wilson) is a bored, unmotivated records librarian for the US Army. As part of a military experiment (whose aims are somewhat fuzzy -- something about freezing soldiers to use them in later wars), Joe is frozen for what's supposed to be one year. Joe is promptly forgotten about and he wakes 500 years in the future to find America has gotten very very very dumb. This leads us to the real premise of Idiocracy, which is thus: the people least-equipped mentally to have children, seem to have a lot of them without too much hard thinkin'. The people best-equipped mentally to have children, either hold off until it's too late or end up not having them at all. If this trend continues, the movie supposes, 500 years from now the mean human IQ would be somewhere hovering about 60,70. Probably less. So when Joe appears in this tard-filled landscape and tries to communicate with the people of the future, his speech is almost unintelligible to them because speech has degenerated into a language of slang, profanity and grunting -- heavy on the grunting. When Joe speaks, people want to beat him up because they think he sounds "faggy". Commercialism is so rampant that a sports drink has become the predominant beverage everywhere. So much so that when Joe says he wants water, the idiots screw up their faces and say, "What? Like from the toilet?" Essentially, the world has gone to shit and looks like an exaggerated version of the world we live in now and the results are pretty hilarious. There are lots of jokes and though some of them work better than others, Judge's social commentary is pretty hilarious throughout. Comparisons with "Futurama" are apt here, but Judge's take on the future is a little angrier than "Futurama's" was, and the humor is a little broader. I didn't laugh Talladega Nights hard, but I laughed quite a bit, and for at least the last 20 minutes, the only person around to be annoyed by it was my wife. I think this one's worth catching before Sony yanks it out of theaters after the "two weekends in theaters" clause in Mike Judge's contract goes into effect.
And then yesterday I saw The Illusionist. I think this movie's a kind of warm-up for the other movie about turn of the century magicians called The Prestige that's coming out next month. (And judging by the trailer, The Prestige looks good as hell.) The Illusionist is a quiet film, languidly paced, and interesting throughout, but not particularly suspenseful. Edward Norton plays the illusionist of the title, a man named Eisenheim with a mysterious past. In flashback we are shown the unmysterious part. As a teenager, Norton's character was in love with a princess. He and the princess couldn't be together because he was a commoner and she was, you know, a princess. So about 15 years later, the boy returns to Vienna, all growed up and working as a magician by the name of Eisenheim. Shortly thereafter, who should show up to one of his shows but the princess herself (Jessica Beal), on the arm to the heir to the Austrian empire, (Rufus Sewell). The central love triangle is thus established. But much of the movie concerns itself with the Chief Inspector Uhl (Paul Giamatti), a likeable though corrupt high-level policeman who does the Crown Prince's dirty work for him, however reluctantly. When the Crown Prince decides Eisenheim should vacate Vienna, Giamatti gets the assignment, which puts himself and Eisenheim at loggerheads. These scenes between Giamatti and Norton are some of the more interesting in the film, as both characters are conflicted -- as people they like one another, but in their respective positions they are forced into an adversarial relationship.
[Possible Spoilers Below]. There isn't much to dislike about the movie; there weren't any glaring mistakes or subtle errors in approach by the filmmakers. But I did have one problem with the movie and it is this: there are many illusions done in the film, and I won't give away any of the secrets here, but I have to say I don't think the filmmakers were dedicated enough to making the primary illusion in The Illusionist convincing. I think the director telegraphed the falsity of it too strenuously and when we know the "what" and the "why" of the illusion at the onset, all that's left is the "how" and there's not a whole lot of suspense in that. All of this abstract talk will make perfect sense when you see the film.
Overall, a quality film, though it might go over better as a Saturday night rental than as an $18 visit to the local cinema.
Anyway, I have decent material for this week's blogs, so I'll save the Huffington talk, the book festival and Ruby Falls for later posts. I'm out.