I May Have Started This

Waaaaaaay back about 2003 I described Die Hard as my favorite Christmas movie. I feel like it has taken ten years for it to become something of a meme, enough for people to say that, yes, Die Hard is not a “Christmas movie.”

For the record, I meant it tongue in cheek. I had developed a tradition of rewatching Die Hard at this time of year because it’s so worth watching again, and the Christmas elements made it seem timely. The same is true of While You Were Sleeping, even if that is not a “teach it in how-to-make-a-decent-film class” the way Die Hard is.

Arguably the meme peaked for me a few weeks ago when I saw a character is Josh Roseman’s fantastic Secret Santa ebook refer to Die Hard as his favorite Christmas movie.

So while I sympathize with Sean Hackbarth in his defense of it on Facebook, I am more inclined to agree with Doug Mataconis et al.

But I reserve the right to keep calling it “my favorite Christmas movie” if only out of habit. It’s a Wonderful Film.

Ender’s Game

I am officially a homophobe and enemy of good LGBT polifodder everywhere because I darkened my soul with a viewing of Ender’s Game at the theater. I paid money! Oh my god I must support Card’s alleged views! The humanity! What would my gay uncle gay nephew, gay friends, and muddled nephew niece think!?

Aside from that, holy crap was it a brilliantly done movie.

Stunning visuals, amazing acting, brilliant adaptation, to the extent I remember the book after so long. I read the entire set through Children of the Mind, but one could easily stop with Ender’s Game. I forgot some details like his older brother. The main thing is that they did a stunning job on the challenge of fitting what mattered to tell the story into the length and format of a film, and made it look arguably better than my mind’s eye ever did.

I saw it at a $6.50 matinee on a modest screen. I’ve heard it gains from the big screen, but I was more than happy. I was also pleased they did not make a 3D version. I’ve gotten used to seeing most of the big movies in 3D and perhaps on a rilly rilly big screen in comfy seats that still lack enough leg room (and I have short legs!), but I was both on a budget and not concerned with that, on top of being saved by that production decision.

Seems About Right

Your results:
You are Malcolm Reynolds (Captain)

Malcolm Reynolds (Captain)
100%
Zoe Washburne (Second-in-command)
85%
Dr. Simon Tam (Ship Medic)
80%
Wash (Ship Pilot)
60%
Kaylee Frye (Ship Mechanic)
60%
River (Stowaway)
60%
Jayne Cobb (Mercenary)
40%
Derrial Book (Shepherd)
30%
Inara Serra (Companion)
20%
Alliance
20%
A Reaver (Cannibal)
15%
Honest and a defender of the innocent.
You sometimes make mistakes in judgment
but you are generally good and
would protect your crew from harm.

Click here to take the Serenity Firefly Personality Test

Either-Or

Yesterday I saw Atlas Shrugged Part 2. This time around, it was playing at a nearby Regal theater, which also showed Obama’s America, so I didn’t have to drive to a far-flung, unfamiliar theater, as I did for Part 1.

Of the two, Part 2 is unquestionably better, and not merely due to the meatier, more exciting material. It also did not suffer from the cast changes as I thought it might.

If there was ever any question that Atlas Shrugged falls in the science ficion genre, this movie, even more than the book, argues that it does. Simply being future/alt-history suggests it, without some of the futuristic technologies or elements.

If there was ever any question that John Galt was inspired by Nikola Tesla, this movie, even more than the book, makes clear that he was. Among the special effects are those associated with efforts to get Galt’s “motor” for drawing unlimited power from the air to work without Galt around to help.

As an aside, such a device represents the ultimate intellectual property challenge. Obviously, if anyone can build such a device, can know how, have access to it for reverse-engineering, then selling electricity generated from it would not be lucrative for long. The very reason Tesla lost backing for the very device he allegedly had working or near to it. As such, it would have to remain a black box, unable to be accessed to reverse-engineer. At that, simply knowing such a thing was possible would set others on the path of figuring out how to create their own. On the other hand, one might accept it quickly falling into public domain or generating competition, given what it would do to the world, and given the other ways its inventor could then make money.

Anyway, I liked the movie a lot. The script was pared down from the source material skillfully, with inclusion of key points, some of which I might have expected to suffer. What it could not convey was Reardon’s internal guilt and thought processes that made blackmailing him successful. I am not sure this would have been clear to a viewer who’d never read the book, despite being subtly implicit.

The flash forward opening was a nice touch, drawing us in with excitement and adrenaline. The fact that it is set in near future modern times actually helps Reader’s Digest things. All the action regarding the tunnel disaster and the buck-passing is distilled into the central control room and the scene itself.

The root of money speech was there, briefer but more than adequate. The breakout was there. The cabin was there, but barely, and wasn’t it in New Hampshire originally? And not sitting on a flood plain, immediately beside water? The wet nurse was well done, and well acted, in that you could see the character developing and thinking without a word.

Most of the casting was good, even great. Esai Morales, whom I knew from the ill-fated Caprica, was a better Francisco. Lillian was equally good, perhaps better, even if the original was the one to fit my mental image. This one was at least as good at portraying that form of evil. I could see Cheryl’s gears starting to turn before the movie was out. I couldn’t remember if she had her final scenes in 2 or 3, but must be 3. Dagny was better. Reardon was as good or better, though he could have supplied the voice of Batman in the most recent films. Robert Picardo rocks anyway, and did in this. Even having read about Teller’s small speaking role, I almost missed who it was, and there were faces like that of Michael Gross that looked familiar but I didn’t place at the time. Wyatt wasn’t in it, but they showed his picture on the news as the guy from Part 1. I’d love to see him back, even if he is not as described in the book.

On an unexpected note, I loved the soundtrack, or score, if that’s the better term. I don’t usually even notice a soundrack. I stayed through the credits mainly for the music.

I’m still amused by DB Sweeney as Galt! And we still haven’t seen his face, even at the end, when he finally becomes a person, not a question. I will forever think of him as Doug Dorsey from The Cutting Edge, one of my favorite “good bad movies” of all time. I’ve watched it at least six times. In Part 3, seeing him in the actual role may allow me finally to picture him otherwise.

There was one point when I thought we might actually see Danneskold, who has been almost entirely left out of the movie adaptation, but it proved instead to be the scene when Reardon calls his lawyer and finally orders up a divorce. About time.

The times depicted are worse and yet shockingly similar to our current ones. The actions of government are familiar, as are the consequences. The use of consequences of government to justify even worse actions of government are familiar. Even timeless.

Could someone see it without Part 1? Absolutely, if they’ve read the book. Probably, even if they haven’t. It doesn’t start with one of those total recaps, but you get enough of an idea the circumstances and background. Perhaps I am biased.

Overall, it’s a better adaptaion than we might have had cause to expect, considering the density of the source.

2016: Obama’s America

Today I saw 2016: Obama’s America over in Kingston, which is remarkably close for a documentary of the sort that would normally be little seen. It may help that we’re in a movie wasteland at the moment, and the film got enough momentum to make it clear to theater owners it had an audience. Yay, revenue! It sure doesn’t hurt that it’s timely.

I was familiar with the Dinesh D’Souza theory, explaining Obama via anticolonialism, as opposed to mere marxism or the like. It had seemed sound, and seems more so after seeing the well made film that makes it explicable to the broader public.

The film in part is an autobiography of D’Souza himself, especially in the beginning, since he and Obama have such similarities in their backgrounds. I was pleased to learn that D’Souza, like Obama, is a fellow 1961 baby. I’d hoped that Obama would make our birth year look good, so it’s distressing that exactly the opposite has happened.

I’m not surprised that Obama is unhappy, now that the film has clearly found a significant audience. It’s almost a shame it needs to generate revenue, so it can’t simply be made freely available to all before the election. Bad as the alternative (the primary one who can actually win, apologies to the admirable Gary Johnson, best of the three), there is no way a second Obama term will end well. Worse if he somehow tries to extend his first term, as some have surmised is possible from someone who is cunning yet obfuscatedly stupid.

I was pleased that, in one important detail, the film did not spare George W. Bush, who helped make Obama possible, and who shines as an example of how rogue a second term can go. In an ideal world, we could go back and have someone who wasn’t a ridiculous alternative run against Bush and win in 2004. Kerry? Really?

If the film has a weak point, it is toward the end. It’s all build up, little conclusion, at least when weighed against the name of the film. 2016… what will it be like if Obama inexplicably wins another term? That part seems like three sentences inserted at the end of a thirty page term paper. Perhaps there need be no more than that, since anyone with a brain can observe and extrapolate (more so after seeing the movie), but it felt a bit like false advertising. Not that it’s a special effects heavy disaster film, flashing forward to show the seas rising and a wounded planet festering irrecoverably. Just the facts, man, to make of what you will.

Well worth seeing. You will know Obama when it’s through, which there was not enough (none) of the last time around. I mean, know him beyond what you have observed of his time in office. Go. See it. Make it the number one political documentary.