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Movies, in Brief

These days of unpacking still preoccupy my time, but they do become tiresome, and even though their end is visible, their end also hints at all the new things that must be done to make this apartment truly livable: shelves, table and chairs, counterspaces must be bought; storage space must be found; closet doors must be rehung so they will open. When it all gets to be too much, K and I go to the movies. I’ve mentioned and reviewed some of what we’ve seen this summer; here’s the rest:

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is a farce that for a moment I thought seemed Homeric until I realized that the Odyssey is much more concerned with character and with providing a semblance of realism in its plot. Why Keira Knightley can’t just settle down with one swashbuckler or another I have no idea; why the movie was so long on chase scenes (on islands, on the ocean) I likewise have no idea. The one moviegoing boy I know, however, was incredibly enthusiastic about Davy Jones’s octopus face, and he liked the movie as much as he likes all action movies. The cliffhanger, indeed the whole movie, was silly, though, oddly, not entertaining and not unentertaining at once.

A Prairie Home Companion is a fun little show, not unlike the radio program, although the radio program that’s performed in the movie seems to be little more than singing acts performing songs and fake advertisements because all the set pieces and narrated characters from the radio show have been personified in the likes of Kevin Kline and Woody Harrelson. In other words, it’s fan fiction about Garrison Keillor’s radio show written by Keillor himself. It’s a sweet movie, with darling performances by Harrelson and Kline and of course by Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep, unfortunately capped by a lame attempt to make Lindsay Lohan look old. (In fact, I don’t really get the casting of Lohan in general: her character and her persona clash something awful.)

The Night Listener is one of those winter-in-the-summer flicks, a well-wrought thriller that is creepy in part because Robin Williams’ character does a lot of stupid things. Trying to track down a mysterious dying fan who may or may not exist, he goes to the upper Midwest at the only time of the year the upper Midwest is interesting to Hollywood, winter, and wanders around a lonely small town in a parka. It’s a classic Hitchcockian plot. I left the movie appreciating it for that reason, in the same way that I appreciated The Machinist for its deliberate Dostoevskian ways.



is it wrong to ask a hermit never to use the word “darling” as an adjective again?

Darling, don’t be so censorious.

Ditto on Pirates. I just wanted to fast-forward the damn thing.

Rolling and running. It was really all too much.

I was really curious, though, about the natives in the beginning. They were stereotypes, obviously, of “Island Tribe,” a la this, and they were transparent backdrops to the white people (as natives were in the 17th/18th/19th cs.). But then, what else were they? I guess I don’t get the historical setting of the movie—clearly it’s Imperial Britain, probably turn of the 18th century, but what dreams are these that let contemporary screenwriters imagine this Imperialism? Or am I looking too deep? I mean, I guess it’s just as likely that there’s no real historical situating, just filmic situating, and the “research” that went into the PoC series was as deep as watching a bunch of pirate movies, but still… even those are based on something, and what’s changed? Why make a pirate movie today?

I think it’s similar to the debate on the presidential picture on kb.net. It’s not really about history at all, but recreating the historical world as the pop culture audience expects it to be recreated. Your imagining that their research went no further than watching pirate movies is all too apt, in my opinion.