Movie: The Great Buck Howard

I’ve been waiting to see The Great Buck Howard since I missed it at Sundance two years ago. It wasn’t the greatest movie (quasi-pun intended), but I liked it well enough. Here’s why.

  • The main character is a kid who hates law school and only went because his father corralled him into it. I chose to go to law school on my own terms, but my father is a lawyer and I am in law school. (Strangely, and this goes for only a few people in law school, but I seem to have an affinity for books and movies about “the law.” By that I mean that I willingly and eagerly seek them out. Some of my classmates, instead, run the other way.)
  • The main character wants to be a writer. I would love to be a writer, but I’m not sure I’m willing to sacrifice the earning potential presented by the legal field. However, considering there are not yet any crops in my legal field, I may be just as well off either way. Hello, Hollywood?

That’s really where the similarities end. I wanted “the law” to play a bigger role in the movie, but it wasn’t. Except that “law school” is used as a symbol of oppression from which the main character escaped. I like the message – do what you love … no matter what … and enjoy the journey.

Book & Movie: Watchmen

My first book & movie review in one post. I finished reading Watchmen on Thursday and saw the movie on Friday. Both were excellent for different reasons.

The book is actually a collection of a twelve-comic series released by DC Comics in 1986 and 1987. Alan Moore was the author, Dave Gibbons was the artist and John Higgins was the colorist.

The story is this: The U.S. has a superhero, Dr. Manhattan, by way of a lab accident. He allowed them to win the Vietnam War and has kept the Russians at bay since. However, the possibility of a nuclear holocaust looms larger with each passing day. Preventing this is what the ultimate arc of the comic is about. On less of a superhero and more of an action hero level, the characters of the comic are seeking the mask killer – an unknown person who, in the first scene, killed the Comedian. Eventually, the two stories come together, though I will spare you the spoilers.

The story is nuanced, insightful and intriguing. It takes a hard look at society as it existed in the 1980s and saw that there was a lot wrong with the way we were living our lives. In one poignant scene on the gang infested filthy streets of New York City:

Dan Dreiberg: What’s happened to the American dream?.

The Comedian: It came true. You’re lookin’ at it.

Watchmen reminds me of Alan Sorkin’s writing for the West Wing. One of the many reasons I like the West Wing is because of the supporting facts, stories, and links between those facts and stories brought into the fiction of the show from reality. Doing so adds a great deal of credibility to the performance. The same is done in Watchmen to an equally effective degree.

The movie is very true to the book, excepting a debatable minor change to the ending. It is long, though entertaining. I would recommend that anyone wanting to see the movie first read the book. The movie will better keep your interest that way and you’ll have a better appreciation for the depth of the comic and the faithful adaptation of the movie.

Go read! Go see!

Movie: The International

I saw The International and was pleasantly surprised. The movie is about an Interpol agent trying to expose a bank’s role in an international arms dealing ring. It’s a bunch of people chasing each other. The U.S. DOJ is tracking down the Interpol agent. The Interpol agent is chasing the bankers. The NYPD team up with the Interpol agent and the DOJ at one point. The bankers are speaking with an African General, then later with a Middle East arms dealer. There’s also an Italian politician and an assassin involved.

What the movie lacked in substance, it more than made up for with its numerous sub-plots that came together as one. Despite the fact that the acting was suspect and the plot unbelievable, the movie submerged me in the plot quickly, and kept me interested throughout with action and pace.

Book: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Last fall I read What I Talk About When I Talk About Running ( hereafter “Running“) by Haruki Murakami. It’s a small book with nicely spaced lines of text. A quick read.

As you may well imagine, even before you open the yellow and red cover, Running is neither a running or writing book. It is about life. Murakami talks of owning a jazz bar in Tokyo in the 1960s. And hating it, but working hard. One day he decides to write a novel, submits it and wins a prize. His life begins as a novelist when he sells the bar and turns his full attention to writing. His writing success continues, but is secondary to his discussions of running. Murakami credits running for his writing success. He draws many similarities between the two pursuits. The solitary approach required by each. The pain of each. The decision to not suffer. The focus required.

Running provides a practical approach to life. Murakami talks of struggling with his slowing marathon time. Training harder, longer, or differently does not help. He is simply growing old and slowing down. He acknowledges that this doesn’t translate to writing. That writers peak at varying ages.

The bottom line is that to be successful running a bar, writing fiction, or running marathons, he has to work hard and be extremely focused.

Movie: He’s Just Not That Into You

He’s Just Not That Into You made me smile. It wasn’t hilarious. It wasn’t overly cheesy. It wasn’t a great or classic story. It definitely wasn’t made for men. But it made me smile, and I appreciate that.

I just wonder: How does it feel for those couples watching the movie that realize they’re living examples of the couples in the movie?

Movie: Frost/Nixon

I saw Frost/Nixon this afternoon at the reduced rate of $7. The movie was worth the time and money. I don’t know much about Nixon beyond the loss in the debates to Kennedy because he looked tired and the Watergate “blemish.” And I’ve never cared much about Nixon as his time was before my time. Regardless, the movie does a good job of doing what it set out to do – get me up to speed on what I need to know about Watergate to have an appreciation for the significance of Frost’s devastating interview.

Frost/Nixon frames President Nixon as a smart, calculating and well advised individual who was, for most of the movie, a more than worthy adversary for the fumbling Frost. But what is revealed in the final interview – the interview about Watergate – the interview where Frost gets his act together – is a weakened and regretful, but no less dedicated, Nixon. His face shows the burden carried by a man who has failed a country.

It was at this point that I thought how nearly impossible it must be for any president, good or bad, worthy or not, republican or democrat to carry the burden of their actions – and the effects those actions have on the American people. The presidency is an official office and the president is an official. No matter how regimented of an approach the man elected to that position takes, his conscience must be incredibly heavy at any moment. I’m not sure I would want to be in that position.

Movie: Revolutionary Road

Couple falls in love. Gets married. Moves to suburbia. Has two kids. Man toils in a job at the company his father worked at for 20 years.

Revolutionary Road is not the portrayal of a happy family. The movie opens with a fight between Frank and April Wheeler on the side of Route 12 in Connecticut. Frank almost strikes April, but instead hits the roof the car instead. From this point on I found myself pushing myself back in my seat to get away from the hate that seethed from just beneath that which the Wheeler’s acknowledged to one another.

Whether the Wheeler’s had grown apart or had simply never loved one another does not matter by the end of the movie. It is clear that for them to remain together one of them will have to sacrifice so much of who he/she is that the changed person would no longer be who they were. This reminds me of a scene from Marley & Me where Jennifer Aniston’s character says that she never imagined she would have to sacrifice so much of who she was to be a good wife and mother. April simply seems not able to accept this, although her situation seems much more isolated.

It is sad to see Frank unable to accept how miserable April truly is. Is this a 1950s family dynamic insensitivity? Or is it something much bigger? Their problems seem much larger than his selfish approach to his family.

Nothing was bigger than the Wheeler’s to the Wheelers. Life was about achieving their dreams, but before they even realized they weren’t fulfilling their dreams they had sold out to suburbia.

This movie mad me think a lot about how impossibly hard it must be at times to be happy with someone else. It is hard from day to day to be happy alone, let alone caring for a spouse and children. There has to be a huge amount of understanding, trust, and effort visibly put forth. By no means am I saying that I don’t think it is worth it, but this movie cemented for me the importance of seeing the best in the person you are with. The importance of listening. The importance of not being scared to take a risk.

Final note: There was no mention of religion in this movie. It seemed like a deliberate statement. There is a default set of values and a community of support that comes along with being religious. Even if you are on the fringe, I believe just knowing it is there for you – believing that there is a God – gives you something bigger to turn to when everything you can see, touch, feel, smell, and hear makes no sense to you. I can only wonder how including religion in Frank and April’s lives would have changed the outcome of the movie.