An Afternoon At The Movies

We are visiting the Dallas area for the Thanksgiving holiday and a wedding and took time to go see Stranger Than Fiction. Availability of descriptive video as much as the film itself dictated the choice. It came down to a choice between Fast Food Nation (no descriptions) or the movie we ended up seeing. Having read Fast Food Nation a couple years ago and the desire to see a described movie, we settled on Stranger Than Fiction.
Whether it is the direction of the thumb (up or down), number of stars or some other rating system, we all tend to have our ways of judging movies. For me I suppose my quick and dirty way of ranking a movie is the number of times I check my watch during the film. The really good ones will get a zero, films that capture my attention a one or two and anything beyond a five is likely not worth the trouble.
I doubt my system will get adopted by any film studio. Something tells me that putting a tag in a movie ad of “zero watch checks” according to Kelly Ford just isn’t a selling point. Still my rating system works for me.
Stranger than Fiction was by no means a great movie. With two watch checks, it was still a reasonable way to spend an afternoon at the movies.
the basic plot of the movie is pretty straight forward. Harold Crick’s been living a very uneventful and repetitious life. We are told for example that Crick brushes his teeth 76 times each morning.
How Crick’s life is explained to us starts to show the movie’s main twist. We quickly learn that the narrator telling us about Crick’s life is an author writing a book in which a character by the name of Harold Crick appears. Of course Crick hears this narrator too and the movie starts down the path of Crick trying to figure out what’s up. Things quickly escalate when Crick learns that the character in the novel is going to be killed. Of course this means the real living Crick too will quicly be a dead man.
Fiction is just that, fantasy. So as long as you are willing to suspend belief and accept the basic premise of the story and go with the flow, the story is told well.
I found a college professor played by Dustin Hoffman particularly entertaining. There was something amusing about his straight-laced delivery to Crick telling him, Crick, that he must die to make one of the best literary works ever come to fruition. Hoffman’s one of those actors that does a great job of letting his voice fit the role of the characters he’s playing.
Coming in at two watch checks, Stranger Than Fiction is a film I’d recommend. It isn’t a must see in the theater but is worth putting on your Netflix queue.

Definitely Dated

One of the nice things about Netflix is the opportunity to revisit movies from the past. I used the extended holiday weekend to watch one of those movies I’d seen as a kid that had stuck in my mind as one of those “great” movies that I always wanted to see again.
It has probably been at least 20 years since I saw “…And Justice for All” on some cable channel. The final courtroom scene stuck in my mind over the years as something to remember.
My mind is definitely cleared of that memory now. Perhaps at the time this movie pushed the envelope of courtroom drama. I’m not enough of a movie buff to say for sure. What I can say is that memory in this case was definitely better than reality after watching the movie again.
Perhaps it is the flood of legal movies that have come over the years but watching the movie felt mostly like watching someone paint-by -numbers to complete the picture of the standard legal drama.
It was also funny just how dated the music was. Television and film from the era has such a predictable sound. Oh well, at least my fixation with seeing this movie again has been cured.

Assassination Madness

Richard Nixon’s presidency is one I know largely through history. I was seven when Nixon resigned and the only memory I have of his presidency is watching his announcement that he would resign on television at summer camp.
The story related in The Assassination of Richard Nixon is one I hadn’t heard until renting the DVD. The movie features Sean Penn as Samuel Bicke, a man that finds life slipping away. A failed marriage, job problems and his general problems with the world lead Bicke to hatch a plot to fly a plane into the White House.
Much of the story and Bicke’s perception on the world is related through tapes Bicke narrates to Leonard Bernstein. The mix of Penn sounding perfectly calm and rational in these narrations while Bicke slips further and further away from reality in the film’s action is powerful. Audio production on this movie is excellent and clips of Nixon are mixed throughout plus news from the period to help convey things with which Bicke expresses greater and greater outrage.
This is a film I recommend.

Missing DVS

This evening I opted to watch Control and it made me realize how much I miss Descriptive Video (DVS) when it isn’t available.
As movies go Control was certainly not one I’d recommend. That said it is a bit frustrating to sit through a movie, only to have it end with the sound of a gun and not know which character or characters die at the end.
A recent article in the Quad-City Times gives a good explanation of how DVS works. The short version is that movie goers that are blind get a small walkman-like device that is used to hear a special audio track for the movie. Gaps in dialog are filled with descriptions of actions, scenes and character appearance. A sample from The Lion King is available online.