Category: Film


Film Recommendation: The Orphanage

Christy recommended a great film yesterday and passed it along to me to replace our original selection of the classic Halloween thriller, Poltergeist.  

The Orphanage is a classy (Spanish) haunted house film with an unusual story-line leading to a unique ending that leaves viewers weeping with a complex cocktail of emotions.  The cinematography mingles a timeless quality with an almost ethereal examination of what it means to live and what it means to live beyond death.   

If you’re looking for that perfect haunted-house film, step inside The Orphanage.

The Happening

The girls and I have been sick all week so tonight, Erick rented some movies for us to enjoy.   We watched Monster House with the girls and then after they went to bed, we enjoyed the latest M. Night Shyamalan’s film, The Happening.  Well, it wasn’t exactly “enjoyment” we were experiencing through some truly gruesome death scenes, but I was again thrilled with Shyamalan’s ability to look past the obvious and reach into our deepest sub-conscience for another winning story-line.  

Though a bit rough around the edges, this film makes a firm statement about the state of our planet and offers up the last resort tactic of some truly unexpected antagonists.  Yeah, the neurotoxins were a bit refined on their first attempt, but they accomplish the end-result of so many chemicals we spray without consideration on our lawns, countertops, trees, pets, and in our water each day.  And it’s equally ugly and no less terrifying.  

[And in case you’re wondering, plants really do communicate with other species in a similar way described in the film.]

I prefer this film to Lady in the Water for story-line, but I felt like Zoey’s character really lacked depth in this film, so in terms of acting, Lady wins out.  The Village remains my favorite M. Night film.

Sen. Obama’s comments on the current economic climate.

Why I won’t see Tropic Thunder

I’ve been reading about the recent debate over the new film Ben Stiller film, Tropic Thunder, and have been trying to decipher the root cause of all the fuss.  While I have not seen the film, I’ve now read several reviews and feel the film should be boycotted.  It was Timothy Shriver’s article on CNN.com that pushed me over the edge.  Mr. Shriver writes:

The degrading use of the word “retard” together with the broader humiliation of people with intellectual disabilities in the film goes way too far. When the R-word is casually bandied about and when bumbling, clueless caricatures designed to mimic the behavior of people with intellectual disabilities are on screen, they have an unmistakable outcome: They mock, directly or indirectly, people with intellectual disabilities. They perpetuate the worst stereotypes. They further exclusion and isolation. They are simply mean.

And while I will always support the artist’s right to be mean, I also support and encourage my fellow Americans to voice their disapproval by refraining from paying to see the film.  Remember the absurd portrayals of African Americans in the old Minstrel Shows?  Is it any different making a mockery of people affected by mental and cognitive disorders?  This is a group of people made up of individuals first that struggle themselves each day to look beyond their differences; to fit in with the greater population.  It’s an integration of sorts, and as Shriver says in his article, films like Tropic Thunder, widen the divide between individuals struggling with disabilities and those of us with less obvious differences.  

It was a strange afternoon.  We drove down to visit Erick’s aunt and uncle in Columbia and enjoyed some time in the country talking about the future of energy and transportation in America.  The countryside was quiet without a single train passing until the very last moment, when we were about to leave and we heard the loud, long horn off in the distance.  I jumped off the porch, leading the pack of train-happy folk, down the narrow gravel road where Celli leapt ahead of me, tongue a flyin’ and hell-bent on scaring off whatever it was we were all chasing and woo-hooing about.  Suddenly, I became aware of a more immediate and urgent chase as my beagle was heading full-speed in the direction of a blind corner where the 200-ton engine was approaching at full speed.  

I called after her, but the engine roared and its horn blared and I could only see Celli’s mouth moving as she barked in cadence with her every step.  As the train emerged out of the woods she crossed one set of tracks and met it full on coming within in a few inches of the massive steel wheels.  I stopped and turned away; a sob caught in my throat.  I thought she was gone.  When I looked again, she was running away from the tracks and over to the road where I stood.  I scooped up her frame and sat down forgetting the enormous freight passing.  

Erick and his uncle informed me that as Celli reached the train, where the low oil tankers were passing, the larger box cars following emerged from the shadows and startled her in time to stop her from biting the wheel.  I’ve never been so grateful for boxcars in my life.  I love this beagle.

We had only been driving a few minutes on the interstate when I felt something akin to a bee-sting along my spine – right in the middle of my back where my reach was clumsy.  “Erick I think there’s a bee in my dress,” I said calmly; assuming it wouldn’t get any worse.  I was wrong.  A few minutes later, the lone and very pissy hornet was making cross-stitch patterns all the way down my back and my butt.  Erick pulled over and I jumped out of the truck doing a little dance as I tried frantically to find the angry little hornet.  I found him as he stung me one last time and flew off into the cab, where Erick smacked him off Celli’s head and smushed him under his shoe.  

The pain has subsided for the most part, but the image still stuck in my head is of that scene from Nothing to Lose where Tim Robbins leaps out of the car with the gigantic spider on his back and does that dance.  You know the dance.

Shallow Hal

Everyone we’ve met in Charlotte has told us to re-watch Shallow Hal.  It was filmed entirely in Charlotte and watching it now that we lived here was far more fun than the first time around.  Good movie; great city.

I’m not going to go into detail about what happened where since I’m hoping our friends will all come stay with us and see it for themselves.

Film review

“You must do what has to be done first in order to do what you want to do.”

I finally finished the film, “The Great Debaters.”  Directed by Denzel Washington, the story-line was fast-pace for a slower time, introduced plot and characters well, and gave insight into the Jim Crow era without over-accentuating violence against blacks.  The film balanced well the cruelties faced by students of the first black colleges in America with the prevailing themes of courage, strength, determination and fortitude.  In other words, you got angry, but you also saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

My personal rating: Five stars.

The word paranormal combines two words “para” or beyond and normal.  It’s the study of things that seem to defy scientific explanation.  Really, there are plenty of things in science this heading might encompass – For decades, the neutrino, a subatomic particle with little to no mass, defied our human understanding of how particles function, but you didn’t see scientists labeling the activity “beyond normal.”  Paranormal research began in at the turn of the last century as a way to study extra-sensory perception, or ESP.  Today paranormal research groups study everything from psychic phenomena like telepathy to channeling to ghosts to astrology.  In other words, literally anything beyond normal.  

I had always thought of the word differently: para as in parallel or a world or concept parallel to our laws of binding our physical universe.  I thought of paranormal as the research enveloping all things non-physical.  I’d still like to think of it as a science with the same approach to all things scientific – using hypothesis, conducting experiments, gathering evidence, conjecturing, debunking, etc.  

Poltergeist phenomena is my favorite.  Found in nearly all cultures and religious groups, the activity of the “noisy ghost” is widely reported and documented.  So are hallucinations.  And yet, a single poltergeist event can be witnessed/encountered by multiple people, so I put more validity into claims of this activity.  As a child, I experienced something that would be defined as poltergeist activity.  I don’t feel silly admitting this because I believe strongly there is a valid explanation for these experiences.  

In my opinion, we don’t have to believe in the supernatural, to better understand the paranormal.   In talking with people, I’ve found most have some story to share – even the skeptics – of something they just can’t explain.  And yet, they all share a desire to find some explanation.

Modern day ghost-hunters invest a good deal of time and money into capturing evidence of paranormal activity.  Whether actual ghosts or residual energy, these pseudo scientists employee EMF meters to measure electric-magnetic fields, recording devices to record “EVPs” or electronic-voice phenomena, infrared and thermal cameras to measure and capture movements or sudden changes in temperature in a room and other tools to assist the investigators with seeing in the dark.  

When I first met a “ghost-hunter,” I had a lot of questions and I wasn’t very polite about asking.  Questions like, “Isn’t hanging around grave-yards cliche?” or “Don’t you think walking around houses in the dark is a good way to scare up experiences that might not occur in broad daylight?”  

These questions were quickly answered.  Graveyards tend to make people uncomfortable at night so investigators take new people there to see how they handle fear.  Okay, makes sense, but why the dark?  I was told this was the quiet time and it was more likely you would capture genuine activity than during the day.  There are just too many noises during the day and investigators prefer to turn off any unnecessary electronics to avoid EMF interference. Hence, dark places at night.

I’m actually more impressed than anything getting to know people who study ghosts on the side.  They’re not crazy as I expected.  They’re not charging people money to do bogus investigations.  I was told if someone charges for their work, beware.  Most investigators will do anything to discredit their own findings because they know these findings will be equally scrutinized by any skeptic.  Still, the fact remains, if you haven’t experienced the paranormal, can you ever really believe it?

Then again, I’ve never seen a neutrino, but I am no less a believer.  

Great short: Our time is up

Great short by Rob Pearlstein, Our Time is Up.

Flight of the Conchords released their latest CD yesterday with classics like “Inner City Pressure,” “The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room,” and  “Robots.”  Erick and I speak in Conchord at this point – way more fun than normal human-speak.  Best band/comedy duo on the planet.

Affirmative.

And if you disagree, FOLK you!  Seriously, if ever music has brought more enjoyment and laughter in one byte, here ’tis.

Binary solo.