Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

You oughta be in pictures!

by Robison Wells

(Rob remains ill today, and he's come to the conclusion that he will never be healthy again. To date, no one has brought him a casserole, nor has anyone offered to give him lots of money so that he won't have to go work. Some friends you all turned out to be.)

I've watched a couple movies recently that have each, independently, inspired me to blog about them. But when I sat down to do so, I realized that none of the topics could carry an entire blog. Instead, I'm going to give you a media review: movies I've recently watched, books I've read, TV shows I like.


First off, let me say that a co-worker recently told me that Wild Hogs was the best movie since Without a Paddle. If you're unfamiliar with these films, RottenTomatoes (a site that collects reviews from all over the country) gave Wild Hogs an 18%--meaning that only 18% of critics across the country gave it a favorable review. Without a Paddle got 13%. So, as you can imagine, I don't take a lot of what this coworker says seriously. Frankly, I don't know why she's allowed to drive a car, or go out in public.

(Incidentally: there are a lot of people who say "If the critics hated it then it must be good! Durn critics with they're high-falutin' ways and there snooty la-di-dah." These people, if you couldn't tell, are not thought highly of in the Robison Wells household. They also use the wrong "their", even when speaking.) (Seriously, though, I find art criticism almost as interesting as art itself. I don't always agree with individual critics, but I've also come up with the following theory: People who don't like movie criticism have a greater tendency to like fart jokes than those who do.) (You know who you are!.)

But anyway, on to the reviews:

The Queen:
Ever since the advent of my children, I don't watch many movies in the theater anymore. However, my wife and I were able to see The Queen at one of those artsy theaters where they sell Pellegrino and cheesecake at the concession counter. Surprisingly, though, the theater was filled with very normal people. And the movie? Fantastic. If you're unfamiliar with it, it takes place the week after Princess Diana died, and is from the point of view of Queen Elizabeth and Tony Blair. The writing, for one thing, is phenomenal. Combined with Helen Mirren's performance, Queen Elizabeth is one of the best developed characters I've seen in a movie in a long time--years, probably.

The sets, costumes, locations, are all amazing. You really get the feeling that cameras just happened to be in Buckingham Palace that week, capturing everything as it unfolded.
I highly recommend this movie.

Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express:
Like I said, I don't get to go out to the theater very often, so we're becoming good friends with Blockbuster. I picked this one up almost by chance, but it was really quite good. And now I'm going to spoil it for you. SPOILER ALERT! The story is, a bunch of people are all on the train from Istanbul to Paris, and one of them is murdered. By chance, Hercule Poirot, world-famous genius detective, is on the train as well. Long story short, the train gets stuck behind a snow drift, and while they're all stuck waiting, Poirot solves the crime. The movie consists of nothing more than boarding the train, and then a series of interrogations--no other background. Now, (SPOILER ALERT AGAIN!) it turns out that all twelve passengers were in on the crime. Every single one.

Now the reason this got me thinking: despite the fact that there's mounting evidence that several of the passengers are interconnected, the audience continues to suspend their disbelief. "This is the quintessential whodunit," says the audience. "Sure, it looks like everyone has a motive, but only one of them is the real murderer. That's the way all these stories go." It's really a testament to the skill of Agatha Christie--she used the cliche against us, building her story on our preconceived ideas. It was really a delight.


Stranger than Fiction:
This is another movie that is not quite what it appears. The trailers looked entertaining enough: Will Farrell is an IRS accountant, leading a very dull life, when suddenly he begins to hear a voice narrating everything he does. It becomes clear quite soon that he's a character in a book.
And while that does lend itself toward a good, simple comedy, Stranger Than Fiction delivers quite a bit more. For one thing, the situtation is not treated in the same overreacting way most movies deal with things. On the contrary, Farrell's character reacts the same way a normal person would.

Many critics complained about the film's resolution, and while I agree that it was a little lacking, it wasn't as bad as some made it sound. Overall, it was a very fun--but also thought-provoking--movie.

An Inconvenient Truth:
Okay, I'll admit it. I'm something of an environmentalist. But don't worry, I'm not one of those environmentalists. No, I just hate urban sprawl, and I vote for mass transit, and I dislike ATVS generally. In other words, I'm not an activist, just a complainer. (No surprise there.)

Anyway, you all know what Inconvenient Truth is, so I won't bother explaining it. And, likely, you already know whether or not you'll like it or hate it depending on your political persuasion. (You are SO like that.)

I must say that the evidence presented is very compelling. I went into the movie with the opinion that yes, I believe global warming is real, but I'm not that certain whether mankind is causing it (and not that certain we can do anything about it if we are). But the documentary does a pretty dang good job of making its case. Like, a really good job.

Now, I've heard that at least one of the studies cited in the film has been proven wrong. I'm not saying that the movie's evidence is perfect (but, of course, only a moron would change their scientific opinion based on a movie anyway, right?) What I am saying is that the movie's evidence has inspired me to read a little more on the subject.

HOWEVER: the majority of the movie consists of watching Al Gore give a presentation in front of an audience. That's the interesting stuff. But then they keep cutting to stories from Al Gore's life--like how his son was in a car accident. And then there's a big dumb IRRELEVANT section about the 2000 presidential election. Holy crap, it's annoying. It comes across as self-aggrandizing and self-righteous, and HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH GLOBAL WARMING. If anything, it actually hurts his argument: without that part, the film is fairly non-political and scientific; with that part, Gore has just turned off half his potential audience, because they're so annoyed with his whiny partisan crap.

This blog is getting really long, and I have other things to do, so I'm just going to give quick recaps for the rest of my media report:

Jane Eyre (2006 BBC version)
It's like a Jane Austen story, only evil. But I must say that I quite enjoyed it. Also: they sure did a good job at finding a homely actress to play Jane. She'd give that girl in Persuasion a run for her money.


The Operative by Willard Boyd Gardner
I read an advance copy several months ago, but read it again this month. Gardner is a dang good writer, particularly when he gets into the nitty-gritty of gun fights and survival. I wish I was more like him. (One complaint: Gardner's books end really suddenly. They're great books, but then they're over, and you keep looking for the last chapter.)

Without Remorse by Tom Clancy
I finally got around to reading this one, and let me sum it up in just two words: moral relativism. It's enjoyable, but then you think "wait a minute... should I be enjoying this?"

Well, I'm out of time. I wish I could write more, but this thing is horrendously long already. However, I've spouted my opinions quite a bit in this blog--go to the comments and argue with me.


At 3/13/2007 2:39 PM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

I just came across this and thought it was interesting (and timely):

"The critical opinions of a writer should always be taken with a large grain of salt. For the most part, they are manifestations of his debate with himself as to what he should do next and what he should avoid."
--W. H. Auden

At 3/13/2007 3:09 PM, Blogger Marsha Ward said...

Ha ha, since I'm majorly avoiding writing, this is the place for me. Yes, I'm surfing blogs instead of writing.

Rob, if you haven't seen Wild Hogs, I'll tell you, I laughed myself silly. So did the rest of the audience, which was mostly retirees out for the day.

My son had said earlier in the week that he wondered how they got these four particular actors (Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, William H. Macy) together, but WOW! they did such a splendid job of taking me on their road trip. Ray Liotta continues to surprise me with the breadth of his characterizations, and the appearance of Bridget Fonda's dad makes the climax quite satisfying. Then there's the added surprise during the credit roll.

It is rated PG-13 for good reasons, so don't take the kiddies. If you need a reason to get out of your sick bed, though, this is one.

At 3/13/2007 3:24 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...


I think I come from about the same angle as you. try reading Crichton's, "State of Fear" and see what you think about the likelihood that Global Warming is caused by humans. Interesting stuff. And this was even before the discovery that mars is also warming.

One of the most interesting things I learned was that the Global Warning statements you read are almost always edited from what the actual scientists stated. He makes a very clear case for the problem of mixing science and politics.

At 3/13/2007 3:25 PM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

Marsha, I'll have to take your word for it. It's certainly not my cup of tea.

At 3/13/2007 3:32 PM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

Jeff, that was exactly my problem with Inconvenient Truth: the mix of science and politics. If science declares that global warming is mankind's fault (and I have to admit that I'm getting swayed that way) then I'm more than happy to believe it. But Gore's movie made it fiercely political (and Bush has made it political, and everyone is making it political).

That's the same reason I dislike the consensus argument (that 95%--or whatever--of scientists agree the global warming is manmade). Science is based on fact, not on a scientist's vote.

At 3/13/2007 3:34 PM, Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

When all the hype started pouring in about Helen Mirren's performance in The Queen, I just didn't think there was anyone it could be that good, but man was I wrong .. Judi Dench delivered an amazing performance in Notes on a Scandal too, but it just can't compare with Mirren in this one

At 3/13/2007 4:28 PM, Anonymous Jennie said...

Rob, one of the things I like about Bill Gardner's books is that when the story is over it's over. I hate when commentators tell me what happened after the game is over, after the president has finished speaking, and I hate books where the writer strings out the ending way after the story is finished. If the announcer has to explain what I saw for myself, some political expert has to tell me what the president really said, or an author has to tell me what the clues were and how everyone is now going to live happily ever after, then I get the feeling someone thinks I'm none too bright. (That may be true, but nonetheless, it's insulting).

And by the way, Tristi, I think I'm avoiding work today too. The sun's shining and I'd rather be outside checking to see which bulbs have peeked through the ground.

At 3/13/2007 5:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Queen was a very boring movie, what are you talking about Rob? If you liked that I bet you'd love The New World. It's about a bunch of guys standing around, watching some indian girl. Very lame.

The Operative was a very good book. I wasn't a fan of the end either but it was a great story.

I was going to bring you a casserole last friday when I was in Salt Lake, but when I opened the phone book to find you it gave me a headache seeing all the Wells in the area. Then, I figured that your number probably wasn't in the phone book because your just strange like that so I gave up, threw the casserole away and went to Mimi's Cafe for dinner. It was very good, though, my hamburger was a little pink in the middle.

At 3/13/2007 6:48 PM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

Anonymous, you didn't like The Queen, you didn't bring me a casserole, and you don't like rare beef? May I recommend you go see Wild Hogs?

At 3/14/2007 12:03 AM, Blogger pwells said...

Anonymous, when I married Rob's father, Robert, there were 27 Robert Wells in the phone book. How do you think Rob ended up with a name like Robison?

At 3/14/2007 3:38 AM, Anonymous Fellfrosch said...

Rob, you ignorant slut.

At 3/15/2007 7:10 PM, Blogger Carole Thayne said...

Rob, you are a funny guy and I'm sorry you're sick. No cassarole coming however, but you're welcome to join us in Paradise for dinner--anytime. In fact, Thai sounds good--you bring it though, I don't know what to order.

I also watched an Agatha Christie movie this week that was great. Anatomy of a Murder. It has a surprise ending. At the end they get on and say--please don't spoil this show by divulging the ending! They should do that today. Way too many critics and I agree with you, I love critics, although I think we need way more women... okay anyway too many critics give away the whole story.

At 3/16/2007 1:26 PM, Blogger Carole Thayne said...

Actually I meant Witness fro the Prosecution when i said, "Anatomy of a Murder." I watched that last week. It's good too, but for a great surprise ending I loved Witness...


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