Friday, December 31, 2004

End-of-the-year potpourri

Just some random items occasioned by the end of the year and by the fact that on the 2nd I'll be away from "here," visiting my children and celebrating my younger daughter's 7th birthday:
*Larry, my colleague and movie-hound, recently lent me a batch of films to watch. By far the most affecting of these, for very different reasons, were Adam's Rib (dir. George Cuckor; starring Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn) and A Beautiful Mind (dir. Ron Howard; starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly). The former impressed because there were a couple of moments in it in which, as I watched, I thought that these scenes aren't "written"--they have the feel of improvisation. These people, whose real-life love affair was a fairly open secret, aren't acting in these scenes; they are truly delighting in each other's company. The movie just sort of stops in those moments; Cuckor allows them to be the lovers they were right there in front of us . . . and after a while . . . Oh, yeah: we ARE in a movie; let's get back to the story, shall we? As for A Beautiful Mind, I found it difficult to watch. Though by no means a genius, I do make my living with my mind, such as it is, and it was frightening to watch how this film shows that the very skill John Nash has is the one that his schizophrenia exploits. How can one know for oneself when one's perception of reality has been compromised? By having faith in one who truly loves you, the film's response seems to be. And that was the other difficult (in the sense of "affecting") thing about this film: to be loved THAT much is a soul-shaking thing to see and experience, whether in art or in life.
*Speaking of love and perceptions of reality: Mrs. Meridian's birthday is January 1st. One of my students says that THE test for determining the difference between forgetfulness and dementia is to see if the subject can draw a clock face; for me, it will be if I forget my wife's birthday.
*I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the extended DVD release of The Return of the King--the film itself, the extras, and Peter Jackson's, Fran Walsh's and Phillipa Boyens' commentary. It's all put together in a most logical way: Tolkien conceived of the "trilogy" as one single work; and if one takes the three extended DVDs in toto, one ends up with, in essence, a single nearly-12-hour-long film that, in its scope, gradually increases its scope from the arcadian Shire to the entirety of Middle Earth. And like all good myths, the film "reminds" us of material not immediately part of The Lord of the Rings proper but which definitely shape and determine that novel's action (see, for example, Return's opening scene of Smegal's killing his brother for the Ring 500 years before Fellowship's central action begins). Just brilliant. The appendices are made in much the same way--they're intended to be watched in sequence with the appendices from the previous DVDs, such that, towards the end of Return's final appendix, Sean Astin recalls and even recreates, in a very touching way, his first meeting Elijah Wood. Again, very cool. It is difficult to convey adequately the care with which these appendices, usually rather throwaway things on DVDs, have been made. Those who really care about these films will be moved.
*As if you needed another reminder: I encourage my readers to visit the links to various charitable organizations on the right of my page and give as you are able. The New Year=(for me) a renewed commitment to those who work to live decent, honorable lives and whose efforts we should honor.
A happy and prosperous new year to all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You'd have a hard time forgetting my birthday even if you did lose your mind. We need a better test.
Mrs. Meridian