Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Stranger than Fiction

(Movie Review)

This movie just hit the new release section of my video store this week. (Standard phenomenon of movies getting a delayed release in Japan). A number of people have recommended it to me though so I thought I would check it out.

(Actually I was pleasantly surprised that this movie even made it to the video stores in Japan. Comedies don't always cross the language barrier very well, and several of the hit comedies that have come out in the past several years never graced the shelves of my local video store).

However, given that this is over a year after the film was released in the US, it's safe to say everyone who is planning on seeing it has already seen it. But as that's never stopped me from jotting down a few thoughts before...

This film is like a lot of Will Ferrell comedies (and perhaps like a lot of films in the comedy genre in general) in that it is lots of very funny moments interspersed between a lot of dry and not so funny moments. When the film is all over, it's the funny moments that tend to stick in your head and give you a pleasant memory of the film, but when you're actually watching it, it can at times seem like the premise is being stretched too thin over a two hour movie.

Still, those moments of comic genius interspersed in the film make it worth sitting through. Will Ferrell does a great reaction to the idea of hearing a voice narrating his life. Dustin Hoffman is perfect as the eccentric University professor.

I saved room at the end of this review for a little bit of nitpicking. Onto a segment I call
"Little things that bugged me"
1). Did you say, “little did he know…”? I’ve written papers on “little did he know…” I used to teach a class based on “little did he know…” I mean, I once gave an entire seminar on “little did he know…”
I realize of course this is for comic effect, but for some reason I couldn't stop thinking that in real life the biggest example (the entire seminar) would pop into your mind first, and then you would work down to the little example.
....Unless the joke is that the literature professor talks using literary devices. Actually maybe this movie is more clever than I gave it credit for.

2)This little exchange:
Harold Crick: Miss Pascal, what you're describing is anarchy. Are you an anarchist?
Ana Pascal: You mean, am I a member of...
An anarchist group, yes.
Anarchists have a group?
I believe so, sure.
They assemble?
I don't know.
Wouldn't that completely defeat the purpose?

Sigh...Of course anyone familiar with basic political theory knows that the whole point of anarchism is voluntary association in collective groups. But, as someone once said, if you're going to call yourself an anarchist you're either going to have to put up with all these misconceptions or find a new name to go under.
The character of Ana Pascall should have known better, because her walls were decorated with posters of anarchist groups, like "Food Not Bombs", but actually given how much misinformation is out there, it doesn't bother me so much that Hollywood movies don't always have a high degree of political sophistication. What bothers me is when professional political journalists and writers make this mistake. (And they make it often. "Organized Anarchists? Isn't that an oxymoron?")

3). I also believe that Ana Pascal's estimate that 78% of her taxes go to social welfare causes is an over-estimate. According to War Resisters League, over 50% alone go to military spending
This is course is debatable, depending on how you do your figures, whether you count in interest on past military spending, etc. Bork and Buma had a little back and forth in the Chimes over these figures a while back, but I can't find the links to the articles now.
Of course that debate was several years ago. I'm not even sure what the current figures would be, since this is the first administration in history to fight an expensive foreign war while lowering taxes. That's going to play hell with the budget for years to come. From the party of fiscal conservatism no less.

...Um, I seem to have gotten slightly off topic. All in all a funny movie, and worth seeing.

Link of the Day
Noam Chomsky on Ron Paul

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