Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Time to Remember Who We Are

Too much trivial information is a useless thing.  I honestly don't care if Helena Bonham-Carter and Tim Burton are separating.  I don't care whether or not Popeye's new cartoon will smoke a pipe or not.  These type of things are unimportant.  Too many of these unimportant things have been used to divide us.  I see far too many people who vote "no" on tax issues, or don't vote at all,  and then complain because the county doesn't have funds to run snow plows  or because schools are forced to put thirty in a class of elementary students in order to  just heat the building.  It is a sad commentary when I see towns, which once would have free hot cider downtown along with carolers, have  to slash budgets because they can no longer pay for the security this event incurs.  Once, Colorado Springs had such an event that drew people to the downtown merchants, but those days are as gone as are the colored lights that were once used to color the steam caused fog at the power plant.

Sometimes, it seems we become too involved in the preparation and forget the reason.  No, there is no war on Christmas. I suppose you could count the fact that retailers have Christmas decorations out before Halloween ends just as they already have Valentines out before Christmas ends.  You see, things change and for many folks change is hard.  I am not one to live in the past, despite the previous paragraph.  It is not the loss of those events, but that we sometimes need a little reminder.  You see, too often do I hear folks complaining about this or that which doesn't matter.  We have to remember to take care of each other and to do it as best as we can without bringing our own petty judgments.  We must remember that we are a community, the human community.  We are not the tools of politicians, the wealthy oligarchs, or an agenda-driven newsgroup.

So as this time of year, be it that you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, Kwanzaa, or Festivus or nothing at all, we need to recall that this is our chance to spread a little cheer, give a little joy, and reserve judgement.  So if Santa comes to your house or you are lighting a Menorah or a Yule log, it's time to remember who we are supposed to be, not what others would make of us.

From me to you and yours, Merry Christmas and happy holidays.  I hope your  gift is joy.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies - The Final Chapter Works

I have joked that if Peter Jackson wants to do more of Tolkien's work he should try doing The Hobbit.  There was also that joke that there would be a new release which edits all the films together, but eliminates all the scenes that are not in the book. This special edition movie will be about two hours long.  Despite all this, the movies all work and are a fun ride.  I have never been quite clear on why we need all the other stuff that Jackson included this second trilogy in the world of Tolkien.  There really is no purpose to the inclusion of Legolas, the Council of the White, the love story between the Tauriel - a purely Jackson created character- and Kili, or the starting of the return of Sauron.  For the movies to work these storylines and characters are actually extraneous distractions and filler for the return of the King under the Mountain story. It seems to me, sometimes, that Jackson has become a little too enamored with his special effects and battle scenes.

All this said, I liked  this movie.  No, it's not the Hobbit, I first read when I was in 7th grade.  It is a strong action, adventure fantasy.  I know many people who do not actually know the story of There and Back Again will be very disappointed that the book has no love story between an elf and a dwarf.  There are no orcs who are secretly driven by the spirit of Sauron.  I  must admit that the attack with dwarves on mountain goats was a bit silly.  Still, Jackson leaves the major story intact including all those who survive and do not survive as it occurred in the original story. The defeat of Smaug is spectacular.

The effects are still strong, although a few of the gags such as giant trolls knocking themselves out by running into walls or other objects got a bit repetitive.  The story is still strong enough to carry themes of the evils of greed and finding one's nobility and courage.  The characters are still clean and even serve well carry the themes.  There is still magic in Jackson's direction.  He carefully draws parallels between the Smaug the dragon and the greed of "dragon sick" Thorin Oakenshield. He doesn't  just mention the sickness that plagues Thorin's mind but introduces vocal similarities between the dragon and the dwarf king.  While the final descent into Thorin's battle between his honor and his greed on a lake of gold is a bit over-the-top, it is still visually masterful scene.  It is really the sort of scene that I wish had been included in the second movie when Bilbo should have found his courage in the Smaug's lair.

There should be enough in the third film for the purist of the novel to those who are experiencing The Hobbit solely as a movie to please all.  Original lines from the novel sparkle through including the final lines of Gandalf to Bilbo, "but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!” It is the inclusion that keeps the movie honest.  Even though Bilbo is just a Hobbit, he still has had a great impact.  The movie keeps us attached to the characters so that we feel loss and gain equally, even with characters and plotlines that didn't exist in the book.  I liked The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.  It is well worth your time, just try not to take the dwarves on goats too seriously.

Monday, December 1, 2014

An Homage to 2001

Okay. I know Interstellar is almost out of theaters.  I almost went just a few days after it opened, but I just couldn't get psyched up for a long movie.  I'd also seen a couple of posts from folks that loved it, and a couple of folks that hated it.  Christopher Nolan is not known for his deep movies because most people think of the most recent Batman series.  Few folks seem to recall that he also did Inception and, a personal favorite, Momento.  So that said, I was pleased to see a truly hard core science fiction movie.  Yes, it is a bit long.  Yes, it is complicated.  Yes, there  is the time paradox problem.  Interstellar is at its core, however, hard SciFi.

And it is good hard SciFi.

There are plenty of good sites that will help you understand the complex last act of the movie, so I am not going to go into it here.   And since it is almost out of the theaters, I am not going to spend a long time on a review.  I am going to say the film is well acted and tight in its main and subplots which are all intertwined into one overarching idea.  We need to go to space.  There are a few interesting side comments such as a school's curriculum being rewritten so that the moon landing is taught as the silly conspiracy theory that's been around for years.  It discusses a dying Earth without using the words "climate change" or "global warming." It is also clear that is why the planet is dying.

The movie is epic in scale and clearly an homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Matthew McConaughey as protagonist,  Cooper, is the explorer in the spirit of Dave Bowman.  Cooper, in a sense, becomes the Starchild that Bowman became in 2001.  At its core, Interstellar is an apocalyptic movie with a hopeful ending.  As Cooper says, "We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars. Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt."  In 2001, Bowman announces as he enters his own wormhole, "My God - it's full of stars."  Later as the Starchild in 2010 he announces, "I understand how you feel. You see, it's all very clear to me now. The whole thing. It's wonderful."  The parallels and tribute to Interstellar's game changing predecessor 2001 are clear.  Interstellar also maintains its own clean structure and themes without becoming a remake.  It is a movie worthy of its audience.

Maybe, Interstellar will get us to look at the stars.