Category: Movies

The book count

I started this blog a few years back partly to begin blogging my way through books and movies.  I recently resumed blogging partly as a way to satisfy the desire to narrate my movements through my life, in an effort to find meaning and dramatic shape to it all. Sometimes I feel a little like that Borges story, the one about making a really accurate map. I want to write it all down, but doing so would leave no time to actually live.

So, for example, I want to write at some length about my FAA knowledge test, how I was stung by a mediocre final exam at ground school, how I vowed to improve at the real exam, and how I did so by dint of six days of concentrated study with the aid of flash cards, and how I scored 57 correct out of 60, but was still left unhappy because two of the questions I missed were on the same petty topic of properly filling out a flight plan, a topic that had not been present in my prep materials.

So I have unlocked the first of three necessary achievements before I will have a private pilot license. A medical exam and a minimum of 40 hours of flight training await.

Book I just finished: Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman. This much raved-over title by the Nobel Prize-winning behavioral economist was a curious slog for me. Individual chapters were very interesting, but as a single volume it felt like a string of lectures–greatest hits from a distinguished career–than a coherent argument. But I must say I learned a good deal, not least that in making choices that are intended to enhance our future happiness, we tend to overestimate the pleasure we derive from toys and discount the happiness that is drawn out over time by committing oneself to a hobby, an activity, a skill, a regular source of social interaction.

I hope that by managing to write regularly, I’ll have a feeling of satisfaction years from now, a feeling that I lived an intentional, thoughtful, and examined life.

I would like to write down some terms I learned from this book, but I am getting tired and must do some Spanish before going to bed.

Two movies I saw this weekend

La La Land, with two very charming actors and a slender story. Although I enjoyed the experience of watching it–in the fourth row, no less, where Emma Stone’s teeth seemed 3 feet tall–the magic that was promised was mostly undelivered. There was nothing that took my breath away and made me want to watch again, like in the not dissimilar but far superior Mulholland Dr.

45 Years. Courtenay and Rampling in a movie about an older couple whose 45-year marriage comes completely unglued with the arrival of a letter from overseas. Great, powerful, profound stuff.

YouTube video I watched

Evidently Mariah Carey made a fool of herself on national TV, performing during a New Year’s Eve special. I’ve never been a fan, but I tracked down this very early interview with her. She and I are the same age, and we were in New York City at the same time here, in 1990.

New Year

I didn’t go out last night for New Year’s Eve. If I had, I definitely wouldn’t have run into Antonio Gramsci, especially since he’s dead.

Events like New Year’s Eve are less appealing when one has quit drinking. Besides, I needed to rest up. A big year is ahead.

Social media celebrity death trip, or #ripcarriefisher

I’ve become more and more curious about our obsession with celebrity death. This has been s a purportedly terrible year for celebrity longevity.

I don’t know if this perception is true, but as social media makes celebrities of us all, the trend of celebrity death can only accelerate. I can’t help but feel that we are all breathlessly waiting to see who will die next.

That said, I found out two things about Carrie Fisher this evening.

First, I can’t imagine having a life in which something like this happens:

Second, a less morbidly fascinating and more melancholy discovery was that Ms. Fisher is survived by her mother, Debbie Reynolds, who is 84.

The Washington Post obit is linked below. #ripcarrie

A child of Hollywood, the actress and writer constantly reinvented herself, by design or necessity.

Source: Carrie Fisher, Princess Leia of ‘Star Wars,’ chronicler of her own excess, dies at 60 – The Washington Post

49 up… 56 up… 49 down?

About a year ago, I began watching Michael Apted’s Up documentary series. I’d known about them for years, of course, but I’d resisted digging into them, for a variety of trivial reasons. Tonight I watched 49 Up (out of sequence, actually, for I’ve already seen most of 56 Up).

The films are becoming less surprising as the characters settle into late middle age. At this point, they’re accustomed to their minor celebrity status and, in the most recent installments, most of them have clearly thought about how they want to present themselves to the public. The “upper class” subjects simply tell Apted on camera that they resent the intrusions, and they assure him (and us) that they are participating reluctantly and guardedly. Meanwhile, the working class characters tend to put some effort into appearances: making sure they’ve got a new home to show off, or a new hobby, or a nice vacation to be photographed enjoying. Even the saga of poor, tormented Neil seems to be settling into a condition of equilibrium.

Nonetheless, the films continue to pack a punch for me. Time wreaks its havoc on the faces and bodies of the rich as well as it does on the poor. All those bubbling 7-year-olds, united in their innocent exuberance, and divided by class and chance for their subsequent productive lives, are becoming united again in their slackening, creaking, and slowing bodies.

I don’t know how long this series will continue, but I hope there’s at least one more. (Apted, who is only 15 years older than his subjects, has indicated a willingness to go until 84 Up, when he will be 99.) It’s a remarkable project, rivaled only by Richard Linklater’s Boyhood and his Sunrise/Sunset films with Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke.

Coincidentally, after finishing 49 Up, I opened the Times and saw this:

The technique, discovered by a team at the Salk Institute and tested in mice, cannot be applied directly to people, but it points toward better understanding of human aging.

Source: Scientists Say the Clock of Aging May Be Reversible