September 1st, 2014


The Dread Pirate Roberts Goes To College

Most weekends we do movies on Saturday. But this is a three-day weekend -- the last three-day weekend of the year -- and the official end of summer. So with rain forecast as possible on Saturday and Monday, we decided to see what the options were for Sunday. There's the new Daniel Radcliffe movie, but at Celebration North it would be in the evening, otherwise we'd have to go to Rivertown. We've talked about seeing Guardians of the Galaxy again, but that's a low priority. In the end, there was one amazing movie to see. A little early, so we didn't finish the Sunday paper first, but a nice day for a drive.

Boyhood [R]
Celebration North Theatre #9 12:40pm 2x$8.25

It took twelve years and 166 minutes to make this groundbreaking film. It's not that we haven't seen casts grow up through a series of films -- Harry Potter and the Up series anyone? -- but here we have one film following the same core cast from Grades 1 through 12 and the start of college for Mason Jr. It's a dangerous project. Who knows who your lead will grow up to be? Certainty not an artistic soulful eyed young Cary Elwes. (grin) And what happens if one of your cast doesn't make it? Thankfully they dodged this bullet.

Richard Linklater wrote and directed this "pseudo real life Truman Show" (grin), with Ellar Coltrane as Mason Jr., Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as his divorced parents and Linklater's daughter Lorelei as the older sister. An assortment of others come in and out through the years, due to relationships, moving, new schools, career changes. It's not all domestic bliss, but it pulls back and does not descend into the full pathos and horror of a Law & Order: SVU episode. While not all sunshine and light, for the most part Boyhood is a gentle film. One of the real treats of filming sporadically over the years, there's no set dressing with the wrong tech -- people just use what they use, whether computers, phones, games.

Of course I frequently want to shake the kids out of their lethargy -- this is not my childhood. But the teen/tween eyerolling, smart talk and moody insolence, nice done. Linklater's daughter, Mrs. Dr. Phil read to me, didn't want to be in the movie any more and asked her dad to kill her off. Not that type of movie. But the rebellion? Came out perfect on the screen.

As for the artistic bent, Mason goes into photography. Though it bugged me that he didn't drag a camera with him everywhere. Me and my photo geek friends always did, though we didn't have dates. Once we see him wielding a Nikon DSLR, not sure of the model, possibly a D3100, and at a football game one of the fast f2.8 long zooms -- 70-200mm or 80-200mm. Expensive lens. I don't own one. On the way to college, the camera is a Canon 7D. Neither is a full-frame FX sensor, so one wonders what would have motivated him to jump systems. DX to FX? That would've been an easier sell. NOTE: This is the problem of knowing some technical area. I warn my students to duck when a prof's pet research topic comes up in class. Someone who is a firearms expert might have something to say about the guns in this movie; a car guy on the black Pontiac GTO.

If you're wondering why a film about a first grader gets an R rating, consider that he doesn't stay a first grader, the f-word and other swear words get frequent flyer mileage, even being made fun of at one point, there's a lot of drinking and some mild drug use, and teenage boys being teenage boys. Frankly, I think IFC Films is right -- there's a lot that teens under 17 should be seeing. There are, amidst some chaos, some excellent and some awful bits of advice to the kids, sometimes from unlikely sources. Alas, we still are subject in these United States to an antiquated and inadequate movie ratings system.

It's not a perfect film, to which some will complain it's too long, too talky, but it is a well done film. We need the length to make each age work. I particularly liked that they didn't use title slides to change time. Time just flowed.

Don't know how long this one will last in the theatres. We had at least twenty adults and seniors for an early Sunday show. Seek this out.


Trailers: Hector and the Search for Happiness Simon Pegg leaves his psychiatric practice to search the world for happiness. Supporting cast includes Toni Collette, the always great Stellan Skarsgård and Christopher Plummer. Birdman about a washed up superhero actor trying to reclaim some glory. Michael Keaton and Edward Norton, so you know it's likely to be strange and good, and of course Unbroken, Hunger Games 3.1 and Hobbit 3.

Dr. Phil

ARGH! -- When I posted this in the wee hours this morning, I went to look at it on Dreamwidth... And not there. Checked LiveJournal... not there. Normally I close the last preview window before posting, but I hadn't, so if necessary I could have scraped it off the preview and reconstructed it, but geesh. One more thing to try. Did Previous Page back to the screen which confirmed posting to Dreamwidth and crossposting to LiveJournal. With trepidation, I clicked on View This Entry... And there it was. But not elsewhere... except that it was dated August 1, not September 1. The writing of the post had crossed the midnight barrier and the month hadn't been incremented. Seem to recall something about that in a code update post. Guess it's not completely fixed. Edited the date and reposted and both blog sites moved it to the top of the heap. Whew. Relief.

Labour Day

... in Canada and the U.S., perhaps elsewhere.

Most people are totally confused on what Labor Day is. It's easy enough to Google for the answer.

Still, for most of us, the reality is that it's one day off at the end of summer, often before the start of classes. It was the target, the line in the sand, for grade school kids growing up. Picnic and family together made it worth it, even for those who hated the thought of school. Well played, actually. In a country where we make it difficult to take time off, one day won't kill you.

When I taught at Hope College, I was stunned to find out classes were held on Labor Day -- because, godless Communists, you know. I thought that was May Day. But hey... we had plans, so Mrs. Dr. Phil went to the Whitecaps baseball game by herself. Some Republicans have decided this year they had better work on Labor Day, else they get union cooties. Twits.

These days I am once again a member of a union. WMU's part-time instructors organized a couple of years after the grad students did. Both have resulted in real improvements, especially TA training and opening up some travel money and easier parking for the adjuncts.

In my 22-odd years mostly at Western, I haven't had to deal with a picket line. Before the PIO union, I feared what might happen if one of the unions, especially the faculty union, went on strike. Could I be fired for honoring a picket line? Not that I expected physical roughnecking, and I want to teach my students, but I have not once in my life ever aspired to be a scab.

It is ironic that some in 2014 are desperate to gut unions, restrict organizing and bargaining, demanding a mythical Right To Work For Less, at a time when union membership is down, and carefully contrived bankruptcies and reorganizations have damaged or negated contracts and broken the faith on pensions.

Whether you celebrate Labor Day as a salute to workers or recognition of the long struggles of the last century and a half, or just a happy end to summer, doesn't matter to me too much.

We're at home today. Quiet plans. Foggy early this morning. Dark with noisy buzzing bugs at 11. Spitting rain at noon, a brief appearance of sun. Heavy downpour at 1. Channel 3 warned people to have alternate plans today. 2:20pm it's clearing to the north with some cloudy sun. Cubs game has been able to start with Sun and clearing -- the Jackie Robinson West team from Chicago that came in second to Seoul in the 2014 Little League World Series in attendance. The bugs here are making a remarkable natural symphony.

Machine eggs from my parents 1950s era Sunbeam egg cooker on toast from the last two pieces of farmers bread for breakfast. Tomato sandwich and a near perfect Red Haven peach for lunch. Weiners from the Allendale Meat Market and beans for supper planned.

Enjoy the day.

Oh, and thank you to those who are working today.

Dr. Phil