Saturday, December 20, 2008

He who carries the biggest stick

I went to watch The Day the Earth Stood Still with no high expectations and true enough it turned out to be quite mediocre. I'm tired of the number of morality plays that tell us to curb our excesses and give a thought to our planet. Yes, I know it's an important message and I buy into it a great deal... well, sort of... but I've heard more exciting versions of it in more exciting films already.

DESS is a remake of the 1951 movie of the same title, with roughly the same message: to stop our nonsense (violence, resource depletion, pollution, you name it) or be exterminated as a favour to the rest of the species who share our planet. It's parallel to the biblical tale of the Ark and the Flood in which the whole earth gets scrubbed clean of the mess people have made of it and then life gets to start afresh all over again.

Interesting enough premise, I suppose, but where things go wrong for me is the misplaced sense of scale in the struggle to convince Klaatu, the alien... um, assessor being, that humanity still has a chance to atone for ourselves before the "Flood" washes us all away. Given the impending disaster is global in nature, it does not make much logical sense for Klaatu to base his judgement simply on the behaviour of the two individuals he has made some meaningful contact with. 

Statistically, the sample size just isn't representative enough of the entire human population to make that kind of a decision. Nor is the time scale sufficient -- what, 24 hours? -- to make such an earth-shattering pronouncement on the people of the earth. For a being representing many advanced civilizations, Klaatu seems a bit over-anxious to make up his mind about us.

OK, I know it's pointless to argue movie logic, but there isn't much excitement to carry us through either. Klaatu (and his bodyguard, the 40 foot tall cyclopean G.O.R.T.) represent an unstoppable force none of our terrestrial weaponry and technology has any effect on. Herein lies the big cosmic double standard: Klaatu say you all play nice with one another and with me, or G.O.R.T. will unleash such violence upon you the human race will not survive to see another day. So really, he who carries the biggest stick gets to walk the softest of us all.

It doesn't help that Keanu Reeves has finally succumbed to all the jokes made about his acting and has been cast to play the entirely wooden, expressionless Klaatu. There's a role written especially for him! I couldn't connect with him, nor any of the other characters so I didn't particularly care how it all would turn out in the end. That, I think, is the greatest tragedy in this script.

On the plus side, dinner was quite enjoyable. The Mussel Guys at Vivo serves up a fabulous cast iron pot of steaming Belgian Mussels in white wine sauce. Never before have I had such succulent mussels in such a potent soup -- all garlicky and almost herbal in flavour. There's a 2-for-1 deal for Citi card holders this season, but too bad neither I nor June have one. The accompanying seafood pasta we ordered was so-so, but at least now I know where we can get good mussels. Yums!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Read any Questionable Content lately?

I think my GRADUATED students and older readers would enjoy "Questionable Content" (QC) as much as I. That is to say, current students please wait till you have left college before you pick it up -- it'll be more meaningful to you then.

The characters in QC are familiar, reminiscent of my own circle of friends who are young, single, and dealing with the issue of relationships themselves. There's always a tension between platonic friendship and sexual attraction, and because that often leads to awkward situations there's a lot of humour in how the main characters balance respectable restraint with careless flirtation, the fun they have in each others' company and having conversations laced with graphic innuendo.

Much of the humour is wry and dry, but there are the occasional laugh out loud moments as the reader gets blindsided by a bizarre comment or response. The dialogue is witty, clever and sharp; and it's been a page turner for me 'cos it's fun to see how far Marten and Faye will get on with each other as friends and housemates, but never as lovers though it's obvious that they so want to.

Actually, I know how it turns out for them since I discovered QC only recently, but I've been reading QC from the very first strip to understand the circumstances in which they and their supporting characters are in now. I'm taking it in blocks of 50 strips a day so far, and it's still going to take me many more days to catch up with the current content (as of today, QC is at the 1297th strip). NBS will pedantically calculate it to 26.5 days now that she has the relevant data.

It's also interesting to watch an artist develop his art. Jeph Jacques has been drawing this webcomic for nearly five years now and in that time his initial crude line drawings have evolved into more realistic-looking people. Also, he's put in many more characters and created a more complex relationship web, but it's the consistency of his characters that make them believable: their expressions, postures and gestures are apt and emote well with the dialogue.

I don't really know why I find QC so engaging. Perhaps it's because the characters are easy to identify and identify with. They live regular, mundane existences but they get by with a little help from their friends, and that's what gets to me most. There's nothing like having a small, tight circle of good friends to keep one sane in this world.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Things that make my wife scream

I dunno, turning the living room TV into a 42" PC monitor just might be one of them!