From the archives: July 2004

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Ruminations on the cutting of slack

Wednesday, 14 July 2004 — 8:43pm | Journalism, Studentpolitik

It is quite curious how the phrase, “to cut one some slack” is idiomatically representative of an increase in leniency, whereas a literal reading of the verb “to cut” – as in budget cuts, tax cuts and haircuts – is a directive to reduce.

So when you tell yourself and your entire readership, including the folks who can’t seem to spell “Canadian” and that one mysterious fellow from Parliament Hill, that you have all of two weeks to muse about Spider-Man 2 and deliver a really snappy treatise on what it says about madness of both science and love, this is what happens: you cut yourself some slack, and in both ways. “Next post,” he promises, “next post.” So the writer is presented with a choice, to either deliver on the promise an unspecified number of days later and in doing so leave an unsatisfied audience drifting away at intermission, or break the promise to let everyone know that he is alive and well (but also one heck of a slacker); and as he is not Spider-Man, either Mary-Jane or the little kids in the gondola car must plunge to the depths of the sea of forgotten ideas, and this tragic dilemma cannot be solved to the satisfaction of all.

If everyone in the world made the same decision and had the same philosophy – to say “I’ll do it later, but at least I’m doing something – nothing would ever get done. Fortunately, that is not quite the case.

Actually, yes it is.

For instance, De-Lovely, the musical bio-pic starring Kevin Kline as Cole Porter, hit North American arthouse screens as early as 2 July and expanded a bit each week. It has, however, failed to reach the city of Calgary. As a matter of fact, there is no sign of this movie even opening in Calgary anytime in the near future; the occasional promotional spot appears on a stateside television channel, and that has been the extent of De-Lovely‘s presence thus far. This is perhaps a sign of the distributors thinking that with all the Stampeding going on around here, everybody’s going to be off at the chucks anyway, so no use releasing a movie that appeals to the same crowd. After all, the Cole Porter aficionados who have Kiss Me, Kate down by heart and the beer-faced hooligans gambling their fortunes on the Sutherlands and Bensmillers and other cylindrical-canopy cowboys are one and the same, are they not? Or maybe it’s just me.

Another case in point: the official release date of Tales of Symphonia was yesterday, 13 July. As of the end of today, not a single video game retailer in Calgary had a copy available. Someone tell the boys at whoever distributes for Namco around here that one should never go blindly assuming that unlike, say, DVDs, nobody’s crazy enough to track video game release dates and try to snag a copy the first day it hits shelves. One would think that the first traditional epic fantasy role-playing title for the Nintendo GameCube, especially one that has received such favourable reviews, would deserve a little more respect.

Speaking of delays, here is an interesting piece of news that has not been mentioned anywhere despite its floating around since late June: according to these minutes from a meeting of the Students’ Union Executive Committee, Rob Anderson of The Independent put in a request for $15,000 in SU sponsorship in order to continue their operations next year.

You know, for a moment I thought they would clean up their act by the time they release their second issue so it would be wholly unnecessary for me to make fun of them again, but to paraphrase what Kevin Massie said about the Singapore Institute of Management in their Worlds quarter-final, “they keep saying such silly things.” We are talking about a student paper that prides itself on being objective and eponymously independent in all the ways that the real McCoy purportedly is not. So why is it actively trying to tie itself to as many organizations as it possibly can?

Never mind that, far from being an independent journalism society with its own Board of Directors and all that jazz, The Independent is a branch operation of a politically-oriented student group. You already have a dose of eyebrow-raising upon realizing that Editor-in-Chief Weston Rudd is the Edmonton Region President of the Alberta Alliance Party. Now it looks as though the guys slapping it together realized that having an ad-free first issue is screwing them over, particularly because nobody is falling for the ruse of paying twenty bucks a year to “receive all SFASA publications and copies of The Independent when you can pick them up for free. Looks like “independence” comes with a price, and there is no escaping SU advertising.

If the very title of this publication is some kind of uproariously clever dose of satirical irony, by all means, point it out; after all, this here writer is not really an English major. It should be noted that the Executive is taking the right approach: see a few issues, let the paper float on its own, then cash in once it changes out of its dirty clothes, if ever. To oversimplify, SU money is student money, and is not something to needlessly fork out to this latest paper-bag princess.

As for Spider-Man 2: Next post, next post. On a tangential linguistic note, did I mention how much I love the CBC?

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But first, a nerd from our sponsors

Friday, 9 July 2004 — 3:04pm | Film

Last post, I said of Spider-Man 2: “Next post, I promise.” This intermediary one does not count.

It has come to my attention that this is the first anniversary of the entry that kicked off this website. In that time I have written 125 entries, containing 58,757 words (including quotations) for an average of 470 words an entry. Fifty thousand words is generally considered the dividing benchmark for when a work is considered a short novel rather than a novella, so the sum falls into an interesting range.

Conclusion: At the pace of this weblog, even with all the interruptions of the occasional disappearing December, it will take only a year to ready a workable first-draft manuscript from start to finish – not including the planning and revisionary stages, which take up the majority of the writing process anyway.

That is the optimistic appraisal, and one that relies upon several assumptions – among them, that the word count produced in a given time frame will flow towards that project exclusively, neglecting diversions such as academic writings and this weblog itself. Moreover, the higher standard of craftsmanship required of a publishable manuscript, or even the first draft of what may one day become a publishable manuscript, should naturally demand clarity, cohesion and consistency, and thus more time. This weblog, as it stands, has thus far been less about creation than its brother anagram, reaction – thoughts on the responses generated by existing work rather than the synthesis of the new. Undoubtedly, that has contributed to the girth of its contents, or at least its rate of expansion – the first derivative, if you will.

Still, a demonstration that fifty thousand can be so effortlessly reached should offer the budding-but-blocked potential novelists of the world a drop of encouragement.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a Stampede begins. After seeing an impressive procession of marching bands – and even one certain tidbit in Fahrenheit 9/11, for that matter – here is an observation about film music: Elmer Bernstein’s theme to The Magnificent Seven has for some reason not only transcended the film, or even movie westerns in general, but has established itself in the public consciousness as the definitive music of the Wild, Wild West.

In my opinion, the most impressive scores in this genre are by Ennio Morricone, who most notably scored the Man With No Name Trilogy (A Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More and that landmark of filmmaking, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly); but what Morricone achieves with his chanting choirs, electric guitars and ticking music boxes is a very different texture that contributes to the identification of the Spaghetti Western subgenre, or at least the incidental music of cinematic westerns as a whole.

Bernstein’s score, on the other hand, is for the fuller and more conventional instrumentations of orchestras and wind ensembles, and achieves an effect as different from Morricone as John Sturges is from Sergio Leone, to draw a directorial parallel. It evokes a Wild West of high adventure and pioneer spirit, not gunslinging duels at high noon. Much like Aaron Copland’s music to the Billy the Kid ballet, it works as a stand-alone throwback to North America’s vintage folklore of exploration. Observe the results: only forty years on, the theme to The Magnificent Seven is already the undisputed anthem of the world it portrays.

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With great power comes great electric bills

Wednesday, 7 July 2004 — 8:13pm | Comics, Literature, Michael Chabon

Ken Jennings update: Not only has he won twenty-six consecutive episodes of Jeopardy!, tonight he swept the “Marvel Comics Heroes” category. I am suitably impressed.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have plenty of time to mull over all the facets of Spider-Man 2 in terms of its content, since the ever-shortening summer movie season is effectively over barring a surprise success on the part of I, Robot. Today, I will instead act like a Comic Book Guy poseur and talk about a few of the mice and men behind the movie.

First of all, Apple has a fantastic article featuring Nels Israelson, a professional one-sheet photographer (“poster boy”?) who designed the outstanding promotional material for the movie. A must-read for any photography buffs out there, it covers how he creates and shoots the superhero poses in a digital format. Naturally, he uses a Macintosh.

Those of you who have seen the film will remember the stunning opening credits sequence, which re-created memorable images from the first Spider-Man (such as its most iconic moment, the upside-down kiss) in dynamic comic-book panels. The art in those panels was by award-winning painter Alex Ross, who rose to fame in the mid-nineties with his distinct romantic-yet-realist tapestries of costumed superheroes in two all-star graphic novels. The first was the Marvel project Marvels, written by Kurt Busiek, which re-created select famous events in the Marvel universe in the eyes of an ordinary civilian, which was a pretty decent concept, but was better as an Alex Ross art book than it was a story, especially to this here reader who was only casually acquainted with such calamitous crises as Gwen Stacy being dropped off a bridge after having seen it happen to Mary-Jane Watson in the movie. (I still don’t know what all that hocus-pocus about the Sentinel robots in that X-Men chapter was about.) His second big hit was a project for DC Comics entitled Kingdom Come, which took your Superman, Batman, Green Arrow, Flash, Sandman and a few hundred others, aged them a few decades and made them fight each other. Again, I imagine it would be more fun for seasoned comics fans who actually recognize all the cameos, but the painting was great. All in all, though, while you will never find as detailed and lifelike portrayals of your favourite superheroes as those in the Alex Ross portfolio, I find his art to be much better suited for stand-alone epic imagery than sequential storytelling. In the opening credits to the Spider-Man sequel, however, it is a perfect fit.

Novelist Michael Chabon receives partial credit for the screenplay to Spider-Man 2, which was a significant improvement over Jurassic Park screenwriter David Koepp’s work on its predecessor. It is hard to discern the extent to which Chabon’s contribution remains in the final cut, but holistically speaking, the impact is noticeable.

Michael Chabon, as I continually inform anyone who will listen, is the guy who got me interested in comic books. (Note that by comic books I don’t mean comic strips – I was weaned on Peanuts from birth – but full-fledged comics, often of the superhero variety, sometimes not; graphic novels and their shorter, monthly kin.) The culprit is that Pulitzer-winner of his, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which is a tremendously enjoyable read and alongside J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, my favourite work of literature published in recent years. It is indeed a rarity to find a writer of his calibre who respects the mythology of comics the way he does. If you turn at the last chapter of Kill Bill, Vol. 2 and examine Bill’s monologue about Superman’s critique of the human condition, you can see just what an impact comics had on Quentin Tarantino, and how he longed to express it to a larger audience in a medium that was more firmly entrenched in the mainstream – in his case, film. With Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon pulls off an equivalent in print, weaving a six-hundred-page adventure full of that same reverence for superhero mythology, that same implicit desire to share it with everyone else.

It so happens that back in 1996, before he really exploded on the scene with the likes of Wonder Boys, Michael Chabon was one of many writers approached to tackle the then-in-development-hell X-Men film. His (rejected) proposal, which can be found on his website, is not just your run-of-the-mill screen story treatment; it begins with a full-blown treatise that delineates the appeal of the X-Men into four elements – I particularly like the last one: “Stuff exploding, wild technology, cool powers, fighting. I have this stuff too.” Now that X-Men has actually been made into a film by which I was generally unimpressed, but spawned a surprisingly exhilirating sequel, one looks back and imagines what might have been – but considering that he went on to give us Kavalier & Clay instead, who am I to complain? Happily, it all worked out in the end, and he got to pen a little bit of Marvel’s other A-list franchise, and with admirable results.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay itself spawned a byproduct in the form of a quarterly eighty-page comic paperback, The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist – a realization of the fictitious comic that our titular heroes Joe Kavalier and Sammy Clay create in Chabon’s novel. Those of you with long memories or a predilection for digging around in the archives may recall that one of this weblog’s first posts was about that very announcement. After months of hunting around comic book retailers in Alberta in vain, I ordered the first two issues from Things From Another World a little while ago; they arrived at the end of May, but other circumstances have precluded me from reviewing them in full… until now.

To be honest, after the trials and tribulations of publication delays and the small problem of retailers not stocking the series, all the hype for Escapist #1 culminated in a bit of a letdown, perhaps because it was almost too conventional. The book is an anthology of six stories, with a few written segments of invented history interspersed throughout to continue the masquerade that the Escapist is or ever was a real comic book hero that has now been rediscovered by the “history” recounted in Kavalier & Clay. The first one, “The Passing of the Key”, is an origin story that faithfully visualizes Part I, Chapter 8 of the novel – one of the best parts of the original text, a breathtaking encapsulation of comic book panels in the power of prose written in the present tense, a passage that made one wish the comic was real. Well, now the comic is real, and this may sound harsher than I intend, but the book was better.

Make no mistake – the story as it unfolds in twenty pages of full colour is still a fun read – but the scene that stood as originally written in words and words alone made you believe that the art, the story, and the sheer thrill of escapism in that twenty pages were revolutionary. Perhaps this is a consequence of being desensitized to the present-day quality of comic book art now that every budding penciller has had ample time to idolize the visionary Jack Kirby, but the one thing the Escapist cannot escape here is the feeling of being a little ordinary. Part of it is that outside the context of the novel, the thematic significance of various elements are lost – Tom Mayflower’s crutch an expression of Sammy’s battle with polio, the entire concept of the character founded on Joe’s escape artistry and flight from the Nazis, the very idea of escapism as a human necessity.

See, this is what happens when the first two comic books you ever read are Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore’s Watchmen, which are generally agreed to be the two greatest works of comic art of all time and all time yet to come (a claim that, in my brief experience with comics, remains to my knowledge entirely true): you set your standards too high.

Also in Escapist #1 are “Reckonings”, a very contemporary-style and almost dialogue-free retelling of Luna Moth’s own origin story; “Sequestered”, a lighthearted read where the Escapist fights for justice in the form of jury duty, and the best entry in the volume; “Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been…”, a mediocre allegory of Joseph McCarthy that never quite connects; “The Escapegoat”, an interesting two-page foray into kids’ comics by way of animal personification; and “Prison Break”, a darker sort of story where the Escapist goes undercover in a maximum-security prison, which features the Saboteur, another character from the novel. The entire project is an enjoyable adaptation, but is unlikely to entice anyone who has not read Chabon’s magnum opus. Of course, in my humble opinion, anyone who has not read Chabon’s magnum opus should remedy that with the utmost immediacy.

The big payoff, however, is in Escapist #2. Part of the original concept of the Escapist comic anthologies was to parallel the evolution of the comic as depicted in Kavalier & Clay, and thus capture a stylistic history of comic books in general. While the first volume hints at this – “The Passing of the Key” has the angular simplicity of the 1930s, the cornball atmosphere in “Sequestered” is reminiscent of the ’60s Batman television series starring Adam West, and “The Escapegoat” is a conceptual children’s work – it is in Escapist #2 that we really see the art branch out into wildly divergent aesthetics, a postmodern collage that finally distinguishes this series from the other comics on the market. The quality of the stories also shows improvement, some of them tackling the motives of heroes and villains in the same abstract, conceptual fashion as the symbolic conflicts in the book.

This collection begins with a Luna Moth story, “The Mechanist!”, the highlight of which is the chaotic pencil work by Bill Sienkiewicz, partially sprayed with colours that run all over the place. The approach is fresh, unconventional, and welcome. But what follows it is the best story in either Escapist volume, “The Lady or the Tiger”, by Glen David Gold (who authored the immensely entertaining novel Carter Beats The Devil). With fine pencilling by Gene Colan underlining a dark and solemn colour palette, it is a moody superhero love story that touches on many of the same ideas of personal desires and responsibility that we see in the two Spider-Man films. The writing is characteristic of an established and respected author, whose one novel to date has very similar appeal to Chabon’s own work.

Then comes “Divine Wind”, a story done in Japanese manga, which is by itself fairly standard but a decent take on the cultural cross-pollination we have already seen with Japanese comics, and which is still quite relevant considering projects such as the Indian Spider-Man. “300 Fathoms Down”, in the style of the Modern Era, brings an aging Escapist out of retirement for a Cold War mission; it is the most conventional of the lot. Escapist #2 concludes with “Old Flame”, a Luna Moth story that does the most we have yet seen with her out-of-costume alter-ego, the librarian Judy Dark.

On the strength of the second volume, I will very likely order The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist #3 when it is released next week. This one features the cover art that is a source of controversy and a key element in the novel, the Joe Kavalier drawing of the Escapist decking Adolf Hitler – only drawn by Mike Mignola, creator of Hellboy. Hopefully it exhibits the same kind of creative daring that made Escapist #2 worthwhile; of all the styles of sequential art out there, many have yet to be explored.

Oh, right… Spider-Man 2. Next post, I promise.

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Depending on the kindness of strangers

Tuesday, 6 July 2004 — 1:41pm | Film, Full reviews

The reference to A Streetcar Named Desire in the above title bears some relevance to The Terminal, which I have already put off discussing for a week and a half, but first, some belated thoughts on Marlon Brando. This will be far briefer than an actor of such legendary calibre deserves, but events like these are cases to file under “saturated volume of discourse”; more than a day after the fact, and there is little left to add.

Everybody has their favourite Brando moments on the screen, not to mention the mystique they find in one or more of the many offscreen legends that surround his persona. Heather Wallace, for instance, associates him most with his big moment in Streetcar. Many of us, even those such as myself born after the fact, recall the 1972 Oscars, when he refused his Best Actor win by proxy, sending a Native American actress named Sacheen Littlefeather to deliver a statement on his behalf. Brando, of course, was all about theatrics; as it turns out, Littlefeather was not a Native American at all, but the little-known Californian actress Maria Cruz. If anyone back then projected that they’d be talking about that one for years – thirty-two years on, that anyone is still correct.

What makes the ’72 acting Oscars even more interesting is that Marlon Brando was nominated in what could be considered the wrong category. The Godfather earned four acting nominations – one for an Actor in a Leading Role (Brando), three for an Actor in a Supporting Role (Al Pacino, James Caan, and Robert Duvall). Watch the movie, read the screenplay, read the original book by Mario Puzo: there is no way Don Vito Corleone is the Leading Role in The Godfather. The central character who dominates in terms of screentime is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, Michael. Of course, the Oscar nominations have always been driven by election-style marketing campaigns in trade publications like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter; two years ago, Ian McKellen was being pushed for a Leading Role nomination for his performance as Gandalf the Grey in The Fellowship of the Ring, but New Line decided partway through to switch gears and rightly push him for Supporting nomination instead – where, conveniently, his chances were better anyhow.

Not so with 1972. That year, all three Supporting Corleones – Michael, Sonny and Tom Hagen – were defeated by none other than Joel Grey. While among the younger generation he probably rings a louder bell as the father of Dirty Dancing‘s Jennifer Grey, his Oscar win that year was more than just a consequence of vote-splitting. It was the consequence of one of the best performances in any movie musical (and certainly the wackiest), the Master of Ceremonies in Cabaret – a role Grey created on Broadway, reprised by Alan Cumming (Nightcrawler in X2, Boris the Invincible in GoldenEye) in the 1998 revival. Joel Grey, whom I actually saw perform live at the Jack Singer a few years back, is a show-stealer. Mark my words: if Marlon Brando were in the right category that year, we would have no Sacheen Littlefeather of which to speak – and deservedly so. Yes, Don Corleone is iconic in the way he moves, the way he talks, the way he falls over and dies with an orange in his mouth; but I would put the balance in favour of “Wilkommen”, “Two Ladies” and the “Money” duet with Best Actress winner Liza Minelli.

But with Marlon Brando in the Actor in the Leading Role category, the Academy ended up awarding the two best performances of the year without pitting them against one another – and in doing so, set themselves up for Oscar’s most memorable stunt.

But returning to a spot of praise here, I want to talk about A Streetcar Named Desire. In only the greatest performances, like the aforementioned Master of Ceremonies, does one equate an actor with his work. Never mind that he practically invented method acting: Stanley Kowalski is Marlon Brando, and moreover, Marlon Brando is Stanley Kowalski. I have seen three screen versions of the Tennessee Williams play – Elia Kazan’s 1951 movie starring Brando, and two colour television remakes: one in 1984 with Treat Williams, another in 1998 with Alec Baldwin. The three varied in terms of how close they were to the original stage play; as some may know, Stella’s decision at the end of A Streetcar Named Desire, the Kazan film, is quite different from what she does in A Streetcar Named Desire on stage.

This, not Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, is my pet example of how the slavishness of a screen adaptation bears no linear correlation to the quality of a motion picture. Okay, so the other two are already disadvantaged by the fact that they are not really motion pictures, but dramas made for television, which is itself an inherently inferior medium for reasons I will not go into for the time being. They are not helmed by Elia Kazan, or any director who knows how to position a camera, for that matter. In fact, the only thing worth mentioning about the 1984 version is that the music is scored by the reliable Marvin Hamlisch; and the 1995 version has absolutely nothing going for it, except it is a cheap and accessible alternative to seeing the complete Tennessee Williams text on a stage where it belongs. But the most telling difference is this: not only are Treat Williams and Alec Baldwin not Marlon Brando (and by induction, not Stanley Kowalski) – they aren’t fit to lick his boots. Anyone who even attempts to play Stanley in front of a camera can be described in three words: not Marlon Brando. Never mind that Stella walks out on the guy – because of Marlon Brando, among other factors, the Kazan film upstages (no pun intended) the play itself in terms of being the definitive Streetcar. As such, it is an untouchable property.

And so were The Godfather, Apocalypse Now and all the other films where Marlon Brando didn’t just act – he defined. That’s how iconic he was.

With that very brief statment out of the way, let us proceed to a fictional character who, as the saying goes, depends on the kindness of strangers: Viktor Navorski, the stranded traveler played by Tom Hanks in Steven Spielberg’s The Terminal.

Now, this film had to live up to some lofty expectations, seeing as how given the prolific versatility of his curriculum vitae, Spielberg is probably whom I would identify as my favourite director living or dead. I am only three films away from being a Spielberg completist, not counting the ones prior to Jaws: The Color Purple, Always and Amistad being the last ones on the checklist. It was generally considered, up until he directed Leonardo DiCaprio to a career-best performance as Frank Abagnale, Jr. in Catch Me If You Can, that the one genre Spielberg could not do was comedy. Of course, the reference point for this was 1941, a slapstick piece of the silly-stupid school, which few people remember was still above the cut insofar as the silly-stupid school is concerned. In The Terminal, he aims for a middle ground between the two extremes and ends up with a piece that features both a cat-and-mouse character dynamic and just-for-laughs scenarios aplenty, but certainly not to the same extent.

As a movie that is built entirely on the premise of a man stuck in an airport terminal, this is the equivalent of what Trekkies commonly refer to as a “bottle episode”, a story that takes place entirely aboard the Enterprise: on the surface, it appears to be one of Spielberg’s least ambitious projects, but it deals with its own challenge of trying to stay interesting for two hours whilst trapped in a very finite number of sets.

Not much can be said for The Terminal in terms of plot, but its situational character relationships and more comedic scenes keep it alive. Navorski, who goes to America for reasons I will not reveal here but is denied entry on the basis of his country ceasing to exist en route, is an inspiring presence played by an inspiring thespian. Tom Hanks has a convincing stumble and a foreign grasp of English, only falling short of completely becoming the character because we have already seen his face in ten or more other films and heard him sing “You’ve Got a Friend In Me”; he delivers hilarious physical comedy with a charm that eludes the Jim Carreys and Ben Stillers of the industry.

Speaking of Jim Carrey, The Terminal in many ways reminds me of the former Ace Ventura’s own career best, The Truman Show. The connections are more than superficial; both are about a man confined in a world monitored by the cameras of a god from above. Here, Stanley Tucci takes the Ed Harris role, as a supervising immigration officer engaged in a battle of wills with Viktor Navorski. The conflict between the two is, sadly, one of the less engaging subplots of the movie, and it has a lot to do with how Tucci’s character is written. As far as villains go, unlike Tom Hanks’ FBI agent in Catch Me If You Can, he never grows beyond being a frustrated control freak, and this lack of dimension hurts an otherwise delightful movie.

The Terminal is largely a one-man show, but it also delves into how Navorski brings something out in the people around him, and how everyone’s life is really a journey to escape a cycle of perpetual waiting. There is an engaging supporting cast that includes the likes of a fugitive janitor who watches people slip on wet floors for entertainment (Kumar Pallana), and a lovelorn cook (Diego Luna) who offers Navorski food in exchange for proxy advances on a Trekkie customs officer (Zoe Saldana). Less interesting is the flight attendant that captures Navorski’s attention, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, but the romantic subplot does round out a few thematic corners and make for a terrific candlelight dinner scene.

John Williams, by the way, is on fire this year. Following the act of finally giving the Harry Potter series a breath of musical freshness in The Prisoner of Azkaban, here he delivers arguably the best of his lighthearted and contemporary scores, other than, well, Catch Me If You Can. It supports the movie with a whimsical, lively sort of bounce. You can shortlist this one for the Original Score award right now.

For the most part, Spielberg’s latest offering never pretends to be anything more than a diversionary comedy, and an uproariously funny one at that, but it comes bundled with some very real ideas about goals, destinations, and lives that never seem to get there. See it for a lovable Chaplinesque performance from Tom Hanks that transforms what should be a dreary backdrop into a fantasy playground in its own right.

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Uh-uh-uh, you didn’t encrypt the magic word!

Monday, 5 July 2004 — 3:44pm

Apologies for the lag time between my last post and its actual time of publication on the site; it was not until late in the day that, upon receiving a notice that the University’s Computing and Network Services is slapping an SSL wrapper on e-mail access, I put two and two together and discovered that CNS has also decided to pull the plug on FTP access to its servers. It is all part of an effort to phase out the use of plaintext passwords, which means I can say goodbye to the ever-so-friendly drag-and-drop interface of the Windows-integrated Internet Explorer, and a belated hello to a bundle of drive-mapping tricks thanks to AFS. This also means I no longer have any use for IE6 other than testing website designs for compatibility, as I already make predominant use of the far superior Mozilla Firefox as my primary web browser. As for this here weblog, worry not; after reconfiguring Blogger to use Secure FTP, I am now back in business.

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