Wild Tales

Wild Tales was brilliant – just excellent. The stories were exquisitely told, well structured and balanced. And Almodovar has a gift for camera angles that are unusual and off balance in a way that’s powerful, but doesn’t interrupt the flow of the film.

Definitely worth seeing. Although I should mention that there is some violence. As the person behind me commented when they left, ‘It isn’t at all like Love, Actually‘.

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Good fiction

I’ve had the chance to read a little fiction recently, and it’s been a lot of fun.

Quantum Thief was like nothing I’d quite expected. Fascinating and intricate; hard to follow, and fun. It’s an excellent piece of fiction; not just because there are interesting ideas, unpacked in the story, but because the story itself is beautifully structured and told.

Love in the time of cholera has been well-reviewed elsewhere, so I won’t say too much. It’s clearly a beautiful book, and GG Marquez writes beautifully. I agree with others that I was disappointed some of the characters who were so well described early in the piece weren’t resolved by the end. Perhaps the best explanation I read was that Juvenal Urbino is a contrast, a man who can’t bear the thought of ageing (which is in stark contrast to the rest of the book). The topic of how art treats ethics is a complex one; but for what it’s worth, I thought the child abuse in the novel was  handled really poorly – one of the points that detracted from what was overall an excellent read.

Thinking about the internet

I read an interesting article the other day, courtesy of longform.org. It was on the history of the internet, and what the internet of the future will look like.

A fascinating hypothesis, and worth thinking about. I think the question of whether exponential growth can continue, or how it becomes a sigmoid curve, is fascinating. A particularly intriguing idea was that growth curves run up against physical constraints – hence the potential for Moore’s law to slow down.

Overall I think there’s a lot of change left to come, so I don’t know that I’d think about this in the same way as the author. But a fascinating and thought provoking read.

My notepad at the movies

I’ve seen a few movies recently – Jupiter Ascending, Mr Holmes, Dr Strangelove and The Interview. 

Jupiter Ascending was widely panned. A quick search of different reviews will show you what I mean. For what it’s worth though, I quite enjoyed it. Sure, the script was a bit shallow (and at points wasn’t quite coherent), and the characters weren’t very deep. But there was action, and it was visually gorgeous.

More importantly, I think I agree with this review on two fronts – firstly, that it’s exciting to see someone attempt to create a new world. Sure, maybe this one didn’t work, but part of achieving new successes is that you’ll get some failures. You don’t get a movie like The Matrix without there being a few failures along the way. So I think it’s exciting to see people having a go at world-building.

More importantly, I think a lot of what went wrong was in the script. The movie was visually gorgeous, and some of the concepts were intriguing. It just didn’t feel as though it had been pulled together fully, and the character development (particularly for the protagonist) felt quite weak.

So, worth seeing if you’re in a light mood, and ready for something fluffy.

Dr Strangelove was a lot of fun. I borrowed this from a friend, and really enjoyed it. It’s a comedy with a sharp tone that strikes home perfectly, and captures a lot of what must have felt ridiculous at the time. Well worth-seeing. And if you haven’t, I recommend reading up a little on the Wikipedia background, and particularly Peter Sellers’ experience making it – there’s some fascinating history there, including links to the original Red Alert novel. Definitely recommended.

The Interview has received a lot of press for different things, including the hacking attacks. I’ll just say that if you go in with low expectations, and are prepared for some very simple sexual humour, then you may enjoy it; and that the storyline does come together in a mildly satisfying way at the end.

Mr Holmes was a beautiful, thoughtful piece. It’s also a stunning movie piece – gorgeous English countryside, and beautifully shot. The story sounds complex (Sherlock Holmes remembering an earlier trip, and an even earlier case), but it’s actually told well, and quite easy to follow. It raises lots of interesting questions about identity and memory, and how we relate to other people.

Speaking of which, I do have one quibble with the film. [SPOILER ALERT: What follows relates to a late plot point in the movie]. There’s a point where, as part of his shift from someone purely concerned with the truth and thoughts, to someone concerned with feelings and emotions (in a simple binary depiction of one of the conflicts in the movie), that Sherlock Holmes writes to someone he’s met, lying to them about their father, in such a way as to make them feel better. In the context of the story it’s a touching moment – a lived example of Holmes valuing other people’s feelings, rather than purely focussing on the truth.

And I agree that feelings matter – we’re emotionally driven beings, for better or worse. But it struck me as a false dichotomy, to put him in a situation where he needed to either lie (and thus care for someone’s feelings), or tell the truth with a callous disregard for the emotional state of the person he was speaking to. I think in general, we can care for people and be truthful; and in the movie, I think the same thing could have been done – he could have written a letter that focussed on the emotion, and dealt with it, while remaining truthful.

So it’s a great movie overall, and worth seeing, but that false dichotomy irked me.