Thursday, October 22, 2015

movies on the road

I had some awkwardly-timed downtime during my trip; I had some new movies I wanted to see; so I went.

The Martian. Which I saw mostly because I couldn't maintain my credentials as an SF fan without it. But it was pretty good as a movie, particularly in telling a story that basically consists of two years of waiting without being tedious about it. But I had some grumbles: 3) After a while it tends to drop interest in the stranded astronaut in favor of the events back in NASA. 2) The astronauts are way too snarky with each other. 1) I've seen this movie described as "competence porn" and it is. Repeated sequence: Character proposes something daring and audacious; authority emphatically forbids it because it's too dangerous and risky; character goes ahead and does it anyway; it works like a charm, even when that strains credulity. The only time a plan doesn't work, it's not because it's risky but because they cut corners to save time.

Steve Jobs. I think this is a movie for people who worship Apple products, who need to have the cult of Jobs taken down a peg. I don't like Apple products, so I'm not really the audience. The structure built on the pre-game shows for three product launches over 15 years is ingenious, but requires packing in too much backstory that doesn't fit. The same half-dozen people show up each time and say the same things, like ghosts haunting Ebenezer Scrooge, whom Jobs in this movie rather resembles. And if it's hard on Jobs, it's even worse on Woz, who is presented as an obsessive moron. (In the previous Jobs movie dramatization, Woz was Jobs's conscience, like Jiminy Cricket.) The one who comes off unexpectedly well is Sculley, possibly because the real guy talked to the screenwriter after having kept silent for over 20 years.

What I enjoyed seeing in this movie was the settings: three halls, all played by their real-life equivalents, each of which I've attended dozens, at least, of concerts in. It was amusing to see them on the big screen. Judging from the buildings surrounding it, the San Francisco parking garage featured near the end must be at least half a mile from Davies Symphony Hall, but artistic license.

Bridge of Birds, no, Sighs, no, Spies, that was it: Bridge of Spies. Nowhere near as good as the trailer had made me hope. Rather tedious, despite the action-packed plot. I think the director had trouble figuring out where the focus of the story was. And Tom Hanks dialed down the gravitas of his character way too far.

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