Review: Ticket to Paradise

Run, do not walk, to the theater to see this film. It was only our second post-covid theater experience, but was great: lots of social distance at a weekday matinee.

I mean, really. What’s not to love? George Clooney and Julia Roberts as the bickering divorced couple in a romcom,  brought together by their daughter’s ill-advised. hasty destination marriage in Bali. She just graduated law school the week before. TOO SOON!!!

The plot isn’t the point; watching these two stars is the point.

At 1:44, it’s only 14 minutes too long, and even at that, it passes the watch test because I never looked. Since the stars are 61 and 55, they are even age-appropriate; how rare is that? Of course the woman should be six years older than the man, as many of you know from my example. Turns out the pair has been in six movies together since Oceans 11 in 2000. I know screen chemistry isn’t really a thing―that’s why the call in acting―but if it were, this pair has it.

My favorite line: Clooney: “This is an armrest, not a metaphor.” I guess you have to have been there to know how hysterical this is. “We were married five years but it felt like 19.”

Internet Blows It Again: Defending Your Life/Testimony Of Light

This is the third in what is apparently becoming a series. I have previously complained about the lack of information on the open internet about the night Cronkite stood up, and Patty/Kathy from the Patty Duke Show being quaternary cousins. And now, I complain that no one has pointed out the startling similarity between Testimony of Light: An Extraordinary Message of Life After Death by Helen Greaves (1969) and Defending Your Life written/directed Albert Brooks.(1991).

If you haven’t seen the film, stop here. If you have, ask yourself if the premise of the film doesn’t sound a lot like this scene from the book (condensed for space reasons):

Suddenly [there appeared] a cinema or television screen. Pictures began to emerge on it. They showed moments of stress, moments of triumph, moments of failure in the earth life of Doctor X. We saw patients; we watched him in his diagnoses; we followed him to the theater and witnessed his operations…

The pictures on the “screen” went on and on.

We were taken into the homes, lives, families of those on whom the Doctor had performed his successful operations. We saw the benefit to humanity, the healings, the resumption of happy, useful lives which were the results of this man’s skill.

To be fair, I wrote to Albert Brooks, and his assistant responded he’d never seen the book. And, I find that “life review” is a widely discussed topic, usually in the context of “my life flashed before my eyes” at the moment of death. But it is sufficiently out there that Brooks may simply have absorbed it and repeated it, something which may also have happened to Greaves.

A Whole Lot of Movies

I was moving some of my old columns from my personal website to Typepad, when I discovered I had seen five films in the week before the new millennium. It made me curious; how many films have I seen a year since I began the online version of this column 24 years ago? I’ve written up 746 films, or about 32 per year, which is roughly how many I saw per year while reviewing movies for The Tech in 1971-74.  Assuming I am a man of steadfast habits (probably true) that means I have reviewed 1632 films since 1971. Between the ages of 12 and 15, Steve and I saw a movie almost every Saturday. Add in some movies seen with my parents during my childhood and I’d say 200 is a conservative estimate.

Round down and that means I’ve seen 2500 films―so far―in this lifetime. Fair to say I am a movie buff, although I think my 10 million or so words written is almost as impressive.

Movie Review: The Adam Project *****

First two pieces of context.

I really like Ryan Reynolds. So I’m inclined to have a favorable opinion of any film in which he plays the lead.

And, as you know if you’ve ever been to my fan site, I am also a big fan of time travel movies. (OK technically GHD is a time loop movie, but I think it falls into the same genre)

My favorite part of such movies is that each one offers us a different set of rules about the past affecting the future. The screenplay of The Adam Project  is exquisite; clever, well thought out, pseudo-scientific, psychological and sweet.

Among the film’s many fine characteristics is the fact that it is only 16 minutes too long.

Groundhog Day and Buddhism


As usual, I expect new material for my Groundhog Day The Movie website from my avid readers. Fire away if you have something you don't see here.

Welcome to another perennial item. I run this one (nearly) every year in conjunction with Groundhog Day. The Bill Murray movie of the same name is the 34th funniest American film of all time, according to the American Film Institute. It is also my favorite movie of all times. This is the twelfth time I've run this item!

I went to a showing of Groundhog Day sponsored by the San Francisco Zen Center on Friday, Aug. 10, 2001, held in the Trustees' Auditorium of the Asian Art Museum in Golden Gate Park (relocated in October 2002 to the old SF Main library in the Civic Center).

I have so much to say about this exciting, exhilarating, eye-opening experience that it is now a subsite titled Groundhog Day The Movie, Buddhism and Me, which includes a description of that seminal showing, commentary, and links to other sites that deal with the connection. While noticing the connection between this movie and Buddhism is not particularly profound, it was news to me, and the nuances were explored in a particularly exciting fashion during the Zen Center presentation. My site is rapidly gaining ground as the authoritative center for GHD/Buddhism commentary on the web. I brush it up and add new material regularly, so if you haven't been there in a while, take a look.

If you love the work of GHD writer Danny Rubin as much as I do, check out his web site which includes a bio, a list of his works in progress (exciting) and a list of his sold films (also exciting). I have been privileged to share a radio show with him. He has been nice enough to correspond now and then with me via e-mail. He's written a great e-book, How to Write Groundhog Daywhich I thoroughly enjoyed. Go out and buy your own copy!

Also, the University of California has published a Groundhog Day book, by Ryan Gilbey.

I finally bought the book The Magic Of Groundhog Day by Paul Hannam. Danny Rubin wrote the foreword. You can find out more at Hannam's website. Hannam wrote me that he "did a book group on my book and several readers said that they could not believe how great the movie was after learning about its profound spiritual and psychological meaning. Even at Oxford 90% of the students thought it was just a Bill Murray comedy!"

This and That

A Concept I Love: Fainting Couch
The RWNJ media regularly shouts, ‘where is my fainting couch,” and “I need my clutching pearls.” Not literally, of course: that would show too much self-awareness. But watching them swoon pleases me and makes me think of these metaphors
An Insult I Love: How Stupid
From the comic strip Pearls Before Swine, “How does a guy as stupid as you put his pants on in the morning?”

A Quote I Love: Love and Intelligence
“Love means not being able to stop your heart trampling all over your intelligence.”
-- Hervé Le Tellier, The Anomaly

Movie Brief: Passing *****
This Nettflix film about a black woman passing as white, is part of a genre, which also includes White Lies from New Zealand a few years ago. Apparently, good things to not come to people who deny their racial heritage. (An almost perfect 99 minutes)

Ted Lasso
Ted has heart-warming Christmas message in Ted Lasso animated short
Typing and Writing
Further on the subject I covered recently, The Effect of Writing Tools on Writing. Can “Distraction-Free” Devices Change the Way We Write?  | The New Yorker

Movie Briefs: West Side Story *****, House of Gucci***, Power of the Dog****

West Side Story *****
Yes, Virginia, there are movies that need to be 2 hours 36 minutes long (three minutes longer than the 1961 version). I know this is now considered a problem play, but screenwriter Tony Kushner made a valiant effort to solve some of the problems, as did Stephen Spielberg, who cast actual Hispanic actors. The plot (thank you Romeo and Juliet) as well as the music (thank you Sondheim and Bernstein) are breathtaking. This is a moving theatrical experience. Go if you can. And Rita Moreno, not a cameo. My wife feels that Maria’s despair and suicide in the end if done in a beautiful and sensitive way would have greatly enhanced the ending. After all, it is what Shakespeare did.

House of Gucci***

Adam Driver, Lady Gaga, Al Pacino, Ridley Scott at the helm. What could possibly go wrong? Ridley Scott’s power, I fear. At 2 hours 38 minutes, it is almost precisely an hour too long. Hollywood is afraid to cut the films of A-list directors these days, which produces massive self-indulgence. I know I have been riding this hobby horse for half a century, and the odds are that no one in Hollywood is hearing me. But the fact of the matter is there was a five-star film inside the bloated carcass of this self-indulgent overload.

Power of the Dog****

Yes, it is a half-hour too long, so I wouldn’t normally give it four stars. But director Jane “The Piano” Campion’s obvious respect for her viewers, combined with an astounding performance by Benedict Cumberbatch (he plays unlikable!) moved me as close to five stars as I’m willing to get on a film that could easily have been 25% shorter and so more interesting.