Stranger Than Fiction

Tonight was movie night. There are lots of choices.

We decided against:

  • Borat – conscious decision not to go. It just doesn’t seem appealing, though loads of friends feel otherwise.
  • Babel – bad reviews. Helaine said, if you hold a finger over the “l,” the movie becomes “Babe.”
  • Casino Royale – maybe later. Excellent reviews. I’ve heard it’s violent, which isn’t Helaine’s cup of tea.

We ended up going to Wallingford to see “Stranger than Fiction,” the new Will Ferrell movie. It’s not a comedy – at least not in the classic sense.

Helaine and I hated… not disliked, hated… “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” There are many similarities between that movie and Stranger than Fiction, yet this movie was thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying.

Will Ferrell isn’t the over-the-top obnoxious guy you’ve come to expect. Queen Latifah isn’t the over-the-top obnoxious woman you’ve come to expect (My skin crawls when I see her Pizza Hut commercials).

Dustin Hoffman has reached a point in his career where he seems to be only playing Dustin Hoffman. He’s perfect at that.

Stranger Than Fiction is “a story about a man named Harold Crick and his wristwatch&#185” – or so says the off screen, pleasant, English accented voice of Emma Thompson, in the movie’s first spoken words.

Ferrell plays Crick, an IRS agent from Chicago who hears a disembodied voice narrating his life. He realizes, he is a character in a book. Therefore, his fate is really up to the author.

As the troubled writer, Emma Thompson is more than equal to the task. Her character is troublingly off center with an emotional short fuse. She smokes cigarettes as if she had a grudge against each one.

This is more than a movie of actors – it’s a movie of styles. Ferrell’s apartment, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s apartment, the IRS office – they are all perfectly designed to reflect and amplify those who dwell in them.

Many of the scenes are also annotated with computer generated graphical overlays to reflect Ferrell’s character’s analytical mind. It’s a clever device and well done.

The movie is poignant and sweet. We both cried, though I cried more than Helaine. That’s not saying an incredible lot. We also cry at commercials.

I can easily see multiple Oscars for this movie. Easily screenplay, maybe Emma Thompson, certainly an Oscar for design.

We saw this movie at the Holiday Cinema in Wallingford. We’d never been there before.

The facility itself looked a little frayed considering how relatively new I think it is. However, lack of sparkling ambience was made up for by the theater’s chairs! They’re well padded and rock nicely.

This showing did have the distinction of being the loudest movie we’ve ever been too. I’m not talking about the movie’s volume either.

If it wasn’t people talking, then it was people moving around or just random noises. Maybe they didn’t like the show as much as we did? Whatever the reason, they were restless.

&#185 – The watch turns out to be a Timex Ironman Triathlon 46 lap dress watch. I want one.

Beakman’s World Returns!

The New York Times says Beakman’s World is back!

OK – maybe I’m a little old to be excited about the return of a kids show, but this is Beakman’s World! My DVR is already set for next Saturday.

I came downstairs to tell Helaine and Steffie. Nothing. Blank stares.

Beakman’s World was a science program feautring Paul Zaloom&#185 as Beakman. It ran on CBS in the 90s. It’s back now in syndication.

Beakman is like Bill Nye on acid!

The show was more than Beakman. There was also Lester D. Rat, an obviously rattily rat suited Mark Ritts. It’s tough to describe this character other than to say Lester was reminiscent of Dustin Hoffman’s Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy – but funny.

There was also a succession of female sidekicks. The mold was cast early on with Allana Ubach as Josie. She could not have been more condescending toward Beakman… it really worked. The other two were OK, but I couldn’t watch them without wondering what happened to Josie?

In Beakman’s World, it was OK to be silly and smart. In fact, it was encouraged. How can you not love a show like that?

&#185 – Interestingly enough, Zaloom is listed as two clients on his manager’s website – Paul Zaloom and Beakman. They also represent my favorite movie villain, Eric Bogosian.
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Dustin Hoffman

I am watching 60 Minutes profile of Dustin Hoffman as I type this. Somehow I would have never expected him to be featured here. As big as Dustin Hoffman is, he doesn’t seem big.

To me, he is America’s great actor. When I’ve said this to others, I’ve always couched it… he’s one of the best. No – I was wrong. He’s the best actor of my lifetime.

His body of work is astounding, though so far 60 Minutes hasn’t shown the movie I feel might be his finest, “Papillon.”. He has played every possible role from drama to comedy. That might be another reason he is bigger than he’s perceived. If he were a dramatic actor or comedian he’d be easier to categorize.

What has impressed me with this story so far is that Hoffman seems to be exactly who I expected him… no, I wanted him to be. He is the angry man, unwilling to compromise his art. It is an attitude few of us are afforded. Yet, in Dustin Hoffman’s case he has been richly rewarded in spite of it

My friend Howard says, never meet the stars you enjoy. They will always be a disappointment. Howard wasn’t thinking of Dustin Hoffman.