Monday, July 25, 2005

Comedies...romantic and otherwise...

The plus to all of this effort and struggle is that my parents gave my wife and I free passes to a movie. While this might seem fantastically exciting to a pair of people living below the poverty line, the restrictions on said tickets made it much more difficult to redeem than we had thought.

We were not allowed to use these for any film that had been released in the last two weeks, since these are considered "special engagements." In years gone by, this would not be a major problem, but in the last couple of years, it has become very rare for any but the most successful and/or family oriented films to last more than two weeks in major theaters.

Finally, we noticed that a special preview of "Must Love Dogs" for some reason was not considered a "special engagement." I defy you to tell me the logic of this process.

Now, I did my master's thesis on teen comedies of the 1980s, so I was excited to see the progress of Mr. John Cusack. Furthermore, he starred opposite the beautiful and talented Diane Lane, my example of how older women are often much more alluring than the teen of the week (Take that Lindsey and Hilary!).

I am glad to report that while the film is pedantic and totally predictible, it goes to show how even the simplest script and direction can become something entertaining when combined with enough talent.

I have in the past discussed the difference between "entertaining" and "great" cinema, but I will recap for those of you who do not know me personally. "Entertaining" means that neither my wife or I had any desire to request our time or money back following a film. "Great" cinema makes the audience sit back and look at the world in a slightly different way. This should not be reserved for the epic, Academy Award winning films that tackle a huge issue or event, although sometimes these do a credible job.

For the purpose of illustration, i will include a couple lists of films that fall under either, both, or none of these categories.
Great Films: These films made me rethink the world around me but are not necessarily the kind of thing that I want to watch regularly.
Chuck and Buck
The Apostle
The Sweet Hereafter
The Conversation
Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye

Entertaining Films: These are fun but do not really stand up to a lot of repeated viewing. They are also usually great examples of genre filmmaking.
In Good Company
Sense and Sensibility
Most things with John Wayne or Clint Eastwood
Some Kind of Wonderful
Spies Like Us

Great, Entertaining Films: Generally, I put films in this category that take a genre and stretch its boundaries a bit, or maybe more than a bit.
Next Stop Wonderland
Sliding Doors
Hero (Ying Xiong), not the 1991 film with Dustin Hoffman.
The Seven Samurai
The Princess Bride

Neither Great nor Entertaining: There are really too many of these to even give examples of, but these are often genre films that do nothing but fulfill the most basic requirements of said genre. Don't hate me if your favorite film is here.
Bad Boys II
Alien vs. Predator
Wedding Crashers
Kramer vs. Kramer
Thirteen Ghosts

Sure, I realize that these groupings are subjective. They are also based on genres to some degree, which could cause some problems for theorists. I also realize that not every film is made to be great or entertaining. Many films are made to make money. Maybe in the future, I will write a bit about why this is intrinsically a destructive force in American narratives across all media.

For now, i should get back to work.

Hardwood floors and other tests of patience...

Rather than beginning with my usual apologies for not posting for a while, I'm going to explain the reason that it has been a month since my last post.

I mentioned a few weeks ago about the fun of dealing with parents and ideology. Well, let me just advise those of you who think that you get along with your folks well that you should never volunteer to help with large renovation projects unless you are sure that you will be good working with said parents.

This past spring, I offered to help my parents in the renovation of their kitchen and dining nook. Part of this process was the tearing up of their old linoleum floor and installing a beautiful hardwood floor. This, by itself, is not the central problem. I spent a few years in college earning a living by my adaquate carpentry skills.

The problem evolves when you are dealing with homeowners who have no clue about the problems of tearing up a central living area for a matter of weeks. I wrote out a detail list of the things that would need to be done before my wife, my friend, and I would go down and actually put the floor in.

Needless to say, none of this was accomplished. None of the required tools and materials were purchased. The area was not prepared, and all of a sudden, my parents had decided that they wanted to try to retain a large quantity of moldings that I had said, "would be incredibly difficult to salvage."

So this last weekend, I went down to my parents' house to try to finish off the final stage of trimming the floor and installing the baseboards. Of course, none of the issues were really resolved. So for 14 man-hours later, we had about 7 pieces installed.

On the plus side, two of the transitions between the reconstructed area and other rooms is complete, but the negative side is that the baseboards are not finished. We found that a number of the walls do not contain the normal spacing of studs to affix the baseboards to, and my parents want to retain the complete height of the molding, rather than sink the wood below the floor level.

What does this have to do with being a public intellectual? I have no real clue, but I know that the fact that, between the four of us, we have eight-and-a-half degrees in a wide range of disciplines. None of them helped us develop an approach to a project that would result in a simple accomplishment of the task.

So the next time that you look down on any one in any of the various trades, stop! Think about the large quantity of work that it would take for you to do that for yourself. Offer them a cup of coffee or order a pizza or sandwiches for lunch. Then thank them profusely for their efforts.