Friday, June 02, 2006

A Tale of Two Movies

Since my good mood crashed and burned about a week ago, I decided to give myself a present of a day off to do with as I pleased. I decided it was time to go to the movies. I don't go to the movie theater much anymore, since I usually end up being annoyed more than entertained. Between cell phone chirps, loud mouths and people who have to stumble across your feet half a dozen times (people, see a dr. for crying out loud), it just isn't worth the aggravation.

But once in awhile I cave in. I've learned to wait a week or two after the big blockbusters are released and to go to the earliest show available at a big cineplex in Austin. That usually guarantees as best a viewing environment as is possible. Today it worked out just fine. I was one of maybe a dozen people in the auditorium at 11:30 a.m. to see The Da Vinci Code, all of them adults.

(That reminds me of an audiobook I'm listing to at present. The main character goes into a restaurant and inquires if there is a no smoking area. "Yes, sir!" he is told. He then inquires if there is a no kids area. My kind of guy.)

Someone of my acquaintance saw the movie last week but had not read the book. Despite my comment that I had read the book twice and was well aware of the controversies it aroused, I have been repeatedly cautioned to remember it is fiction. Well, duh. It's just unfortunate that so many religious nuts have forgotten that little fact. Unfortunate for them. Very fortunate for Dan Brown, who's probably laughing all the way to the bank.

Anyway, I went prepared for violence and mutilation of the plot. There was violence, but it was well telegraphed so that those of us with squeamish tendencies could choreograph our popcorn eating so as to miss the flying globules of blood. The plot mutilation? Wasn't as bad as I feared. The major points of the story are all there. What they did change mystifies me. It really didn't seem to be necessary, but I guess it helped move the story along a little faster and got the job done in 2-1/2 hours rather than 3.

Tom Hanks was not my choice to play Robert Langdon, but he did a decent job. Only a time or two did you lose the character of Robert Langdon to the character of Tom Hanks and it wasn't jarring. The female lead was quite young in comparison, but they tamped down the romantic attraction in the novel to create more of an older brother to younger sister relationship, which worked out okay.

Bottom line--it was an enjoyable movie, fairly faithful to the novel, and loaded with great scenery. The critics may be crucifying it, but I think there's a lot of sour grapes involved with anything involving The Da Vinci Code. Ignore the critics and see the movie if you have any interest in it. You will be entertained sufficiently.

I got home to find that an impulsive EBAY purchase had arrived. My 2005 research project on the events surrounding the Texas City explosions of 1947 continues to spark my interest and I had located a DVD containing two archival films relating to the event. The first is a 6 minute, silent film presentation of fire and destruction of property. The second runs about 23 minutes and is a horrifying and graphic recounting of the tragic events. It was a compilation by the Texas Department of Public Safety and about half of the film was devoted to the subject of body identification in the aftermath of the explosion. The narrator tells the grim details of re-assembling body parts that had been blown apart, taking fingerprints from severed hands, dissection of bodies to determine the presence or absence of an appendix, and many other sickening methods they used to reunite bodies with the appropriate families. As the narration progresses, you are presented with film of the activities being described. It is not something you want to watch while you are eating dinner, which is what I was doing.

So from one extreme to another. The DaVinci Code is beautifully photographed and visually stunning. The Texas City documentary is grainy, poorly focused and visually stunning. Both films cause you to lose yourself in the story and stay with you for some time after viewing. The DaVinci Code (believe it or not, you hyper-religious nitwits) is fiction. The Texas City story is horrifying fact. The first takes 2-1/2 hours to tell its story. The second takes 23 minutes.

Both were well worth the time to see.


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