Monday, 2021 March 8, 08:02 — cinema

Billy Budd

Last night I watched Peter Ustinov’s adaptation (1962) of Herman Melville’s story Billy Budd. In 1797, a young merchant seaman is drafted onto a warship, where his sweet nature is admired by all except Claggart, the cruel master-at-arms, who resents Budd’s inability to fear him (because Budd is too innocent to see evil in anyone). ( . . more . . )

Tuesday, 2017 May 23, 16:19 — cinema, language

questions of emphasis

In Sherlock episode “The Lying Detective”, the phrase serial killer is uttered many times, always stressing the first word – as if the second were a given, even when (for the speakers) any killings are hypothetical. That impaired my enjoyment of a generally well-written episode. (Well, much better-written than its neighbors.)

I’ve noticed the phenomenon before: when a phrase becomes a fixed lexeme, many people, perhaps most, are deaf to its components. For my ex, the phrase beef jerky was in such perfect union that she often said “turkey beef-jerky”. Not Always Right has occasional tales of restaurant workers and customers for whom the arbitrary name “bacon lettuce & tomato sandwich” does not imply the presence of bacon.

Thursday, 2017 January 5, 22:36 — cinema, psychology

exporting transcendence

In the film and TV series Limitless, a drug makes the protagonist temporarily super-intelligent.

In the episodes I’ve seen, it’s not established whether any skills learned with the drug remain when it wears off. I imagine that you’d want to try to develop ways to improve your unenhanced intelligence; in other words, to teach your alter-ego to learn better.

Later: In the third episode he behaves so stupidly that I lost interest.

Saturday, 2016 December 17, 13:40 — cinema, prose

Use of Symbols

In Marvel/Netflix Daredevil episode 11 “The Path of the Righteous”, [spoiler] drugs [spoiler] and takes her to a secret place. When she wakes up, he sits facing her and puts a large pistol on the table between them, “to get [her] undivided attention.” After he has made his demands and threats, his phone rings: a call that he cannot ignore. She takes advantage of his momentary distraction to grab the gun. He scoffs: “Do you think I’d put a loaded weapon within your reach?”

I thought of a scene in Randall Garrett’s “Lord Darcy” stories. Someone asks the forensic magician Sean O Lochlainn, “If you’re not going to cut anything, why are you sharpening that knife?” Master Sean replies, “The best symbol for a thing is the thing itself. This knife represents a sharp knife. I have another one that represents a dull knife.”

What, then, would be the symbolism of putting an empty gun on the table?

Friday, 2015 May 29, 23:28 — cinema


Watched The Battle of the Five Armies. How many ways would the author be appalled?

Puppy-love between a canonical Dwarf and a non-canonical Elf. Their pheromones cannot be compatible.

There’s a Laketowner named Percy, a family name from France. (The other Laketowners at least have Nordic names, consistent with the author’s usage for Men and Dwarves of that region.)

The Orcs sneak up on Erebor using tunnels bored by non-canonical sandworms “were-worms”. Etymology time, since etymology was very much Tolkien’s thing: the first element of werewolf does not mean anything like ‘magical’ or ‘demonic’; it means ‘man’ (cognate to virile). Do these monstrous worms turn into men at other phases of the moon?

Monday, 2015 March 2, 00:52 — cinema

Awake how often?

The protagonist of the TV series Awake lives in two worlds: one in which his wife died in a car crash, and one in which their son died instead. As we see it, he spends a day in Hannah’s timeline and then a day in Rex’s, alternating.

But (in the four episodes I’ve seen so far) no one ever asks him where he goes on the other days. On the other hand, if he lives each calendar day twice in sequence, he ought to be able to use knowledge of events unrelated to his family to win the occasional bet, and I haven’t seen him do that.

So I choose to suppose that his awareness forks each morning, and rejoins when he sleeps, so that he always has two yesterdays, neither preceding the other.

Thursday, 2014 November 6, 01:35 — cinema

The Curious Case of the Catchy but Inappropriate Title

In Mamet’s The Spanish Prisoner (1997), Joe, for a genius, is a bit stupid. Maybe he hasn’t watched enough movies.

Jimmy tells Joe to “bring the Process” to their meeting in the park. Joe never mentioned that word to Jimmy. Though Joe is already suspicious of Jimmy, he does not notice. (Well, maybe he’s too angry to notice.)

The fake FBI agents tell Joe that Jimmy is working a classic Spanish Prisoner scam, though Jimmy has done almost nothing to set up such a story. If he says the “princess” is in trouble, will Joe hand over the Process to help her? Hardly. So why doesn’t Joe remark that it doesn’t fit?

When the police ask for something with Jimmy’s fingerprints, the plot requires Joe to take a day or so to remember the switched book.

Susan is the obvious suspect for the theft of Joe’s knife; this does not occur to Joe.

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