austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

If you are wise you'll listen to me

Today started slow, because of my sleeping habit and need to go to a seminar and get class materials ready -- classes start Monday(!). I've taught both classes before, and got notes for one done, found notes from the last time i taught the other that I can reuse, and got my syllabuses ready.

We chose to try the Singaporean cinema experience. We had a tough choice of Stealth and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which both opened this week. This was a close call since we expected awful things from both. spaceroo's elegant summary was, we expected an Armageddon-style big clunky idiotic movie from Stealth, while we expected Charlie to keep reminding us how much we liked the Gene Wilder version. We picked Charlie, since we hoped there'd be parts we'd honestly enjoy. The only twist on Singaporean cinema spaceroo tripped over was being asked for a seat assignment preference; sad to say, we ended up in the assigned seats since there was a good-sized crowd and moving would put us too close to the screen.

As for the movie, we both honestly had a great time. It's a weird film, very evocative of the original book -- so much that it brought back details I thought I had forgotten in the quarter-century (yikes) since I last read it. It didn't quite feel spontaneous, but you can say that about the old movie too (Pauline Kael described it as ``like watching Prussians at play''), and Johnny Depp as Willie Wonka is charming and fittingly bizarre.

It's a bit awkward that Charlie doesn't really have anything to do, all the time in the factory. In the book that's obscured by him being the viewpoint character; in the old movie it was obscured by adding a bit of naughtiness with the Fizzy Lifting Drinks and by removing Charlie's father, giving him a nice father/son tension with Willie Wonka. In this movie he triggers some flashbacks and seems to be setting up a subplot about how much Wonka had planned, but that doesn't pan out. The stuff with Willie Wonka's dad is a fine addition, though it points out how much Charlie isn't important to the mid-section.

Anyway I had a great time, and was completely sold by the music used for the nut-sorting room scene. I love bands that are trying to sound like The Monkees, or any sincere attempt to do pop music with a sitar. And we noticed in the theater multiple people came in Wonka hats. We wouldn't have had nearly as good a time at Stealth, and that gives today's life lesson. Torn between two apparently equal choices, take the one that hold a better prospect for non-ironic fun.

Trivia: The Harvard Observatory earned $2,400 in 1875 for selling time signals. Source: Einstein's Clocks, Poincaré's Maps, Peter Galison.

Currently Reading: Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 11 (1949), Isaac Asimov, Martin H Greenberg, Editors.


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