Sunday, June 8, 2008


My wife picked this movie out at the library, knowing nothing about it, but thinking the DVD case looked interesting.

Turns out it's a movie produced by JJ Abrams (of 'Lost' fame), though I missed this in the opening of the movie so I didn't know it while watching the movie.

The opening scene is at a going away party for some guy, Rob Hawkins (the protagonist). It's shot (as is the whole movie) from a handheld video camera (or it's supposed to be). The opening scene drags on and on... and on.... and on. I actually got so bored I started reading a book that was laying near the couch. Finally, the action started. I thought the finally we'd get some normal cinematic shots, but no, the handheld camera theme continues on, Blairwitch Project style.

So the story is about some alien creature that lands in Manhattan. It starts wreaking havoc in the city, and then the military comes and the battle causes even more havoc. Rob Hawkins' friends wander around trying to figure out what to do. They die off or disappear one way or another. They wander around Manhattan trying to rescue Rob's main squeeze. In the end, everyone dies, and you're left wondering, "WTF was that about?"

You never find out anything about the monster like, what is it? where did it come from? what does it want? do they kill it? WTF happens?!?!?!?!?! They tried very hard to make you care about the characters, but I never did. I just wanted a building to fall on them to get them out of the story's way.

It was terribly disappointing because it seemed to have some great potential. A good and interesting premise and great special effects, and the actors were actually good as well, but the one person POV was a disaster. Especially because that one person knew nothing about what was going on.

Don't waste your time. I heard there's a sequel coming out, perhaps that will be better.

Them Old Cowboy Songs

So I was driving home one day and tuned to the local public radio station. It was a reading of some story, but I really didn't like the voice talent but I lingered a little longer.

It turned out to be a stunning short story titled Them Old Cowboy Songs by Annie Proulx. I had no idea who Annie Proulx was until I got home searching for more info on the story. Turns out she was the author of another short story, Brokeback Mountain. I neither read that nor saw the movie, so I can't comment on it.

Them Old Cowboy Songs is a short story that ran in the May 5th, 2008 New Yorker magazine.

The story is set in 1885 and like most (or all?) of Annie Proulx' stories, in Wyoming. A young man named Archie marries a young woman named Rose. They set up a homestead out in the prairie. Archie goes out in search of ranch-hand work leaving Rose at home pregnant.

Here's the spoiler: Rose has a difficult premature labor, the baby dies and she dies alone in the little house in the prairie. No one finds out until the next spring. Archie, while working on a ranch, also dies in a blizzard. And being a nobody cowpoke, no one really takes note.

That's it. It's a story of two people, about to make a start in the world... they die, and no one cares... and the world goes on.

It's horrifying because it makes one look at the truly insignificant nature of our lives. We are truly of almost no value in the grand scheme of things. The only value is to us and those close to us. How depressing.

Despite the depressing nature of the story, I was moved by how effective the short story was, how it perfectly captured these two people, how it made the reader sympathize with them, yet how it cast no negative light on the 'way things are.' I did not mourn for either character, but I was compelled to look at myself and my own little life.

A must read.