For various of us:

  • It’s a long weekend.
  • It’s the second round of the NFL Playoffs.
  • It’s the weekend of the Cavs/Warriors rematch
  • It’s a weekend that starts with Friday the 13th.

Let’s ignore all of that and talk movies. I’ve seen four this holiday season (minor spoilers for all follow. You have been warned.)

First, Rogue One. I wasn’t expecting anything more than a generic Star Wars flick, full of callbacks, lots of awwww moments, fun but forgettable. But this One surprised me. The characters are tough, gritty, the acting is top-notch, the atmosphere is dark and genuinely menacing.1 Glad I watched.

Next, Arrival, which is just brilliant. Again the acting is superb. And if you haven’t seen it or read the short story, and know only that it’s a First Contact story, you won’t be able even to guess what’s going to happen or what it all means. Don’t even try; just go along for the ride. You won’t regret it.

Manchester-by-the-Sea. More great acting, especially by Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams.2 and a taut, highly intelligent script adds up to another film I recommend highly. And it’s nothing like the Silas-Marnerish setup (A troubled bachelor becomes responsible for raising a young man) would lead you to believe.

Last, Passengers. the only one I regret seeing. Again, the acting is fine.3 But there are no surprises in it. There are plot twists, but each one is set up and executed to contribute to the standard Hollywood emotional trajectory, on the way to a high-action, effect-driven climax and the standard happy ending.

There’s a common thread here, of course: which films were able to surprise the audience, and which was stamped out by the standard presses. Hollywood has gotten very good at figuring out what we’ve enjoyed in the past and giving us more of it. Not that there’s anything wrong with that: anyone who says that he likes being challenged all of the time is selling something. But it’s also great when an original voice can give us something we didn’t know we’d appreciate until we did.

  1. It’s still Star Wars, filled with conversations in which no information is exchanged or even mentioned. Is a plan a good one? We’ll hear about gut feelings and what the Rebels stand for and trusting the Force, but never a word about likely weak spots or alternatives. []
  2. Coach Taylor is good in a supporting role, though it’s weird for him to have a New England accent. []
  3. Chris Pratt is OK playing a more serious variant of his usual character and Jennifer Lawrence is always good. []

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Mike has been a software engineer far longer than he would like to admit. He has strong opinions on baseball, software, science fiction, comedy, contract bridge, and European history, any of which he's willing to share with almost no prompting whatsoever. ...more →

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12 thoughts on “Weekend!

  1. Thanks for writing this, Mike, I enjoyed reading it.

    I’ve had a rough weekend so far, but it’s looking up. Friends came down today, we went for a walk, i’ve spent the evening watching documentaries, and my weekend / staycation is not actually over till I go back to work next FRIDAY, so how bad can it be, right?

    Plus, oh yeah, Jay supposedly gets back on Monday evening. Lord willing and the creek don’t rise…

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    • We’ve had a successful trip out here and said our goodbyes and, this morning, I *FINALLY* slept in past 3AM!

      Just in time to turn around and go home and mess up our sleep schedules one last time.

      We’ve got a handful of stories from being out here including the story of my friend getting sick and having to go to a hospital and what was entailed in that (no politics).

      The big thing, though, is that, this weekend, I get to go home.

      Finally. I miss my wife, I miss my cats, I miss my bed, I miss my keyboard, I miss my washing machine and dryer, I miss my refrigerator, I miss my weather, I miss my driving culture, I miss pork products, I miss downright near everything.

      The shower in the hotel is nice. They also aren’t screwing around when they say “spicy” in front of a dish here, unlike Germany.

      But I want to get back to my home. I miss my home very, very much.

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  2. Surrobaby is dominating this weekend. My high school buddy is in town from California. We had brunch, but my nausea has been so bad I haven’t been able to enjoy anything. I had an OB appointment on Friday where we talked about and scheduled genetic testing, which is easily the most difficult part of surrogacy for me because I’ll be emotionally devastated if the intended parent chooses to terminate the pregnancy. My son and I have lunch with the intended father tomorrow to get to know him better and hopefully talk about some pregnancy related details that haven’t been worked out yet.

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  3. Rogue One surpassed my (pretty low) expectations — it’s the first one I actually enjoyed since the original trilogy. It’s been amusing to see the reactions from the data security professionals though.

    On Friday night, I played Alchemists with my boardgaming crew — it’s not perfect but it’s pretty fun, kind of a combination of worker placement and Clue on steroids. We’re not super-competitive, so by the end it had almost become a cooperative venture to identify all the alchemicals.

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  4. On the ground in Germany. We made it through security and I got to second base with a kindly German TSA agent.

    Now I am hoping that the weather in Chicago allows for us to not only land but also take off again.

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