John Amutabi Nzenze: Angelike Twist
52 Movies: Week 49 - Topsy Turvy

Arrival--Discussion With Spoilers

If you haven't seen Arrival, but plan to, I suggest you not read the comments on this post. It really would spoil the first experience of the movie to know certain things about it. So, that said, have at it.

Addendum: I do by the way definitely recommend this film. I can say without giving anything away that among many other interesting things it has a definite pro-life element (not that it's preaching that, it's just there in the situation). 


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The part I missed the first time was the little narrative about the aliens' writing, and the work they were doing. When I came back from the restroom the first time, I remember wondering how they had acquired all that vocabulary. Now I know there was a considerable amount of time covered in the couple of minutes I missed. It made more sense after that. Also, when Louise is trying to write on the wall and puts both hands up and then says she can't do it with both hands--well, I didn't know what they were talking about the first time.


Having opened this discussion I don't have time to say much. Maybe later.

I remember not being sure specifically what she meant with the "both hands" remark. When exactly did that happen? Well, "when" is a bit problematic in that context. :-) But at what point in the movie.

Something I've wondered about: in normal aka real time, does the opening scene take place before or after everything else?

I.e: if the story begins in year 0 and ends with the daughter's death in year 20 (I don't remember exactly what age she is when she dies), is the opening in year 0 or somewhere past year 20? It doesn't really matter, but I wonder.

The timeline aspect of the movie confused me too much for me to make any intelligent comments about it. My immediate thought when it was over is that I wanted to watch it again knowing that this is what it was about. Then with a close eye to detail I might be able to understand more.

In the little narrative part where they are talking about the progress they have made and the work that Louise is doing, they talk about how difficult it would be for us to write a sentence beginning at both end at the same time with both hands. Before we could start writing, we would have to plan out all the spacing, etc. and it would take us a long time if we could do it at all. The aliens write a sentence or phrase from both directions at once in a couple of seconds. So that scene comes right before the aliens give her all the information and the explosion takes place.

Everything that happens before she goes to her classroom and finds out about the aliens landing happens after the aliens come--thinking in our limited linear way. ;-)

At the beginning, she says, "I used to think this was the beginning of your story..." and we see a table in the dark with two abandoned wine glasses--I assume Hannah is being conceived at this point. Then Louise says that knows she knows now that Hannah's story began the day the aliens arrived. However, on the day the aliens leave, she says, "Now I know your story began the day they left." (This might be paraphrase.) Because Hannah's whole life is a palindrome. And presumably ours are too.


In the classroom, Louise says that Portuguese is different from other Romance languages because it grew from a culture based on art, or something like that. I wish I could remember, and I wish I could hear more about that.


Stu, We went on one Sunday and then the next Saturday. Watching it again helps a lot.


Maybe oversimplifying here, but my impression is that everything we see Louise as remembering as a flashback is actually a "flash-forward," because of her gift. She is seeing the future, but doesn't realize it's the future because she's not aware of that gift. At the beginning of the story she doesn't understand it any more than the viewer does. But some clues are given, enough at least so that when the penny drops for her, the viewer can be right there too, even if he/she hasn't put it all together. This is what makes the denouement so clever.

It's a bit like The Sixth Sense in that regard, but much more subtle and complex.

(Btw, I'm hoping to see it again tomorrow night.)

When the light dawned on me I immediately thought of "In my end is my beginning."

That detail of the two wine glasses is just the kind of thing I missed and might have picked up on a second viewing.

This is my understanding of the basic story line in linear time--see if y'all agree.

Aliens land.

Louise is recruited to help communicate with them.

She and Ian meet, learn to understand the aliens, save the world, fall in love.

Louise and Ian marry and conceive a child;
Louise knows that the child will die young but chooses to have her anyway.

Unhappy with Louise's decision (not sure when he finds out?--presumably after daughter's birth), Ian leaves Louise.

Daughter grows up and dies, and the whole story is told from a point of view beyond that.

everything we see Louise as remembering as a flashback is actually a "flash-forward," because of her gift.

Yes, but I don't think that starts until after the scene in the classroom. I think the very first part is an introduction. And the reason I think this is because it's not her gift, it's an ability that she gains as she communicates with the aliens. She is beginning to think like they do because she is learning their language. It is changing the way her brain works. She had that conversation with Ian early on. And it's not really a flash-forward, it's that she is gaining the ability to see through time the way the aliens do. She may have a gift for linguistics that helps her to develop this ability better than anybody else.

I think that timeline is accurate as far as we can perceive it. The business about Hannah being a palindrome is really important.


Rob, What I wish that I had watched for the second time around and didn't was how the scenes with her daughter co-ordinate with the visits to the aliens.

Also, I think we see--in the scene about the zero-sum-game for instance--that for Louise, the past and the future are informing each other. It isn't just moving one way.


Maclin--I just saw your addendum. Yes! It's not preachy or out of place at all. It is completely natural in its place and it speaks to the real rubber-hitting-the-road context of pro-life as it actually plays out in our lives. It's really hard to live out, for instance in a situation like my daughter's--especially moving forward from here.


Right, Janet, but doesn't one of the aliens refer to her "gift" at one point? I didn't take that to mean her linguistic gift, but rather her gift of "second sight." She learns to use it by her interaction with the aliens, of course, but it seems that she already had it but didn't realize it, hence her mistaking of her "premonitions" for memories. I don't think this makes sense otherwise, as Villeneuve gives us as viewers no real reason to suspect that they're not memories until later in the film. This is what makes it so well crafted -- the director plots things in such a way as that the viewer's understanding of what's going on mirrors Louise's growing self-understanding.

The palindrome thing is thus paradoxical: it's both the result of her growing understanding (in terms of her grasp of it) and the cause of it.

But I don't think it IS second sight, else why have that very obvious discussion about how learning a language re-wires your brain? I just think it's plain sight--she is seeing through time. Is she seeing herself in the vision, or is she the person we are seeing? I don't know.

Anyway, if one of the aliens says that, tell me where after you see it again.


"if one of the aliens says that, tell me where after you see it again."

Iirc, it was around the time when they were debating what the aliens meant by "use weapon."

I should say that I don't think her second sight was any sort of skill or special gift that others didn't have, but rather something like an undeveloped natural capacity, that came alive, so to speak, in her encounter with the alien's language. It may well be that her linguistic abilities were directly related to it, in fact.

Again, I think that the story sort of demands something along these lines; otherwise the portrayal of the "premonitions" as memories seems to me to be a sort of narrative cheating or trickery.

I don't think I understand what you mean by that. I don't think they are either premonitions or memories. ;-)


Or maybe I'm just dense. 4PM is my # 1 dense time.


Just skimming over this, I agree more with Janet: it's not second sight or premonition, but an ability which develops as a consequence of understanding the language. I think it begins with an undeveloped talent, but not of an ESP nature--it only has to do with her ability with languages. The aliens say they've come to offer a weapon/tool, and it's only after Louise has spent a lot of time with the language that they say "Louise has weapon/tool". I think that's the "gift" remark you're thinking of, Rob? That's as they're about to flee from the bomb, isn't it? Or maybe subsequent to that, when only one of the aliens appears? Not at the beginning of the encounter, anyway. (Well, of course, it couldn't be, because there's no communication at that point. Her natural linguistic talent enables her to grasp the language more quickly, as a result of which her "brain is rewired", which gives her the ability to see things at different points in time independently of where she is in time. Physicist Ian doesn't develop this at all.

I saw it in a cinema here which I hadn't been into since my year in NYC. I went out to the flicks feeling very tired and just wanting a night off at the movies. I found that they had refurbished the cinema, so that there are many less seats, and these seats are like large, single occupant sofas - the bottoms lift in the air so that nearly everyone in the cinema lies recumbant watching the film.

This was a bad idea when I was 1) very tired to begin with and 2) found myself watching a 'difficult' film. As it went on I had less and less idea what was going on. I just lay passively trying to take it in.

To be honest, it was reminiscent of the three or four space films I've seen in the past few years, all of which seem to have an idealistic heroine - if not a clairvoyant heroine. That is, Inter-Stellar, or is it Inter-Galactic (?), Mars, Gravity - my favourite of all the above.

When I got home, I went on the IMBD site to find out what happened in the movie I'd just watched. I discovered, as said above here, that the heroine gets future sighted as a result of learning this time-free language.

It seems to me that, in the first place, I wasn't watching the movie in the right state of mind or even the right physical state to get it. But at the same time, if people have to read a plot synopsis, or be told by other people, what happened in the movie - that's not precisely a tribute to the movie itself. What is happening in a movie ought to be reasonable clear from what viewers themselves see on the screen. They shouldn't need to read about it or see it repeatedly to find out the basic plot elements. In a movie above all other mediums, the medium is the message. And if the medium is not reasonable self-illuminating, its a bad movie.

I get that people on here like the 'pro-life' message. But aside from that, what's there to like about a movie one has to see several times before one has a clue what happened in it. I don't know why its the genre of science fiction which tends to this pretentiousness, but there it is.

Too bad you can't erase that experience and see it again in a more receptive frame of mind and/or body!

I didn't feel baffled by it--I got the general idea, just was not clear about some details. That didn't prevent me from finding it very moving, which was the biggest reason why I liked it so much. It was an interesting intellectual puzzle, yes, but what really made it was the beauty of Louise's acceptance of life and gratitude for it even at the cost, known before she started, of great pain and loss. That was a tear-jerking thing for me. Without that aspect it would just be a fun technical tour de force. Or not fun, in your case.

The pro-life aspect was just an implication drawn from her basic stance. It was welcome but definitely not the main reason I thought it was so good. It would have been just as moving without it, or at least could have been, though it's hard to think what situation could have been substituted that would have been as powerful.

Right, I was clear about what was going on--at least by the end of the film. I just wanted to see it again to see what it was like knowing what I knew the second time around. And to see what I had missed.

I did the same thing with True Grit--hardly sci-fi.


And actually, I like any art form that continues to reveal itself in new ways the more you are exposed to it.

It seems to me we were talking about something like that just recently.

Its a totally different thing revealing more details and more levels of meaning on every new viewing and having to be seem four times to get the basic plot straight

But we didn't have to do that.


Just look at the discussion on this page. People were explaiming central plot points

Well, but at least partially, the movie is about mystery, about how there are different ways of perceiving than those we understand. If everything in the movie is obvious, it just disproves the message of the movie. And then the movie is exploring time: how we perceive it, what it is essentially, how there might be other ways to perceive it, how it isn't necessarily quantifiable.

I think the movie is self-illuminating, but just because we see something in the light doesn't mean we automatically know what we are seeing.

And I don't believe that a bad movie would make anyone want to see it again.


"I don't think I understand what you mean by that. I don't think they are either premonitions or memories."

The film makes you believe that they're memories, that Louise is remembering all those events with Hannah. But as we find out, none of them has happened yet -- they're all in the future. It's when this penny drops that things begin to make sense. Otherwise, the presentation of those events as memories (which is obviously what we're supposed to believe they are) makes no narrative sense, or worse, is a sort of cheating -- the foisting of red herrings on a grand scale.

The friend that I saw the film with had already seen it once, but wanted to see it again knowing the basic conceit. He said that the penny dropped for him during his first viewing when at a point somewhat late in the film Louise asks, after one of her memories, who the little girl is. He reasoned that she would not forget her own daughter, esp. after all she had been through, so the only plausible explanation was instead that she hadn't had her child yet. Therefore, the memory wasn't a memory at all, but a glimpse into the future, and if it were true of that memory it must true of the others as well.

Hence, anytime you see her having a memory of Hannah, it's not a glimpse into the past but a glimpse into the future. That's the key that keeps the whole thing from being a hash of time slippages backwards and forwards.

From this angle the nature of her "gift" is relatively unimportant; what's important is that she possesses it. But its nature becomes important later in the story when she learns what it is and how to use it.

Well, that's not what I didn't understand. I understood that. ;-) I'll have to go back and look when I have a minute, which isn't now.


"From this angle the nature of her "gift" is relatively unimportant..." Yes, I was thinking that after the discussion yesterday. I mean, I think it's an interesting idea that the language more or less created the gift, but its impact in the story is the same either way.

I didn't really have a "penny drop" moment. Just a gradual dawning, as one piece after another fell into place. In fact it didn't really hit me until I was outside the theater that Ian was the husband who left.

Grumpy, besides the fact that you weren't hitting on all cylinders, I think maybe this movie just wouldn't have been your cup of tea at any time.

"reasonably self-illuminating"--I would say that it is--not completely, but reasonably. Rob and I have only seen it once, and Janet had the basic idea on her first viewing. And I know we're not smarter than you. I mean, this was nothing like as obscure as, for instance, Mulholland Drive.

But self-illuminating *at first exposure* is definitely not a criterion I would put at the front with any work of art. I don't even expect it with, say, music or poetry. I generally don't trust my first impression of anything apart from the obviously garbage and obviously great. It sounds like you treat film a bit differently.

I think people are still debating whether Decker in Blade Runner is a replicant or not.

If the film wants us to think they’re memories, when they actually are "premonitions", that’s perfectly fair, narrative-wise. But if he makes us believe they’re memories to no real purpose, or to simply confuse things with no true resolution, then that’s just trickery (or incompetence) and makes a hash of the whole thing. As my friend writes, "Since it all serves the narrative, then it's legitimate. He's playing with us, in a good way, both to draw us in by establishing the emotional core of the story and to heighten the effect when the reveal comes."

Oh, well I agree with that, Rob.

I think people are still debating whether Decker in Blade Runner is a replicant or not.

Well, maybe we will find that out in the sequel?


If I go tonight to see it again as planned, I'm going to try to pay close attention to some of the things we've discussed.

Good. I was wondering if I would be bored seeing it twice in 6 days, but I was just as engaged as I was the first time.


When Mulholland Dr. came out I saw it 3x in five days, including two back-to-back nights!

I love Mulholland Dr!

I'm sure I've said on here before that it's one of my top five all time faves.

Unfortunately, bringing up a film like Mulholland Dr. lessens my interest in Arrival. I just want to go home and re-watch Mulholland and think about the blue box.

That's too bad! I think Arrival is a pretty darn good s/f movie.

I guess I'll have to watch Mulholland Dr. now that it's on Filmstruck.


Rob, I remember both of us enthusing about Mulholland. Janet, it doesn't strike me as something you would like all that much, but of course I could be wrong.

If you're wondering why I haven't said anything since this morning, it's because I was busy all day and then spent the evening watching Interstellar. It was a mostly interesting three hours, but...well, my reaction is a bit of a shrug, which seems sort of harsh for such a lavish production. It's big and spectacular and entertaining, but not something I'd want to see again. I like Arrival a whole lot better.

I suspect a lot of the science in Interstellar is completely ridiculous, but I don't know for sure. Planets orbiting a black hole instead of a sun?!?

Mullholland Drive: Well, it will be a while before I can watch it, and if I don't like it, it won't have cost me anything. It might be one of those man things. ;-)

I did enjoy Interstellar, but it's nothing like Arrival--not anywhere near as much food for thought. Of the three movies Rob mentioned, I like Arrival best by far--I could watch it again soon--then Midnight Special and then Interstellar.


I think Interstellar loses points primarily at the end, where it attempts to explain too much. Up till then I thought it was top notch. It does gain some of its lost points back at the very end, imo, but not enough to salvage things completely. I found it interesting that both films had as major themes the nature of time and the parent/childhood relationship, and I found some of the parent/child scenes in Interstellar quite moving.

Well, I saw Arrival again last night and have a few thoughts.

The beginning sequence is undoubtedly portraying Louise's memories of Hannah. This is very clear from her voiceover.

After this sequence we don't see another memory of Louise's until after her third visit with the aliens. This is the visit in which she understands that they are communicating their names, and in which she touches one of them through the screen.

In the scene in which I remembered the alien saying that Louise has the gift, it actually says "Louise has weapon." It's later that you find out that by "weapon," they actually meant "gift."

It is around this same time in the film that Louise is seen as being increasingly confused about her memories/dreams and finally asks "Who is that child?" It is at this point (or soon after), that the viewer realizes that what we have all along been thinking are Louise's memories of Hannah are not memories, but visions of the future. The alien confirms this when he says "Louise has weapon," followed not long afterwards by "Louise sees future."

Villeneuve cleverly sets up this revelation in that opening sequence. With that initial presentation of what are obviously memories, the viewer is tuned to interpret any later visions of Louise with Hannah as memories also. Thus, when she begins to have her later visions we are primed to believe that her encounters with the aliens have somehow triggered her memories. But of course the "trick" is that these are not memories at all, but glimpses into the future.

It should be noted that the trick is a fair one. Villeneuve drops enough hints along the way so that the reveal is not an "and then she woke up and realized it was all a dream!" sort of thing. The picture of Mommy and Daddy with the bird in the cage, the interaction where Louise tells Hannah, "If you want scientific, ask your dad," etc.

I should also say that I was even more moved by the film the second time around. I found myself tearing up at the beginning, several times along the way, and of course at the end.

It's strange to me to think that I, as a person who's not a great s/f fan, have as my two favorite films so far this year two science fiction movies: 'Arrival' and 'Midnight Special.'

Very good points, Rob. I do want to see it again, but will wait for the DVD.

Interstellar left me feeling depressed after the first time I watched it. Arrival had me feeling the opposite.

That's not to say that I didn't like Interstellar; I did.

Now I must see this Midnight Special movie, which I hadn't heard of until mentioned here.

Rob, One thing I was waiting to say, because I was wondering if you would think this, is that I found the beginning of Arrival very like something that Terrence Malick would do.


I hadn't thought of that, Janet, but you're right. The voice-over would have been more whispery though. ;-)

As is normal for me, the details and specific sequence of things in Arrival have already gotten a bit hazy and scrambled in my mind, but next time I see it I'll be trying to pay very close attention to the things you note, Rob. Not sure I'll get to see it in the theater, though it's still there this week.

Oh, I just saw your long comments, Rob.

Well, the weapon/gift is the language, because that is what they gave to everybody. Louise seems to be the one that was able to really assimilate it.


"Well, the weapon/gift is the language, because that is what they gave to everybody. Louise seems to be the one that was able to really assimilate it."

Right, but Louise starts to feel (see) its effects even before she has learned it. She has the gift before she understands what it is.

When she talks to them for the first time and learns a bit. It seems to me that they are communicating with her in a way we don't see. We see what the humans are doing, and we pretty much get the idea of how that works. But maybe the aliens aren't just students or followers. Maybe they are teaching Louise in some way that is imperceptible to us.


I'm getting obnoxious, I think. I should stop.


No, I agree with you. Like I said yesterday I don't believe that her "gift" is something innate and exclusive to her. I guess what I'm saying is that her ability to see the future isn't wholly dependent on her knowledge of the language in a sort of one-to-one correspondence. She starts seeing the future before she knows much about the language at all. It could be that she received the initial capacity when she touched the alien through the glass (it certainly did something to her) but the film doesn't make that clear.

I'm about to start a retreat. See y'all Sunday night


Have a good retreat. I'm about to work on and I hope finish your 52 Saints post, so it should be in your emailbox when you get back.

Thanks. Are you relieved to have finished your last one? I know I will be.


Yes. I found most of them somewhat difficult, because there ended up being a lot to read and distill into 1000 or so words, plus saying something besides a rephrase of the basic bio. It was sort of like doing the Authors posts.

I watched the movie Indignation over the weekend, based on a relatively recent Philip Roth novella and thought it was very good. Takes place in early 1950s with Korean War going on. Jewish kid from Newark goes to Ohio to a Christian college, clashes with Dean of Students there. Very well made, and there were some things that are almost EXACTLY the same at my own Christian college here in 2016. I'm really looking forward to seeing American Pastoral now.

Haven't heard of either of them.

Saw Manchester by the Sea over the weekend -- very good, especially Casey Affleck's performance. Oscar Nomination(s) most likely in the works.

No doubt it's good but it looks like one of those things that could be kind of painful to watch.

I guess y'all are all planning to be standing in line Thursday to see the new Star Wars-related movie?


Right. It's on my list right after Voyage of the Dawn Treader and the latest Hobbit movie.


In the next Hobbit movie Bilbo's going to have a love interest.

"No doubt it's good but it looks like one of those things that could be kind of painful to watch."

It certainly has some painful moments, but on the whole it's much more a slice of life than a tragedy. It doesn't wallow.

In the next Hobbit movie Bilbo's going to have a love interest.

Oh well, then, I guess I'll have to move that up ahead of VotDT.


I'm not sure I can take any more Star Wars. I think I've had enough.

I'll go see it, hoping it's enough of a spectacle to justify seeing it in a theater.

"It doesn't wallow." That's good.

Janet, I think it's going to be Scarlet Johansen in a sort of Wonder-Woman-style outfit. If that affects your priority...

Going to see Nocturnal Animals tonight, which is supposed to be somewhat "Lynchian." We shall see.

Well, looking around to see if SJ was in the Hobbit movie or the Star Wars movie, I find that Denis Villenueve is the director of Blade Runner 2049, which makes me think I might want to see it after all.


I was joking about the next Hobbit movie. I don't even know whether there's going to be one. I hope not. Tolkien's grave has been disturbed enough already.

Haven't heard of Nocturnal Animals.

I haven't heard of it either, but at my house we hear them all the time.


Nocturnal Animals is a neo-noir thriller. Amy Adams plays a rich gallery owner who is sent the draft of a novel by her estranged ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal). As she gets engrossed in the novel she's increasingly psychologically affected by it. The viewer is shown both stories -- the "real life" story and the one in the novel -- and the connection between the two disparate stories gradually becomes apparent.

Although it's quite a dark film, it has a very strong moral thread. It most definitely works as a thriller, but it's more than that. And the acting, writing, and direction are all top shelf.

Sounds very intriguing.

Yeah, some of the reviews have brought up David Lynch's work in connection with it, and while there might be similarities on the surface and in the mood of certain scenes, NA is, on the whole, told more straightforwardly (despite the back and forth between the two internal stories) and is also more explicitly moral.

This is making me think that we could do "52 Actors/Actresses" some time. Week One - Amy Adams.

My entries would not be more than a few sentences

Signs of an Arrival of a Transformation in the Philosophy of Time

Academic Philosophical article on the film Arrival

I was a bit suspicious of this because it wants you to sign in to your Google account to download the PDF, and I had just been reading something earlier about sophisticated phishing attacks centered on Gmail. But you can read the paper without signing in--just scroll down. And seems to be legit. (Apologies, Kent Palmer, if you've commented here before--if you have I've apparently forgotten.)

I have a few academic friends who use to distribute their papers to interested parties. It's on the up and up.

Yeah, like Paul.


I finally got to see Arrival, and have just read through these comments. I loved the movie; far better than Interstellar, for sure. A great sense of atmosphere, gorgeous to look at, and cunningly constructed. I loved the dreamy feel of the whole thing. This is my kind of science-fiction.

After this first viewing I came to the same general conclusion as the rest of you about the sequence of events. The one thing that didn't fit was that first set of "seeings" into the future, which I, naturally, first interpreted as memories. Since Louise hadn't yet met the aliens and hadn't yet begun to learn their language, it seemed a cheat to let her have such vision at that point in the film. But Rob, on his second viewing, picked up that the voiceover in that initial sequence positions it as "past-visions of end-of-film Louise", rather than "future-visions of start-of-film Louise". That, if true, gets Villeneuve off the hook for cheating.

A few things are still confusing me though.

One is the basic premise: that learning this alien language, in which thoughts are instantiated as wholes, rather than linearly, could impart a gift of seeing through time -- that is, seeing a temporal whole rather than only temporal events in sequence. In this the alien thought seems conceived of as akin to angelic thought: immediate, rather than deductive or discursive. But I don't see any implication, one way or another, for future sightedness. Angels don't know the future.

Also, the alien language seems clumsy. The pictograms indicate concepts, but, based on what I saw, no grammar. You would think it would at least be inflected, so that some relationship between the words would be indicated.

Also, the notion of future-sightedness is a dangerous one for dramatic purposes, because if one can see into the future then there must be a particular future to see, which suggests (and may imply) that our characters have no free will. Which, if true, rather undermines the emotional punch of Louise's decision to have a child. Was she fated to do as she did?

Finally, I'm puzzled about how all this works from the aliens' perspective. They came to earth to share this gift, because they, seeing the future, know that in 3000 years they will need the help of humanity. But this is getting close to one of those time paradoxes where the future has a causal influence on the past, even as the past causes the future. It's like a temporal palindrome, I suppose, but it makes my head hurt.

That said, this is a film I'd really like to see again, if only for the beauty of it. There were some really striking visuals.

Villeneuve is a very good filmmaker. Arrival is the fifth movie of his I've seen and I've thought they were all very good. He's got a very strong visual sense combined with solid narrative skills -- a winning combination.

I can't discuss it in a whole lot of detail because I know there was a lot I missed in one viewing, and it's been six or eight weeks. I'd like to see it again.

But: I didn't take seriously the idea that the language could somehow produce the ability to see outside of time. I just took it as a dramatic device, like warp drives and all that sort of paraphernalia required to make interstellar flight possible in sci-fi. Nor did I think much about the written language beyond the fact that it looked really cool.:-)

And yes it did raise the whole time-travel problem, and I usually object to time travel, but I guess I was more accepting here since there was no actual travel.

Speaking of which, at Janet's recommendation I watched the Netflix series Travelers, which is about a group of people sent from the future to change the course of history. It's not great but enjoyable--you get interested in the characters. The twist is that the future people are sent into the bodies of people about to die in the past, and have to pick up those lives in addition to doing what they were sent to do. So you get interested in that angle. One person for instance is sent into the body of a heroin addict and has to cope with that.

I've been watching Man in the High Castle, and enjoying it more than I thought I would.

I also watched Mulholland Drive, and mostly enjoyed it but found some of it so troubling as to about outweigh the enjoyment.


"I didn't take seriously the idea that the language could somehow produce the ability to see outside of time."

If you give credence to the idea that our language shapes our consciousness, then you can suspend disbelief enough to make the thing work, at least for the purpose of the film. I didn't really take it any further than that though.

"I also watched Mulholland Drive, and mostly enjoyed it but found some of it so troubling as to about outweigh the enjoyment."

When Lynch chooses to be troubling he can be very troubling indeed. But I think most often it's for a purpose. And "enjoy" is probably not a word I'd use related to his work, excepting Straight Story. I find his best work strange and beautiful and challenging; I wouldn't say I enjoy it, exactly, but I do love it.

By the way, Mac, I've got a couple friends asking about the 52 Movies complete list...

"suspend disbelief enough to make the thing work" Yes, that's pretty much what I did.

I really want to see Mulholland again. Some of it certainly is troubling and I'd hesitate to recommend it without a lot of qualification and disclaimer, but I found it very powerful. And I really want to see Twin Peaks again.

Thanks for the reminder about the list. I'd forgotten it again.

I know that with most science-fiction there comes a point at which one mustn`t push too hard, lest the whole thing crumble. I was just trying to find that point.

I think one of the reasons I enjoyed Arrival so much was that in addition to being a very "filmy" film -- in its art direction, cinematography, acting, and direction -- and its having genuine human feeling at its centre, it's also really nerdy. The whole movie is seriously preoccupied with something that most science-fiction -- think Star Trek or Star Wars -- simply glosses over: how to communicate with aliens. I like this about it.

You touch on something I've been meaning to mention: I don't think Star Wars really even ought to be called science fiction. It's "space opera". More Buck Rogers than Isaac Asimov. Not a point I'd go to a lot of trouble to insist on but at any rate SW and Arrival are not really the same kind of thing artistically. I mean, fundamentally it's all film/theater, but there's still a useful distinction between, say, an Agatha Christie novel and The Brothers Karamazov, even though both can be called crime stories.

The interstellar setting of SW, the spaceships etc. are all just paraphernalia for an action-adventure story, whereas something like 2001 or Arrival is about the philosophical and social implications of some scientific or technological development.

Anyway I need to get to work...

A long time ago I heard someone describe SW as basically a Western set in space, and I'd mostly agree with that.

"A long long time ago, in a galaxy far away
Naboo was under an attack"

Yes, that's a good way of looking at Star Wars. I guess I don't really know much about those movies; I've only seen one of them.

I think SW is more like a World War II movie than a Western.

Here's the Wikipedia article on space opera. They define it somewhat differently from the way I would. They include some works that I think are more weighty, such as Ender's Game.

I think the Western idea of Star Wars is interesting because Lucas got the name "jedi" from " Jidaigeki" movies. Seven Samurai was one and, of course, The Magnificent Seven came from that.


~~I think the Western idea of Star Wars is interesting because Lucas got the name "jedi" from " Jidaigeki" movies. Seven Samurai was one and, of course, The Magnificent Seven came from that.~~

I thought of that too, related to the fact that Lucas was influenced by The Hidden Fortress. Certain types of jidaigeki movies could be seen as Japanese counterparts to Westerns.

The story itself isn't much like those, though.

I see what you are saying, Maclin, I just thought that connection was interesting. I've never thought about what the movies were like outside themselves, and I don't have any little grey cells free to work on that right now. ;-)


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