Oct 132019

(No plot spoilers.)

The boys and I saw Joker at Bridge Street yesterday morning. It is another story of the titular Batman villain and how he came to be, set in a well-done Gotham City in which it seems to be about 1984 judging from cars and TV sets, but there isn’t particular rigor for anachronisms. You know how comic book movies are.

That said, this is only marginally a comic book movie. It didn’t have to be a Marvel or DC story to be effective. This is a tale of the beauty and the horror of the human animal. The trappings of the universe are secondary.

There haven’t been many films that have generated as much cautionary rhetoric as this one has. I wasn’t overly concerned about my well-adjusted teenage boys seeing it, but I wondered how over-the-top the violence might be. I thought it might tack borderline parodic—something like Natural Born Killers or Kill Bill.

It is a violent movie, and the depictions are graphic enough that I certainly would not want young children to see it. But at the same time, I think it stops well short of gratuitous. There are no cheap or easy shots. Everything we see advances the plot effectively.

Speaking of the plot, what is it? Well, there is a basic one, but it almost doesn’t matter. This is a character study, not a story. Every bit of exposition serves the transformation of Arthur Fleck into Joker.

That transformation is moving, electrifying, and bar-raising. Just empty your cabinet of superlatives for Joaquin Phoenix’s performance. It’s one of the greatest turns I’ve seen in years. The power and emotion of this portrayal are so effective that I found myself a little teary-eyed. This is not a remotely emulable character, yet you will empathize with him. You will feel sympathy for him.

And that performance, not Joker‘s depictions of violence, is at the heart of what unsettles us. Though they are very different films, Joker is disturbing for the same reason Apocalypse Now is disturbing—it comments so poignantly and accurately on the human condition that we are forced to consider our lots. How did we get to this place? What could we have done better?

Most frighteningly: how much can we change our trajectory, even if we want to? Is there some significant level on which we are simply at the mercy of our natures? I won’t try to answer that question, but I believe this movie asks it repeatedly, from several different directions.

Joaquin Phoenix wins Best Actor for this, or it will be one of the most heinous misses in the Academy’s history.


 Posted by at 2:13 pm
Oct 112019

Numerous circumstances conspired against us having a traditional fall break this year, so we kept it a pretty normal week. We did go to the new Cook Museum of Natural Science today. (It’s so misleading to call it “remodeled.” It’s much larger and much nicer than the museum it replaced.)

(Photo by Cook Museum.)

We had a marvelous time with all of the beautiful exhibits, and everyone was helpful and friendly.

Italian honeybee colony. The combs to the right were built and used by a colony that has now departed. The museum guide told us that they were going to tear it out, but now it’s looking like the current colony is planning to join the structures, so they have left it for now. (Click for larger.)

I didn’t get any good photos of how airy a lot of the new museum is, but this gives you some idea.

A magnificent golden eagle that was my favorite at the old museum, and may still be. This bird has a 7′ wingspan. (Click for larger.)

There is a large marine fish-only aquarium with numerous tangs, fingerfish, angels, and a few others. (There is also a smaller reef tank, but I didn’t think to take photos of that one.) (Click for larger.)


There are several live reptile exhibits. (Click for larger.)

This is one of several interactive exhibits. This is a sand table onto which a computer projects a biome. As you move the sand around, making high and low points, it simulates what would happen in that biome. Here we see primarily ocean, with a few mountains and a volcano or two. (All of this sand is the same color. The color you see is projected from above, and updates dynamically as you move it around. Really cool.) (Click for larger.)

The old Cook Museum was a favorite stop of ours when the boys were younger, and this new one is an impressive facility indeed. Alas, it’s not a pittance to make this trip anymore. Admission for the four of us was $87. Is this too much for the engaging and enjoyable two to three hours you’ll get out of the trip? No, it’s really not. It’s just maybe not quite as “whimmable” as it once was. But it definitely deserves to be on your family’s list!

 Posted by at 2:29 pm
Oct 082019

I can remember most of the anxieties and uncertainties that I had as an adolescent and young adult, because, well, they were anxieties and uncertainties. They were unpleasant. They significantly occupied my consciousness. As I got older, naturally, they became easier to understand. I could more easily discern my role in them. I could evaluate […]

 Posted by at 3:21 pm
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