By Jared Diamond
I didn't realize it at the time, but I picked up this book almost exactly a year after I started reading Jared Diamond's previous work, Guns, Germs, and Steel. In a lot of ways, Collapse is the converse of that book--where GGS examines the environmental factors contributing to societal success, Collapse looks at reasons for societal failure. I found it to be a good read--Diamond writes in a very clear, easy-to-understand style--if, perhaps, a bit distressing. Finishing it found me left with a greater sense that I ought to do my part in living an environmentally responsible life, though I suppose in all honesty it remains to be seen whether or not that will last.
Started: 4/14/2006 | Finished: 6/17/2006
The Lake House
I'm actually a little surprised at this movie. The people responsible for marketing this movie have managed to promote a science fiction story as a romance so effectively that it managed to grab the number four weekend box-office slot. Yes, for those of you who didn't recognize it, a movie about people back and forth across a two-year time gap is science fiction. (If you want to be really nitpicky, I suppose it might be more accurate to classify this one as magic realism.) In fact, it's one of the most cliched science fiction ideas out there: the time travel story. Time travel has been done to death in the SF genre, from Robert Heinlein to Back to the Future. For me, the main problem of this movie is that it didn't do its homework well enough to avoid the rather huge plot holes. See, a person writing a time travel story has to make up his mind whether or not the past (and, therefore, the future) can be changed. He has to pick one and stick to it, otherwise the inconsistencies will eventually bother the attentive viewer enough to overshadow whatever may have been done right. That's where I'm at with The Lake House. Not to say there weren't other problems. Keanu still can't act. I mean, he's gotten much better over the past ten years or so, to the point where he's quite believable as long as he doesn't talk. And Sandra Bullock actually has much better acting chops than she gets credit for, which I largely attribute to the fact that she's so annoyingly typecast. The film also tended to drag in spots due to its over-reliance on voiceover and brooding close-ups of the leads--and the attempts of the director to get away from those elements were mostly quite clumsy. Despite all that, I still felt like there was some underlying heart to the film, some touching nugget of romance to it. And I felt like that for about 15 minutes after the end, at which point all of the "Why didn't she..." questions started occurring to me and Juliette. It really killed whatever good feeling I had about the film. Still, it does leave me hopeful for future forays into speculative genres, hopefully by better writers.
Viewed: 6/15/2006 | Released: 6/15/2006 | Score: C
This movie is being marketed as a romantic comedy. I'm not sure that's very accurate. True, there are a number of very funny moments but, even so, I'm not sure I'd call it a comedy. Have you ever been present when one of your friends was fighting with his or her spouse? Then you'll recognize the feeling of discomfort I had through much of the first half of this film. More than that, though, it made me sad. It was just a little too close to home for me to find it funny. Now, before you go sending me recommendations for a marriage counselor, let me just say that Juliette and I are in no danger of breaking up. Like every couple, though, we do occasionally have fights. Of course, we communicate well and share responsibility pretty equally, so our fights are less consequential than the ones in this movie and get resolved relatively quickly, but the themes in the arguments between Gary (Vince Vaughn) and Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) were very familiar. I think they'd be familiar to a lot of people--in fact, I think that's something that the filmmakers were counting on. All this, combined with the palpable chemistry between Aniston and Vaughn, made it just too real for me. So, yeah, I can't really call it a comedy. I will say, though, that this movie featured probably the best acting I've seen out of either of the leads. And, as I mentioned before, there are comedic scenes. I thought Jon Favreau was hilarious and Juliette liked Jason Bateman. Anyway, I thought this film was good, but if you're looking for a nice, light movie to bring a date to, you might want to consider seeing something else.
Viewed: 6/2/2006 | Released: 6/1/2006 | Score: B