Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cosmic vs. personal significance

In the last week, a couple movies I wrote about in the abstract earlier this year have come home to roost on video. First it was Push last Wednesday, which was as god-awful as I predicted in this particular piece of satire. Then Saturday it was Knowing, whose numerological theme inspired me to come clean about my own obsession with numbers.

I liked Knowing not only a lot more than Push -- a LOT -- but a lot more than most other critics liked it. In fact, some of these critics, including the one who reviewed it for my website, considered it sub-Shyamalanesque in the epicness of its failure, the epicness of its ridiculousness. I'm betting the fact that it's a Nicolas Cage movie predisposed them against it. When The Wicker Man and Bangkok Dangerous are swimming close to the surface of your memory as you watch, it's hard not to be affected by that.

Well, I'm siding with one of our most prominent film critics, Roger Ebert, in liking the movie, though I won't go to the lengths he has to defend it. You have to at least like its ambition. I won't say too much about it, because part of the fun is making eerie discoveries as you watch. Heck, even if you decide you hate it, part of the fun would be discovering the hilarious ways it's worth hating. And even if you just watched it for things like the crash pictured above, you'd at least have that.

But I have to admit I have my own reason for liking it more than your average person, a reason most people couldn't possibly share with me. And given how the movie is about Fate, and Destiny, and Predetermination, it's a pretty eerie reason at that.

You see, the movie takes place in Lexington, Massachusetts. But it was shot in Melbourne, Australia.

I grew up in Lexington. My wife grew up in Melbourne.

Ooooh, spooky.

The weird part is not that it was shot in Melbourne. That's becoming a popular spot to shoot your big-budget movie on the cheap, especially for Cage, who also shot Ghost Rider there. Sure, anyone in the know would yell "That's not the Charles River! It's the Yarra!" But most people aren't in the know. (Just how most people wouldn't know that if the plane crashed "two miles short of the runway at Logan Airport," it could not possibly have crashed in Lexington.)

No, the weird part is the Lexington part. The only movie I'm aware of that even has a scene in Lexington was Roland Emmerich's The Patriot, and that's because it takes place during the American Revolution, where two of the most famous battles occurred in Lexington and Concord. So why Lexington for Knowing, a movie where an astrophysicist is trying to predict large-scale disasters involving significant loss of life?

Then add to that the Melbourne connection, and the fact that the movie is about patterns, numbers, and quite possibly the end of the world ...

Ooooh, spooky.

But even if our personal geographical origins weren't involved, Knowing is still spooky, which is why I'm recommending it -- despite some episodes of overacting, and yes, some moments that might remind a person of latter-day M. Night Shyamalan.

"Spooky" ain't easy -- just ask Shyamalan himself, who lost that touch years ago. Alex Proyas, the director of Knowing, seems to still have it. Yeah, you'll get some Dark City here -- hopefully more Dark City than I, Robot.

And if you don't? Well, I guess a movie can't have both cosmic and personal significance to everybody ...

Go find your own!

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