Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Adapting to a DirecTV outage

Our DirecTV started acting funny last Wednesday night. Our first indication was when I was stopped, mid-program, from watching a show on our DVR in our bedroom, which is the secondary receiver we have in our house. I tried to call the Playlist back up, but it couldn't find it anymore. I shrugged and went to sleep, finishing it the next day with no problem on our main TV DVR.

Then Friday night, as we were trying to watch this week's 30 Rock with our dinner, it wouldn't load. We also discovered that we couldn't change the channel, either on the remote or the front of the receiver itself (which ruled out battery problems with the remote), nor could we call up various other menus. Eventually, it did try to pull up 30 Rock, but it went straight to the "Do you want to delete this recording?" screen.

We did not want to delete that recording, but in effect, that's what's going to happen.

After another 12 or so hours of trying various resets and getting various ominous messages ("1456 errors found on the disk; 0 repaired"), we called DirecTV and discovered that our receiver has gone kaput. We're going to have to get it replaced. This means we'll lose about 20 hours of saved programming. (And pretty much makes up my mind to stop watching Fringe, of which there were six episodes stockpiled with no plan to watch them in the foreseeable future.)

Darn it.

But as much as I bemoan the loss of those shows, I know we'll be able to cobble them together from other places, eventually. (We were able to see the list of saved shows, so at least we copied that down.) And in fact, it's possible our TV being down for a few days will have fringe (no pun intended) benefits for me.

Namely, now we have no choice but to watch movies.

Saturday night I babysat, so my wife and I weren't pursuing a communal viewing option that night anyway. But last night, we likely would have wound down the weekend with a couple shows on our DVR. Instead, we watched one of my favorite movies of the 2000s, Spike Jonze's Adaptation. (Though I think it would be more accurate to refer to it as Charlie Kaufman's Adaptation, or perhaps Charlie and Donald Kaufman's Adaptation.)  It was my favorite movie of 2002, and I ranked it 11th for the whole decade. And yes, I know the title is probably properly written as Adaptation. with the period at the end. But I find that problematic for the purposes of writing fluidity, so I'm excising the period here.

I'm not up to the mental calisthenics of giving this movie a review for you -- besides, you know that reviews aren't what I do in this space. (He says somewhat disingenuously, as more and more of his posts contain some form of a review of the movie being written about.) But even if I were completely clear-headed and hadn't spent half the night asleep on the couch while trying to make my way through a second movie, this is a difficult one to review in general because it's just so damn rich. Rarely have so many aspects of a script worked on as many thematic levels as they do in this impossibly meta (but never in an annoying way) piece of filmmaking.

So instead of touching on the movie's particulars as I do indeed believe is warranted, I'll just reprint my own review of it from allmovie.com, written nearly ten years ago, coinciding with the film's release. I was rather proud of accomplishing in those approximately 300 words the very thing that Kaufman struggles with in the movie: being able to say all the things you want to say in the limited time/space allotted to you. (For further consideration of this career-long struggle for Kaufman, see Synecdoche, New York.)

Anyway, here it is:

Critics charged with the divine headache of describing Adaptation, in all its twisted magnificence, should find it appropriate that the story concentrates on the paralysis of writer's block, brought on by the impossible urge to say everything. The sophomore collaboration between screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze is so drenched with unorthodox ideas, yet so fundamentally accessible, that it actually outdoes the groundbreaking Being John Malkovich in existential pretzel logic, while remaining digestible to a middle-brow audience. Kaufman's real-life struggles adapting Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief get brilliantly expanded into a self-reflexive narrative of sublime originality, in which screenwriter, author and muse become intertwined, and such rich topics as artistic integrity, social awkwardness and sibling rivalry get teased and prodded. Not only has Kaufman written himself into the proceedings, but in Nicolas Cage, he's found an exquisite choice to interpret himself and his twin brother -- an imaginary character given "real" life by receiving a screenwriting credit. Sweating, stammering, lowering his eyes, and imploding in a crisis of relevance -- then doing just the opposite as Donald -- Cage kicks his own career out of neutral, at least briefly exchanging the hunt for ever-bigger paychecks with work that truly matters. Although the stories of Orlean (Meryl Streep) and John Laroche (Chris Cooper) both carry a vital urgency, this is Kaufman's film, full of the anxieties of a kinky-haired shlub whose overactive imagination is both his meal ticket and his curse. Inasmuch as it eventually imitates the very story structure it abhors, Adaptation is the rare film that both attacks and revels in the humbling, soul-crushing yet exhilarating mechanics of Hollywood moviemaking. 

I did have a few new observations on this, my third viewing and first in about three years, but I don't have the time to get into them now -- nor, as described previously, quite the mental acuity. Let's just say that it still fills me with a sense of awe over its narrative audacity, and how well its many ideas cohere into something truly sublime.

Now it just remains to be seen how many more movies we can squeeze in between now and when our new DirecTV receiver arrives, which they tell me will be in three business days.

You know, I wouldn't mind if it were four.


Mike Lippert said...

Yep, this movie is brillant. I think it may be one of the rare few that I would consider perfect. I've seen it 7 times and can't find a single useless line of dialogue, a single bad scene or a single gap in logic. This movie really gets me going. I know what you mean about trying to review it. I have about 1,000 words last week and erased them all today at lunch to start fresh. I think Kaufman would be proud. I guess we'll see how I did when it's ready to publish in a couple days. We'll see if we found the same new relevations this time around.

Vancetastic said...

I think the reason I've been able to churn out posts at the pace I've been churning them out (one per day every day this month -- don't think I've ever started a month with 11 straight days of posts) is that I've been doing more anecdotes and fewer qualitative film discussion. The anecdotes spew out of me in no time flat. It's the thinking and processing of films like Adaptation that can bog a person down -- which is why I essentially copped out by just reprinting a review I wrote previously. Start the quality vs. quantity discussion ... now.