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Saturday, February 8, 2003

Forty-three woman and I sat in the dark this afternoon and contemplated death. That's not our reaction to The Hours, the movie we were all watching together. At least, in my case it isn't. In fact, I was so riveted that I was offended when most of them got up and started laughing and chattering as soon as the closing credits began to roll.

It's sort of the same way I felt when I saw The Blair Witch Project. As that movie ended, the other theater patrons were grumbling and saying things like, "That's it?" I'm pretty sure someone threw a drink cup at the screen. I liked that movie, too, although I never wanted to see it again. I'm not ready to go back for another screening of The Hours just yet, but maybe some day there'll be a DVD with the stars and director wise-cracking on the commentary track, as on Igby Goes Down. Or maybe not.

If I'd hated the movie, I would have blamed Mom. It was the current release that she most wanted to see, but I was eager to watch that cast working together (which, by the way, they mostly don't). I'd read the Michael Cunningham novel a few years back, but I only remembered the bare-bones outline. That's pretty much all that was kept from the book anyway, as far as I can recall, the telling of three parallel stories set decades and oceans apart.

The common thread is the need to face life and find out how to deal with it on one's own terms. Some of the characters turn away and hide, while others break free and embrace the mad rush of living in the world. People make choices, not always grounded in wisdom and clear thinking, but they do what feels right for them at that moment. These choices resonate, affecting the people around them and sometimes rippling across the lives of others they'll never know about.

Making the choice to live another day is pretty much what gets me out of bed every morning. I had a boss once, many (many) years ago, who said that success in business is determined by how many times you're willing to answer the bell. During the whole time I worked with him, every customer that came through the door got his full attention. I heard that he retired recently. I guess he got tired of answering the bell.

As Woody Allen said, "Eighty percent of success is showing up." Some people have a hard time with even that low standard. The principle characters in The Hours are all tempted, to varying degrees, to stop showing up, to throw themselves in rivers or toss themselves out windows. Most choose, for varying reasons, to keep living, one way or another.

Most of us don't have to think very hard to find those reasons. I've had people in my life whose very existence has been enough to make me want to see another day. I doubt they even know who they are, but as Meryl Streep's character says in the movie, "That is what people do. They stay alive for each other." We are all in this together, one way or another. My experience since starting my online journal has proven that to me.

green and a rock

A rock among the weeds in my garden.

There is a specter of impending doom over the characters in the movie, which is probably why it has the reputation of being depressing. It's definitely not an action movie. It has long sequences of pure dialog, shot mostly in close-up. That might be part of the reason I was the only man in the theater. (Possibly it was also due to the fact that Shanghai Knights was opening next door.) I'm a big fan of women's pictures, although there are some that I hate. This one I liked.

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For an actual review of The Hours, check out Travis's movie page. He didn't like the movie as much as I did (slight understatement, there), but we agree on one thing. As we were driving home, Mom and I said almost at the same time that Julianne Moore's performance was the best of all the leads. I wasn't the least bit bored by the Nicole Kidman segment, though.

Recent recommendations can always be found on the links page.

One year ago: Joy to the World
"People we've never heard of will do things we can't imagine, and we'll be pulling for them as if they were our old school chums or our long lost cousins."

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The poor boy changes clothes
And puts on after-shave
To compensate for his ordinary shoes