Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Movies, magic and Speed Racer

I saw a very interesting and fun movie last night - The Illusionist starring Edward Norton and Jessica Biel. I didn't have much high hopes for it because of reviews I'd read, but it turned out better than expected. The ending was very satisfying, and that's important for a movie - to end well, and a happy ending certainly doesn't hurt. I'm not going to say more because some of my readers are interested in seeing it and I don't want to spoil it for them.

I've always been fascinated by magic - the stage kind at least. Real magick has been a recent interest. I used to practice sleight-of-hand tricks with cards, coins, balls, etc. I can roll a quarter across my knuckles, make a golf ball appear between my fingers and throw a playing card about 15 feet indoors with enough force to break a corner. These are mostly flourishes, not real tricks, because I never had the discipline to practice. But for as long as I can remember I've always been interested in cards and card games.

This past birthday my family got me my first tarot deck and a book to study on the art of tarot, and I'm looking forward to learning more about it. I used to have a card game called Dragonmaster that used a deck very similar to a tarot deck - large, colorful cards with beautiful artwork. In fact, the same artist did a vintage electronic game called Dark Tower which I also enjoyed playing as a child. Interestingly, this game was discontinued due to a copyright infringement lawsuit and now is becoming increasingly a collector's item. I wish I still had mine - they go for hundreds of dollars now on Ebay, but I'd like to play it once more for old times' sake.

Anyway, speaking of nostalgia, I've been watching episodes of Speed Racer a lot lately - I bought the first five seasons on DVD and I'm just starting the third season. What strikes me is how violent the show is when seen through an adult's eyes. As a child I didn't pay much mind to the number of casualties that occurred in a typical race - as long as all the major characters made it out okay, what did it matter right? But in one episode when Speed and Racer X (in disguise) race through a volcanic mountain course, at the end Speed says that 96 men started the race and only two made it out (!!!) you realize what a tremendous toll in human life we're talking about just for a sporting event. I started counting car crashes in some of races, but couldn't keep up. But it's not just the car crashes - there are numerous scenes of people being gunned down by machine guns, burned alive in pools of molten lava and all manner of mayhem. Lots of organized crime bosses, Speed almost goes blind in one episode, nuclear bombs in cars, ICBMs, etc. etc. It's funny how I never realized how violent these shows are until now - a loss of innocence I suppose.

I had a nice dinner with Agnieszka last night at Uno's Pizzeria, and she gave me a copy of Milan Kundera's novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, as a belated birthday present. The movie starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Juliette Binoche and Lena Olin, has long been one of my favorite dramas, and I've been meaning to read this book forever, and now I have no excuse! We talked a lot about expressing emotions and how we each have difficulties in our own ways. It reminded me of a French movie called Un Coeur en Hiver (A Heart in Winter) starring Emmanuelle Beart (from Mission Impossible) that I'd recommend to anyone with a Netflix account and a taste for foreign movies with bittersweet endings.