Friday, January 4, 2008

Don't Step in the DNA

It’s Friday night in Seattle. I could hear the wind blowing the rain against the south side of the house when I took a bath earlier. I’m all ready to head up to bed, but I had promised myself that I would get some reading done and post an entry here tonight. I’ve given myself a good amount of reading time. I’m more than halfway through The Third Chimpanzee. It’s written by Jared Diamond, the author of the bestselling Guns, Germs & Steel, and he doesn’t shy away from controversial viewpoints. He nearly always points out that there are alternate viewpoints, and he admits that his views are just attempts at the nearly impossible task of figuring out what makes us uniquely human, when we share 96% of our DNA with Chimpanzees. He tries (and somewhat succeeds) to find animal precursors to human behaviors such as art and drug addiction. He’s also shown that the advent of agriculture and animal husbandry was a mixed blessing. It’s quite an interesting book and it manages to reignite my old interest in archeology, but I have to admit that I’m craving some fiction after a few weeks of paleobiology, anthropology, paleopathology, archeology and more.

Last night Jen and I took advantage of a babysitter willing to baby sit for two toddlers and we went out with our friends (the parents of Justin’s friend Daniel) to see the film Juno. It definitely lives up to all the buzz and is a worthy companion to — and in my opinion better than — the earlier spate of films from Judd Apatow and crew released recently (40-Year-Old-Virgin, Knocked-Up, & Superbad.) The first time script by Diablo Cody is smart and quirky. She deserves all the accolades that she’ll be getting for this film. I just think it’s unfortunate that we’ll always hear the phrase stripper turned screenwriter attached to her name. It’s all part of her self-invented fame though. None of it can take away from her fresh take on life in high school and in particular the strong and smart female voice in what is usually a testosterone fueled sea of teenage male angst and lust. And it all works thanks to great performances lead by Ellen Page as Juno. Juno was directed by Jason Reitman, who made the brilliant Thank You For Smoking a couple of years ago. I look forward to seeing Juno again, so that I can catch all those lines I missed while the audience was busy laughing.

A couple of nights ago I watched Shoot ‘Em Up, starring Clive Owen and Paul Giamatti. It’s an over-the-top parody of action flicks. Clive Owen stars as Mr. Smith, who gets caught in the middle of a firefight as assassins pursue a pregnant woman through the streets. Smith (Owen) kneels over and aids the woman as she gives birth in a warehouse while he simultaneously guns down all the attackers that enter the area. After the baby is born Smith quickly severs its umbilical cord with a shot from his pistol. It’s that kind of movie. A few scenes later Giamatti, as the sleazy bad guy, is fondling the dead mother in the backseat of the limo. I was wondering how an actor prepares for his necrophilia scene. For a movie that’s an obvious parody of a genre it wasn’t very funny, or particularly inventive. It was at times ugly and trite. I didn’t expect much from the director whose previous films were the teen sex comedies Girl Fever and 100 Girls.

Well, I’ve been writing for nearly an hour now and if I want to get a decent night’s sleep I should post this and move on.

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