Two Nights, Two Good Movies

In the last two nights, a buddy and I got some pent-up moviegoing out of our system, so at Shirlington (which has really gone downhill) we saw Goodbye, Lenin! and then at Bethesda Row (very nice, especially by comparison) we saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004).

Now normally, for offenses such as Ace Ventura, Pet Detective and Dumb and Dumber, I have banned Jim Carrey. I will not see movies with him in the starring role. But he has pulled out an acceptable performance in Liar, Liar and Truman Show, so when the reviews are REALLY good I’ll consider it. So Eternal Sunshine was a very pleasant surprise. What amuses me further is that the arts and croissaint set won’t realize…well, Science Fiction? You’re soaking in it!

Just because a piece isn’t all molded plastic and Scandinavian furniture from the 60s doesn’t mean it’s not science fiction. What’s really unusual is that, unlike many films featuring spaceships and robots that you may know, Eternal Sunshine actually is real science fiction. It takes a science fictional device that could theoretically happen–in this case a technique to map and remove memories–and examines the consequences. It’s a classic What If? story.

What if you could erase the memory of a bad relationship, a dead pet you can’t live without, or an unrequited love? Now the science is by no means perfect, and I’m sure a few neurologists guffawed at the scenes in which Carrey is chased through his memory by the doctor he paid to delete the memories, but a few artistic allowances aside, it’s real science fiction. But in the absense of “lasers” you’d never know it.

Goodbye, Lenin!, on the other hand, is an historical piece set in 1989-90 East Berlin. Internally, it has a science fictional element–an alternate history where the Wall doesn’t come down and life goes on as it had. The idea is that a woman whose husband escapes to the West in the 70s becomes a kind of Communist cheerleader–a pinko June Cleaver–but in the late 80s sees her son arrested in one of the first mass protests against the regime, has a heart attack and slips into a coma. Meanwhile, Honnecker resigns, the Wall falls, and reunification talks begin.

When she suddenly wakens, her son tries, with the help of some neighbors, his sister and her boyfriend, and a video-producing friend from work, to keep the knowledge of the changes going on outside from reaching his mother, in hopes of preventing another heart attack from the shock. Hilarity ensues. No, in this case, rich amusement tempered with personal conflicts ensue.

It’s quite a compassionate movie, which is really odd when you consider the entire thing is in German. Plus the nurse is a hottie. However, fair warning, she’s not the one you see naked. That’s why you lose the wars, guys.

So go see both–they should appeal to people who aren’t arthouse fans as well as those who like to be known by the snob appeal of the movies they see.

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5 Responses to Two Nights, Two Good Movies

  1. Dave-O-Rama says:

    Ida thunk that Spaceships and Robots would mean Futurama, but that’s just me.

  2. Sandy Smith says:

    Futurama occasionally has good science fiction in it. Star Bores never does…

  3. Vivian Tsai says:

    Have to say, Jim Carrey did a fairly good job with this one without his usual silliness or outrageously bad “comedy.”

  4. Here’s why “Eternal Sunshine” doesn’t feel like a Jim Carrey movie — it isn’t. It’s a Charlie Kaufman movie.

    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0442109/

    Kaufman is the brilliant screenwriter who wrote “Eternal Sunshine”, as well as several other amazing, quirky, thoughtful movies:

    * “Adaptation”
    * “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind”
    * “Being John Malkovich”

    If you’re trying to figure out what a new movie is going to be like, don’t look at the stars — look at the director and the screenwriter. They are the ones who really shape the movie, so you’ll find a much more consistent “feel” across their projects than you will across a given actor’s or actress’ body of work.

  5. Sandy Smith says:

    I saw that, but while I like Malkovich, I haven’t seen “Confessions” and I thought “Adaptation” was a great movie until the final third, where he apparently ran out of ideas and went for some sort of faux irony that was not ironic enough (I’m really hoping the ending was meant to be irony, because otherwise it just sucked and is ironic in the manner it did so).

    Directors and writers in Hollywood never completely have power over somebody who makes the kind of money Carrey does. He could have decided to go goofball, or some producer may have said “hey, where’s the Dumb and Dumber stuff?”

    Never underestimate the power of Hollywood to suck. 😉

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