A little less love

Love is where you find it.  I think it is foolish to go looking for it, and I think it can often be poisonous.

I wish that people who are conventionally supposed to love each other would say to each other, when they fight, “Please – a little less love, and a little more common decency.”

– Kurt Vonnegut, Slapstick

Common decency

I have had some experiences with love, or think I have, anyway, although the ones I have liked best could easily be described as “common decency.” I treated somebody well for a little while, or maybe even for a tremendously long time, and that person treated me well in turn. Love need not have had anything to do with it.

– Kurt Vonnegut, Slapstick

About nothing much

Every time I read Vonnegut I’m reminded of the simplicity of life, of mortality, of an honest voice.

He references many of the same events in many of his books.  Even within a book, he makes circular references that very cleanly bring a point back to itself.  And I see life like that, full of circular references.

When I read I imagine the old man Vonnegut’s voice in my head.  I see him writing, on a pad of paper, spending more time erasing or scratching out than writing.  I think his relatives confirm he was a careful writer.  I imagine his frustrations taken out on crumpled sheets of paper.  I imagine his satisfaction of finally arranging the words he wants on paper.

The writing is funny, it can be really funny.  Really funny writing is far less about slapstick and far more about sarcasm and wit and perspective.  He really appreciated jokes of classical construction, the setup and the punchline.  That often shines through in his writing, in the way he decides to tell his stories.

It seems like on person could have told him “you’ve done so much in life”, and another person could tell him “wow you haven’t done much”, and he would have admitted they’re both right.  But that’s only in my imagination.

Kingsman: the secret service

I really liked Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014).  The trailer had looked really fun, and it turns out the movie was really fun as well.

It’s a not-quite-so-serious British secret agent movie, that pokes a little bit of fun at some of the existing films in the British spy institution.  Colin Firth plays Galahad, one of the more central characters on the British side of things…he is a mentor/sponsor of sorts to Gary Unwin (they call him Eggsy, but I don’t understand the nickname), who undergoes the selection process for becoming a “Kingsman”, which is name for this group of secret agents.

They’ve got the fashion references, they’ve got the alcohol references, they’ve got the fancy weapons and clever devices.  A lot of great work with specialized umbrellas.  I thoroughly enjoyed some of the “tests” the potentials were subjected to.

The good guys are pitted up against a memorable bad guy, “Valentine” played by Samuel L. Jackson.  His character has a particular style of dress, and a particular manner of speech that makes him unforgettable.  His megalomaniacal plans to control the world are worthy of any of the Bond villains.  He has a henchwoman Gazelle (played by Sofia Boutella) who is very effective in her duties.

As the film progresses further and further and the British agents are trying to stop Valentine, many of the events are more and more far-fetched.  There are a few gratuitous comedic moments between Unwin and Princess Tilde of Sweden there at the end.  And there is a great little scene played while the credits are rolling, that sort of helps to neatly tie up some of the loose ends in the film.  So stay for that.

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
Kingsman: The Secret Service poster Rating: 8.3/10 (35,843 votes)
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Writer: Jane Goldman (screenplay), Matthew Vaughn (screenplay), Mark Millar (comic book "The Secret Service"), Dave Gibbons (comic book "The Secret Service")
Stars: Adrian Quinton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Jonno Davies
Runtime: 129 min
Rated: R
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy
Released: 2015-02-13
Plot: A spy organization recruits an unrefined, but promising street kid into the agency's ultra-competitive training program just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius.

The incredible Burt Wonderstone

I remember having the chance to go see The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013) in the theater, but I never made it.  Not sure what was going on, probably I had a busy period of work to get through.  I remember seeing the trailer, and getting the sense that there were some popular actors playing magicians and there was some competition involved, so I really wanted to see it.

I did appreciate the costumes and many of the magic acts.  They played through more magic acts than I’d dared to hope for, so I enjoyed that.  Steve Carrell and Steve Buscemi play a pair of magicians (Burt and Anton) that have been working together since they were kids.  Over time, they came to be the headlining act at one of the Vegas hotels.  Generally speaking, such a thing in real life is a big deal, for people in the entertainment industry, playing a Vegas hotel becomes a cash cow of sorts.  It generates consistent revenues year-round, and is highly preferable to the physical and mental stresses of constant nationwide touring.

In that type of role, however, they become a complacent act.  Burt’s ego has been growing as much as his various appetites.  Eventually, people tire of the old-fashioned act they have to offer…and the people are drawn to the new edgy, more “physical magic” act of street magician Steve Grey (played by Jim Carrey).  Burt and Anton end up breaking up their relationship and go their separate ways.  The plot quickly moves to Burt trying to remember and relearn what drew him to magic in the first place.  To this end, Alan Arkin does a good job as Rance Holloway, the magician that inspired Burt to take up magic in the first place.

Overall, not a great movie, probably not even a good movie.  There are a few funny parts, and it’s definitely a chance to see some of your favorite comedians doing their thing.  I did like the magic acts.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013)
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone poster Rating: 5.9/10 (54,343 votes)
Director: Don Scardino
Writer: Jonathan M. Goldstein (screenplay), John Francis Daley (screenplay), Chad Kultgen (story), Tyler Mitchell (story), Jonathan M. Goldstein (story), John Francis Daley (story)
Stars: Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, Jim Carrey
Runtime: 100 min
Rated: N/A
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Released: 2013-03-15
Plot: A veteran Vegas magician tries to revive his career after his longtime partner quits, he gets fired from his casino act, and an edgy new "street magician" steals his thunder.