It was the modem & also, the other modem

The old modem was really, really broken (what do you do with an old, broken modem? Anybody want one?) & the new modem was also a router. See? So, *of course* you don’t try to connect to it with PPPoE, you have to DHCP it. But the tech support types (of whom there were several) didn’t tell me that. They kept on with the PPPoE. ‘I can’t log into the admin screen for the new modem,’ sez I. ‘Type these settings in,’ sez them. ‘It’s not working,’ sez I, & on it goes, & on, but the strange coincidence of the old modem breaking *just then*, just as the line is disconnected, well, let’s just say I’m more into Jung’s synchronicity than I am into meaningless coincidences.

DHCP. TCP/IP. PPPoE. I do not have the kind of brain that knows this stuff intuitively, that tucks little nuggets of knowledge away to be drawn upon almost subconsciously later. I could, however, subconsciously notice and draw and make use of patterns, colours, stories. Things like ‘DHCP’, well, that’s just a bunch of letters to me, an almost-word. It will not stay in my head unless you give it a story. Or a colour. Something.

It is important, therefore, to have a friend with a nuggetty brain. It is only this way that the internet will ever be returned to your home. It is important to be nice to that friend, & to cook them dinner if you think it will help.

Also, in the absence of internet, I have learned many things. Like, you really do get what you pay for when it comes to paper towel. Next time I need sandpaper, I shall purchase the cheapest generic brand of paper towel in the supermarket. Partly because the supermarket is closer to my house, & partly because I’ve become embarrassed about the fact the guy in my nearest hardware store knows me by name & laughs now when I say, ‘I really will get around to painting that kitchen. You know, sometime. Probably later. Sometime. No rush.’

Distracted: Is Orefice a real surname? Surely not.

Also: Melbourne is about to be attacked by a giant wall of spider crabs. How cool is that!

Anyhow. Unlike the rest of the world, I have not seen Star Wars III: The Highest Number to which George W. Can Count. I saw The Interpreter instead. It’s a solid, involving movie, with some real tension & a satisfying structure & at one point I realised I was watching the screen with my hands pressed over my mouth — a sure sign I’m wrapped up enough in the story to be nervous. And at times it outwitted me, which always pleases me. But then, like many Hollywood films, it suffers in the last few minutes. What can you expect. Hollywood’s first name is ‘I Get The Point’, & it’s hyphenated surname ends with ‘But Whack Me Over The Head with Your Grand Ideas Anyhow’, or so I’m lead to believe.

Sean Penn is a marvellously tough & sensitive actor, I could watch him for hours. So I did, & followed up The Interpreter with 21 Grams. I’m sorry to say I didn’t really enjoy 21 Grams. Unlike, say, Memento, where the inevitability of the tragedy enacted in the opening sequence *adds* to the tension, 21 Grams’ inevitability was stifling. Early on we see a bleeding Penn & a screaming Naomi Watts demanding of an unseen third to ‘call for an ambulance’. We see it a few times, & each time we see a little more of it, catching a few minutes before or after the bleeding begins.

And yet I was bored by that certain knowledge. ‘This will all end in disaster,’ I thought. ‘But I continue to watch, because …?’. I had no answer.

In Memento, the questions ‘How? Why?’ are like a heartbeat. I had to know how/why the brutal murder at the beginning takes place, & the storytellers were adept enough to make the answers worthwhile. I still remember the chill of realisation when the conceit is revealed. But 21 Grams didn’t make me want to know why Penn was bleeding all over the floor, & when it gave its answer, it wasn’t such a thrilling one. In fact, it was so mundane & straight-forward, I almost wondered if the inverted structure was all smoke & mirrors designed to make the story seem more intelligent than it really was.

Still, like I said, I was sorry. I wanted to like this film more.

I was even more sorry when I watched the special feature on the DVD where director Alejandro González Iñárritu (yes, I copied that straight out of imdb.com, no, I could never remember to spell that properly, no, that’s right, having a wacky surname myself does not make me a better speller) makes the comment ‘there are things that are inevitable, but not in a predictable way’. Life, he says (and, by implication, death) is fragmented. Death is inevitable, but the means of death are usually unknown. That so entirely explained the film and its otherwise awkward structure, that I decided seeing the film without seeing what Iñárritu had to say about it was an incomplete experience. The one needed the other.

When I got to Rotten Tomatoes, I found I had to agree with Jay Antani of the L.A. Alternative Press, that 21 Grams left me with an exhausted boredom. The thing is, you take 3 wonderful actors (Penn, Watts, del Toro) & you give them not much to do but express despair, then what you’ve got is still a one-note kinda film. Screaming & crying might be harder for a performer to do, but it’s unfortunately not a lot more interesting for an audience to watch, unless it’s balanced by something which _isn’t_ despair. Yet, it was a film that *tried* to do something more, & there are some moments that stick with me. Oddly enough, the quiet moments. Del Toro making up his mind to face the implications of an action he makes early on. Watts sinking into one of those plastic hospital chairs at the end of the film after hearing news she hasn’t expected. Her face is blank, & we’re not sure which way her thoughts have gone. ‘Is this good, is this bad?’ Her mind & ours tick over.

Penn is the angel of redemption; Watts & del Toro are the humans who have tried to do the best with themselves, tried to do right, tried to play by the rules, only to be made undone by cruel circumstance. And then, as flawed humans, they make their decisions and face the consequences of those decisions on top of everything else. It’s a tragedy. But, unfortunately, a tragedy that isn’t more tragic just because of fragments & inevitability. The structure didn’t, IMHO, add to the film, but it did flag the fact that the film would provide more things to think about. Provided, you know, you flipped over to the special features.