Saturday, February 13, 2010

Coen Brothers Movie Asks Big Questions

Two recurring themes run through the movies of Joel and Ethan Coen. Fatalism and Absurdity. Their latest movie, "A Serious Man," embodies both themes.

The main character, Larry Gopnick, is a college professor in a mid-life crisis, beset by a scourge of adversity: divorce, tenure threat, no money. Larry is trying to figure out why all this is happening to him and what his own life means.

Science and Religion provide no answers. Larry teaches quantum physics, but his whole blackboard full of equations only proves that nothing in reality is known for certain.

The three Rabbis he consults offer only absurd advice. One babbles about the sheer wondrous reality of a parking lot. The next rabbi sees life as an unknowable, perverse mystery. The oldest rabbi sage quotes lyrics from a Jefferson Airplane song.

Larry is left to find his own meaning for his life. The movie ending is ominous. Larry's doctor calls with bad news about an x-ray. A dangerous tornado funnel is approaching the area. The precariousness of human life remains always.

Larry's struggles may remind some of the Book of Job. But the movie more closely reflects the bleak fatalism of the Book of Ecclesiastes.

"A Serious Man" doesn't give us any answers, only serious questions to think about long afterward.

BEACH RATING: 4 Palm Trees

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Stephen King Writes A Classic With UNDER THE DOME

Stephen King's new novel Under The Dome is his best book in years, worthy to rank with his early classics in the Seventies and Eighties.

The premise of "Dome" is diabolical: A small Maine town is trapped underneath an enormous, impregnable dome that suddenly appears from somewhere.

The origin of the Dome is a mystery. But the real heart of the novel is what happens to the townspeople when the Dome comes down on top of them.

The Dome crisis brings out the inner strength and the good in some people. It brings out the ugly and the really crazy bad in others.

The Good Group and the Bad Group are pitted against each other in a struggle for power and survival inside the Dome. This conflict in essential human nature is a familiar King theme. King fans will hear echoes from The Stand, one of his early greats.

"Dome" is a long read, a thousand pages plus. Amazingly, King keeps the pace in the red zone all the way, building to a violent, horrifying apocalyptic climax.

Under The Dome is a sociological horror novel and a chilling cautionary tale that shows how easily ordinary humans can turn into moral monsters. All it takes is the right trigger.

This monumental creative effort is a true epic. Way to go, Mr. King.

BEACH RATING: 4 Palm Trees