Project Almanac & Fifty Shades of Grey

Yes, another curious combinations of films seen at the cinema this week. The disadvantage of going twice a week is also that we now have no films left that we can go and see – fortunately there are some coming out this weekend!

Project Almanac

Once you get over the hand-held feel to the filming of this (yes, it is supposed to be recorded by the group so I guess it is more authentic, but filming like this still makes me feel a bit sea-sick) it actually turned out to be quite an interesting film.

Spoilers coming right up: After watching a film of his seventh birthday and spotting his teenage self in the mirror, David hunts out the parts and instructions for a time machine in his basement, his deceased father’s work area. With a group of friends, including his sister, they eventually build the machine and start having fun with it. There is a good description of the butterfly effect in the film – because of a few small changes they make, big disasters end up happening. One small change leads to a bigger change, and it ripples outwards eventually causing a plane to crash. Other effects are fires, one of the groups ends up in hospital. It does make you think about the small things you do and what effect they have.

Anyway, the writer gets around any notion of wanting to go back and make epic changes like killing Hitler by limiting the range of the machine to a few weeks at first, then a few years as they make improvements (and besides, as one of the friends says, they can’t speak German anyway).

There is the difficulty of when they go back in time, there are then two of them hanging around at the same time (I think this idea has also been in Harry Potter).  Therefore when they both end up at the same place at the same time, the contradiction threatens their very reality.

As with any group of friends, they make a pact never to use the time machine on their own. Of course, like any teenage pact, this is broken by David, and for the obvious reason: young love. He snubs her advances without meaning to, and when her attitude to him changes, he goes back in the past to make it better. This has the unfortunate effect that when he returns to the ‘present’ he can’t then remember what has happened in the intervening time (which, unfortunately, or fortunately you might think, means that he can’t remember having sex with Jessie). He becomes increasingly isolated from the group, as each time he jumps on his own, he does not know what has happened in the intervening period – which you would think, having supposedly lived through it, he would.

To finish up, eventually he accidentally takes Jessie with him on one of his solo trips and puts her in the same place as her former self, and this paradox results in her complete disappearance. So he goes back to the start to make sure they can never build the time machine. And then he starts his relationship with her all over again without the help of a time machine.

The one thing I can’t get my head around is, having returned to his seventh birthday (the day of his father’s death), met his father as his teenage self, and then destroyed the time machine, how he gets back to the ‘present’.

Fifty Shades of Grey

I’m not sure there’s a great deal to talk about here, or that it is a particularly good film, but since there has been so much interest in it from campaigners, it is worth a few comments. First thing to be wary of: the people who are going to the cinema to watch it because they’ve read the book, and it was the first book they read in twenty years. Be warned – some middle aged women sit and giggle through the whole thing. It is probably best to take the film in its own right as a film, without getting worked up about the book, whether it is true to the story, etc.

Again be warned for the spoilers. Ana(stasia) literally (yes, the cliches have started already) falls into the office of Christian Grey, rich business man, to interview him. There ensues a period of intense wooing, during which Christian presents Ana with a contract he would like her to sign. She doesn’t sign it, and they have a consensual relationship during which they discuss the nature of their relationship openly. There is no doubt that Christian is manipulative and controlling, but Ana rarely does what he asks her to do, and it seems that he changes his attitude more than she does.

Yes, you can get on the soap box and complain that there is certainly emotional manipulation if nothing else, and that some people are vulnerable and the film normalises this sort of behaviour. But we have to remember that it is a fictional story, that it is not condoning this behaviour but bringing it to light, and that we frequently watch worse things on film (murder, genocide, etc) and don’t complain that film is encouraging us to behave like that. Most of us can work out the difference between fiction and reality, and probably don’t take our morality from films.

So if you’re looking for a cheap thrill and aren’t too hung up on the ethics of their relationship and can stand the giggling grannies, it passes a couple of hours.

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