A night at the races

Saw Seabiscuit yesterday night, out at Regal Bellevue Galleria on the East side. I can't remember the last time I watched a movie over on the other side of Lake Washington. It's a haul, but there are advantages. The theaters are much less crowded, and the facilities are generally superior to those on the West side. We didn't have to fight for seats on what was opening night, the views were great because of the stadium seating arrangement, and the theater had digital sound, turned on.
Perhaps it's one of the quirks of the Regal movie theater chain, but the 20 minutes leading up to the scheduled movie start time were filled with random programming. Finally the lights went down, though in this day and age that's just a cue to give your undivided attention to an additional fifteen to twenty minutes of advertising.

  • They aired a new Dolby Digital trailer based on the Broadway hit Stomp. One of my favorite portions of every movie is the Dolby Digital or DTS or SDDS trailer, though the THX trailers are perhaps the best of all, being both an audio and video quality standard. I have a DVD containing the other popular Dolby Digital trailers: Canyon, Train, City, and Temple.

  • Why so many different green splash pages announcing that the following trailers is G-Rated and has been approved for all audiences? Every trailer seemed to begin with a different variant of this page. It's disconcerting.

  • Nicolas Cage, potentially such an joyous actor, looks to be back to his mannerized, epileptic crazy-man schtick in Matchstick Men. And he was so subtle in Adaptation, allowing the humor to emerge at its own pace. I thought he was coming around again. One would never credit Ridley Scott for evoking the most improvisational performances from his actors.

  • The Coldplay single Clocks is used in the trailer for Peter Pan, which is starting to ruin that song for me.

  • I saw my first of the MPAA commercials urging us to fight piracy, featuring the average joes of the movie industry, like technicians and grips and the like, pleading with the audience not to put them out on the street by pirating movies. I felt insulted, as if accused of a crime I hadn't even thought of committing yet. Perhaps they're hoping to get ahead of the problem, unlike the music industry, but such obvious propaganda is counter-productive. A mis-step by the MPAA, leaving little hope they'll be more forward-thinking than their hand-wringing, litigious counterparts in the music industry.

  • Saw, for the first time, the trailer for Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, starring Russell Crowe. Looks good. It's even better to have Peter Weir back directing.

  • The problem with Regal Bellevue Galleria is that the sound leaks between theaters. During quiet moments in Seabiscuit, we could here the low frequency rumble from the adjacent theater (Bad Boys II? Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life?) seeping through our screen. Very distracting.

  • Speaking of horses, there was a couple sitting to my left, and the woman laughed like a horse. It was unbelievable. She'd repeat every line she thought was funny (I can't stand when people do that, as if they think the joke may have slipped past the rest of us) and then burst out in hysterical laughter--"Lazarus, hah hah hah hah!" Her boyfriend? Husband? His laugh wasn't far behind. A match made in heaven.

The movie itself was an enjoyable diversion, but the book was far superior. It was inevitable, perhaps, that Hollywood would take a story deserving of a 5 hour miniseries and condense it into a Happy Meal of dramatic highlights. The book gives the story more space in which to breathe, and reading the book will reward those wishing to discover uplifting miracles in the annals of human history. Even the author herself, Laura Hillenbrand, had to overcome a battle with chronic fatigue syndrome before the success of Seabiscuit propelled her to fame. She writes about that battle in an interview published in the back of the paperback, and she goes into more detail in an article in the July 7, 2003 issue of The New Yorker.