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Sunday, October 13, 2002

My insomnia this week is self-inflicted. You don't watch a horror movie at midnight and expect to ease gently into a deep, sweet sleep. If you do it four nights in a row, you're asking for trouble. If it's the same movie four nights in a row, maybe you have other problems.

When I watched Frailty the first time Wednesday night, I picked it from among the DVDs I have out from Netflix for a simple reason. It was the one I was least likely to want to see more than once. I was even hoping I wouldn't like it, imagining myself watching fifteen minutes, ejecting the disc, sealing it in its red envelope and sending it back in Thursday's outgoing mail.

Obviously that didn't happen, since it's still sitting in my DVD player on Sunday afternoon. I've not only watched the movie with all three commentary tracks, but I've studied the "Making Of" documentary and the "Anatomy of a Scene." All this adds to what I knew when I saw the film the first time: that it's very good movie-making.

A lot of what I watch and read is science fiction and fantasy. I don't read nearly as many of these kinds of books as I did all those years ago in college, when they were my main escape from sociology tracts and economics texts (not to mention calculus, pfah!). But I watch Buffy, and Angel, and 7th Heaven, and other shows that transport you into a parallel universe where the rules of our world don't apply.

Frailty has some things going for it. It's directed with great imagination by Bill Paxton, who also plays one of the most enigmatic characters in recent films, a loving single father who believes he's called upon by God to kill demons. One of his character's two sons is played as an adult by Matthew McConaughey, who narrates the story as a flashback to his childhood. And it's set in rural East Texas, where God and demons really battle each other (with mixed results, as far as I can tell).

Many people will hate this movie. It turns religious fanaticism inside out even while it presents a world where Old Testament ideology comes alive. It has horrific violence, though none is shown onscreen. (A little blood, but that's it.) It shows children involved in unspeakable acts.

What I like are the twists and misdirections, the subtle clues you don't pick up on until the second time you watch it. Some I missed until the third time through and finally caught only because the writer or director pointed them out on the commentary. It's a movie (like The Sixth Sense or Stir of Echoes) that you look at in a totally different way once you've seen it all the way through.

This isn't the kind of picture I usually like, although sometimes I surprise myself with what can appeal to me. In another sense, this is exactly my kind of flick. It's about family relationships and the forces that bind people together and pull them apart. That's not what I liked most, though. I liked the creepy feeling that flowed through me like a restless ghost.

I never have nightmares, and Frailty didn't give them to me. It did give me a rush of fright several times during the film, and it kept me lying awake longer than Buffy, Angel, or even 7th Heaven.


Looking west, late on a cloudy afternoon.

Tonight something different will keep me up. The Giants came from behind and survived a tense, frightening ninth inning to beat the Cardinals. Now they only need one more win to advance to the World Series. I found a place to sit on the stairs, looking through the railing, to watch the last part of the game. I plan to wear out the carpet in that spot during tomorrow night's game. It was an hour after the game before I could breathe normally again, and my heart is still pounding. Think I take these things too seriously? Nah.

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Recent recommendations can always be found on the links page.

One year ago: Long Time Passing
"It was a disturbing thing to learn about myself, that I could be swayed by events and circumstances into betraying what I thought were fundamental beliefs."

Two years ago: Loss of Signal
"My half acre is my only reality, and the half hour I spent digging up weeds this afternoon is more real to me than tragic events halfway around the world."

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