TITLE: Holiday Filmfest
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: December 27, 2006 10:58 AM
It's not a holiday tradition for me to watch movies,
but this holiday weekend I had a chance to see several
-- not counting seasonal fare such as
The Santa Clause.
Only one was new, but as my brother is fond of saying,
"Hey, they were new to me."
Last night I finally got to see
the only of the movies with a professional connection.
I'm not a mathematician, but I can relate to the manic
periods of productivity interleaved with periods of
little or no progress. As Robert, the mad genius
played by Anthony Hopkins, and his daughter Catherine,
played surprisingly well by Gwyneth Paltrow, both say
at different points in the movie, the key to those down
times is to keep plugging way, trying something new,
attacking the problem from different angles, chipping
away at the problem even the effort seems fruitless.
You want to be there, ready, when the
next burst of progress
The movie also brought to mind G. H. Hardy's wonderful
A Mathematician's Apology,
a year or so ago. There is a persistent mythology that
mathematicians make their greatest contributions to the
the world at an early age, after which their creative
powers decline. I've generally heard 35 as this threshold
age, but in Proof the mathematicians are much
less generous -- Catherine at 27 could already be past her
prime. While I do believe that scholars lose a certain
kind of stamina they need for making great breakthroughs
as they grow older, but I don't buy into this Conjecture
of Inevitable Decline at a young age -- and certainly not
27! Certainly the history of computer science is replete
with examples of the great ones making seminal contributions
well past 35 -- Knuth and Simon come immediately to mind.
We do ourselves and our community a disservice when we
make excuses for lack of productivity and creativity as we
age. That said, not ever having been a Great One, I can
only try to imagine the feeling that Hardy describes, and
that must have accentuated Robert's madness, as they fall
away from their peak.
My weekend began with a trip to see the new release
live in the theater with my daughter. She took me to this
movie as a Christmas present, and it made for a very nice
dad-and-daughter outing indeed. Growing up, I was more
into science fiction than fantasy -- Asimov, Clarke,
Heinlein -- but my daughter has gravitated to fantasy.
She has already read the book on which this movie is
based, and its sequel, so she could fill me in whenever
I had a question. If I were a literary critic, I would
call Eragon almost wholly derivative of prior
works, but then most fantasy is. As a moviegoer, I call
Eragon an entertaining show. And
as Arya -- wow.
Sandwiched between the previous two was a Christmas
evening viewing of
a gem of a movie that I'd never heard of before my
daughters pulled it off the video store shelf.
delivers an affecting performance as Frankie, a deaf
9-1/2 year old who longs to see his father. Frankie
believes his father to be at sea after leaving their
family when Frankie was but an infant. In truth,
Frankie's mom, Lizzie, played by the enchanting
has been on the run from the father all those years,
her son and mother frequently about Scotland. Lizzie
has been responding to Frankie's letters to his dad
for years, unwilling to tell him the truth. Rather
than tell you the whole story, or give away too much,
let me give you a better piece of advice: watch this
movie, and soon. It's one of the best I've seen in
That's my turning playing Gene Siskel for a while.