March, 2015 Archives

Go Rent Hector and the Search for Happiness

March 16th, 2015

Don’t listen to what others say; this is a funny and meaningful movie.


I think I have failed you, dear reader. And for that, I apologize. In my “best of” movie list for 2014, I left out a film I hadn’t seen yet. Granted, it was released in a very limited run — later in the year and didn’t really hit the DVD/rental market until a few months into this new year — but still, I could’ve done better.

If you haven’t guessed by the title of this blog, I’m referring, of course, to The Lego Movie. No, just kidding. Though I did wait until 2015 to see that particular film, I encourage you to go rent Hector and the Search for Happiness.

The plot line is pretty easy to follow. A London psychiatrist, played by the normally quirky British actor Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dean, Run Fatboy Run) counsels patients in his successful practice, but doesn’t truly know what it means to be happy. Even though he has a lovely girlfriend (played by Gone Girl’s Rosamund Pike), a fabulous home and lives in an amazing city, Hector just isn’t feeling — well — happy.

So instead of taking antidepressants or just suffering in quiet desperation, he makes the unlikely choice of abandoning his normal life indefinitely and flying around the world, researching what makes people happy. His plan is to but it in a book so it might help others.

Do your best to ignore the fetid 35% score from the Rotten Tomatoes movie review website. I normally think “Tomatoes” is a pretty good indicator of a film’s worth. Even though they take an aggregate score of all the movie reviewers out there — in this particular case — all the movie reviewers out there are wrong.

I dare you to watch this movie and not feel good about yourself afterward. My wife and I felt great after watching it. We even had a conversation as the credits were rolling about the times in our own lives when we were happy. A movie that stimulates thought and discussion is worth far more than a lousy 35%. But wait, the audience score on that same website almost doubles to a modest 60% of viewers enjoying the movie.

Aha! Maybe the journalists writing the reviews aren’t happy! Maybe their own narratives of a collapsing industry keep them from feeling truly fulfilled. I should know, right? Been there, done that.

The movie, a comedy/drama, is based on a novel by the same name. Written by Francois Lelord, the professional book reviews are equally as bad as the films. Publishers Weekly writes, “it is far less a novel than a maudlin self-help guide that substitutes pat aphorisms for development.”

I think the same issues plaguing the movie reviewers were badgering the folks over at Publisher’s Weekly. Yes, they too have been experiencing the travails facing all journalists; their company being bought and sold, job losses, etc.

A while back, The New York Times wrote, “Like the industry it covers, Publishers Weekly has suffered from a downturn in the retail economy.”

And like with Rotten Tomatoes, actual real-life readers of the novel gave the book far more gracious scores. Amazon customer reviewers gave it pretty close to four out of five stars.

It’s important to note here that I may wrong. I know, I know, that’s not possible, right?! My hypothesis, though, is that if there’s such a discrepancy between professional reviewers of the book/film and the readers/audience, then something must be amiss somewhere. Maybe it’s not the collapsing industry surrounding journalists that’s keeping them from being happy. But maybe it is.

Hector is a wonderful, fun, full-spirited movie with enough to keep you watching and great little twists that you rarely see coming. Plus — and I can’t stress this enough — the cinematography is absolutely lovely.

My assessment that journalists may be too jaded to appreciate this movie falls flat on its face, though, when I read the following review. The Chicago Sun-Times has experienced some of the worst of what journalism has been dealing with and yet, their reviewer, Bill Zwecker, had this to say about the movie. “This film is a winner. It will not only entertain you, but also make you think about what it takes to bring happiness into your own life.”

I’m sorry that I left Hector and the Search for Happiness off My Favorite Films of 2014 list. My excuse is I don’t get paid to do this; I just love movies and love sharing my thoughts about them. It’s part of what makes me happy, and has for years.

But shhhh, don’t tell anyone. I’m going to sneak down a few blogs below and surreptitiously add this movie onto my list somewhere, in case future readers stumble through Google, looking for a good weekend rental.

We all make mistakes. Hector sure did. But it makes me happy that I can correct this minor one.

The Big Lebowski vs. Charles Bukowski

March 2nd, 2015

Perhaps you thought Bukowski and Lebowski were the same person.

I just want to say at the outset, that I’m not always as smart as I like to think I am. This surely comes as a shock to virtually no one, not the least of whom me. Heck, I don’t even know if I constructed that previous sentence smartly.

But what I do know is that up until today — the beginning of March, 2015 — I confused Charles Bukowski with The Big Lebowski.

Since I’m both a writer and an avid movie fan, my ignorance is even more ridiculous.

You probably all know Charles Bukowski was a German poet and novelist who made Los Angeles his second home. He wasn’t fictional. Time magazine called him “a laureate of American lowlife.”

The Big Lebowski was a Coen Brothers film about a guy who also lived in Los Angeles. Jeff Bridges played the title character, a downtrodden man whom Bukowski may have written about, if he weren’t fictional already.

Maybe you can forgive my confusion. Probably not though.

I have heard references to both Lebowski and Bukowski for many years. I saw the movie in 1998, four years after Bukowski died of leukemia. I just mixed the two up in my brain and apparently wasn’t too curious about by why people were so reverent about the Jeff Bridges character. Obviously they were referring to Bukowski not Lebowski.

Both were cult heroes. Both had alternative lifestyles. Both lived in LA. But there’s one more thing. They both kind of/sort of looked alike.

Granted, that’s no excuse for me being a moron. But I’ll bet I’m not the only one. I just found out there’s a Big Bukowski Facebook page. It mashes the two up. Apparently the similarity isn’t lost on others. But whereas I confused them unintentionally, others riff on the likenesses. There’s even a rapper named Larry David Flow who writes, “Big Lebowski and Charles Bukowski are the reasons I’m not angry when you call me Kowalski.”

I’m trying to do more research on their similarities, but my browser feels a bit let down by me too. It has seemingly joined their downtrodden masses and refuses to follow my search requests.

“Rodney,” it appears to ask, “did you really think all those cultural references over the years were to the Jeff Bridges’ Lebowski role and that there wasn’t someone else they were mentioning?”

My browser is right. I shouldn’t be allowed to continue searching this nonsense, hoping that others were as confused as me. So in lieu of proof, I offer up this very tenuous possibility.

Other people fall into one of three camps:

⚫ Those who are fully aware of two separate individuals, Lebowski and Bukowski.
⚫ Those who have never heard of Bukowski, Lebowski or both.
⚫ Those like me who had them confused.

Here is a pie chart, better illustrating my point.