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Time travel is confusing

Number one reason not build time machines: time travel paradoxes make your head hurt. The Back to the Future trilogy did the best job, in my opinion, of reducing the paradoxes to “we can see through Michael J. Fox’s hand now” level, even when taking on the classic examples of Things Not To Do In The Past, such as meeting your own parents and endangering their budding romance. Okay, there are one fewer of Marty’s siblings in that photo now, I guess things are going badly. I can deal with that. They took a dumbed-down approach towards the harder issues, but the trade-off is that the plot was easy to follow and entertaining.

Last night I saw another film in the time-travel genre that scoffs at the user-friendliness of Michael J. Fox’s slowly becoming more transparent. It’s called Primer, and not only did it beat Garden State to win the “Drama” category at Sundance, thus sparking a nation-wide wailing from girls aged 16-25, it was made on a budget of $7,000. And it’s good. Really good.

I don’t want to say anything that might give away the plot, especially since, effective immediately, I’m making viewership an absolute condition for my friendship; but I will say a few things. First, the film’s approach to time travel, and to the paradoxes that arise, is novel to say the least. There are no flux capacitors, let’s just leave it at that. Second, it is hard to follow. This has the effect of letting you share some of the inventors’ awe over the device they create, but it’s not always welcome. After the movie I turned to Gabe and asked, “What percentage of that would you say you followed?” “Oh, about 30 to 40,” he said. I was running at a solid 65%, but that still makes things difficult. Third, see this movie. See it right now, and then call me and tell me what you think happened. It’s really, really important that you do so.

I had an article in the Daily which was slightly shorter in print than you’ll find it here. My editor also changed the title to something much less inflammatory, but since the paragraph she deleted was my “cover my ass” paragraph, maybe that was a good idea. Is this the start of a bold new direction for my writing, charged with controversy and political grimaces? Stay tuned to find out.

Posted in Musings.


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