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Notes from the back row

Heed Joni’s words

It was Joni Mitchell who said, “You don’t know what you got till it’s gone” but nostalgic baby boomers and Beatles fans can get their fix this week with Across the Universe . It was scheduled to open at the Village 8 Friday, but things have changed…

I’d been watching the trailer for Across the Universe for months and it looked like, visually at least, a very interesting film. I couldn’t tell what it was about but I knew it had lots of Beatles music in it. I also knew it would be out in Vancouver long before it dropped up here so one day, not that long ago, I called up a few friends and we headed over to the big theatre downtown on Burrard Street, the one where it costs eight or nine bucks for two hours parking.

We paid, bought some peach Kool Aid (I keep waiting for the Kool Aid man to bust through a wall when I drink that stuff, “Oh Yeeeaaaahhh.”) and headed in. A few minutes into things I realized that Across.. is a musical.

Musicals aren’t really my thing, but since it was Beatles songs I figured, “okay, let’s give this a try.” The story, as best I can tell, is a strikingly bland and simple love story between Jude and Lucy, two kids who get caught up in a band of merry bohemians during that tumultuous era of the Vietnam War. And every three minutes or so the cast breaks into a tune. The songs are good (Beatles), the performances okay, but the musical numbers often seem to come out of nowhere and rarely add anything to the (weak) story.

I like the Beatles, I like movies. We walked out of this one about halfway through. Had I been alone, I would have stuck it out. But my friends, who enjoy musicals even less than me, were truly dying. To salvage the afternoon we snuck into Superbad where, despite multiple requests to please keep quiet, one dude felt he had every right to translate the entire flick for his girlfriend. Some days you just shouldn’t get out of bed.

Since I was gone before I really got Across the Universe , all I can say is it’s not quite a drug movie like The Wall , and it doesn’t work the music into the story as well as Velvet Goldmine but I guess if you are alone or a true Beatles fans, you might be into it. I like my musicals on DVD where they’re easy to turn off.

On the other hand, this week at the Village 8 is Michael Clayton , an Erin Brokovich -ish picture starring quintessential movie star George Clooney as a big time law firm’s “fix-it man” who has to come in and salvage a big-deal case involving a crooked agrochemical company. The film, written/directed by Tony Gilroy is a smart and savvy yet cynical look at things like corporate profiteering mixed with the lack of trust that people seem to feel for their institutional authority figures these days (and for good reason, Read Naomi Klein’s book “The Shock Doctrine” for more details). It heralds back to films of the ’70s like Network or even Dog Day Afternoon.

In that vein I guess I’ll comment on Zeitgeist , an Internet movie that’s been freaking people out with its mythology/religion/propaganda parallels and insight on how 9/11 (and most other wars) was concocted by the U.S. Government and some illuminati-type bankers that want to rule the world and plant chips in us all. Zeitgeist watches like propaganda itself, but even if 1/10 th of it is true, then Joni’s words will soon be ringing in our ears because we are utterly pooched.

AT VILLAGE 8 Oct. 12-18: Michael Clayton; We Own the Night; Elizabeth the Golden Age; Heartbreak Kid; 3:10 to Yuma; Kingdom; Game Plan; Bourne Ultimatum; Seeker: Dark is Rising.