Year Released: 2009
Directed by: Alex Proyas
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Chandler Canterbury, Rose Byrne, Lara Robinson
(PG-13, 121 min.)
"Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." John Donne
Eye-popping special effects, the cerebral mystery of science fiction, and the frenetic action of a thriller, all tied together with the philosophical musings of Nicolas Cage. You’re either going to despise it or be riveted to your seat for the entire two hours. Count me in the latter category.
But then again, I am not easily influenced by that elite cadre who have chosen to become film critics chiefly because it allows them to exercise their fondest predilection – the desire to sneer. Thus, any feature starring Nicolas Cage, now scorned since he has left the edgier roles of his youth, is steeped in snarky condescension.
I, for one, think Cage handles his role as MIT astrophysicist John Koestler, still reeling from the recent death of his wife and the responsibilities of single parenthood, with just the right amount of earnest dysfunction. He tries to keep up the light banter of fatherhood, even the tradition of Sunday hotdog barbecues, but then spoils it with an awkward reference to his wife’s death. Even his nine-year-old son Caleb (Chandler Canterbury) can’t take it, going inside without his supper and announcing his conversion to vegetarianism as the door slams.
His depression even seeps into classroom lectures punctuated by long, blank pauses amid his lecture on the differences between chaos and determinism. Either our world is random or preordained. Just having lost his wife in an accidental fire, Koestler favors the chaos theory, as he does not see much meaning or purpose in her death. This somewhat skewed defintion of determinism departs slightly from the scientific one, but sets up some dramatic tension, particularly in regard to Koestler's questioning of faith and religion.
The question takes on a sense of urgency when Caleb brings home a strange paper from the 50-year-old time capsule just opened at his school. The children of 1959 each put drawings of what they thought the world would look like in 2009, but somehow poor Caleb has gotten a screed of tightly scrawled numbers instead of a nice cartoon of rocket ships and such. Something in the matrix catches Koestler’s eye and he stays up most of the night trying to unravel its meaning.
His all night musings, washed down with generous portions of scotch, take place in a study that is the perfect metaphor for his emotional state. While most of the rambling Victorian house is authentically gloomy enough with its dark woodwork and floors, it is clean, polished, and orderly. The study where Koestler retreats, however, is a patch of peeling wallpaper and crumbling furniture – echoing his retreat from the rational. With the sunrise comes his dawning understanding of the numbers and his entrance into the bright and welcoming sunny kitchen.
The import of the list of numbers is not quite so sunny, however. It seems they consistently report the dates of all the major disasters that have occurred in the past 50 years. And there are still three dates – and catastrophes -- to come. Now all of Koestler’s inertia is converted to overdrive as he tries to forestall them. He does so with all the sound and furry he can muster. And while the girl who wrote the numbers is now dead, Koester does locate her daughter (Rose Byrne) and granddaughter (Lara Robinson) and more or less enlists them in his cause.
All the while he has to deal with his skeptical colleague, Ben (Phil Bergman) who warns against the cultish seduction of numerology and other scientific heresies. And then there are those strange Euro-thin blonde guys lurking in the woods and whispering to his son. In the mean time, we are witness to two very bloody and well-choreographed disasters, planes and trains turning to dust in the midst of our MIT prof. The world indeed is falling down around him. Can Koestler, like Atlas, hold it aloft?
The film opens in 1959 at the dedication of a new school, with each child submitting a drawing for a time capsule to be opened 50 years hence. Those were days steeped in optimism, those brief halcyon days when the world paused to take a breath between wars, and the future looked as bright as your Colgate smile.
One thing I remember about the 50’s was Kraft Television Theater and the recipe adds sandwiched in. The voice-over was as smooth and creamy as the cheese spreads that were the basis of all the entrees. In our green and organic world, Cheez-Wiz and Velveeta seem almost as out of place as pedal pushers and bobby socks, but I still remember the smooth voice and all its promise.
In honor of that era, I have selected an appetizer from one of Kraft’s TV shows, one that is still a classic. And it fits in quite well with the Boston setting of Knowing, what with all those little sea creatures in it. Break out the chips, or raw veggies if you must, and get ready for scooping up this delicious Clam Dip.
Here are a few more delicious appetizers, from the simple to the chic, from next door to around the world:
“My Mother made this dip with such pride and I actually remember the Kraft Music Hall television show where the recipe was featured.” Judee
- 1 garlic clove, cut in half
- 1 (8 ounce) can minced clams, drained and 1/4 of their liquid reserved
- 1 (8 ounce) package Philadelphia brand cream cheese, softened
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcester shire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Dash of pepper
Rub a mixing bowl with the garlic halves. Combine the remaining ingredients, mixing until well blended. Chill. Serve with chips, crackers, or raw vegetable dippers.
Recipe Source: Recipes from the 50’s Newsletter