A Scanner Darkly

I went out to the Coliseum box office to redeem the voucher the A’s gave me for paying for my season tickets early.  I used it to get a ticket for the April 4 game.  While I was there, I bought a two-dollar ticket for Root Beer Float Day in July.  With the exchanges I planned to make through the mail, I was satisfied with the list of games I was going to attend this season – except for the way the April 2 game against Boston was changed from a night game to an afternoon game, but I had no control over that.

For a few minutes, I browsed through the team store, and saw a jacket and a windbreaker that I thought I might like to buy one of these days, if I feel like shelling out about $160.

I came home and watched the American Masters program on Judy Garland that came with the “Easter Parade” DVD.  I liked the glimpses of her TV show from the 60’s.  It ended in 1964, and she died in 1969.  I wonder what happened in those five years.

I watched “A Scanner Darkly,” the unusual animated movie directed by Richard Linklater.  It has a great cast, with Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey, Jr., Woody Harrelson, and Winona Ryder.  I like the animation, although I don’t see why they decided to make the film that way.  I didn’t like the way the shots of the car on the freeway looked, but the people turning into bugs looked pretty good, although it wasn’t better than “Naked Lunch.”

I didn’t find the Scramble Suit all that fascinating.  In fact, in a couple of scenes, the Scramble Suit is far too distracting.

The time is seven years from now, and the place is Anaheim, California.  People are addicted to a drug called Substance D, which causes a short circuit of the brain, so that the two hemispheres of the brain compete with each other.  Keanu Reeves is Bob Arctor, an undercover narcotics officer who ends up investigating himself.  There is a lot of surveillance, like out of the Nixon era.

Downey is James Barris, and Woody Harrelson is Ernie Luckman, and they live in Arctor’s house.  I thought the funniest moments involved these two guys.  The scene with the bicycle and the confusion over how many gears it has is hilarious.  There are also funny moments involving a homemade gun silencer, and paranoia over who may have broken into the house.  Downey’s acting comes across in the animation the best, because he’s interesting to watch beyond the way he delivers his lines.  On the other hand, I never could stand Keanu Reeves’ monotonous voice and his barely alive manner.

Winona Ryder’s character is Donna Hawthorne, one of Arctor’s friends.  She looks different in different scenes, oddly enough.

On the commentary track, Philip K. Dick’s daughter said that her father wasn’t a character in the novel, but he WAS the novel.  Also, the house in the book represented Dick’s real life after his divorce.  It started with a communal arrangement with two other relatives, and grew into a group of whoever wanted to hang out and talk, with Dick telling stories.  His drug of choice was amphetamines.  In an interview on the disc, Dick describes himself as part of the Berkeley counterculture.

I don’t mind stories about the war on drugs or the government’s invasion of our privacy to be incredibly compelling, so I can’t say that I loved this movie.  I think it should have been more visually interesting, oddly enough.  It seems that it should have been wilder, with more bugs and weirdness instead of a close look at Keanu Reeves’ unshaven face.

The film has an emotional flatness to it   That may have something to do with the fact that all the characters are taking too many drugs.  The one sad and touching moment is a flashback showing Arctor’s past life, with a pretty wife and two nice young daughters.  Flash forward to a hellish existence.  That reminded me a bit of “RoboCop.”  Now Arctor has a substitute family of stoners.

The last scene with Charles Freck is rather cold, describing the setting with a $70 bottle of wine and a copy of Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead.”

There is a reference to sheep in this picture, when Arctor undergoes a psychological test.  Of course, “Blade Runner” had the question of whether androids dream of electric sheep.  When it comes to movies based on Philip K. Dick stories, I would rather watch “Blade Runner” again, of course.  It has a wacky Daryl Hannah and a still semi-sane Sean Young.

You have to give Linklater credit for doing something different.  This film has certain exciting and provocative qualities.  It’s certainly more worth watching than most movies I’ve seen the past couple of years.

I caught the end of “Dancing with the Stars.”  It looked as though Penn of Penn and Teller and Monica Seles got the boot.  I didn’t see her dance, but I heard that she was terrible.  I heard the same thing about Penn.

Since it was Elton John’s birthday, I listened to the first disc of the “To Be Continued” box set.  Of those early songs, I would say that my favorites would be “Your Song,” “Country Comfort,” and “Tiny Dancer.”  I would also say that “Tumbleweed Connection” is very much an underrated album.  I enjoyed hearing songs like “Friends” and “Levon” again.

I had a strange dream during the night.  It involves Superman, who was in a prison.  He didn’t have any super powers, which I guess had been taken away by some form of kryptonite.  He escaped, and during the manhunt, the police threw some explosive devices at him, which gravely injured him.  He was about to die in some forlorn, muddy mess of a place, like William Holden in one of those war movies.

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