Archeologists & Detectives

Dear Hope Nation,

Archaeology has to work with the stuff that gets found.  For instance, much of what we know about Roman Britain isn’t based on written records left lying around for 1600 years; it’s conjecture drawn from types of pottery and crockery exhumed from the earth.  It’s all a matter of inductive reasoning—drawing conclusions from isolated bits of information.  Detectives often use the same type of thinking when examining a crime scene:  what kind of arsonist would “accidentally” leave a signed picture of Lucille Ball at a fire?

As I’ve made clear before, I am not a good cinephile. I don’t have the attention span to watch movies on my own. Additionally, I am saddened by the thought of sitting alone, staring into a screen watching tiny men and women deliver lines. With others, finding a movie both a normal person and I would like to watch is difficult. As you’ll soon discover, my taste in movies is rarified but not highbrow, a tough set of standards to meet.

In the olden olden olden days, movies were shown in theaters, followed by the possibility of them being on television a year later. In the olden olden days, folks had physical copies of movies, either VCR tapes or DVDs. In the olden days, we could download copies of movies to our computer hard drives. Today, apparently, folks most folks stream video. Living in the single olden days, I do have six movies on my MacBook, the only six movies I own. Future archaeologists may have a challenge inducing this data to make conclusions about me.  Detectives will have a field day.

The six movies, in no particular order, are:

A Simple Plan, starring Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton and Bridget Fonda.  A thriller about family, betrayal, greed, friendship, a plane crash and despair, A Simple Plan doesn’t rely on twists to thrill—instead, it’s a dark look at human nature—which is pretty damn dark to begin with.

Reds, starring Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson, a bunch of other great actors and interviews with “the witnesses,” folks in their 70s and 80s who were part of the Left in the 19-teens and 19-twenties.  The sort-of-true story of Jack Reed (10 Days that Shook the World) an American journalist who was a communist here and a reporter in Moscow for the fall of the Kerensky government.

Shaun of the Dead, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.  A classic zombie comedy.  The classic zombie comedy, funny enough for me, who doesn’t care about zombies.

Waiting for Guffman, starring Christopher Guest and his usual ensemble.  This mockumentary about a small-town theater group believing its pageant performance is going to break through to Broadway is my favorite of a long list of Guest classics.

Waking Life, starring a team of animators, an ensemble cast and the genius of Richard Linklater.  Any explanation would sell it way way way short.  Are we sleep-walking through our waking life or wake-walking through our dreams?

The Postman, starring Kevin Costner. Post-apocalyptic delight. I know it’s way too long at three hours (two hours would have been perfect). I know Kevin Costner the director really likes Kevin Costner the actor. Still, the line “Stuff’s getting better, stuff’s getting better every day” from the mouth of (imaginary) President Richard Starkey is worth the time it takes to get to it.

The archaeologist finding this treasure trove of information about me (or, much more likely, a detective investigating my dangerous ideas) would need to find a theme, a through-line to draw some conclusions.  Let’s see, two comedies, one thriller, one post-apocalyptic drama, one historical piece and an animated exploration of existentialism.  Clearly, the viewer of these movies is a communist who hopes to destroy humanity using a crashed airplane filled with community-theater actors as zombies.  Then he’ll wake up to find it was all an animated dream. 

Or was it?

You matter. I matter. We matter.


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