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How does that make me feel? Special Edition: Flash of Emotions

Hello Blogulution! This weekend I saw a movie so terrible that I just had to report back to you, trusty readers, before you waste valuable money and time like I did.

(SPOILERS AHEAD!!)

Flash of Genius

or Why I'll Never Enjoy Driving in the Rain Again

Going to movies is always a fun time, right? I mean, there's the popcorn, hanging out with friends, partaking in some pop culture outside your own home...really, going to movies is great. I even enjoy, for the most part, going to see bad movies, and when i went to see Flash of Genius this past Saturday with some friends I was looking forward to all the joys that movie-going brings. I wasn't expecting anything great, but nonetheless, I was feeling: Very Happy!!

About 15 or so minutes into the movie, I knew that it wouldn't win my personal Bloggie for film of the year, but I was still having a good time. For one, my good friend Lorelai Gilmore was in the film (you look as great as always, Lauren Graham! I just wish they'd give you wittier lines that you could deliver more quickly...) and who doesn't love Greg Kinnear's deeply concerned face? I loved it in As Good as it Gets when he was trying to be brave despite the fact that his apartment was robbed and he was totally beat up by Skeet Ulrich, and I was loving it again now, as he tentatively and earnestly invented something (I wasn't totally sure why that invention was significant, but whatever...windshield wipers that pause, I'm digging it. My car has that!!). Despite the laughable topic (windshield wipers) and the fact that being an honest, hardworking college professor with SIX children and a doting wife to support felt a bit...m'eh, I was feeling: Happy!

Further into the film, when Kinnear's character is screwed over by Ford, I wasn't feeling so happy. Not because I actually cared about these characters or wanted them to succeed at all (the whole thing was way too schmultzy to feel genuine...), but because, upon suing Ford, he refused the settlement! Not only did he refuse the settlement, but he refused it even when his wife, his partner wanted to take it. In the mean time, he had also become so obsessed with Ford that he stopped going to work, and so the family (as Lorelai pointed out) could really have used that $250,000! This was getting as painful as watching an episode of Deal or No Deal--and really, it was much worse, because I didn't feel that it was appropriate to shout out "take the deal!! Take the G**DAMN deal!" in the theater (or at least I gathered as much by all the dirty looks I was getting). Much later in the movie, he once again refuses a settlement of $30 million. Refusing money that I could use to pay off my student debt always makes me feel: Angry!!

What felt like HOURS AND HOURS later, after the laughter and the fury had died down, when Kinnear was still fighting legal battles, and something something about his family...well, you guessed it. Things have stopped being fun. They've even stopped being interesting. Hey Kinnear, are you capable of any other facial expressions? Lighten up! End the freaking lawsuit already! We get it--time is passing. Lawsuits take a really, really long time. That doesn't mean you need to devote a really, really long time to this portion of the film. Ever heard of dramatic liberty? This would be a good time for some subtitles that read "throughout the next 10 years..." I never thought I would wish that a film I was watching would take a hint from Ray. And really, there's only so much popcorn a person can eat. For the last half of the movie I felt completely: Bored.

All in all this movie was really just another bad, but then funny bad, but then too long to be funny bad and so it's just bad bad film in a long line of films I've seen in my lifetime. However, it was after I left the theater that I really was hit by Flash of Genius' significance in my life. Realizing that I could not just walk away from this movie, that whenever I hear the "swish swish, pause, swish swish, pause" of my windshield wipers I would think of Kinnear's stupid, no longer endearing, "I'm so damn earnest that I put my pursuit of justice for the little guy fighting against the big bad corporation above everything, including my family" is just unfair. You're face will haunt me forever, Kinnear!! And I used to love the rain! Thinking back on the movie makes me feel: Very Sad.

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  1. Blogger Unspar! | 8:42 AM |  

    I also saw the movie, and I felt the same things about it, but in completely different order. I was totally bored and sad through the first half of the movie as he did nothing FOREVER and went totally insane (I felt like it was a poor man's Beautiful Mind at points) and blew off his family. But then once the court case started and it seemed he would never be redeemed to his wife, I got caught up in the court drama and very happy. Nothing better than the little guy taking out the big corporation, right? But then at the very end I couldn't help but laugh--the guy spent 12 years--12 YEARS!!!--of his life pursuing justice with Ford. And I get upset that I've spent 8.25 years of my life sleeping! Was it really worth it, Greg Kinnear's character? 12 YEARS! Holy crap! But then, looking back on my time spent in that movie, I'm grateful that I only wasted 1.5 hours.

  2. Blogger qualler | 9:26 AM |  

    You guys, Greg Kinnear isn't just a character...he's playing a REAL GUY! That means that a movie about windshield wipers is actually interesting because it's a true story.

    For serious, though, I think this must have been written by an engineer who has long resented lawyers and other professional service employers and had the desire to show in movie form how noble and courageous of a field engineering truly is. I mean, what kind of attorney would just drop a client after supposedly pouring hundreds of chargeable hours into a project and get no benefit out of it?! Like Alan Alda the attorney all of a sudden decides "I don't wanna get paid for this anymore because I don't believe in this engineer!" (Jerksica and I looked at each other at this point of the movie incredulously.) Clearly an attorney invented by the demented mind of an engineer!

  3. Blogger Sean | 10:10 AM |  

    i haven't seen the movie but usually plaintiff's attorneys are paid on a win-contingency. if the case looked hopeless and the dude was never willing to settle, why stick around for years when you might not see a cent?

    plaintiff's attorneys usually only take cases they have a 90% chance of winning.

    of course, i'm thinking of modern tort law here. 1960s movie law might work differently...

  4. Anonymous Anonymous | 11:05 AM |  

    per qualler's comment:
    This is like the high school rivalries: geeks versus the popular kids.

    The jocks now run corporations.
    The band kids are lawyers.
    Other popular kids (cheerleaders et al) are now tv talking heads.
    The geeks are engineers.
    Mmm, I guess the drama kids are in marketing?
    The stoners are cops?

    It's about time the geeks/engineers got their due! This is the age old battle!

  5. Blogger qualler | 11:11 AM |  

    Hey Anonymous, I take issue with your stereotypes. As an accountant, I guess I go by band kid/geek, since that seems to be a hybrid of math + law. But band kids and geeks are pretty much equal, so you're saying that the geeks/engineers have been held down? Been held down by who, band kids?? Besides, the geeks have everything these days -- indie rock, television (Chuck and The OC), geek chic, etc. And I wouldn't take as much issue with geeks/engineers, especially regarding this movie, if it wasn't so hamfisted in its delivery of its message. Alright, poor engineers have to work in the dark and give up everything, including their families, to follow their dreams of making windshield wipers go swish-swish, stop. It's bogus!

  6. Blogger qualler | 11:21 AM |  

    Sean, you are correct -- I was citing 1960s movie law. The other major tenant of 1960s movie law is that when the plaintiff wins a case against a big evil corporation, everyone in the courtroom needs to give a standing ovation.

  7. Blogger Papa Thor | 11:49 AM |  

    I know geeks now run the world, but since this was an historical movie then we are describing the stereotypes _at that point in time_. People are always fighting the wars of their childhood. Future movie-goers will probably sit through stories of how the "Man" tried to keep us from downloading mp3's.

  8. Blogger chris | 12:58 PM |  

    I actually didn't completely hate this movie. It was pretty much what I expected. Pretty dull, but not melodramatic (minus the requisite applause in the courtroom) or histrionic like other more Hollywood courtroom movies like A Civil Action or North Country. Also, at least the wife didn't reconcile with him at the end when he finally won. I was afraid of that.

    I did hate that when they supposedly stole his design instead of making sure his ideas were protected, the guy from Ford (Skinner from The X Files!) said "legal will take care of that," but then it was never mentioned that he ever interacted with Ford's legal department. Did he forget?

    And maybe I'm being an idiot hippie, but obviously he didn't care about the money, right? He cared about getting credit for an invention he created?

  9. Blogger Sean | 1:00 PM |  

    holy spoiler alert, you guys.

    this is almost as bad as watching a trailer and reading a review before seeing a movie.

    I KNOW EVERYTHING!!!

    why do i even bother?

  10. Blogger qualler | 1:02 PM |  

    I'm all for wanting credit for something he invented, but if it's at the cost of 12 years of your life, plus your marriage, it doesn't seem as courageous.

    In other words, go love some trees or something, hippie!!!!

  11. Blogger chris | 1:09 PM |  

    Sorry, Sean. Usually it's implied that if the reviewer gives a spoiler alert, it will apply to the comments as well. Also, Greg Kinnear kills himself at the end and it turns out the whole thing happened inside of a computer.

    I know getting credit shouldn't be at the cost of 12 years of your life plus your marriage, but that's why I thought this movie had that extra dimension (albeit still pretty boring and slight). I think we're supposed to feel conflicted about his crazy decisions because he didn't wind up with everything at the end. He wound up frazzled and bittersweet, unlike most movies like this where it's one-dimensional and triumphant. They definitely could have gone heavier on the bittersweet though, because like I said, it was slight.

  12. Blogger qualler | 1:19 PM |  

    True dat, Chris, good points. I guess it wasn't really the worst movie ever. Granted, it wasn't good, but it could have been worse.

    I hope nobody spoiled the part where it started raining eternally due to a human-created virus that infected the clouds, and Kinnear's intermittent windshield wipers helped him see the man who created the virus so he could run him over, steal the antidote back to cure the clouds, and save Grandma.

  13. Blogger Adam | 1:25 PM |  

    Since I spent about 7 years battling through undergrad and have the better part of 3 years of law school ahead of me, I can say that I will have spent 10 years in pursuit of justice by the time its all finished! Does this mean I'm the next Bob Kearns? Is there a mulit-million dollar settlement in store for me?!

  14. Blogger Adam | 1:32 PM |  

    For those of you who saw the movie, a Washington Post story published shortly after his death reports that he sought $141 million in damages from Ford (later raised to $325 million) and never sought recognition that he invented them, but still wished to be the manufacturer of the wipers by the time he got to trial in the 90sn (he was clearly delusional). Also, his attorney never retired from his case, he fired his attorney in the midst of his trial against Chrysler. In other words, Brigitte, they definitely did take some dramatic liberties in the writing and filming of this movie.

  15. Blogger Brigitte | 2:24 PM |  

    i don't understand how you can say this movie was not melodramatic. i thought it was completely melodramatic. all those sad scenes in the rain...his stupid face...that drama with his son...the appearance of that one guy, sent from Ford to offer him money, not once but TWICE, and then the kids chiming in one at a time "don't do it, dad!"

  16. Blogger chris | 3:26 PM |  

    I'll concede that the confrontation with the Ford guy was over the top, but I didn't find Kinnear's performance melodramatic at all. He never cried or yelled at the top of his lungs making his face go red like Charlize Theron or John Travolta. I thought his small performance was one of the better parts of the movie.

  17. Anonymous Dan | 12:05 AM |  

    Since I didn't see this movie and don't really know the full story, what I'm about to say might be pointless, but I'll say it anyway.

    If you are an engineer working for a company, and you develop anything new which can be sold to the public, you don't have individual rights to it. Most engineers understand this, because if you don't, well then I guess you end up in the courts for the next 12 years. But if you want individual rights for things that you invent, you can't be working for anyone when you do. In exchange for the company providing you with a regular salary and a comfortable life, you give up your rights to have personal ownership over your inventions. If that sucks, then build your own crap.

    How would anyone know that, say, the angle of the windshield wiper blade was not influenced by proprietary information on the shape of windows on Ford cars? How do they know that the hinging mechanisms weren't designed to attach to specific features of a Ford car that Greg Kinnear wouldn't have known about if he didn't work there? Especially if you're designing something to enhance an EXISTING product, I don't see why you should expect individual rights to it. If it wasn't for that existing product, you'd have nothing. What's a windshield wiper without a Ford automobile? Or any automobile?

    Anyway, this is all a bunch of rambling, but I always just think it's dumb when engineers complain that their inventions get taken over by the company they work for and don't get individual credit for it. That's why you work for the company and not for yourself, dummy. But if Greg Kinnear invented this himself, then props to him.

  18. Blogger Adam | 8:59 AM |  

    Dan, he didn't work for any car company, he was a teacher and only invented and patented the motor that moved the wiper blades, experimenting on his own car at home. Ford's argument was that he took existing inventions (that they had rights to) and rearranged them in a way that would allow the blades to pause between wipes as well as go at different speeds.

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