Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Movie: The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (2005)

I had to buy a second copy of this Douglas Adams book when I was in junior high. The first one fell apart because I read it so many times. I’m versed in every version of the story: the BBC radio serial, the TV adaptation. (OK, the video game eluded me. But video games always elude me.)

Adams’ daft comic vision of a universe that was marvelous and maddening at the same time was like our own world (or at least England) writ large. His books always seemed on the verge of profundity only to cut away to a joke – which may be the most profound statement of all.

The movie, in the works for decades, misses some of my favorite bits. The Babel fish is here, for instance, but not the section of the Guide noting that this spectacularly useful creature is used an argument both for and against the existence of God. And where’s the revelation that thanks to Ford Prefect’s research, the entry on Earth has been updated from ‘harmless’ to ‘mostly harmless’?

There’s not really a plot to speak of, but let’s face it, there isn’t much of one in the book, either. It’s a collection of funny individual scenes, like a movie cobbled together from the illustrations Sergio Aragones drew in the margins of MAD magazine.

And that’s fine by me, because the movie does a wonderful job of capturing the Adams sensibility. It’s basically the first intergalactic hangout movie. I’ll watch it again just to spend time in Adams’ universe. Especially because, sadly, there will be no more books.

TV: Penn & Teller

The boys are back doing the Lord’s work in the third season of BULLSHIT!, debunking all comers. In last night’s episode they took aim at conspiracy theorists, saving the heavy fire for the buffoons who claim the 9/11 attacks were carried out by the U.S. government.

They even use the Watergate argument I’m partial to, which says in essence: If the Nixon administration couldn’t cover up a third-rate burglary, how could NASA fake the moon landing?

That said, I’ll confess to a deep fascination with conspiracy theories. My policy is everyone is allowed to believe in one crackpot scenario in the face of overwhelming evidence and common sense. Here’s mine: Pope John Paul I was murdered as part of a plot involving shady money men and organized crime figures, a scheme fictionalized in THE GODFATHER, PART III and the even less well-remembered THE POPE MUST DIE(T).

Why is this my pet theory? Because it involves:

a. A great motive, namely a missing $1 billion dollars;

b. A highly suspect ‘suicide,’ in which a corrupt banker managed to hang himself from the middle of the underside of a London bridge while his pockets were full of rocks; and

c. The Vatican. You can’t tell me those guys don’t know how to keep secrets.

The only problem: last month indictments were handed down in the ‘suicide’ of that banker, which is now being investigated as a homicide. Which means it may not be a theory after all.

Great. Now I have to pick another one.