The Friday High Five
Beautifully dumb sci-fi, shared burdens, and old-fashioned iron-fisted dads
Every Friday I share 5 things I enjoyed this week. Also, high fives are inherently cool, and I think we can all agree Friday is the bestest day. Hence the Friday High Five. 🙏🏻
My Favorite Thing This Week Was…
Sam and Frodo play Baldur’s Gate 3
Well, technically, it was Sean Astin and Elijah Wood playing Baldur’s Gate 3. But calling them Sam and Frodo is just more fun. Plus their The Lord of the Rings roles come into play.
I’ve been dying to play BG3 for months, but I still haven’t gotten around to it. I knew the game was good, and totally in my wheelhouse—I have a dedicated room for playing D&D in my basement—but I didn’t realize it was this good. Even though it’s won awards and my friends won’t stop talking about it. Some things you just need to experience yourself before you truly understand.
This is only an 8-minute video, an abridged version of their playtime. Trust me: It’s worth it, even if you have no intention of playing this game.
Other Things I Enjoyed This Week
The College Football National Championship
The Michigan Wolverines won the National Championship this past Monday, our first title since 1997. I still can’t quite believe it. It hasn’t really set in yet, I guess. At this point, I’m wondering if it ever will. Mostly I just feel a bit empty.
Sports doesn’t mean what it used to, and I don’t watch it as much as I once did. The older you get, the more you realize how precious time truly is. At this point, I’d rather do almost anything than sit and passively watch a game. I get far more out of a movie or great TV show.
The Wolverines won the National Championship. What did I win? Bragging rights? Over whom? For what purpose? The idea of getting wound up over the fortunes or failures of people who don’t even know I exist suddenly feels a little silly.
It makes me wonder how I’d feel if the Detroit Lions won the Super Bowl. I hope to find out, but it turns out I’m not dying to know.
The national championship was originally my ‘favorite thing’ this week, but I got far more joy out of an 8-minute YouTube video, so I swapped them.
I’ve always felt a strange affection for this 2013 Tom Cruise film, and thus, find myself revisiting it fairly often. Oblivion isn’t great science fiction, but there is something here that speaks to me. The bleak beauty of an empty, abandoned world. The sleek sci-fi design aesthetic. The questions: What happened here? Where is everybody?
I inevitably find myself disappointed in the second half, once things are revealed. It’s sort of the Lost problem—the mystery is so intriguing, no answers could possibly satisfy. But the film also suffers from—let’s call a spade a spade—bad writing.
Tom Cruise (the character’s name is Jack Harper, but whatever—it’s Tom Cruise playing sci-fi Tom Cruise) is haunted by memories of a woman he does not know. We later discover that woman is his wife. And later yet, that Tom is a clone of the original, who died some 60 years earlier. Which begs a question: How can he possibly remember his wife when he’s lab grown?
Furthermore: Morgan Freeman tells us the force that invaded Earth was thousands of Tom Cruises—they used the best of us against us, Morgan says, which Tom had to love; btw, can you just imagine thousands of Tom Cruises sprinting around simultaneously? No wonder Earth lost!—and that this army of Tom Cruises were without souls. Which means that even by the movie’s dodgy science, memory isn’t baked into DNA.
Also: when the movie begins, Tom and his work wife with benefits think they are leaving for Saturn in 2 weeks. Presumably, after 2 weeks, they go up to the mothership (the Tet) for recycling. No problem there. Here’s the question: What memories do they ‘start’ with? What do they think the first 30-40 years of their lives looked like, before they were working on drone security and whatnot? And if they have such memories of an artificial before time, why does Tom’s include the wife of his original body?
Speaking of the wife: Tom heroically jettisons her and the rest of the sleeping crew before their ship is taken into the Tet. Tom says the crew module will automatically go back to Earth… except it ends up hanging out in orbit for 60 years, and only comes down once some scavengers figure out a way to hack the signal.
Oblivion is best enjoyed with your brain turned off and in the upright position. It would’ve been a much better movie if it hadn’t included the whole ‘wife memory’ subplot, which just invites questions the movie can’t be bothered to answer.
The silence of an empty house
My kids went back to school this week—my son to college, my daughter to high school. And let me tell you something: I’m really enjoying the quiet.
My kids aren’t loud or obnoxious, but there’s a special quality of silence that only arises when the house is completely empty. I didn’t realize I’d been missing it.
There’s a lyric in It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas that has always quietly troubled me:
And mom and dad can hardly wait for school to start again
The implication is these damn kids are driving me crazy, I want them out of my house so I can read the paper in peace. The idea that a parent sees their kids as little more than nuisances they can’t wait to be free of is pretty sad. I can confidently say my dad and stepmom were of a similar sentiment.
I want my kids at home. The idea of a completely empty nest terrifies me. I’m not ready.
Silence really is golden.
The Mosquito Coast
I am an avid fan of all things Harrison Ford. I talk a lot about my affection for actors like Timothy Olyphant and Nathan Fillion, but Harrison is the OG and remains my favorite living actor. My knowledge of all things Harrison helped me land a job at a video rental store in 1998, which remains my favorite job to this day.1 That’s a depressing admission given it’s been 25 years, but I just love movies. Maybe if this writing thing takes off, I can change that.
Even though I’ve loved Harrison as long as I can remember, I still haven’t seen all of his films. Not even those he’d made during his peak Harrison Ford years—Star Wars (1977) through The Last Crusade (1989). During the second half of the 80s, there was a 5-year window between Temple of Doom (1984) and The Last Crusade where he starred in non-action movies back-to-back-to-back:
The Mosquito Coast (1986)
Working Girl (1988)
This 3-movie stretch is the longest such run of his entire career.
I have only seen one of these films, and I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t watch it because Harrison was in it. I had a thing for both Melanie Griffith and Sigourney Weaver; the fact that Harrison Ford was also in Working Girl was frankly just a bonus.
This week, I offhandedly decided to plug a hole in my Harrison Ford filmography. The Mosquito Coast is about a domineering father and genius inventor whose grip on reality is a limp handshake (Ford). In the 80s, people ran around with undiagnosed psychiatric issues and indiscriminately inflicted trauma; that’s just how it was. Ford believes America is circling the toilet and decides to take his family off the grid. He’s basically a prepper before such things became commercially fashionable.
It’s sort of funny how a 30-year-old movie can resonate so strongly in our current times.
The Mosquito Coast is not a Good movie, but it is an interesting one. It reminded me of my own childhood and my own domineering father, and my blind belief that whatever madness he pursued was good and right simply because he was my father, a theme I may end up revisiting in a longer piece.
During my interview, the manager asked me who my favorite actor was and to name six of their movies. Pfft, please. I could’ve taken the easy route and said the Star Wars and Indiana Jones trilogies—which I pointed out to him—but instead I omitted those movies entirely. I can still remember the movies I listed and the order: Blade Runner, Working Girl, The Fugitive, Patriot Games, Regarding Henry, and Sabrina.