When Will We Learn?

Brad’s Status, which is the new movie written and directed by Mike White, features a neurotic narrator named Brad Sloan (Ben Stiller) who must confront his choices when his son Troy (Austin Abrams) and he fly from Sacramento to Boston for his son Troy’s college campus tours.

This movie, as far as it goes, is a somewhat engaging account of aging. Brad enlists a college friend when Troy confuses his Harvard interview days. As he helps Troy with this and a Tufts interview, Brad confronts his cynicism and choices by rejecting conventional signs of success, which his college friends’ lives exhibit, and accepting his son’s sense of his life.  Continue reading “When Will We Learn?”

Obvious

I had been wanting to see Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks (1942) for some time when I finally stopped at the Art Institute of Chicago. I made my way to the back and then up the stairs where I found this painting. I stood before it, gazing and wondering, intrigued by the missing doorways and interpersonal spaces, as well as the setting, colors, and light. Once I had my fill, I left the gallery and wandered toward the stairs when my eye snagged on another painting. Continue reading “Obvious”

Not My Mother

Some critics are trying to imbue mother! with significance, but these critics seem to disagree on what this significance is.

Mother! is the new movie written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, who also directed The Wrestler (2008) and Black Swan (2010). In his latest movie, a blocked poet (Javier Bardem) and his unnamed wife (Jennifer Lawrence) live in his home that she has been restoring after a destructive fire. A dying doctor (Ed Harris) and later his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) and their sons appear, and their fight over a revised will is the beginning of a narrative disintegration that is inexplicably, and unsatisfyingly, explained in the final scenes.

Continue reading “Not My Mother”

The Truth of Buddhism

I was impressed by Robert Wright’s Nonzero (2001) and The Evolution of God (2009), so I was eager to read his most recent book, which is Why Buddhism Is True (2017).

Wright links this book with his previous work in evolutionary psychology, and he combines this work with research in neuroscience and psychology to explain how buddhism reduces regret, anxiety, and other negative experiences and increases appreciation of beauty and other people. In particular, he uses a modular model of the human mind that developed as a result of natural selection.  Continue reading “The Truth of Buddhism”