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Friday, February 02, 2007

Totally Babeled

[Here's an email I sent my sister. It's off our usual topic of living and cruising in Mexico, but she thought the rest of you might enjoy it.]

I think I mentioned that we were going to see Babel this week. Most of the time I like to go to movies knowing as little as possible about them so that I can be pleasantly surprised. On Tuesday I checked the theater's web site for show times and we made arrangements to meet Steve and Lisa yesterday to drive together for the 5:00 show. A half hour before we were to meet I checked the web site again because the show times had been different from those posted in the newspaper. Sure enough Babel now started 1/2 an hour earlier and we were going to miss the 4:30 show. John decided we should continue as scheduled and maybe there would be something else we could see at 5 PM. I was bummed because I'd really wanted to see the Oscar nominated and Golden Globe winner Babel.

We arrived at the theater and Babel had actually started at 4 PM, so both newspaper and web page were wrong. The only other option for 5 PM was Storm Breaker, which looked pretty lame, so we bought tickets for the 6:40 Babel and went out for tacos next door. Yay, I was going to get to see the movie I didn't want to miss.

A related aside: Recently we popped one of the DVDs a friend had copied for us, titled A Beautiful Country, into our machine for an evening's entertainment. I know that often a movie will begin with an unsubtitled foreign language as a means for setting the scene. John pressed the Subtitle button on the remote and got No Subtitles for a response. So we were patient and waited for the expected transition to English. We listened to Vietnamese for six minutes into the movie until John fast forwarded to another chapter where we heard English. So we went back to our previous six minute point of departure and watched some more scenes in Vietnamese. Finally we accepted the fact that for whatever reason the subtitles hadn't transferred to the copied DVD and we gave up.

Thus I had a feeling of foreboding when Babel started off in Arabic (?) with, of course, Spanish subtitles, and there were no signs of the advertised stars, Brad Pitt and Kate Blanchett. Our discomfort increased when the scene switched to Spanish speakers (no subtitles), and then to Japanese (Spanish subtitles again). Finally, there was a scene with the Pitt/Blanchett duo, and we could understand what they were saying. Yay! Wait, wait, don't leave; we don't want to go back to Mexico, Japan, and the Arabic speakers - go back to P/B! If you've seen the movie you know that the P/B scenes were few and far between, and they seemed to us to be much shorter than scenes with the non-English speaking characters. Our Spanish is okay, and I was managing to get the gist of most of it. John pointed out later that the Japanese scenes were best because they seemed to use more syllables/words, which gave us longer to decipher the Spanish subtitles.

The movie theater in the Zona Dorada has a quirky little habit of abruptly stopping the movie and raising the lights somewhere near the middle for an "intermission." Afraid I would lose our new friendship with Steve and Lisa (not to mention John's good humor), I proposed we make our getaway at that point (which was: Mexican pistol had been fired into the air at the wedding; Japanese girl attempted to kiss her dentist after flashing her crotch to boys in bar; and Blanchett was stoned from the old Morrocan woman's opium cigar). They were all polite and asked if I was sure I wanted to go, but I knew everyone wanted to give it up and so we left. I'm not sure they would have been any happier with Babel even if the whole thing had been in English however.

That was our evening. Hope yours was uneventful!

Linda and John