Dead on Arrival? The movie everyone has raved about?

Okay—bad pun given what’s at the core of the plot.

I’d read and heard so many great things about this movie. Since we don’t do movie theaters in our household, it finally made it to on-demand (we do LOTS of on-demand), I decided to watch it.

I feel like Tom Hanks in Big: I don’t get it.

Yeah, it had to do with time and I spend a lot of time on time, pun intended, since my current series is the Time Patrol. And in Fifth Floor, I had to really ponder time and loops and parallel worlds and all that good stuff. Until my brain really hurt, but I could feel what Lara was feeling, wondering what exactly is her reality and her past, cause I kind of feel like that a lot. I feel like that right now. Like I’m sort of here, but not really here. And now.

I’ve read blogs by other scifi authors and fans raving about the movie and I’m sorry—well, I guess I don’t have to be sorry for my opinion. Hmm. Need to work on that. Who gives a crap?

I kind of feel like the guy who sat in the graduate Faulkner class where the teacher was going on about the use of the color yellow in Soldier’s Pay and I’m thinking: maybe his wallpaper was yellow when he was writing the book? Who the fuck knows? I did mention in that class that I thought Faulkner wrote better drunk than sober and you could really tell the difference and that didn’t go over well.

I do think there is a strain of literature and movies where people go “Wow, that was so good and so deep and blah blah blah” except in reality, it really made no sense but by pretending we understand it, we make ourselves seem smarter. Or maybe they just are smarter?

But that’s me. The contrarian. It’s a condition. Seriously. I wouldn’t be it if I can help it. That’s the thing about the brain. We’re born with some wiring in place, it gets softwared by our environment, our upbringing, and sometimes things crack, get wired wrong, or worse, don’t get wired at all. And you know what? You’re stuck with it. Now, you can get help. There are medications. There are therapists. You can act differently, but acting differently doesn’t mean you are different.

Also, back to the movie, being honest, using a dead child at the core of a plot sits hard with me, given our own experience. That’s an exclusive club you don’t want to be a member of.

I joke when I teach that writers aren’t in the bell curve and we’re not necessarily on the good side of that curve and I get a good laugh, but you know what? It’s not a joke. I know for certain there are things wrong in my brain. So perhaps that’s my problem with the movie. I didn’t connect the way others did. It’s like this blog. At conferences people tell me they like my blog and all that, but no one comments in real time. I sometimes read another blog and I think “Hey, that’s pretty much what I wrote” and there are like 200 comments there. And I hear the wind whispering in the empty branches in the comment sections here. So I accept it’s not like what I wrote.

I think I know some of the reasons for that, which loops back to not feeling the same about Arrival as others. My brain is a dark neighborhood where many do not want to venture.

So this blog is going to be more and more shining light on that dark neighborhood, because, well, it’s all I got. I’m not anyone else. Not going to pretend to be anyone else. Like Popeye.


  1. Wow! I do not agree with your view of this film. I think it is one of the best, most thought provoking, films of recent times (the short story on which it is based is even better). However, I fully support your right to have a different view. Different opinions are what makes life so interesting.

  2. Hey, I comment, just not all the time. Anyway, I like Popeye. And I thought the movie was okay, not necessarily the best I’ve seen. But then, I don’t like the child thing either (same reason). I think most of heads are messed up. Nuff said.

  3. I haven’t seen Arrival so I can’t comment. But La La Land was a snooze. 13 nominations? It was another Hollywood flick about Hollywood albeit not as horrendously bad as Birdman. birdman was so freaking awful. Anyhoo. Since this is a time flick it sounds intriguing. I like time bending themes. One of my fav time movies was Time Cop with Jean Claude Van Damm.

  4. I love your blog. I’m writing a time travel/mulitiverse novella series, but got stuck on the first book for a while. Finally realized the problem was it wanted to be a novella, not a novel. Your blog – and books – are great. I don’t understand why some blogs attract a gazillion comments and others, none.

    I haven’t seen Dead on Arrival. Given what you said about it, I probably won’t.

  5. I’m SO GLAD to read your comments about “Arrival”. When it was over (and I had to leave long enough to borrow those glasses that show subtitles because the dialogue was so “artistic”I couldn’t hear it) I turned to my friend and said, “will you please explain to me what that was about?” Thanks for making me feel a little less like a dofus.

  6. Was the movie Arrival, or Dead on Arrival, because I’m old enough to remember that one too? I’m in a grim mood myself today about a television show called Riverdale. We’ll both move on and get over it, I’m sure.

  7. The thing I like about your blog, and any blog, is that it’s a peek into the writer’s mind. We keep blogs for ourselves, mostly, I think and I’ve found that over time, people come and read my posts by the hundreds, but leave very few comments. I guess I’m not all that controversial, or provocative, and that’s okay. I started my blog when I was homeless, and for some reason, the two-and-a-half readers who were reading the darned thing didn’t want me to stop it, when I became homeful, so I kept on with it, so here we are, some six years in and people are still reading it, so I write as the whim strikes me, and work on fiction in the meantime. I understand what you mean about movies or books that just maybe aren’t all that and a bag of chips, when everyone else is swooning over them, but I’m off in the head, too. It’s okay.

    • Sounds like you started it when you needed to reach out into the world. And it worked. Being homeless is a situation many people judge too quickly, without understanding how quickly it can happen. “Security” is an illusion, yet it’s one we all chase.

  8. Looking forward to a tour of the dark neighborhood. Funny thing, in a discussion with some other writers last week, I was talking about how I’ve always been half a step out of kilter with ‘normal’. Just wired wrong, maybe!

  9. And here I thought Arrival was about linguistics. Not that I’ve seen it yet. Just been told, “Hey, it’s sci fi and linguistics and you’re a sci fi linguistics geek go to enjoy.” I like your blog – the more you allow insight into your mind and thought processes as a writer the more interesting it gets. Shining light into the dark bits is a good thing, as long as you can handle what you find. Presumably you wouldn’t write about it if you couldn’t. Then again, you know what they say about making assumptions. I got deep and dark on my blog years ago after my brother died and haven’t been able to write a word there since. So there ya go.

  10. I’ve been thinking about your comment on Faulkner in class. Maybe I should be like him…maybe.

  11. BIG is on of my favorite movies. Haven’t seen Arrival yet.

    • I loved BIG. It showed how stupid adults are. And how important innocence is. I love when she’s confronted and asked– why do you like him? And she says: He’s an adult.

  12. Bob,

    You’ve prompted me to step out of that mindset and my comfort zone about commenting on blogs.

    I’m one of your faithful blog readers who doesn’t comment. After reading this post, I spent a lot of thought on why I rarely comment on anyone’s blog, not just yours (and I follow several blogs). My answer: 1) I just don’t take the time, and 2) I’m not one to wear my opinions and comments on my sleeve for the world to read.

    But here goes…

    I, too, have a dark neighborhood in my mind, and every so often, that neighborhood rises up in insurrection, and we do battle over memories and experiences better left in the past, not the least of which is membership in your exclusive club. So, as much as anyone can avoid it in this age of information-bombardment, and right or wrong, I stay away from news, television shows, books, and movies that I know from experience will incite my dark neighborhood into action. But this darkness is a double-edged sword, because like Captain Kirk said, “Damn it Bones, you’re a doctor. You know that pain and guilt can’t be taken away with the wave of a magic wand. They’re the things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are. If we lose them, we lose ourselves. [to Sybok] I don’t want my pain taken away! I need my pain!”

    On Faulkner’s yellow wallpaper… I taught high school and college literature and every time something the ‘experts’ considered metaphorical or symbolic in a story, I’d remind my students that sometimes ‘the dog is just a dog’, and there’s nothing symbolic in it, unless you want to see it that way. I also agree with you that Faulkner’s drunk writing was better than his sober writing.

    Part of how I keep my dark neighborhood corraled and not running rampant is through my writing. I don’t write ‘dark’ stories per se, but I project my demons, so to speak, into my characters…as is a typical behavior of writers.

    To further bare my commenting soul to the world, it’s difficult for me to comment regularly on any blog for fear of being that commenter that makes people roll their eyes and mutter “Oh no, she’s commenting AGAIN” or “Doesn’t she have anything worthwhile to say?” (Yes, my insecurities are showing through.)

    I’ve undoubtedly shared way too much information to make my point about why I don’t comment often, but there you have it, for what it’s worth. And I’ll do better with commenting now…maybe…we’ll see…

    • Every writer bares their soul when they put it out in public. I always say: Writing makes things real. We can say all sorts of things and backtrack and deny. But when we write it, it’s locked down. I’ve been told by therapists– no one is thinking about you as much as you think they’re thinking about you.

      Which is something that says a lot. Good and bad.

      Sue Grafton said she wrote A Is For Alibi instead of killing her ex. Writers often write out their fantasies, light and dark, in their fiction. Sometimes we write out our questions in fiction, searching for answers.

  13. Your troubles getting comments is similar to a lot of my favorite bloggers. Intelligent people read a LOT. If they read something well-written that they agree with, they smile and move on without comment. I’ve never seen you deliberately try to provoke comments so your readers feel free to move on when they are done. You’re probably one of a few dozen blogs they read so there isn’t a lot of time. Today you were provocative and you rattled the folks who didn’t get the movie either but made a big deal about it because all the cool kids were. I was an English major and I’d thought about going for the PhD. I soon realized, however, that I wouldn’t last long in academia because I find postmodernism tiresome and self-indulgent. I like my fiction to make sense or at least have a point. I broke down once and watched “No Country For Old Men” because I like Tommy Lee Jones in some other films. It was post-modernism in its full glory – pointless, unless, of course, you count the whole idea that “life sucks and then you die” as a point.

    For those of us who like our stories to have a point – a moral or two if you will – the post modernists come off self-indulgent and, well, pointless. I don’t have time for pointless. Thank you for your review. Saved me a waste of two hours during which I can read another Time Patrol novel.

    By the way, I haven’t enjoyed a time travel series this much since Poul Anderson’s history thick Time Patrol series. And that’s saying something.

    • Ah-ha. You caught me. Yes, I used Time Patrol because my wife and I loved Poul Anderson’s Time Patrol books. There are so many classics of science fiction. I love the Dorsai series. And Foundation! Mind-blowing.

      Different stories reach different people. I’m sure No Country for Old Men appealed to some. There was a movie last year, with the guy who plays Cpt Kirk in the new Star Trek movies, Chris Pine– Hell Or High Water. Tommy Lee Jones was in it too. I thought it was a brilliant representation of where the country was at that time.

      Some times I want to be mindlessly entertained. Other times, I want more meat. But I don’t want to be preached at or beat over the head. Another movie that really blew me away was Best Offer.

  14. I discovered “Best Offer” looking for a movie to stream. I thought it was some kind of secret because I’d never even heard of it. Told everyone I knew to watch it. Fabulous!

  15. I always read your posts; why I never comment on your blog or the others I follow is puzzling to me. Usually, I think “Hey, that was great!” and keep going. Do I appreciate the helpful insights and inspiration you bring to my writing life? Absolutely! My take on most movies that seem “pointless” is the same as the child in “The Emperor’s New Clothes” fable! (Just sayin’)

  16. Bob, I love your posts. I don’t always comment, but I’m here now filling out your branches and shutting up that whispering wind.

  17. I didn’t get it either and I am part of that awful club. You know, the dead kid club, damn it. Thanks for writing something that made sense to me because that movie was a waste of time.

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