According to Amy Wallace in Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Carlos Castaneda and his inner circle were big movie fans. She tells about going with him in 1981 to see his friend Hector Bebenco’s award-winning film Pixote and says,

This heartbreaking story of an impoverished Brazilian boyhood, told in Portuguese (in which Carlos was fluent), moved him to the point of tears; it was so reminiscent, he said, of his past.

Some of the sorcerer’s favorite films were The Barefoot Contessa, Bladerunner, The Seventh Seal, and Tora, Tora, Tora. He also loved Grade-D martial arts movies and all war movies. During the illness approaching death, Wallace says Castaneda would only watch war movies. How spiritual is that?

His favorite singers were Javier Solis of Mexico and the Argentinian Boule de Neve.

Lars and the Real Girl accomplishes the seemingly contradictory goals of being not only cozy, homey and heartwarming, but deeply weird.

Ryan Gosling plays a very shy young man who lives in the garage of the old family homestead, now occupied by his brother and sister-in-law. He doesn’t want to live in the house, and doesn’t want to interact with people. He sends away for one of those super-deluxe imitation women, and introduces her as Bianca, his girlfriend who is in a wheelchair and doesn’t speak English.

The local doctor advises letting him live out the delusion. “Bianca’s in town for a reason,” she sagely advises. So the family, and then pretty much everybody, goes along with it.

Older brother Gus is a great character, who observes all the manly decorum, reserve, and dignitas, yet lets his heart have the final say. Karen is the lovely warm pregnant wife who does her best for Lars and Bianca. As the townsfolk adapt, Bianca gets a job, volunteers at the hospital, and becomes a real member of the community.

Meanwhile, the doctor helps Lars work through his problems, with a happy ending for all, and that is meant in the most innocent possible way. There are some lovely moments.

Lars and the Real Girl can be taken two ways: superficially, as a delightful entertainment; and meaningfully, as a commentary on many aspects of society as we know it. This would be an interesting date movie. The conversation it could inspire would certainly be indicative of the attitudes and beliefs of a new friend you’re getting to know.

It would even be a suitable movie for a family evening with the kids. Despite the fact that she’s an anatomically correct sex doll, not much is made of that, and any mild innuendo they might hear, would go over the heads of young kids anyway. Although her default posture seems to be knees-spread, Bianca is never salacious, and after her first appearance, she is customarily dressed in sensible country outfits borrowed from Karen.

I know it’s a comedy, but I can’t help taking this detail seriously – Despite living in a cold climate, and with the price of fuel what it is… these people spend an awful lot of time standing around yakking with the house door open.

Infinity (1996)

Physicist Richard Feynman conceptualized the field of nanotechnology as far back as the 1950s. Many years later, he figured out and explained to Congress that the defective O-rings caused the Challenger space shuttle to explode. He liked to pick locks and play percussion instruments. More than anything, he wanted to visit Tannu Tuva, but it never happened. He was the youngest member of the team that invented the atomic bomb. He eventually gained the reputation of a formidable ladies’ man, but that was later. Infinity is about Richard Feynman as a young kid in love.

The girl’s name is Arline, and the boy charms her by constructing a Mobius strip. (True story: in the late Sixties I fell in love with a guy because he made a Mobius strip, right there in the cafeteria at Niagara County Community College.) Already, in 1939, Feynman is saying, “What do you care what other people think?” which later becomes the title of one of his books.

Dick shows off by challenging a Chinese man with an abacus to a calculating contest. “The harder the problem gets, the better off I am, and the worse off he is.” Okay, maybe it’s nerd love, but Arline listens to Dick’s abstruse math talk, and also does standard girly stuff, longing for a dress in a store window. They get a room, and she helps him pull out the hide-a-bed, a nice filmic shorthand for her enthusiasm about the physical side of a relationship. In 1941, he dances the jitterbug, he’s a clown, and they’re still sneaking off someplace to make love.

When Arline falls prey to a mysterious illness, Dick he treats it as just another science problem, and studies up on what could be wrong. He wins a major scholarship which will be forfeit if they marry. If they don’t marry, they won’t be able to see each other. Arline has maybe seven years to live, and they can’t kiss on the mouth because her sickness is contagious.

When World War Two starts, someone asks Feynman, “Don’t you read the newspapers?” He says, “As a matter of fact, I don’t.” Next thing you know, he’s at Los Alamos helping to invent the A-bomb. His wife is in a hospital 100 miles away. This is not your typical young marriage. The commuting goes on for a couple of years, and Arline is really starting to look bad. Despite this only being 1944, with Robert Bly and the men’s movement decades in the future, we see Feynman out in the woods, drumming and leaping about.

In 1945, it looks like Arline is on the way out. Dick borrows a car and has a hellacious time getting to Albuquerque, but he’s there when she dies. The bomb goes off. Dick gets the shakes.

I’m real happy this film got made. Richard Feynman was a person well worth knowing, and if this film will inspire people to, for instance, get hold of James Gleick’s book Genius, or Freeman Dyson’s book Disturbing the Universe, to learn more about such an extraordinary human, that will be all to the good.