October 17, 2011

Happy Mon. Light snow here, and this may stick. The tree branches are highlighted with about an inch of snow. Very pretty. Temp about 31 degrees.

We paid piratical fees to see The Big Year yesterday, the film starring Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, and Jack Black as three obsessed birders who decide to do a “big year” by seeing as many different species of birds in North America north of Mexico as possible in one calendar year. The story is loosely based on the book of the same title, which is a fun read and does not presuppose any particular knowledge of birds apart from the fact they have colored feathers and fly. The film also does not presuppose any knowledge, and there is some confusion over what makes someone “the world’s best birder.” For the purposes of the film, it’s an unscrupulous birder named Bostick who violates most standards of common courtesy in his wild quest to count birds, including the beautiful snowy owl that eludes him throughout the film. Martin plays a newly retired financial tycoon with money to burn chasing birds, and Black plays a computer geek birder with an uncanny ear for bird calls who has to take time off from work to chase birds. The film is pretty funny, and the admittedly thin audience at the Regal Goldstream Theaters got quite a few laughs out of the sometimes not so friendly competition between the three men doing a big year.

The film also focuses on the disruptive effects this obsession has on the men’s social relationships, as their wives/girlfriends/family do not see much of them while they careen around the continent looking for birds that only show up in certain places. The sequence supposedly set on Attu Island, famous in birding circles for its windblown rarities from Asia, was filmed in Yukon, and if you don’t know what Attu looks like (who does?), the deception is pretty convincing. The actors appear to be having a good time, and I would guess you will, too. We both enjoyed it. Seattle Audubon Society friends reported they enjoyed it also. The driving in the movie suggests that birders act in unpredictable ways and are erratic on the road. This may be true. Rated PG.

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