Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Reviews: Intuition (book) and Fight Club (movie)

Intuition, by Allegra Goodman is a fictional drama set in a laboratory at a research institute in Cambridge, MA. In a lab run by two PIs (Principal Investigators, a.k.a bosses) with contrasting styles, post-doc Cliff has some exciting new results: a recombinant virus he created has been curing tumors in cancerous mice. The ambitious and political boss, Sandy Glass, convinces his normally more cautious and meticulous co-director, Marion Mendelssohn, to publicize the results before they have been rigorously tested and confirmed. Robin, Cliff's ex-girlfriend and a fellow post-doc, suspects that Cliff's data are too good to be true, and her intuition eventually spirals into a full-fledged fraud investigation. I enjoyed reading this book, particularly because the author accurately captures the trials and tribulations of academic research: high stress, long hours, and low pay. The story reminds me of one of my boss' favorite, albeit very cynical, jokes.

Q. Why do academics fight so bitterly?
A. Because the stakes are so low.

It's funny because it's true. Science life ain't all that bad, though, and Intuition definitely focuses on the negative.

Fight Club. I have this strange two year gap in my knowledge of popular culture that coincides with the time I spent in Nicaragua. When I came back in late 2001, I was all "Why do all my friends have cell phones now?" and "Who's Moby?" I also missed the boat on some major motion pictures, like The Matrix and Fight Club. Last night, I watched Fight Club for the first time, and I must be one of the few people left didn't know about the trick ending (which I won't reveal here in case there are more of you out there). So, what did I think? Overrated. First of all, it broke my cardinal rule of movies: they should not be over two hours long (the two worst culprits include The Aviator and Snore of the Rings). Secondly, it was too gimmicky- once the plot twist is revealed, it made the whole film seem sort of pointless. The acting was well done, but the plot didn't enthrall me, and neither did the characters (except for Brad Pitt during shirtless scenes). I'm normally all for gratuitous violence (a la Kill Bill), but here it was neither funny nor shocking, and therefore not particularly interesting. The solo fighting scenes with Edward Norton were a little ridiculous. Don't get me wrong, Fight Club wasn't that bad of a movie, but it just wasn't as good as it was hyped up to be.

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