Everyone’s a Critic
The Holyground Highlander Forum Midweek Challenge
Archivist’s Note: The stories and vignettes offered here from various Holyground Forumlanders have not been edited or changed other than having a spell-check performed and being reformatted for this website.
The Challenge by Leah CWPack
A Difference of Opinion by T Rose/Tikasmom
Just the Facts by Battie
In the Practice of Perfection by MacNairCDC
Everyone’s a Critic by Wain
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon by Ysanne
Unbreakable by Ghost Cat
MID-WEEK CHALLENGE: EVERYONE'S A CRITIC
Your challenge, should you choose to participate:
Take two or more characters from the HL universe. They have just seen a movie, and have very differing viewpoints on what they saw, and they are debating about it between themselves.
Attention should be paid to the setting they are in, as much as the content of their arguments and observations. Just sitting around somewhere amorphous won't do.
DISCLAIMER: Remember to put the "MWC" in the subject line of your posted submission if you wish to have it archived on the MWC archive website.
MWC...A difference of opinion...
Posted By: T Rose/Tikasmom
Date: Wednesday, 28 February 2001, at 11:55 a.m.
"I don't care how long one has lived, being alone for that length of time is not going to be enjoyable in any way, shape or form." Methos punctuated his pronouncement with the final sip of his beer. "There are times we may have craved solitude, but that is taking it way too far."
"Perhaps," Duncan replied, "but you have to admit the development of survival skills on Tom Hanks part was superbly portrayed. From that semi smug FedEx employee to the pared down survivor. And in only four years. How he remembered those survival lessons we've all read about, managed to get fire going, managed to crack those coconuts. It may be lonely but it could be done."
"Right, four years which we had to see portrayed, no matter how superbly, in long boring sequences. And if it weren't for that convenient box of ice skates..." Methos let his reply trail off, the scorn in his voice reflected in the look in his eyes.
"Boring? Boring? How can you say it was boring?" Duncan practically shouted, almost spilling his wine. "To see how and if he would survive, his overcoming of the obstacles, his relationship with a soccer ball of all things! As a movie it was so far superior to so much of the crap that is shown today and passes for entertainment!"
"Granted, it was better than some of the recent releases," Methos conceded "but I never really felt any reason to care about him. And there were just too many deus ex machina twists to make me believe he was really surviving on such a barren island. There were no insects, no animals, and save for what he was able to trap from the sea, nothing. And how convenient that he not only found that cave but clear fresh water. Nope, no way am I going to rave about this movie. It not only was unrealistic it was bordering on boring."
"You are just way too jaded, and too addicted to those horror films you have archived. I'd like to see you, with all of your experiences, try to make it on that place." Despite his defense of the movie, Duncan wasn't sure he could survive for four years in such good shape save for his immortality. But Methos' taste in films had always annoyed him. They so rarely agreed on the merits of a film and when they did it was one of those few truly original or off beat pictures.
Stretching his legs in front of him, Methos stared pensively at his friend. He wondered just how well either of them could make it on a deserted island nowadays, considering how civilized and pampered they had both become. Sure, physical conditioning was superb due to their individual workouts, but both had become so used to the 20th century and all of its gadgets. Besides, it was always fun just to take the other side of any movie the two of them saw to get that rise out of Duncan when he was forced to articulate his feelings. It was worth stretching the truth just a wee bit every now and then regarding how he really felt about a movie.
"Let's face it, true isolation would probably drive either one of us up that proverbial road." Putting his wine glass down, Duncan was prepared to start in on the technical aspects of the film when he was suddenly thrown violently forward. A blinding flash of lightning lit up the inside of the plane and both men were tossed out of their seats as the turbulence increased.
Immediately regretting his disregard for the fasten your seat belt sign that had been on for the past five minutes, Methos grabbed futilely for the back of the seat to try to slow his inexorable forward progress. A slow cracking sound from in front of him was echoed by a similar sound from above. Slashes of lightning were reinforced by peals of thunder as the prop jet was repeatedly struck.
"We're going down" the still calm voice of the pilot came over the crackling speaker system. "Try to grab a seat cushion guys, and hang on."
Five long noisy minutes later the small plane met the crashing seas beneath, and the immortal was soon floating out of what was once the top of the plane into the thrashing water. His companion was nowhere in sight, only waves, occasional glimpses of an angry sky and more waves. And then only darkness as he collided with the torn off wing.
The stinging pain from the sand working its way into the open sores on his thighs brought him back to life. Forcing his salt encrusted eyes open he stared up into endless blue skies. Heaving his aching body up he stared out at a quiet endless sea. A slow turn showed him the barren island upon which fate had cast him.
"I guess I'll find out now which of us was right" he murmured slowly to himself.
MWC: Just the Facts
Posted By: Battie <email@example.com>
Date: Wednesday, 28 February 2001, at 4:01 p.m.
"I hate when they disembowel a movie that way."
Amelia Delgado hooked her arm with his as they stepped out into the warm, night air. The rest of the audience poured out critiquing the movie as well. She jabbed MacLeod with her elbow when she heard one woman agree with her opinion.
"Disembowel? Such a strong word. It was more of..."
Her five foot three inch form to his six foot form could barely keep up with his long legs. She put pressure on his arm and he slowed his pace as they turned the corner.
"Changing history. I know, I know. It still irks me."
"I thought it was rather entertaining," piped in Adam.
"It wasn't my idea to see Gladiator," Duncan said.
"You know MacLeod, once in a while you need to expand your horizons beyond the classics," Adam smirked.
Duncan MacLeod laughed. Amelia had landed in Seacouver three weeks ago and had once again insinuated herself into his life. He was grateful. The last time he'd seen her was for Tessa's funeral. With Richie gone and Amanda starting a new life all he had left was Methos and Joe. Yes, Amelia was good company. It had irked him a bit that Amelia and Methos knew each other. He had, once again, shown up at his loft as they were on their way out to the theater. Methos being Methos had tagged along.
As they entered Joe's he said, "So, tell me. How did Commodus die?"
"Oh, Duncan, please. You know how he died. I'm sure you did research as soon as I suggested we see this movie. I bet you know everything there is to know about anything that ever happened in this world."
"Mac is rather anal that way," chuckled Methos.
"You give me too much credit," he said, pulling the chair out for her and ignoring Methos' comment.
"Hey, guys, Amelia. The usual?"
Amelia looked up at Joe Dawson and smiled. "Hey, Joseph. I'll have a white wine, please."
"Usual for me Joe," Methos said, taking the other empty seat next to Amelia."
"I'll have a scotch," said Duncan.
Joe signaled to Mike, the bartender, for the usual drinks for the threesome.
"So, how was the movie?"
"It was atrocious. You know all you have to do is go on the internet do a little research and get an accurate account of history. It just galls me!"
"I take it they butchered the historical content?" Joe asked. He knew of Amelia Deglado aka Mary Cross aka Carrie Munson aka Diedre Kelly. Although the Watchers hadn't picked up her trail until the 1500's she had been around quite a while. The question was how long?
"He wasn't killed the way they depicted in the movie. He was drugged by one of his concubines, then one of Commodus' wrestlers finished him off."
"And you know this because....." Joe let his question hang.
"Joseph, are you trying to get information about my life?"
"Would I do that?" he asked innocently.
"Yes, you would. I think you guys have enough information on me."
"I guess we do. But you know about us...."
Mike appeared and quickly placed the drinks on the table and disappeared.
"It's of no consequence. You're secret is safe with me," she winked.
"Don't involve me in this Joe. You've known her three weeks, I've known her a century or two and she still won't tell me her real age."
"I give up. You two enjoy yourselves." Joe walked away, shaking his head.
Laughing, she leaned in to Duncan. "You know something MacLeod?"
"What's that?" Methos said, leaning in.
"Methos here was the concubine," she whispered.
Duncan spewed his drink right into Methos' face.
Amelia laughed and both men followed. Methos wiped his face and sweater. "You are so not funny Amelia."
"I thought I was," she said. "Come on, really! That movie, although well directed and the actors being good, was a total butchering of history."
"To be fair," Methos interjected. "It was entertaining and at least the costumes were close to accurate."
"Yes, but Maximus was no where near as cute as Russell Crowe, nor was he as puny."
"Wait a second, you were around at that time?" asked Duncan.
Amelia shrugged and smiled. "I guess so."
"So tell me what was the purpose of the Gladiators to begin with?" he asked.
"Well," she started, "it was originally part of a religious ceremony that was intended to insure that the dead would be accompanied to the "next world" by armed attendants and that the spirits of the dead would be appeased with this offering of blood."
"So," Methos said, "Have you figured out who the concubine was?"
"Gee, I can only guess," he said, taking a swig of his scotch. "What did you do then?"
"I got the hell out of Rome. Commodus had practically driven it to the ground. I was helped by one of the slaves," she glanced at Methos. "Do you want to tell him?"
"He all ready knows."
Amelia laughed. "All secrets are out then. Amelia the concubine and Adam the slave."
So, who's up for seeing MI2 tomorrow?" Methos asked.
"Oh no, I've sworn off spy movies since that time..." Amelia stopped and laughed. "Oh no you don't Methos. I'm picking the next movie. There's a dollar theater playing Braveheart tomorrow."
Duncan raised an eyebrow. "Maybe," he said. "I'm not sure I want to be compared to Mel Gibson."
"As long as you don't wear a kilt, I promise I won't compare," Methos laughed.
"But I might want to," Amelia said.
Rolling his eyes, Duncan said, "Forget Braveheart, how about Rugrats in Paris?"
MWC entry ... In The Practice of Perfection
Posted By: MacNairCDC
Date: Thursday, 1 March 2001, at 12:46 a.m.
“It could never be said he was the True Man, you fashioned him with a flaw. If you had made him well enough in the first place, he would never have lost who he was.” The man speaking glared at the perfect face across from him.
His opponent leaned back in his seat and gazed at the dark-haired man with amusement. “The point was to wear at him until the flaw was found and exploited. Does it chafe you that it was a mere pawn in the game that brought him down?”
“You call Evil a pawn? How was anyone to win against someone so powerful and conniving.” A pause for breath before adding dourly: “he never saw it coming and did not recognize Him until it was too late.”
“And by that time he was set on a course that he could not veer away from and the One was unable to sway him from it. Not exactly the design, was it?”
“There should be a rule that one cannot use a powerful minion from two steps away to destroy the world. What kind of a war is that? And where is the justice of simply dismantling a creation from the inside out only to toss him, broken and misguided from his proper design, against the Perfect One? Of course he will be destroyed when he has been torn so far from his own foundation!”
“You weep because they both lie in ruins? Tsk tsk. Most unbecoming of you.”
“I grieve for the world that may be destroyed if this is not well thought out on your part.”
The man with the perfect face ignored this last and chose to focus on the creation. “It would not do to underestimate the repercussions of bending the True Man out of his form. He was tempted into self-blame, he listened and he walked on within its grasp. There is always payment and judgment for harkening to Evil. The wages of sin and all that.”
“But the One, by destroying the True Man, has destroyed himself along with him. He simply cannot be the Perfect One if all of creation is destroyed in the process of winning over Evil. Evil has triumphed.”
“But Evil was ultimately killed, dear friend,” the excellent voice reminded.
“The point of the exercise was to redeem him, not destroy them both and everything else along with it! What does it gain to be the only One? Evil must be put down, but not at the cost of the creation.”
“Point taken. A Creator is only called that because they create, not destroy.”
The man with the faultless face spoke conversationally: “the issue is: there is no point in creating absolute perfection unless I just want copies of myself. An absolutely perfect True Man has no freedom to choose anything -- even to choose the Perfect One over Evil. A boring lifeless creation. A way must be found to redeem the imperfect and place them beyond the grasp of Evil. While the Perfect One chose a way to remove him from Evil’s power; he ended up destroying the True Man and in doing so, destroyed the world with him.
“Redemption,” said the flawless one.
“True Man is imperfect by design. He will die because of Evil who is diametrically opposed to all things good. The Perfect One must find a way to redeem True Man and destroy the Evil without destroying the created in the process.” The dark-haired man ticked off each point on the ends of his long fingers.
“After all this time, you finally see the Master Plan?”
“You should have told me all of this at the start of the Game,” he returned crossly.
A deep chuckle resonated from the man across from him. “What would be the fun in that. Creating takes only the wave of a hand and then it is done … the Game is much more entertaining.”
“Only someone as eternal as you would say such a thing. I’ve been playing this with you for 5000 years and haven’t won yet!” he muttered. “Okay, let’s try it again.”
Methos reached for the fallen pieces and placed them back in the squares where they belonged. The first warrior was powerfully built and had dark hair that abruptly grew long and dangled down his back as soon as he was in place at the start of the Game. The second was slighter and plain of face, with eyes the color of cloudy skies. A damsel, a castle, a pawn or two. Horses. Must have horses for the occasional dung tossing when I get too irritated.
Across from him, the other man restructured his own lines: misshapen beasts and sullen warriors with eyes that glowed red inside masks of curving bones. Dark fortress towers and scuttling minions with scythes in their hands that looked suspiciously like crosses when given a quarter of a turn.
“Remind me why can’t I change the Perfect One’s name again?”
“We keep his name the same so we don’t mix him up. You can change True Man’s name as much as you want.”
“Tell me I don’t have to put him in those damn tennis shoes this time!”
“Ahhh, young one, he’s not suppose to be flawless … remember?”
Muttering was the only reply while the last few pieces on the enormous playing field were put in place.
“Good verses Evil and don’t forget the redemption,” Methos spoke aloud.
“Now you’re understanding the Game,” he smiled. “Ready when you are.”
“I think it’s fitting that you’re playing Evil, you know, Devil’s advocate and all.”
“Yes. It’s the only time I get to be bad.”
“I’m not so keen on this being good all the time,” Methos said dryly, wagging a forefinger at his opponent. “I suppose you just want me to practice?”
God laughed and moved his first piece.
Jacob Kell – Evil, archetype of Satan
Connor MacLeod – True Man, a created being, archetype of mankind
Duncan MacLeod – Perfect One or One, Savior, an archetype of Christ
MWC: Everyone's a Critic
It was a Tuesday and the third rainy night in a row, so Joe Dawson wasn’t surprised that the last paying customer had left his bar an hour before. He had sent the bartender home early and was starting to close down for the night. If every night were like this, it would be bad for business, but the bar was usually lively enough that Joe could stand the loss of revenue for one night.
Joe stood under the bright lights of the bar, which made a sharp contrast to the dimly lit seating area. He opened the cash register, fished a couple of credit card receipts from his pocket, and placed them under the money drawer before closing the register with his elbow. He rooted around in the sink under the bar, withdrew the wine glass from his last customer, and began to dry it with a towel.
Methos was sitting at a table, his feet propped on the stretchers of a one chair, balanced on the back two legs of another chair. With his hands folded over his belt, he was extolling the virtues of dry and sunny climates. Joe tried to look casual, but he always listened to Methos with attention. He never knew when the ancient Immortal might drop him a tantalizing tidbit about his five-thousand-year life span.
Methos stopped in the middle of a sentence, lowered his feet to the floor, and narrowed his eyes as he looked toward the outside door of the Joe’s bar. The door swung open, and Richie strode in from the rainy street.
“ . . . and I still say that it sucked, Mac,” Richie said. Methos felt his body release itself from the state of battle readiness.
“It’s a classic, Richie,” Duncan MacLeod protested, hands on his hips, following on Richie’s heels. Methos raised his eyebrows and let a faint smile touch his lips; this could prove to be amusing.
Richie dumped his wet leather jacket on a table before answering, “You know, Mac, that’s really interesting, because in high school, ‘classic’ was the word they used for all the really boring books. I didn’t, like, know that they used the same word for really boring movies, too.” He crossed the room, wet sneakers squeaking on the checkered floor, hiked himself onto a barstool, and planted both elbows on the dark, polished wood of the bar.
“It wouldn’t be part of the university’s film series if it were really boring,” Mac pointed out as he hung his duster on the coat rack and joined Richie and Joe at the bar.
“Joe,” Richie asked weakly, “do you have anything strong? I really need it.”
Joe finished polishing the wine goblet until it gleamed, inverted it, and hung it from its base in an overhead wooden rack. He dropped his head a bit to meet Richie’s eyes and asked, “What movie did you guys see tonight?”
Richie sighed, “The Ten Commandments. Joe, are you going to get me a drink so I can put myself out of this misery?”
Joe smiled and quoted, “So shall it be written; so shall it be done.” He reached for a bottle of tequila and poured Richie a shot. Richie groaned and put his head down on the bar in front of his untouched drink.
“Where’d you see it?” Joe asked. Richie moaned but wouldn’t answer.
“At the university. There’s a film retrospective going on this spring. Eight o’clock on Tuesday nights,” Duncan filled in.
“Oh, yeah? What else have you seen?” Dawson asked with interest. He picked up a tumbler and raised it to MacLeod in an unspoken question. Duncan nodded toward the glass, and Joe poured two fingers’ worth of single malt Scotch into it.
“Citizen Kane,” Duncan started; Richie groaned.
“Birth of a Nation,” MacLeod continued.
Richie looked up and tossed back his drink. “I hated that movie, Mac; I really hated it.”
“You don’t have to like it,” Duncan countered, “but it gives a very revealing view of the prejudices of the society that created it.”
Joe put a bowl of bar snacks in front of Duncan, who began to pick out the cashews before continuing, “and last week, we saw The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari:”
Richie put his hands on his knees, which turned blue in the light of the neon strip that ran along the underside of the bar. He let out a frustrated sigh, “That was really weird. The set guys must have been on drugs or something.”
“The whole Dadaist movement was like that,” Duncan said as he popped a cashew into his mouth. “The Dadaists and members of other artistic movements of the early 20th century were constantly challenging the norms of art and writing.”
Methos piped up from outside the pool of light that surrounded the bar, “and a lot of them took boatloads of drugs, too, Richie.”
“At least tonight’s movie was in color,” Richie rationalized. He turned his shot glass over, let a single drop of tequila fall onto the dark wood of the bar top, and began to draw the liquid into a sunburst shape with the tip of his index finger.
“It’s a great flick, Richie. Cecil B. De Mille, Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter,” Duncan said. “So what’s not to like?”
Richie began ticking off ideas on his fingers. “How about the acting and the dialogue? Those guys didn’t look or sound real. ‘Oh, Moses, Moses! You stubborn, splendid, adorable fool!’ Who the heck talks like that?”
Duncan smiled. Richie had been paying attention after all. “Well,” MacLeod explained, “they’re not supposed to sound real. They’re supposed to sound melodramatic. It was a stylistic choice on the part of the writers and directors that you can see reflected in many movies of the fifties.”
“And how about the way they looked?” Richie had resumed counting on his fingers. “I mean, what’s with those guys with the ponytails growing out of the side of shaved heads, or those women with the pointy Madonna bras?”
“Torpedo bras were very big after the Second World War,” Duncan barely suppressed a smile, leaning heavily on the double meaning.
Richie protested, “You could impale yourself if you hugged a woman who was wearing one of them.”
Methos strolled over to the bar. He freed one of his long fingers, wrapped around the neck of his beer bottle, to point meaningfully at Richie as he said, “still, they were instrumental in teaching problem solving.” Richie looked confused. “Do I need to spell it out?” Methos inquired, then replied without waiting for Richie to answer his question, “they were a pain in the neck to unfasten.” MacLeod laughed and tossed another cashew into his mouth.
Richie was back to his list of complaints and counting his third finger when he said, “Forget the clothes and hair, OK? Are we supposed to believe that ancient Egyptians looked like a bunch of Americans or Europeans?”
Methos answered, “Actually, Pharaoh Seti did look a bit like Sir Cedric Hardwicke.”
Joe’s jaw dropped, and he stopped wiping down the beer taps. “You knew Seti,” he said. “And Moses?”
Methos inhaled slowly through his nostrils as if considering whether or not to answer. He lowered his voice conspiratorially as he replied, “I knew Seti when he was young, but I was before Moses’s time.”
Richie looked to MacLeod for confirmation; MacLeod shrugged his shoulders. When it was plain that Methos wasn’t going to give any more information, Richie listed another problem with the movie, “The sets looked really fake. I mean, the River Nile looked like a swimming pool. Couldn’t they just shoot the move at a real river or something?”
“But that’s part of the genre, too,” Duncan explained, his hands describing circles in the air as he spoke. “The artifice was part of the deal--building something on a backlot that looked more real than reality.”
“You’re killing him, Mac,” Joe interjected. “Look at him; his eyes are glazing over.”
Duncan tried a different tack, “Think of Disneyland, Rich. That fifties notion of building an environment that’s more perfect and controlled than real life could ever be. It’s not too different from the hyper-realistic portraits that Ingres painted in the nineteenth century . . . “
Duncan took pity on his student and stopped himself. He slid the bowl of bar snacks, minus all the cashews, to Richie as a peace offering.
Richie decided to bring up one more point; he knew he had his teacher on this one: “The special effects were cheesy. That stick turning into a snake thing sucked, and the finger of God stuff looked like a flying salami. And the Angel of Death scene . . . “ Richie ended with a dismissive puff of air.
“That was brilliant!” Duncan disagreed. “Instead of trying to represent the Angel of Death, you suggest it --” here his hands flattened onto the bar and began to move sinuously toward Richie, “--and let the audience’s mind create it. It’s much more terrifying that way.”
“It was dry ice, Mac,” Richie stated flatly. “No one is afraid of dry ice.”
“My big sister was,” Joe added helpfully. “After she saw The Ten Commandments, she was scared spitless. She thought the Angel of Death might accidentally get the oldest girl in the family, so every night, I’d have to check under her bed for her. She even had a path of books from her bed to the door, like stepping stones, in case she had to get up in the middle of the night.”
“It was dry ice, Joe,” Richie repeated, “and it looked cheesy.”
Joe picked up a peanut from the bar mix and lobbed it at Richie. He couldn’t keep the edge out of his voice when he said, “You know, the problem with you kids nowadays is that you’re jaded. You’ve seen too much computer-generated stuff and can’t use your imagination. We knew how to do that.”
“At least you had movies,” Duncan responded. “We only had a village storyteller.”
“Luxury,” countered Methos. “At least you had a village.”
Joe refilled Richie and MacLeod’s drinks. He hiked an eyebrow at Methos’s empty beer bottle.
Methos responded, “Yeah, give me another bottle, in honor of beer in the old country.”
Richie perked up and asked, “They had beer in Egypt? Cool! Now that’s the kind of stuff they should have had in the movie.”
“Look, Richie, even if the Angel of Death scene didn’t work for you, you must have liked the parting of the Red Sea,” Duncan stated as he stacked and restacked a pile of coasters into a stair-stepped pile.
Richie relented, “That one was actually pretty decent. Methos, did you ever visit the Red Sea?”
In between swigs of beer, Methos pontificated, “It’s really the Reed Sea, not the Red Sea--a bad translation. I was by there once with a friend who was looking to purchase some real estate. Flat, marshy, filled with reeds, not to difficult to pass at low tide.”
“But the bad guys drowned,” Richie said.
“There are some places in the world where the tide comes in fast, you know. Mont Saint Michel, the Bay of Fundy,” Methos replied.
“You mean like there was no miracle?” Richie was disbelieving. “Wait a minute. You said you weren’t even there when Moses was around. How do you know what happened or didn’t happen?”
Methos put the beer bottle back onto the bar top precisely where there was a ring of condensation. He answered with equal precision, “I have to go.”
“You can’t say something like that and just walk out,” Joe said. He and Richie looked to MacLeod for help. MacLeod just took a sip of Scotch. He knew that saying something like that and walking out was exactly Methos’s style, and there was nothing they could do about it.
“Come on!” Joe cried. “You’ve been alive for five thousand years. Haven’t you ever seen a miracle?”
Methos was framed in the open door; the bright streetlight made him into an unreadable silhouette.
“I’ve seen one,” Methos paused dramatically.
“Well, what was it?” Joe asked.
He stopped for a moment as he stepped through the door and drawled, “I’ve seen MacLeod get Richie to boring movies on four consecutive Tuesday nights.”
MWC: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Posted By: Ysanne
Date: Friday, 2 March 2001, at 5:13 p.m.
“I don’t know, Mac,” Joe sighed, “I was expecting something a little more…”
“More like a Jackie Chan flick?” interrupted MacLeod with a sly sidelong look at his friend as they entered the beautifully decorated hotel suite.
“Okay, okay,” Joe conceded, rolling his eyes at Mac’s amusement, “I’m not sayin’ this movie was a dog, just that it was different than I expected. For one thing, it was in Chinese!”
Joe’s host was bent behind the minibar, clinking glasses and bringing out little bottles. He raised his head to remind Joe, “Well, it was a Chinese movie. Would have been odd to have them speaking Spanish.”
“Funny man,” groused his guest. “I hate subtitles. I suppose you didn’t have to read ‘em, eh? I know you speak some Chinese dialect.”
“I’m pretty rusty, Joe, and I never was very fluent in Mandarin anyway. So yeah, I read the subtitles. But the language sounded beautiful, didn’t it? It suited the subject matter.”
Joe dropped onto the green brocade sofa and hooked his cane over the mahogany desk chair next to it.
“Yeah,” he agreed, “it sounded fine. Soft, sort of musical, really. But Mac, about that subject matter: what the hell was it supposed to be? You’ve got magical swords, female warriors, young lovers, a couple people who should be lovers and aren’t, poison darts…geeze!” He shook his head in frustration and accepted a short glass of whisky from Mac.
“It reminded me of some of the fables Mai Ling told me,” Mac said, sinking gracefully to the floor to sit cross-legged on the thickly carpeted floor a few feet away from Joe. “She told me a lot of stories – after she got finished dumping me on my ass in training every day.”
He took a sip from his glass and gazed down into the pale amber liquid, his expression showing both affection for his former teacher and sadness for her death. Joe let a few minutes pass quietly in Mai Ling’s honor before he spoke again.
“Did they all end like that?” he asked doubtfully, thinking of the final scene where the young woman flies from the bridge and disappears into the fog, leaving her tearful lover.
Mac looked up and met his eyes, one corner of his mouth turned up in a wry smile. “Kind of,” he admitted.
“Great. Nice bedtime stories for the kiddies. Don’t these fables ever end happily ever after?”
“Does anything?” countered Mac, then relented when Joe shifted uncomfortably under his silent regard. “Don’t mind me, I’m just cranky because we didn’t buy popcorn. Want some?” he asked, getting to his feet in one smooth motion and rummaging behind the bar again.
“Sure. Extra butter if you have it.”
“Don’t you have to think about cholesterol or something? Extra butter!” Mac huffed under his breath as he put a bag of popcorn into the small microwave under the counter.
“Let me worry about my own damn arteries,” Joe told him firmly. “I’ll tell you something I did enjoy about that movie,” he added, “the fighting. Warriors who walk on water! Warriors who run up walls and fly over rooftops! Warriors who seem to just…float through the tops of trees.” He gestured broadly with his glass, his face alight. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Beautiful, to move like that.” One hand rubbed his thigh absently, right above the prosthetic limb.
After glancing at Joe, MacLeod’s answer was deliberately droll. “We should ask Methos if he’s mastered any of that stuff in the past five thousand years – he’s probably just forgotten to mention it.”
Joe laughed aloud. “Be just like him: ‘Just because I don’t like to walk on water, doesn’t mean I can’t,’” he sneered in a fair imitation of the ancient Immortal.
Mac grinned as he added a packet of extra butter to the freshly popped corn. He brought it over and put it on Joe’s lap, then sat beside him on the sofa. The two men scooped up big handfuls and began munching.
“So you didn’t like the ending, Joe?”
“Well, it was pretty vague, don’t you think? I mean, did the girl kill herself, or what? That ambiguous crap drives me nuts.”
“She may have killed herself,” Mac retorted slowly, gazing into the middle distance, “or maybe she just went away, somewhere so very far away that her lover would never see her again in his lifetime. If she’s still alive, maybe he’ll see her again someday, if he ever gets to that far country.” The warm voice had dropped huskily on the last few words.
After a moment Joe cleared his throat and took a sip of his drink. “Yeah. You may be right, my friend,” he replied, seeing the small signs that meant MacLeod had pulled his thoughts back to the present. “And next time, I get to choose the movie.”
“I suppose you’ll drag me to ‘Drunken Master?’” Mac asked in mock horror.
Joe grinned. “Living in this luxury hotel has given you delusions of grandeur,” he pointed out with feigned disgust. “About time you moved in among us common folk again.”
“Funny you should say that,” Mac retorted with a smile, “because I’ve been thinking the same thing. Know of anyplace for sale around here, maybe in Methos’ neighborhood?”
West Edmonton Mall would always be like a second home for Deb, even though it was a great risk of discovery. Friends and family from her previous life still came frequently to The Mall, but she could not stay away. This visit was a reward for a project completed under deadline: the discount theatre, and a show she had wanted to see for quite some time.
It is a strange but well-known phenomena, that the cheaper the movie, the more intense the opinions and this was no exception. By the time 6 feet of irritated Scot stiff-armed his way through the exit, the debate was in full swing. "Why in the world did I let you convince me to see that show? They were obviously trying to make a new 6th Sense, and they didn't even do that very well."
Deb was rushing to catch up to his long, angry strides, but did not hesitate to talk back. "We paid $2 apiece; for a two buck movie, I think it was pretty good."
"I can't believe you're comparing what we are to that story!"
"I never said that, I just pointed out that being who we are gives us a unique perspective on that character's experience." She used the word who on purpose, reminding him that they were still in public. "An ordinary man coming to the realization that he is not who he thought he was. Just look at the scene in the kitchen. Which was it that frightened him so much: his son with a loaded gun in his hands, or the possibility that the boy might be right?" MacLeod just gave a snort, an implied Been there, done that. She tried a different tack; "Get off your high horse, Mac; you were laughing as much as I was during the weightlifting sequence. ' How much is it this time?' / 'All of it' / 'What else could we put on?' The gleam in his eye was just perfect!"
"It's hopeless. I'm trying to have a rational discussion with someone who can quote dialogue after seeing a show only once."
Deb sighed; he just didn't understand. She had to divert her attention to guide them in the right direction, gathering new arguments at the same time. "You just don't understand, I can tell. You have to be a comic book enthusiast to truly appreciate this film." Mac snorted again at the use of the word film. "Something doesn't have to be high cinema to be a good film."
"Tell me then, one thing that I'm supposed to appreciate."
"Camera angles?" This time she had provoked thoughtful curiosity rather than derision.
"Scenes and images that are framed, as if in a comic panel; skewed perspective, like the boy watching TV upside down; cutting quickly between images instead of panning, again as if you're looking at a sequence of panels. It all subtly suggests the graphic art form without trying to be a comic book."
Before MacLeod could answer, the debate was interrupted as they arrived at their destination; he looked up at the sign and moaned hopelessly. "We're supposed to meet her here?"
"That was the plan; is there a problem with that?"
"It's just that the last time Amanda went to a place called Death by Chocolate, she took it as a personal challenge."
"What makes you think I'm exaggerating? If I live to be a thousand, I will never understand the relationship between women and chocolate."
Deb laughed as she perused the illustrated menu; "Well, if you haven't figured it out by now, you never will." Mac ordered an overpriced hot chocolate while Deb requested a dessert the size of a small meal. The food would be delivered to their table as soon as it was ready. Amanda's table was easy to identify both by its pile of shopping bags and by the dinner place sized sampler she had ordered. As the two ladies grinned at each other, Duncan took his seat and ignored them both.
"What's wrong with the Boy Scout this time?" asked the dark-haired Immortal between mouthfuls of rich, creamy chocolate.
"Don't mind grumpy here, he didn't like the movie."
"Which one did you see?"
"Unbreakable, it finally got around to the discount theatre. Been wanted to see it for a while."
Amanda nodded sagely; "I saw that one; not bad. Bruce Willis doesn't look bad for a man his age."
"Actually, I've always thought that for a dramatic actor, Bruce makes a good action star. This time, though, he did a pretty good job."
Mac scowled to himself, muttering "Just another 6th Sense; he won't last."
Deb turned around and confronted him, "Stop using that argument over and over again. 6th Sense you can only truly enjoy once, after you know the secret, it's over. I'd like to see this movie again right now, just to find al the clues they left."
"The black gloves," Amanda spoke up without hesitation. Deb nodded; "That was one of them. I should have seen that one sooner: classic villain sign."
Seeing them both on the same side, Mac sighed; "Should I just give up right now?"
Amanda flashed a smile; "Don't you see it, girl? He doesn't want to admit he recognizes himself in this story, because he envies the hero. This unbreakable man has a family: a son who's proud of him, a wife, however fragile that relationship may be. Not only does he have them; he also keeps them, even after the revelation of his true nature. MacLeod is jealous."
When Duncan didn't deny it, the young author's eyes widened. "Is she right?" a reluctant nod. "I don't know if I'm surprised or disappointed; I'd expect more from you."
A new plate of tempting treats arrived at that moment, and Deb was momentarily distracted. She dropped the subject in favor of her fork; the table was silent for quite some time while they ate. Mac even managed to wrestle a couple of mouthfuls away from her, at the risk of his own fingers each time.
Deb always left a movie in high spirits, and she often felt a need to discuss it for hours; even chocolate couldn't subdue her for long. The server had barely taken away the plates before she renewed her thoughts found voice once again. "What I think intrigued me the most was Elijah's theories, especially the idea of them being at two extremes of a continuum. All the fragile people the ones vulnerable to injury, to illness; balanced by the Unbreakable man. It made me think of what We might be balancing out-cancer, AIDS, centuries of plagues." Duncan looked at her seriously; even Amanda seemed thoughtful. "What I'm trying to say is that it made me think; and that's the finest compliment I can give any film."