Proof

A couple of weeks ago I received an invitation from the SAG award folks to attend a special screening of a film called Proof, directed by John Madden. Hmm, I thought, I wonder what that's about. If Blow was about cocaine then is Proof about alcohol? And is it really, truly directed by a guy who's famous in the world of football? Maybe I'll need to wash my hair on Friday and I won't be able to attend. I looked it up and was delighted to discover I was dead wrong. It's directed by the same man who did Shakespeare in Love and it's about a woman who is afraid she's going to turn out just like her father, a brilliant mathematician who has been insane for decades. This sounded encouraging so I gathered up my sixteen-year-old son and we went off to the theater. I'm so glad we did because it's far and away the best film I've seen in ages.

I know you are probably thinking "a movie about math and craziness, why would I want to see that when I can watch a movie with naked people and things exploding?" and I don't blame you a bit. While the popularity of certain films proves that explosions can be very entertaining, so can math and madness. Think A Beautiful Mind or even Shine but sexier, with some incandescent scenes between Gwyneth Paltrow and Jake Gyllenhall (Donnie Darko). Gwyneth plays Catherine, reprising her role in the play of the same name, also directed by John Madden. Jake is Hal, a math student who is attracted to Catherine but also trying to find proof that Robert (the father, brilliantly played by Anthony Hopkins) was still able to work and produce despite his insanity. It's not just sexier, it's funnier, especially the beginning. It's also touching and heartbreaking and you will probably find yourself sobbing into your popcorn at least once.

The theme of this movie is identity and how much of our sense of self is bound up by our perceptions and memories. If we can't trust those, if we think, and others around us also think, that we are crazy, then how do we know who we are? At its heart the film is a mystery, a kind of whodunit, a special kind where you can't trust any of the clues because they come from someone who can't trust themselves.

The First Amendment Project benefit auction is in full swing over at eBay. As this column went to press Stephen King's auction was leading the pack at $19,690.86. If you can top that and win, Stephen King will name a character in his new book Cell after you. This book features zombies and he says, "Like cheap whiskey, it's very nasty and extremely satisfying."

Lemony Snicket is doing well with his offer of an utterance by Sunny Baudelaire in book the thirteenth. He says, "Pronunciation and/or spelling may be slightly 'mutilated.'" Jonathan Lethem is looking for someone who would like a character in an upcoming comic book written for Marvel to be named after him or her. The character is a professor at Columbia University. Peter Straub warns "the fictional character who winds up bearing his or her name may be of dubious moral character." Sweet! Those are usually the most interesting fictional people.

Neil Gaiman's auction just started and is at $2,000 with nine days to go. He's donating your name, or the name of a loved one, on a gravestone in his upcoming The Graveyard Book. If you're wondering what to get me for Christmas, wonder no more, just go and bid.

Don't forget, Monday is talk like a pirate day. Have you been pining to call someone a scurvy dog or a faithless wench? Monday is your day. Enjoy.