Friday, October 15, 2010

- 'Zero Effect' Open Thread

What did you think?


  1. I can't possibly overstate the importance of good research. Everyone goes through life dropping crumbs. If you can recognize the crumbs, you can trace a path all the way back from your death certificate to the dinner and a movie that resulted in you in the first place. But research is an art, not a science, because anyone who knows what they're doing can find the crumbs, the wheres, whats, and whos. The art is in the whys: the ability to read between the crumbs, not to mix metaphors. For every event, there is a cause and effect. For every crime, a motive. And for every motive, a passion. The art of research is the ability to look at the details, and see the passion.

  2. Now, a few words on looking for things. When you go looking for something specific, your chances of finding it are very bad. Because of all the things in the world, you're only looking for one of them. When you go looking for anything at all, your chances of finding it are very good. Because of all the things in the world, you're sure to find some of them.

  3. I'm not sure what to think about this show. I wasn't sure if it was a comedy, or a serious detective investigation show, or a bloody violent shocker. I enjoyed all the scenes of Portland, thought the 5:00 pm drop in downtown Portland was a dream sequence in terms of the traffic, and Tri-Met making daily service runs up to Crown Point, that was a good one. And nobody in Portland would be saying in passing "I never thought the rain would stop." That's just not said. I thought it intersting that they took so many shots of the actors from below, often with a dramatic sky in the background, taking advantage of some unstable air conditions when they were shooting.

    The scenes with Ben Stiller, where he is annoyed in an almost feminine way, were pretty funny, but how did that tie in to the super sleuth? And if the sleuth was super, why did he allow himself to be made by his suspect. I thought that he got involved with the gal and let his guard down, culminating in a violent finish to his career...but it didn't go that way. Certainly coming over to do her accounting was a bit much. Just because you know an accountant doesn't give one the right to ask him to stop by the house and do your taxes. This had to be hook. I figured she was on to him and was trying to crack his cover. The whole seduction thing with 'I'll just be in my bed sleeping while you work on my taxes' followed by 'I'll just take off all my clothes and step into the shower, you can wait for me here...' was a bit much. That stuff doesn't work on me anymore. Apparently Daryl Zero is still working up his game.

    For a girl that had a piece in the night stand and clearly was well versed in using it, I was waiting for the shoe to drop - but it never did. Certainly Daryl Zero allowed his suspect to get way too close to be safe. I can only surmise that he wanted to be a little dangerous. He liked her.

    Women... and the men that love them.

    I'll leave it for you guys to make the more serious commentary. I did think that was a good show, though.

  4. And if the sleuth was super, why did he allow himself to be made by his suspect?
    He didn't. At most, she suspected that he may have been dishonest given that the receptionist at the health club said he was an architect and he went along with her when she asked if he was in town for that big convention--the accounting convention. Gloria Sullivan did see that Steve Arlo (Ben Stiller) was meeting with Gregory Stark (Ryan O'Neil by the motel because she followed Stark. But then, she never saw Zero with Arlo. Guess those constant disguises paid off. Sullivan believed she had covered her tracks well with her blackmail scheme and payoffs. She couldn't see how she could have been linked to any of that. That made her feel safe.

    The line about the rain was a joke. He was from out of town, besides. Accountants do get asked to do people's taxes. That's an inside joke, too. She broached the subject by saying "You probably know what I'm going to ask you to do for me." Of course he had no clue. The business with her going about her business (nap, shower) made it clear it was just a favor. And showed you what she thought about doing taxes and the people that do them. His reaction to the whole thing probably confused her more than anything. It certainly got her to dismiss that he was just a guy from out of town looking to get lucky.

    He told her-- and he told us in the voiceover that he loved her--the first woman he ever said that to. That's why he gave her a pass and kept her identity a secret. He even returned his "outrageous fee"--or the third he had already received. That was the part I found hard to believe because he did return the original blackmail tape to the client. And the keys. From
    Stark's perspective, it was all over. We know the reason he couldn't be with Gloria. She never saw his "stand-by" state. Steve Arlo did.

    I hope you give this another watch before you end it back. Keep in mind that this was was made four years before Monk debuted. Sure, there were other detectives with quirks and idiosyncrasies (Holmes, Poirot, Columbo), but still. I still think this is a movie that should be seen--it's one of the better ones that nobody ever heard of.

  5. I was thinking that Gloria Sullivan was faster than she was, and was on to him, and the whole luring him into her world was a black widow style take down of the world's top sleuth. I hate it when the hero's cover is blown and he doesn't realize it. That night they ended up wrestling I thought for sure was going to end up with him getting a gun pulled on him, but it didn't go that way.

    What was the point of having the annoyed co-worker? Why did Ben Stiller's character have such little regard for the "greatest detective in the world". Was that to highlight the irritating qualities of Daryl Zero? If so, why have Ben Stiller play it. We all think Ben's character is annoyed because of his predilection to be annoyed, and not because anything Zero is doing is really worthy of being annoyed at. Maybe its fun to see him be annoyed, with all the trips back and forth to LA and all. That was pretty funny, but then one wonders is it a comedy, or is the sleuth a joke, or will Gloria get the drop on him and blow him away?

  6. Was not Ben Stiller's character at least as quirky as Daryl Zero?

    And nobody in Portland would be saying in passing "I never thought the rain would stop."

    Which is to say, it was something that would strike an Oregonian as odd right off the bat, kind of like walking around with an umbrella. Zero seems to have arrived without a cover story established for himself. He just seemed to try to make it up as he went. That's why he got caught in a lie. Anyway, that being the case, if you want to be unobtrusive in Oregon you don't give away that you are not from Oregon.

    For her part, Gloria seemed to know he wasn't from Oregon right off, and seemed to guess (correctly) that he was from LA. The baited inquiry "Are you here for the meeting" might have all been a trap. The question on the write off for Cadmium or some such - why was she interested if not to test if he was real? She is not likely to be taking a write off for a rare earth item - it all appeared to me to be a trap thrown out to uncover him. She continued to ask him probing questions - not like an interested date, but as someone looking to unmask someone else's cover. But I guess my perception of her intent was off. She was just a girl looking for a fun date. Hmm.

    It was a good movie, I just found it confusing. Let us see what Cathy has to say. I am sure she will "get it" better than I did.

  7. I respectfully disagree about Gloria. She was so far out into left field as a candidate for the blackmail that only Zero could make the connection. And he was the only detective that Stark hired that did. Of course the jig was up when she saw him at the last blackmail drop after Stark had the coronary. But he still anticipated her behavior and knew her travel plans when he called her at the airport. He even had Stiller in place.

    The "annoyed co-worker"? Remember how most of the great detectives had a faithful "assistant" that worked with them--think Watson to Holmes. Given the idiosyncratic--bizarre--behavior of Holmes at times, especially keeping Watson out of the loop, can't you see them getting fed up with it? Reaching the final straw? I could. Stiller is a lawyer--and a pretty competent one from the look of it at times--and still he has to do things that make absolutely no sense to him (like flying back to LA after just arriving, then finding out later that Zero also went back to LA and found what he was looking for himself.) Do you like working for a boss like that? Do you think that Watson enjoyed looking like the fool at times? I think it's not only a justifiable plot element, it's what would happen in real life. There are people working for famous doctors, scientists, writers, etc., all over the world that would love to share horror stories. At least, I assume, Stiller (Arlo) was well paid.

    I really believe that Gloria Sullivan was being honest when she told Zero that she loved him. They have a common background. I believe that story he told her about his father murdering his mother was the truth.

    Some people seem to hate this movie as much as others love it. I think you're in the former group, Jim. I second my appeal to give it another look before you take or send it back. The guy behind the film--Jake Kasdan is the son of writer/director Lawrence Kasdan (The Big Chill, Body Heat, Silverado, multiple Star Wars sequels, and many more) and was just something like 22 at the time.

  8. Passing comments, I see.

    Do you think that iron ore would fix the prop of The African Queen? You'd have to first refine the iron ore, then make it into steel by introducing carbon into the molecular structure--cast iron is a different weight (for balance), isn't strong enough, and can't be welded easily or at all (you have to bring it up gradually to cherry red and it is still likely to fracture)?
    Same with most movies if you bring some sort of knowledge/experience in with you. Saying "I never thought the rain would stop." is not even in the same range of implausibility. Unless I knew Portland like the back of my hand, I would say I was from out of town. Less potential for trouble. He had already made small talk with the receptionist before Gloria came on the scene. She wasn't even a factor in the investigation. Her most likely thought is to still assume that he is a cheating husband/businessman looking to get "lucky" out of town. False details so that it couldn't get back to his wife--or allow her to ring his doorbell someday. Most women (especially the ones who have gotten burned) are leery of any dealings with "tourists". I've made those connections traveling and I did see get tested/vetted--even calling my home phone number to see who answers--if anyone. I guess I see nothing strange here. I got to think that women who were interested in me were not indigenous to my home town. I corresponded for years with waitresses/hotel people/others that I met on the road. Vancouver, B.C. was actually like a magical experience. I had these long talks/instant bonding chance meetings with at least five women over three days--all of which could have gone any place I wanted to go, if I were the type. I even proposed to one six months later...but that's a different tale for another time. Or never.

    Yes, she came up with an obscure accounting term probably taken from an AAAP or FASB case study that she picked up with a search--and I assure you that most accountants wouldn't know. But Zero nailed it. It's just the kind of esoteric detail that catches his eye in his constant web searches/research. Gloria did spot that he was an expert shot that could hit a target from his hip (after going along with her lessons). That was a bigger red flag, although there is such a thing as dumb luck. Let's say that she was smart enough to be suspicious and keep him close until she was done with her scheme and out of the country. Most detectives do their business after (honestly) introducing themselves to the suspect. I don't see where her suspicions would spoil the movie. It's just a "does she?" or "doesn't she?" tension builder.

  9. Does she or doesn't she see through him?

  10. She has to know that Stark is looking for her, that he is wealthy and resourceful, that ten drops give opportunity for a certain amount of risk to the pick-up person. Stark likely has detectives looking for the extortionist, and Stark is proven as someone willing to kill to protect himself.

    From my perspective she had to be thinking that Zero was possibly playing a deeper game, and from her side the stakes were high. All through the movie I kept thinking she was on to him, but apparently not.

    And the Portland stuff is just fun for an Oregonian. It doesn't detract from the movie at all, which I did like, though I found it somewhat confusing in a number of ways. I don't know if it is my fault that my viewing experience was confused, but it may very well be. Working in cover - be careful what you say at all times, hold your assumed identity off presentation, trust no one. I have developed a keen appreciation for the problems of playing in a world of deep cover. Shows where people are trying to break down someone's alibi for a crime (such as NYPD Blue) or movies of espionage (The Bourne Identity) are all good entertainment for me. It is an interesting game, to be sure. This was a good one.

  11. We now know that Gloria Sullivan isn't the type of person to kill Zero or even Stark for that matter, regardless of who knows what. She wouldn't wind up as a victim either, like her mother, if someone came to kill her. The movie makes a good point about the work that all private detectives do for paid clients. That is seldom covered. Should he have taken what he knew to the police so that Stark could face belated justice? The correct answer is yes. That's additional motivation for Arlo to make a career change.

    Still, Stiller and Pullman give some of the best and restrained performances of their careers. That alone is a compliment to Kasdan.

  12. "She wasn't even a factor in the investigation. Her most likely thought is to still assume that he is a cheating husband/businessman looking to get "lucky" out of town. False details so that it couldn't get back to his wife--or allow her to ring his doorbell someday."

    I didn't even think of that, that the whole question of finding out if he was real or not was just part of any girls MO when dealing with an attractive man from out of town.

    Okay then. That makes a little better sense. But are we to think she is suspecting him to be a detective or an agent of Stark? The gun shooting in the woods - to relax - was the practice for the purpose of preparing her to act, whether or not she could make herself do so in the end? Is that part of the tension you were speaking of? Not knowing how dangerous Gloria might be, and what danger Daryl might be taking on?

  13. "Do you think that iron ore would fix the prop of The African Queen? You'd have to first refine the iron ore, then make it into steel by introducing carbon into the molecular structure--cast iron is a different weight (for balance), isn't strong enough, and can't be welded easily or at all (you have to bring it up gradually to cherry red and it is still likely to fracture)."

    Darrell, I suspect you to be Daryl Zero.

  14. I have to admit, I did not initially recognize the geeky guy in the planetarium as being none other than ... Daryl Zero. There are some outer costume changes, to be sure, but most of the disguise is carried off by Pullman's affect.

  15. Don't know about that, but if I ever get to Portland you know I'm going to go around saying
    "I never thought the rain would stop." ;-)

  16. That will set you apart in a hurry.

    We don't really talk about the rain, and we never carry umbrellas. We talk about the sun.

    "Wow, it's so great to see the sun come out".

    We rarely talk about the rain, unless it rains really hard, because it almost never does that. It's always a soft rain.

    It was pretty hard to find those photos, but when I finally did and looked at the number of different looks he pulled off it was amazing. The guy at the wedding - he looks like an experienced valet. The accountant. The fishing guy in the bill cap. If they weren't zooming in on him he would fade right in to the surroundings.

    And the scene at the restaurant deserves more consideration, but I think we should wait for Cathy to catch up.

  17. I watched the movie this morning, and enjoyed it very much. I came by this afternoon to leave the few comments I had. Then I read your comments, up to Darrell's 1:10 pm. And decided I needed to watch the movie again. (This is, by the way, wreaking havoc on my Hulu schedule.)

    I'm not sure when Gloria decided Zero/Nick was working for Stark. Do we even know whether there was an accounting conference in town? Or was she checking him out -- this stranger who showed up on the treadmill next to her mark? Of course, if she suspected he could be trying to find a blackmailer, it would seem kinda crazy to give him access to all her financial records, especially the deposits and transfers he made note of.* (I think the business about the corrodium deduction was a "trap" -- Zero/Nick's stalling let him create a plausible-sounding answer, which seemed to leave her a bit puzzled. I assumed it was bluff and counter-bluff, since I don't think there is any such thing as corrodium, but that's not a good indicator, since the writer seems to have just made up all that stuff about double beds vs. full beds.)

    * It also seems kinda crazy to show off your expertise in something if you're pretending to have your first lesson in it (shooting). So maybe that shot form the hip is simply another example of Daryl Zero's ability to grasp anything immediately, like his going from mixing up a W-2 and WWII, to working up Gloria's taxes on a legal pad.

    When she speaks with the receptionist, Gloria insists that Zero/Nick is an accountant, but the archiect story from Daisy has her second-guessing. And it seemed that she knew at the diner -- when Daryl/Nick says "Quit before you're dead," she seems a bit stricken, then tells him her life philosphy. How random was her remark about her mother's red hair?

    Now, I'm not the Greatest Private Investigator on my block, and I thought it odd that someone on a paramedic's salary was working out at the same gym as the timber millionaire.

    So, it's like some of the bits from LOST, where it's maddeningly hard to tell where intricate plot leaves off and inconsistent writing begins.

    But I did like the movie very much. It was any interesting plot with a clever mystery to it, and I thought the performances were great. I especially liked the scenes where Daryl/Nick is doing his cover persona and gets pulled out of it by something Gloria says or does, and becomes rattled or embarrassed, or pained, and then has to ease himself back into character.

    And I like the angle that someone could have no social skills, but be able to "fake it" on the job. Which means he knew perfectly well how to behave, but chose not to, out of either a sense of being above such constraints or a desire to keep others at a distance. I think Daryl/Nick's story about his parents' deaths was the truth, and that his finely-honed detachment was at least as critical to his emotional survival as to his detecting. Until Gloria's "gentle intervention", and the feelings for her he allows himself to acknowledge, set him on a healthier path.

    He can't join Gloria on the run any more than he could take all that money he made and go to Europe -- he was a detective, not so much because of aptitude, but some sort of biological imperative.

    1. She's not on a paramedic's salary. She has blackmailed Stark out of something like $700k over the course of the past year.

  18. "Corrodium 3 deduction" which he explains pertains to "class 3 decay toxins, such as corrodium and maalgorium"... Of course it's fictional in real life but is it in movieland? Besides it's not as lame as "unobtainium" in Avatar, but is she trying to suss out a liar/cheater on the make or a detective on her trail?

    Full and Double beds are the same size now, but I don't know if that was completely made up given that they used specific dates. I remember buying sheets that were longer than the old ones I had for an old full size bed in the 60s and the woman at the Fair Store going into a long explanation about difference. Yes, I was never a kid. And when you need flannel, you need flannel!Large motel chains sometimes had custom beds because they could order in quantity.

    And I thought it was odd that someone with the financial resources of the timber millionaire would work out at the same gym as the paramedic!
    It must be about location afterall.

    It's nice to have Cathy back.

  19. And when you need flannel, you need flannel!

    Yes. Yes, yes, Yes!

  20. Ha! I don't think Gloria even wanted a massage -- she just needed an excuse to interact with the stranger, and get what info she could from Daisy. (Maybe she saw the way he looked getting off the treadmill after chatting up Stark!)

  21. Look, there's the story, the acting and the production, and they are all worth commenting on. You can enjoy the acting and production, and have problems with the story. You can have a great story and lame acting. It's great when you have all three, but it's still fun to talk about regardless.

    For his first shot at directing it was a very impressive work, and the story was really fun.

    I didn't realize that a woman would be wondering if guy was making up stuff just to get a little play, so that gives another explanation as to why she would be probing and challenging him. As a guy under cover, you would think he would realize he was being probed for a reason. She's armed, she is an expert at the use of a handgun.... but he sticks around anyway. Why? Did he really believe all her questioning was the innocent act of a woman who is curious about a nice guy from out of town? He had to think it possible that she was on to him.

    But Stiller was funny, being sent to LA, then back to Portland, then back to LA, getting more and more frustrated all the while.

    I thought the most interesting scene was at the diner, when both Gloria and Nick decide to let a certain amount of their guard down, and share some details about themselves they wouldn't otherwise share. Nick's speaking of the loss of his parents was a significant step for him in terms of trusting others and allowing them to see who he is, as was Gloria's comments on her mother's hair. Leaving the receipt was almost purposeful, and they both observed it, showing that for what they were willing to share, they were both still looking around and accessing the other person.

    "So, it's like some of the bits from LOST, where it's maddeningly hard to tell where intricate plot leaves off and inconsistent writing begins."

    That is a challenge, as was knowing if it was a comedy , a detective mystery or would it end up being a dark, violent story, but regardless it was still pretty fun.

  22. Even the music was kinda fun.

    I'm glad you mentioned the option of commenting on such minor elements as production values, and directing. ;) I'm afraid I've been so spoiled by the quality of the movies we watch that strong direction has become an unconscious expectation, a baseline that I don't think of unless it isn't met. (Shame on me!)

    Not to sound all old and judge-y, but this was a pretty remarkable accomplishment for someone so very young. And I didn't realize that Jake Kasdan wrote -- and produced? -- the movie, as well!

    I saw Orange County years ago, and really liked it -- and Jack Black -- which I hadn't expected (as it sounded like a routine teen-angst comedy). Has anybody seen The TV Set?

  23. "Has anybody seen The TV Set?"

    It's in the living room. We're supposed to leave the remote next to it, but it sometimes slips away somewhere.

  24. So I guess the show was modeled off a Sherlock Holmes novel. What did you think of the scene at the diner... the quiet slow partial reveal, the guarded trust. I thought that was interesting and carried a fair amount of dramatic tension.

    I also liked the angst Daryl Zero felt over the loss of his one contact with the outside world.

    "How am I going to get along without you?"

    And yet he does let him go, and is there for him at his wedding, though disguised of course. Pretty rich.

    I thought Bill Pullman was very good in this movie, and so was Kim Dickens.

  25. Arlo on Zero: He can tell you where you were born, how old your mother was at the time, and what you had for breakfast, all within 30 seconds of meeting you...
    He has a deeply nuanced and thoroughly functional understanding of human behavior to rival the great psychoanalytical minds of our time. He understands the criminal mind as well as the innocent mind, the stable mind as well as the psychotic, sociopathic mind. The male, as well as the female.

    Zero could have terminated his dealings with Gloria at any time--disappearing or transforming into another character, blending into the background. He had it figured out from the first drop when she went into the bathroom as a paramedic doing a sweep after Stark was told to pull the fire alarm. Everything else, was for his understanding, sensing there was more to this than met the eye--a potential reason not to turn over her name to Stark. He got those reasons shortly after that. He lingered around to warn her, maybe even protect her. She was the innocent baby trapped between the wall and the bed as he had been the innocent in his father's murder/suicide madness.

    Passion is the enemy of precision. Forget the misnomer 'crime of passion'. All crime is passionate. It's passion that moves the criminal to act, to disrupt the static inertia of morality. The client's passion for this dead woman had facilitated his downfall. And the blackmailer's passion will facilitate hers. When you live with no passion at all, other people's passion comes into glaring relief.

    You hit the nail on the head, Jim, when you noted Zero disguises. I usually cringe when I see a character that uses disguises. You can always tell--sometimes intentionally because the director doesn't want you to miss it--and you wind up questioning why the other characters don't notice. Hre, I knew and I can easily see how the others missed it. Nice job on all that.

    I never saw the The TV Set--another one by Kaasdan, I see. Interesting cast on that, too. Maybe that is based on part on the runaround he got from NBC when they asked him to adapt The Zero Effect to television. He did--even shooting a pilot--and NBC backed out at the last second.

  26. Found a neat review of Zero Effect and its Sherlock Holmes inspiration. I read some of Arthur Conon Doyle's early short stories years ago, but none of the Holmes mysteries. Hmm.

  27. Was Nero Wolfe the private eye who never left his home?

  28. oh good grief.

    "Has anybody seen The TV Set?"

    I just hand 'em out free, don't I? :)

  29. That was a very good review.

    "Save maybe for Zero’s sleuthing scenes, their spiky relationship is the best thing about Zero Effect, and it falls under a small but grand movie tradition I call “the cat-and-mouse romance.”

    Cat-and-mouse romances are built on mutual respect and professional admiration, yet they’re inherently unstable, because each person is naturally trying to put one over on the other. There’s great chemistry to be found at the intersection of attraction and distrust, and it transforms Zero from an antisocial misfit with a brilliant analytical mind to a (relatively) smooth operator who can’t see the case as clearly as he’d like."

    There were a lot of things not clear to me in this movie, and one would be the degree of penetration Gloria had into the world of her pursuer, and another would be the degree to which he understood what he was doing with Gloria, the risks involved to himself and his client, the loss of objectivity and dispassionate observation. I think that question is intended by the writer/director to remain blurry, and is a part of the mystery of the show.

    I thought Nick's confrontation with Arlo about the question of why they do what they do was a good scene. Nick was clearly dedicated to his work, but not so lost in it that he was blind to the moral questions of the people he was investigating, though Arlo clearly questioned that and perhaps helped make that clear in Nick's mind. At least half the case was Nick filling out the details of why Gloria came to be able to blackmail Stark. In fact, the relatively early locating of the lost keys and identification of Gloria Sullivan as the blackmailer left the bulk of the case to be discovering who Gloria Sullivan was and what relationship she had to Stark. That lead to the very interesting interplay between Nick and Gloria, and what that said about the people that they were. Gloria saving the life of Stark was a reflection of the person that she was, just as Nick solving the case was a reflection of who he was.

  30. I think we've given the subject the most comprehensive review ever. We should be proud.
    Ilion would say embarrassed.
    Just kidding Ilion.
    I miss you here and at April's too. Wish you'd return on a regular basis.

  31. "Ilion would say embarrassed."

    Sure, you're kidding ... but I don't understand.

  32. Embarrassed for spending so much time and energy on trivialities.
    But you knew that.

  33. Well, I think my choice for the next movie will be .... 'Far From The Madding Crowd'.

    Should be up by mid-week.

  34. Sounds good! With luck, I'll have it Wednesday.

  35. I have a question about the scene where Daryl Zero follows his question to the money drop off in the public bathroom. He says the trick to someone not knowing they are being followed is to get there first. Well, how the heck did he get there first? The elaborate direction of the client to the bathroom by the blackmailers with the bus, train, pages, etc, was designed to make it impossible to predict where the drop off would be until the client got the final page.

  36. This is going back a piece for me. I'll have to call on our resident Daryl Zero.


  37. I could see this one again, by the way. Pretty good.

  38. Did that question fester for a year, Jim?

    It seemed to make sense at the time. To make it work, though, you need an eidetic memory and an analytical mind that can winnow through all the available possibilities to arrive at a single likely destination. Then get there first. It also helps to be in a smaller town with fewer possibilities. Remember in that new Sherlock Holmes series where Sherlock intercepts the taxi cab [with the "Pink" serial killer] based on the precise map in his head updated with all the current road construction he has observed and the travel times for that time of day? Interesting to see, but good luck doing it yourself.

    In Zero it was easier to see when the destination was the observatory/planetarium. Once you got to a certain point, that was the only thing down that road. If my limited memory serves me correctly.

  39. No, this Jason just popped in and asked, so I thought I would put out the call.

    As I recall, Zero would attempt to be where they were going before they got there, dressed in a manner that blended in with the surroundings. Thus he could observe them without the suspect realizing he was being followed. But as to how he knew the drop would be in the bathroom, I can't recall, other than to say that it wasn't just impossibly good guessing. They were protective of the character, making sure that everything he did you could see he might conceivably be able to do. He usually had a valid reason for everything, and often, but not always, things would play out for him. He would ask himself a question and arrive at an answer, but I'd have to see it again to figure out this particular puzzle, if I could at all.

  40. I saw Jason's question after I gave my answer.
    I didn't see it in the "recent comments" box--only your question to me.

    As I said, it didn't strike me as impossible the first time I saw it and I usually pick up on things like that. I'd have to watch it again to know for sure.

    Today, with GPS on cellphones and CCTV cameras all about, with the right date collection system one might be able to narrow the choices by looking to see where the suspect has been over the last several days if one assumes you do dry runs when planning such a thing. In a similar vein, there is a new CBS television show--Person Of Interest--that uses the premise that Homeland Security/NSA computers identify people at immediate risk every day and the developer of the programs and an ex-spy/special operative try and protect the number one risk from the non-terrorist related list that is normally erased each night at midnight. It's been pretty intersting so far, although Michael Emerson and Jim Caviezel might have something to do with that.

  41. Never even heard of this one, but any movie that can spark excited discussion of the softness of rain or how to refine iron ore has to have something going for it, even if it does star Ben Stiller.

  42. You'd be surprised how many times someone pulls up this thread looking for information on the "Corrodium 3 deduction".

  43. TammiCD says...

    This is one of those few films that I took a chance on buying when it first came out on DVD on the strength of the description on the cover and was rewarded with an enjoyable film that stands up to repeated viewings.

    @Cathy -- you mentioned Jake Kasdan wrote this.
    He also cowrote with Bill Pullman the song that Mr. Zero is performing when we first meet him, and then gets reprised at the end of the credits. I always saw a connection between the given explanation of the writing of the song (after Arlo "confesses" that he really liked it) and how the relationship with Gloria developed.

  44. I tried to get this back for a second viewing a few weeks ago with my Netflix account, and instead of going to my queue it got listed in my "Saved" category - not available at this time. Very disappointing.

  45. Ok, well when you get around to your second viewing, I am still waiting for a convincing and plausible explanation to my question. I am still very suspicious that I have discovered a plot hole.

  46. You can bet we're going to do it. Darrell will probably get some online version off a copyright infringing Chinese download provider, whereas I will be constrained to order it from Critic's Choice Video or some other source... but we will get to the bottom of this mystery yet!

  47. I wouldn't say it's a plothole, just an exaggeration or ambiguity in the voiceover. The
    only place Zero could have arrived before Stark was that restroom--once Stark had targeted the right building by entering (or heading for the door.) The instructions mentioned the first men's room. It is impossible to follow someone without ever following them when you don't know exactly what they are going to do. But when you have a clue as to what they have to do next, you can "pass" them and get there first. It makes them think that you are "safe"--not following them. Spies are taught to establish a reason for being where they are at that moment when they see the target looking at them--like greeting the first woman they see as if they know them or buying something from a vendor. They then change their look. In Zero's case he would just reverse his jacket, put on sunglasses and his Tote's collapsible hat. Jason, I'll concede your point a little--but not as a plausibility killer. For all we know, they trimmed a scene where Zero entered the building after Stark and raced ahead to the men's room. I agree that they should do a better job when puzzle solving is part of the plot.

    The voiceover is more a reflection of the memoir that he is composing. Just because he said that the key to avoid being detected following someone is to get there first, doesn't mean he got there first in this case. The camera pause on Pullman standing at the urinal when Stark finishes placing the payoff. But he wasn't standing there when Stark walked in initially. I checked. Zero did leave the restroom first, though. He knew the next part of the instructions had Stark tripping the nearest fire alarm, and that was easy to stake out unobserved. Zero's keen sense of observation and knowledge of behavior eliminated that sleazy guy in the suit as a suspect--the one that goes back into the restroom after the alarm sounded and comes out with a gym bag. He did confirm his elimination by seeing him drying his hair outside with a towel--a towel that must have been in the bag because he didn't have it in his hand. [The other elimination clues were flushed face, wet hair--indicative of a workout--and too little time spent recovering the bag to have filled it with the money.]

  48. You can pretty much take that to the bank. For my part I should have it in a week or so once the Amazon vender gets the movie off and it makes its way through the tail of the Christmas mailing frenzy. I'm looking forward to watching this one again!

  49. Those Amazon vendors/resellers are great. I've bought "used" DVDs for a $1 (or less), plus ~a couple dollars shipping, and they arrive within a few days. They were in perfect condition, btw--some still in the original wrap. The same goes for books. The last great bargain, even at multiples of the lowest price.

  50. 'Zero Effect' makes the top five... again!

    : )

  51. Yeah, but how many of those visitors are looking for the life story of Barack Obama? ;-)

  52. hey bin laden's dead. just saying.

    anyway, brought here by the eternal corrodium 3 deduction question, which i finally decided to ask the internet after all these years. this has been one of my favorite films since it came out in the late 90s. ive seen it countless times and even bought the soundtrack.

    Darryl Zero is without a doubt the best performance of Bill Pullman's career, and one of my favorite characters in film (yeah, im a sherlock holmes fan). and we get to see Ben Stiller just starting to develop his soon-to-be-tiresome onscreen persona.

  53. loved your guys' analysis btw, good read.

    i also wanted to add that despite some great performances, the film itself actually has its share of faults. most of them are small things that could confuse first time viewers, like the weird bit at the beginning when Stark tells Arlo that he "lost his keys". Arlo blinks(?) but it kind of looks like that thing filmmakers do to show that a character is imagining something.

    then Sark says "Im being blackmailed, Mr. Arlo" and i remember thinking "wait, did he lose his keys or is he being blackmailed or wtf is going on?" when i first saw it. Yes, Stark then mentions the key again, but the way it was presented was just odd.

    also, several of Zero's observations about Stark just seemed, well....beside the point. So he likes to throw his pretentious alma mater around. ok. so he lies about the speed of his treadmill. k. perhaps i simply lack the perception of Zero, and i do understand how these observations revealed Stark's character, but i dont see how they were pertinent to the investigation. idk. minor quibble.

    man, see what you guys just made me do?

  54. Small things were confusing were they? Well, as you can see from above I was very confused myself as to the direction of the film, and was quite ill at ease waiting for something bad to happen. It wasn't till I watched it again that I was a little more relaxed and could enjoy it more.

    Many of Zero's observations were beside the point, and those are only the one's he bothered to mention to us. The fact is Zero observed a lot. He observed almost everythng, and he could recall various bits and weave it together, even something as seemingly meaningless as the placement of a bed in relation to a door. That's why it was curious how he could be so perceptive and yet be so out of the water in regular relationships. He could pull off acting as any one of us might act, but that was a cover he would put on. The real Daryl Zero was set apart, trapped and isolated from the rest of us by his own mind. And yet he was a genuinely good man, destined to a life alone, except for this one brief moment. Pretty great.

    Well, glad you enjoyed the film, and thanks for stopping by!

  55. Perhaps stark gave the instuctions he received from the blackmailer to Arlo, and he relayed it to Zero