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Temporal Anomalies

Main Page
Discussing Time Travel Theory
Other Films
Perpetual Barbecue
About the Author
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See also entries under the
Temporal Anomalies/Time Travel
category of the
mark Joseph "young"
web log
elsewhere on this site.

Quick Jumps

Story Essentials
Want to Bet
What's Wrong With This Picture?
A Fixed Time Approach
Uninspired Art
The Silhouette
Morning Photoes
The Coat Rack
Callie's Manipulations
A Broken Fixed Ending
The Predictions Model

Movies Analyzed
in order examined

    Addendum to Terminator
    Terminator 3:  Rise of the Machines
    Terminator Recap
    Terminator Salvation
    Terminator Genisys
    Terminator:  Dark Fate
Back To The Future
Back To The Future II
Back To The Future III
Star Trek Introduction
    Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
    Star Trek: Generations
    Star Trek: First Contact
    Star Trek (2009)
12 Monkeys
    Addendum to 12 Monkeys
Flight Of The Navigator
  Flight Of The Navigator Addendum
Army of Darkness
Lost In Space
Peggy Sue Got Married
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure
Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey
Planet of the Apes
Kate and Leopold
Somewhere In Time
The Time Machine
Minority Report
Happy Accidents
The Final Countdown
Donnie Darko
  S. Darko
Harry Potter and
    the Prisoner of Azkaban

Deja Vu
    Primer Questions
Bender's Big Score
Popular Christmas Movies
The Butterfly Effect
  The Butterfly Effect 2
  The Butterfly Effect 3:  Revelations
The Last Mimzy
The Lake House
The Time Traveler's Wife
The Hot Tub Time Machine
Los Cronocrimines a.k.a. TimeCrimes
A Sound of Thundrer
Frequently Asked Questions
    About Time Travel

Source Code
Blackadder Back & Forth
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III
11 Minutes Ago
Men in Black III
La Jetée
Midnight in Paris
Meet the Robinsons
H. G. Wells' The Time Machine
The Jacket
Safety Not Guaranteed
The Philadelphia Experiment
    The Philadelphia Experiment II
Time After Time
About Time
Free Birds
X-Men:  Days of Future Past
Edge of Tomorrow
Mr. Peabody & Sherman
Project Almanac
Time Lapse
O Homem Do Futuro
    a.k.a. The Man from the Future

Abby Sen
When We First Met
See You Yesterday
The History of Time Travel
Copyright Information

The temporal anomaly terminology used here is drawn from Appendix 11:  Temporal Anomalies of Multiverser from Valdron Inc, and is illustrated on the home page of this web site.  This site is part of M. J. Young Net.

Books by the Author.

The Book

Temporal Anomalies in Time Travel Movies
Time Lapse

I was provided with a Netflix® account, and stumbled on a movie with a time-travel sounding title.  The blurb immediately suggested that it was something akin to Minority Report or Next, stories in which no one travels through time but someone is able to get information from the future.  Those are both action adventures in which we concluded that the information is not the actual future but the probable future--as Frank Cadillac says, you cannot see the future and fail to change it--you change it simply by looking at it, because now you know it.  That problem infects much of what happens in this film.

The film moves from a story about the relationships between three roommates who discover that their now-deceased neighbor has been taking photos of them with a camera that is able to see twenty-four hours into the future into a horror story in which they attempt to tamper with events.  It is riddled with anomalies--every evening they receive a new photo of what will be visible through their picture window at this time tomorrow night, and they take advantage of that to provide information to themselves to help them make profitable choices during the day.  However, there are several twists in it, and although there is one gruesome death and several murders of varying atrocity, it never rises to the level of a genuinely frightening horror story.

Story Essentials

There are three core characters, a critical character who is already dead when we meet him, and four important peripheral characters.

As the story opens, Finn is made aware that Mr. Bezzerides has been missing for a while.  Worried that he might be injured or disabled, Callie checks his apartment.  She does not find him, but she finds a very large camera bolted to the floor which has been taking photos of their living room picture window for quite a while, apparently every evening at exactly eight o'clock--but that the latest photo has an image of their coat rack knocked over, which is an event they do not remember.

From the sequence of the photos, Finn extrapolates that the one they just saw the camera take, with the skewed coat rack, is an image from tomorrow night.  Jasper does not believe this at all, but as they debate it he wants to see whether it's true--and Callie also wants to see the next photo.

This is complicated by the fact that they find Mr. Bezzerides' body locked in his secure storeroom in the basement, seemingly burned black but fully dressed in an undamaged suit.  Having no idea how such a death could occur naturally, they agree with Jasper's conclusion that this is what happens when you attempt to change the future, and they fall into the idea that they have to do what they see in the photos.

This sets up quite a few anomalies, mostly of the predestination paradox variety.  Some of these have obvious solutions, some make sense once you know the pieces that the movie keeps secret until the end, and some are genuine impossibilities that make no sense at all.  Unfortunately, to discuss them we need to give some major spoilers, and give them early in our analysis, so if you have not seen the movie you probably want to watch it before you read further.

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Want to Bet

Jasper is a superstitious gambler.  Right at the beginning we see that he purchased what appears to be a crystal ball, apparently at a garage sale, and because he sees what he takes to be seashells in it he is going to bet on a dog named Crabapple.  Crabapple loses; so does Jasper.  However, when the picture is developed that night--the first picture they knew they would see after they knew that the camera was there--it shows a sign in their window on which are listed the winners of several races to be run the next day.  Jasper has found what he thinks is a gold mine:  a way to win his bets unfailingly.

In the version of events which we see, the others are annoyed that Jasper would do that, but they do not object because it is obviously part of the future already and they are afraid to alter it.  That, though, gives us our first serious issue with the film.  Why did they not object?

If this is multiple dimension theory, then they must be taking photos of another dimension; but what causes that other dimension to be different?  We do not really escape the problem by having it happen in another universe first and then being copied to this one; it only moves the problem to the other otherwise identical universe.

If this is replacement theory, then we expect an original history in which they see a photo that does not have race results (the races not yet having happened), then the dog race is run, then Jasper writes up the race results and posts them in the window, with the result that we revert to the night before when they see the race results.  That's a simple loop.  Thereafter, since he knew that the race results would be in the window he could point to them and say that they have to post the results so they won't change the future.

The problem is that that argument cuts very strongly in the wrong direction.  It might be that the first time they saw a picture Jasper decided that he would change the past by posting the race results, to see whether that would work.  Whether he persuaded his roommates to allow the experiment or simply did not tell them what he was doing until they could not prevent it, the result was that the history in which the results were not there was erased and replaced by the history in which the results are there.  He then can argue in that timeline that he has to put the results up to make the picture true.  However, this pattern has to repeat itself.  That is, as the camera snaps tonight's picture to send to yesterday, it also delivers the picture of tomorrow, and again since the race has not yet been run, there cannot be race results in the window.

In fact, there cannot be any photo at all on the first run through history.  Under replacement theory, we have a camera taking a photo at point B (the terminus of the original or AB history) and delivering it to point C (the starting point of the replacement CD history); the camera cannot deliver a photo of point B to point A, and therefore at point A there is no photo.  This is something that happens every night at eight o'clock, and then twenty-four hours later unhappens as history reverts to eight o'clock the night before with the arrival of the photo from the future.

That means that at that moment, in the original history, no picture arrives, and they have no reason to believe that a picture will arrive.

However, that is remedied, because point C (the replacement of point A) arrives while they are standing beside the camera, and as it arrives it erases the version of history in which it never arrived.  Yet then we again have the problem:  in the AB history Jasper has no reason to expect that this picture is going to appear, so he has no reason to pose for it, that is, to put the race results in the window.  This time the picture will appear, but will not have race results.

That means that Jasper cannot argue that they have to post the race results because the race results were in the picture; in fact, the argument is exactly reversed, that they cannot post the race results because the race results are not in the picture.  Jasper has to argue that they can change history by posting the results, and that the change would not be that significant.  Yet once he has made the change, and at point E (the replacement of point C) the photo arrives with the results, he does not know that he made the argument to change the past, and instead makes the argument not to change the past.  However, at eight o'clock tonight no picture will arrive, and then eight o'clock will be replaced by a history in which a picture does arrive.  Again in the AB history of this new anomaly it is not possible to argue that the race results should be posted because inexplicably there is no photo.  Thus he does not post the results, and in the new photo at point C they are not there.  Now if he wants to post the results he has to argue that they can change events--but his argument yesterday was that they must not attempt to do so, so with every photo he makes it more difficult to argue for including the race results.  Remember, every time he successfully argues that they should change history by posting the results, the history in which that was argued is erased and never happened, replaced by a history in which he argued that they must not change history and so must post what appears in the window.

So under replacement theory he could send himself the race results, but because they are terrified that if they change history they will wind up like Mr. Bezzerides he never will.

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What's Wrong With This Picture?

As the story opens, Finn has been staring at a blank canvas for several days, unable to find any inspiration for a new painting.  Jasper even mocks him for this.

In the new photo they receive the next night, there is a completed painting on the easel, and Finn is excited:  the camera allows him to see what he is going to paint, and so enables him to paint that, getting the inspiration by copying the completed work.

This is supposed to make sense.  How does it make sense?  The pictures are uninspired--not in the sense that they are terrible art (not something I would be able to evaluate) but in the sense that the inspiration for them does not exist.  That is, either within the next twenty-four hours Finn is going to be inspired to paint something or he isn't.  If he is, then whatever it is he will be inspired to paint will be in that photo.  If he is not, though, then the photo will have a blank canvas.

To put it more clearly, the first photo they get is the one in which the hat rack has been tipped.  We can see in that photo the blank canvas.  That means that no painting was created in the next twenty-four hours, and indeed no painting was created in that time.  So another twenty-four hours will pass, and another picture will be taken and sent to the past, and in it will be the canvas showing whatever Finn has envisioned and created within that day.  Why should it not be a blank canvas?  More than once the canvases have been blank.  No, the only way there can be a painting on that canvas is if somehow Finn was inspired to paint something.

Similarly, we have the day when Ivan absconds with the photo, and not having the photo from which to work Finn does not paint anything--but then, the photo Ivan took showed a blank canvas.  Looking at the photo with the blank canvas would not have told Finn what to paint.  If not seeing the photo means that the photo will have a blank canvas, how can seeing the photo change that?

We have something of an informational predestination paradox, and as we have noted before there is no problem with someone receiving information from the future and acting on it, as long as whatever they do with the information does not prevent them from receiving it from the future.  With Mr. Scott's transwarp teleportation formula and with the formula for transparent aluminum it was obvious that the formulas were discovered in the original history, and that having been brought back to the present by time travelers they would still be part of the replacement history and so could be brought back by those travelers.  There is no reason that Finn cannot copy a painting that he sees in a photo of the future; once he copies it, it exists to be copied.  The problem is that in order for that painting to be in that photo in the future, he has to be inspired to paint it without having seen it.

We have seen informational paradoxes, too, where this was not the case--in Minority Report and Next information was coming from the future to the past, and those in the past were using it to change the future.  In our discussions there we concluded that our information had to be what we might call the most probable extrapolated future based on the present, that is, like a computer model giving weather or economic forecasts based on current conditions and trends.  Yet this does not help us here.  Even were we to assume that the photos are not the future but the most probable future, absent some other intervention the most probable image of the room tomorrow contains a blank canvas.

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A Fixed Time Approach

By this point someone is saying that this entire analysis is completely wrong, because the film is based on a fixed time theory approach:  the photos are looking at a future which actually already exists in this form.  The dog racing results are not posted in the window of the first photo, because Jasper has not yet formed the idea to post them there.  Yet as we saw in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and their subsequent Bogus Journey, and more recently in 41, a time traveler who is going to survive and be able to travel to the past can plan to deliver something from the future to himself in the past, and having determined to do so can find it where he would have put it.  Thus once Jasper determines to send himself the race results, he receives the race results.

There is a small problem, that the race results were not already posted in the first picture they saw--the one in which the coat rack is tipped.  They already suspect that they are looking at a photo of their living room tomorrow.  Jasper should have included the race results in that photo, and did not do so.  However, it seems Jasper was the last one to believe.  It was not until he saw that the tipped coat rack matched the previous day's photo that he was persuaded, and at that point he forms the intention to post the results the next day.  Having formed the intention, he creates that future in which the results are posted, and so sees them in the photograph.  A fixed time concept solves the problem of the race results.

However, it does not solve the problem of the uninspired paintings.

If time is fixed, then Finn can see the painting he will have been inspired to paint before tomorrow night.  The painting will be there because he saw it; but in fixed time, the inspiration never actually happens.

It is like the moment when Callie is posing nude for Finn to paint, and they both wonder what it was he said or did to persuade her to do this.  We actually know the answer to that, but it shows the problem here:  why did Finn paint the things he painted?  In fixed time we have a simple causal loop, that Finn sees what he is going to paint and so he paints it; but then, when he does not see the picture he does not paint anything, and the picture shows that he did not paint anything.  Thus there is no inspiration for the picture other than its own existence, but it does not exist if it does not inspire itself.  Anything that does not happen unless it happens does not happen.  Finn never sees a painting in fixed time, because he has no intention to paint that which will appear until he sees it in the photo.  It is different in kind from Jasper's race results:  Jasper fully intends to copy the race results from the paper and post them in the window; Finn hopes that he will see something in the window which will tell him what he was inspired to paint, but the inspiration never exists.

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Uninspired Art

There might be a way for Finn to obtain a painting from looking at the future, under replacement theory.

Finn now knows that whatever he puts on the canvas, tomorrow night a photo will be taken and he will see it.  That in itself is both freeing and motivating.  It is motivating because he knows that if he puts nothing on the canvas, he will see nothing in the picture, and will be just as blocked as he is now; it is freeing because he can put anything at all on the canvas, and tomorrow night whatever it is will be sent back twenty-four hours where he can see it and assess whether he likes it, or what he can do better.  Thus he draws something, and if he likes it he redraws it the next time through.

Note that it is at least unlikely that the first redraw will be a perfect copy of the original image.  For one thing, he is looking at a very small and somewhat distorted image of the original, taken through at least two plate glass windows from a significant distance, being examined through a magnifying glass.  He does not see the details, but is reproducing what he thinks is there.  For another, in the original drawing he was trying to put anything he could imagine on the canvas in the hope that it would inspire him; in the replay he is trying to make a reasonably accurate copy of whatever is already there.  The processes are distinct; the outcomes should be slightly different.  Yet by the end of the next day he will have a painting reasonably like the one he saw in the photo, and that image will in turn be sent back.  It might be different enough that his next copy is again a bit different, but this should ultimately stabilize, that whatever he sees is what he produces on the canvas.  We have what we call a sawtooth snap with a good probability of an N-jump termination:  history continues.

There is a major obstacle to this solution, though, and it is the same problem we had with the race results.  If this is replacement theory time and the camera is bringing an actual image of a real future to the present, then in the first history there can be no photo at all.  That means that every day, the first time through, there is no photo and they don't know why.  At that point Finn has to create a painting without having seen a photo, and we already know that if he does not see the photo he does not paint the painting.  However, if he does not paint the painting in that first time through, he will be looking at a blank canvas the second time through, and will have no inspiration for a painting.  Worse yet, since they are afraid to change the future lest they die the death of Mr. Bezzerides, he is unlikely to attempt to create a painting if there is not one in the photo.  This solution requires that in every first history he, not having seen a photo from the future, attempts to create a painting and succeeds in creating enough of an image that when this history is replaced with the one in which the photo appears he sees enough of an image to inspire him to create that painting.  Yet the group mindset at this point mitigates against that entirely--he will never paint an image if he does not see one, and he will never see an image if he does not paint one.  While this particular predestination paradox could easily be launched by a few dabs of paint on the canvas, the fear of unexplained death will prevent it from happening.

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The Silhouette

Prior to the discovery of the camera, Jasper has been the typical gambler:  he wins sometimes, he loses more.  Bookies stay in business because their regular customers lose more than they win; gamblers keep at it because they sometimes win big payoffs and they wrongly figure whatever they lose they will recover in their big wins.

Suddenly, Jasper does not have to lose.  He can win, and win consistently, and he does.  His bookie, Ivan, knows that no one wins consistently.  Events on which bets are taken, from roulette wheels to Presidential elections, involve betting precisely because they cannot be predicted accurately, only probably.  No one knows with certainty who will become the next President of the United States, even on the morning of the election, although gradually the possibilities narrow and the probabilities are clearer.  There have been times when the newspapers announced an election winner and were wrong, the most famous when The Chicago Tribune published the banner headline, "Dewey Defeats Truman" in its early edition in 1948.  Everyone loses sometimes.  Jasper overlooked this detail, and Ivan was quick to recognize that Jasper wasn't only winning more, he was no longer losing ever.  That's a red flag, and Ivan visits Jasper to discover why.

During their conversation, Callie bursts in and scolds Jasper for standing outside the window peeking while she is posing nude but for a sheet while Finn paints her portrait.  Ivan sees what the others miss, that it is not the back of Jasper's head but his own in the photo, and the next night he is waiting outside when the camera takes its picture.  However, our question is, why is he there?

He gives us the fixed time answer:  he is there because he recognized his own head in the photo.  In other words, he is there because he saw that he was, or would be, there.  There are little problems with this, like, what makes him think that he is looking at a photo of where he will be tomorrow?  There are probably a dozen better explanations for what he sees than that--someone has done some serious photoshopping, or gee that guy looks a lot like me, would top the list.  Besides, seriously, who really would recognize the back of his own head silhouetted against a window in the dark?  It's not something you see that often.  More seriously, though, this is another predestination paradox:  if he wasn't there, he would not see himself, and if he does not see himself, he won't be there.  It only happens if it happens, so given fixed time, it never happens.

The best replacement theory solution recognizes that the first time through there is no photo (and remember, it always surprises and confuses them that tonight there is no photo, because every history in which there is no photo is replaced by another history in which there is one).  Ivan believes that Jasper is hiding something, but does not know what it is, so he happens to return the next night to spy.  Since that's the night Callie poses for Finn, Ivan stands in the darkness enjoying the show, and is caught by the camera.  Then, in the CD timeline, there is a photo, and it shows Ivan.  As point D approaches, Ivan is there partly for the same reason but partly because he is wondering about that picture, and at this point he is again caught by the camera, and we have a stable history.

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Morning Photos

We have thus far been covering events which are obvious early in the film.  Now we have the big spoiler of the article, the part of the analysis that will ruin your enjoyment of the film if you read this before you see it.  You have been warned.

Every night at eight the camera takes a photo of what will be happening in the room tomorrow night at eight.  What we do not know is that every morning at eight the camera is taking a photo of tomorrow morning, but Callie has hidden all of these from the past week and systematically removes these so that Finn and Jasper will be completely unaware of this second set of photos.  She uses it as a means of communicating to herself.

That is really quite a leap.  It means that in the few minutes that Callie is alone in the apartment before she calls the others, she finds the machine, examines enough of the photos to realize what it is doing and when it is doing it, devises the plan to use the morning pictures as her own secret communication channel, and removes the recent morning photos from the batch along with a few other incriminating photos she does not want Finn to see at this point.

Yet it is more problematic than that, because we now have overlapping anomalies.  At eight o'clock Friday night, time jumps back to eight o'clock Thursday night; then at eight Friday morning it jumps back to eight Thursday morning.  We do gradually ratchet forward, but the anomalies complicate each other.  It is complicated because for every anomaly, the first time there is no photo, and that is not corrected until after the beginning of the next anomaly.

Let us suppose that Callie finds the machine on Friday night.  At this point the AB history does not matter; it does not spit out a photo, so she does not know it's still functioning.  However, she is there when history is rewritten at point C, and a photo appears, and she makes her deductions.  However, she is anticipating a photo at eight in the morning, and it never arrives.  At eight Saturday night, no photo arrives, and by this time she thinks they don't understand something; but at eight Sunday morning a photo is sent back to eight Saturday morning, and now she gets the picture--a picture she expected to receive, but which she subsequently did not expect to send because she never received it.

For the boys, every night the picture fails to arrive, and then twenty-four hours later time bounces back and erases that failure, as the picture arrives.  However, for Callie, the picture always fails to arrive twice in a row--the morning then the evening, and then we go back and the morning picture arrives but not the evening and not the next morning, and then we go back and the evening picture arrives but neither of the next day pictures, and it is always this way.  She will always think that the camera has stopped working because she did not get the picture from the future, twice in a row; and that means that her decision to send a picture is always flawed because she already knows she did not receive it.

She then has the same problem, that since she did not expect to receive the photo she did not send it, and now she will be afraid to change what was sent, because it has been sent and she does not want to change time.  She cannot use it the way she intends because of this.

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The Coat Rack

The fallen coat rack gives us some major problems to consider.  It is the first photo they receive from the future, and the first they confirm as a photo from the future based on the fact that they had it in hand before the room looked in reality as it did in the photo.

It seems simple enough when it happens.  The first time through there was no photo, but they were unaware that there might be photos because although there were old photos as far as they knew Mr. Bezzerides might still be there somewhere taking them.  Twenty-four hours later the photo is taken, history snaps back to that first night, and the photo appears.

In the version of events we see, Callie is about to leave and as she grabs her coat she upsets the rack, and it falls into the frame seconds before the picture is snapped.  We thus take it as an accident, and it confirms for everyone that the photo they got yesterday was of the room today.  However, we know that the next morning Callie will send a picture back to herself the previous morning, in which she will include the instruction that she should knock over the coat rack.  Why?

In the original photo, either the coat rack was or was not upset.  If it was, either it was an accident or someone intentionally staged the scene, believing, contrary to the evidence, that a photo would be taken at eight o'clock and sent back to them the night before.  Either way, the odds are very much against the possibility that Callie pretending to upset it accidentally will result in it landing in exactly the same position in the photo.  It's like rolling polyhedral dice.  If exactly the same chain of events upsets the coat rack, it should land in exactly the same position--but if Callie has to tell herself to do it, then there must be an original chain of events in which either it happened accidentally or it was carefully staged, and this time the chain of events is different so we will get a different result.  That might not be fatal as long as this new Callie passes the message to herself--she will set up a sequence in which she always knocks over the coat rack the same way.  At issue is, why does she do it at all?  If it was originally an accident, why does she have to replace the accident with an intentional act?  If it was originally an intentional act, why?

Complicating it is the possibility that the original photo does not show the coat rack upset.  If that is the case, Callie is attempting to determine whether she can change history by altering the photo.  The critical problem here is that she cannot know whether she did this unless she thinks to include that in the first note, and we saw that the first note does not include the explanation, only the instruction.

So let's look at the possibilities here.

This set of complications infects everything later in the film:  if Callie is attempting to manipulate events by sending messages to herself, either she believes she can change history, does so, and then creates the impression in herself that she cannot do so and must do what she is told, or her actions are entirely irrational as she attempts to send images that must not have arrived or change images that already have, vacillating between the sincere belief that she must recreate what she sees in the photos and the belief that she can change events by sending messages to herself.  The irrationality of this is clearly seen when we contrast her statement that she was only doing what the messages told her to do against her statement to Finn that she can fix it by telling herself to keep everything secret from him before he discovers it.

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Callie's Manipulations

It thus seems that it is impossible for Callie to be manipulating events by sending messages to herself, regardless of what theory of time we embrace.  Under fixed time she cannot change the past, under multiple dimension theory she is communicating with another universe, and under replacement theory she becomes locked into the belief that she must do what is in the photo, and so cannot change the content of the photo.

However, if we overlook that part we find the answer to a vexing question.  It first arises from the photo in which Finn is painting the spiral with numbers (is it a distorted clock face?) while Jasper and Callie are caught kissing.  The same problem appears in a different form when Finn and Callie both confess curiosity regarding how, in the original history (which they here assume must have existed), Finn persuaded Callie to pose naked for him to paint.

The answer to that question is he didn't.  She has been trying to re-ignite his interest in her, to spark some jealousy or otherwise get him fighting for their relationship.  She persuaded him to paint her thus.  She took hold of Jasper and kissed him while Finn was completely engrossed in his painting, to attempt to get him to pay attention to her; Jasper has already demonstrated that he won't rebuff her advances, in their drunken sexcapades.  Many of what we might call her tweaks to history were aimed at getting his attention, causing him to move back toward the earlier relationship they had had.  Even replacing the penultimate evening photo with an old photo of herself having sex with Jasper while Finn slept was an attempt to shake Finn out of his self-absorption and get him back into focusing on her and their relationship--and it almost worked, but that she got caught trying to send her morning message and he realized she had manipulated the situation, and that she could have manipulated it to prevent a lot of the bad things that had happened.

So Callie's agenda explains some of the events which otherwise seem inexplicable, particularly why she was caught kissing Jasper and how she wound up posing nude for Finn.  If we get past the problems that she can't do this in practical terms, it makes perfect sense that she would do this if she knew she could.

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A Broken Fixed Ending

As Finn realizes what Callie has done in trying to manipulate everyone, he decides that they are finished.  He removes her ring and tosses it away, and prepares to leave.  It is at this point that Callie becomes inconsistent, but she is after all desperate and grasping at straws.  On the one hand, she says that she was only doing what the pictures told her to do, as if they were immutable; on the other hand, she says she can fix this by sending back a message to herself that tells her what to do to prevent Finn from discovering her lies.

That obviously isn't going to help.  It's right up there with Torchwood's Gwen Cooper giving an amnesia pill to boyfriend Grif so she can confess that she slept with Owen and get him to forgive her and then forget the whole thing--Grif is probably as angry at her for drugging him as he is about the infidelity.  "It's all right that you know all this, Finn, because I'm going to send myself a message right now that I'll get yesterday morning, and you won't ever know any of this, so things will be just as they were, and you will return to being blissfully ignorant."

So she has to shoot him.  That's still fine, she thinks, because she's preparing her notes right now, and she can have them in the window in time to prevent a lot of this bad stuff from happening.  She and Finn will live reasonably happily ever after.

Then Big Joe arrives, and wonders about the note and the appearance of blood on the window.  Callie decides that it doesn't matter what he sees because the note she has left for herself will undo all of this--but as he is taking her away, the note falls out of the window, she fails to get back to fix it, and the photo is taken.

The interesting aspect here is that this photo is identical to the one Mr. Bezzerides sent to Joyce.  It seems to be saying that once a photo has been taken, that future will happen, and no one can change it.  Yet every action of Callie's throughout the movie has been steering the future.  We cannot say categorically that she necessarily ever altered an event, but many of the messages she received make no sense at all unless they originated in a future in which her divergent self decided to change the past.

The movie thus concludes without a working theory of time that explains its events.  That is typical, of course, but it is still disappointing, particularly given such an interesting premise.

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The Predictions Model

At the beginning of this analysis we considered, and rejected, a model of foreseeing the future that appears to be the basis of the concept in Next and Minority Report:  given reality as it is at this moment, this is the most probable form the future will take.  Having that future appear in the form of a photograph is perhaps problematic, but it is not really different in kind.

Pursuing this line, we have a camera which somehow gathers all relevant information about the present, extrapolates what will happen in the future, and produces an accurate exact image of some specified future point in time.  We have no idea how that can be done technologically (our other examples all used psionics), but that's not the point.  As Frank Cadillac told us, simply seeing the future changes it because you know it; but then, as we saw in Minority Report it is at least plausible that a method of predicting the future would be able to include in its prediction the impact of that prediction; that is, the camera "knows" who is going to see the picture and how that will influence them, and so it adjusts the picture to match that, then adjusts it again, until it is producing a photo of events that will come to pass exactly as they appear in the photo, given the identities of those who will see the photo and its impact on them.

The hardest part to resolve for this was Finn's painting, but it might possibly become a bit easier.  If Finn sees a blank canvas, it will cause him to want to change that, and so the camera will take into account that whatever Finn sees, even if a blank canvas, he will be inspired to paint something, and then the interaction between what Finn sees in the photo and what he paints because of it is included in the calculation that determines what will appear on the canvas.  That part works.

It can also take into account the fact that Callie will hide the morning photos and use the morning side to send messages to herself, and even calculate what those messages will be.

In a sense, the photos never change and always become reality; in another sense, the photos have changed uncounted times before they were printed, as they morph to incorporate the changes they create.

So it appears that we might be able to save this film on a "most probable future" concept, with a bit of tweaking concerning what constitutes the most probable future given that it is predicted.  It is not a great film, and again not actually a time travel film, but an interesting one.

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