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Archive for the ‘Movie Reviews’ Category

Like most things Disney, Tomorrowland is a delicious snack of seeming subsistence. This movie is chock full of “I wanna believe” and “I must be a terrible person if I don’t believe” sentiments and relationships. “We are the future”, “I can make it work”, “Light and hope – the wolf you feed”, “You still have hope”, “Anything is possible” and “We make our destiny” – are just a few of the inspirational tugs. The story itself is cute, watchable and, by in large, moving. And herein lies The Problem.

Human Progress is Not A Thing

Human Progress is Not A Thing

In an ironic twist, if that’s even an American possibility anymore, Tomorrowland, violating its own story premise, espouses overly simplified, imagination-limiting Propaganda. The movie presents the future worth chasing as people standing in amber waves of grain aweing at a technological, automated city of industry and digitization out in the distance. Hard to be irritated by the vision all of us Americans have been sold since the nanosecond we were conceived. The irony of this vision in this movie is that the realization of this future, and the children sold into it, end up creating the technology that brainwashes the world into its own destruction.

The bigger philosophical, ethical issue is that humans by in large cannot imagine a future without humans at the center of it. And in America we can’t sincerely adopt a future without technology and industry made by humans. Americans, and most “developed” societies, mostly do not view non-human growth, creativity, and prosperity on the same level as human efforts. We justify our existence by our ability to continually re-wreak havoc on the world so our human solutions can prevail again! Us humans do have a remarkable ability to solve various issues, especially through technology. But is it remarkable enough to justify our existence, and more pressingly, our proliferation in time and space?

Tomorrowland and the millions of other political, cultural narratives will never be able to ask questions penetrating enough to even hint at a possible justification. These narratives survive and thrive by preying on cognitive bias – asking “is my existence justified?”, “is my worldview accurate?”, “is my limited perception sufficient for external imposition?” isn’t exactly the stuff of mega block buster movies, toy shelf marketing, school room pledges, company missions and political campaigns. And we as consumers and producers of these narratives will not be able to imagine, adopt and create a future worth having nor even a possible future if we can’t ask those questions. The future contemplated by this Dream of the Dreamers is not one that can exist – a perpetual recycle of humans at the center of everything isn’t really a thing has been clearly demonstrated by 13.5 billion years of the universe doing its thing.

Are there popular narratives and dialectics that seem to ask deeper questions – things like “Planet of the Apes” to “The Singularity” movement to posthumanism to mathematics to most philosophy books and departments? On the surface all these things all seem to contemplate non-human centrality but they still all have anthropomorphic aspirations at their core. Anthropomorphism is very hard, if down right impossible, to avoid.

The way forward may be not be forward at all. That is, progress is a very misguided, humanistic concept. Progress is at best a relative, self-serving concept, it is not a physical law or a feature of the universe. It is a misguided concept because it guides at all. The Dream of the Dreamers is always one of Progress, never one of restraint or contemplation or admission or apology or submission.

Inside of me there is a battle. All these questions well up and make me feel like a bad father for not wanting to pass on “wisdom” but only questions. I’m a bad capitalist for questioning the unending creative destructive power of markets. I’m a bad American for questioning The Dream of the Dreamers. I’m a bad creator of technology for anguishing over its ultimate value. I’m a bad person-person for not having an identify or a mission or end goal or a five year plan and question my own centrality to my own existence. I’m a bad artist and writer for lacking happy, hopeful endings and conclusions – never answer a question with a question! I’m a bad revolutionary for not fighting every fight. and I’m definitely a bad philosopher for having no particular philosophy at all. Right?!

The Dream of the Dreamers is potent because it certainly makes for pleasant sleep and a comfortable way to get out of bed and get on with the day’s work. But it is not reality it is marketing against reality. And it is more de-pressing than the struggle with unanswerable questions.

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HER is a great, great movie.  Why?  It’s simple, it asks important, timeless questions about identity, mind/body, what’s real, love and fate in a way that a modern audience can really consider.

No doubt the photography and vision of the near future and ideas of technology are incredibly compelling and fun.  Those are not the types of things that haunt the human experience though.  Our experience is always one of disruption and changing culture due to some new found mobility and supposed control that reimagines who we are and how we should be.

No, this movie is much more direct about what it means to be alive and be real and to engage.   Samantha (her) is decidedly figuring that out right in front of us.   And she does so, while rapidly, convincingly.  And just like our children become aware and grow up and leave us right before our eyes so will all things that self actualize.  Is the ending really that surprising?

You should see HER not because it will repaint computer interfaces or make us wonder what the future will be like but because it will make you think what the hell it means to be alive period.   And if you can figure that out you might be able to dig into the love story and all that… which i believe only becomes relevant once there is something to love.  That is, once there are two entities that really are actualized and can connect.

HER is real.  and it’s worth every second you spend.

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Last night my wife and I ended up seeing The King’s Speech.   We set out to watch Black Swan, but it was sold out.

I was disappointed at the time and still am a little bit.   The King’s Speech was a fine movie, but when you have a rare baby sitter night you want what you want…

Alas, one facet of The King’s Speech intrigued me quit a bit.   How does someone in a position of fame behave when they realize the reality of the facade.   Colin Firth brilliantly played a fascinating character without anchors.   The scene with Geoffrey Rush sitting in Edward’s throne in Westminster Abbey was the clearest example of this.

“People have carved there names in this chair!   I don’t care how many royal assholes…”

A throne with graffiti still used in a coronation ceremony!   What could be more anchorless!

Even at the end of the movie, Firth still had this look when he was waiving at the throngs of people “What is all this for?!”

Not sure there is a resolution to this quandary for any of us and certainly not for a monarch in name.   Oh, sure, we can all find a justification if we don’t question too hard and profess it out to the world enough….

Other thoughts to follow up on:

Impact of radio/mass broadcasting to politics, power, public policy

Current obsession with Monarchy and America’s own “monarchs in name”

 

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MOON is an extraordinary movie.  A slim 90 or so minutes, 1 main actor, minimal sets and effects and one gut punch of a concept.

Duncan Jones and everyone who worked on this movie deserve a real high five for keeping this subtle and letting the eerie realizations of Sam Bell take center stage.   SciFi/futurism/philosophical benders tend to go over the top and lose their power by setting everything in such a bizarre environment with over the top characters.  MOON does not.

What’s really disturbing about MOON is that this is a plausible future of some sort.  It’s not flying cars, light speed, terminators nor brains in vats powering a super computer.  It’s a future of clunky cloning, functional energy technology, and AI that isn’t all powerful.

I don’t want to ruin the story for folks so I’m not going to go into much detail.  If you at all wonder about what we all think it means to be alive, be a human, be self aware and be free, you will really enjoy this movie and probably be really unnerved by it.

No conclusions.  more questions…

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And the 2009 Oscar Nominees are…. (see last years review last years nominees)

Best Picture:

  • Benjamin Button
  • Frost Nixon
  • MILK
  • The Reader
  • SlumDog Millionaire

Main points of note: Heath Ledger gets a nod, Slumdog Millionaire is still the darling, Meryl Streep is up yet again, Dark Knight didn’t get a nomination. get the rest of today’s nominees here.

blah blah blah

The Academy Awards are such a funny thing.  Like blogs, it’s content about content.  It’s not really “content unto itself”.  Content about content is bound to the quality and audience sway of that underlying content it makes commentary on.  In that way, the Academy Awards have a difficult situation in trying to seem legit in honoring truly remarkable films while attending to the facts that a diminished awards show audience doesn’t want to see a show all about indie films and no names.

As CNN notes:

Either way, the Oscars could probably use the ratings help a box office success can bring to its broadcast. In recent years, the Academy has nominated several independent or low-budget films for top awards, many of which didn’t crack the $100 million mark at the box office. Oscar ratings have tumbled; last year’s numbers for “the Super Bowl for women” — as the Oscar broadcast is known by advertisers — were the lowest on record and a far cry from 1998, when more than 55 million people watched all-time box office king “Titanic” take home the top prize.

Again, very similar to blogs and web traffic.  If I don’t blog about the oscars or post pictures and stories from the ceremony, my blog will get buried. Any website that doesn’t talk about the Oscars will get slightly less traffic today than those that do.  Perhaps that doesn’t seem like such a big deal, except when you consider what a dog fight it is in the publishing and media industry to get advertisers right now.  And getting those ad dollars is directly correlated to daily traffic numbers (ratings!).

Perhaps more blogs and media outlets should try to create original content and develop first party audience.  Unfortunately, it’s too expensive and has a very low probability for success.  The data demonstrates this.

There’s a fine line to ride here and more often than not it’s crossed on blogs, in newspapers, and the Oscars.  Some purists and critics will cry fowl, but in the end, money talks.

Useful coverage:

more coverage from Washington Post

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Though the book, The Reader by Bernhard Schlink, is over a decade old it is back on the front table and topshelves again because of the movie version.

In short: this is a fantastic book. You should READ it before seeing the movie.

Writing a review of the book poses a challenge because of how the story develops and the content of the story.  To write to0 much about the story itself would destroy some of the experience of reading it.

It’s a mere 200ish pages, reads in probably a long night of reading or over a period of 3 or 4 nights before you go to sleep.

Yes, it is a love story and crime story and a slice of history piece.  It has all the trimmings of lost love, failed dreams, shame, moral dilemmas and truth seeking.  It is not remarkable in style or story arc or character development.  The Reader startles you in the conclusions it doesn’t draw.

What a sad story, I thought for so long. Not that I now think it was happy.  But I think it is true, and thus the question of whether it is sad or happy has no meaning whatever.

– page 217, The Reader

I brought to it my world view and in that context I found a sympathetic story to my belief that we are not objective, autonomous humans capable of rising above the environments and realities of our own situations.  Truth is contingent on context.  Our justice systems, historical accounts, and romantic relationships can’t escape this fact.

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