It is often a very good idea to write down the point. The myriad of experiences one encounters during this escapade often called “living” tends to drive the idea from the mind. Society contributes as well, suggesting all kinds of fun stuff like Coca-Cola, Jaguars, or mansions with pools as substitute points. Then, one forgets one’s personal point, and replaces it with the desire for all sorts of things that can’t matter in the slightest. Even if this is a “stuff parade” – making it bigger, longer, and more “owned” can’t help.
“Desire” – ahh, there’s the word. The Buddhists would say, therein lies the root of all the world’s suffering. Desire, as Hunter S. would have put it, is doomed. Thus, if one is able to eliminate desire, one can experience the fabled “Nirvana” state, which reveals this worldly “thusness” as illusion. Although that seems like only half of the picture?
How did “we” humans get stuck in this Chinese-finger-puzzle of a ‘life’ trapped in an ‘illusion’ struggling to rid ourselves of desire so that we can return to the all-encompassing nothing/nada/empty-set of enlightenment? I’m not, mind you, saying that any of this is necessarily wrong, only, how did it happen or why did it happen? Is the entire point of life trying to escape the sad accident of our “emersion” in samsara in the first place? And, if so, why? That seems like half-the-battle, or focusing on the part of the glass that’s half empty.
Thusness – one thing seems sure, beyond the legendary Cartesian stab at eschatology (that search for an irreducible or a priori starting point), we would seem to be undeniably here and having, at the very least, the illusion of experience. Though it might not have led to the most excellent set of follow-on decisions, as Descartes had hoped, it does remain a core of being. I think, therefore I am, and (as I said, unless I’m prepared to consider that an accident or a mistake), therefore I must come to grips with that fact. Why not accept that this is all an illusion in the Buddhist sense, but consider that fact merely the starting point or the ante. After which, the most important thing: to create, to play in the playdoh, to develop an illusion that, while it may not last, will have been good while it lasted. It would seem that is a hook to our desire, we desire things be permanent or right (not merely acceptable or good for now), which I think Nagarjuna indicated was impossible or unknowable. We are temporal beings, how could we imagine atemportal or eternal answers?
In the end, whatever it is that comprises our eschatology or exists transcendentally to the illusion, we will have to meet that “God” on an individual basis. To put it in a colloquial metaphor, we have to “shake hands” with God ourselves. So, even if we have come across someone in life that wishes to pay homage to the “everlasting” in a similar way to us, or to sing or perform the same tributes to the almighty and our own shortcomings, when we do shake hands with this entity (as it were) it would seem that He/Her/It would care far more about what we created about Him/Her/It than whether or not that creation was ultimately similar to what other's believed. Or, even less, that it happened to be “true” or “right” – he/she/it already knows what that is. What we might invent or imagine on the way to this meeting (this denouement) seems like it would be far more interesting.
The point should be that we will be responsible for our own story, for the beat of the drummer to which we marched, and we should embrace this temporality. What matters most IS the illusion one creates, how good it is, how much it benefits ones fellow man, how much the ‘fact’ of this illusion pleases, amazes, and inspires that which exists outside of the illusion in which one is immersed. I think the best name I’ve ever heard for a theatre is “Perishable”. How like life ~ The Perishable Theatre of Existence!
Some Older Shtuff:
The major problem is the new laxity (not to be confused with the ‘new cruelty’) exhibited when films use terms like “Based On True Events,” which can have a meaning that varies greatly. I’ll do my best to discuss the issue and film without revealing too much, as “what’s happening” is really the essence of the film. At the end, there is text that says there have been 70 cases of “this” reported to police? But what does that mean exactly - thematically similar or criminally similar (as in the same crimes were successfully committed 70 times)? Did 69 of the 70 simply end with a request for criminal activity which was subsequently denied? It sadly confuses the issue of what really happened. If that means the viewer will go home and do research to get to the truth, that is good. In this case, and for this viewer, it has only served to confuse the issue.
The film should get props for tackling a sensitive topic and the actors should for doing a very reasonable job under the circumstances. That said, there were some ‘Hollywood’ choices and I can understand having the response, “This is stupid,” and walking out. For all the interesting film work regarding the nightmarish qualities that must be available in a fast-food environment used to elaborate the plot, something was missing in terms of ‘reality’. Though these particular actors were doing a good job trying to portray these imagined circumstances, something about their inherent “intelligence” (I realize it’s loaded) did make the viewer realize they (and by that I mean ‘these particular characters’) would not allow it to happen. I struggled to maintain my suspension of disbelief, but not due to bad acting, perhaps due to the incredible nature of the fact. That nature makes it worth seeing, because we would have said the same things about the crimes of National Socialists in WWII and so many other instances of people’s “sub-humanity”. History alone should argue against my disbelief.
The Bourne Rechase
It begins with some rather good scenery, mystery, and tension in the remote mountains, but the plot (such as it wasn’t) really ends there. This film is a contradiction in many ways. So much of the “round-tail-run” pursuit of pursuit is beautifully shot and “well done” overall (to put it in general terms), that the fact that nothing really happens is overcome… and not. It’s an A for style and editing combined with an F for meaning and plot (throw in a couple of interesting concepts about genetic manipulation ala Michael Crichton’s NEXT). It succeeds and fails in extremes creating a nice, muddy C.
Though perhaps there’s a plus for good acting overall that I’m missing, or that can be satisfied with a simple shout out to John Douglass Thompson for having an interesting (though not connected to the plot) part to play. Or perhaps that + is balanced by the fact that the final chase scene is gaspingly silly and overwrought. Who decided on the “air horn” to take us out in style?
Snow White & The Huntsman:
Kristen Stewart is cute, oppressed, confused, and I’m not talking about any of the myriad Twilight stories. The saga continues, indeed. Somehow her continuance in this vein as Snow White feels counterfeit, even though there is nothing to really point to in her performance. I think it’s not her fault, much as the perpetually awesome Charlize Theron seems to be almost chewing scenery though it’s not her fault either. It’s as though they’ve been miscast and misdirected and the movie, while being technically polished, doesn’t draw the viewer into the fantasy.
I wanted to see more from the amazing cast of characters assembled to play digitally “dwarfed” dwarves: Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Eddie Marsan, and Toby Jones amongst others. Really? This ensemble warranted a movie of its own. I imagined them doing a remake of Time Bandits. They were very good.
Everyone seemed on, though it often felt as though they weren’t in the same world and somehow weren’t completely integrated with the story itself. Sort of boring –with great acting… how you ask? Perhaps that’s the fairy tale.
It’s frustrating to be such a fan of Wes Anderson’s work and find it falling behind rising expectations. If this had been his first project, I might well have liked it twice as much. It occurs to me that the fault lies in my viewing more than in the work itself. What was shocking in its juxtaposition in Rushmore and even provocatively off-beat in The Royal Tenenbaums seems to have devolved by Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Ltd. into what can almost be called Wes Anderson shtick. Moonrise Kingdom comes off better than the latter two, but it retains some hangover of the preternatural character stuck in constant old/young, misunderstood/earnest, idiot/savant , fish-out-of-water contretemps.
I hope he feels the need to move on stylistically. The film is beautifully shot and really makes one want to visit Martha’s Vineyard. While he continues to use brilliant actors and familiar faces (in this case: Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, and Bob Balaban to name a few), it seems more like they’re demonstrating their range than real depth or truth. The final “acting” assessment of a Wes Anderson film is that the performances “hang together” more than that they are real, and in this case it all succeeds at doing so. As a first exposure it might warrant an A-, somehow, at least for me, I came out feeling BTDT.
Prometheus: Would you rather watch a juggler keep four or five balls in the air or attempt seven and drop them all?
That would seem to be the final reason for my demotion of Prometheus to a B-; I feel like Ridley Scott was juggling too many themes and thereby dropped the lot.
Another question raised by the movie, and I suspect warranting individual response: “If you could find the answer to how we came to be here (not ‘why’ mind you, that’s a much more complex question), but you had to face mortal peril in order to acquire the answer, and here it’s important to structure the question slightly more. It would be a lottery-like inevitability, such as playing Russian roulette with a pistol in your mouth (1 in 6), but not some kind of obstacle course or physical feat that one could think to overcome through talent and training, would you take the risk to attain the answer? It’s a good and deep question as were many of the themes the movie addresses.
What does it say about schizophrenic film reviewing if you feel a B- is simultaneously too low and too high? Does it mean you’re just evading the question? Can we have been created as hunting/eating objects for a superior race, whose very superiority would make us like insects to them? Is Ebola a biological weapon?
I’ll grotesquely paraphrase the best exchange in the film: The scientist (played by Logan Marhsall-Green) is talking to the android (played by Michael Fassbender) and the android asks, “Why do you think god created you?” The scientist doesn’t know, so the android follows, “Why did you [humans] invent me?” To which, the scientist replies, “Because we could.” And the android remarks, “Imagine how dissatisfied you’d be with that answer in your case.”
Themes: God (Aliens) invent us, and then we invent an android which allows us (life) to go on asking questions of the gods. The importance of belief. The dangers of bio-weaponry. The inherent flaws with Darwinian “Selfish Gene” ethics (think cancer/host destroying). And, perhaps, the potentially erroneous [profoundly, grotesquely] notion that our creators would give a toss what/who/how/why we are.
There are many, perhaps too many, and finally there’s something about the creation or beginnings of the “Alien” universe. I’ve heard discussions of Ridley Scott not wanting this to be merely an Alien prequel. However, the oeuvre has developed such powerful themes and resonance that this film, no matter the addition of epic questions and sub-plots, simply cannot resist the gravity of the story itself. The event horizon has been crossed. This is Alien .5, and, it would seem to follow that the attempt to expand the story/script served only to confuse the characters and monsters. Stated in epic, promethean terms, it substituted being about everything for being about something, and wound up coming across about nothing. This is a dangerous game. However, for those who really love the Alien(s) world and mythos, this could be satisfying in that respect.
It’s almost an afterthought, given such expansive and interesting themes, to say much about the performances. It has great images and a few important lines coupled with deep questions. However, it has some groaners as well. The Charlize Theron character (always good to see her) did not make much sense and the King Lear scene where she calls Weyland “father” is suspicious at best. The rough scenes are sort of like the thematic dropped balls, either you love the whole thing so much they don’t matter, or they begin to roll around your feet making standing a challenge. And, really, Waterworld-esque dune buggies to transport humans across a biologically devastating wasteland?
The Dictator: This is an homage to Craig’s efforts as he’s climbing Mt. Whitney and indisposed. I saw The Dictator today and found it … lacking? Does that suffice? This will be a short review and link to MoA / Sacha Baron Cohen http://www.kdworld.net/moa.html – see 4/8/10 post. Time does fly!
In this film, Cohen forgoes his trademark interviews/interactions with people who do not realize they are speaking with someone who is “taking the piss”, as it were, but it adds Sir Ben Kingsly who is a great actor, right?
The film seems to be mining the same comedic ground that Eddie Murphy was in Coming to America, substituting Cohen’s Middle Eastern uber-narcissistic royalty for Murhpy’s African prince with the same issues. Update the jokes to be more terrorism / Arab-Dawn related and less women’s lib-oriented and it reflects a somewhat less romantic version of America post 9-11. Both characters come to America, are mistaken for people who lack their former privilege, and learn something from their love interest along the way. Something “like” humanity? Though, I suppose the 2012 film begs the question of whether or not the protagonist has changed as much as the 1988 film would have us believe. Perhaps we’ve become a more cynical country? Without the added comedic-interaction of people who don’t realize entirely that they’re participating in a joke, all the humor decays into a combination of intentionally-awkward meets fart joke. Sadly, in this case, it’s more Jackass than Ricky Gervais (but for those who loved the former this might well be enjoyable).
I don’t know if it’s surprising or not, but Anna Faris seemed to portray the most interesting character. Though, in the end, both her performance and the film itself strained the suspension of disbelief. Imho, too much: C-. Is that what you call a short review?