Archive for December, 2009|Monthly archive page

Film Report #2

Movies watched recently:

All The Real Girls (USA 2003)

There’s a scene about half-way through All The Real Girls which is so brutal in its naked honesty it transcends acting and the definition of character. You feel like you’re watching real people in a real situation.
This is just a culmination of the naturalistic, realistic vibe that runs through David Gordon Green’s small but impressive relationship drama. Shot in a measured, composed style, it hardly has a plot, only situations which revolve around a young couple in a small town in North Carolina and their friends and family. The movie eschews almost all kinds of sentimentality and cinematic traditions of portraying lovers, which creates a viewing experience that requires some patience and acceptance from the side of the viewer – we’ve been conditioned to see love portrayed in certain ways in movies – but if you go along for the ride you find a rich character study peppered with beautiful cinematography. Nature is a big part of the story: The behavior of nature and animals vs. the behavior of man. The movie seems to live and breathe between the dialogue, between the words, in looks and feelings and small gestures. It’s not the most flamboyant or flashy movie in the world, but as a story which depicts love and heartbreak it feels extremely real and genuine.

Ghost Town (USA 2008)

David Keopp is one of the most high-profile screenwriters in Hollywood. Among others, he wrote the scripts for Spider-Man, Jurassic Park, Spielberg’s War Of The Worlds, and the last Indiana Jones adventure. He’s also a director in his own right, and as a filmmaker usually creates thrillers such as Stir Of Echoes and Secret Window, which is a pretty neat adaptation of Stephen King’s scary novella. In Ghost Town he goes back to dealing with the ghostly world, which he first tackled in Stir Of Echoes (which I didn’t see), but this time, it appears, on a much lighter note. The movie is billed as a comedy, but it plays more like a drama. Much more Ghost than All of Me. Ricky Gervais plays a misanthropic dentist who, following a botched anesthesia, dies for seven minutes and subsequently gains the ability to see dead people, and that includes Greg Kinnear’s ghost who wants Gervais to prevent his widow from marrying a stuck-up lawyer. The first 30 minutes or so are pretty amusing, but once the romantic plot kicks in it all becomes a little too familiar, and the third act makes it very hard to keep the suspension-of-disbelief going, ending on a too-familiar note. The subject matter was handled much better (and with no ghosts) in the brilliant As Good As It Gets (also with Kinnear). Still, the performances are good (Kristen Wiig almost steals the show as a hilarious surgeon), the tone is whimsical at times, New York in Autumn looks great, and the film is an enjoyable, but ultimately slight, fantasy.
One thing: I wonder why dentists are always such SOB’s in movies (and on TV, like Dr. Whatley on Seinfeld). Anyway, from what I’ve seen of Keopp directorial work, I would say he’s much better in thrillers than in this kind of fluff.

The Big Lebowski (USA 1998)

Trying to describe The Big Lebowski‘s plot line (if you can call it that) is a meaningless gesture, and also a headache inducing one. This movie, one of the Coen Brothers’ most beloved, lives and breathes in its characters and dialogue, which comes to life through some fantastic performances, especially from Jeff Bridges who plays the ultimate slacker, The Dude, and John Goodman, who is his friend, a traumatized Vietnam War vet who insists on keeping the shabbos and have no control whatsoever on his impulses or mouth. All these characters inhabit a hyper-realistic world which is classic Coen brothers territory. The movie is peppered with some imaginative and fun dream/hallucination sequences, but  the entire film, with its weird kidnapping tale and bizarre characters, looks and feels like one big dream sequence. The story is scattershot and unfocused, but the dialogue is very funny for the most part and the characters are memorable. I don’t think it’s the Coen’s best work by far, but it’s certainly one of their most quotable and giddily insane. Also, the amount of profanity is so staggering it’s almost like poetry.

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The Symphony of Being

First, please watch this:

Probably the most age old question of all is: What is the meaning of life?

Inspired by Carl Sagan’s words in this video, I will venture to say that maybe, just maybe, the Meaning is in the asking of this question. To ask this question is to express our ability to ponder, to investigate, and to appreciate and experience the world as well as the universe. To ask the questions, but not necessarily find the answers. Pondering those questions, in some form or another, instead of living constantly in our heads and minds and confined little worlds, worlds that are more often than not consumed by materialism: Money, possessions, status.

We should be more aware of the Big Picture. I mean, won’t all the little wars in the Middle East seem rather foolish if a giant asteroid was hurdling our way? They won’t seem important anymore, because they’re not. They’re based on unimportant things. They are based on the “little world”. Oh, it all seems very important to the collective egos of the warring parties. But all the wars and conflicts in the world are a result of the same narrow, petty, problem-creating, frightened and fragile human ego. Same goes for conflicts between individual people. Conflict between nations is just the same thing only on a larger scale. How much misery and suffering, when all that needs to be done is to realize what a miracle it is that we are on this Earth to begin with, as intelligent, sentient beings, and that we are able to write about it and talk about it and think about us being here and what it all means.
We are not something that is separate from the universe. We are the universe. Our bodies are made of stardust, materials from constellations long gone which still live on through us. In our bodies we carry not only the biological imprint of all humanity before us, but also of the space around us, the galaxies, the suns, moons and comets. They live inside us and every one of us is a piece of the whole. We are all indeed connected.
Like Sagan says, the fact that we have been provided with the ability to muse on that on so many different levels is the way of the universe to ponder its own nature and existence, a way for the universe to look at itself. Because how will the universe be able to contemplate itself if not through sentient beings, not only here on Earth, but on countless other planets and in countless other galaxies? How can the universe experience itself if not through us?

And yet, we seem to have lost that connection with the bigger picture and somehow got lost inside our heads. Millions of humans around the world are busy settling scores, making judgments, proving they’re right and the other side is wrong, playing mind-games, poisoning the collective psyche, poisoning relationships, and eventually poisoning the very planet we live on as a physical manifestation of that. What is the corporate culture if not one huge ego streak? What is war and violence if not the human ego getting out of hand?

For eons, Man has felt alone. Religion, in its purest form, stems from the human need to curb this loneliness, to provide some kind of an answer, to make us feel we’re not alone, to let us know there is someone out there looking out for us.
I don’t know if there is or isn’t, but call it what you will: Spaciousness, Consciousness, Awareness, or the most common name but also the most loaded one, God – since we are the universe, this is not something which is external to us. Ultimately, the creator and creations of the universe are one and the same. It’s almost as if we created ourselves. Not in a conventional, physical term, naturally, but to use a yummy metaphor, it’s like there’s a cake being baked in the oven, but the cake is made of the same material as the oven.

We are our own children and our own parents (time as we know it is a concept created by the human mind), because at the core we are all one and the same, and we all take part in this Symphony of Being, whether we’re aware of it or not, whether we accept it or not. Our senses give us a picture of the world, but it is a limited one, because there are many other layers that we cannot perceive. So maybe the real answer to the meaning of life cannot be known or perceived, it can only be felt.

On the other hand, here’s another musing on the Meaning of it all: