Monday, December 20, 2010

Fun Movies! And Political Reflections

Sometimes I feel like I'm overly critical of movies in general. I think that's because certain movies get really hyped up for some reason, and I just don't see why. Like Slumdog Millionaire. Or Inception. Or Crash. Although Crash, in my opinion, is not even a "good" movie, much less worthy of being named "Best Picture" of 2005. (Oh, those ridiculous judges!)

But anyway, oftentimes, I do very much enjoy a good, fun frivolous film. We watched two this past weekend:

Night Train to Munich (1940): Often overlooked, perceived as derivative of The Lady Vanishes (1939), this WWII espionage thriller is simply delightful. I have not seen The Lady Vanishes, but if it's anything like Hitchcock's other films, I'm sure Night Train to Munich is a great deal more humorous and lighthearted. Which I would imagine to be an improvement.

Tron (1982): Such an odd film! The visuals, the story, the dialogue--they're just so ... interesting. Solid storytelling, acting, character development--all the elements of a pretty good movie--with the added element of novelty.

Tron is especially interesting from a theological viewpoint because the citizens of the digital world, personified computer programs, regard their programmers ("users") as deities. Programmer Kevin Flynn, having been transported into the digital world in the likeness of a program, becomes a Christ figure of sorts.

A fun moment that stuck with me was when one of the programs, named Tron, discovers that Flynn, who has been assisting him in his mission, is actually a "user" (i.e. a god). Tron exclaims that this must mean everything Flynn has been doing was according to a greater plan. Flynn shakes his head and says no, actually, users, just like programs, are often just going along, trying to do their best, without an overarching plan in mind.

While I don't think this insight can appropriately be applied to God (I have a high, Calvinistic view of Providence), it's very apt with relation to human authorities. However much people may complain about the way the country is run, for the most part, here in the U.S. we have a sense that the people in charge, though they make some mistakes, generally know what they're doing (or at least we think that of whatever political party we support).

But I'm pretty sure that in reality, the people at the top don't know what they're doing. And I've always found that very disheartening. So I liked that moment in Tron, because it wasn't a terrifying, depressing revelation to the programs--merely surprising. I guess it's okay to find out that that's the way things are; we can still work with that.

Perhaps the real difference it makes, knowing that politicians are just as stupid and incompetent as regular people, is that it means it's our responsibility as citizens to work with them, alongside them, helping them in whatever way we can--rather than looking to them to fix everything and handing them the blame when things go badly.

That is, instead of being angry at politicians, especially those in the White House, we should have compassion on them, because they have one fucking hell of a job, and we would probably not do so well at it ourselves, despite the best of intentions. Perhaps if we could be inspired with pity for all the stupid, incompetent politicians, we would more willingly try to do something to help, rather than just complaining all the time.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Inception: Know What You're In For

I had been told in advance that Inception is "not mind-bending," but still "very well done." Although I think that's a fair estimation, I was still disappointed; I was expecting something in the genre of, say, (one of my favorite movies) Memento--a film driven by a creative, clever plot. But I'm afraid Inception is really just an action movie with a fun premise.

I suppose the plot is uncommonly smart and original, for an action movie. But I'm not a huge fan of action movies. I don't like having to overlook contrived plot devices and apparent lapses in logic. The "contrived plot devices" part bothered me most. The "rules" of entering someone's dream have nothing to do with what dreams are actually like. For example, in Inception, if you die in a dream, it causes you to wake up. This makes for a good plot device, but it does not at all correspond to my experience of dreaming. If I die in a dream I might wake up, or the dream might change to something else, or my vision might go black and I would be thinking to myself it's not so bad being dead. Or the dream might rewind five seconds and then as it replays, I avoid getting killed after all.

The dream world in Inception operates according to very strict rules--which, again, is useful to the author of the script--but as a result, the "dream" sequences are really not that dreamlike; they're much too coherent--and some of the rules of the dream world are just plain silly.

Although I would highly recommend Inception to action movie fans, if you want an artful exploration of the fascinating idea of entering someone else's dream, check out Paprika instead.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

'Tis the Season

On my way to the train station, I walked past two men shouting angrily at each other:


Continuing on my journey, I eventually got off the subway. Again, I heard a man's voice screaming enragedly. Some Asian dude was kicking a white guy out of his convenience store: "NEVER SAY THAT KIND OF THING IN HERE AGAIN! GET OUT! GET OUT OF HERE!"

The next day, on the train again, a young boy was wailing. His mother told him to shut up. He kept crying. She tried ignoring him. He just kept sobbing, louder and louder. Mom starts losing her temper, angrily ordering the boy to shut his mouth. She tries grabbing him and muffling him with her arm--he gets louder, and louder--I shut my eyes, thinking, "The holiday season is officially upon us. People freaking out left and right." And then--suddenly, it's quiet.

I look up, and there's this woman--just another passenger--and she's giving that young man a good talkin' to. She's calm, speaking quietly, but with authority. Everyone around is gaping in awe and wonder. That screaming little boy has turned into a perfect angel. People are laughing with relief and delight. "Can you come over to my house--to live?" more than one onlooker asks.

Blessed are the peacemakers. We could use a few more in the world, to say the least.