Runcible Blog

Meaningful Movie: An Oxymoron?

Lots of geeks and others are talking about the philosophical and religious issues that The Matrix movies have introduced, and frankly, those people are looking as goofy as the guys who prescribe to the "Jedi" religion or can speak Klingon and Elvish. Although there are some interesting questions raised in the Matrix films, they are really mostly style over substance. Topics like causality and objectivity provide thoughtful tangents, but they're spoiled by such ridiculous lines as "You never truly know someone until you fight them." The writers seem to have taken an introductory philosophy course and maybe memorized a few definitions. But The Matrix Reloaded's value isn't in its philosophy but rather its explosions, nifty special effects, and high intensity action.

Koyaanisqatsi (a Hopi word meaning "life out of balance" or "crazy life"), on the other hand, deals with the melding of technology and nature without resorting to a single backflip or elaborate fight scene. In fact, there isn't any dialog or plot, either. I just bought Koyaanisqatsi today on DVD since I had heard a bit about it (it's the first in a trilogy which began in 1983 and ended in 2002: Powaqqatsi and Naqoyqatsi are the other two). If you like Baraka, you'll probably enjoy the qatsi trilogy (I haven't seen the other two yet). Since there isn't any plot or narration, it's hard to explain what the movie is "about", and that's a good thing. There's a lot of room for personal interpretation. The interview with director Godfrey Reggio on the DVD provides some insightful commentary. One thing that struck me was his quote -- similar to Socrates' quote, "The unexamined life is not worth living" -- which, paraphrased, was "the unquestioned life is nothing more than a religious state." The unquestioned part which he referred to is the "technological foreground" -- the technology that runs our lives but is taken for granted. In other words, have we become a culture that worships technology? Are we toiling away like worker bees, interacting with each other but isolated at the same time? Have we become slaves to the machines we worship? I think the director's answer is yes, but he doesn't have to come right out and say it. One of the more blatant metaphors in the film is a scene of a hot dog factory with thousands of hot dogs streaming down little channels in some machine. Two inspectors diligently throw out some of the wieners and maintain the efficient flow of mass produced meat byproducts. Cut to the next scene where time lapse photography shows thousands of people rushing up escalators, off to somewhere important, no doubt. But the power of the film lies in the questions you ask yourself: "Why is the smoke surrounding that dump truck? What are all these empty apartment buildings? What does it all mean?" And there are no distractions to prevent you from asking those questions. There are no car chases (though there's a lot of time lapse photography of traffic) or romantic interludes to stray away from the central issue, whatever it is. Nearly every frame in the film, taken individually, would be a stunning photograph. The dedication that went in to its production is breathtaking.

One critic called Koyaanisqatsi "one of the greatest films ever made", and even though I'm not a fan of "best ever" lists, I wouldn't object to his claim. Concerning fundamental questions about man's relationship to nature and technology, Koyaanisqatsi is about as good as any movie is going to approach. Then, considering there isn't any plot or dialog, the effort is even more impressive.


The Matrix

I just got back from seeing The Matrix Reloaded.
I went alone because I have no friends.
At first I thought, "This movie is lame -- taking itself too seriously."
But after a while, I thought, "This rocks."
Did anyone else notice that while the Architect was talking about how they had to create an imperfect world -- a world as "grotesque" as reality, the monitors flashed pictures of Hitler, some other thing, then George Bush? Nice touch. Subtle too.
The end.


A Pauper with Cash

So I went shopping at Guitar Center the other day, possibly looking to buy a classical or flamenco guitar, but instead I ended up buying a book that I probably won't read. The interesting thing is that none of the sales people seemed to acknowledge me as a possible customer. It probably had something to do with my shirt that was full of holes, or maybe my unmatched socks. But little did they know, I could've bought a guitar on the spot. The salespeople always go after the guys in polo shirts or turtlenecks -- like shooting fish in a barrel. The salespeople at Daddy's Junky Music in Salem (there are usually way too many people working there at any given time), however, treat everyone who walks in as a potential victim. They look for impressionable kids and then start wailing on the guitars or slapping the basses to shock and awe little Jimmy into convincing mommy to buy some piece of garbage instrument. So anyway, they're jerks.

But the moral of the story is that if you don't want salespeople to bother you, dress like a bum. It works for me, and I don't even have to try! Then, as your leaving the store, be sure to wave some greenbacks in the air and yell "You're not getting any of my cash, suckers!" while peeling out of the parking lot. That'll teach 'em.



A Mighty Wind is Blowing Us

Yesterday, my father and I hiked around the Fells Forest (it's probably called something else) in Winchester. The weather was great, and the exercise was badly needed. The top of the hill offers a scenic vista of Boston and the Blue Hill further to the south. I even drank from a run-off stream from Winchester's reservoir and survived.

Later, we saw A Mighty Wind (Christopher Guest's latest "mocumentary"). It's like This is Spinal Tap for folk music, but "Spinal Tap" was definitely a better movie. There was a total of about 10 people in the theater, and a couple left halfway through the movie. "A Mighty Wind" features the same cast as Best in Show, which explains why the movie seems a bit derivative. It's very similar to "Best in Show" in the humor and character development. I had the feeling that I had seen the movie before, only with dogs instead of folk singers. But either way, it's not a bad movie. Harry Shearer, Michael McKean, and Christopher Guest are underrated comedians, if you ask me. If you want to pass the time before The Matrix Reloaded premieres, go see "A Mighty Wind".

(How's that for a review?)


Plop Plop, Fizz Fizz

(this might be a little gross)

Whenever I have to do #2 in a public bathroom, I'm usually struggling to keep myself from bursting out in laughter. The noises people make while moving their bowels are hilarious. First, you get the pre-dump farting -- sometimes it's just a squeak while other times it's a deep, throaty honker. Then comes the big push. You can tell that this squeeze requires a monumental effort; the groaning intensifies while the entire stall starts to shake. After a protracted labor period, the doo breaks free from its rectal prison and begins its free-fall like a crunchy brown cluster bomb, plunging into the turbid waters of the tidy bowl. Peeeeeeeeewwwww! Splash!

For the astute observer, this process provides a constant stream of comedy (to say nothing of the constant stream of fecal matter). Everybody has their own defecating idiosyncrasies -- their own unique anal timbre and primal pooping yell. As for me, I'm generally rather quiet while making an offering to the porcelain deity. I prefer to listen to others doing their business while having a good laugh inside my head.

This whole crappy observation is funny for me, but then again, I'm weird.