Friday, August 15, 2008

And now, The Movies!

Taking a break from heavier topics, I want to look at a couple of the summer blockbusters. But first a confession: I seldom actually go to the movies. Who has time? But, obsessive reader that I am, I am constantly reading reviews of movies, most of which I will never see. So the following is based totally on what has been written up about these films. And given what I've read, these are a couple of flicks I'd like to see. Maybe when they're out on DVD...

As anyone who goes to the cinema knows, summer movies are generally not deep, literate, probing masterpieces. Not much of what I've read about recently is anything other than escapist fluff, which is the usual lot of the summer fare. Two movies, however, stand out. They seem to be both popular and critically acclaimed. Not that they are exceptions from the usual seasonal genres, but they are both within it and go beyond it.

These are fantasy films, in the best sense of the word and that's one of the things that attracts me to them. I am definitely a lover of fantasy--and all kinds of speculative works. And in some ways these two films couldn't be more different.

One is the Pixar production, "WALL-E", a movie about a lonely robot 700 years in the future. The other is the new film from director Guillermo del Toro, "Hellboy II:The Golden Army", about a comic book hero, a demon turned good guy, who battles all manner of fairy tale creatures.

Strangely enough, these two films have a few things in common. First, they are both well made pictures that have characters, which as strange as they are, we are made to care for. That explains the critical acclaim.

Second, the lead characters are both working-class heros. Hellboy may be a demon, but he smokes cigars and guzzles beer and generally acts like a regular guy. (Apparently, when fleshing out the character the director included characteristics from his father, a cabinet maker.) And WALL-E, the robot, is no gleaming android. He is basically a janitorial mechanism, busy compacting (and collecting) trash.

But it's their final commonality that intrigues me. The golden army that Hellboy has to deal with is led by an elvin prince wanting revenge on humans for trashing the planet. WALL-E is pretty much alone on the future earth, trying to deal a planet covered with trash, long after the humans escaped their mess. Maybe Hollywood is trying to tell us something?

Quote of the day: “The more we exploit nature, the more our options are reduced, until we have only one: to fight for survival.” - Morris K Udall
Word (or phrase) of the day: Slow Food
Hero(es) of the day: Julia Ward Howe


Anonymous said...

Moonraven. Love the way you think!

Do go see WALL-E. I cannot comment on Hellboy yet, but you have inspired me to study it.

I sort of have to respond in a way because you mentioned writing about non-heavy things in this post. While I consider how Pixar deals with their movies as presented as light hearted and fantasy, upon deeper reflection, they are extremely deep movies. At least from my perspective. But then again, that is their beauty, in animation, they help us see things that would not be a palatable if the characterization was done with real people.

Pixar is creating some outstanding socially evolved commentary in their movies. Actually very important teaching tools in this day and age when not too many people are taking the time to ponder written words, and need visually manifested communications in order to be reached.

After watching Finding Nemo, I began paying closer attention to Pixar sub-story lines and found tons of very hopeful forward moving social context. As much as people may think that these animated movies are just children’s entertainment, they are much more than that. Cars for example was a view on how characters evolved to make winning not the most important aspect, but instead, collaboration in winning was the theme. It was actually sort of anti-Nascar warrior theme based, which is probably why it did not do well on the circuit in the U.S.

In WALL-E, the premise was also about collaboration and the vital importance of non-conformity. Of course, this collaboration was also linked to caring for the earth, a return to farming and getting people to walk again rather than be dependent upon mechanical vehicles. It also touched deeply upon our modern cultural over dependence upon computers, and other technical devices to survive, and communicate with each other. One of the more brilliant scenes in the WALL-E movie was when the characters finally were pulled away from their exclusive focus on their electronic computer screens, they were amazed to actually begin seeing their physical surroundings that they had ignored for so long. Another really important aspect was how they were dealing with the Obesity epidemic in this country. Surprisingly, I saw very little social public commentary about this aspect of the film, but then again, most people are not paying much attention to this huge social medical problem in this country, which if unchecked, obesity is going to completely sink our already inundated health care system... The movie also took huge looks at what our world is looking like with the incarnation of giant big box merchandising, and excessive material consumerism.

Even Ratatouille, which I also loved, was all about collaboration. And even more powerful for at least me personally, it was about the art of food and cooking. I am hoping that this was the intent, to create an interest with at least the younger audience to learn how to cook, rather than be completely dependent upon easy, fast food service and frozen microwaved food. Slow Food!!!

I am currently reading: The Origin and Nature of Sociality, and Man the Hunted. By Robert W. Sussman. Deals with our evolutionary need to be socially collaborative to survive. In short, being nice to each other, is already in our genetic map... and survival of the competitive fittest, fastest, posed by Darwin is not completely true. Thought this reading might be right up your alley as we ponder a more humane social future...

Another movie I keep reflecting upon is Blade Runner. Based upon Philip K. Dick’s book published in 1968: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. A most powerful vision of what is happening on our planet as we speak. Global Climate Change, Human and Animal Cloning, and Corporate Commerce Dictatorships.

MoonRaven said...

Thanks for the comment and compliments. Your point about Pixar is well taken. I do intend to see WALL-E, and your comments make me want to see a few other of their films as well (Ratatouille sounds like fun). I am especially grateful for your point about collaboration in WALL-E and linking it to 'caring for the earth, a return to farming and getting people to walk again'. Beautifully put.

Thanks also for letting me know about the work of Robert Sussman. I am always interested in learning more about what science has found out about us and am always encouraged when it points in a cooperative/collaborative direction.

Movies like Blade Runner are useful in pointing out what's going wrong in this society--but, in general, I am more interested in looking at what is positive and possible. Too much of what's wrong without the hopeful just sinks most people.

I'm glad you are enjoying my blog. Your feedback is always welcomed.