Category: Movie Philosphy

To Batman: I’m Sorry For Ever Doubting You

So I don’t like admitting that there are ever any parts of anything to do with Batman that I question, but for a long time I had a lingering doubt that the whole “Make the climb…without the rope” theory would work. You know, the idea that only when we are spurred on by the fear of death in all its finality will we truly find the strength to do what needs to be done. Well, it turns out I was wrong. The fear of death does increase jumping distance.

Picture this: H- and I at the pool. Goggles on. We’re in the three-foot deep shallow end. Every four seconds she’s adding the post-script to what I can only describe as an entry into a no-holds-barred splashing contest, “See, Daddy? I can swim?”

I smile and say, “Just about.”

Then she says, “I want to jump in.”

I say, “Go ahead.”

She gets out of the pool and with a decent running start proceeds to jump into this same three-foot deep shallow end of the pool. Her head never does go fully under the water and she says, “Ow.”

I say, “You should tuck your knees up so you don’t just land on your feet.”

She says, “Like a cannon-ball?”

I say, “Yep.” So off she goes for attempt number two.

“Ow. I can’t really do a cannon-ball.”

I say, “Well, then, you should come over to the deeper end and jump in.” She starts shaking her head and I soothe, “I’ll be there. Don’t worry.”

Notwithstanding all the splashing, she actually can stay afloat a while during her attempts to swim in the shallow end. And if I remember right, swimming is like riding a bike. Add these things together, and you will see me a decent bit away from the wall in the hopes that when she jumps in, she may just start swimming to me and more importantly, realize she actually can swim. Ta da.

But no.

Instead, I learn that she can jump a helluva lot farther than I ever expected or have seen before as she nearly tackled me in a leap that can only be described as springing from legs attached to a brain that really thought a visit to the pool with her father might be the last event on her earthly journey.

The lesson: Teach kids how to swim before how to read the number four.

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Review of There Will Be Blood, by Paul Thomas Anderson’s Agenda

The only reason anyone works to pump oil out of the earth is greed. Greed only spawns more greed which eventually creates (or perhaps is a catalyst for) a downward spiral of human vice that passes through selfishness, hate, betrayal, and ultimately murder. Or at least that’s what Paul Thomas Anderson’s award-winning There Will Be Blood wants us to believe. As much as false-prophets–con-men–deserve to be hated, it is impossible not to hate Daniel Day-Lewis’s remarkable portrayal of oil tycoon Daniel Plainview more. And in hating Plainview, it’s difficult not to hate oil.

People hate oil.

Funny to read, isn’t it? It rings true, but it really isn’t. It’s no more true than if we said people hate dirt or people hate wood. It is foolish to make these inanimate, naturally occurring objects the object of our hate, just as it would be to make them the object of our love. They merely are. But we can certainly hate people. We can certainly hate ideas.

Maybe people hate oil men. Maybe people hate their own ignorance of geology. Maybe people hate what they don’t understand. Surely people hate greed.

It seems wherever oil is under the earth American troops are over it, and service members who deploy to the middle-east are bombarded by activist’s propaganda filled with facts and figures which encourage hating Texas Oil Men George W. and Dick Cheney. And Halliburton and KBR and Lockheed Martin and every other group of people that could be lumped into the war-for-profit-is-clearly-a-bad-idea category. Tightening the frame dramatically, I needed no encouragement to hate my aircraft commander on my last deployment. I astonished even myself with how little prompting it took for me to heap some hate on my sister and her small group.

Finding myself in the oilfield here in Colorado, I occasionally hated living in the man-camps. I hated being away from my daughter. I hated her mom for wanting to see her for more than her half during my days-off.

Similar to all men, hate and I have had a long and storied history. Luckily, I have a friend named Kirk. One day, years ago, I told my friend that I was floored to discover that a Kelly Clarkson pop song included the sage lyric, “For hating you I blame myself.” Being the good-natured midwesterner that he is Kirk didn’t miss a beat and replied, “That’s right Pete. Hate comes from within.” Doesn’t it though?

And that begs the question, “Will there be blood?”

Anderson made an excellent film. It is an excellent portrayal of greed from both ends of the spectrum. But in making the film relevant for the masses, in using oil as the backdrop, he, perhaps unintentionally, allowed the oil to obscure a greater truth. Hate, greed, everything comes from within.

I’ve Been Reading Madame Bovary

The main room of the house that was built in 1950 was atypically adorned for the year 2014 in a comforting way.  One sofa, a piano, two lamps, one antique globe, four chairs, a kitchen table, and four onyx pedestals–the mineral, not the gem–displaying the Russian Baron Peter Klodt von Jurgensburg’s “The Horse Tamer” miniatures made up the room’s vertical trimmings.  Hanging on the bland tan plaster walls were three framed images.  One was a black and white movie poster capturing the famous coffee scene in Heat, another was a black and white poster of 1990s Metallica, and the third was a commissioned word-art photo–also black and white–of a TH-1H Huey bordered by friends’ well-wishing farewell comments and signatures, which received attention each time the owner was heady with wine.  And there was a white board.

As usual, George, who was sporting a clean shaven chin, was standing, Pete, wearing just-before-itchy length stubble, sitting.  They had just returned from viewing TC’s most recent film at the local theater.

“So, Mr. I-Like-Blondes, what’d you think of her?” Pete asked, looking up from his laptop while it woke up.

“Pretty hot,” George said.

“As you know, I’m not into blondes, but there was one scene which made me long for a woman again,” Pete said.

Smiling bigger than after bowling a strike, George said, “Oh yeah.  The one where she’s doing that iso-pushup.”

“The one from the preview?  Na, that’s not what I’m talking about,” Pete interrupted, derailing his friend’s excitement in favor of his own.

“What are you talking about then?”

“I’m talking about when she’s focusing on memorizing the plan that will allow her and TC to stay alive long enough to win.  When they were in the bunker room…..planning area…..with the holographic thing,” he said, trying to jar George’s memory.

“Oh.  I remember.”

“It just reminded me that it has been a long time since I have seen a woman really try hard.  As in apply effort.  Real effort.  Care about doing it right.  It was hot,” Pete said.  He paused for only a moment, but it was long enough for him to sift through a decade’s worth of memories.  Beginning again, he said, “I can remember memorizing the helicopter operational limits while on my commercial flights to my next training base.  There were like 220 numbers that had no pattern.  That kind of effort.  Or I think I’ve told you about my first memory of Greeny.  From back in college?  It was an intramural flag football game and he was on the ground, laid out, fully extended with the football in one hand–all to gain a few extra inches.  I don’t think the game even counted for anything.  But I remember having the specific thought, ‘I want to be his friend.'”

“Yeah.  Women just don’t do that.  Or at least the ones we ever come across don’t,” George said, staring through the wall, past the front yard, across the dimly lit street, and into the unending night.

“Doesn’t matter where the effort is being applied, I would chase after a woman like that,” Pete concluded.  Rejoining, he attempted old white man voice and quoted another sci-fi favorite of his day, “Hope.  It is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness.”

“I was thinking the same thing,” George said.  “See ya tomorrow man.”

Review of Grudge Match

I will cry when Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro die.  In the past I have thought about celebrity deaths that will be difficult to stomach, but only after watching Grudge Match am I sure that those two will cause a genuine sense of loss.

The movie is easy.  The story is straightforward.  And as a bonus, a black man and an old man use their societal advantages to provide the audience with guilty laughs.

The movie is almost good enough to be called “good” even if the viewer hasn’t seen Raging Bull or any films in the Rocky Saga–almost.  Then again, no movie would be comprehensible if all context could be removed.

It’s humorous the way each fighter is equally the underdog.  We have underdog versus underdog.  Luckily, the respective underdog attributes are acted well-enough to birth some curiosity.  By the time we find ourselves calling the filmmakers names for not having the courage to use Rocky’s theme song one last time to accompany the mandatory training montage, we do wonder how the fight will end.  And we nurse a hope that it will end the way we want it to, whichever way that is.  Surprisingly, the film’s writers and director are more on point than we ever could’ve imagined.

In the final round of the fight we arrive at two specific moments that explicitly reveal the film’s theme, and whether these moments are taken together or individually, that theme proves to be well worth the, at times perfunctory, 90 minute commute.

In short, if you remain undecided about watching it, watch it.

Review of Killing Season starring Bobby D. and Johnny T.

The previews looked like someone had re-tooled Hopkins and Baldwin’s 1997 thiller The Edge.  Two elderly-ish men trying to survive, and possibly kill each other in the woods.  But what we have here is something new.  It is at once a simple action flick–kinda B-movie action at that–and a portrayal of one of the most challenging commandments Jesus of Nazareth issued.

The film begins with scenes of the not-so-familiar Bosnian war.  We are shown images of genocide which would be striking if they weren’t nauseatingly familiar.  Like Shutter Island before it, we are then shown that even the good guys sometimes commit atrocities.  While in Bosnia we think we see Travolta killed.  Moments later we are introduced to DeNiro’s character and discover he has taken to hunting in the woods…with a camera instead of a gun.  Nothing surprising here.

The fact is nothing too surprising happens for the next hour or so of the film.  There is a game of cat and mouse that seems to drag on and on with no point.  But then something magical happens–the point appears.

Movies which improve with their run-time are few and far between.  I grew up on the idea that most movies can be recognized for what they are in the first minute.  This one is a rare exception to that rule.

Now Ma–before you think that you’re ready for this film, allow me to offer a word of caution.  There are two surprisingly gruesome scenes that even caught me off-guard.  So, just ask me about the movie next time you call and I’ll tell you what is so neat about it.

The rest of you, proceed at your own risk.  It’s no Saw, but it still isn’t for the faint of heart.  Too bad really, because it’s message is so full of heart.

Aristotle Gave Rhetoric To All-Part 1

Rhetoric cannot be discussed without Aristotle; Aristotle cannot be discussed without rhetoric. Not just rhetoric, but Rhetoric, one of the many books he wrote.  A good way to begin talking about Aristotle’s thoughts on rhetoric is discussing his relationship to Plato.  Plato, himself a student of Socrates, taught Aristotle.  A moment spent marveling at the pedagogy of these three men cannot be a wasted moment.  What is known about Socrates comes from what Plato wrote.  That is to say, Socrates taught exclusively by speaking.  It should not surprise anyone, then, to learn that Plato taught that rhetoric was specific to the spoken word.  Aristotle dissented.  Here then is a starting point.  In what might be a direct reaction to Plato, Aristotle did not believe that rhetoric was “merely verbal and manipulative, and for that very reason, irrational (Meyer 249).”  Aristotle believed the opposite.  He believed that rhetoric had “a rationality of its own (Meyer 249).”

Aristotle defines rhetoric “as the art, not of persuading–for the best of speakers may sometimes fail to persuade—but of finding what persuasive things there are to be said on a given side of a given question (The Contemporary Review 206).”  This publication (from the late 1800s) further elucidates that, “as a moralist, he [Aristotle] disallows any appeal to the feelings and passions of an audience; but as a rhetorician, he proceeds to give a long and very valuable analysis of those feelings and passions, explaining to us their nature, enumerating their ordinary objects, and suggesting how they may be most effectually aroused (207).”   This again helps clarify what exactly is meant by rhetoric, and why history rightly records Aristotle as the resident expert.

That Aristotle’s thoughts on rhetoric were a reaction to a man whose pedagogy he trained under should not weaken those thoughts.  In fact, taking into account their durability throughout history, Plato’s thoughts on rhetoric, themselves, are better suited to lose value in the debate.  That said, it is time to look at Aristotle’s contribution to rhetoric.   Aristotle convincingly taught humanity that there are three categories available for use during argumentation: logos, ethos, and pathos.  These three categories are all always present, only varying with regard to their ratio to each other.  In other words, logos, ethos, and pathos make up one hundred percent of an argument, whether 30-30-40 or 80-10-10.  It doesn’t matter what the exact breakdown is; the point Aristotle made was that all three were being used—whether intentional or not.

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“Aristotle’s Rhetoric.” The Contemporary Review Aug 01 1878: 206. ProQuest. Web. 23 July 2013

<http://search.proquest.com/docview/1294650855?accountid=14506&gt;.

Meyer, Michel. “Aristotle’s Rhetoric.” Topoi 31.2 (2012): 249-52. Springer Link. Web. 23 July 2013. <http://0-link.springer.com.skyline.ucdenver.edu/article/10.1007/s11245-012-9132-0/fulltext.html&gt;.

Grandparents Wanted

“Now that we know who is doing what, it’s time for the prepared speeches portion of the meeting.  Each of our speakers today has prepared what I’m sure will be marvelous speeches.  First up, giving her ‘Ice Breaker’ speech, is Debbie Hinkletoe.  She has spoken many times in the past, but this is her first speech with us.  It appears we are making her feel as nervous as Anne Frank practicing tuba, so let’s be sure to give her all the support we can muster,” joked the old man lovingly attempting ease Debbie’s visible nerves.

It was unclear whether the old man knew that the joke would, to put it mildly, step on a few toes.  The few audience members cursed with the inability to resist a joke’s cue-to-laugh recognized their loneliness and quickly adopted silence.

Concluding the awkward moment, a respectable old woman declared, “Not funny.”

“Okay, meetings over.  Thanks for nothing, you inconsiderate asshole!” seemed the words the audience expected to hear next.  However, following General Waverly’s (White Christmas) advice, “If there’s one thing the army taught me, it was to be positive… …especially when you don’t know what you’re talking about,” the old man made the correct decision to let the moment pass and continue the meeting.

He couldn’t help but smile.  He just witnessed an event only found in books:  An old man putting to use his well-deserved ability to “not care”, and an old woman responding in kind.  Oh, the subtleties of that moment.  As if the back-and-forth had caused the air to congeal, a stillness overtook the room for but an instant.  Neither mortal would yield.  Neither should have.  They both behaved perfectly.  They both…were grandparents.

He always liked “grandparents” as a group, but he was never quite able to put his finger on why; until that exact moment.

But first, while it may seem obvious, the reader must learn what he believed a grandparent to be.  A grandparent is not simply someone whose children have had children.  By his thinking, to be a grandparent, one’s children must be (or have) raising their own children.  Biological grandparents fulfilling the role of primary parent are not grandparents to him, then.  This is a necessary qualification.

It seemed to him that something magical happened when an old person was fully released from parental responsibilities.  The concern for ‘appropriate’ and ‘proper’ disappeared, rightfully so.  Grandparents, then, were the living proof that even the loftiest concepts needed to be knocked off their pedestals every now and again.  It was the exchange between these grandparents that  revealed this truth clearly.

This realization had a second effect.  It motivated him, for he was a parent.  Moreover, he now understood that to earn his status as grandparent he must aggressively embrace his parental responsibility.  Any wasted time or opportunity would only result in his missing out on the ability to someday be the salt of life, would result in his missing out on the near-sanctified duty to offend, provoke, insult, but also spoil, entertain, love.

More than that, he finally understood why, no matter what they did, he always felt loved by his own grandparents.  It was because they wouldn’t be his grandparents if his parents hadn’t loved him first.

How To Do The Inconceivable.

(If you’re short on time, skip to the bottom for numbered instructions.)

Because it is time, that’s why.  Someone needs to grab the bull by the horns and reveal the secret to accomplishing anything.  The following few paragraphs are going to give you the tips you need to do anything you can conceive.

In the recent Tom Cruise movie Oblivion, T.C. and his female counterpart are two-weeks away from completing their mission on the ‘remote site’ that is Planet Earth.  After the two weeks, they will return to the new human settlement with those who survived the war.  Granted, the work they were doing was not in itself particularly difficult or boring.  Loneliness seemed to be the biggest negative.  And the dream of how life would be like in two weeks’ time kept them going.

How many of us ever thought we’d spend as much time and energy as we have to accomplish so little?  How did we do it?  Where did we get the strength from?  Were we born with it?  Even if we were born with it, we must fight the desire to victimize ourselves.  Instead, as a group we need to accept total responsibility for our lives.

Where did the strength to put up with a life we never conceived come from?  The strength came from believing a lie.  The lie that there will be more time in the future.  Break down the concept of the future a little and you’ll see why this is a lie.  The future has not happened.  The present is happening.  The future “is not”.  The present “is”.  What do you gain if when you trade what “is” for what “is not”?

The future will never be.  Can you understand this?  The future will never “exist.”  It will never “be.”  That’s it’s definition.  If you believe that the future is something that “will be”, then you’re no longer describing the same abstract idea that’s being discussed here, and is commonly labeled “the future.”  There is no catching-up.  There is no getting ahead.  These are impossibilities.

I have been nearly exclusively reading the classics for almost a decade now, and a common theme is best summed up by Jon J. Muth in his children’s book, “The Three Questions”, based on Leo Tolstoy’s ideas.  “Remember then that there is only one important time, and that time is now.  The most important one is always the one you are with.  And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side.  For these, my dear boy, are the answers to what is most important in this world.”

The choice is always yours.  If you want to do the inconceivable follow the instructions below.  If you want to exist in reality, stick with living in the present.

Instructions for How to Do The Inconceivable:

Step 1 – Believe that after you’ve accomplished it, you’ll have time to do what you really want.

Step 2 – Understand that there is only one step.

T.C. – Top Dream Crusher

He was Top Cadet, Top Friend, Top Suburban Son, Top Forrest Boy, Top Gun, Top Bartender, Top Brother, Top Veteran, Top Car, Top Immigrant, Top Lawyer, Top Informant, Top Vampire, Top Spy, Top Spy 2, Top Spy 3, Top Spy 4, Top Spy with a Sense of Humor, Top Sports Agent, Top Freak, Top Motivational Speaker, Top Crazy Man, Top Future Cop, Top Samurai, Top Hit Man, Top Normal Guy, Top Politician, Top Director, Top Nazi Traitor, Top Rock Star, Top Ex-Cop, and most recently Top Astronaut.  I can be talking about none other than the Top Actor of the World, Tom – T.C. to me – Cruise!

Just the facts:  I saw Top Gun when I was 8 and went on to become a military pilot.  My first anniversary out of the military occurred last year, and I figured it would be a good time to watch the movie again.  It had been about 7 years since I last saw it.  So much had happened in my time in the military that I was curious what I would think as I watched it again.  You know what?  As the movie ended, I felt like I was 8 again.  I thought to myself, “Man, I can’t wait to grow-up so I can be a military pilot.”  Then I realized, “Wait a minute, I’ve already done that!”

The moment that followed was singular.  I realized that I don’t think I ever actually wanted to be a military pilot.  I realized that all these years I actually wanted to be Tom Cruise.  Or at least like him, Top Actor.

This thought terrified me.  You see, recently I joined a Toastmasters public speaking club.  Toastmasters is an organization that pushes people to follow their dreams.  The club I am a part of is no different.  Besides being overly encouraging, they are time keepers.  If you tell them your goal, they will help keep you accountable.  I knew that if I told any of them that I wanted to be Top Actor, they would literally start encouraging me to follow my dream to Hollywood.

Thus, I was faced with a dilemma.  I joined Toastmasters to challenge myself.  This was the perfect topic for a speech.  However, there was no way I could share this dream of mine with this particular group of people.

Then it hit me!  What if I just told them the truth?

Of all the people who make excuses for not following their dreams, I think I have the best excuse ever.  I thought that maybe I could convince them that some people just shouldn’t follow their dreams.  And I was one of those people.

Think about it.  As a pilot, I spent 8 years perfecting my radio-call voice.  You know what I’m talking about.  The very monotone, betraying no emotion, professional way of speaking.  Besides being monotone, a radio-call is also a strictly formatted four-part way of communicating.  There is not much room for deviation from the monotone four-part format.

My thesis:  I argue that even Tom Cruise himself couldn’t become Top Actor if, like me, he had to overcome 8 years of speaking in a radio-call voice and format.

And I can prove it.  In order to do so, I need to take you through a few examples of how his movies would’ve sounded if he made them in a monotone, four-part radio call format.

To begin, allow me to take you back to the living room at the end of Top Sports Agent.  In the movie he says, “…We live in a cynical world.  A cynical world.  And we work in a business of tough competitors.  I love you.  You… complete me.”  To which Dorothy interrupts, “Shut up.  (Sniff)  Just shut up.  You had me at hello.”  Pretty powerful stuff, no?  Well, let’s see what that would look like if a T.C. would’ve had my restrictions.  Here goes.

*Pshh*  Ahh Dorothy…This is Jerry…I’m standing in your living room and ahhh…We live in a cynical world.  BREAK *Pshh* … *Pshh*  …A cynical world.  And we work in a business of tough competitors.  BREAK *Pshh* … *Pshh*  …Ahhh…I love you.  You complete me. *Pshh*

*Pshh*  Ahh Jerry…Dorothy here…Standing in the same room…Shut up.  Just shut up.  You had me at hello.  *Pshh*

I mean come on!  There is NO WAY anyone would have identified with those characters or that sentiment.

I can hear some of you already.  You’re saying, “Hey, wait a minute.  You picked an easy one, a chick flick.  I bet some of his other movies would have sounded alright.”  Okay, I’ll take that bet.  And I’ll raise you.  Let’s jump right to a military movie.  Top Lawyer.  You remember it.  Lt. Caffy thundering away while leading Colonel Nathan R. Jessup expertly toward admitting he ordered the CODE RED.  Let’s pick it up with Colonel Jessup.  He asks, “You want answers?”  Lt. Caffy replies, “I think I’m entitled them.”  “Yawan’answers!”  “I want the TRUTH!”  “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!..”   And then the great speech about walls begins.  Now, here’s how the scene would have played out if T.C. was a pilot.

*Pshh*  Ahh Lt. Caffy…Colonel Jessup here…sitting in the witness stand…Do you want answers?  *Pshh*

*Pshh*  Ahh Colonel Jessup…Lt. Caffy speaking…I’m at your 11…I think I’m entitled them.  *Pshh*

*Pshh*  Ahh Lt. Caffy…Colonel Jessup again…still in the witness stand…Do you want answers?  *Pshh*

*Pshh*  Ahh Colonel Jessup…Lt. Caffy here…I’ve haven’t moved…I want the truth.  *Pshh*

*Pshh*  Ahh Lt. Caffy…Colonel Jessup here…once again from the witness stand…You can’t handle the truth.  *Pshh*

See?  No drama.  It would have been annoying.  No one would have told their friends to go see Top Lawyer.

At this point, I think I’ve done enough to prove I’m right; and I should not follow my dreams.  In all fairness, though, we need to come full-circle.  Some of you are thinking, “Well, he seems to have a good point.  Maybe he couldn’t become Top Actor.  …Except that Top Gun is the movie that really put T.C. on the map, and in it he made radio-calls.  So, no, I won’t let him off the hook, his theory is destroyed by Top Gun.”  I respond, “Is it?”  Do you really believe that the radio calls are what made that movie?  We all know what made that movie and transformed Tom Cruise from Top Forrest Boy into Top Actor.  The bar scene.  “You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your li-i-ips.”  Goose takes over, “There’s no tenderness like before in your feeengerrti-i-ips.”  Back to TC, “You’re trying hard not to show it…”  Entire bar.  (It’s appropriate to join in wherever you are right now, too.)  “BAYYY-BEE!”  “But baby!  Believe me, I knoooow i-it…”  And on and on.  A scene like that spawns a career.  Here’s how it would look radio-call style.

*Pshh*  Ahh Pretty blonde woman…Maverick here…at your six…you never close your eyes anymore… BREAK  *Pshh* … *Pshh* …when I kiss your lips.  *Pshh*

*Pshh*  Ahh Blondie…Goose speaking…at your eleven…There’s no tenderness like before…BREAK  *Pshh* … *Pshh* …In your fingertips. *Pshh*

*Pshh*  Ahh Blonde woman… Maverick again…I’m the one at your 12 o’clock…You’re trying hard not to show it…BREAK  *Pshh* … *Pshh*  …baby. BREAK *Pshh* … *Pshh*  …But baby, believe me I know it.  *Pshh*

Whew!  Need I say more?  Need-I-Say-More?  Terrible.  I’m bored writing this.  “Tom who?”  That’s what you would say to me if he had made his movies the way I have had to speak for the last 8 years.

There you have it, proof positive that some people shouldn’t follow their dreams.  I am one of those people.  Are you?  Are you you holding on to any dreams that need to be given up?  I find my answers in the movies.  Maybe you will to.  It’s like in the movie Lion King when Rafiki tells adult Simba that to discover his destiny he needs to, “Look hahhhder.”