::: metaphlog ::: philm shorts
Sun, Dec 14, 2003
Economics Lost in Translation
Discussion of Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation from an apologist for capitalism. “Murray’s character seems to serve as a focal point for the movie’s main theme: capitalism destroys art. . . . The city serves as a symbol: Tokyo is where art comes to die. This is a theme repeated throughout the movie.” Is the movie arguing against capitalism, per se? (Matthew Hirsch, Ludwig von Mises Institute, 28 Nov 2003) Worth reading, but not perhaps completely persuasive.
Fri, Oct 31, 2003
What compels us to visit The Exorcist?
Kathy Shaidle of Relapsed Catholic fame points us to a couple of interesting takes on The Exorcist. One is her own 2000 article, “What compels us to visit The Exorcist?”, where she argues that it's not horror, it's a Western, and explains why, “instead of scaring me, The Exorcist made me cry.” The other is from Sean Collins’ Alltooflat blog, which takes another look at the movie in light of recent history. “This movie begins in Iraq, an appropriate instance of synchronicity given that The Exorcist, the film widely considered to be the greatest horror film of all time, is actually a war movie.” He's talking spiritual war, mostly, but he follows the metaphor nicely.
Sun, Oct 05, 2003
Tony Nigro of Flak Magazine takes on Woody Allen's Anything Else. "Like its distant cousin Deconstructing Harry, Anything Else is best understood by the unpopular stance of admitting a distinction between Woody Allen the man and Woody Allen the character. Harry deconstructs the man, begging forgiveness for any links between his art and the tabloids. Seemingly in response, Anything Else deconstructs the character, giving us a grim view of who he might become." Thanks to burningheart63 for the link.
Fri, Sep 05, 2003
A lucky e-mail bounce introduced us to the interesting Images Journal. One item that caught our attention is a review with a good interpretive element: "Bruce Almighty works like a thinly veiled attempt at self-psychoanalysis, where Jim Carrey tries to work through his own disappointment about the lack of acclaim he has earned for his serious acting roles. The screenplay might not carry Jim Carrey's name (it was written by Steve Koren, Mark O'Keefe, and Steve Oedekerk), but it seems custom made for him."
Wed, Aug 13, 2003
Fight Club's Hidden Conflict
Now here’s a reading we hadn’t seen before, and one we really like. The struggle in Fight Club is the struggle to exercise free will in a spiritually tone-deaf culture. “This ending makes the real conflict in the film perfectly clear: Fight Club is about the reality of spiritual warfare. As the late Fr. Malachi Martin noted in his book Hostage to the Devil, the world portrayed in Fight Club—violent, hedonistic, cruel, ugly, filthy, degraded, and passionate but bereft of genuine love—is what prevails when demonic forces possess human subjects who open themselves up to such influences.” (Peter Alig and S. T. Karnick, “Fight Club’s Hidden Conflict,” American Outlook, Summer 2000.) Thanks to Mr. Karnick for the tip.
Thu, Aug 07, 2003
An unusual reading of a movie that’s usually seen as a call to masculinity. Here the author focuses on the subversive role of the always hard-to-place Marla Singer. Marla “becomes Jack’s new power animal replacing the proletarian penguin that riddled his thoughts before. She has become the source of his power, the reserve from which he draws his healing energy, the eventual solution to his problems.” (Alex Bernhardt, “Fight Club’s Femininity,” 24 Frames Per Second, August 2003). Compelling argument, but a friendly note to Mr. Bernhardt: skip the disclaimer at the end.
Wed, Jul 30, 2003
The Way We Were
A combative conservative reading of the new DVD release. Most amusing. “To understand The Way We Were, you need to get beyond the old-fashioned star-crossed romance which is the film’s ostensible subject . . . Both the romantic and neofeminist angles are important, but only when seen in light of the film’s true (if understated) theme, the relationship between WASP America . . . and the American Left . . . For the most part, the film sees everything from Katie’s point of view, and so renders valuable insight into the self-understanding of the Left. (“The Way They’ll Always Be,” by Carol Iannone, FrontPageMagazine.com, July 29, 2003). Agree with the viewpoint or not, it’s a compelling interpretation. Barbra does come across as self-righteous, doesn’t she? (Anybody have a link to Libby Gelman-Waxner’s superb 1997 review of The Mirror Has Two Faces?)
Sun, Jun 29, 2003
Babette's Feast and the Reclamation of Melodrama
A potential cultural move beyond strict irony may mean that “a large number of movies which sure look cynically artificial in their self-conscious manipulation of the seemingly inadequate narrative choices provided by their genres—from Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge to Rob Marshall’s Chicago—turn out to be sincere.” Traditional melodramas, in fact. More substantively, “Gabriel Axel’s Babette’s Feast took on the apparently narrow and outdated worldview of the weepie and provided an exhilarating sense of what it could teach us. A decade and a half before movies such as Far From Heaven seemed to offer their take-it-or-leave-it option—either solemnly accept these conflicts on their own terms, or patronize the entire project—Babette’s Feast opened up a more generous possibility” (Jim Shepard, “Babette’s Feast and the Reclamation of Melodrama,” The Believer, June 2003). A superb discussion of Babette’s Feast interspersed with interesting if undirected reflections on melodrama—and the inevitable political potshot.
Thu, Jun 19, 2003
The Hulk (and the Bunny)
The Achenbach piece on Hulk (below) also mentioned in passing the idea that Hulk "doesn't really want to smash things, but he's forced to do so by a cruel and unforgiving world." This is true, but Achenbach (surprisingly, considering he works just up the street from the White House) misses the easy interpretive connection to be made with U.S. foreign policy. One charitable or optimistic reading of the last century or more of U.S. involvement internationally might be called the Bugs Bunny Theory. Consider the typical Bugs cartoon (the best of which are now unfortunately politically incorrect): Our hero, peacefully strumming his banjo, is disturbed by the Martian, Elmer Fudd, or a mad scientist, with disastrous consequences for the latter—"Of course, you realize that this means war." Consider also that there are at least two Bugs cartoons where our hero becomes something of a Hulk himself (in his case, a bunny Hyde and a space Neanderthal). The moral of the story: leave the bunny/Banner/boy scouts alone, or we can't answer for the consequences.
Thu, Jun 12, 2003
2 Fast 2 Furious
Shaz suggests that this sequel is, like Top Gun, a movie about coming out of the closet:
"2 Fast 2 Furious is subversion on a massive level. It says it’s all about action and the booty. Now I’m a big-breasted woman myself, and when I’m in a relaxed stance my boobs don’t stick out like torpedoes! Eva Mendes juts out her fake boobs through the entire movie. Try to catch her once in a relaxed posture, I dare you! But it’s just a distraction. The film is desperately trying to show you how to be cool, good-looking, and butch all at the same time. But while Tyrese and Walker try to look butch and macho, they come off as two repressed homosexuals. Gays will love the pseudo-fight scene—dirt, ripped shirts, and muscles, too! It’s sooo fake, you’ve gotta love it! 2 Fast will go down (so to speak) as a cult B-movie classic."
We wouldn’t know—we didn’t see it. But Shaz joins others out there with additional arguments that sound plausible.
Transformers: The Movie
In light of the recent news of the upcoming live-action remake of The Transformers (nothing, no matter how good or bad, is safe from interpretation), here is a link to a 1998 interpretation of the previous animated feature film from that franchise. The author argues that "a Marxist/socialist/Communist interpretation can be applied to the film, analyzing its elements in terms of the Cold War scenario of the 1980's" (Ben Munson, "Are the Transformers Communists?", originally from SHAM webzine). We wonder what the new film will be trying to say.
Tue, Jun 03, 2003
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
The Rowling books and movies are attracting their share of interpretation. This Slate article reaches a bit in its argument that former welfare mom J. K. Rowling is using her bestsellers and films to critique the anti-welfare Thatcher years: "Thatcher was certainly a witch to many of her critics, using her power with Voldemort-like ruthlessness." (Jesse Cohen, "When Harry Met Maggie," Slate, November 16, 2001). Author John Granger, by contrast, thinks this is a misreading: The "repetition of stories in the media of her having been on welfare obscured her intelligence in most people's minds," he argues, suggesting in The Hidden Key to Harry Potter that Rowling is, despite the reaction of fundamentalists, actually creating a Christian fantasy story. "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets . . . is the most explicitly Christian of the series and the most didactic about the dangers and delights of reading books" (John Granger, "Harry Potter and the Inklings: The Christian Meaning of The Chamber of Secrets," CSL: The Bulletin of the New York C. S. Lewis Society, December 2002). Ambitious, certainly. Persuasive? Surprisingly. Accurate? Time will tell.
Fri, May 30, 2003
Scent of a Woman
"Take like, and I don't want to push Scent of a Woman, but Scent of a Woman is the book of Ecclesiastes. Now, how many Christians will stay away from that movie because there is cursing and he sleeps with a hooker? That is the book of Ecclesiastes. The man who says, 'All is vanity, all is lost, I have no hope.' It is the love of a boy, the love of a child, God incarnate through a boy, comes in and says, 'I love you,' and it changes his life." (Director Tom Shadyac, interviewed for Catholic Exchange, May 2, 2003)
Wed, May 28, 2003
The Matrix Reloaded
Mondschein's project—persuading cubicle-slaves to reject their own matrix—drives his reading of the film, which is, to say the least, amenable to his treatment. The results are, um, illuminating. On the Architect: "In Gnostic theology, it is Satan, not God, who has created the world in order to imprison humanity." And: "The first movie made use of Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation; this movie seems to be dipping into Foucault and Derrida, who wrote that the systems of power and control are all-pervasive, and language is one of the ways they make their influence felt. The Prophecy is, like all prophecies, speech, and thus language. More importantly, it is a religion, and, as John Zerzan writes, the purpose of a religion is to manipulate signs, that is, words, for the purpose of control." (Ken Mondschein, "Kung Fu Philosophers: The Corporate Mofo Guide to the Matrix Reloaded," CorporateMofo.com)
Wed, May 21, 2003
The History of the One Ring
It is almost certain that Oxford-educated J. R. R. Tolkien recognized the correlation between his One Ring of the Dark Lord and the equally sinister ring of Gyges. Gyges the shepherd appears in a myth retold by Glaucon in Plato’s Republic (II, 359b-360b). Gyges was out shepherding in the Lydian countryside when an earthquake and simultaneous thunderstorm created a rift in the ground. Descending, Gyges found a bronze horse with openings leading to the interior. Inside was the body of a dead giant, naked but for a golden ring. Gyges put it on (like Tolkien’s ring, this one must have adjusted to fit the finger of its new wearer, for Gyges was of normal stature) and found that when he rotated the face toward his palm he became invisible. He promptly used his invisibility to seduce the queen, murder the king, and become ruler of Lydia.
Glaucon told the story in an attempt to prove that every human, if rendered invisible to the law and society, will act to serve his own interests above those of all others. The main difference between Tolkien’s ring and the one Glaucon describes is that the ring of Gyges is not evil or corruptive in itself. It simply provides invisibility; thereby giving man the power to act freely on the corruption already present in his own heart. The great irony of the ring of invisibility is that it exposes rather than conceals our true natures.
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