Friday, August 12, 2016


Oldkid was trapped in a blue event horizon accident, in which his body aged, but his mind remained youthful.  Some would say childish.  When he returned to earth, eons later, he was forced to return to elementary school, although in an aged body.

In order to enhance his education, he dived into film, attempting to understand the world better.  This was at the recommendation of his good friend, Gir, who was pretty odd looking, but he always made Oldkid laugh. Gir's good friend Zim wasn't really on the list of people Oldkid associated with. He was too screamy.

Oldkid first dived into the world of Miyazaki, which caused his multiple experiments to learn how to fly.  It wasn't until years later, when he watched The Wind Rises that he realized he could just board a plane.

Oldkid never had kids, but he learned about children through In America, The Selfish Giant and Tideland, and he decided childhood was hard and he's glad that he skipped it.

He sailed on the ocean with Russel Crowe, he walked through the door with Jim Carrey, He swam across the pool with Juliette Binoche.  He had a vision of pigs with Amy Seimetz.  He sang on the boat with Barbara Streisand.

But he wanted more.  He needed more.  More life, more experiences.

Oldkid couldn't stop now.

Sunday, August 7, 2016


When I first saw Paprika, I immediately placed it in my top 100.  It has many elements that I dearly love.  A surrealism that reflects its dream-like narrative that leads to many surprising moments, especially in the introductory section.  A double character whose real life persona is melancholic but smart, and her dream counterpart who is cheery and cheeky.  Then there is the foundational dream, supposedly created from an egotistical maniac, which is used to invade other’s dream-states and trap them in it.  All of this is simple genius and still deeply impresses me.

But in my re-watch, I realize that there is a bit too much time spent on simple nonsense, the placement of words together that is not supposed to make any sense, and of repeated images that are there simply to startle.  The central dream sequence begins as nonsense, but as it becomes more elaborate, the combination of seemingly random details become a unique art form, powerful and hypnotic. 

I’ve been reflecting on my long-held love of Alice in Wonderland.  I deeply appreciate Martin Gardener’s notes in The Annotated Alice, for it takes a book of nonsense, and claims that there is meaning and intent behind the crazy images.  It is a fine attempt, but in the end, even should many of the claims be true, isn’t it still a collection of nonsense?  Does it really have any meaning as a whole?

Paprika certainly has a meaning, the narrative of mutual appreciation, even love; the rejection of fantasy for the sake of power; the discovery of oneself in the subconscious.  But these meanings seem shallow compared to the surreal and nonsense that Paprika presents.  Like Alice, it works as an act of imagination.  But as a work that provides meaning to our everyday lives, less so.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Midnight Special

If an event or unique feature of reality is discovered, the pundits come and point their fingers at it, declaring its hidden reality.

The government looks at it through the eyes of fear, wondering if it might undermine the status quo.

Religion looks at it through patriarchal eyes, trying to fit it into religion’s vortex of power, and its apocalyptic narrative of salvation.

But suppose the feature was a little boy, born of normal parents.  How would they see this event? The idea is presented in a complex way by The Exorcist or We Need to Talk about Kevin.  Here, it is presented in a simpler, Spielbergian format.  The parents are full of love for the boy and just wants what is best for him, which means they must run from the government and religion who has their own assumptions at the forefront, even if that means the boy’s welfare is secondary.

I think that the area that most commentators have trouble with Midnight Special is the use of religion, which is something Spielberg rarely commented on.  They are uncomfortable with the realistic touches, but never really grasping what the religion was up to.  The government was almost a clichĂ©, but the religious aspect was confusing.

I think this is because the Jeff Nichols is very familiar with religion, as are most citizens of the South.  The background and assumptions of the actions of religion are easy to understand, and the director felt that he had given enough hints for a person familiar with the world to understand.

I think, however, that religion, especially American religion, really is a mystery for most watchers of the film.  The boy of the light, of the dreams, is a text, much like the Bible.  The text is simple description, but religion comes to interpret the text in a way that makes sense with their patriarchy, with a pure way of life.  The text contains misleading statements, to distract from the core, the significant information, but religion must receive it all as God-breathed, as if all had equal weight.

The boy is also an experience, bringing comfort to many, even an obsession to experience it again.  Religion, again, must interpret and control the experience, giving it to those who are worthy and withholding it from those who are not.  Religion is about the divide between the pure and the impure by whatever measure their traditional culture is comfortable using.

In the end, the film is right.  Religion is a manner of looking at a unique reality, but it never grasps the core.  The core is love, which is benefiting the welfare of the other.  In this case, the other is the boy himself.  The parents alone, with a couple helpers, have that love.  And love is dangerous, for it disrupts the status quo.  Religion and government must, in the end, oppose love when love disrupts.  Religion and government are about retaining the knowledge and way of life that they appreciate and understand.  Love lets the new reality settle in, because people are at stake. 

Knight of Cups

Love is the answer
All you need is Love
What the world needs now is Love, sweet Love
Give me Love, give me Love, give me peace on earth

After Badlands, Terrance Malick has become less and less interested in narrative.  His plots are not so much stories as outlines on which to hang prayers, quotes, silent conversations and aphorisms.  They are not stories so much as meditations on themes found in stories, while the events fade more and more into the background.  To watch a Malick film is not to wonder what will happen next, but to learn about reality.  For this reason, there is a divide between watchers of his films—those who grow to hate them because of their apathy about narrative and those who desire them because they teach us how to live.

On the surface, Knight of Cups is about Christopher Bale, a successful man in Hollywood, watching him grasp and fail at relationship after relationship.  Looks of love, lust, anger, doubt and disdain pass over the faces of the characters, while their silent questions and longings we hear over the meditative soundtrack.  

In a sense, this is a gentle sermon on vice.  How one should not live a life.  Sermons on vice are the most difficult to sell in this day and age.  No one wants to be told what not to do.  They want to know about possibilities, about freedom.  Malick asserts that true freedom can only be held in true love, but there are many distractions in the world that keep us from truly understanding love.

Love/Grace is the answer, what creates the world, what grows the new into peace.

Why, when there are so many pursuing love that things get so screwed up?  Many who proclaim Love and live Love are as depressed, as despondent, as desperate as anyone else.  How can this be?  If Love is the answer, shouldn’t it be the answer for everyone?

The problem is that those looking for Love seek love instead.  The seeker of Love heads into the world

People forget that they are looking for pure love, and get distracted by the many things that look and feel similar to love, but isn’t.  Lust, jealousy, control, wielding power, promiscuity, fantasy, adultery—all of these look like love from a certain viewpoint, but all fall short of what love is really about.  It is about seeing, really seeing the person in front of you and providing them with a human connection.
Just knowing that isn’t enough, however.  We have to go through a certain path to achieve Love.  We must rid ourselves of distractions, of the many voices and mini-dramas of our lives, and simply, quietly, silently find Love within ourselves.  This is the beginning of our life of Love.

Knight of Cups is a difficult film.  It is difficult to see pieces of narrative without a cohesive whole.  It is difficult to see visions, no matter how beautiful, without a real resolution, without a real conclusion.  This is a film about the life of the soul, which is difficult to see, so Malick made it difficult to watch.  We are to feel, to listen.  For a film so busy with fleeting images, chopped conversations and with quotes from Augustine, Pilgrim’s Progress and more, it is difficult for it to lead us to its ultimate goal: get away from all this and be silent.  It means to make us uncomfortable with the busyness of the world, and to seek a pure Love.