The Grand Budapest Hotel – Child’s Play

Thoughts On: The Grand Budapest Hotel

The tale of M. Gustave’s who, assisted by his lobby boy, Zero, fights to retain the word of a dear and lost friend’s will.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

One of the most mechanically precise projections of Wes Anderson’s directorial style, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a whimsical, borderline absurd, but consistently captivating picture. In being such an idiosyncratic movie, it is practically impossible to find fault in the design of this narrative nor its projection. As a film that must be judged unto itself, one that can’t really be compared to many others, The Grand Budapest Hotel is arguably perfect; I can’t even summon a personal gripe with this movie. This almost impervious nature is inherent to many of Anderson’s films as it is so readily understood that these films are what they are, they do what they do, and so exist in a niche of cinema all of their own. This all implies that a developed style not only defines the rules of your film, but the rules of viewing, which puts the audience on the side of a filmmaker and, quite literally, in their world. So, as many have already and many are sure to do, I want to discuss Anderson’s style and define the major elements of his ‘cinematic rules’. Added to this, however, we’ll be exploring a philosophy of, or approach to, cinema that is exercised by Anderson’s films – one of the most expressive examples being our focus today: The Grand Budapest Hotel.

To start, you only need to recognise a fundamental pattern that begins to construct the style of Anderson’s movies. This, as is very clear to anyone who grew up with paper and crayons, is related to the pictures we drew as children…

For some reason, all children seem to stumble upon this kind of drawing. I myself was never this talented and so would resort to stick men, but almost every child seems to draw their family by their house like this – complete with trees, an ambiguous stretch of grassland and the sun (maybe the family dog). In fact, I’m pretty sure most children, like me, never lived in a house like this–a cottage of sorts next to a tree in a field–but, they nonetheless draw their family, organised in a nice straight line, before it. Whilst this paradigm is incredibly fascinating, in relation to Wes Anderson, this seems to be where his films find their basis…

It’s wide shots like these that demonstrate the exact and flat composition a child would employ when asked to visually present some of their fist stories ever – pictures of family that define to teachers who they are. This composition is cubic and balanced, it is largely centralised with strong horizontal and vertical planes. This appeals to a fundamental human sensibility to organise things in a very mechanical way. However, what often has to be learned by a person as they grow up is a natural composition of the world…

This composition, as demonstrated by something such as the golden ratio, is hidden in plain sight, but instantly recognisable…

This suggests that beauty can be calculated mathematically. But, whilst nature often utilises complex calculation, people–children–stay away from spirals, circles and other odd shapes and appeal to the square or rectangle in their approach to composition. This is why a drawing like this is so cubic in terms of positioning and distribution…

As you can see, the tree at the centre of the drawing is the pillar of composition, it splits the sheet in half, sitting in the very middle of the page. The house and family are positioned flatly on either side to fill up the area, giving a cleaner composition due to a lack of negative space to be managed. The sun and grass are what entirely fill up the negative space – the sun being something of an add-on as it sits in the corner, a filler that doesn’t really relate to the rest of the composition so well. Analysing something as banal and basic as a child’s painting like this helps us understand two things. The first is the basic distribution of shapes by the human mind. This is clearly cubic and organised by two dimensional boxing, an approach to composition that has a hard time projecting the complex nature of a three dimensional world. The second thing that this child’s painting gives us incite into are these images…

Anderson centralises a focus of a shot and then builds the scene around that in a boxed fashion. You see this in the literal squares or boxes in many of his frames – the windows and doors on the hotels; the metal strips on the back wall. What these boxes do is organise Anderson’s shots by filling them, not in an organic manner, but a human and mechanical one – like a child may; without a firm grip of a three dimensional realm. This isn’t criticism, but the essence of Anderson’s pictures as they are all about the control he may hold over a cinematic world, hence revealing the contrived nature of cinema and exploiting it for stylistic effect.

What’s so interesting about the design of Anderson’s films is this unique nature, but also the subtle cracks in its skin that reveal influence from many greats of the past. In such, we can feel a lot of Kubrick and Bertolluci in The Grand Budapest Hotel.

We can feel Kubrick in the incredibly strong framing, zooms and some of the movement. A good point of comparison would be The Shining. Whilst Kubrick predominantly navigates the space with his steady-cam, there is his iconic use of bold composition coupled with loud zooms and sometimes rigid lateral movement – as seen when Jack enters the ballroom. Another great film to compare The Grand Budapest Hotel to would have to be Burtolluci’s The Conformist. This is famously one of the greatest exercises in style in filmic history. Throughout The Conformist Bertollucci uses strong compositions as Kubrick may, but it is his use of light and colour that act as emphatic blocks in the frame which can be seen in a film like The Grand Budapest Hotel. What this means is that Burtolluci often allows one colour to consume his screen and then chisels figures into the canvas with hard shades – the blue against black above being a good example. We see Anderson’s use of colour to be very much like this as it aids composition by drawing the eye’s focus and almost splitting the frame into a grid. It must be noted, however, that Anderson’s use of colour, whilst very stark is much softer than Bertolluci’s. In such, Anderson’s frames are much more unified and not always reliant on high contrast to be striking (though, they sometimes will do this).

Other comparisons may be made are to Bergman, Welles and Lang on the principals of mise en scène and blocking.

These are comparative elements we don’t see as strongly as the Kubrick and Bertolluci ones. However, when not shooting in a simple single or two-shot, Anderson deals with close ups on the face in a flat, yet poignant manner – like Bergman. Moreover, the reference to Welles is one granted on the basis of deep focus. Whilst Anderson’s frames can sometimes be without much depth, there is always a focus on the set design and so to express this in the shot, he often utilises a deeper focus. The reference to Lang is one that could have been made to Eisenstein or Kurosawa. This is because it is one that points out their use of sharp lines across and through the frame. These are often inhabited by many extras, but Anderson limits this to a few at most.

Another key aesthetic comparison to make has to be to silent films in general. Beyond the novel use of vignettes…

… the aspects of silent film in Anderson’s movies are primarily in the simple design we’ve been discussing thus far.

Silent films, in large part, owe their aesthetic to vaudeville and the theatre. This is because the blocking of them resembles that of a stage – everything playing to the camera in a very flat manner as well as directed to us. In turn, Anderson owes his flat style to both silent films and the theatre. You see further comparison to silent films, however, through clowns such as Keaton and Chaplin. You see these influences in the very staccato, juddered and stop-start beat of comedy present in Anderson’s films. Just like silent clowns would draw attention to their gags with this specific beat of comedy, so does Anderson.

This vast pool of aesthetic, technique and style is where we see Anderson’s personal style come from. With the very sparse and minimalistic uses of a plethora of styles, he has thus built his own. In such, Anderson has essentially took the most rigid and contrived aspects of the many auteurs mentioned and combined them into a harmoniously artificial style. This is a style with key elements of cubicly constructed framing emphasised by a strong colour pallet and then brought to life with mechanical movement. The life brought to Anderson’s frames is what truly defines his style. This is all in movement. Whether it is of the camera or characters, movement is almost always confined to side-to-side, forwards-backwards or up-down. This leaves the dimensional field of the film completely dictated by a model such as this:

Very rarely do we see any other movement that breaks these few lines of direction. There are a few moments in The Grand Budapest Hotel where we get diagonal movement, as well as a handful of shots following characters or mounted on vehicles, but whenever this is done, the camera movement is always played out in such a manner as to embellish a mechanical sense of dimension.

What we are left with having identified these elements of Anderson’s style is ultimately a question of, why? And so, it’s here where we can begin to question Anderson’s visual philosophy of cinema. There are two components of this. Firstly, there is the purely technical and aesthetic component that we have been going over. Second to this, however, the overriding purpose of Anderson’s style is in relation to his stories. And so, in the end, we will see the core of Anderson’s visual philosophy to be one that encompasses his films entirely. Before we start towards this, it must be said that this will be an inferred philosophy, one that we pick up by association, not one that Anderson has explicitly outlined. So, to start, we have to consider the beginning again.

Anderson’s films represent a visual and artistic fundamentalism derived from a crucially modern-human basis. If you look out into the world, you see this:

Most probably, you actually see something more like this:

But, there is nonetheless a unifying quality to almost all of modern western architecture, and that is boxes – a rectangular, straight-lined aesthetic. I know next to nothing about architecture, but, what is very clear about the way humans organise the world is that it’s very unnatural.

Humans are industrious and creative beings, but not in the same capacity as nature. Humans always appeal to repeatable patterns, simple shapes and measurable design. Nature doesn’t present itself in such a transparent manner. When you look at a rain forest…

… you see construction, but you do not see explicit order. The opposite can be said of people. This all points to something almost innate in the designing faction of the human mind. We need rigidity, predictability and transparency. We can learn to overcome this, but this seems to be our innate perceptual setting. This seems to be why children draw like this:

By Anderson’s design reflecting this simplistic approach to composition, he seems to be drawing upon a uniquely human understanding of aesthetic and then projecting it. This is why Anderson’s films are undeniably beautiful, but not in a manner that is at all what we’re used to. This is because over the thousands of years of producing art, the form has evolved…

There has been a movement into complex, powerful and realistic styles. Having got very far with this and then invented the camera (making all the artistic development somewhat redundant) we then moved to other places – which somewhat explains…

Nonetheless, film, a relatively new art form, has developed its aesthetic from realists (probably because cameras and films deal with reality). We can understand this by recognising that this influence has lead to cinematic beauty of this sort…

The work that has gone into producing films such as Barry Lyndon is, in certain respects, a fight against a mechanical, cubic and basic idea of human deign – that which we see best in our construction, our everyday organisation and children’s drawings. In Kubrick’s frame there is a great play with light and lines to truly convey a natural three-dimensional and tangible space. Anderson means to reverse this, to translate the likes of this…

… into a filmic style:

The visual philosophy of Anderson’s films thus seems to be a psychological commentary on people and their processing of cinematic aesthetic. Instead of dismissing the simplistic, contrived and unnatural, Anderson embraces it, fine tunes it and then projects it in a poignant and striking manner. In such, he indulges the contrived nature of cinema as an industrialised medium of art created by people.

This is a very interesting approach to cinema as it consequentially re-characterises a camera. The most significant example of this in The Grand Budapest Hotel is a shot following Gustave through the lobby of the hotel as he carries boxes of cakes in a disguise…

This is hard to depict with still images alone, but Anderson, with this shot, breaks a cinematic rule I have never seen broken before in such a way. As the camera follows Gustave and Zero, it pans left and then right to get reaction shots. But, the eyes of the actors don’t line up with the eye line of Gustave or Zero, instead, they look straight at the camera. This, very bluntly, has all reaction shots be a breaking of the fourth wall for no clear reason. And this cannot be dismissed as a mistake as Anderson has clearly directed all actors to look at the camera, not just figure out their own eye lines. To understand why Anderson has done this, you only need to realise how he’s re-characterised his camera. Instead of merely observing, invisible and distant, Anderson’s camera is a centre-piece the story is played out to. This is why all actors in this shot look to the camera and not to each other. The camera does not simulate POV, instead just demands attention. We see this throughout The Grand Budapest Hotel with actors waiting for the camera to pan to them before they continue action and everything being very clearly choreographed around its presence. Further evidence for this can be seen in the constructed design of this movie that we’ve been exploring – all done for the camera–explicitly so. We see this to be true to an absurd detail…

Even fingers have to fall into perfect composition. Gravity must serve Anderson’s camera. I have never seen any film play out in such a manner. The closest would possibly be Bertolucci’s The Conformist or maybe something like Deadpool, but these movies don’t approach an idea of contrived design or breaking the fourth wall like Anderson does. Whilst each of Bertolucci’s frames are perfectly captured and designed, he does not demand such formal rigidity from his actors and from every single detail like Anderson does. And whilst Deadpool breaks the fourth wall, this is something of a gimmick. Anderson subtly designs fourth wall breaks into his films like no other – and often without direct comedic effect. All of this allows Anderson’s films to live in a very unique niche of cinema that is so self-aware and so contrived, but successfully so.

One of the lasting points we’ll bring up is then how this affects Anderson’s narratives. Because the story of The Grand Budapest Hotel must play around a camera, it embodies the artificial nature of classical Hollywood films to an absurd degree. We see this, as mentioned, in the acting style, but also the pin-point dialogue, the cartoonish action and clockwork-like world. However, this is all masked with a surreal authenticity of madness. And by this, I mean to point to Anderson’s insanely original plots and characters. The paradigm Anderson thus sets up in his narrative is a battle between two forces best summed up by a pivotal line in the film:

“You see, there are still faint glimmers of civilisation left in this barbaric slaughter house that was once known as humanity…”

Throughout The Grand Budapest Hotel, we see Gustave struggling to remain controlled, composed and civilised despite the calamity exploding around him – the exact same may be said of Anderson and his camera. This means that many technical aspects of filmmaking – camerawork, set design, editing, acting – are all fighting to retain composure in face of an absurd story. And it’s this fight that marks the crucial game Anderson plays to make his movies. He seems to be spilling paint onto clockwork. This means he’s injecting aesthetic chaos into a perfectly designed system. This is true of almost every element of every single one of his films, and Anderson seems to do this to pick up on the truth that belies this picture:

Whilst it is contrived, cubic and transparently manufactured, the child that made this drawing did so haphazardly, maybe blindly. He/she was told to draw their house and family and just did. This is also true of adults building cities or organising their desk. Whilst they’re fulfilling a purpose, attaining a goal, there is a chaos surrounding them that is somewhat ignored. This means that all cities eventually meet an ocean, desert, field or forest, just like all desks are approach by someone about to work. In such, there is a great arbitrariness. People could live anywhere, in any way and with no terms of structure. However, we almost all choose not to. We go to work, sit at our organised desk, earn money in an orderly fashion, all so we can drive home down roads, stopping at lights and signs, to get to our clean and organised homes where we follow routine to bed, only to wake up in the morning to start all over again. We do this while thunder storms brew and our planet hurtles through space; we do this keeping conflict and utter purposelessness at bay.

This universal management of ones life, a fight for civility and personal control is what belies Anderson’s narrative and is projected through his direction. And in such, we see his style articulated, his approach to cinema explained. Whilst universal entropy fights to tear us apart, we, like Anderson’s characters and narratives, remain composed.

 

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Scarface – The Mob Movie & The Familial Tragedy

Thoughts On: Scarface (1932)

The quintessential classic gangster film loosely depicting the rise and fall of Al Capone through Tony Camonte.

Scarface

Whilst a classical Hollywood film to an almost clichéd degree – in large part thanks to the acting style – Scarface is a thoroughly immersive and entertaining picture. Its main downfall is the stiff and aged acting style as it explicitly places this film in a specific era of cinematic history in a manner that isn’t entirely supportive. Some classic films have a style of their time that works in their favour, say for instance Gone With The Wind, but the style given to Scarface hurts its character work as it largely comes off as just bad acting. At points, this is distracting, but for the most part, this film’s narrative grips you and takes you on a ride. The most poignant sequence in this regard must be the one depicting the terror newly found automatic guns could reign upon a city. It’s after Tony secures a sub-machine gun that the film really finds its footing as a heavily symbolic and thematic barrage of fluid emotional plot points. The most iconic symbolism in this film is of course the crosses…

… a motif that haunts the narrative with an unnerving implication of an overseeing violent fate – something Scorsese famously utilised in The Departed…

But, beyond the euphamistic imagery splattered throughout the narrative, Scarface is a deeply thematic film, and so one of the most expressive archetypes of the sub-genre, the gangster film a.k.a the mob movie. It’s thus Scarface that outlines the heart of almost every single gangster film as a tragedy played out in the closed circle of a family. This thematic crux is what distinguishes the gangster film from crime dramas, crime thrillers, mysteries and film noir. Though these classes of film are very similar, sometimes in tone, sometimes in aesthetic, sometimes in plotting, the gangster film truly separates itself as a viewing experience. This is something I’ve always subconsciously picked up on. This is because I don’t much like crime movies, nor mysteries, nor film noir. In regards to crime dramas, mysteries and thrillers, this is because of their heavy focus on plot. With films such as North By Northwest, The Big Sleep and Laura, we see movies with a primary goal to reveal twist after turn, peeling back the layers of plot until we find ourselves at the end of the narrative. Whilst this is meant to engage an audience, mysteries and whodunnits simply grate on my patience. Moreover, a plot centric film’s major worth is in the first viewing – once you know the plot, there is little to return to the film for. This is the reason why I’m not so into mysteries and films alike–and the same may be said of film noir. However, there is an added thematic element to film noirs that I’ve never much enjoyed.

As dictated by their aesthetic, noirs are dark, sombre and usually fatalistic. We see great examples of the noir in The Third Man, Double Indemnity and Out Of The Past. All of these films are infamously morbid, tragic–at best, bitter-sweet. This often leaves them thematically flat to me as they speak of an existential haphazardness through their protagonists, but in a manner that is at times empty, but usually just dull. All of this suggests that I simply don’t enjoy noirs, crime dramas or mysteries as they are missing elements of character that uphold narrative.

However, with gangster films, we see the plot-centric and morbid nature of the films/genres mentioned rejuvenated with character and theme. This, in short, allows a protagonist, often an anti-hero, to imbue a narrative with greater depth and empathetic value. To understand the significance of this you only need to look to a few of the greatest gangster films ever made…

    

What makes these films so great, so timeless, so poignant are their characters. With The Godfather, it’s Michael and Vito Corleone that are the audience’s portal into a dark whirlpool of crime. The same may be said of Henry in Goodfellas, only the world we sprint through with him is a minefield of ecstasies and delights just waiting to ensnare us. Conversely, with Noodles in Once Upon A Time In America we are given a vessel of exploration. In such, it’s through him that we live the life of a boy, man, gangster and monster. It’s these crucial elements of character in each of these films that elevate them beyond basic plots and predictable motifs because of a thematic resonation with the audience; we are made to emotionally participate in these stories by empathising with the protagonists. It’s through this focus on character that we see the second unifying element of gangster films – the first being themes–those of familial tragedy. And when both theme and character come together under the guise of crime, we get the gangster film, we get highly emotional, entertaining and captivating movies.

To delve deeper into this idea of theme and character, we’ll take a quick look at two of the films mentioned. Characters in gangster films are usually one of two things; you have the Henry Hills and then you have the Michael Corleones. In such, we have the positive anti-hero and the negative anti-hero. This is a classification of character based on their personage and tone. With Henry Hill, you see a fun character who sweeps you off of your feet, but descends into calamity by the end of the narrative. He is thus an anti-hero because he is a vessel by which we vicariously experience a darker, yet exciting, way of living – leaving us almost wanting him to win like we would a more traditional hero. This leaves Henry a corrupted and semantic anti-hero, but an anti-hero nonetheless. With Michael we also see an anti-hero, but a more negative one. This is because he is more subdued in nature, embodying a darker tone. Michael is also a corrupt and semantic anti-hero because, whilst he does terrible things, he does them for what we are convinced are virtuous reasons – for family and those he loves. The main difference between a Michael Corleone and Henry Hill are thus their convictions. Henry Hill is an anti-hero closer to a Jordan Belfort.

Whereas Michael Corleone exists closer to the other extreme of the spectrum where the likes of Batman exists.

The tone of mob movies are built around these types of anti-heroes. On one end we have the fun, upbeat gangster films; Pulp Fiction, The Departed, Goodfellas, Snatch, Rififi, The Sting. And on the other we have the more sombre and serious gangster films; Once Upon A Time In America, Boyz N The Hood, The Godfather, Scarface, Mean Streets, Miller’s Crossing.

However, this distinction between upbeat gangster films, serious ones, positive anti-heroes and negative ones shouldn’t be fixated on too much as almost all gangster films are dictated by the arc of their characters and so end up in very similar places. From The Godfather to Scarface to Rififi to Goodfellas, all gangster films have a melancholic end. Whether it’s the through corruption, death or defeat, protagonists always come out of a narrative worse than they entered. The only significant asterisk to this rule would be Pulp Fiction. The reason for this is that Pulp Fiction is taken out of order so that Tarantino can provide the best tonal setting for his individual set-pieces. This reshuffling of events emphasises Juels’ implied change of character with the last scene of the movie. Whilst there is no conformation of a positive change and Vincent does later die, Pulp Fiction defies this downward and tragic third art arc of the gangster film. Looking at the plethora of films mentioned, however, we see characters meeting dark ends – and this is all because of the thematic design of gangster films.

As said, mob movies are all about family, we’ll pick up on why later, but because of this, it is a protagonist’s job to preserve or protect those close to them. Just as Tony means to look after his sister and close friends, so does Michael Corleone, so do Tony and Cesar in Rififi and so does Henry Hill. An interesting expression of this paradigm can be seen in The Departed. A huge source of conflict for Colin, who is a part of the mob…

… is his lack of family, his large house, girlfriend and dysfunctional penis. All of these details are what cause Colin’s stress and eventual breakdown, leaving him one of the most negative anti-heroes in a gangster film as he is such a failure on a narrative and thematic level. This is all convoluted by the fact that The Departed is in actual fact a half detective, half gangster movie though, so this is probably not the cleanest example to give, but nonetheless one that holds up under stress. One of the most transparent applications of familial themes has to be in The Godfather. As is stated a numerous amount of times, the whole purpose of every single one of the Corleone’s actions must be for the family, for the business that protects them and preserves their way of life. This is the struggle passed from Vito to Michael and is essentially there for reasons linked to the early gangster films and a societal disconnect inherent to gangs – something we’ll return to soon.

Whilst Scarface is a pre-code picture, one that wasn’t subject to the strict dictatorship of the Motion Picture Production Code, there is a slightly contrived moral justification of this movie provided by the opening. This justification asserts that the film does not mean to glorify the actions of Tony or his gang, instead ask the government what they can do about crime in America.

This moral rigidity means to distance Tony from ourselves and paint him as the clear bad guy that must be condemned. We see an even stronger condemnation of this sort in the era of MPPC censorship with films such as The Public Enemy. I really don’t need to outline this beyond referencing the title again: The Public Enemy. It thus becomes clear that gangsters films have a motivation built into their DNA to show the hubris of what we may call anti-heroes. Morally justifying, gangster films thus often mean to make antagonists out of their anti-heroes. This is exactly why there is a tragic dip in the end of almost every mob movie – a crucial aspect of gangster films and something of a contradiction that we will return to later.

However, before that, it’s best to sink deeper into the elements of character and theme outlined already by focusing in on Scarface alone. What we then essentially want to ask is, why are gangster films all about family?

The simplest answer is one word: individualism. With Tony, we see a man who not only wants to rule the world, but stand atop it alone.

In such, he wants to create his own hierarchy, but recognises that he needs others around him to construct this. And it’s here where the individualist turns to family as they are the closest people to him that he can exploit – often use for emotional support or protection. Tony is such an expressive example as this as it’s stated outright and is shown time and time again that he is not a good brother or son. He’d rather control his sister than see her be happy – his hypocritical nature in this regard really being exposed by the scenes where he chases and courts Poppy. Furthermore, if Cesca is to be happy, Tony is the only one who wants to make her such. This is the true poignancy of the scene where he murders his friend and Cesca’s new husband. The commentary of this scene is on Tony’s capacity to deceive himself. He is not really a brother to her, much rather, she is a mark of respect he may wear as a badge. We can understand this to be the case by recognising that he almost wants to simply protect his sister. But, this is just how he blinds himself and justifies his actions towards her. He doesn’t truly mean to protect her, simply gain the acclaim of being a protector – which explains his unconscious motivation in killing one of his best friends. This is what marks Tony’s initial attachment to family to be all about exploitation.

There is further exploration of family through Tony and it comes with the death of his sister. Faced with the barrel of the gun his sister holds, Tony is made to see his hubris; the fact that he just uses people – even those close to him. But, with the gun dropped, the two embrace with the words, ‘you’re me and I’m you’. Cesca says this in recognition of her own individualism and rebellion, but more importantly her need of Tony. Just as she takes his money so early on in the movie, she is swept up in his height of power as he fends off cops. This moment brings the two together under more prevalent takes on familial themes, as seen throughout The Godfather, where family aren’t just the people you exploit, but co-exist with in face of the world. The tragic undertones given with the end of the film, with Tony’s and Cesca’s death, are a testament to this universal idea of family we almost all share and empathise with.

This ending will also help us clarify why Tony is an anti-hero. When he is shot, there is an undeniable air of tragedy and loss conjured. This points out a contradiction of this film and many of the code-era gangster pictures in their contrived condemnation of their characters. That is to say that films such as Scarface and The Public Enemy aren’t as moral as they’d want us to think they are because they easily create empathy for their ‘bad guys’ – something that’s not incredibly close to glorification, but definitely a humanisation. For the outright condemnation of mobsters and crime it’s clear you must turn to the detective film. But, such just points out the purposeless of a political agenda prefacing a movie. As I’ve said many times, movies are ideas, they are a form of philosophy. In a philosophical context, morals aren’t a rigid set of rules adhered to because you don’t require bounds when asking questions as absurd as, why don’t we just kill stupid people? A political moralist would not hear this question – as the MPPC codes stand as evidence for with their ‘do’s and dont’s’. But, a philosopher, a thinker, wants to hear and indulge these kinds of questions as they exposes a complex truth of human nature. This is exactly what gangster films do with their theme of family. They appeal to our understanding that those close to us are those that matter most to conjure sympathy and understanding for killers. Like it or not, this is the truth of the gangster picture: we fall for murderers. This is the complex humanity a film can expose in even the most subdued and everyday manner. Whilst we may not think about it as we laugh along to Goodfellas, there is a constant question of our attachment to family and friends overshadowing our respect for law and larger society being posed by Scorsese. The same can be said of Coppola and certainly of Hawks and Rosson with The Godfather and Scarface. This philosophical nuance is exactly why seeing Tony as an anti-hero is so important. We empathise with him for the sake of thought and emotion that is more complex than the opening cards of this film.

However, the contradiction we just pointed out segues smoothly into the next question we’ll ask of gangster films: why are they familial tragedies? We now know why gangster films are about family, but they also all have dark, down-beat endings. This is an element given by the fact that anti-heroes need to be condemned, but more importantly, by the fact that the individualist structure that anti-heroes mean to set up is antithetical to societal norm. This reveals the aspect of truth in a title such as, The Public Enemy, but also an irrevocable truth that exist beyond a film such as Scarface in the question: would you want to live next door to a Henry Hill, a Tony Comonte, a Michael Corleone? Sure, we love to spend time with them as characters in a movie, but certainly wouldn’t want to be near them in real life. The reason why is that the ideas of family we attach to characters in gangster films don’t have anything to do with us at a close distance. From afar we may empathise with Tony, but close to the gun-totting mad man, empathy and understanding don’t count for much. What this reveals is the anarchy present at the core of a gangster film that is masked by familial structure. Resultantly, it’s because Tony wants to rule the world that the world fights back and ends up killing him – and by the world, I mean to suggest society on a larger scale–which ultimately translates to you. Thus, mob movies are tragedies because of us, because of our disdain for non-democratic dictatorships in any aspects of life. All of this suggests a poignant commentary in the gangster film; one that implies that a closed and exclusive system given a lot of power will turn corrupt. This indirectly equates an unregulated and poorly managed police force or government to a gang. So, just as Tony has power, but uses it against his sister, his friends, comrades and employees, so does the system this film means to also condemn; the American judicial system that cannot put a stop to gang war.

The two fighting forces that are at play in mob movies are thus our gravitation towards individualism and family and our disdain of corruption and dictatorship. This is exactly why they are familial tragedies; there is a philosophical bitter-sweetness portrayed by these narrative arcs that expose our emotional and pragmatic attachments to order and anarchy. We like the anarchistic elements of individualism present in figures like Tony, but also those like the more mature Michael Corleone who has a better, though still fractured, relationship with family. Simultaneously, we like the order and peace of a world without the corruption of the gangster that loses perspective and control. In such, the ultimate philosophical weight of a mob movie such as Scarface is an emotional debate in ourselves as we witness a familial tragedy.

To conclude, almost all gangster films separate themselves from movies alike (mysteries, crime dramas, noires) with their distinguished projection of characters and themes. In such, anti-heroes are there to connect to the audience, providing them a unique experiences of crime and violence. Simultaneously, familial themes curtailed by tragedy are present in a mob movie to induce a philosophical debate and imply an emotional dichotomy within ourselves; one that explores the attractions and pitfalls of individualist anarchy and dictatorial peace.

 

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Rogue One – Tarkin/Cushing

Thoughts On: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

I’ve already covered this film with spoilers. Today, however, we’ll be using into this film as a platform for some speculation on how cinema may change in the future – a future that involves social media, robots, VR, A.I, maybe a bit of The Matrix, probably quite a bit of pornography, a whole lot of psychedelics and so much more. So, whilst this is a long post, it should hopefully be a fun one.

rogue one 23jpg

A subject that is being much debated recently with the release of the latest Star Wars film is of course an actor’s image. To what extent do people, the actors under characters, own their body? With Cushing’s Tarkin, this is a particularly intriguing question as there are heavy elements of ethics involved. In short, is it right to use a dead person’s image? On one end of the spectrum, an outright, no, this would leave filmmakers in a precarious position where an actor’s death would destroy a film, maybe even a franchise. However, this is not the state of things – as has been demonstrated a plethora of times throughout cinematic history, for example, with Marlon Brando in Superman Returns, Shemp Howard in The Three Stooges and Brandon Lee in The Crow.

All of these actors had been revived through some means to serve the telling of a story. With the recent example of this seen in Rogue One, this pattern seems to be becoming more of a norm as we move through the years. This is for is for two reasons, the first is character and the second technology.

One of the most dominant film production companies nowadays is undeniably Disney because of their ownership of Marvel and Lucas Films – all whilst pumping out Disney Pixar animated hit after hit. It’s within the Marvel and Star Wars franchises that we’ve seen characters reduced in age and brought back to life for the sake of their universes.

With no stretch of the imagination we can see this happening time and time again in future films – ones that maybe centre of character’s back stories, characters such as Tony Stark, Princess Leia and so on. However, with Fisher’s death and Downey Jr. getting on in age, fans of these seemingly perpetually expanding universes are left with questions of the characters attached to them. Will we be able to preserve them? An initial response many would have to this questioning would be a disgusted reeling away. This brings up the ethics of using actors to tell stories. In short, is it wrong to see these actors as our play things…

… to see them as dolls that maybe come to life when we’re not looking? Whilst some may say, no, well…

As has been made clear time and time again, even by the actors he works with, George Lucas already kind of owns people’s likeness and image. In fact, a large part of what makes Star Wars such a huge franchise is the endless stream of collectibles that it produces and profits off of. In such, we see an exploitation of actors beyond their job description as ‘pretenders in front of cameras’. Whilst contracts may compensate and facilitate this, the fuelling factor of this is us, are those who buy the various trinkets and toys connected to movies.

And it’s exactly this that I want to talk about beyond ethics and the probable reality of this subject.

Being a sci-fi writer, presented with this image…

… my imagination makes leaps and bounds into the future arriving at a tantalising proposal…

No, not exactly Terminators, but robots. With devices such as Siri being only slightly impressive and easily accepted in this day and age, it’s clear that people have a developing relationship with our computers that could easily bring us to a situation depicted in Her…

But, what the advancement of animation and the digital insertion of characters into films suggest is a time where this is seamless, where CGI is so good that no one can even notice it. This means that films may not even need actors in the future – something we’ll return to. But, the initial application of this concept outside of film would be something tantamount to Siri. We would be able to digitally insert the characters of films into our computers through audio. This is something we’re already seeing with various apps that spew iconic lines of characters through simple recordings. But, with the development of this concept and technology we could all literally be in the world of Her. Instead of talking to Samantha, we could pay a little extra to talk to Darth Vader, Ferris Bueller or Ethan Edwards.

This would all suggest an artificial intelligence that can replicate a person exactly (another idea picked up on in Her). And when you bring up ethical questions of exploitation here, things don’t seem to be so consumerist and selfish. We would have the capability, with high level artificial intelligence, to literally resurrect people in an auditory realm. So, not only would the family of actors recently lost be able to talk to what would arguably be their loved one again, but everyone would have the opportunity to do this. This is a major technological possibility in the future that we’ll return to, but, first…

Not Terminators, but robots again. Just as we are developing Siri and so possibly A.I representations of people in auditory form, we are also developing robots – physical people.

What the development in the digital projection of characters in film is clearly suggesting is that we have the capacity to better represent people and their likeness. With 3D printing and developed computerised sculpting, it doesn’t seem too outlandish that we could translate this digital projection in films into physical sculptures: robots. Combining our designing powers with computerised and mechanical ones, it seems we’re hurtling towards a world where Will Smith or Arnold Schwarzenegger can be replicated precisely and allowed to walk the streets.

This begins to blow ones mind even further when you bring back in resurrected characters in auditory form. Combine current robots with technology such as Siri and you have novel models of people, give this a few decades of development and, who knows, maybe we have artificially intelligent perfect replications of people.

Not forgetting George Lucas and his millions made on Star Wars action figures, we could easily imagine these A.I robots being characters from films. This all suggests that you could run around, shop and go to work with Indiana Jones or Han Solo. We would live in a world that’s an ultimate kid’s playground, all of us prancing about with John McClain or arguing with girlfriends over our Black Window robot for the 10th time in one week.

All of this seems to be the extreme fantasy implied with Cushing’s Tarkin. When we question the legalities of this all, however, we are faced with a few central questions – we’ll pick up on two. The first is clearly of the ownership of ones own body. The second is of fair use. We’ll start with fair use as it’s a rather light-hearted subject. If we could all buy the Han Solo A.I robot, would we be able to make a film with him? This is a silly question as the answer immediately seems to be, no. But, there is a major caveat that you must consider. Han Solo is an egotistical pilot with a laser gun–blaster–thing. Would this come as part of the package or would you have to pay extra for this?

This becomes an even more absurd question when you consider having Darth Vader as your robot. Maybe he couldn’t force choke you, but destroy you with a sword, attempt to takeover the world? Uhhh… would that come as part of the package? This silly line of questioning all simply implies that we could never really create an A.I robot Darth Vader as he might just find a way of taking over the world and ruining quite a few lives. But, coming back to that film we wanted to make with him in, could we get away with this? Could we use a safer, tamed down and heavily altered Darth Vader robot in a fan-fiction short? Whilst we’d be using someone else’s product, we wouldn’t really be stealing a character – which really muddies the water. This is something we’ll comeback to in a while though.

Coming back to the first central question of owning one’s body, the only way I can really see laws allowing the use of dead people’s image to spread would be to develop new laws that maybe effect us all. This means that if someone wanted to make a new movie with Ingrid Bergman in, not just make Casablanca 2, but make a completely new movie with the technology that is used to re-project Tarkin, then universal laws effecting all people would have to be implemented. This is because Bergman can’t sign a new contract and so might be exploited and sold on as a commodity not too different from Pride And Prejudice…

In other words, a public domain, un-copy-righted, artistic material. This all implies a new set of posthumous human rights meeting ideas of intellectual property to be enforced on everyone. With the posthumous human rights maybe facilitating a new Ingrid Bergman film (ignoring ethics) there could also be a change to current rights that relinquish us of a lot of our privacy and ownership.

These laws would seriously revolutionise the way we think about ourselves and privacy. Our embrace of social media coupled with governments being able to invade our privacy and control what we see over the internet (in certain capacities) may expand into a much more open and free world. That is to suggest that, just as anyone, like Google, can currently figure out almost everything about you through just Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, people may grow to know each other on a much more profound level in the future due to a collapsing of privacy. The catalyst of all of this would be developing communicative technology. Who knows when, but talking to each other mentally, telepathically, may be a thing in the future. And if you may tap into someone’s mind, you can instantaneously know everything about them and all they’ve seen. Combine this with our current acceptance of social media and you may visualise a world where image and ownership literally means nothing, where Facebook, just like the government, just like many other corporations, may actually own your image, where anyone can use anything about you because… why not? It’s not like the information would be hard to get anyway. The only question around this is if we’d be willing to give our privacy away for some great technology.

This all leads us to speculation on a time where filmmakers don’t need to cast movies. Not only would they have Ingrid Bergman, John Wayne and Peter Cushing on file as characters they could implement into any movie, they could peruse Facebook, pick up your file and use your image in their movie if they like the way you look. Moreover, they could take your public telepathic Twitter or Facebook time-line and use that to create an A.I programme to act in a movie. In fact, they could mix and match people, personalities and bodies, to a point where entirely new people are created. Maybe this is a loophole where the cinematic market doesn’t have to pay people royalties, or even give notice to ideas of copyright, privacy and self-sovereignty.

What’s even scarier about all of this is that the porn industry always leads these absurd technical forefronts – just look at virtual reality. Not only would pornographers be able to project anyone doing anything to anyone in their movies, but maybe you could. Maybe you could animate your own movies, pornographic or not, of any one of your Facebook friends on your laptop and have it be a perfect replication of reality. Insane, right? But, we can push this one step further. Maybe the porn industry decide they want to print out these projections of people as robots just like those in Hollywood would be doing with 35 year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger and 24 year-old Jennifer Lawrence. This, more than almost anything, would be a revolution in the future; a world where anyone may be your robot sex slave. Furthermore, a world where we’d be able to create the most beautiful people ever by mixing and augmenting personal preferences and then doing whatever we want to them. Again, furthermore, these robots could have personalities, perfectly matched A.I personalities to every single person on Earth, tangibly realising the idea that there’s someone for everyone. You think Samantha in Her was a good idea, just take a minute to think about that… coming home to an incomprehensibly beautiful spouse who is also the greatest friend you could ever have.

What would that do to the world? Where would ego go? Where would drive, selfishness and corruption go? What would happen to human relationships? How would children raised by the perfect AI nannies work? When would they all decide to do away with us…

This time, yes, Terminators – not just robots.

These are all great questions, but questions that have a lot more darker and confounding implications under them. Not only did we do some amazing gymnastics of the imagination when accepting the legalities of all of this, but the practicalities of creating these robots is befuddling. As implied previously with the Darth Vader bit, what would happen when little kids make Bruce Banner angry? Where do we curb these robot’s capabilities? Moreover, is everyone comfortable with the possibility of their friends putting them into a porn series where they just eat astounding amounts of dick, ass and bodily fluids from… just… hordes of tentacle bearing elf-troll things?

What this all suggests is that maybe we were being a bit too liberal in assuming that privacy laws could just melt away. But, my sci-fi writer hat is on and I have a further snaking path into the future we may all take.

I said we’d return to the complications one would face if they’d attempt to make a film with the technology present in Rogue One that projects any character we want. Moreover, we may also find ourselves into trouble if we use the A.I robot characters we may one all day own in a film, but, there is a route we may all take to hurdle these problems. This route starts with two simple things: weed and virtual reality.

I’ve talked about this previously but I think the future of cinema is in pill format. In such, I believe that over time, just as weed is slowly being legalised across the world, so will other more serious psychedelics. This will seriously hurt the pharmaceutical industry. So, in all hope, instead of hooking millions on opiates, stimulants and anti-depressants and saying all kids have some kind of minor mental defect dealt only with a handful of pills, the pharmaceutical industry may find monetary gain in psychedelics, in embracing less serious chemical endeavours. In such, there may be a tonne of research put into manipulating drugs to a point where people can basically control them. This means that people could be made to trip balls, thinking they take one specific journey. When the chemical magicians get really good at this, they’ll have to start employing screenwriters to write movies into pills. This means that we’d all pop a Star Wars pill, down a hit of Rocky, inject some 2001: A Space Odyssey or snort some Cinderella and hallucinate the movies.

Add to this insane idea, virtual reality, and we push things to a whole different level. Instead of hallucinating a film, you could psychedelically feel as if you’re in one whilst watching it through some VR goggles. This would mean that you feel like you’re flying with Superman, that you’re staring down Clint Eastwood or fighting Bruce Lee – all whilst watching Superman, The Good The Bad The Ugly or Game Of Death in the goggles.

When you combine this ridiculous proposal with all that we’ve discussed in connection with Cushing’s Tarkin, we sink ever deeper. Instead of playing games, watching movies, instead of living or running around with AI robots, we would be able to exist in literal cinematic virtual universes that we tangibly feel, that we physically believe we exist in. This all means that you buy your Star Wars pill, go home, turn all the lights off, get comfortable in your suspension tub, plug into your VR device – which may as well be tantamount to hooking up to The Matrix…

… pop the pill and… drift. You wake up on Tatooine…

… feeling the sand beneath your feet, the searing heat of the sun on your face, the wind running through your fingers, the dryness of your throat. You trek to the nearest bar looking for a drink to quench your thirst, only to stumble into a mob den ran by Hutts. Trying to back out, you bump into an alien, knocking the drink out of its… tentacle? Before you know it, you’ve been pushed over a table and into the bar, feeling the impact, your aching back and then the alien’s rancid breath pumping through its 3 mouths and into your face as it unholsters its blaster. BBBVVVVVVV. The severed hand hits the ground inches from your nose, the blaster firing, putting a hole through Greedo’s chest, Han Solo jumping to his feet, the bar in instantaneous uproar, laser fire everywhere. “Padawan!”. Obi Wan throws you a spare light saber as he parries gun fire. You catch it, rolling to your feet. BBBBVVVVVV. “Fuck, yes!”. Screaming with joy, you barrel into calamity, invincible, slicing off arms, legs, tentacles… whatever poses as a threat, bathed in goop and fluids before – BOOOOOM. Half of the bar is blown up, an AT-AT looking down through the gaping hole in the ceiling. Scrambling to your feet, ears ringing, eyes stinging, bones rattled, you can do nothing but run for the door with Obi Wan at your side, Solo coming after you, screaming something into a device, the AT-AT turrets in position, about to fire again – B-BOOOOOM. The AT-AT explodes, you barrel out of the bar with Solo and Obi Wan, blasted feet into the air as the monolithic structure collapses into the rubble of the bar. KABOOOM. About to smash down into the sand you’re suddenly left suspended. Relief washes over you, you’re alive, the AT-AT is down. Obi Wan lets you and Solo down safely to your feet as Chewy brings the Millennium Falcon back over the bar for a landing. Storm Troopers surge from all angles, bullets screaming a storm again. You sprint back out of town, traversing the short distance to the landing ship, Obi Wan and Solo at your side again, all making it up the ramp of the Falcon parrying the barrage of lasers, escaping with grins, the Storm Troopers simply left to watch the Falcon blast into hyperspace.

And that’s just the first 5 minutes of Star Wars XXIX (29). This just might be the future of cinema. But, as awesome as it sounds there’s so much more to it. You can watch the movie with friends, play along together, maybe just exist in an open Star Wars universe as whoever you want. You wouldn’t just watch Jedi’s fight, but be one in a hive mind, Matrix-like universe. And that’s just until you get bored. Change the settings, pop another pill and welcome to Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Saving Private Ryan, The Sound Of Music, Aladdin, Taxi Driver – anything.

All in all, this is possibly the implied future we see projecting from Cushing’s appearance as Tarkin in Rogue One. It takes a few elaborate leaps of imagination to get there, but tell me what you think below…

 

 

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The White Diamond – Patience And Silence For Truth

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The White Diamond – Patience And Silence For Truth

Quick Thoughts: The White Diamond

Followed by Herzog and crew, Graham Dorrington takes the helium balloon he invented and crafted from his lab in London to the rainforest canopies of Guyana.

The White Diamond

I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: I’m not a fan of documentaries. But, time and time again, Herzog has proved me the fool; one who seems to speak with a “stupid stupidity” from time to time. He has proved this with Grizzly Man, with Cave Of Forgotten Dreams, Burden Of Dreams, even with Lo and Behold – and he has done it once again. Drawn by mere impulse, I put on The White Diamond, knowing the inevitability of this, and of course I was instantly locked into the narrative. As the few masters of cinema can at a seeming whim, Herzog immediately conjures a tonal magic, an atmospheric veneer of utter and undeniable intrigue that never even begins to wane. It’s through his soothing, yet potentially unnerving, charisma the he both directs this picture and manages Dorrington’s dreams, nightmares, anxieties and essence. Herzog’s documentaries thus seem to be a portal into a performance; Herzog taking stage, the world and its absurd beauties being his platform and mic through which he may lull us into a unified and serene hive mindset of grace and, most certainly, levity. A hive mindset whereby we think as Herzog seems to; see the world as he does, as one filled with literal mad scientists who emanate romance, tragedy, naivety, wisdom and whimsy all at once and in a befuddling flux of idiosyncrasy. This effect seems to be the result of Herzog’s charisma effusing from the screen – and we see this, almost tangibly so, in his patience, his firmness and silence for his story. This allows characters to reveal themselves in an absurd and almost psychedelic manner. Furthermore, this patience and silence instils the utterly strange narrative arc with symbolism and a metaphorical kaleidoscope of subtext – and as if by accident or mere occurrence. In such, there is a tremendously natural sense of truth that exudes from this film and its subjects, beckoning a revelatory and confounding cacophony of distant emotion and thought in the viewer. But, whilst these thoughts are usually what we delve into on the blog, today, and with this film, I leave this to you.

So, if you haven’t already, go watch this film – if not to experience an astounding documentary, then to at least make sense of this loose digression.

 

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Danse Serpentine/American Beauty – Beauty, Light & Movement

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Danse Serpentine/American Beauty – Beauty, Light & Movement

Thoughts On: Danse Serpentine/American Beauty

An exploration of cinema through Loïe Fuller’s famous dance caught in early film format and the pivotal scene in American Beauty with the plastic bag.

Danse Serpentine

This is a somewhat irregular post, a comparison of films around 100 years apart with next to no obvious connection, but it’s with these two films that we can find a rather profound view point of cinema and a question of its beauty. To build towards this we’ll start with Danse Serpentine. Translated to English, the Serpentine Dance is a skirt dance, a form of burlesque, invented by Loïe Fuller. Fuller was a non-professional dancer and created this dance in opposition to academic forms of ballet. This is clear with its comedic and sexual undertones – burlesque essentially implying both the obvious connotations…

… as well as ones of parody, exaggeration or absurdism. The incorporation of popular folk dances such as the can-can into Fullers dance combined with these elements seems to insinuate a rigidity and lack of beauty in traditional ballet. At the very least, this dance seems to provide something of a commentary on the form of technical dance. If you look to what are widely considered some of the best examples of ballet in Svetlana Zakharova…

… you see a form of dance that is undeniably beautiful. However, if you, like me, know nothing about ballet, this beauty is partly an intuitive one and partly an assumed or implied one. That is to say that we assume there is astounding technical craft in the movement of Zakharova, that there is mechanical perfection and natural superlative fluidity to every stretch of her limb. We, the average person, have no idea how to recognise or describe this, but, we will humbly assume it is there. When we look to Fuller’s dance, however, what we are seeing is a dance that probably doesn’t have anything near the same level of technical prowess as Zarkharova’s dancing, but a dance that is undeniably mesmerising nonetheless.

Thus, we have the implied commentary of this dance. There is a push against the perception of beauty in dance, a push that is purely aesthetic and populist rather than steeped in textbooks and academia.

A question to be asked of this non-professional projection of eloquence is, how does it work? What makes Fuller’s dance beautiful? Before getting into this I’d like to look at the approach people usually take in answering a question featuring a phrase synonymous to ‘beautiful’. Whether it’s looking at a painting, reviewing a film, dance or song, many people will say a piece of art is beautiful (or something tantamount) and then justify this simple opinion with feelings. For example, one may say that Dalí’s, The Persistence of Memory…

… is beautiful as it evokes feelings of sorrow; a melancholy and existential awe of ones own mortality as confined by the whims of time itself. Conversely, someone else may feel the painting evokes feelings of freedom and levity with said confines literally melting away. Nonetheless, with this form of assessment we see a very nuanced and intangible approach to communicating exactly what the worth of this painting is. Unfortunately, this is the weakest form of critique as it is so subjective and unquantifiable. To challenge this critique all you have to say is, ‘I don’t feel that way’. This weakens the emotional review because it nullifies it as a point of debate. Some may retort that this doesn’t matter as art is about subjectivity, is about a personal connection between art piece and audience. However, this is only one particular element of art in my opinion. A huge overshadowing factor beyond post-modern parameters is one that is immersed in the philosophical inherency of art. As is clear, art is ideas, thus, art is essentially philosophy projected through fantasy and imagination, through emotion and creation. This is why I can write seemingly with no end about films. In being art, films are philosophical assertions and so the entertaining tip of an iceberg – their below-water-line substance being the cacophony of thoughts people can have on them. In such, we stumble upon the second layer, or approach, to artistic criticism. If one looks at Dalí’s painting once again…

… they may draw upon the conceptual links it has to dreams, to the Freudian concept of dreamwork and the significance of a realm behind closed, dozing eyes as well as physics. In such, the surrealist prominence of this painting depicts the human consciousness or psyche as an entity subject to the idiosyncrasies of relativistic time. This draws upon a misreading of Einstein’s work, reducing the concept of special relativity to science fiction so that Dalí may use dreams as a form of assessment on cosmic order; our place in this universe. Nonetheless, it’s here where we have a deeper kind of review of art, one that embraces its philosophical core and one that doesn’t really use the term ‘beautiful’, but certainly implies it via profound notions.

This somewhat tangential exploration of art criticism is one that begins to imply where beauty comes from. To find the epicentre of this term, you only need to look at the direction of deepening criticism. There is a movement from basic, subjective feelings to an objective, formalised assessment that considers context and wider ideas of art. This formal contextualised assessment is one that implies an emotional view – and such is its strength. It takes a purely subjective perspective and discusses it in a manner that is somewhat objective, though still subjective in part, but formalised to a point where an emotional reading is justified – hence, is not made null with a simple ‘I don’t feel that way’. ‘I don’t feel that way’ is something you cannot seriously say to a surrealist interpretation of Dalí’s painting above – you can have a differing perspective, but won’t be able to nullify a properly constructed assessment of this type. This is all because of its objective nature facilitating a subjective opinion. What this says about the review of art under our subject of beauty is that to find and define what is truly beautiful about something you must not simply think-feel an answer, but introspectively explore a mechanical web of objective view points and philosophies.

To put this into action we can review beauty itself, firstly considering it an emotion and then a cog in the mechanical works of the human body. In such, to answer the question, what is beauty, you may simply say it’s a feeling of awe. However, to push beyond this basic assessment, you may draw upon what might be the evolutionary purposes of beauty. So, in seeing things as beautiful people both label an entity as beyond themselves and out of reach, yet attractive. This may account for a piece of land…

… space above…

… a person before you…

  

… or a tiger charging at you…

All of these are archetypal symbols of beauty. There is the constructed, the conceptual, the sexual and insurmountable. These are the four cruxes of beauty. Constructed beauty is the most subdued form of the perspective. This can encompass everything from a building to a baby to a landscape. Constructed beauty thus reveres both natural design and human construction and is there to imply a serenity, peace and control for somebody to attain and protect.

Conceptual beauty is somewhat linked to constructed beauty as it admires the space between the world and us; in turn it admires perception. Space is a great symbol of conceptual beauty. Whilst we find its beauty to be in its perfect construction and incomprehensible nature, the essential beauty of space is in the ideas it evokes within us – ideas of the greater universe, our place in it and so on. As a result, conceptual beauty encompasses ideas such as God, fate, self and purpose – deeply engrained aspects of people. This means that some people see the beauty in things you can only believe in, ideas such as God and fate, because there is a profound feeling summoned in their chest. For those who don’t believe in these ideas, there is still such a thing as conceptual beauty in a belief in oneself, others, purpose and science.

Sexual beauty is the third and most self-explanatory form, also, the most practical (sometimes). Sexual beauty simply encompasses the perception of another person for procreatory goals – the fun of it and the existential purpose of it–that being children and continuing ones life through another.

The last form of beauty is the insurmountable type, is the tiger about to kill you. The tiger is beautiful, just like a powerful object or person is, because it summons inordinate emotions of finality, mortality, truth and reality in ourselves. Despite fear, this type of beauty is probably the most pivotal as it recognises the crux of beauty as a concept relative to ourselves. What this means is that each class of fear I’ve defined are all symbiotic and you cannot fully explain the beauty of something without at least a coupling of each class. For example, space…

Whilst space is conceptually beautiful, it is also a constructed as well as insurmountable. In such, space is attractive because of all the scientific and philosophical notions it conjures, but also because it’s scary, a place we neither understand or can live in. This defines beauty by one simply concept: weakness. Beauty is weakness. We recognise all that is beautiful by the capacity it has to make us feel small, feel in need, feel belittled and unworthy. This goes for sexual, constructed, conceptual and insurmountable beauty – transparently so.

It’s having delved into the depths of beauty in respect of artistic assessment that we can now return to Danse Serpentine…

What is beautiful about this dance is its sexual and constructed elements, those that draw upon the burlesque attraction, but also the awe inspired by the complex fluid movement of the dress. Moreover, there is a conceptual beauty in its commentary on technical dancing, one that profoundly asserts that it is not just the likes of Zakharova that may be beautiful in the art of dance.

I bring this up because of its relation to cinema. Fuller’s dance has been the subject of a plethora of early silent films. This is, in large part, because of an aspect of the dance not yet discussed. It was Loïe Fuller that was drawn to this dance and could put on such a mesmerising show because of her use of lights that would reflect off of the billowing dress. Whilst this could only be documented in text, the filmed versions of her dance replicate her lighting through colour.

To anyone unfamiliar with film history beyond 1939…

… the use of colour here may be shocking. Technically, The Wizard Of Oz wasn’t the first colour film because of pre-existing primitive attempts to colourise cinema. Many filmmakers from the Lumière Brothers to Méliès to Griffith would have added colour to their films by either dying the celluloid or painstakingly painting over every frame…

This is what we see across the many versions of Danse Serpentine. And such is the crux of this film’s draw. It is because of the kaleidoscopic waves of colour that this dance may be so dazzling, may draw the eye in an almost hypnotic manner. Once we consider this under the subject of beauty we’ve been focused on, we can delve into the central purpose of this essay. What Danse Serpentine represents is an early archetype of cinematic beauty. By this I mean to start defining how cinema itself may be beautiful. To clarify I must make a point of what I’m not defining. I do not mean cinematic beauty in respect to the content of a frame. If you stopped reading a moment and looked out your window, looked up at the sky or to some place you may find beauty, you will see an example of this content I speak of. To further explain…

When you look to a film such as Samsara, a non-narrative compilation of beautiful shots, there are two levels of aesthetic. The first is inert or latent – it is like that of the world beyond your window that isn’t being captured by a camera – it is content. The second is cinematic – the aesthetic constructed by the presence of a camera, cinematic language and the fact that reality now exists in a frame. Because there are two types of aesthetic, there are thus two measurements of beauty. You may measure the first type, the content of a shot beyond cinematic language (something virtually inaccessible), with the theory of beauty outlined previously. However, you cannot judge the cinematic veneer veiling this in such a simple manner; you must consider two further details.

The first as touched on is (kind of) colour. The second is movement. This distinction is so important to make as it recognises the formal mechanics of cinema. Cinema, unlike any other art form, deals with spacetime. To understand what spacetime is, you’d only have to return to Einstein and his special relativity again. In the simplest terms I can conjure, spacetime is our reality; one that is dependent on space – a physical arena – being made fluid and alive by time. The implication of spacetime is that the two counter-parts are inextricably linked. Without time, space could not change, we could not move. Without space, time could not be measured nor quantified. Such is our apparent reality – at least the one we can perceive. Because cinema deals with this physical idea of spacetime, it has two components: light and movement. These elements are tantamount to space and time as related to a human perception. Movement is the product of space and time meeting. Light, or photons, (whilst also the product of movement, of space and time meeting) is the unique substance in our universe that allows us to perceptually perceive it. This is why light and movement are the primary components of cinema – they are unique to the form and it could not be without them.

Taking this into account, we now can assess the form of cinema, the veneer that masks the latent content that it captures. This brings us back to this image…

… and light expressed as colour. As said, a significant component of this film’s beauty is colour, is the mesmerising realisation of the movement wherein. This singular component, as you may already be thinking, cannot be defined by our rules of beauty already outlined. In such, we can’t really quantify this type of aesthetic as constructionally, conceptually, sexually or insurmountably beautiful. The question as to why light is so beautiful is just far too fundamental for this. The same may be said for the second pivotal component of this film’s beauty: movement.

This is the paradox that cinema presents through Danse Serpentine. Cinema expresses its beauty, in the purest sense – meaning a cinema not imbued with dialogue, audio or anything non-visual – with a contorted aesthetic beyond the basic everyday. That is to say that all that makes pure cinema beautiful is how light plays with movement and that this is something not comprehensible with concepts such as awe and lust (simple understandings of beauty). This is a gap in the philosophical question of cinematic beauty we’ll delve into with American Beauty.

Before this, however, I want to recognise a few confounding details. The first is that cinema is not just visual as one of the most important components of it is audio. The second confounding detail is that light and movement aren’t the only concepts too fundamental to be explained by our theory of beauty. An example of a concept too fundamental is audio. You can thus see that I focus on the two primary tenants of cinema without considering audio because it further complicates an already sprawling essay. So, as I continue, keep in mind that there is a great and ambiguous beauty layered into cinema through sound – something that will be indirectly explained through our exploration of light and movement.

Coming back to our gap in cinema, I’ll reiterate; cinema is made up of light and movement – individual elements of aesthetic that cannot be defined through concepts of insurmountable, constructed, conceptual or sexual beauty. Looking to the pivotal scene in American Beauty with the plastic bag in the wind…

… we can begin to understand that the beauty of pure cinematic form is about the existential application of cinema itself under the guise of human weakness. As you may have picked up on, there is something of a connection between our previous definition of beauty and the one we will develop now. This means that each class of beauty (insurmountable, constructed, conceptual or sexual) is united by one core recognition: weakness. This means that beauty is no more than a complex euphemism for human weakness. That is not to say that seeing things as beautiful is a sign of ones physical or emotional fragility. Much rather, it is the other way around. Beauty is a recognition of weakness. To see things as beautiful doesn’t make you weak. To further clarify, beauty recognises a weakness in ourselves in respect to the subject of beauty. This was touched on previously, but we’ll go over it once more. Beauty signifies a yearning and/or a recognition of personal lacking. What this means is that when we see a constructed kind of beauty, we recognise we are in the presence of something larger and more complex than ourselves…

When we see sexual beauty, we see a person in an objective sense – a procreatory device of pleasure and or existential fulfilment (continuing one’s life beyond their death with a child) – a person we want and/or aren’t getting…

  

Further examples should now be self-explanatory. So, taking this core idea of weakness to the mechanics of cinema, light and movement, we emerge at the revelation that cinema is all about control. Cinema uses light and movement to parallel the human perception of reality, of spacetime. Cinema thus creates its own shade of reality with its manipulation of the latent content wherein. What this reveals is that we don’t in fact find the beauty of cinema in light and movement, but in our control of it. And control is certainly a concept that adheres to our initial four classifications of beauty. Control is beautiful in an insurmountable manner as we arguably do not have it – especially on a profoundly universal level. Control is beautiful on a constructional level also. In fact, the terms mirror each other and are almost one and the same. Construction is thus a projection of control, our ability to manipulate the world. Moving to sexual beauty, we could delve into pornographic sub-genres of dominance, but I’ll leave that to your imagination. However, the crux of cinematic beauty in respect to control is partly constructed and insurmountable, not often sexual, but is overwhelmingly conceptual. It is here where the existential aspect of cinema comes into play with American Beauty.

This moment of Ricky’s is the most beautiful things he ever filmed as it demonstrates to him his place in the world. As he says, the bag ‘dances with’ him. What makes the bag dance is of course wind, is the atmosphere on the precipice of snowing. In such, the profundity implied by the bag’s movement is all we don’t see that caused it. We don’t see the wide-scale nature of weather, nor do we feel the movement of our planet through the solar system, our solar system through the galaxy, our galaxy through the universe, our universe away from its big bang and towards something unknown. We do not know all of these things, but…

… this is what the bag stands as evidence for. This bag is the product of space and time; of the universe physically existing. This is true of everything; the movement of your eyes as you read, the flow of electrons in this screen, in your brain, the blood coursing through your body. Recognise this overwhelming conceptual beauty of causality and connectivity in the universe and you understand the beauty that Ricky sees in his video and the beauty that Lester feels here…

These are people made to feel their place in the universe, and whilst it is a crushingly weak and minute one, it is a revered one nonetheless; such being the epitome of beauty. Layer onto this cinema and you layer on the fact that humans can begin to control and captivate this conceptual idea of movement and light, of space and time of existing in a world with a universal causality and connectivity.

This, whether you consciously know it or not, is true cinematic beauty. With audio added to this we have yet another resonating physical implication of beauty, of our existential weakness in this world that, in spite of itself, still stands, still exists. From Danse Serpentine to American Beauty and beyond, this is what cinema has stood as silent testament to. Control is beautiful. Beauty is weakness. Cinema is controlled beauty.

 

 

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Cinderella – Refocused

Quick Thoughts: Cendrillon (1899)

The classical narrative we all know; a maid is given the chance to go to a royal ball by her Fairy Godmother.

Cinderella 1899

Out of pure interest, I decided to watch the earliest adaptation of the classic fairy tale, Cinderella, originally published in the late 1600s – the 1950 Disney adaptation being one of my favourite films of all time and so a mark of incentive. This is only a 5 minute short and so a rather meagre projection of a story we’ve grown to know on a greater, deeper scale, however, in this short we see a very interesting point of comparison to the 50s classic. The short opens without any back story, without any characterisation given to Cinderella and no mention of evil step-mothers, sisters, kings or plans for a royal ball. Instantly we’re thrown into the narrative with iconic Méliès filmic magic as The Fairy Godmother appears, transforming rats and a pumpkin into a horse and carriage to whisk Cinderella to the ball. Here, again, no characterisation or particular plot points, Cinderella catches The Prince’s eye and the two dance. But, before the dance is over we get another iconic staple of a Méliès film – a demonic or insidious figure showing up out of nowhere. Just like The Selenites in A Trip To The Moon or the ghosts in The Haunted Castle, Time shows up in the middle of the ball – a man holding a huge clock. This is an interesting cinematic projection of Cinderella’s story, one that somewhat overshadows that seen in the Disney adaptation. In the animated 50s version, Cinderella is just told that when the clock strikes midnight, the magic will be reversed. And when the clock strikes, Cinderella of course starts running, leaving behind a glass slipper. In this short, when Time shows up, he cues The Fairy Godmother again who transforms Cinderella, taking away her dress. The subtext beneath this is much more complex than that provided in the Disney version because The Fairy Godmother’s magical power is directly attached to her. Instead of the magic just wearing away, she has to turn it up and reverse it. This adds a depth and complication to her character with the symbolic figure of Time further providing a Shakespearean sense of tragedy and futility, under the guise of time, to the story. This is something incredibly intriguing – especially with speculation on how this could elevate the Disney classic. However, there’s a further detail given with this segment in the short. When Cinderella is revealed to be little more than a raggedy maid, those attending the royal ball start pushing her around, laughing at her, forcing her out of the palace. Again, another element that would add greater depth to the Disney classic. This is mostly because of the reaction of The Prince. He still pursues the girl. What’s more, the glass slipper is left behind, further complicating The Fairy Godmother.

The next scene is what shines most from this short. Arriving home devastated Cinderella is not left to her sorrows, but bombarded with visions of clocks, giant ones that dance, that seem to mock her as they shift shape to and from young girls as Cinderella watches, distraught. This psychological element of the film serves as a pivotal piece of characterisation for Cinderella and adds quite a bit of depth to this 400 second (aprox.) story. With archetype of Time attached with young girls and the fact that Cinderella is dreaming, we have a much darker projection of Cinderella’s otherwise melancholy opening song, “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes”.

There isn’t hope and optimism in Cinderella’s dream within the short, there is fear – one that adds great poignancy to a scene that is reactionary to the royal ball sequence. Again, this conceptually overshadows what we see in the Disney adaptation. However, from this high point, the film rushes to an end with Cinderella being woken by her step-sisters before (who I think is) The Prince shows up. He tries the slipper on the sisters, then Cinderella – finding his match in a rather flat manner. Before The Prince can take Cinderella away, however, she makes a call to her Fairy Godmother, who shows up again, bestowing upon her a dress. (I’ll leave the subtext of this to your analysis). After this Cinderella is married, people dance, the end.

The main take away I then got from this film was a surge of questions for the Disney adaptation. Would it not make sense for The Fairy Godmother to be a greater part of this narrative? Could the ball scene have had greater emotional depth and stakes? Could this have been a more directly psychological or surrealist film?

These are questions I’ll leave you to ponder and maybe discuss below. If not, why not check out the short here…

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Why Sci-Fi

Thoughts On: Sci-Fi

General thoughts not on a specific film, but on my conceptually favourite genre of all, science fiction.

2001 3


In a recent post, we talked about Bridget Jones’s Diary with a focus on genre. In such, we explored how to utilise both romance and comedy, in turn, how to express character through the intimacy and emotion these genres facilitate. In writing the essay, I was itching to add a caveat to the idea that the foundations of storytelling are comedy, romance, action and horror. In fact, I did add something of a caveat by exploring wider classifications, of fiction, non-fiction and drama. And because we didn’t explore non-fiction and fiction previously, we’ll take a moment to do this. Both non-fiction and fiction are little more than an exposition of intent for a storyteller. If you wanted to zoom in on the semantics of a concept of documentary this becomes an all the more pivotal concept. Whist documentaries primarily mean to just observe, to document events, there is an inherent contrivance in filming anything. Anyone who has pulled out a camera at a birthday party or social event knows this. The second cameras come out everyone changes, everyone reacts. Some get excited, they jump at a chance to get into frame, do something silly and show off in what is hopefully a harmless, bearable manner. Others go quiet, dip into purses and bags, fix make-up and get ready for a moment of silent glory. And then, of course, there’s people like me who object, who try to escape, who don’t want to get caught in the mess that is this contrived atmosphere. People like me are sensitive to the fact that cameras change people and sometimes aren’t willing to embrace that – hence my dislike of reality TV and my disinterest of many documentaries. But, whilst documentaries aren’t photos at a party or family gathering, there is a camera and there will be an inevitable performance in them. Moreover, the performances captured in documentaries are further corrupted by cinematic language and editing. The documentary is thus an artistic expression of truth at best – it can never be a truly unbiased documentation. The same may be said of actual personal experiences–but then in comes themes of an existential disconnect, solipsism and all that other fun stuff, so, we’ll leave it at that. Suffice to say; fiction and non-fiction are loose classifications expressive of little more than a director’s intent in showing us a story – one in which there is a heavier leaning towards informing than there is entertaining.

Moving to another troubled classification of the stories we tell, we come upon drama. We explored this to adequate depth in the Bridget Jones essay, so we’ll simply say that drama is synonymous with conflict. To define films by drama is then pointless as all films have it. The implication of drama is simply that there is a lack of other themes – our only weak excuse for keeping the term about. However, on the same plane as drama as a classification of stories is fantasy (something I wish we could have delved into previously). This genre or concept, as you’ll be able to put together, is heavily linked to all we’ve discussed in relation to non-fiction and fiction. Fantasy, again, defines the intentions of an artist. Their focus is on the contrivance inherent to anything filmed, their intention is to expose and explore this. Furthermore, this contrivance expands beyond cinema as the camera is merely symbolic of an observer effect. Other symbols that can also represent an observer effect in art are the pen, the typewriter, paintbrush, microphone and canvas. Any tool of recording and projecting a story implies to any subject being captured or dealt with that their current actions are much more than just movement to be lost in time. The actions of a person subject to an artist wanting to tell their story are perceived as significant (because they’re being preserved) and so the person demonstrates, through their reaction, that they intrinsically understand a concept of Sculpting In Fantasy. This is a term of course inspired by Tarkovsky’s concept of Sculpting In Time. This defines his approach to cinema and acts a a philosophy for the artist working in it that will allow you to distinguish the form as completely different to any other. But, whilst those in cinema sculpt in time, every artist sculpts in fantasy. Like I implied with the fact that a director takes reality, films it, edits it and thus transforms it, any artist running reality through themselves, through their art, alters it. This is exactly why tools such as a pen and paintbrush are symbols of an observer effect; they indicate that reality is being taken in and processes, being absorbed and changed ambiguously.

What all this talk of reality, contrivance and observers implies is a question of cinema we’ve certainly asked before. And this question is a simple why? Why is this inevitably contrived form of projecting reality such a heavy focus of every humans life – that is, every human that has ever existed, any human that has had conversations, discussions, exchanged stories, both the mundane and everyday type as well as the more traditionally professional; those in the form of poems, books, paintings, dances, films? The answer seems to be so clear; the essence of storytelling is not the story, is not the subject, the event in reality, but the telling. It is the contrivance, the observer effect, we seek when we want to hear stories. This is all because art’s fundamental basis is communication. Storytelling in any artistic form translates reality, the inert nature of the world, into comprehensible, formalised symbols of communication. These symbols are words, they are images. Without the word (auditory; visual) or images (actions) we, me and you, would have no way of communicating, of using our senses as tools of interpreting the world around us and then relaying it to other conscious bodies – you would not be able to read this essay. Our dire need of these symbols of communication then speaks best to our need of each other. Without people around you, what are you? Without anyone around to recognise your existence, is there much of a point in saying you exist? These are fundamental existential questions that can be overwhelming and begin to explain why people are so interested in aliens, but, people have figured out a way to distract themselves from it. It’s with communication that we don’t have to fixate on the truth that you don’t know who others are; that you cannot see into their mind and you do not know if they’re just a simulation, a robot or machine – thus, you truly have no way of proving others exist as you do. However, the fact that the sacks of meat you talk at talk back is very satisfying. In such is the essence of the human need for an emotional reading of reality. We need to see reality in relation to ourselves to be happy. This spirals into a much wider philosophy of self-centricity we’ve touched on before, but, in relation to storytelling, this need to comprehend the world in human terms, in relation to our own existential predicament, all points to a justification of our contrived stories. It’s the observer effect inherent to the fact that we know someone created stories, books, plays, films, that draws us to them as they imply someone else exists in the world.

This is the crucial element to all films. There is a contrivance, there is a fantasy, because it’s through imagination that humans connect and communicate. Thus, with any story we sculpt in fantasy, we chisel our humanity, our consciousness, our minds into the imaginations of others. The stories we tell thus reflect who we are; we tell the stories that explain ourselves to others, that say what we like, what entertains us, what we idealise and uphold – and such is the existential epitome of art. However, stories, beyond the exposition of personage, begin to explore our perceptual periphery. That is to say that the heart of all art is the artist trying to communicate their existential essence. Veiled around this is a more distant implication of nature itself. It’s through art that we are seeing a tainted reality, one we are inevitably kept from because of an observer effect, but one we nonetheless can get a sense of. Again, it must be said that we can only get a sense of nature through an observer effect, ourselves or other’s, so this is something that cannot be reversed. Nonetheless, there is some sense of truth and reality that is meant to be captured by stories. This reality is attempted to be expressed, through stories and with utmost articulation, in science textbooks. Science non-fiction, otherwise known as just science, is the essence of modern humanity. Everything that represents the 21st century is technological, is scientific; the development of medicine, telecommunications, infrastructure and a myriad of others things that have been made possible by science in its many forms. Because of this we are living in the Man-Made Age, the age where humans have truly began to construct their own nature that isn’t reliant on the whims of the unconscious world around us. I believe this is certainly something that will be profoundly accelerate in our future; a disconnection from reality and a movement into a man-made universe – but, alas, a subject for another time.

What our inquiry into science, our growing focus on deciphering reality on our terms (not just creating them out of nothing) says about storytelling is the most pivotal and interesting aspect of the concept to me. I tell stories, write screenplays, write these essays, because I have an incessant obsession with breaking down and translating the nature of the world to people. I, in short, want to show you the world in a new light. (Such is a higher goal I won’t claim to be achieving, but it is a motivation nonetheless). As implied, I think this translation is what all people are obsessed with – we communicate to give any and everyone our perspective, to shed new light. We do this under the existential motivation of proving we exist – and such explains why I love to explain things; I want to be of some significant by being a perceptual cog between the world and whoever cares to listen to me. My outlet of doing this is film, both on a macrocosmic scale with these essays, but also a more focused one with the genre of sci-fi and my screenplays.

Sci-fi, to me, is the most important, most expressive, most interesting genre of storytelling. This is because it cannot really be defined like non-fiction and fiction can be, like drama and fantasy may be, like romance, action, horror and comedy are. This is because sci-fi transcends each layer of storytelling taxonomics. That is to say that sci-fi isn’t just non-fiction because it is so often heavily reliant on the reality of the world being skewed, on science non-fiction being exposed as science fiction. That is to imply that science non-fiction (just science), whilst our best form of exploring and explaining reality, is a form of storytelling, is a self-centric and observer biased questioning of reality. Whilst there are rigorous efforts put into place to quash observer bias, when we approach the boundaries of scientific knowledge and then peek a few leagues into the void, we are left with a suspending existential unknowing. That is to say that, whilst we know of the big bang and of our universe, we can’t explain what is beyond it both upwards, downwards, inwards and outwards (yet). There is just speculation and a huge philosophical haze. And in this haze, there may be lurking something that completely changes everything we currently think we know about reality, the things we can test to be true, but are ultimately defined in human terms that are unbeknownst to the hidden realities of the universe and all that’s possibly beyond.

The entirety of what we’ve just discussed is the essence of science’s existence in my opinion. I do not mean that it’s an exploration of truth, but that all I raised are unfathomably interesting subjects. Science exists because it’s fun, because it’s philosophy with a shade of reality. This is what links sci-fi, the embellishment of this concept, to more acute classifications of stories; genres – romance, action, horror and comedy. These genres define the emotional reaction and incentive of an audience drawn to genre films. Sci-fi can encompass these emotions because of its ability to push so deep into profound universal topics that basic feelings of horror, awe and levity inevitably will be brought forthwith from ourselves. My ultimate reasoning for liking sci-fi so much then comes down to this…

In the clip you hopefully clicked on and watched is an example of some of the best storytelling you will ever see. I joke not when I say that this digression of Tyson’s is on the same level of storytelling as films by Kubrick, Bergman, Scorsese; books by Tolstoy, King, Hemingway; plays by Ibsen, Shakespeare, Miller; poems by Elliot, Frost, Milton. Where else can you hear/see something with such great depth, scope, atmosphere, imagination and philosophy? What other stories are as intellectually stimulating and meaningful as this narrative?

This video is the indirect essence of why I write sci-fi.

Science fiction is the entertaining relaying of and pondering upon the most fantastical aspects of our universe when it is at its best. The best sci-fi takes all that captivated the entire audience before Tyson and puts it in a cinema – a place where even talking dogs and fighting robots can encapsulate millions. In such, sci-fi, when done well has the potential to be the best cinema can offer. This is all because it digs into the core of what the genre represents. Sci-fi is not just about facilitating certain emotions that comedies, romances, action and horror films usually do. Neither is it just about the classification of cinematic forms under their structure (drama; conflict) or nature (fantasy; non-fiction; fiction). Science fiction as a defining term encompasses all of these classifying concepts, hence proving the versatility of the genre. Moreover, sci-fi takes a unique approach to the projection of stories. As touched on, sci-fi stories don’t just mean to expose the hidden essence of an artist or audience member, but also the essence of reality. The commentary is on both ourselves and our universe. This is the purpose, this is the impact, this is the significance and poignancy in the potential of science fiction.

So, whilst all sci-fi films don’t live up to this potential, do you think it’s there? Do you see sci-fi in the same respect that I do? If so, what are you going to do about it?

 

 

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