26 October 2010

Recent entertainments

Red Pretty standard action comedy. Stuff blows up. John Malkovich or Brian Cox say funny things afterward. "Wanna get some pancakes" is a pretty good line. I'd say this was slightly better than Iron Man 2, mostly because of Helen Mirren and Malkovich. Morgan Freeman seems to have been an afterthought in this movie (sort of like in Wanted). Also: I'm not entirely sure who the target audience was here. Old people looking for fountain of youth? Or younger people watching aging stars go explode things?

Hereafter
This was better. Not nearly as good as Inception. I think people wanted the movie to focus more on "Hereafter", a conception of the afterlife supposedly, and that the movie doesn't really answer that concept's inherent questions (why would it) is leaving people unsatisfied. I thought of it as a conception of connections. To people. Both living and dead. Really the movie's a love story, or a story about how people bond and what happens after they do, or what happens when those bonds are severed. You can see this with Damon's character as he tries to connect with someone, but it's a curse the way he does it and it smashes everything he tries to do, and especially you can see it with the French woman or the kid. The big key is watching what happens when your love for someone can't be returned any longer, Damon happens when he tries to meet a girl in a cooking class, French woman's boss has a new lover instead of her, and the kid's twin brother dies. Those are obviously very different problems, but to paraphrase Tolstoy, unhappy people are all unhappy in their own way.

Humor is pretty light, but it shows up every time there's a psychic. Watching people work through generalisation after generalisation and people who "believe" creating specificity (or not), just like astrologers do, was hilarious.

More generally, I guess I looked at the movie this way because it makes no sense to make a dramatic movie about "the afterlife" to me. That's a metaphysical construct, so a movie about such things is a comedy (like say, as Bruce Almighty was a movie "about" god), not a story. So it was easier to go in and throw back out the metaphysics that you would think the movie was about. Once you paid attention, it's about people. As Damon's character says, "A life that's all about death is no life at all". This to me is the biggest problem with having religious focuses, or even stories and promises about, toward an afterlife. It's a waste. You have a life right now. Do something with it. At best you have no idea if you have more or other life after it. At "worst", this is all you get (I personally think afterlife belief is a crutch absolving us of the responsibility to live).

So a movie about the "hereafter" would be a waste too. I took "Hereafter" to be a story about "here" and "after" something tragic or painful or significant happens to us in life and because there really wasn't a whole lot about any "hereafter" at all, this would seem to be the point.

One other amused point. Hereafter seems to take a great stock in the coincidental nature of life. That is, random things happen, sometimes very conveniently (for instance, all three characters being in the same place, or the London subway station bombing and "the hat" thread). This is really easy to do with a life when you have screenwriters for it of course. But in truth, a lot that seems to happen does seem to be coincidental or random. We meet people in "random" encounters, and we ascribe purpose and meaning to this randomness. I think most of the time we create these random encounters on purpose and assign the meaning to it later when we know the outcome, or at least we desire a particular outcome (a new love, a new job, etc). Most of life and its purpose or meaning seems to be about chasing these random moments and making something of them. When you stop chasing them, you'd better have a lot of good memories to live off of because you'll start eating yourself away.
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