Pope Francis has offered words of caring and understanding throughout his world tour.However in spite of his peaceful persona, he still represents an organization that has repressed and misled billions of people for almost two thousand years, maintaining backward views on social issues, most notably equal rights and contraception. In other words, it doesn’t matter how much he smiles and waves; he’s still just the head of a conglomerate that owns too much and answers to no one.
Existentialists tend to discourse on our sorry lot as humans in this life, caged between birth and death, trapped in this existence, the terror and nausea of realizing how lousy it all really is. Friedrich Nietzsche referred to this terror as the greatest weight: What if this life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence — even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself.
Jean-Paul Sartre expounded on the horror in his play No Exit: You have stolen my face from me: you know it and I no longer do. Luckily, thanks to our evolved sensibilities and their application to technology, we can see the kernel of this philosophical gobbledygook captured in profound and eternal loops.
The GIF – or Graphic Interchange Format – is, as Albert Camus wrote, basically, at the very bottom of life, which seduces us all. There is only absurdity and more absurdity. And maybe that’s what gives us our joy for living, because the only thing that can defeat absurdity is lucidity.
Absinthe has the reputation all bad boys and girls dream of.
Fawned over by the elite and artistic, banned a hundred years ago, potent and delicious. Have you tried!? Have you? It is the stuff of legends, hallucinogenic, hyper-potent and most dangerous, all because a few poets and artists indulged excessively in Paris back in the day.
But how is it any different than other alcohol? Or is it? Don’t they say the same about tequila? Or the mixture of Guinness & cider known as a Snakebite? I do admit to being coerced into doing an Aguirre, Wrath of God rap after a Snakebite or two in my ill-gotten days, but I expect that spell could have been induced by many things.
I did try Absinthe recently, and it was fine. But there was nothing remarkable about it. And there were certainly no green fairies.
Advertisers want to give us answers, all of our confusion beaten into sell-able pulp.
Movie trailers are the same.
Real questions don’t do well under the spotlight; they wilt and are never clear. Sudden and enigmatic, they only offer a glimpse, making us stop and think, “Wait. What was that?”
3. Punch Drunk Love (2002, Paul Thomas Anderson): A car crashes in an empty street.2. The Graduate (1967, Mike Nichols): True love is realized…and then what?1. Aguirre, Wrath of God (1972, Werner Herzog): In the end, only monkeys are left for the revolution.
Who is with me?
Hollywood’s Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is occasionally on the mark with their annual Best Picture – Casablanca (Curtiz, 1943), Midnight Cowboy (Schlesinger, 1969), Annie Hall (Allen, 1977) & No Country for Old Men (Coen Brothers, 2007). However these awards have more to do with Hollywood politics and marketing campaigns – such as Harvey Weinstein bullying on behalf of the dreadfully mediocre Shakespeare in Love (1998) – and much less to do with the art of film-making. As a consequence, the Best Pictures ends up consistently falling short. This isn’t just an issue with which film wins, but which are nominated and has been a problem right from the start of the Awards in 1927. The most apparent has been in the exclusion of most of the great foreign films in ages past, failing to nominate Passion of Joan of Arc (Dryer, 1928), M (Fritz Lang, 1931), La Regle de Jeu (Renoir, 1939), Seven Samurai (Kurosawa, 1954), Wild Strawberries (Bergman, 1957), Breathless (Godard, 1960), Aguirre, Wrath of God (Herzog, 1973) and The Sacrifice (Tarkovsky, 1986) and City of God (Meirelles, 2003)…to mention only a fraction. The Academy is flawed at its core, responding to the topicality of the film – social movements above all – and less to the work itself. “Best Pictures” are often predicable and dull, lacking in both vision and inspiration…and this year is no different. Here’s my list of the Academy’s most glaring mistakes.
Not even nominated Winner (Soon to be Forgotten)
1946 Gilda (Vidor) Best Years of Their Lives (Wyler)
1952 Singin’ in the Rain (Kelly) Greatest Show on Earth (DeMille)
1958 Vertigo (Hitchcock) Gigi (Minnelli)
1979 Manhattan (Allen) Kramer vs. Kramer (Benton)
1982 Blade Runner (Scott) Gandhi (Attenborough)
2003 Elephant (Van Sant) The Lord of the Rings (Jackson)
That’s Show Biz.
You only have five days before the Mayan Day of Doom, and it’s time to get angry. The world is fraught with injustice, much of it self-imposed. What is wrong with us?! It is exhausting to consider. It’s so stupid! What have we done!? Arghh. You may also need try to bargain with the powers that be for a way out of your despair (“I will never eat Lucky Charms again if this world won’t end”) even if you know that none of it will work. It’s a process, one step at a time. There is a lot of angry music that might help get you in the mood, including Nine Inch Nail’s The Fragile and Rage Against the Machine’s The Battle for Los Angeles, but Sinead O’Connor’s The Lion and the Cobra captures this deep-seeded emotion most profoundly. You’re still spitting fire/ Makes no difference what you say/ You’re still a liar! There are far too many angry people-with-guns movies, and I am sick of those. Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, Wrath of God is a much better tonic. Aguirre is as angry as it gets, none other than the self-proclaimed wrath of god. You should also read Dee Brown’s Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee, a chronicle of the systematic destruction of the Native Indians in the western United States. It underlines the errors of our ways with depressing clarity. After that, physical labor will do you good. Burn your anger off. And if it’s still boiling, get a punching bag and have at it.
I was at a comedy show – Sean Cullen – years ago in Vancouver, stupidly sitting in the front row, when he was asked me, “What’s your favorite part of the movie?” I answered, “The credits.” This got a big laugh out of him and everybody else after he repeated it several times over. It was an easy laugh, I guess, but I really did mean it. The credits are such a promising moment, the distribution logo rising from the gloom; the Paramount mountain is one of my favorites, fading in, about to be encircled by stars.The music comes up, and the first credit fades in from black. Anything is possible. Imagination knows no bounds.The movie begins. Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958) has to have one of the greatest openings not only for the drama of it – there’s a bomb! – but the sheer logistics and technical merit of the initial 3 1/2 minute sequence. Raiders of the Lost Ark (Spielberg, 1981), modeled after the opening sequences of many James Bond films, has technical merit too, but it’s more a wild ride than anything else. In terms of visual and aural splendor, two poetically astonishing films come to mind. The Thin Red Line (Malick, 1998) combines images of nature, poetic voice-over and the introspective music of Hans Zimmer to convey an eerie calm while Werner Herzog’s stunning opening sequence in Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1973) offers a sense of doom through the clouds of the Peruvian Andes and hypnotic soundtrack of Popol Vuh. Another great opening sequence has to be American Graffiti. A simple establishing shot of Mel’s Dinner, coupled with a montage of characters arriving and the iconic music of Bill Haley creates an invigorating atmosphere of innocent excitement. The movies go on from there; some moments are good, others not, and it either ends early or goes on too long…but you always have another credit sequence to look forward and a mountain surrounded by stars.