My name is Mickey Mouse
I built a house of clay
Donald duck came over and said
What the fuck let's smoke it all away

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Matrix (1999)

The Matrix (1999)
Is this real? Are the words you are reading right now not simply a code that constructs the world? This is the trick, the conceit, the prestige, of The Matrix. It suggests that the world we are immersed in is code. And it is code, it is coded, there is no way to avoid this. Language is the external code of thought, and you reading this right now are coding and de-coding, now.
[If you don’t follow, then you’re already and have always been in wonderland, because if you’re not there, where are you?]
The fall down the rabbit hole is to realize that these are not your real eyes, your real flesh, they are all your real mind. When you are in the matrix, without knowing that it exists, then you are not in the matrix at all. Once you know it exists, once you are within it, then begins the search for a way out.
[Is it necessary to search? Can’t you just let go? But if you let go, what do you find?]
Shown the way, and it is not the way.
“Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. Between a man and a butterfly there is necessarily a distinction. The transition is called the transformation of material things.”
The whole quote, is not quite what the abridged ‘story’ is. In the ‘story’ Chuang Chou simply says that he does not know which he is, a butterfly dreaming of Chuang Chou, or Chang Chou dreaming of a butterfly. This retains The Matrix’s ambiguity in terms of the viewer’s own coded understanding of things. Which is to say, the viewer who simply watches The Matrix, sees unfolding a coded world. The ‘simple’ question is then: is this world coded and I am simply code, or am I the world and is the code me?
[There are always alternate possibilities?]
Now then, the end of the quote is the distinction between code and the real. And the distinction is simply the transition. Or, to transform between code and reality is the way.
In terms of Neo’s death/rebirth, what is quite obviously suggested is that he becomes transcendent, a superman (and literally, look, he flies!). Taking the third movie into account, the end of the trilogy, one has to wonder whether he is in any way enlightened. If anything, it suggests that he is still dreaming, far from coming to any kind of understanding, having found power he loses the way, because the mountain is necessary to his sense of self.
[On the other hand, he could be asserting the end of the need for doubt. Confident in his selfhood, he flies?]
And so, what is Neo’s rebirth at the end of the movie, at which point he enters Mr. Smith and destroys him from the inside out? It is simply seeing the code and being able to enter it, change it, destroy it. Neo becomes, basically, a glorified hacker.
The Matrix is a very fun movie, because it suggests that we can learn to see the coded world around us and manipulate it. But do you see now that the movie itself is always going to be coded, that the only way to leave the code behind is to step back. It is not a matter of control. It is the question of…nothing.
[Is it a question of questioning?]
Through Neo’s eyes the code can be seen to construct everything, but Neo steps into it instead of stepping back. The movie fundamentally inhabits the code as its master because that is what everyone wants to see: the mastery of reality. And so what is so quickly forgotten, is that we are being shown the way, and that because it is shown, it is not the way.
This is the trap, the double bind, of The Matrix.
<Is there, Chuang Chou, any cave worth going to?>
<Is there any cave worth traveling out of?>
[Or, is it that the cave is just the question mark at the end of this sentence?]

Saturday, July 30, 2011

In Bruges (2008)

The value of sacrifice is love?
In Bruges (2008) does not really appear to be a love story, in the traditional sense. What is a love story, but a story of change?
That it is between two men, that they are killers, cold and calculating, does not matter in the sense that love is not necessarily the embroiled physicality that is so often a pastiche in the style of a tragedy-less Romeo & Juliet.
Unraveling slowly: the relationship of this movie is constructed, it has a foundation. If anything death serves as an incalculable metaphor: as the plunge from the heights of the structural relationship to the feet of the other.
The theme of the turn, of the transformation that hinges on a crucial relationship, or encounter; it is a sudden moment of…clarity, or conscience? There is to the Idiot always the possibility of redemption, but it falls on the flip of a coin, the turn of a lip, regardless. Embedded in the structure of transformation is the necessity of the flow of karma that whirls in eddies as direction is changed. To turn to face karma, to truly transform, is to face retribution. And if you are a killer, the answer is easily found.
At the shore of past/future, the present emerges as a viciously winding staircase. In the end can you see that there is no self?
The turn between, accident and intent, is like a line drawn in the sand. Movements of repetition solve only to serve the interests of the invisible.
I have, so far, ignored the dark laugh—black comedy, irony, satire—that sets the film in motion; it is this element that functions both as cause and as effect, that brings out the beauty of the sacrifice. It is almost too bizarre to be beautiful or too sad to be funny, and yet there is for this exact purpose not quite any concrete rationality present. By refusing truth/reality altogether it gets along with the shadow alone, mimetic recognition, the partial and fragmented anything. This is the beauty of being In Bruges.
Beauty is a crush of gravity and a death rattle. Time sentences here, but to serve out the arbitrary rules happily is…it is truly play.
Pooh Bear, your block is the only way.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pulp Fiction (1994)

What is the caliber of action?
I would say a Walther PPK
But the subtleties of the spy game are absented from Quentin Tarantino’s films. Violence is always hiding in plain sight.
It is not, though, the quality (the caliber) of the action that makes Tarantino’s films such a thrill. It is the sheer momentum, the force of storytelling that pushes the pulp through the sieve that is the barrier between good and great. And Pulp Fiction is a great film. It is a great film because of the way it tells its story. The pulp, the violence, is strained out, and what is left is a smooth fiction (shaken, not stirred).
Time loops, in Pulp Fiction, it comes around, at the end, to the end of the beginning. That’s the kind of loop that I dig. The violence at the end and the suggestion of violence (to come) at the beginning, are both deferred.
The fates of, ultimately, all the characters in the film, hinge on a single passage that Jules quotes twice. In film, the flow is bewitched by doubles, pairs, and twins. They suggest a mnemonic hallucination, collectively oriented towards a sublimated message. The passage is Ezekiel 25:17, and the passage that Jules quotes is only the same at the last sentence (17). This is the key that suggests that what Jules is really quoting is a formula for transcendence. Sentence 17 reads: “And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them.”
The ending informs the meaning of Jules’ passage. Once Jules has been saved by divine intervention, he has seen the hand of the Lord. The contents of the suitcase, which are never revealed, could then be satirically interpreted as divine. So, Jules, sent to retrieve the ‘divine’ is spared, while the hand of the Lord lays its vengeance on those that have stolen it. The hand flaps in both directions.
At the end, once Jules has been saved, and the serpent comes around to bite its own tail, he finally reaches interpretive depth. Up until this point when he no longer kills, he pulls the trigger inwards.
The question of Butch, the only other central figure to escape unscathed turns on two points: going for the watch, and saving Marsellus. He is saved on a whim (poor Vincent taking a shit, and dying like a shit, because he refused the hand the Lord offered him) and saves in return (with a samurai sword no less), and thus is granted absolution.
To get back to Jules: the pulp of Pulp Fiction has to do with an absolute arrogance— Mia’s episode snorting horse—and Fiction plays and pays only as temporal breaks, as splits and schisms in the endlessness of violence. That is the jewel of the film: that in the empty links of the chains that bind the film together, in the empty space that goes “clink” the story of passivity, of the shepherd and the lambs, truly unfolds.  
When Jules refuses to kill Pumpkin or Yolanda, when he sends them off with all the money from the cafĂ©, what has he done? He hasn’t done a favor for all the poor people who lost their wallets, but he has beaten the pulp against the sieve and finds it far smoother.  He is not really a shepherd, only one of the sheep, but it is a notch below where he had imagined himself before.
There is no transcendence without descent, and violence is the fight for ascendance; it is the effort to let go (of that $1500 dollars, for example) that suggests how deeply Jules splits from Vincent. The irony is that in the last frames of the film, Jules and Vincent side by side, there does not seem to be a difference. Only, that Jules holds the case, and Vincent does not.
So Anna, can you dig the relativity necessary for contrast?
There is nothing to distinguish the caliber of action except inaction.


Revolver (2005)

When is an action movie not an action movie?

Revolver is an action movie that is not an action movie. There is and there is not much more to it. It deals in deceptive simplicity, and unanswerable questions: they could either be plot holes, or plot points.

Revolver is about revolutions—a kind of Russian roulette of the mind. It is a mind game hidden inside the body of an action game. The trump suit is the mind, the trump card…well…you have to play to find out.

Disappearance, the impossibility of doing the impossible and reappearance, the possibility of doing anything at all; it plays out like a magic show: the magician reaches into the hat, each time deeper and deeper.

What comes out falls along either the impossible or the possible. It depends on you. The question becomes whether or not you can believe. Believe in nothing, there is no thing to believe in anymore—this is impossibility. If you decide to believe, then anything that comes about is possible.

A hint, and a warning, given, is that to attempt the impossible, while trapped in the possible, is tempting the abyss. The greatest fall is the fall into impossibility, but before you are ready, it’s better to stay put, because in order to fall, you have to face the end of the barrel.

What is fear?

It is always possible. It is impossible not to fear. Right? Revolver revolves around fear, around the possibility that if you pull the trigger the bullet comes out. It is not about a specific fear, although the deepest fear is always the fear of death, it is about the formula of fear.

If you understand a formula absolutely, and the formula is absolute, then essentially, you become the formula. Becoming it, you can become not it. Just like in a game of tag: if you are it, you can become not it. Fear is being it, and we are all, always, it. But this is a choice; although that it is a choice is a necessary realization. As revolutions revolve in the revolver, when the bullet comes into play, the choice emerges to be not it. To step through the game of tag is to simply be not it, not tagged, not shot, not there.

The magician, who reaches into his hat when there is absolutely nothing inside, is the true magician. It becomes a matter of no-matter.

Tom, do you see, that it can’t be seen?

Jerry, where else than here?

Harry Potter (2011) [The End?]

So I went and saw the last Harry Potter. For half price no less, but exactly why that is, is a secret (if you must know you can find the answer to all your half price questions in the anarchist cookbook). And it was…underwhelming.

Note: nothing.

The movie tried to carry the message that the Harry Potter books do—that good can overcome evil through perseverance, companionship, compassion, sacrifice, and love. These are transcendent qualities, all the power to them!

There is, in such a profoundly absolute sense that no amount of well-deserved hyperbole can qualify it, nothing especially unique about the story of Harry Potter in literature or film. I don’t mean this as a criticism, exactly. There is not much that is especially unique, anywhere, ever. It’s nice when a vehicle comes along that everyone can hop on. Harry Potter is not something that needs to be understood.
Still, it feels as though there could have been more effort involved. Maybe it is extremely difficult to pretend like you exist in a land where magic is real; where it is just when the imagination dims that childhood ends. So to see the breadth of absence in the creation of the environment (I’m referring to the actor’s here, the CGI was, well…weak, but leaving that aside…) could be particularly, shocking, scarring. To want it, perhaps, to be real so badly, and to only see it constructed like a toy model, all the mystery stripped away.

There’s one dissonant part of the movie, right towards the end, that I am going to jump on. There was a rumble in the jungle of the magical world that all the moviegoers were trying to escape to.  (a side note: there were some communal laughs at different parts of the movie, particularly the one I’m about to discuss, which totally destroyed any suspension of disbelief: something absolutely crucial to the enjoyment factor of a movie like this).

When Harry is talking to Dumbledore, after he has “died” and the topic is about where Harry is, the question of mind comes up. I almost expected Harry to wake up in a mental institution. And the film does in fact suggest this, it suggests that the possibility of transcending the moral ambiguity of “magic” is farcical; the actors make a poor play of the magic.

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”

If the viewer were to walk out at this point, when Harry is in, literally, limbo—between life and death—the film would end and Harry Potter would end without carrying anything, any message, any possibilities. The question of whether magic is an allegory or a metaphor falls on deaf ears. That world in the film could not possibly real, because, after all it is just a film: that Harry is able to re-enter life, after death, that he transcends the void (Christ like? Or is that too much?), is simultaneously the death of doubt (that this is all in his mind) and the life of doubt: that none of this is real—because there is no life after death outside of the film, outside of the screen. This one act, this death-defying act, twists the message Harry carries, just as it twists He Who Shall Not Be Named (which is a great name by the way).

The twirly gig ate a fig and shat out a fat pig.

The occult is more than this movie—as an end the movie is like the emptying of the well (or the closure of a book). The occult, well, I’d drink to that.

So, Nicole, on and on it goes, and where is stops nobody knows.

Network (1976)

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

What is the premise of the film Network (1976)?

Satire sits in your lap, it sinks and weighs on you. And it only goes away when you forget it. The point of Network is, in my humble opinion, that when you watch it it will make you “mad as hell” until you forget about it, because there’s always something far more exciting going on. To me, that is the point, it’s a sharp tipped arrow, but its poison is the poison of mass media in the first place. It makes you sick, until you get some more.

Radicalism is only as radical as its next paycheck.

Qualifying statements are for dupes, statistics are for idiots.

Did you notice that there’s no premise given, only the point? That’s all that Network can offer, little jabs—that’s all that television can offer. Inundated with these little wounds, watching television (on the internet no less) is a special kind of masochism. It is state sanctioned, culturally sanctioned, socially sanctioned, and even religiously sanctioned (so long as the message gels appropriately). It is totally neutral and therefore it has become the platform for any and every opinion, both the factual and factual ones. Am I still discussing the film?

The internet is predicted by this film in the sense that the prophet, your prophet, is out there, you just have to look hard enough—but wait, what about that cute little kitten falling into a piano? Do you see the picture; that you’re in the picture because you’re not mad as hell, you’re just laughing your ass off.
And pray tell, the cynics arrive, have you been cynicalized by cyanide flavored candies? Once a certain distance is achieved, and the full breadth of disbelief grinds its gears, there is either total removal (not likely) or cynical appraisal*that’s where the candy comes in*and to the cynic anything is permissible so long as it achieves the proper level of entertainment value. It’s a loop of infinite regression as content becomes increasingly ubiquitous—and the people that feed the content only need to feed that regression/progression.

To break the cycle: to get “mad as hell” and scream it, for real, start screaming, it’s positively cathartic, we’re so shut up watching TV that tells us to shut up and listen, that we forget where our voices are, the primal YAWP. The problem, of course, is that getting “mad as hell” becomes a catch phrase, until shouting it becomes another yawning silence.

Watch Network and start screaming (nothing, anything).

Cheers Ming, 23 skidoo.