Finally got around to reading this little rant from director Steven Soderbergh on the declining state of cinema as opposed to mere movies. You’ll have to read his (fairly long) essay, but the gist of it is that cinema, as an art form, is simply a movie with purpose. “Cinema is a specificity of vision,” says he, and you don’t get that from much of the profits-driven dreck that floods theaters nowadays. This was actually my favorite part of the essay, because he points out that part of the human condition is a desire, nay, longing for meaning, for a story to “make sense out of all this chaos.” Thus, says Steven, we have art like cinema. When an artist (in this case a director) does his or her craft well,
“you can almost achieve that thing that’s impossible which is entering the consciousness of another human being—literally seeing the world the way they see it. Then, if you have a really good piece of art and a really good artist, you are altered in some way, and so the experience is transformative and in the minute you’re experiencing that piece of art, you’re not alone.”
And this is why I come back to movies again and again, and why I feel compelled to write about the experience now and again. It’s powerful stuff. Anyway, take a moment to read the essay.
I have come to a realization that I love movies that carry meaning. Conversely, I tend to despise movies that carry faux-meaning. In other words, if they try to be meaningful but are really devoid of any true substance. (Maybe I will post sometime why a flick like Fast and Furious 7 or XXX filled me with such loathing.) What do I mean by meaning? Simply, anything that touches on deeper aspects of the soul. Grief, love, family, belonging, purpose; these are some of the subjects that make for meaningful films and books. Action flicks (like Mission Impossible 4), cartoons (like Finding Nemo), or children’s movies (like the Peter Pan flick from 2003) are great examples of movies that successfully provide meaningful elements while entertaining. Even if the whole aim of the movie was to entertain, I find that I enjoy it more if there is some part of the movie that engages me at a deeper level of meaning. Continue reading “The Meaning of Gravity” »
One of the reasons why this blog concerns itself with media like movies, books, and the like is because art and literature often delves into what we might call the “numinous,” the parts of ourselves that defy naturalistic explanation like joy or beauty. It is the experience of these things that point to an existence that is beyond mere existence, but includes another realm that we intuitively know is there, that is, the soul. In short (*deep breath*), joy and beauty are true phenomenon which we often experience through artistic mediums such as movies and books, hinting at the existence of the souls, which altogether provides ample fodder for someone spiritually minded like myself to ruminate on. *Phew*
Which is why this article about two scientists’ attempts to quantify beauty as merely the result of neurons firing caught my eye. You don’t have to read the article to get the point: they fail. And fail spectacularly, to the point where they are not sure it can ever be explained materialistically. Yoiks. But that’s not terribly surprising. Naturalism does a great job explaining mechanistic features of our universe, but fails miserably when trying to answer basic questions like, “Why does the world exist?” Or, “How does life come from non-life?” Joy and beauty provide negligible evolutionary benefits, but they are nevertheless part of our experience as human beings. And I’m glad they are part of that experience. The great scandal of materialism is the most honest answer to its claims is nihilism, which few “new atheists” are willing to truly pursue. Ultimately, materialism means that things like movies and fiction books are meaningless, just things that excite a random blob of neurons that pops into existence for a few short years. But if there is a soul then the pursuit of joy and beauty takes on meaning and purpose. That sounds pretty good to me.
There is a scene at the end of the final Harry Potter movie where, upon his death, the true “spiritual” state of Lord Voldemort is revealed, as it were. We see him as a emaciated, curled up, ugly, facsimile of a human being. Of course, this was his true state all along. Instead of the powerful, commanding being that he seemed, he was truly small, selfish, and ultimately doomed to aloneness. It’s a powerful ending to the series that really brings one to pity the villain, a rare feat in most stories.
But what has struck me since I saw that small, curled up form on the screen is that I am Lord Voldemort. Continue reading “I Am Lord Voldemort” »
Okay, so I just posted about Proteus. I showed the trailer to my wife while struggling quite with how to describe it. “What is it about the pixels that appeals to you?” she asked me, trying to understand. “The pixels don’t matter, that’s just an art style. It’s really about…” Then I fumbled around with some lame-sounding descriptions of the game. “I don’t think you’ll understand it unless you’ve grown up playing games,” I finished weakly. “Yeah,” she affirmed.
Bleah. I can’t leave it at that. Continue reading “More On Experiencing Proteus” »