Sunday, October 11, 2009

Movie of the week: Slipstream

Anthony Hopkins directed it, hoping (at least what he says in the commentary) to provoke a reaction, to get some people to question the form of the movie itself, or at least step back and look at what they are doing, both with their lives and with the art of film. At least that's my impression of what he said.

Unless you are a Hopkins fanatic you probably did not see this movie in theatrical release -- even if you are it's unlikely you saw it in a theater, since its release was limited to a few film festivals, and a limited run before going to DVD. Which I find terribly sad, since it's one of the most inventive, interesting and risk-taking movies I've seen in years, especially if I limit that list to movies made in the Hollywood system, excluding European movies of the 60s and 70s. This is definitely not a typical Hollywood-style movie, and by Hollywood-stlye I mean the structure that tends to be imposed not just on cartoon adventure movies, but a great deal of the "indie" film making world as well, at this point in the adventure.

Still, I suppose this is to be expected, since the movie directly challenges in many ways the conventions of what a movie is and how it should operate. It's also one of those rare movies that doesn't feel obliged to offer an explicit road map to make the viewer more at ease with what transpires. It shocks, it confuses, and at the end you are left with many questions. Some of those questions can be answered by watching the movie closely again a second or a third time. I suspect a few may never be answerable, but when logic (or the human compulsion to impose "sense" on a random and unjust world) fails there is still the gorgeous camerawork to fall back on, as compensation for not getting all the answers in a simplistic little package -- if you actually think you need to be compensated for that, that is.

What struck me on watching Slipstream at first, without the amendments of explanation or intention, was the way in which it manages to represent, at least as well as something as mechanical and limited as a film can represent it: human consciousness. And perhaps that's where the negative reactions came from? From those who work hardest to avoid accepting how random and free of specific meanings or intentions our own stream of consciousness is?

I found it especially amusing to hear that critics had been upset about the color changes made in post-production to the Corvette that features in the introduction of the characters played by Christian Slater and Jeffrey Tambor. Apparently they'd been text messaging during the minutes that led up to that bit of signalling that, no, this is not your conventional narrative.

There's also a great deal here about the nature of conscience, and a commentary on the mostly American commonplace that we are somehow responsible for our fates, if not through dint of our personal will and good (or bad) deeds, then -- perhaps an even more pernicious notion -- through the workings of our subconscious. In other words, putting paid to the notion that if we "fail" it's somehow a product of our consciousness "creating" that failure.

This is put strongly, yet ambiguously, in an early scene where Hopkins' character is disoriented, while his gorgeous, yet mildly annoying young companion is going on about various New Age notions of past life regression, channeling and 12-step psychobabble, while the narrator's consciousness is flashing up images that counterpoint that sort of grandiose and ultimately egotistical claptrap -- images of the Holocaust, and mass evil from 20th century Nazism and Soviet terror, visited on people who are unlikely to have ever had the luxury to indulge in such fantasies of control.

I could discuss this movie at length, or I could encourage others to find a copy and experience it for themselves. I'm going with Option B.

After all, I can always write a follow-up piece. Unless I get hit by a bus.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Biocentrism and anthropocentric fallacies

Simply because our experience and mechanics may be central to how we experience the universe, does it follow that the universe itself takes any particular notice of us, this particular form of sentience?

Does it exclude or preclude other kinds of sentience, for instance, some sort of hive mind built up of much more diffuse operations in the universe at large. If they were going on around us, would we even recognize that they were happening?

I shouldn't post this, in particular because I have yet to give this article its due, or even begin to comprehend it in the ordinary human sense of that phrase. But the wording here is disquieting to me, to say the least. And so I am putting this out there, hoping for comments, hoping to understand, and also hoping to get across what I think probably needs to be a rather vague sense of description of some of those other forms of "consciousness" and other, possibly "transcendent" processes in the universe, both within and among organisms, structures and "clouds" of "stuff."

This came to me from a conversation Wednesday at the Psychoanalytical Round Table, in Second Life.

in reference to:

"Our science fails to recognize those special properties of life that make it fundamental to material reality. This view of the world—biocentrism—revolves around the way a subjective experience, which we call consciousness, relates to a physical process. It is a vast mystery and one that I have pursued my entire life. The conclusions I have drawn place biology above the other sciences in the attempt to solve one of nature’s biggest puzzles, the theory of everything that other disciplines have been pursuing for the last century. Such a theory would unite all known phenomena under one umbrella, furnishing science with an all-encompassing explanation of nature or reality.
We need a revolution in our understanding of science and of the world. Living in an age dominated by science, we have come more and more to believe in an objective, empirical reality and in the goal of reaching a complete understanding of that reality. Part of the thrill that came with the announcement that the human genome had been mapped or with the idea that we are close to understanding the big bang rests in our desire for completeness."
- A New Theory of the Universe: an article by Robert Lanza about biocentrism building on quantum physics by putting life into the equation | The American Scholar (view on Google Sidewiki)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I was minding my own business when this thing came along

It was almost a poem. In the mood I'm in today I'm tempted to use the text as lyrics for a song. 

For now, though, I think I'll just try to immortalize it here, in this least immortal of places.  Is my literary executor going to hate me or what?

Details on the Word Galaxy appear at:

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Second Entry in Star Wars Uncut

This was a rush job. Back to school time seems to do that.

Star Wars Uncut - Sc 362 from B Unis on Vimeo.

Not much else to say about this, though some viewers elsewhere thought this was a political statement. It took me several days to see that. Yes, I seem to be slowing down.