Lobotomies and Short Skirts [justin]

Internally, in a visually rich age, we’re losing our capacity for imagination. There are some supposedly awesome movies out there from 25, 30, 40, 50 years ago. They are films that meant something to people either in their storyline or comedic timing or worldview challenge. However, a majority of us millennials would watch a 1950’s flick and not see anything worth more than a glance or perhaps an 80’s movie and be horrified by the acting (even while connecting to it in our childhood/adolescent enjoyment). While there will always be some sort of disconnect with movies decades past, we might be right in our assessments from artistic standpoints. The quality of acting and producing and story may indeed be something that is increasing in our more current era.

But in the progression production, we’re missing something… and I think it’s imagination. The culture of yesteryear and beyond, comparatively, may have had a greater capability for internalization of story. They could watch a horribly acted scene and have their mind still hear the deeper narrative and fill in the lack; they could see forests and cityscapes and exquisitely decorated ballrooms on a barren stage; they could be transported easily into other worlds and feel the surrounding atmosphere and emotion all from black and white text on a page. (Maybe because we’ve forgotten how to read, we’ve forgotten how to dream).

In my opinion, culture’s current obsession with reviews and criticism of art (so ingrained in us that we both don’t notice it nor can think of a way to discuss art without it) is less about the creation itself and more about the audience’s deficit of imagination. This produces the inability to “forgive” which then closes doors to understanding and receiving. Our internal creativity is atrophied because our external senses are over-saturated with sound and visuals. The externalization of the fantastical can be amazing, but if everything is handed to us from with-out, there is nothing to work for with-in that exercises our imagination. This then has us approach movies not as art but as amusement (a [without] + muse [absorbed in thought] = without deep thought).

Furthermore, in our limitation of imagination, specifically of imagination in our own heart and mind, we are further debilitated from imagining and receiving from other perspectives besides our own which are often needed in order to seek out truth, beauty, and goodness more fully.

One of the great tragedies is that most of us only give art, a single glance (granted there are things that are not worth gazing at). There are four primary perspectives which should be considered to really watch a film. Even trying to view a movie with more than one of these is a step in the right direction.

Author – what is the writer/director trying to show, explain, explore? How does he/she do this well? How does it conflict or reinforce what you read into the film? Was there a target audience?

Viewer – this is your own, initial gut/emotive response to the film. It includes all your worldviews, both biased and non, along with your baggage and your values. This is typically our default lens. It is very much needed, but distorted easily when isolated.

The Film – there are so many hands/voices that go into making films, it’s crazy. Slight nuances can add up to totally different outcomes depending on the creative eye and skill of the various people in that community. Additionally, art is more that the sum of it’s parts… it can become it’s own living thing that may be saying something that no one directly intended, but that was birthed out of synergy.

Divine – Yahweh, being Creator of everything, speaks through creation. This is true even if we twist the creation into something evil. God is not afraid to speak through antithetical art (that doesn’t excuse evil human intent either). What type of revelation does God have for you in the depths? It’ll be different for most everyone, but our subjectivity should always fall under and submit to His objectivity. So what is spoken to my wife by God might be different from what is spoken to me… heck, it might even be contradictory… but that might just be the word our souls need to hear… might also be something that we can’t verbalize.

I recently stumbled upon an interesting, indirect parallel to these involving a Jewish way of studying called Pardes. I’m not saying the definitions are tied together tightly, but there is definitely some overlap at places.

Peshat – plain/simple/direct meaning
Remez – hints or alludes to something deeper
Derash – inquire, seek, teach conceptually
Sud – deep, secret, hidden, mystery

Exempli gratia: Sucker Punch. It’s is one of the most mistaken movies I’ve ever seen. The movie is not perfect by any means, but it is more than it is given credit for. When watching it the first time I could feel that there was something else going on with it than just girls in short skirts fighting the only way the oppressive system would allow against men who sought to lobotomize them. I checked up on my impressions and found that most people hated the movie. It only got only a 24% rating from critics over at rotten tomatoes who said the movie was too fluffy or too convoluted, too sexual or not sexual enough, hollow and senseless, leaving some to wonder how it ever got made. Most reviews said it sucked or was great for the most superficial reasons possible. I’ve watched interviews with the cast online where the interviewer would make the most ridiculous comments to the women in the film that left me wondering if we saw a different film.

And we did… for I think most people didn’t consider perspectives on the film nor had enough imagination to see past all the visual images [insert irony here].

A good start on perspective is the first half of this interview with Zach Snyder and how it has so much to say in the wake of geek/pop/video-game culture. It uses the very style to criticize the substance (or lack thereof) of the style. It’s almost a satirical judgment. Furthermore, the film doesn’t play well with itself; it’s pop and smart, cerebral and commercial; it’s parable that sets everything right before you but will not spoon feed you.

Not to sound like an elitist, but there may be a maturity needed to appreciate the film, both of eyes and mind. I do wonder with concern about art and (im)maturity and how it could end up with negative consequences rather than ones that promote growth. For example, there is this book I read my daughter that talks about what daddy’s can’t do (cross the street without holding hands, play hide-n-seek without being found). I think the book is cute and smart and shows the love of a dad through giving up certain freedoms/abilities for their kid. But I’ve wondered how my daughter will internalize hearing “daddy’s can’t” over and over again, not getting the turn and play on words.

Anyway, that aside, the film at hand does just what the title suggests: it sucker punches those who watch it. Nobody likes to be sucker punched, but since when was it a requirement for art to be liked in order for it to be thoughtful?

.keep thinking.

What are some characteristic of bad art or bad film?
{How} should one {rightfully} judge such things?
What are some personal examples of superficial and artificial and veneer films?

What are the pro’s and con’s of watching film
with a distinctly opposite worldview from your own?

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One thought on “Lobotomies and Short Skirts [justin]

  1. It’s interesting that you say that imagination is impaired by the overabundance of special effects and overworked perfection standard with which modern movies are made. I think the opposite can also be true. Let me explain:

    Backtrack to one fateful day in September in the year 2001. I found myself staring at an emergency newscast, live footage of an airplane heading straight toward a tower in NYC. It crashed, the building began smoking, erupting into flames, you know the rest. And as for me? I was numb. As much as I wanted to connect to the heartbreak that I KNEW was happening in those moments, or to the anger or to ANYTHING but a non-response, that was all I had. Seeing a building go up in flames on a newscast turned out to be no different in my eyes to seeing it in the film Independence Day. It wasn’t until I saw photos in a Time magazine that I was finally able to grieve what happened that day.

    My inability to “imagine” (to realize, to fill in the gaps from the TV to my heart) was impairing my reality.

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