The Villagers and Their Idiot Mobs…….

beat_it

A few nights ago I watched The Fountainhead for the first time.  It was a real eye opener.

Not only was this my first Gary Cooper movie–yes, I was a virgin–but it gave me a weird sense of deja-vu, kind of like I had just spent an hour flipping between CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News.

Sure, Howard Roark was a real stand-up guy, with all of that integrity, but the story line which really grabbed my attention had to do with The New York Banner, a scandal sheet with an enormous circulation and little honor.

The paper is run by the ruthless capitalist, Gail Wynand, a self-made man who traded his principals for cash.  Wynand cooks up scandals and then feeds them to the masses.  Whether these stories are true or not is of no concern, the value is measured by the hysteria it creates.

Even though Wynand peddles in trash, he values truth.  In his private life, Wynand is polished and educated.  In short, he feels he is much superior to his readers.  Therefore, since his audience are such simpletons, Wynand believes he can easily manipulate the mob and give them their marching orders.

And then there is the ideologue Ellsworth Toohey, the architecture critic for The Banner.  Toohey also believes the common people to be idiots, but instead of manipulating their feeble minds in order to amass a personal fortune, Toohey trades in personal power.

Unlike Wynand, Toohey doesn’t believe in truth or inherent value.  In fact, he believes it is dangerous–a threat to his quest for power predicated on the rise of mediocrity.  Toohey actually believes the bullshit he is peddling.  His only truth is the newest lie which will add to his power.

As The Fountainhead reaches its dramatic conclusion, there is a struggle between Wynand and Toohey as to who will controll The Banner and by extention the mob.

Who wins?  I’m not going to spoil it for you.  I will give you a hint, though.  Just turn on your television.

King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters…….

King of Kong

As one of the uber-dorks in this film gleefully exclaims, most people who play Donkey Kong have a total gaming experience of less than a minute.

Yeah, he’s talking about me.  Sadly, I’m a member of the unwashed masses who have no business setting foot inside a fun center.

But that’s ok.  Just because I suck at Donkey Kong, doesn’t mean I’m unable to appreciate its magnificence or all that it can bring to our troubled world.

I just don’t want to play it.

King of Kong gives the unworthy a chance to get their gamer geek-on, without the teeth grinding, sweaty palms, or bursts of tourette’s.

The movie chronicles the battle for Kong superiority between Billy Mitchell, the world record holder since 1982, and newcomer Steve Wiebe, who hails from the nerd crucible of Redmond, Washington.

Like any good video game, King of Kong is an epic battle of good against evil.  There are heroes, villains, and shifty accomplices with all of their cheat sheets and short-cuts.

In case you are worried, good eventually triumphs, but not in the way you would expect.  Instead of brandishing a new trick or strategy, the better gamer wins the title of the King of Kong the old fashion way—through hard work, persistence, and humility.

Isn’t that refreshing?

Stranger than Fiction…….

"I may already be dead, just not typed." -Harold Crick

stranger than fiction

There is an old saying that the book is always better than the movie.  But what happens when a movie becomes a really great book?

This is the question Stranger than Fiction brilliantly explores. 

Will Ferrell is the wonderfully ordinary Harold Crick, a man who wakes one morning to hear a running commentary by a narrator, who has hijacked his life. 

To make matters worst, through a little detective work, Harold discovers the narrator is actually an author bent on bringing about his untimely death–but in the most ingenious of circumstances.

The movie deals with issues of death–symbolic and otherwise–and what it takes to make a hero’s journey. 

In an age of one-dimensional heroes, it is refreshing to see a movie which cleverly celebrates both the ordinary and the extraordinary–all of the characteristics which live inside of each and every one of us.

Idiocracy…….

Comin’ up next on The Violence Channel: An all-new "Ow, My Balls!" -from the movie Idiocracy

Idiocracy

It certainly is easy to have a low opinion of people these days. 

Al-Qaeda is on the loose in Afghanistan, so the United States decides to invade Iraq.  The Gulf Coast is devastated by Katrina, so our leaders send a convoy of trucks full of ice to Connecticut.  The atmosphere is filling up with heat trapping gases, so we deal with the problem by driving giant SUV’s that pollute even faster.

To paraphrase the great Ozzy Osbourne, it feels like we have gone off the rails on a crazy train.

Idiocracy won’t make you feel much better about America’s devolution.  However, it will validate some of your secret suspicions.  Mike Judge does a great job of fleshing out a future based on a projection of our current path.

Think the corporate-republican war on science is no big deal?  Welcome to a future where the health care system is run like a third tier fast-food restaurant.

Don’t think rampant outsourcing and corporate sponsorship are a threat to the public good.  Meet the Secretary of State, who is brought to you by Carl’s Jr.  

Finally, the Judge Judy-izing of our criminal justice system is just a bit of harmless info-tainment, right?  Wait until your day in court is treated like a WWF smack-down.

Don’t pick-up Idiocracy expecting a laugh-fest.  But in the movie’s defense, I don’t think anyone who was mocked in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels thought that book was particularly funny either.

The Pagemaster…….

"Richard Tylor, consider this your passport to the wonderful and quite unpredictable world of books. " -Mr. Dewey

The Pagemaster

I apologize for the sporadic blogging this month.  My family and I have spent quite a bit of time fighting the various strains of flu which seem to be circulating this winter.

Thank goodness for The Pagemaster!  This is a great movie to have on hand when kids are too sick to play, but well enough to be up and moving around, though lacking energy to do much else.

The Pagemaster tells the story of Richard Tylor, a boy who finds his courage by facing three tests while on a mythical journey to find the exit in a mysterious,  Carnegie-like library. 

He is aided on this quest by three books:  Adventure, Fantasy and Horror.  These books befriend Richard and most importantly, provide plenty of light moments and entertaining banter throughout the movie.

The overall message of the movie is that books can strengthen and expand your imagination.  All you need to do is give yourself -and a book- a chance.