Tuesday, March 11, 2014

[Movie] Metropolis Revived

This movie is AWESOME.  It is heralded as the most influential silent film of all time, and I must agree with that sentiment.  You sense echos of this film in all of the work that repeats itself over and over again in science fiction works that appear later.

The key for the theme of the movie is, "The Heart Must Be a Mediator Between the Head and the Hands," addressing the growing class gaps that existed in Germany at the time between the intellectual elite and the mass workers in general.  Germany at the time was deep in debt with war reparations that had been imposed by Allied leaders at the insistence of their hawkish factions.    This film does what many great movies do which is externalize a problem on a 'future society' for a problem that exists contemporaneously in order to make it less controversial and also to make a point.

And there are several points to be made here.  The biggest is the folly of the masses turning against the machines from which they sustain life.  We need machines, or we will die.  There might be some folks who argue to the contrary...I'm not arguing with them because I don't see the point.  The second theme/point shown is in the danger of dehumanization.  When the workers do it, they endanger the lives of their children.  When the elite does it, he endangers the life of his own son.   Another theme is a bit of femininity in the value of the woman seen and who is a human and a peace maker vs the value of a machine who isn't even recognized by most for being a monster.  The more interesting aspect of all this to me is the passion play element that interjects death, the seven deadly sins and the whore of Babylon into what is otherwise 'hard' science fiction, but that's kind of the point.  This is more social science fiction along the lines of Philip K. Dick or Ray Bradbury than Asimov.

The fact that it manages to do all that and have a complex plot with many complex characters and be a SILENT MOVIE is just stunning.  The production values would be comparable to something one might see at Sundance today, and the pioneering work on the robot/machine man can compare to all but the highest budget block buster picture today.  The impressive set work and models made this futuristic city come to life.  The costumes, the acting (non verbal) and even the sign cues were just extremely impressive.

Having said that, the story would have made a lot less sense without the found footage that the early censors had foolishly cut.  The whole story made much more sense this way, and I remember being impressed with it the first time around that I saw it.  It is definitely the most impressive silent film I've ever seen, passing even the works of Chaplin or Nosfaratu.  I enjoyed it, and I think any modern audience really would if you are of an artistic mind set.

I cannot recommend seeing this enough.  Even if you don't like it, its worth the effort to see one of the greatest cinematic works all time, and if you do like it, you'll be glad you saw it!

Monday, March 3, 2014

[Movie] The Lego Movie

Everything is Awesome! Especially this movie!

This delightful tale is about Emmit, a regular construction worker who lives in the world of legos; who finds the piece of resistance, and must decide what to make of his destiny.  This light hearted, but surprisingly deep animated feature is a must see for the whole family.  It features an excellent voice cast, fantastic animation, and a theme that is worthy for any to view.  Julia and I enjoyed it immensely.


Be warned that this movie is highly metafictional.  The first 80% of the movie starts out following Emmit as he learns about the terrible things President/Lord Business has done to the world; making it samelike without allowing the creative variance of the master builders.  Emmit is recognized as not ordinary in any way, but his ideas are so 'dumb' that the other Master Builders (creatives who can make anything that they need out of the legos around them) that President Business cannot seem to cope with them.

The "Everything is Awesome" song at the beginning is a pernicious little thing that will stick in your head for days at a time and can't help but remind me of Captain Awesome.  In fact, when I just checked that link to make sure it was working, Julia groaned because it had been stuck in her head for days.   Having said that, it's also a joyful tune that is put to very good use plot wise in the movie.

The standard theme might appear to be, like most Children's movies "Spend more time with your children" which of course applies but it has more than that.  It also speaks of the need to put things above solely profit, to tolerate differences, to embrace creativity, but also not to let that creativity overshadow practical necessity to get the job done when you have to.  The metafictional elements when Emmit...goes elsewhere are among the most interesting of the story and a lot of the plot makes sense at that point.  Let us merely say that the Man Upstairs Jr. is one creative kid! (I promised spoilers but I'm only doing some)

The characters are delight in this.  Emmit is the perfect everyman, whereas Wyldstyle is a strong postmodern female lead who holds her own.  There is much wizard confusion in this, but that is a good thing.  Metalbeard the pirate is "awesome" but also hilarious.  However, to me the show stealer was Batman.  This is not your "Dark Night Returns" Batman but a surly sarcastic caricature of himself as might be thought up by someone who watched 4-5 videos of him and decided that was the way he'd always been.  Will Ferral as the villain(s) is also quite well done as is Liam Nielson's voice of Good Cop/Bad Cop.

I can't recommend this movie enough.