Movies Matter

You may be wondering what the newest motto is about ("I fear the unholy alliance between Big Prune and The Global Warming Gestapo"). The answer lies in part in a tragically moving Pageant Mom Post, where she details her travails against the "Dried Plum" industry.

In the comments I noted with horror the Orwellian aspects of renaming (or rebranding, as Kaida calls it) of prunes to "dried plums," if only to make them less associated with old people and massive runs. I speculated this might be work of the Global Warming Gestapo, which currently bills itself as a more fan-friendly Climate Change. Some day when we have more time we will delve deeply into double-speak, but for now, enjoy the motto.

Just when you thought it was dead, the Monkey Barn Mythos brings in another chapter, this one from Team Light Loafers. Check it out.



First, I must confess that the process of getting this new feature up and running has been a frustrating one. Not trying to hate or whine, but you cannot imagine how disappointing it was to get so few questions. Maybe I have been explaining myself poorly, or maybe people aren't interested, or maybe they have to see how it works the first time, or I don't know.

THEN, I manage to get away from craziness in the trailer situation and get to the hotel only to find this email, which read (in part):

You didn't even ask to have people send in questions then you get all upset that no one sends in questions.

Hyp, people don't want to be told about movies, it's condescending. I want to watch what I watch and interpret what I interpret, that's the point of art, it has the meaning that people take from it not the meaning people give to it.

I won't ask you real questions because I don't need you to tell me what to think and how to feel.

I realize I can be understated, but you have to know me somewhat to understand when I tell you I was very very very upset to get this email. Let's put it this way: I'm now sitting in the computer alcove with a security guard, who luckily I am friendly with, but still....

First of all, I asked people to send in questions at least five different times. I set up a button for it over on the left, and mentioned this button as often as I could. I realize not everyone comes every day, but is it even possible that the reason I didn't get more response is that they didn't know I was looking?

Secondly--and again, I feel like I explained this, but maybe I didn't--I am not looking to condescend to people, to tell them about movies. That's called deconstruction, and that's not what this is about. (I swear I wrote almost those exact words about it, but we move on.) What I wanted to do was to treat movies as if they were real, and answer questions/problems within them.

Maybe I'm the only one who enjoys this, but I can't believe that, because every time I bring up questions within movies to movie lovers they LOVE discussing. That's what I'm trying to foster.

The last problem I ran into was that the questions I did get were not "in" movies but "of" movies, which while I appreciated, wasn't what I was going for. I did get one great question about a movie, but it requires spoilers that ruin the movie if you haven't seen it.

I was just about ready to chuck the whole thing when I got an absolutely awesome question that restored my faith in the process. I have also decided to be a good sport and answer the questions I got that don't quite fit, under the theory of "dance with the one who brung you" and to show I appreciate those who wrote in, and hopefully people will think of questions they want to ask.

And with that, let's roll:

Question #1
How can Michael Moore lie in his movies and still call them Documentaries? Aren't there rules around what movies can be called a documentary?

Answer #1
Even if this doesn't quite fit my parameters, it's a great question.

When FAHRENHEIT 911 first came out I got so pissed off at people who thought it was "real" because of the so-called documentary nature that I wrote
The Just Lie Doctrine.

The fair-minded gene within us wants documentaries to be "true," whatever that means, and at the very least not to lie. But this is more complicated than it seems.

For example, up until recently most "documentary" footage has been nature and wild animal stuff. But we really have no idea how "real" even that is. Remember the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle? The act of observation changes what is being observed. Which means those animals are acting different, if only to try to get an agent.

Even then the Creative License doesn't end. In the Oscar-winning MARCH OF THE PENGUINS the filmmakers give a romantic angle to what the penguins go through. This is completely bogus science and untrue, but no one cared all that much, since we are talking about penguins, what they do seems heroic (to us), and most of all, because they are so cute!

But shouldn't it matter when you're talking about weighty issues, like police misconduct (in THE THIN BLUE LINE, probably the origin of the modern "documentary"), political corruption (the spell-binding FOG OF WAR) or gun control and war (as in Moore's latest two films)?

I'm somewhat torn here. On the one hand, all documentary makers have an agenda, or at least a strong point of view. Otherwise they wouldn't be making a film. This is a good thing, because there is nothing worse than a passionless filmmaker, and say what you want about the accuracy of the above four films (and I have), they are well made.

On the other hand, at what point does a point of view slide into propaganda? In most cases you have to look at the filmmaker's other actions. Someone who makes a documentary about a past event, whether trying to just shed light on an injustice or talk about an interesting person is less likely to "stretch" things than someone trying to persuade current popular opinion.

Understand, I don't think Propaganda is a bad thing, but movies that are clearly partisan-aimed should be labeled as such. Heck, I wouldn't have a problem if they got their own Oscar category.

And I can't finish this question without exhorting you to watch
GRIZZLY MAN, one of the most mesmerizing documentaries in ages.

Question #2
What is a Key Grip?

Answer #2
We've all sat at the end of the credits, wondering what on earth some of the "jobs" really are. Among the most strange sounding are Key Grip, Best-Boy Grip and everyone's favorite: Dolly Grip.

A grip is someone who works on the machinery that supports essential movie-making equipment, but not the equipment itself. (This is actually a law, as guilds run things in Hollywood.) Basically the grips run the rigging and cranes and other apparatus that the cameras, lighting, sound equipment and other things sit/move on.

Different grips do different things. A Dolly Grip runs the camera dolly that the cameras move on. A Best Boy grip is second in charge (sort of a "Right Hand" Grip), and is usually in charge of logistics, scheduling, etc.

A Key Grip is in charge of all the other grips. On most large movies they Key Grip does not operate any of the equipment him or herself, but supervises the others, but all grips are supposed to be half set-up people, half mechanics.

Question #3

Have a doozy of a question for you! Here is some background and yes there are spoilers.

Yesterday I watched "The Lake House" (have you seen it?) and although I really enjoyed the movie, it was one of those movies where you really should suspend all logic and just "go with the flow" of the movie.

On Valentine's Day 2006, Kate tries to save a man from dying in a car accident and could not. Overwrought with grief, she heads to the lake house where she begins a magical correspondence with Alex via the mailbox at the lake house. Alex, by the way, is in 2004 where Kate is in 2006. They share the lake house, although Alex is occupying it in 2004 and Kate begins to live there in 2006.

Over the course of two years, Kate and Alex develop a love for each other but Kate is perplexed by she has not yet met Alex. Turns out, that the man she tried to save that fateful Valentine's Day was Alex and he had died trying to meet her.

Once Kate figures this out, she runs back to the mailbox at the lake house and tells him to not meet her in wait until 2008. He does and the movie ends happily.

But...what I sooo do not get is if she warned him and he didn't die, then she never would have gone to the lake house to begin with and would have never fell in love with him. He just simply would not have been there at the end, and neither would she. But, of course, they meet and they kiss and the end credits roll. Why did it "work" for them?

Answer #3

Where do I begin? I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but Hyperion actually went to college to study Time Travel, so this is right up my alley. However, I'm dealing with an audience of people with varying degrees of theoretical physics knowledge, and bringing math into the equation loses most people. So, I'm going to try to answer this question best I can without math, and those who know a bit about Time Travel will forgive the many many things I skip/oversimplify.

Okay, before I answer, some of you are thinking THE LAKE HOUSE was one weird movie, what with a seemingly magic (and never explained) mailbox, and what's with the dog? Then we have the big ending. Well, would it help if I told you the film is based on an infinitely better original South Korean film called IL MARE? (Which is itself an Italian term, so you see we're already out there.) But forget the mail box, the dog, and other "gaps" in logic, let's address the final question. (I tried drawing a time line picture for this, but it got too complicated.)

Basically, Kate goes to the Lake House in 2006 because of a tragic event. Somehow she ends up corresponding with Alex, who happens to be in 2004. They write back and forth, and some other things happen and finally Alex decides to meet Kate, but it turns out Alex was part of the tragic event that sent Kate to the Lake House in the first place. Kate realizes this and tries to warn Alex to wait 2 years so the tragedy won't happen, but doesn't know if she has been successful until she sees Alex pull up in 2008.

Pretty Romantic, huh?

The question is, if Kate warns off Alex from participating from the event in 2006 that initially made her depressed, then she would have no reason to go to the Lake House, which means they never would have corresponded, which means she never would have saved him.

You see what the questioner means?

Further complicating things is the fact that Alex only goes to the original event in 2006 where the tragedy happens because of Kate, whom he "discovers" at the Lake House, where she is because of that event in the first place.

To actually dissect everything going on here would take hours, if not months, but let's answer the primary question: in general, are these kinds of "time paradoxes" possible? In a way, this is a variation of the "go back in time and shoot your grandfather" question, which I always thought was strange, because who is inventing time travel just to go back and cause an existential crisis?

But I digress.

The answer is: the events at the end of THE LAKE HOUSE are not as far-fetched as they might seem. For some time now there has been a theory called "The Multiverse." Basically this means that there are many perhaps infinite universes out there. Sometimes this means parallel universes, or universes in alternate dimensions (where everyone has goatees).

When applied to Time Travel, this means that if an individual were to go back in time and meaningfully alter events that bear on that person's life, the following would happen:

Nothing. At least to us in the present. Under this theory, time does not exist to us in a linear way the way we think of it. Time is a path, and if one goes back and alters that path, it affects the PATH, not where we (the present) are now. In other words, if the event is big enough, it would in effect "jump the tracks" of the universe path and create an alternate universe reality. If you think about it, this could well be going on right now, and no one would know.

Think about it this way: let's say you are playing Monopoly, and you are "In Jail." For some reason (most likely because you're playing with a hard-core liberal), they "Go To Jail" space is reclassified as "Get a Stern Talking to and Learn Your Lesson." However, instead of moving you back to that space, you just stay in the former "Jail" space, which has now been relabeled "Whorehouse."

In other words, though the path you took to Jail has been altered, you stay where you are and continue. This has to be the first Monopoly-related explanation of the Multiverse, and if you use it, please give me credit.

Anyway, without getting very complicated that's about the best I can do: it's conceivable under the Multiverse theory that two bad actors could one day find each other.

Question #4 (Hyperion's Favorite: MILD SPOILERS)

Heyaz ...gots a silly movie question for you. At the end of the Magnificent Seven some village boys are standing over their hero's grave (Bronson) they all cross themselves and one of them crosses himself backwards from his catholic buddies. Was he the lone Eastern Orthodox in his tiny Mexican village or was it just a mistake missed in the editing process?

Answer #4

(I just KNOW I'm going to hear static from would-be Catholics, but don't even think of bringing your weak game here. I have spent the last three hours learning WAY more than I ever wanted to know about the Sign of the Cross, and now consider myself a minor expert.)

I like the idea of the kid being Eastern Orthodox, but there are other alternatives. The kids could be:

Eastern Catholic - It turns out European and North American Catholics don't have the market on which way one does the sign of the Cross (which, for most people in the west, is forehead, bellybutton, left nipple, right nipple.) Many Catholics east of Rome Sign the other way, and the Church remains silent on the subject, which of course implicitly endorses it. (After all, remember: the sign of the Cross is a gesture of faith, not a voodoo ritual. It's not like doing it backwards will praise Lord Satan.)

Spatially Dyslexic - Some people get things backwards. We all know about people who have trouble with words or sentences, but direction is a big one too. How many "smart" people do you know who cannot for the life of them remember Left from Right? (Supposedly the way you remember is to make an "L" with your thumb and forefinger, but what if you write your Ls backwards too?).

A Mirror Learner - Some people learn a gesture by aping the exact motions of the person teaching, while others copy the gesture more literally, in the direction as it appears to them (like looking in a mirror). My favorite example of this is my older sister, who watched my eyes roll into the corner when I was lying vs. remembering, and then "aped" my direction, and now does it backwards.

Cathar - Around 1100 most Europeans went to the Left Breast Right Breast order, with the exception of the Cathars, a sect in lower France, who may have resisted the change to highlight their independence. Later the Church tried to wipe out the religion, and persecuted many for their religious beliefs. (Don't believe me? Look it up under the Albigensian Crusade.) Anyway, it's conceivable that this kid was the Scion of a hidden Cathar family hiding out in Mexico.

But I'm with you: I think he's Eastern Orthodox. One likes to think that one day his descendents moved to "East L.A."

But maybe that's just me.

Well, I hope you liked our inaugural edition. Send your Movie Matters questions in and we'll try to do this again next week. See ya!

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