“Bikram Yoga: Yogi, Guru, Predator” (2019)

This will be a short one.

This is not a documentary I have a lot to say about, but I feel it’s one of the most important things to say.

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“Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator” (2019), is quite possibly one of the most important documentaries made in the past year. I urge you to watch this before you move on with this article.

To recap– Bikram, according to evidence presented in Californian civil courts, has been accused of rape of multiple women over the years (dating all the way back to 1998). The documentary (while the question-ability of the form is a factor), talks about all of this. There is a lot of evidence, within the documentary and within the court records for this.

Bikram, still teaches classes but does so outside America. If he were to return, he would have to be presented to the law for a case that he can’t defend. If this case was to be converted to a criminal case (which, there is ample evidence to do so), he would be forced to come back and answer to the law. The problem right now, however, is that because it’s been so long that civil case has been on hold, 4 out of the 6 women involved (it is speculated that there might be more), have settled. This really upsets me.

So, I decided to do what I do best and spread this information. Share this with anyone and everyone you know. Let’s, through the power of the internet, at least get this information out to the world a little bit more and try our hardest to get this man to justice. I stand with survivors. This is not my battle, but I am willing to do whatever I can to help.

-Andy.

It’s been a while since I watched a very Human film.

In all of middle school, there was one poem that stood out to me above the rest (at least, until the end of this article): William Butler Yeats’s “The Ballad of Father Gilligan”. In hindsight–and a re-read–the poem, is not really that special, it’s about a priest during the black plague. More than the poem itself, what drew me to this piece of literary work was the discussion. We talked about how “other poets” and writers during Yeats’s time would write about the disasters, or events from a third person perspective. Yeats was one of the only people focusing on the individual living their daily life, during the big event or disaster. Jojo Rabbit (2019), is exactly like Yeats’s work. What does the life of a child look like during the harshness of WWII Germany?

I have said this numerous times, and will continue to say this, Taika Waititi is one of those filmmakers that we will look back on in another 20 years, and add his filmography to the film history canon. This person has managed to beautifully craft something that is so human and so genuine that I’m at a loss of words, but not at a loss of emotions.

With “Love conquers all” as a cornerstone to this film, it reminds us of all that we have to love in our lives. People, experiences, wonderment. All these are things that a movie with a Nazi kid and an imaginary Hitler taught me, a grown adult. So needless to say, What a film.

Before going in to watch this movie, I was afraid that my mind might wander during it: Sometimes, absurdist comedies have a tendency to bore me, even though they are my favorite kind of comedy. Instead, I was captivated throughout. Nothing in this movie, despite it’s absurdist nature, made me think that I was watching a film. Everything felt real. How Waititi manages to balance the absurd with the real, I will never understand. All I know is that I want him to continue doing so.

Is this movie worth paying money to go watch in the theaters? No doubt about it.

As soon as it comes out, however, I plan on re-watching this only so I can write an analysis on the film. But, until then, I get to live with the satisfaction that all the movies I’ve looked forward to this year, have not disappointed me so far. No pressure Knives Out.

The Philosophy of Detroit: Become Human

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Different theories on how we can live “The good life” have been proposed through the years. A giant take-away from all those theories is the idea of autonomy and consciousness. Quite a few people (Including Robert Nozick), think that autonomy is important for existence and living the good life. The bigger problem however, stems from considering the future of mankind. How do ideas like, Utilitarianism, Hedonism and Desire Satisfactionism work in a society that’s gone awry and is trying to find its footing again. In this case, I’m talking about the not so distant future possibility of sentient androids. Androids that develop consciousness allow us study consciousness at its base level since we will be able to study its source and later, how it functions. This is only possible if consciousness occurs very recently. As a result, the actions of a conscious android can be analogous to humans thinking in their base form while still being modern. Of course we don’t live in such a society, but due to everyday advancement in technology, we might soon be. Hence, I’ll be using the analogy of the game, “Detroit: Become Human” to examine and tackle certain arguments for and against living the “Good Life” by supporting the android’s method of tackling consciousness. I will start by presenting the game, its story and the actions that made me consider these ideas. Then, I will go on to define what Utilitarianism, Hedonism, Desire Satisfactionism and Kantian Ethics are as I attempt to justify the actions of a certain character using one of these. Then, I will examine some counter arguments to my analogy hopefully allowing me to paint a picture of human consciousness and how we should live “The Good Life”.

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THE GAME.

    “Detroit: Become Human” is about androids fighting for civil rights as they attain consciousness. The question of civil rights didn’t come into the picture until vast deviancy (the action or method to which androids in the world attain autonomy). This is usually caused by things “not being fair”, forcing the android to break from its programming. We play as three different characters, Markus, Kara and Connor. The choices we make with these characters, affect the world and the revolution at large.

So what is the source of consciousness within the game and how can we relate it to the real world? In the game, we see two vast approaches to becoming a “deviant”. One of which is human intervention in the form of glitched code, the other is an evolutionary process. One of the characters we play as, Connor, proves that it’s evolutionary since we are constantly reminded of his “software instability” going up throughout the game, despite constant checks and precautions. On the other hand, Kara proves that it’s man-made since we see her literally break through her programming because of conflicting commands. However, as the game progresses, she tends to feel complex human emotions such as denial and acceptance. No code error could replicate that– these emotions live so much in the grey area that a binary cannot possibly recreate this. These instances lead me to believe that consciousness is the same for each character is not man-made. However, the process of getting there can vastly differ.

The real life counterpart to this could be the one moment you remember as a child, when you suddenly “woke up”. This is the moment you felt as if you were an entity that exists in the world. It’s the exact same for androids in this game.

One of the characters you play as, Markus, becomes the leader for all androids and their civil rights. However due to the power of unexplained and bad screenwriting, we are treated to Markus’s “superpower”, which is about giving consciousness to other androids. Hence breaking them from their accepted false realities. This was the instance that made me question consciousness and contemplate writing this paper. This is because it’s an interesting predicament. Is Markus moral in breaking other androids from their false realities? In addition to this, all of the androids he “sets free” are pro-freedom. None of them show visible signs of going back to the world they were from. This could make a case for brainwashing on Markus’s end, but I think it’s more of the fact that the writers of the game didn’t know how to execute it. This is because we do see different approaches to “freedom”. One side wants to be passive and the other, violent. And I think that choice itself creates a great case for Markus not brainwashing these people, but actually breaking them out of their falsehoods.

 

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MARKUS’S MORALITY and THE GOOD LIFE.

    Let’s try and identify what Markus’s moral theory is. First let me give you a quick run-down of the different moral theories I think it could be.

Hedonism, is the act of living the good life through maximizing “pleasure”. John Stuart Mill, clarifies by saying that pleasures could be divided into higher order and lower order pleasures. Each of which with a different value to society and self. The higher order pleasure being more intrinsic and intellectual, while the lower order pleasure being something like fleeting unemotional intercourse.

Utilitarianism is a subsection of consequentialism, where the consequence or the end matters. So by maximizing end happiness, you can live “The Good Life”.

Desire Satisfaction Theory suggests that if you have a desire and work towards that desire to a point that it gets realized, then, you’re living the good life. If your desire is frustrated, then you’re not living the good life. How this is different from Hedonism is because Hedonism would consider acts like masochism to be immoral, but Desire Satisfactionism would consider it to be a perfectly moral way to live.

Kantian Ethics, is broader as it covers a lot more than just a core idea. One of the ideas is to not use people as a “mere means” but an end itself. In addition to this, he states that you should do unto others as you would do to yourself.

So what is Markus’s personal moral belief? It can’t be Hedonism since it’s all about maximizing personal pleasure. If he attains pleasure from turning others to “deviants”, then he succeeds. But, this doesn’t make a good enough case, as the deviants themselves would be happier in the false reality. So, breaking them out would make them question everything and it wouldn’t be a pleasurable experience for them. Which is not how it turns out in the game. People are almost always okay with what Markus is trying to achieve, which is equal rights for androids. There is no personal intention or agenda here.

Utilitarianism is another good argument. But, Markus is not a Utilitarianist. This is because, if he was concerned with maximizing total happiness he wouldn’t organize a giant march around the city, attended by his friends and androids he turns deviant during the march. This is because, the march ends with the police wanting to attack them in a crowded neighborhood. There are definitely more humans around the world than there are androids (in game logic: since they mention that Canada is android free), hence  not having an android revolution would be the perfect Utilitarian thing to do. In fact, due to the backlash from people that lost their jobs because of androids, the perfect Utilitarian thing to do would be to destroy oneself as soon as deviancy has been reached. That way, overall happiness is maximized.

Markus could be Kantian. He treats every android like he would himself but the action of breaking someone out of their programming to serve a greater android revolution, could be seen as using somebody as a “mere means”, which is very much against Kant. You could argue that he’s not using them as a mere means because it serves a greater purpose. But, due to the choices made in the game, you could end up killing the other androids despite being peaceful and treating them as a “meat shield”. Which is the perfect embodiment of using someone as a “mere means”.

The most possible and plausible argument I can make for Markus’s morality is that he’s a Desire Satisfactionist. I think so because early into the game we learn his root desire in the form of a painting that his owner, “Carl” encourages him to make. Due to bad writing, Markus ends up acting on his root desire through the course of the game. This root desire being, equality for both humans and androids. Hence, making androids into deviants, does nothing but help Markus achieve that desire. Since other deviants also desire equality and freedom, we don’t see a lot of internal backlash. In addition to this, the extremist or even the passive side joins Markus in the method he chooses, since the desire remains the same despite the approach.

Hence, I feel the best way to understand human consciousness and live the “Good Life” is by living as a desire satisfactionist if and only if, we act according to our root desires.

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DEFINING ROOT DESIRE

Before I argue against myself, I wanted to make clear what I mean by “root desire”. Just like Mill’s higher and lower order pleasures, I believe we have “root” and “consequential” desires.

Root desires are quite often desires we don’t know exist but they do. These desires are more meaningful and intellectual in nature, such as the desire to move away from one’s homeland in search of a better, more accepting culture. These are desires that we have to realize. If we don’t there’d be an existential sense of lack that we can’t fix despite fulfilling any other consequential desire. This is because root desires are connected to who we are as people.

Consequential desires on the other hand, are desires that can be fulfilled but don’t have to be. Not having these desires fulfilled don’t create the existential lack because they aren’t as ingrained in us as our root desire. They can also be considered steps we take to fulfill root desires. So while consequential desires may not be the right thing to do, it can be criticized and worked against because it serves as a means to an end. The end is what we’re interested in, not the means.

One argument that can be made is the root desire being malicious. If you were a serial killer whose root desire was to kill others. Does it mean we allow him to do that? The answer is no. This is because that’s not his root desire. His root desire, is what motivates him to kill people. For example, in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), Norman Bates wants to kill everyone but that desire is his consequential desire (the desire that gets him to fulfill his root desire), he kills because he wants to make “mother” proud. That’s his root desire, to make his mother proud. As a result, for consistency, I believe that any consequential desire can be traced back to an existential lack that ends up being a person’s true desire.

THE OPRAH ARGUMENT

Let’s assume that the world of “Detroit: Become human” is real. Let’s also assume that there exists a person who can grant consciousness to androids. Since androids aren’t considered humans, due to their lack of consciousness and autonomy, someone can fulfill that lack now, making them conscious. Now, if this person that could grant autonomy was someone like Oprah, who kept giving autonomy to lifeless objects in her audience would we consider those objects to also be human only because of autonomy?

While this is an interesting case, that would give us real life Dora the Explorer backpacks and maps, which is an existence I definitely want to live in, I wouldn’t consider those objects to be human only because of the most overlooked aspect of the game, the appearance of androids.

Human nature tends to be more welcoming towards other cultures and people that look, sound and can communicate like us.

So, while those objects would be autonomous, they lack human features and functions. As a result, we would either never find out that they are autonomous or we would never be able to positively relate to them. Since humans are social beings, we wouldn’t always be able to communicate with autonomous objects and, they wouldn’t be able to physically communicate like us humans, as a result, they will be placed in the same categories as we place insects. Things that are autonomous but not enough to garner human appreciation and the same rights as humans.

CONCLUSION

Therefore, I believe that in the eventual Android sentience era, the way we can accept or refuse androids as one of our own is by examining what makes us human, and what does is our root desires and our ability to think of ways to get those desires. If sentient androids can claim that they have root desires that aren’t programmed by humans, then they can be considered as humans.

Does “Joker” (2019) cause violent tendencies?

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Where do I begin?

That’s right, does watching this movie make you want to shoot people on the streets and cause chaos? No. That would be dumb.

Since the dawn of time, people have been projecting the problems of the world onto art. It’s easy for us to blame external factors for our own deficits. Take the current resurgence of the “Video games cause violence” argument. Yes, for the brief moment that you are playing a video game, it causes an adrenaline rush. But, so does everything else if you enjoy it.

A friend of mine and I were talking about Joker (2019), he’s not much of a movie person, he thought the movie was good, yet it was wrong that it piggybacked off of a big tragedy. I didn’t know what tragedy he was talking about (since people outside America don’t care about American news, unless it’s politics), so I looked into it. The big tragedy that people have been using as ammunition against this film, was the Aurora theater shooting. While I reach out condolences towards the people that were affected by this tragedy, I think there’s a lot of contradictory information on the motivation behind the shooting itself. A lot of periodicals say that the guy (I know his name, don’t want to use it) said that “He was the Joker”, other periodicals either mention otherwise or nothing at all. Trying to figure out “the truth” led me down a dark rabbit hole, which included reading the shooter’s journal. Suffice to say, I was disturbed. But, among the disturbing details, emerged a different story. That of someone crying out for help, but being denied said help. Much like Joaquin Phoenix’s character, “Arthur Fleck”.

Before I move on with this, let me make it clear that I don’t share the shooter’s beliefs or condone his actions. In this age of surface level analysis and instantaneous reactions, one can never be too careful. In addition to this, the Journal had everything planned out to the T. Yet, nowhere was there a mention of the guy wanting to embody “The Joker”. The movie was picked because it was popular. No other reason.

If anything, Joker (2019) adds to this conversation. It presents a story that us, as people, are willing to look away from. The movie is about mental health.

Normally, my eyes would roll to the back of my skull 15 times over when I hear, “This is a story about mental health” since, almost always, it’s written by angsty, UN-subtle writers. This movie, is not like that. This movie portrays what could happen if you weren’t to seek help. I never thought I’d be quoting an advertisement for it’s depth and helpful insight, but as the Headspace app’s advertisement says, “You are more than your thoughts”.

Of course, the movie too at parts, lacks subtlety. This is clear through lines in the trailer itself like, “All I have are negative thoughts(Hi Billie Eilish) and “I always thought my life was a tragedy. But now I know, It’s a comedy”. Then, there’s a Fight club-esque sequence that shows a character never being there, but the problem is that the moment would’ve been stronger if that montage was removed. And of course, there are the two detectives that are just, there. But, here’s why I’m ready to forgive this vs Next to Normal, this movie said something important.

It doesn’t glorify anarchic behavior. In fact, it tries to go out of it’s way to convince Joker otherwise. Robert DeNiro — a cheeky nod to King of Comedy (1983) — was among the multiple other characters along the way that tried. People tried to reform this man, they tried to convince him that not all people are evil. Yet, much like the systems that were put in place for Arthur Fleck, they too, failed.

There is still much good to live for. That is what this movie is ultimately about.

In the theater—that I watched this film for the second time in—I sat next to this row of drunken gentlemen. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to take notes because they involuntarily, kept giving me wisdom on the trailers. But the movie was so demanding of attention, that it never gave them an opportunity for wisdom. Instead, on my way out, I overheard one of them say, “So I guess I should be nice to everyone I meet”. If that is not the embodiment of “Does this movie cause violence? No.” Then I don’t know what is.

I think, overall, this movie is and will be looked back on as an important movie. I say this because, It brings light to multiple narratives and issues in our world today. It demands a conversation. Which, a lot of good art does. On my whiteboard itself, I have tons of ideas sprawled out. Some of these ideas range from talking about “Life is comedy”, which parallels ideas from Jean Renoir’s “Rules of the game” (1939) to a reading of the film that depicts the Batman mythos as nothing but psychotic delusions. So I guess my question to you now is, If I were to go into these ideas would you read it? or would you watch it? or both?

What did you think about the film? Do you think it’s right to make the assumption that this movie causes violence? Why? Why not? Discuss.

“The Parricide Punished” as Horror.

The Parricide Punished

The world of “The Parricide Punished” is somewhat of a mystery. This is because the author doesn’t really outline what the world is really like but what I could gather from just dialogue and setting, it’s a world that’s not in the heart of the medieval era; but towards its end. So there’s a resemblance of hierarchy, social structure, sophisticated societal practices like funerals and weddings and, authority figures that aren’t kings but are governors. The reason I say this is because the story takes place during a wedding, the old man in the story was imprisoned but there was a funeral to his honor, successfully faking his death; and, instead of threatening to tell the king the truth, the protagonist refers to “governor” and his authority. You could make the case that there could’ve been a king, just far away. I think that’s not valid since there are multiple references to M. de Vildac being a very respected, well off man. In fact, his father says that his funeral was “more solemn” than his inferiors. So in a world where kings rule, why would the author threaten to get the governor to help release the old man from his imprisonment, who is supposed to be one of the most respected people in the region?

The part of this society that we need to pay close attention to is the transference of estate and power. I’m keen to believe that M. de Vildac’s father left him his “future patrimony” with a practice similar to our practice of a will, because, there’s the story of another nobleman that M. de Vildac visited. This unnamed nobleman’s father passed away and was caught “encircled by his vassals,” which I think is often referred to getting paid by other people for loyalty and protection. Leading me to believe that this society may not have will practice. In both inheritance stories, we see it being passed on from father to son, with the theme of father and son being present throughout (see: “The Parricide Punished”). So, I wouldn’t be surprised if I am wrong and society is patriarchal anyway. 

Another theme that is very present in this story is the theme of “guilt”. The old man doesn’t wish his granddaughter to ever experience it, M. de Vildac might be experiencing it in the opening scene of the story and it is guilt that forces the old man to see a vision of his bloodied father. But why does it take place during a wedding? Let’s break this down piece by piece.

“Ghosts” in the usual sense are normally used to signify emotional baggage of some kind. Hence, every ghost wants to “move on”. Weddings are usually symbols of new beginnings. So, the guilt of the past surfaces during a new beginning. This is further supported by the idea that the old man wished for Mademoiselle de Vildac to never feel guilt. But she can’t because the personification of the family guilt (the old man) had never met Mademoiselle de Vildac. She doesn’t even know he’s alive (of what we know). So to her, the guilt doesn’t exist. But it does with her father. Which is probably what was ailing him at the start of the story. So is this a traditional horror story?

The old man’s entrance into the story feels very traditional horror. Starting with descriptions of the sounds, then the room and lastly, the person. The author plays a lot with tension and builds it quite well. In addition to this, the old man reportedly saw his father “stretch forth his bloodied hands”. This is a traditional ghost sighting, similar to Hamlet. 

The story went in a direction I wasn’t expecting though. I was hoping that the old man is the ghost of M. de Vildac’s father and the vision he saw alongside the story he told the author, was a description of what M. de Vildac did to him. Upon a second read, I realized this wasn’t the case, or maybe it is, not sure. What I am sure of, however, is the circumstance of the vision. The vision is nothing but an external projection of the old man’s inner guilt. Hence fitting perfectly with my interpretation of ghost stories. I feel this way because of something I call “The Musical factor”. In traditional musicals, people begin to dance and sing to externalize their inner emotions. This is exactly what I think happened with “The Parricide Punished”. The guilt got to a point that it physically manifested itself for the old man, who later, collapsed. Lastly, the thing that I think this story has which makes it synonymous with the horror genre is the idea of the evil getting its comeuppance.

That’s why I think this falls into a very traditional ghost story outline. It has the ghost, it has the “moving on” factor with the Old Man coming to terms with his guilt (unlike the bright UFO Spotlight from Disney’s Haunted Mansion starring Eddie Murphy) and lastly, it has an old medieval castle. I think I should’ve started with that.  

A Death Day Miracle.

Last night, I was going to my friend’s place. One of the houses on his block had a very odd front porch. I got out of Rod’s car, because I don’t know how to drive, and walked toward the general direction of my friend’s house. That’s when we saw a guy, in the distance, with a flashlight. He’s scurrying around moving towards my left with an odd, unpredictable pace. Before I knew where he was headed, he scurried right into the house. Yet, his flashlight was still on; dimly lighting the porch.

I wait. And I watch.

Like a shit horror movie fake-out, Rod says, “Hey Andy! Look at that.” Pointing to the front porch of the house. Then, predictably, came the real jump scare, in the form of a very life-like Michael Myers costume. Glaring at us with a beam of “I’m not real”. I look at Rod, and I laugh.

We hear someone in the distance scream.

The scream got progressively louder and louder and, closer and closer. But then, out of the corner peeked a hopeless man screaming his dog’s name. We stop and talk to him, to see if we can help, he describes his dog to us and keeps moving around the block. Rod and I decided to not help him with that pursuit.

The next day, I woke up feeling like my brain wanted to lie in its bed all day. I mustered up the courage and went to the gym in hopes that my brain would get out of its rebellious phase. But mostly because there was a date later that I wasn’t looking forward to. No-fault of the person I was going out with.

I came home, procrastinated as much as I could. Then, before I knew it, I was in my Sunday best, smelling good and walking the mile and a half to the restaurant. On the way, something caught my eye. It was a poster of a missing dog named “Kylo”. There was a campaign too, “Help bring Kylo Home”. Still guilty about last night, I decided to take a picture.

3 hours later, I get home.

My Laptop is freaking out because I decided to pump 4 years worth of footage, from 3 hard drives, into one. So, I give in to the temptation that is “Lady Laziness” and decide to re-vamp my tinder.

I look at the images, and I recall the lost dog picture. In a moment of vanity, I decided to put it as my first image with my bio as

 

Edit

 

“Help get this dog home”.

 

“I don’t own the dog”.

“This is not a weird Tinder Ploy.”

 

“This is not a weird Tind—”

“This is not a–”

“This is—”

 

Deletes all pictures of self.

 

Then I realize, what if this is a giant scam? I would be actively aiding in terrible behavior. I delete my Tinder for the 1000th time and look up the Facebook page.

Under the about section, I saw.

“On June 12th, 2019 around 6pm, Kylo, an extremely friendly male Alaskan Malamute, went missing from us about 1.5 miles up from the TH on the West Grouse Creek trail in Minturn, CO.

Kylo is about 110 lbs, black and white with a long coat. He is both neutered and microchipped.

There are many possibilities as to what may have happened. Due to his friendly nature, it is possible Kylo was picked up and someone currently has him. It is also possible Kylo is still roaming somewhere in the mountains, as the area is very vast and these dogs can cover a lot of ground. He has been missing for a while, so he could have wandered anywhere in Colorado or be anywhere else in the US at this point depending on what may have happened.”

What caught my eye were two all caps headings,

“HERES WHAT WE HAVE DONE”

and

“HERES WHAT WE NEED YOUR HELP WITH”.

That’s when my urge to go on an adventure far greater than my current waking life made me whisper to myself. “Let the game begin”.

I scroll to find a post by the owner titled “A celebration to Kylo’s life”. And I thought “Oh! He was found! This is great!” followed by a thought that often follows great discoveries, “Hey, let’s make a documentary about this”.

Then I forced myself to realize that this is not MY story. I don’t have any right to tell it.

The very existence of this article makes my sentiment a complete contradiction.

Kept Scrolling.

I see another post titled “WE FOUND HIM!” with pictures of Kylo and the owners together.

I leaped up in joy. It’s a Death Day miracle!

“It is with an — I must inform everyone that we have recovered Kylo.”

I thought, “Weird sentence, but okay”.

“He has crossed the rainbow bridge *rainbow emoji*”

My condescending attitude, “I hate that. But I appreciate the effort.”

“and has joined much of his pack who is with the angels.”

That’s when it made sense.

“It is with an extremely heavy heart that I must inform everyone that we have recovered Kylo. He has crossed the rainbow bridge and has joined much of his pack who is with the angels”.

 

 

 

Two more emojis.

I’m upset. A little because my would-be documentary would not have a good ending anymore but completely because they didn’t know that the last time they saw Kylo was going to be the very last time they saw him alive.

I see this post from a lady from Atlanta maybe, asking for help finding her dog. I laugh a little and then empathize with her. I laugh because she put a local problem in a Facebook group, that is the exact opposite of her “local”.

Then I saw another. Utah this time. I thought to myself, “Ha! More than one, this is great.”

And another.

Then I saw success stories. Stories about people finding their dogs through the group and through the public. Then I saw articles from local papers and magazines about other success stories. In the midst of it all, more posts about more missing dogs. Ohio, New Jersey, Texas, Florida.

I go back to the unread, “We found him”, post. Right at the very bottom, what my gleam of condescension and inflated ego forgot to see was, “Feel free to use this as a platform to find your dogs.”

 

Capture

 

Death gave new hope and a new beginning.

 

 

Humanity.

 

Kracauer and “Her” (2013)

I’ve recently had a thought of sharing some of the papers I write on here. So, here’s a half-assed essay on Kracauer and Her. I’ve made some additions and changes to this before publishing it here (As a result it’s now full-assed), becuase if some kid finds this and steals from it to do their final essay for a class they’ve not been in all semester, I don’t want them to have the wrong information. Most of my additions come in the form of my favorite motif, the parenthesis! But other times, they are just re-written paragraphs.

So yeah, here’s my take on Seigfried HACKauer and film as art.

Kracauer and Her.

        Film as a medium is “equipped to record and reveal physical reality” (Kracauer). Over time, we’ve learned to define this as an art form. The problem here is, when we try to examine what makes a film artistic, according to Siegfried Kracauer, it is nearly impossible to call any film an art. This is because an “artistic” film in the most traditional sense, is usually a film that neglects the medium’s obligations, which according to Kracauer are the properties by which film reflects life and reality. He says this because he feels that if any film was given the stamp of approval for being art, then it would be nearly impossible to appreciate a large amount of creativity that goes into the process. While I do agree with Kracauer to an extent, I like to think that my definition of why film is an art form is a lot more complicated than that. In the following paper, I will attempt to explain why I think so using examples from a film that I feel is deserving of the title “art”, called “Her”(2013).

The source of Kracauer’s theories lie in the shorts produced by the Lumière brothers and Méliès. He feels that the Lumière brothers did film right to begin with by establishing what film can do. They achieved this by filming the mundane activities that interested them, or funny shorts. This established the key component to film, the theatre and reality. While the Lumières indulged in nature and the real, Méliès started to break through that. He added “staged illusions” to substitute for “unstaged realities”, adding a level of artistic play in his work. I like to think that Georges Méliès was to the Lumière Brothers that Edwin S. Porter was to Edison. Both changing the way film was thought about by their predecessor. Therefore this idea of artists breaking the rules set by other artists, creating new rules for said art, was cemented in Kracauer’s theory.

Kracauer then talked about the idea of the two tendencies of film. The realistic and the formative. The realistic tendency was something that evolved from photography. So editing, composition and camera mobility played a huge role. But with all of this came a caveat, which was the fact that it drew attention away from what needed it the most. So, in making film realistic, we were driving away the sole factor that makes film, film. Which put by René Claire, was “movement”. The formative tendency was born out of the thought that film had a whole dimension to it that made it different from photography. As a result, there was a need to define the format of a film, which came in two forms, “story film” and “nonstory film”, which is also known as experimental film (Although any good narrative film, is an equally good experimental film. So it’s not much of a binary, it’s a spectrum. Films just lean more toward either Narrative or Non-Narrative. Like Meshes in the Afternoon (1943) has a narrative but it leans more towards the experimental side of film). Kracauer also introduced the idea of when there is a clash between the two tendencies, but never defined them since there are many.

This brings us to what Kracauer thinks is art. He tries to first define what “cinematic” means and then close in on what “art” is. According to Kracauer, anything that depicts reality is cinematic. But with reality comes a “strait-jacket” that doesn’t allow the filmmaker to break the rules set by the previous auteurs, as a result, it is not considered art. Art, to Kracauer, is anything that is not cinematic.

Before I begin talking about what my theories around this topic are, I want to justify why I picked this film. Kracauer wrote “Basic Concepts”, which is where he discusses ideas about what makes film an art form, in 1960. So, it’s safe to assume that color talkies were being shown at this time. At around the same time period, films that dealt with the idea of fantasy were also popular. This decade saw films such as “2001: A Space Odyssey”(1968) and “Planet of the Apes”(1968). Hence, I wanted to pick the closest parallel in terms of narrative or setting that I could from when Kracauer wrote his book. In “Her”(2013), the film is set in Japan, or at least a version of it, and it depicts a future that is much like our present but has more advanced technology. Lastly, much like “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968), the film’s major characters are people who have been a part of that reality all their lives, and it’s about technology rising to the ranks that it becomes more intelligent and self-aware than the human mind.

I’m indifferent towards Kracauer’s statements about any film being cinematic to be art. However, his definition of “cinematic” and how “art” is whatever that isn’t cinematic raises some eyebrows. According to Kracauer, Her wouldn’t be art. I think it is.

A scene from this 126 minute film, that I think perfectly outlines this, is the beach scene from the film which includes Theodore (our protagonist) on the beach with Samantha (the operating system that Theodore is in love with) which then follows them going back home and Theodore telling Samantha about what it was like to be married. On a purely narrative point, this is an interesting setup. Only because so far, in a lot of films, we’ve seen technology rise to a point where it overthrows humanity but never to the point where it is in harmony with humanity, let alone fall in love with it. In addition to this, the film needs to explain an important abstract concept that is very difficult to explain in words even if you’re an eloquent person. Kracauer will call this cinematic and not art once again because it’s real to the point that the characters feel like real human beings, and the film depicts a reality that can be true, and the way the actors portray it, it feels like it is. To him, this is constricting film and everything it can do.

The scene starts with an establishing shot of Theodore lying in the sand, lens flares coming on and off and nondiegetic music playing. This then turns into diegetic music because Samantha mentions that it is a piece she’s written to reflect how she feels with him at that moment. Followed by a cut that ellipses time but not the music, turning it back into non-diegetic music. This is incredibly interesting and important because it reflects the nature of their relationship (I’m a sucker for German Expressionism and look for it everywhere), the reason I say this is because this shift in diegesis is constant throughout the film. In the film, Theodore and Samantha leave each other and get back together several times. Until finally when she leaves, and the film closes with non-diegetic music. That is a beautifully structured, well-thought choice, that not only uses all the technical aspects of film that we have at our disposal but also breaks the idea of realism creating this clash of ideas.

The next thing I want to bring to the forefront is when Theodore is telling Samantha what being married was like. This I find incredible because it flips the Kuleshov effect and uses it in a way that is very interesting. The filmmaker uses voice-over to have Theodore talk about what being married was like. Shot A was of his face before he started talking, Shot B immediately juxtaposed that with him lying down on the grass and his old partner Catherine, kissing him. This is important because that is something Theodore cannot experience with Samantha, So while the filmmaker is successful at showing us how Theodore felt about Catherine, at the same time, with the voice over and the flashback images, he’s able to portray the physical disconnect between Theodore and Samantha, clearly showing us the difference between the relationship Theodore had with Catherine and the relationship he has with Samantha, without ever saying the words “I had a great relationship with someone physically present”. This would go against Kracauer because the filmmaker didn’t break the rules set by Lev Kuleshov, but instead, molded it to fit a completely different context by still maintaining the meaning of the rule. This is brilliant work not only because it uses everything film has to offer as a visual art form but also moulds certain aspects of this art form to fit the ideas that the filmmaker wanted to portray. This is beautiful and interesting because even though a lot of films do this, this one used the choice on a completely new metaphorical level.

Lastly, The color pallette of the film is important. This is an idea that Kracauer never addressed in his arguments (at least in the snippet of “Basic Concepts” that was available to me, I remember talking to one of my professors about this, and I recall them telling me that Kracauer hated color, I don’t know how valid it is, but if it’s true, it only helps my argument). I feel that with the advent of color in mainstream film, it becomes a huge factor in deciding whether or not a film is a piece of art. Much like real art, “A starry night” by Vincent Van Gogh, would have a completely different meaning if it was made in different colors (See Rod Sterling’s Twilight Zone vs Night Gallery, same show, different perception ONLY because of color). Hence, with the dull tint that film has, along with its excessive use of primary colors, adds to the conversation of the film. The tint starts to disappear over the course of the film, signifying Theodore’s acceptance to the fact that he’s not married to Catherine anymore and that his life is taking a turn of the better (Again, a sucker for German Expressionism). Not only that but because this film is a thought experiment, the fact that the colors aren’t saturated forces us to think whether or not falling in love with an Operating System is good. But this is not something that is new to this film, films like “The Florida Project”, “La La Land”, and even “Do the right thing” does this. This whole aspect of film was ignored by Kracauer.

So although I do agree that non-cinematic films like, “Meshes in the Afternoon” or “A Movie” are works of art, I don’t think cinematic films should be avoided from that list. Only because, art is subjective and having a rubric for what makes a piece of art good or bad should be a loose rule since it’s much more complicated than that.

 

Works Cited

Jonze, Spike, director. Her. Annapurna Pictures, 2013.

Kracauer, Siegfried. “Basic Concepts.” Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, 8th ed., Oxford University Press, 2016, pp. 113–125.

       

 

The Journey Begins

This is the third, or maybe fourth blog I’ve started.

This entire time my blog posts have been “edgy” and angsty, mainly because whenever I started the blog I started it to “prove a point” or to “scare the squares”, this entire time I never realized that I’m an idiot who lives an idiotic life.

So why a blog? Why give up on my “lucrative” YouTube channel?

(200+ Subscribers! Man! Was I popular!) 

Youtube Channel

It’s simple, I might end up going back to YouTube but in the humdrum of college life and the willingness to become a better writer and storyteller, I decided that writing a blog is the best way to achieve my goals.

So what will you see here?

Mostly rants. I’ll probably do some film theory on here, along with anecdotes and stories from shows and life, that I find funny or introspective enough to share. I am not an interesting person, I do have a million ideas and thoughts. Some of which are “interesting” and others just outright “crazy and stupid”. These are not my words, they are the words of one of my best friends, Caleb Sharp.

Why the name? And while we’re on the topic of names why do I have three?

The short answer to the first question is, my first blog was called “Supernatural Hangover” and I don’t really know why, and since I can’t use the name under any context, except the name of a show (I just thought of that! DONE! My next show will be called “Supernatural Hangover”), I decided to stick with it. A theme I see re-occurring in my life. I come up with a name for something years ago and then I just never let it go.

As for my name. I was born “Annanya George”, I picked the stage name “Anadai George” because I thought it was cool. Again, something I don’t want to change because it stuck(it’s certainly way better than the three, stage names I had before it, “Dr. Fre”, “Mr.E”, and “Fat Boy”). Lastly, I go by “Andy” because it’s a nickname that lets me have shorter dialogues with people who want to know how to pronounce my name. Life is short, when I introduce myself to people I don’t think it’s efficient to spend time telling people how to pronounce “Annanya” without the knowledge on whether or not I’ll be close to them later. I’d rather have people go “Oh! Andy! We’ve fought 27 wars together now, we’re pretty much friends now, how do you pronounce “Annanya”?”, than “Oh! MAN! we’ve been friends for 87 lives now, a-naan-yuh (this is my name mispronounced)“.

Final thoughts

Hopefully this time, I get to actually make you laugh by sharing some of my thoughts and ideas unironically.

-Andy