Monthly Archives: April 2015

Harvey Review

It’s been weeks since I watched Harvey.  I thought it was fitting to watch it on Easter, but then I never got around to reviewing it until now.  So I’ll just review it now, and hopefully I’ll remember most of it.

Harvey, the third film in my unexplained series of reviews of movies that start with “Ha,” is a pleasant film.  The plot concerns a man who repels most people he meets because he has a large invisible rabbit for a friend.  It is based on a play, and it feels like watching a play the whole time.  It is clever and funny, but since the main character (played by James Stewart) isn’t very real or relatable to me, the film didn’t totally hold my attention the whole time.

The plot was structured well in my opinion, and sort of reminded me of Shakespeare’s style.  The ending was a little weak, but it was still nice.  There were a few shots in the movie that looked pretty good, and some shots that were somewhat of impressive from a technical standpoint, but it’s a rather ordinary-looking film on the whole.  Some of the lines are good, but the humor is by no means brilliant since it’s nearly all relying on the same joke: no one knows how to handle this crazy guy’s invisible friend Harvey.  Still, it’s certainly a decent comedy film that will get a few laughs from its viewers.

So, in the end, it’s probably worth seeing.  It’s not necessarily a must-see, but it’s a cute movie that is nice to watch every once in a while.

51 Harvey

Hamlet (1996) Review

Is there a way for a mere college kid,
Who hardly can recall the time of day,
To have the slightest clue of how to do
A film review about a Shakespeare play?
I once again must face that question now
Of whether I should judge only the film,
Or judge the work the film is based on too?
And why the heck did Shakespeare write this way?

So now that I’m done with the iambic pentameter (and I’ll admit I didn’t even rhyme it right for Shakespeare), let’s talk about Hamlet the play.  I like Hamlet, as a character, and I find him to be rather fascinating.  I can understand an intellectual who struggles to accept the concept of death, is obsessive and goes kind of insane, and slowly, methodically plans out how he can make clever plans once he has good evidence suggesting it is wise to do so.  Perhaps it may frighten some people to hear me say this, but I can relate to the guy.  That being said, it takes him months, and we have to watch five whole acts.  We shouldn’t have to wait that long, so as to keep waiting in suspense from becoming waiting in boredom.  That’s my main problem with Hamlet – it’s tedious.

Aside from that, Hamlet is a very well-written story with an interesting premise, clever dialogue, and strong characters, so this seems like a natural fit for cinema.  This has been adapted for film and television many times, and while I have not completely finished watching the version with Patrick Stewart and David Tennant, I may like their performances of the characters just a wee bit better. Still, this movie has a really fantastic cast – all of them brilliant and/or super famous – and the characters are all done well.  The acting may be a little over the top, but I don’t think that hurts the film.

Actually, one of the major criticisms I’ve seen of this movie is that it’s too theatrical.  I’m not sure I believe in such a thing.  The very theatrical acting works very well for the nature of this production.  The shots are all huge, and I suppose they are theatrical, but I see them as cinematic. One might say that my heart belongs to film, but I still have the hots for theater.  One would be right.  I felt like I was watching a humongous theater production the whole time, and I loved that.

I must say that my big problem with it is still the length.  I watched the full-length version on DVD, and I was frightened when I got to the end of disc one, which I thought would be the end of the movie, but I found out that it was only the end of the first half!  The rest one on disk two, and it was a bit of a chore to get through.  The impressive thing about this movie, however, is that it’s really the first time anyone had tried to do the whole play as a movie before, keeping in every word. This movie did Hamlet without editing it down, and that’s rather impressive. So, if you’re okay with a ridiculously long movie that looks good, has great writing, and has strong characters, I highly recommend it.

50 Hamlet 1996

The Eidome Theory

This is a sequel of sorts to my theory of Functional Illusions.  I wanted to expound on the topic because I think we start asking some big and important questions when we wonder about what things around us may be Functional Illusions.  The biggest and most important of these questions is: “Is God a Functional Illusion?”  The answer to this is hard to tell because the term Functional Illusion implies that everyone is aware that the notion of God is a lie, and obviously many, many people truly believe in a god, with logical reasons for doing so.  However, the idea is not out of the question.

Upon further pondering of the “Idea America” concept I presented in my Functional Illusions essay, I found that there are many things in our culture that we think of this way.  For example, I’ve read that Hitler loved the circus, and I’ve heard that he really liked children.  However, we don’t think of Hitler of having a human side at all.  The Idea Hitler is just a monster, with no human side, so that we may use him as an example of what pure evil is like.  Think about it – we refer to Hitler and/or Nazis multiple times a week because the Idea Nazis are so useful as an example.  This is remarkably similar to the Idea America, consisting of the American dream, equality, liberty and justice for all, etc.  There is a good purpose behind believing in it, and we want to believe in it because of its purpose, so it becomes a very strong Functional Illusion that may distort our view of reality.

I eventually decided that putting the word “idea” in front of something does not clarify this, so I instead have decided to make up the word Eidome (eye-du-mee) to express this concept.  I might change the word I use for this concept later, but for now, I like Eidome because its structure implies its meaning; Eidos means “idea or form,” and Epitome essentially refers to a prime example, so Eidome implies the idea or image that best exemplifies.  To be more specific, Eidome means a concept (or simulacrum) of a thing that embodies what a culture or community wants to believe is reality because the belief serves a purpose.  When one sees how the Idea America, or Eidome America, fits this description, it becomes clear that the Eidome is one of the strongest Functional Illusions, if not the chief of them all.

Lawyers are a good example.  Everyone hates lawyers, except that everyone needs lawyers.  The average middle class American might claim to hate lawyers because they take all of our money and are a huge pain, but he/she actually hates the lawyer Eidome.  The lawyer Eidome is a conniving rat that’s out to rob everyone, and is therefore easy to hate, in spite of the fact that one could easily befriend a lawyer that does not meet this description.  Hating the lawyer Eidome really only serves a few small functions: expressing annoyance with the court system, making funny lawyer jokes, warning others of the danger of sneaky lawyers, etc.  Frankly, even if every lawyer on the planet suddenly became nice and generous, we would still want to hold onto the Eidome because it’s too fun.

Another good example might be little children.  We all have met someone who claimed she loved children, but after working/living with them, she’s discovered that she only loves children “in theory.”  This means she loves the child Eidome.  She loves children making Valentines out of construction paper, children running into the bedroom during a thunderstorm, children gleefully giggling as they lose a tickle fight, and so on.  The reality of children is that they’re noisy, the ask too many questions, they make big messes, and they never listen, but the child Eidome serves the purpose of making sure people still want to have children.  With only truth and no Eidome, the species might die out.

Now it is possible to discuss the God question again.  It would certainly seem that every western religion or church has a God Eidome.  The god in the holy book may be wrathful, unjust, or deceptive, but this is all seen as irrelevant.  Instead, the God Eidome – the one that wants what’s best for everyone and offers a message of hope –  is worshiped because it’s more comforting to believe in him than it is to believe in the true god of the book.  Saturday Night Live once did a sketch in which Jesus enters a football locker-room wearing athletic socks, and he appears to be a big fan of Tim Tebow.  Religious people who saw this as a parody of Jesus were naturally offended, whereas religious people who saw it as a parody of the sports-fan’s Jesus Eidome – a Jesus who really cares about sports – knew the intent wasn’t to mock God.  SNL mocked an idea of Jesus, not a reality, as plenty of Christians have done before.  While we do not have to totally abolish Eidomes (since they do have purposes), we do need to recognize and question them in order to find truth, even if it means taking a stab at the Eidome we worship.

So, regardless of whether there is a god or not, the god that a given church worships is still probably a Functional Illusion, just as there are both a real America and an America Eidome.  Being such an important Functional Illusion, the Eidome scares people, or at least the idea of exposing Eidomes scares people.  Much like most other Functional Illusions, they are not necessarily evil, they just need to be addressed.  The reason we allow the illusions to continue should be the fact that the purposes they serve are good, and it should by no means merely be wishful thinking.  The challenge, therefore, is for each person to consider how his or her belief is merely and Eidome, because that is how we can dispel our fantasies and embrace the truth.

Harry Potter 8 Review

Let’s talk about Hermione. By that, of course, I mean let’s really overanalyze her character and make theoretical presumptions about her mindset without having read the books.  What, you don’t want to talk about Hermione?  You just want a review of the movie?

No.  We’re talking about Hermione.

I love this character.  Hey – I see that smug smile on your face, and no, I don’t mean it that way!  I mean I care about this character because I empathize with her.  I like her approach to life … unless of course what I really like is my assumption of what her approach to life is.  Let’s think about this – she’s muggle-born, and that means she’s doomed to be mocked, scorned, and called a – cover your ears, kids – mudblood.  Ouch. So, putting myself in her shoes, I think about what the best way to handle the insecurity that comes with such a burden would be.

Here’s the cool thing about wizardry: it’s established by Hagrid early on in the franchise that pretty much any wizard can cast the same spells with about the same effect as any other wizard, after enough practice.  There isn’t much in the Harry Potter world, or at least not the cinematic world, to suggest that the purebred wizards always do better wizarding than those with human blood mixed in.  So, it would seem that being a great witch or wizard is not determined solely by nature, but is in fact largely just know-how.  Essentially, in a world in which everyone has access to the same spells, and with practice can use them to about the same effect, whoever has the most knowledge has the most power.

Let’s bring it all back to Hermione.  She could have handled her insecurity about being muggle-born in a number of negative ways. However, Hermione, in her awesomeness, was wise enough to instead take on a pursuit of knowledge, which would naturally give her power over most other witches and wizards regardless of bloodline. This is where the genius of Hermione lies; it’s not in her book smarts, but in her passion for learning.  She doesn’t need to be a chosen one, a prodigy, or a legend in order to have power.  She has her brain.  So, when I sat down to watch the final film in the franchise, I was waiting to see how good ol’ Hermione ends up.

I’ll come back to that in a moment, but first let’s get the real review-ish part of this review out of the way.  The film looks as good as its last two predecessors, with a score that’s about the same, although maybe slightly vamped up.  The story is by and large very fascinating because it keeps the audience asking new questions while simultaneously answering old questions.  I was mostly sucked in, although it’s hard for me to care about what happens to Harry as much as I care about what happens to Little Miss You-Know-Who.  I could have used more focus on the relationships in this than on the Horcruxes, but it’s still cool all in all.  I love the Snape twist.  I was actually very thankful for the epilogue scene because the series didn’t feel like it had enough closer without it, and it made it a little easier to say goodbye to these guys.

But Hermione.  What was her reward for her brilliance? Surely J.K. would reward being wise more than being chosen by fate, right?  After all, to do otherwise would essentially value superstition and luck over reason and thinking.  Guess what! In this movie, Hermione has more bad ideas than good ones, feels like a side character, marries Ronald, and is upstaged by the outstanding development of … wait, I have to go look up his name again … oh, right, his name’s Neville Longbottom.  I forgot.  I’m not making it up; I really did.

I’d have jumped up and cheered had the wand Harry was using, upon flying into the air, flew through the sky over to Hermione, but noooooo . . . it makes far more sense for it to go to Longbottom.  Look, Longbottom is allowed to really grow as a character, and he’s allowed to avenge his parents, but it’s just not right for him to be given more glory than Hermione.  Heck, when I was a little boy, I’d get to suck on a red Dum Dum lollipop if I was reasonably well-behaved at the doctor’s office.  That’s a decent prize for a small feat, but since Hermione has just been flippin’ brilliant throughout the whole franchise, she deserves a lot more than getting to suck on a redhead dum-dum for the rest of her life.  Does it show that I don’t particularly care for Ronald? I really don’t.  His only role in the franchise seems to be showing up, eating, panicking, swearing, and leaving, and I had no interest in seeing him together with Hermione, who honestly seemed to have more chemistry than Harry anyway.

I digress.  Wait, no I don’t.  I’m still not totally okay with this.  I care about Hermione, and I don’t even know if she ever gets to reunite with her parents.  The movie could have focused on her a lot more than it did, but on the whole, it was a good, fun film that seemed to give the series the completion it deserved. It just didn’t give Hermione what she deserved.  Ten points from Gryffindor.

49 Harry Potter 8