By Jed McKenna
"Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know, you can't explain. But you feel it. You felt it your entire life. That there's something wrong with world. You don't know what it is, but it's there. Like a splinter in your mind — driving you mad." -Morpheus, The Matrix
This isn't a movie review list and it's not comprehensive. It's just some notes about a few movies I think are useful for purposes of awakening and why, or that aren't and why not. With tools of understanding, bad is often better than good.
Major themes represented on this list seem to be these:
- Heresy - Captive/Captor - Teacher/Student - Nature of self/man. - Death/rebirth. Cataclysm/epiphany. - Untrustworthiness of mind/memories.
The only thing I might advise with regard to movies and books is to raise material up to level where it becomes of value to you. Orwell might have been writing an anti-communist manifesto, but Nineteen Eighty-Four is much more interesting viewed as struggle between man and his confinement. Apocalypse Now is about something more than Viet Nam, How to Get Ahead In Advertising is about something more than rampant commercialism, etc.
::: American Beauty
"I feel like I've been in a coma for past twenty years. And I'm just now waking up."
I've included American Beauty mainly for what's wrong with it. Lester's major death/rebirth transition shows promise, but what does he transition to? Backward to teenage crap, not forward in any sense. A fear-based regression. Stupid car, stupid drugs, stupid vanity, stupid skirt chasing. Not at all redeemed when Lester sees his own folly near end or by sappy/smarmy dead guy voice-over.
The movie is slightly redeemed by presence of quasi-mystical neighbor kid and his video footage of a windblown bag:
"That's day I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid, ever."
::: Apocalypse Now
"In a war there are many moments for compassion and tender action. There are many moments for ruthless action — what is often called ruthless — what may in many circumstances be only clarity, seeing clearly what there is to be done and doing it, directly, quickly, awake, looking at it."
You'd think that Apocalypse Now Redux, director's cut, would be version to watch, but all stuff that was rightly cut from original has been wrongly replaced. (Raising interesting point that directors and authors often don't understand higher applications of stories they're telling.) Stick with original over both Redux and Conrad's Heart of Darkness.
Apocalypse Now is all about Horror. A journey of discovery, into heart of darkness, arriving at this horror. What's horror? How do you get there? Why would anyone make such a journey? Should you make such a journey? Why or why not?
Note powerful epiphanies that drive film. The first assassin's letter home, ("Sell house, sell car, sell kids..."), Dennis Hopper's youthful exuberance, Kurtz's diamond bullet, Willard's "...I wasn't even in their army any more."
::: Being There
"Spring, summer, autumn, winter... then spring again."
A lovely film ruined by a foolish walking-on-water stunt tacked on to end. Without that nonsense viewer would be free to think, to decide, to wonder. Instead, movie zips itself up tight with its clever little dumb-it-down twist. Hit stop button when Chauncey is straightening sapling, before ruinous denouement, and it's a fun, lovely film.
::: Blade Runner
"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off shoulder of Orion. I've watched c-beams glitter in dark near Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain. Time to die."
Were you born five minutes ago? Of course not, and you have memories to prove it. You'd know if they were artificial implants, because, uh...
::: Cast Away
"I couldn't even kill myself way I wanted to. I had power over nothing."
If a man screams on a deserted island and there's no one to hear him, does he make a sound? Is it enough that he hears it himself? What if not? What's left when you take away everything?
Self stripped bare.
This movie raises many intriguing questions about substance of self, or lack thereof, and includes a very Zen eulogy.
::: Dead Poets Society
::: Harold and Maude
"Vice, virtue. It's best not to be too moral... Aim above morality."
American Zen, master and disciple.
"For years I was smart... I recommend pleasant."
Elwood P. Dowd, wisefool. A sweet depiction of a higher order of being misinterpreted as a lower order of being. Would we know Superior Man when we saw him?