Mar 19 2010

Love, Lust, and Traveling Light in Up In the Air

maureen

CONTAINS SPOILERS

Ryan Bingham has an empty backpack. In fact, when he’s not doing his day job as a traveling employment separation specialist (he fires people for hire), he’s an aspiring motivational speaker.  He asks his audience, “What’s In Your Backpack?” Ryan believes that not only do our material possessions weigh us down, but our relationships as well. He urges others to free themselves from all life’s baggage, including human baggage. Ryan lives in a converted hotel room, owns what fits in his suitcase, and spends most of his life flying from place to place. His immediate life’s goal is to reach 10 million airline miles.

In a hotel bar he meets Alex, who also travels for her job. They trade road warrior stories and get turned on by comparing traveler’s perks. They enter an uncommitted, casual relationship in which they meet when it’s convenient. They are unashamedly in lust and find one another’s detachment incredibly sexy. Continue reading


Mar 6 2010

Comparison and Contrast Between A Serious Man and The Book of Job Plus Schrodinger’s Paradox Just for Fun

maureen

A Serious Man poses some questions of Biblical proportion: What does God want from me? Are the bad things that happen some sort of a sign? Am I righteous? What have I done to deserve this agony?

Larry, a physics professor who teaches the theory of uncertainty, begins to live it. According to Schrödinger’s Cat Paradox, which appears among the physics equations on the board in Larry’s classroom, a cat is placed in a box with a flask which may or may not break and emit radioactive poison. According to quantum physics as long as we don’t check to see what happened to the cat there is a superposition of states in which the cat exists in every possible state simultaneously. In other words, until you open the box and look the cat is both alive and dead – a quantum system that is a mixture of states.

The simultaneous car accidents in which one man lives and one man dies sort of echo this theme of alive and dead, as does the story of the Dybbuk at the beginning of the film. The two scenes in the synagogue juxtapose a funeral followed by a bar mitzvah. Larry does seem a bit like the cat in the box being acted upon rather than acting, uncertain whether he is spiritually dead or alive. Larry has no context for answers, only questions, confusion, and pain. Continue reading


Feb 22 2010

The Hurt Locker, the Olympics, and Adrenaline Addicts

maureen

On the surface Sgt. James looks like an adrenaline junkie. The Hurt Locker suggests this by beginning with a quote from journalist Chris Hedges: “The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug.” Kathryn Bigelow, its director, also directed Point Blank, which depicts surfers seeking that adrenaline high. Disarming bombs before they detonate is an exciting job and James does seem to get a rush from doing it.

Sgt. James is a complex guy. He refuses to use some of the standard precautions designed to protect him but he’s competent and very good at what he does. While his methods add tension to an already stressful mission his support team Sgt. Sanborn and Pfc. Eldridge respect his bravery and skill, though they are very uncomfortable with his unpredictability. He’s competent and takes pride in his work. He seems to genuinely want to help and shows compassion for victims of war. While his desire for excitement seems insatiable, James is also a tough, direct, heroic soldier doing one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. James’ dismissive attitude toward danger gives him a bit of a Chuck Norris/John Wayne persona. Continue reading


Feb 14 2010

Four Loves Trump Greed, Hubris, and Envy in Avatar

maureen

For me, Avatar is about love. The relationships that form in this movie brought the term “hooking up” to a whole new level. The Na’vi  are biologically equipped to commune with nature and with one another. When Jake hooks up with this community he finds four kinds of love: love for god, romantic love, friendship, and love for himself.

Avatar starts by introducing Jake’s need for love. Loss of his twin brother and loss of his legs leave him disconnected. He can no longer fulfill his purpose as a marine. The unique bond between twins is broken and he feels alone. His identity as a marine brings him a sense of belonging so he jumps at the chance to fulfill a purpose that also brings him close to his brother. Jake is seeking what all of us seek – connection and fulfillment.

Jake finds something like an Eden on Pandora where everyone seems to be enjoying connection and fulfillment. This world is intriguing and refreshing. Jake’s avatar is sent into Pandora by those who operate out of self-interest. The film’s villains are a pretty one-dimensional lot with Parker Selfridge representing the evil greed of capitalism and industrialization while the Colonel represents the hubris of military might and imperialism. At first the scientists who seek objective knowledge and career advancement in academia, while not villains, are presented as morally neutral. While the politics might be controversial, what makes these characters villains is that they are willing to further their agendas at someone else’s expense . They love themselves before others and adjust what they see as ethical to support their desires. Avatar reveals how intimate and fulfilling love can get when we put god, spouses, and friends before ourselves and our selfish motivations. Continue reading


Sep 30 2009

The Themes of Hope and Despair in District 9

maureen

I finally saw District 9. An alien ship hovers, inoperable, above South Africa. After 28 years of conflict the ship’s inhabitants and their descendants have been rounded up and placed behind fences in slum-like conditions, where violence and crime are rampant. Over time the aliens became desperate, hopeless and violent.  The situation serves as an allegory for South Africa’s period of apartheid. But it also raises bigger questions. Wikus, a white South African government official, is sent into the settlement to inform the inhabitants that they are being moved. Unlike many of his co-workers he avoids hurting the aliens unnecessarily. He does not really see them as intelligent beings until he begins to stand in their shoes. In a search of a home he is exposed to an alien technology that causes him to begin to transform into an alien. Continue reading