Showing posts with label Cinema. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cinema. Show all posts

Friday, November 29, 2019

Steve Ditko, Stan Lee, and Ayn Rand


Steve Ditko is Johnstown, PAs most famous author and illustrator.  He co-created Spider Man with Stan Lee in the 1950s.  I admit I had never heard of him until I started my book.  According to his Wikipedia page he was born here in 1927 and died in 2018 in New York City at age 90 which was a few months before Stan Lee passed away.

His page says that he split with Lee in the 1960s and did not speak to him for years.  Ditko seldom did interviews but his page says he was influenced by Ayn Rand's objectivist ideas which he expressed in his comic Dr. A.  She was interviewed by Phil Donahue in 1979.



It seems to me that Spiderman is at odds with Ayn Rand's objectivism.  I confess I'm not an avid reader of Spider-Man but in the movie with Tobey Maguire, Peter Parker (Spider-Man's alter ego) is told that "with great power comes great responsibility" by his uncle.  Spider-man becomes very altruistic leaving a note after his escapades saying "from your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man."  

I don't know Stan Lee's philosophy but many of his other comic book heroes could be thought of as altruistic.  I never read Mr. A but Ditko's page says he embodies Rand's philosophy.  Is Ayn Rand the reason Ditko and Lee parted ways?  Neither of them really ever said or ever will.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Will the Oscars Recognize Better Films


For the first time, I'm using a clip from The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore to discuss the lack of African American nominees from the Oscars this year.  Changes are being made to the Academy Membership to make it more representative.  Time will tell if these changes will make next years nominees more diverse.  The current nominees are being handicapped by the site Five Thirty Eight.  Even among avant guard white filmmakers the Academy has a long history of overlooking brilliant filmmakers and actors.

The blog sfgate.com has a list of what it believes were great films, actors and directors that the author believes were snubbed by the Oscars.  The best examples of this would be Alfred Hitchcock (the master of suspense), Peter O'Toole (Lawrence of Arabia, My Favorite Year, and 6 other films), Cary Grant (Notorious, Suspicion), Citizen Kane (the "Greatest Film of All Time" According to AFI, it did win best original screenplay for Orson Welles, his only Oscar), Marilyn Monroe (Bus Stop), and Harrison Ford (Witness).

There are others on the list which you may want to include.  It certainly is subjective.  Many believe that Martin Scorsese's film Raging Bull was robbed of an Oscar in favor of Ordinary People.  I personally thought the two films were about equal.  They struck a chord with me in different ways.

The reforms in the Academy membership may lead to a more representative set of nominees each year but will it lead to more films being nominated which challenge the status quo.  The film Straight Outta Compton (which I haven't seen) is said to be a blunt story of contemporary issues in the African American community.  The film 12 Years a Slave won the best picture award in 2014 which is a story of slavery which occurred 160 years ago that no one can do anything about.  Straight Outta Compton deals with issues that we can do something about.

What is a better measure of a films greatness than the Oscars is whether or not people are still watching and talking about a film years after it was made.  Straight Outta Compton, Concussion, and Truth may be one of those films like Raging Bull and Ordinary People (it is often sown on cable).  

The boycott by African American actors Will Smith and Spike Lee may have the desired effect next year Woody Allen has been boycotting the Oscars for years and has been nominated 24 times regardless.

Imagine if the four Best Actress and Best Actor categories were combined into two categories: Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor.  Such a move would expose sexism in Hollywood as most of the academy voters are male and I believe that males would dominate the categories.  I'm not saying that separate categories for African American filmmakers and actors be established.  I am saying that this highlights the dilemma for Oscar voters.

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Ambiguous Symbols in 2001:A Space Odyssey


When asked by the Mason’s to write about a symbol and it’s meaning, I chose one of the most enigmatic in cinematic history.  The film 2001: A Space Odyssey begins with a group of australopithecines in an African desert struggling to survive in finding food and battling with rival clans of their species.  Seemingly from out of nowhere a rectangular black monolith appears.  The australopithecines are confused by what they see.  Regardless of what they did see, after encountering the monolith they gained the capacity to use tools.  This made them better hunters and better able to fight off rivals.  This first part of the film is called The Dawn of Man as the australopithecines were the first primates to walk upright and are thought to be a link between chimpanzees and humans.

The film then leaves the earth as a US spaceship is flying towards the moon to investigate a strange sighting there at the US moon colony.  A cover story about an epidemic in the colony was created to keep the Soviets away.  When the people on the spaceship arrive at the strange sight we see that it is the same monolith that the australopithecines saw.  They discover that the monolith is sending radio signals to Jupiter.  In this segment, human’s use of tools has advanced greatly but groups of humans (represented by the US and the Soviets) are still in conflict with each other. 

After encountering the monolith on the moon, the US sends a top secret mission to Jupiter to investigate what it is sending radio signals to.  The spaceship is controlled by the ultimate human tool, the supercomputer HAL.  As the ship nears Jupiter, HAL malfunctions and kills all but one of the astronauts on board and lets the air out of the ship.  The lone survivor on the ship, played by Kier Dullea, has no choice but to investigate the monolith alone after disconnecting HAL. 

As Dullea approaches another monolith in orbit around Jupiter he has a psychedelic experience while being transported to a strange room where he ages rapidly.  As he approaches the end of his life he encounters the monolith and is then transformed into the star child floating above the Earth.  The ending is ambiguous and has had people debating it ever since.  When asked about the ending, the director Stanley Kubrick said “If you understood the ending, I failed.”

At every moment in the film where the monolith appears, the next step in human evolution is complete.  This seemingly inanimate object has the power to direct evolution.  The film 2010: The Year We Made Contact (without Kubrick as the director) addresses some of the ambiguities about what happened to Dullea’s character and why the computer HAL turned homicidal.  This time a joint US-Soviet mission returns to Jupiter and encounters HAL, Dullea and the monolith.  Exactly what the monolith is is not addressed to leave something to the imagination, and a possible sequel.  It could represent a supreme being, it could simply be a tool of a more advanced alien society to achieve some positive aim, or it could mean nothing at all.  This ambiguity is what makes the monolith so fascinating.

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