Tuesday, July 10, 2007

That's Entertainment!

I think I'd like to talk about entertainment now.

First things first, it is essential that you watch Akira Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai. I just watched it for the third or fourth time, and was reminded that it is, of course, one of the best movies ever made.

For one thing, it is about samurai. Samurai make for great movies due to their "cool little ponytails," according to my adolescent sister, they speak Japanese without sounding like a tape player eating up a cassette (a problem experienced by certain Japanese actresses in certain Kurosawa movies, such as a certain The Hidden Fortress [to which a certain first entry in a film series entitled Star Wars owes a great debt]) (the princess in The Hidden Fortress is pretty to look at, but I would not have gotten through the movie if she had not fortuitously decided to disguise herself as a mute--good plan, Princess Yuki!), they actually do bow to their senseis, and at the end of the day, they only die honorably.

I love samurai.

Also, you owe it to yourself to watch this movie to increase your pop culture literacy. Almost every good filmmaker has done either a parody of The Seven Samurai or has been inspired by it. The Magnificent Seven (which is a faithful retelling), Sholay (which I haven't seen, but they love it in India!), Star Trek: Insurrection, A Bug's Life (people seem to be surprised that I think that A Bug's Life is extremely similar to The Seven Samurai... the only blaring, flagrant diversion is that the "samurai" warrior bugs aren't really warrior bugs...), Sleepless in Seattle (it's a little-known fact that Nora Ephron was going for a Kurosawa vibe... she failed miserably, as Martians had fed An Affair to Remember into her subconscious through her computer screen... but the movie was successful, anyway), and The Transformers. The story is just that classic-- noble warrior bugs defend a tiny Mexican village from the Son'a.

So enough about the plug. Let's get to the psychology.

I've been thinking a lot about movies lately, and about entertainment in general--what does entertainment say about Americans, who can't get enough of it?

Let's say you had never heard of movies, and I told you that there was this invention that enabled you to go from your monotonous routine to a dark room, where you could pay to watch people pretend to do all the things you would never get to do, like fly, or flirt with Ioan Gruffudd, or save someone from a death worse than fate, and then, after you watched people pretend to do these things, you would go home, and the next day you would return to your boredom and mediocrity.

I think perhaps that you would either think I was insane or that I was lucky, depending on whether or not your life had any substance at all.

Because if life has meaning, why would we want to rely on living vicariously through 2d representations of Jessica Alba or Bruce Willis or Josh Hartnett or Cate Blanchett? That's a little harsh, right? Americans don't rely on movies, do they? It's just entertainment!

Piffle. The more I think about entertainment, the more I'm convinced that we use movies to numb the desire that we have for the real thing... a movie of our own, an adventure we can claim.

Almost every movie, and almost certainly every good movie, is, at its heart, an adventure. It is a 2-hour journey, usually with a little bit of suspense and uncertainty, within the realm of relationships at the least. Why would someone voluntarily want to watch Hostel? They're either a sadist with no opportunity to wreak similar havoc on their own--or they enjoy the rush of terror. Now why would someone enjoy the rush of terror? Because fear--conquering it or enjoying it--is a huge part of adventure, and most citizens of the United States do not know how to personally experience adventure.

To me, this is really sad. It sounds like apocalyptic science fiction: a society where a majority of people spend most of their waking hours in cubicles, looking to moving pictures so that for 2 hours they can have a pretend adventure of love or war or comedy.

And for me, this creates a dilemma--how can we find our own adventures? John Eldredge would say that it is in a relationship with Christ. Well, yay. I'm sure that's not a trite answer, really, and I certainly don't want to look outside of Christ. But I'm having trouble finding my adventure.

I don't think that the only reason we watch movies is to have a brief sense of adventure. Sometimes in movies, we find patterns to follow once we find our adventure. Like in The Seven Samurai--once I'm finally on an adventure that fills me with excitement (that's really probably actually a sense of chilling dread and impending doom) I hope to be as wise a leader as Kambei Shimada, as dedicated (if not as grasshopper-like) as Kyuzo, as indefatigably optimistic as Heihachi ... and the list goes on...


Ben said...

Not so many years ago I was at a funeral (always a good time to contemplate your future) and in what must have been a Spirit inspired revelation realized that I had been living my life by someone else's script my whole life.

I had never wrestled with God over my own destiny. I had never given serious consideration to any of it, having long since given that responsibility over to everyone in my life I was afraid of (namely parents and family).

I realized I was bored, tired, and afraid life would always be that way. It was soon after this time that I told God that I wanted to live on the sharp edge of his highest calling on my life... whatever that would be. He answered me by getting me laid off 3 times from good jobs until I finally got around to accepting the idea of being a pastor.

The rest is history. Adventure in God is a bit like free falling from a cliff. Sure it's exciting, but that stream of fluid spraying upwards from my pants leg is me peeing in my pants as I do the silent scream.

Looking forward to reading your blog. Don't edit yourself too much here. Just let fly. This is really good stuff.

Youthful One said...

I love you Claire and I think you are totally awesome!

minstreloflyon said...

That's a very good post.