Sunday, July 22, 2012

Plot free reviewlet of Dark Knight Rises

Institutions matter (whether it is the power of an idea, or the rule of law). If I had to articulate a theme for Nolan's Dark Knight. Though the third movie didn't voice it as coherently as the first two. The movie didn't make a compelling case (at least to me) of the reasonableness of Bane and his Occupy Gotham phiosophy even though the movie tried. Instead, the movie highlighted the goodness of institutions like the police and rule of law. This foci is consistent with Frank Miller's Batman, that mobs are nasty, short and brutish, and need powerful institutions (structures) and Batman's to keep them in line, but Miller did a better job giving the post modernists a voice: that these institutions we valorize and Batman defends may be inherently corrupt. The movies also grappled but diverged a bit from Miller's theme of Nietzche's ubermensch, that unlike Superman's vision of freedoms and individual liberties, only some have the Will to Power. Nolan's Batman believes a bit more in the inherent goodness and power of ordinary people. All in all, I just felt the movie was a bit too easy, a bit too Hollywood (especially the ending). Giving easy answers instead of leaving you with questions.

I wrote this before reading Manohol Dargis' NY Times review, and was amused that she hit on many of the same themes (maybe there is some validity to Lit Theory), though unlike Dargis, I didn't like the Tale of Two Cities quote, because while the evocation of the French Revolution makes sense, the context of the quote felt a bit off, though I suppose it fits if you don't think too much about it.

Anyway, still a great movie. Probably the most thoughtful of any Superhero movie franchise (including Watchmen), but for me, Avengers still wins for best superhero movie in recent memory due to sheer awesomeness.

Final Grade: A-

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Coincidences and Rhymes

Richard Feynamn famously said, we need to tell more stories like... "I was sitting by the phone last night, thinking about my sister, when suddenly the phone rang, and it was... a telemarketer." The point being that in stories, you expect the phone call would be from her sister, because that's how stories work, stories revel in coincidence (paul auster called them rhymes on radio lab), and thus they make the world feel a little magical. And while rationalists love ranting against reading too much into coincidence, so much of fiction depends on them. And while rationalists scream that these events are just random chance, the random rhymes illuminate something fundamental about people we work, and the underlying patterns that humans are programmed to see, even if those patterns sometimes are just pure coincidence.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

The nature of genius

Reading Ann Patchett's State of Wonder, like Bel Canto about opera singing genius, this is about scientific genius where she compares a mygologist to Van Gogh. . But I think its view of science is totally wrong. The Great Man Theory is great for stories but doesn't fit with my view of science anyway, or the scientists I know. A nice recent radio lab points out that while our stories of science always involves great people as the protagonists, in fact, the people themselves are ancillary to the system. That Alexander Graham Bell filed his patent for the phone just an hour ahead of his competitor. That Edison's lightbulb was just one of dozens of lightbulbs invented at the same time. For me, my favorite examples was always Newton's invention of calculus which was matched by Leibniz or Einstein's theory of special relativity, which really was a small tweak on the equations that Lorenz had already derived.