Movies as mythologically informed literature. Cinema Discourse looks at current and classic movies from a literary, and particularly a mythological, point of view.
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16th May 2013

On Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness

Reviewed by John David Ebert

Star Trek Into Darkness is a perfect specimen of what I have termed “post-classic cinema,” which refers to the characteristic nature of the cinema of the past decade or so, which is a type of cinema with a completely different ontological status from that of the Classic period of the 1970s and 80s. Post-classic cinema eschews all forms of originality, and proceeds by means of Cloning, Grafting, Folding and Hybridizing all previous forms of cinema. Star Trek Into Darkness essentially “folds” Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan into the inside of its narrative topology (in the same way in which Derrida said that he could have “folded” his book Of Grammatology inside Writing and Difference), and then, using that as its basic narrative skeleton, proceeds to Graft and Sew onto its anatomy various scenes and motifs from previous films. The helicopter assassination scene from Godfather Part III, for instance, is “cut” from that film and then “grafted” onto the new Star Trek narrative in a sequence in which the film’s primary antagonist, Khan, attempts to assassinate all the heads of the Federation who are present at a single meeting. The look of the futuristic San Francisco, likewise, has been cut and grafted from the city of Coruscant in The Phantom Menace. (For some reason, these films never take sea level rise into account: by the 23rd century, most of San Francisco is going to be under water).

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10th May 2013

On Iron Man 3

I

Iron Man 3:

Reviewed by John David Ebert

In ancient Mesoamerican myth,the superhero was the figure of the Aztec eagle warrior: with the jaws of the eagle wide open, the hero’s costume revealed him as a human being swallowed up into the gullet of an astral creature, for the great superhero of Mesoamerican civilization, from the Olmecs to the Aztecs, was the shaman who could shape-shift into an eagle or a jaguar and commune with the earth’s elemental spirits.

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1st April 2013

On Room 237

Room 237

Reviewed by John David Ebert

Rodney Ascher’s documentary film about Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 masterpiece is an amusing, if insipid, attempt to make Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining “make sense.” He calls on the wits of five exegetes — whose faces we never see — to analyze the film as though they were giving Biblical commentary of chapter and verse. One exegete insists that the film is “really” about the Holocaust: this is “obvious” because of the repetition of the number “42″ in the film, the year that the Nazis began to apply the Final Solution. An extra is spotted wearing a shirt with the number 42 on it; Shelley Duvall is seen watching the film Summer of ‘42 on the television while Danny plays with his trucks; and of course, 2 x 3 x 7 = 42. Therefore, the film is really “about” the Holocaust. This is the sort of parody of the hermeneutical process which the film routinely takes for granted as somehow “illuminating.”

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27th December 2012

On Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit

The Hobbit

Reviewed by John David Ebert

I saw this movie in IMAX 3D, and while watching it realized that the drive-in movie hasn’t disappeared at all, it has actually been placed inside of the movie theater auditorium and crossed with the stadium-style seating of the old dramatic theater houses. But instead of being gathered around in tiers like the Greeks gazing out at their own fellow citizens reenacting their ancient myths, in the IMAX theater, we contemporary citizens of the electronic state have gathered to watch ourselves perform an updating of the myth of Plato’s cave, in which to be means to be an electronic phantom on a screen somewhere. McLuhan’s insight that the movie screen shares in common with the old printed page the phenomenon of light on a surface rather than the self-illuminated light through of the electronic screen seems to have been obsolesced by this new medium of light in, in which the 3D effects open up a fissure into Being and shed light down into the crevice below, in which two-dimensional phantoms live and breathe in another parallel universe that attempts to engulf the viewer inside of it. One has the impression, while watching an IMAX 3D film, of actually falling horizontally — sliding, that is to say — into the image.

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5th December 2012

On The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead

Reviewed by John David Ebert

As I have pointed out elsewhere, television is now the great new medium that is taking over the role once occupied by cinema, especially the role of miniaturizing ancient and long forgotten cosmologies. And so, from now on, I will be including reviews of television shows on this site, along with contemporary films. Frank Darabont’s television show, The Walking Dead, based on a series of graphic novels, is one of the best of these new shows and I want to say a few words about it here.

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16th November 2012

The Evolving American Myth, Part 2: Clint Eastwood

In my discussion of The Chronicles of Riddick on this site (which I have retitled The Evolving American Myth, Part 1: The Chronicles of Riddick), I refer to the story of Percival, one of the Arthurian Romances, and to the vision of an inner moral sense in each individual. I trace this inner moral sense through The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Stage Coach, The Natural, Wanted, Contagion, etc., and then Raymond Chandler’s “The Simple Art of Murder:”  Read the rest of this entry »

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26th October 2012

Babette’s Feast: revisited

by John Lobell

As we await Cloud Atlas, let’s look at a more modest spiritual movie from the past, Babette’s Feast, a 1987 Danish movie directed by Gabriel Axel, staring Stéphane Audran as Babette, and based on a story by Isak Dinesen.

Babette’s Feast looks at the dual nature of out existence. In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu writes:

“Ever desiring, one can see the manifestation. Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.” Read the rest of this entry »

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22nd September 2012

Midnight in Paris

by John Lobell

Have you noticed that quite a few recent movies use non-linear layered time? In 50 First Dates, a man romantically pursues a woman who has suffered a brain injury affecting her long-term memory. Each night she loses all of the memories of the day, and wakes up the next morning thinking it is the morning of the day, years ago, that she sustained her injury. The problem for them is how to have a relationship under the circumstances of her condition. In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, star-crossed lovers each engage a service that selectively erases memories to rid them of recollections of the other. During the procedures layers of their individual and joint experiences are wrenched out of chronology as parts of them struggle to retain some of the memories. In Vanilla Sky, there are too many possible layers of what happens to even describe.

In Woody Allen’s romantic comedy, Midnight in Paris, Gil, played by Owen Wilson, and Inez, played by Rachel McAdams, are in Paris, vacationing with family and friends before their wedding. Read the rest of this entry »

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4th September 2012

Groundhog Day, revisited

Groundhog Day is one of those movies that I will watch any time I come across it on TV. I have been thinking about why.

Groundhog Day is a 1993 romantic comedy directed by Harold Ramis and staring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. It was well received on release, but as is often the case with significant movies, it took a while to sink in. The movie critic, Roger Ebert, has raised his estimation of Groundhog Day; the literary critic, Stanley Fish, includes it as one of only two movies since 1958 on his top ten list; and spiritual leaders in several traditions use the movie in their teaching. Read the rest of this entry »

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4th August 2012

The Evolving American Myth, Part 1: The Chronicles of Riddick

by John Lobell

The Chronicles of Riddick, directed in 2004 by David Twohy and staring Vin Diesel, has always been a favorite of mine. It had a poor critical reception and its gross did not make back its production, marketing, and distribution costs. However it has since seen success on DVD and television broadcasts.

While the movie was set up for a sequel, its poor reception precluded the possibility. Until now. “Shock Till You Drop” posts on IMDB regarding the soon to come sequel: “Betrayed by his own kind and left for dead on a desolate planet, Riddick fights for survival against alien predators and becomes more powerful and dangerous than ever before. Soon bounty hunters from throughout the galaxy descend on Riddick only to find themselves pawns in his greater scheme for revenge. With his enemies right where he wants them, Riddick unleashes a vicious attack of vengeance before returning to his home planet of Furya to save it from destruction.”

So what was Chronicles about and why did I like it? Read the rest of this entry »

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