This essay will discuss two of my favorite films about wilderness survival, Carnahan’s The Grey and Iñárritu’s The Revenant, using the lens of Absurdism. While they’re two very different films, they share complementary perspectives on the existential place of man. I’ll explain some the symbolism and conflicts of each, and discuss why they offer strong lessons on Absurdist philosophy. As with all my analyses, I’ll stick mostly with the source material, but will reference other evidence when needed. There is a huge range of themes these two films have to offer, but this analysis will focus on their unique existentialism.
For me, what makes these films great is their Absurdist tone. To start, let’s define Absurdism as the philosophical view that because it’s a human need to find meaning in life, and because the universe is inscrutably complex or chaotic, we’re bound to fail in that endeavor. Hence, the pursuit of meaning is ultimately “absurd”, in the sense of being ironically futile. This isn’t to say the universe is meaningless, rather its secret logic is inaccessible to our minds.
In these two films, nature is the proxy for the universe, indiscernible to the “rational” (read: civilized western) man. To attempt to apply the rational (i.e. domination) of the modern man to the irrational and ancient natural world is to invite failure. As I’ll discuss later, in The Revenant this is ultimately a criticism of man’s unempathetic relationship with our environment, and each other. For this analysis, nature allegorizes a challenge for both film’s protogonists John Ottway and Hugh Glass. In the arc of their relationship to nature, they suppress their human mores and attune themselves to its secret logic.
Each film centers around a specific human weakness that nature is unsympathetic to. In The Grey, it is Ottway’s depression. In The Revenant, is it Glass’ vengefulness. For each, taking that human weakness to its logical conclusion will not mend their spirits. They seek an answer, which comes as a new different perspective on purpose and justice. In that perspective is salvation. It will help them embrace the Absurd. Let’s discuss the symbolism and existential crisis of each film separately, and come back to this salvation.
Mad Max: Fury Road has been divisive of public opinion. One faction wants to see it as an emasculation of their iconic wasteland epic by feminist forces in Hollywood. The other wants to glorify in how it seizes themes that seem near and dear to the causes of female empowerment as if George Miller himself was taking a stance in the combative zeitgeist of the post-Gamergate era. Neither, I think, are grasping the core message of Mad Max and the audience it speaks to: all of us.
Is Mad Max a feminist film? Arguably. But that’s missing the greater point, where Miller makes an aggressive critique on the state of environmentalism, on the disastrous trajectory of humanity, and challenges us with the solution. Max may not be the “hero” of the story, but he is the most important agent in Furiosa’s character arc, which underscores the movie’s message, and that’s why the its title is a worthy namesake to his character. Max, despite his personal insanity, is a beacon of the true but trying path. Before I continue, consider this critical question:
What is the single most pivotal moment / decision of the film?
After just one stunning theater viewing, Cartoon Saloon’sSong of the Sea became one of my favorite animated films of all time. From an island nation with a daunting pound-for-pound cultural legacy, this fiercely Irish modern folktale embodies both the intellectualism born in their poet-king pubs, as well as the supernatural climes of their landscapes.
The comparisons to Miyazaki masterpiece Spirited Away have run a bit rampant; I’d like to expound on why this film, while indeed similar in tone, art style, and theme, is more than mere Celtic Miyazaki-esque.
In this article, I’ll discuss the visual and cultural themes of the movie, and explain its message for viewers today. Despite superficial similarities, it is these themes that make it quintessentially Irish. To quote the great Irish novelist John McGahern:
“Everything that we inherit, the rain, the skies, the speech, and anybody who works in the English language in Ireland knows that there’s the dead ghost of Gaelic in the language we use and listen to and that those things will reflect our Irish identity.”
I’ll show that SotSflavors well-known tropes with directed, intentional nuance that makes it more of a continuation of the worldview posited in The Secret of Kells (Moore’s first film). You could almost consider SotS to be a chronological sequel, diving deeper into the schism between spirit and human worlds that began in TSoK. Both reflect the Irish psyche that is the product of a transformation from the island’s Celtic paganism to its inevitable assimilation of Christianity. Where TSoKindulges in the intrigue of that transition, SotSgrounds it in a modern story of loss, and offers folkloric lessons as an answer.
Before we begin, I want you to take a moment and consider the single most important question to answer about SotS:Why does Saoirse choose to stay in the end?Answering this will reveal the meaning of this movie, and is the goal of this analysis, so you should have your own ideas before reading this.
The Mass Effect 3 conclusion has been extremely controversial, and much maligned. I’d like to inductively construct better game choices for the ending based on the consistent values of the series. I do not want to comment on silly things like Indoctrination Theory and the numerous logistical plot holes. I believe the deep disappointment fans had with ME3’s conclusion comes from a violation of the values players were taught, which they may feel even if they don’t understand them…
It’s been another long stint since my last post, but after watching Christopher Nolan’s excellent Inception this week, I felt a review/analysis comin’, so here it is, with the ending of this movie fully explained!
As usual, I like to start my analysis with some notes on names, so let’s start with the name of the movie. “Inception” comes from the literal latin translation of “in” + “seize” (“-ception” is related to “carpe” in carpe diem). Figuratively, it means “seize in hand“. In English, the word means the start of a new idea or venture. Why is this important? Because in the film, seeded ideas come from “physical” things that must be held in hand. We’ll come back to this later.
While I’m not sure of all the name origins, I can take a guess at a couple. Cobb, the main character, shares his name with the protagonist from Nolan’s first film The Following, who was also a thief and interpreter. Eames the forger is named after the famous architects / designers Charles and Ray Eames. Yusuf the chemist is named for the Islamic version of the Biblical character Joseph (and his technicolor dreamcoat), a man taught by God to interpret dreams.
Very inspirational post by MMA fighter Shane Carwin explaining why he continues to hold his engineering day job despite being the rising champion of the UFC:
No the job is not about the money. I made more at UFC 111 (sponsor, bonus etc) then any of my fights combined. My sponsor dollars alone were bigger then my annual salary at my job.
It is not about the money, Dana offered me an insane amount of money to quit my job last year. When I was coming out of college I had a lot of agents telling me they were going to make my dreams come true. Were talking more money then I may ever make. Then the phones just went silent. Not long after that my first wife left. It was me, a shit degree that kept me on the football field and my son.
My mom had told me this day could come and that all we really own in life are the opportunities and examples we create for those around us. She was a single mom who raised three boys and she never complained. Here I was just having a kid, playing in the Sr. Bowl and wrestling and I was unhappy with my choices.
I decided then that I would get my Engineering degrees and pursue that career and make sure I raised my son with the same set of values my mom had instilled in us. That a real man puts his families needs above his pursuits, that a real member of society holds down a job and contributes.
Millions of dollars or the hopes of that kind of money will never make me take to focus off of setting an example for my kids, an example that they can strive for. Not everyone will play for the NFL or fight for the UFC but everyone can contribute to society and give a little back.
I want my kids to know me as their father who worked hard enough to find time to live his dream instead of a guy who chased a dream while putting his life on hold.
The UFC pays me well, my manager is doing things I could have only dreamed possible, and I have no need to work other then I like that Kamden knows me as his father who works for the water district.
This is the man I want to be champion, I wish the best of luck to him over showmen like Brock.
James Cameron is a visionary director, which is not to say Avatar was a flawless movie as much as I loved it. We use the word “visionary” because it’s not “sight”- “vision” was defined in the old days to mean a “sense of sight”, or the ability to see into the supernatural. To see the supernatural, one must see and understand the meaning behind the sight; the word “vision” may come from the Sanskrit veda- meaning “I know.”
Our first vacation in a long time, Xstine and I went to New York City for the first time. Ok, actually second for me, but the first time I barely left the hotel. Part of the reason for going there was for the Naughty or Nice press event where I demoed LPSO to all sorts of different media to demonstrate that the tidal wave of casual was coming, but the other part was because Xstine and I just needed to see what all the fuss was about.
And I think I understand now. I may not want to be a New Yorker, but I envy those who had a chance to be. The Manhattan skyline is a massive, complex, unblinking slab of history and industry dropped onto the poor island like a living henge to capitalism and discovery. New York does not need to sleep to have the American Dream because every waking moment there is drowned in that hope that, ironically, was originally born from those who left the city for the endless lands of the New World.
New York is the first real city I’ve been to. Even LA and it’s sprawling sun-drenched hills filled with douchebags and wannabes have nothing on NYC, where Broadway is a nightly ration of magic accessible to everyone, not just those at Universal Studios. There, Times Square is timeless, the subways are escalators, the people are raindrops, the food venues set like parking meters down every street, all in a more genuine multi-cultural mix than anything the pretentious Cali affirmitively-activated immigrants could claim.
New Yorkers are proud. Where in San Francisco you see claims of “NY style pizza!” and “Texas BBQ!” and every other imported mimicry, in New York you’ll never see California mentioned as anything more than “Napa-style sandwich”. There is almost nothing (except BBQ) that New Yorkers don’t do bigger, better, and around every corner at every hour. Once in a while you’ll see a kindly nod to Chicago and it’s pizza too, but otherwise it’s a powerfully oblivious place. There is a lack of want there that you can’t get enough of.
One thing I came back with a newfound appreciation of was the ungodly grace of a bagel sandwich barely clamped down on a smoky fresh filet of salmon, lettuce, tomatoes, and a pancake of cream cheese… unbelievable! Time to smoke my own salmon to toast a great city!