Wherein unreasonably free time is dedicated to proving Jonah Hill is funnier than you.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Prestige

Wolverine! BATMAN!![1] Het Meisje met de Parel An All-Star cast comes together in The Prestige to rehabilitate the legacy of Nikolai Tesla. When the movie first came out, I considered it merely "That magic movie which isn't The Illusionist," but recently I was discussing the {meta}phyiscs of transporters in 'Star Trek' with a friend and she told me I had to watch it.

The movie was far more engrossing than I feared it would be[2], but the entire time I pondered the way in which film was framing the audience's approach to trickery. Cinema already has its own patented prestidigitation — movie magic — and most of what the magicians discussed could easily be applied to actors or people behind the camera:
  • Viewers can't believe the trick/film is *too* real because magic/movies are escapism
  • You can be better technically than a competitor and still not be as entertaining
  • "The secret impresses no one. The trick you use it for is everything."
For example, there are a few 'Patty Duke'/Parent Trap-style over-the-shoulder shots of doubles throughout the film. Some of these are used to depict tricks on the diagetic audience, and some are used to trick the film viewer. We are never meant to be fully fooled — it's more impressive to see Hugh Jackman convincingly play against himself than think either he has a twin or that he's all computer-generated — but we should not be distracted by the staging either. In grad school they call this "concealed artifice," in wrestling they call it kayfabe, and IRL it's called dating.[3]

[1] Jonathan & Christopher Nolan were the writer/director team behind both Dark Knight and The Prestige. Christian Bale's character in The Prestige has the same name as Michael Caine's character in the Dark Knight. This is still less trippy than the fact Heath Ledger's character in I'm Not There was an actor portraying Christian Bale's character in the same.
[2] The last 10 minutes or so involved too much exposition, but I am fond of the final shot.
[3] ZING! ^_^;

Monday, February 9, 2009

Yes Man

A couple years ago, I wrote a paper using Jim Carrey and Jerry Lewis as case studies of celebrity. Since then I've developed a certain fondness for Carrey, an actor capable of being more than a moron who seemingly can't find success as anything but. Based on that, I should feel sorry that last year's Yes Man was a retread of Liar Liar, except Carrey has to say "yes" instead of the truth (also, there was no magic (unless you count Zooey Deschanel's bangs)).

There is something worthwhile, however, to film's focus on opening oneself up to new ideas. We often convince ourselves we dislike things we're afraid of, but those are not mutually inclusive emotions. Going to see an upstart band, learning a foreign language, or taking a trip to an out-of-the-way locale might not dramatically change your life like it did Carrey's, but it is unlikely to be as upsetting as we imagine. Besides, even if it won't end with wooing that special She or Him, The Slightly Less Attractive Sibling is probably still single.