Thursday, September 2, 2010

Violence, part 6: The spinning top

Like the rest of the multitudes, I enjoyed Inception very much.  Not only is it a intricately crafted work of cinema, it also creatively synthesized new findings in neurobiology, several strands of post-post-modern philosophy, and that familiar alien world known to all of us as dreams. 

And it was much to my chagrin to see that top spinning at the end of the film.  As soon as the credits began to roll, I knew what the conversation would be about on the way out of the theater, and sure enough, it was insipid debate over whether or not "It was all a dream."  I don't want to get too bogged down in the foolishness of wondering whether the events depicted in Inception really happened or not, but I do want to use this as a shining example of people getting caught up in the wrong debate.  And shame on Christopher Nolan for placating whatever studio boss who suggested that ending.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Violence, part 5: Its role in art

At least as far back as 1915, there has been concern over the graphic violence depicted in film, as evidenced by the "Plea for the art of the motion picture" that prefaces D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation.  It reads, in part, "We do demand, as a right, the liberty to show the dark side of wrong, that we may illuminate the bright side of virtue--the same liberty that is conceded to the art of the written word..."  D.W. Griffith, as video game enthusiasts would do around a hundred years later, was recognizing the double-standard his new medium was being held to.  While the clearly violent works of Shakespeare and Holy Scriptures were held in high esteem, his works were in jeopardy of state censorship merely because they were new.

Violence, part 4: Names for it

The main reason I believe it's important to view everything from riddles to your sense of sight as acts of violence is that I want to make a case that violence is a necessary part of art and expression.  But obviously, there's a difference between a conversation and someone being brutally murdered, and in this part of the series, I want to sketch out the beginnings of something like a taxonomy of violence.