[Film: Arrival, Denis Villeneuve, 2016]
Life Willed at every Second:

Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival and Friedrich Nietzsche’s Eternal Return of the Same

 

Arrival movie poster - analysis - Denis Villeneuve - Friedrich Nietzsche - eternal recurrence

Introduction:

The 2016 film ArrivalArrival analysis - Denis Villeneuve - eternal recurrence - Friedrich Nietzsche, directed by Denis Villeneuve and based on Ted Chiang’s short story “Story of Your Life,” shares much with the tone of the cerebral and philosophically adventurous science-fiction from twentieth-century speculative-fiction masters like Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Rod Serling. Helmed by Villeneuve, Arrival’s simultaneous full command of modern moviemaking practices as well as fidelity to that earlier era’s penchant for respecting the intellect of its audience make it an excellent film.

But as much as Arrival’s modern touches and classic style make for profuse praiseworthy and analytical fare—and have featured in reviews, essays, and explanations aplenty—it’s another relationship that I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere that interests me more: the overlap between the premise of Arrival and a philosophical concept known as ‘eternal recurrence’ or ‘eternal return of the same’ that was most famously championed and explored in western philosophy by Friedrich Nietzsche. Both ultimately come around to raising the same notion: what would it mean to actively, enthusiastically, and fully will every moment of one’s life?

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[Film: Arrival, Denis Villeneuve, 2016]
Life Willed at every Second:

Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival and Friedrich Nietzsche’s Eternal Return of the Same

was last modified: March 16th, 2017 by Daniel Podgorski

[Film: Pontypool, Bruce McDonald, 2008]
Pontyficating:

Pontypool and its Rapid, Disappointing Ruining of an Excellent Horror Story

Introduction:

Pontypool movie poster - movie review analysis - Dr. John MendezThe low-budget Canadian horror film Pontypool is well worth watching. Its several characters are well-drawn and fully fleshed out through minimal tactics, while the premise’s in-built limitations contain new and unique elements, even to my seasoned movie-watching cynicism. But still, despite its heavy success at an early establishment of an unnerving, creepy tone in a genuinely novel context, Pontypool‘s second half tanks its tone and changed my initial opinion of the film from ‘excellent’ to merely ‘good.’

So what is Pontypool about? What makes its premise so unique? And what goes wrong for it? It is about a freshly-employed-yet-seasoned disk jockey and his finnicky, neurotic new manager at a local radio station in a small town in Ontario which gets caught in the middle of a violent and mysterious apocalyptic-style nightmare (as well as a snowstorm). And how does the film go so wrong? By transitioning from this unique and wonderful set-up into a mess of tired tropes, tone-destroying filmmaking and acting decisions, and nonsensical as well as unnecessary pseudo-scientific explanations of—and later attempted cures for—the nightmare in question.

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[Film: Pontypool, Bruce McDonald, 2008]
Pontyficating:

Pontypool and its Rapid, Disappointing Ruining of an Excellent Horror Story

was last modified: January 6th, 2017 by Daniel Podgorski

[Film: Solaris, Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972]
Humanism and Pessimism in Space:

How Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris Turns an Unnerving Premise into an Intimate Film

 

Introduction:

Andrei Tarkovsky Sketch by M.R.P. - Solaris - technology, emotion

Sketch by M.R.P.

Back in January, I wrote an article for this series advocating the watching of movies in languages besides English, taking up Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In as a prime example of value that would be lost by limiting your viewing via language. This is a topic I would like to revisit today, with my endorsement of a film that really needs no endorsing: the classic Russian science-fiction film Solaris, co-written and directed by auteur Andrei Tarkovsky.

Just four years after American science-fiction cinema was forever altered by Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Andrei Tarkovsky also released a methodically paced, over-two-hours, thoughtful movie concerning technology, space travel, extraterrestrial life, and the limits of human understanding. But where Kubrick made a film that foregrounded topics and questions related to technological and intellectual development beyond earth, Tarkovsky instead imbued Solaris with a primary focus on human grief, guilt, and connection beyond earth.

The nature of this article is such that it requires spoiling basic plot details of Solaris, so you should only continue reading after this paragraph if you either do not mind spoilers or have already seen the film.

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[Film: Solaris, Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972]
Humanism and Pessimism in Space:

How Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris Turns an Unnerving Premise into an Intimate Film

was last modified: August 24th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: Portal, Valve, 2007]
Thinking, with Portals:

Why Portal‘s Campaign is Superior to Portal 2‘s Campaign (in Tone and Design)

 

Introduction:

I think it’s fairly trivial to say that Portal is a significant and influential franchise, and that both titles in the series are excellent experiences well worth the time of any player. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the original Portal is such a cohesive and nearly flawless gaming experience that it should be remembered alongside such other towering encapsulations of solid game design and execution as Shadow of the Colossus, the original Half-Life, and the first entry of the Dark Souls trilogy.

But my praise for Portal 2, while still extensive and enthusiastic, is simply nowhere near as unmitigated or unending as my praise for Portal. In terms of its narrative, Portal 2 opted for a lighter tone, with a heavy emphasis on blatant comedy which marred the established atmosphere of Portal and the established character of GLaDOS. Meanwhile, in terms of gameplay, Portal 2‘s single-player campaign opted for easier puzzles overflowing with a large number of lightly utilized new mechanics.

Portal screenshot with companion cube incinerator - Why Portal is better than Portal 2 - Valve Continue reading

[Game: Portal, Valve, 2007]
Thinking, with Portals:

Why Portal‘s Campaign is Superior to Portal 2‘s Campaign (in Tone and Design)

was last modified: December 2nd, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Work: A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess, 1962]
Burgess’ Myopic Morality:

Why Anthony Burgess’ Infamous A Clockwork Orange is Stronger Without its Original Last Chapter

 

Introduction:

I really think that there is no better demonstration of the valuable insight and truth behind the concept we know as ‘the death of the author‘ than A Clockwork Orange. Anthony Burgess wrote one of the greatest works of philosophical farce of the twentieth century—in many ways as strong in that genre as is Voltaire’s Candide—and then lived out the remaining 30 years of his life without really realizing he had done so. And on the strength of luck (as well as a savvy editor, and later a savvy director), his accidental stroke of genius will be remembered in perpetuity.

Do not mistake this as outright disparagement of Burgess’ abilities as an artist. Far from it, I think he was a clever writer, a subtle reader of classic literature, and a capable composer. But I also think that he was too old-fashioned, moralistic, and traditionally intellectual to notice the real virtues of his work in A Clockwork Orange.

And the great book that he decried (his own), which became the great film that he decried (Kubrick’s), was something that he dedicated much time and effort to denigrating in his later years. He sneered at it and dismissed it whenever it came up, and—most egregiously, from my perspective—he worked hard to ensure that a weaker version of the book (which he successfully marketed as the true version of the book) became the primary version available to the world.

The nature of this article is such that it requires spoiling basic plot details of A Clockwork Orange, so you should only continue reading after this paragraph if you either do not mind spoilers or have already read the book (or seen its 1971 film adaptation).

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[Work: A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess, 1962]
Burgess’ Myopic Morality:

Why Anthony Burgess’ Infamous A Clockwork Orange is Stronger Without its Original Last Chapter

was last modified: September 11th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski