There is great importance that there be a fair discourse on cinema and it’s role in shaping our society. Of course my personal preference is that this discourse be informed by fair and balanced opinion. Its not even a matter of politics or philosophical belief. When Canadian independent filmmaker Albert Nerenberg made this film in 2003 it set about to do something that had never been done before-to analyze and investigate in depth the subject of ignorance and lack of intellectual thought process in modern society. Promising a witty and, yes balanced outlook on a subject that I was greatly interested in. Much of my own writing and exploration has been on the same subject. And this movie was presented to me in aa potentially exciting and even mildly humorous way, which gave it all the more appeal. To say that anything but these factors were met in this documentary would be an understatement of the highest order.

                                 Nerenberg gathered together a group of writers, cultural analysts and celebrities such as Coolio, John Cleese and Noam Chomsky to make the point that we live in a time where society is bombarded with far more information than the mind can mentally handle. And therefore too many people have resorted to either “zoning out” after their long and tedious day by watching television programs and movies that showcase other people making fools of themselves. It also points to the fact that all human beings are in fact inherently stupid. And our ability to cope with our surroundings largely depends on our own individual understanding of that stupidity. It also makes the assertion that society has come to worship an uneducated youth culture where even the universities have increasingly become institutes of higher ignorance rather than learning.

                                      When all is said and done the key to this film is it’s complete ineffectiveness in making its point. The narration, sounding very much read hurriedly off of a cue card and the often grainy and pixelated  quality of the film greatly add to this unprofessional atmosphere-even for an independent film. A good deal of the footage is also composed of bizarre footage of bucked toothed people jumping about in dunce caps, very much like a poorly executed satire of the type of reality television the movie condemns. While the origin points of terms such as moron, idiot and even a rather feeble attempt at explaining the origin story of the dunce cap are made, the manner in which these are presented lack any conceptual coherence and come off as mere vignettes randomly strung together with little care for logic or sequencing.

                                     The most irksome quality of this film is on the more personal level. Stupidity is a bad movie. Not in the sense of the low quality/low budget films of an Ed Wood. But bad in the sense that its presentation has high potential to encourage negativity. All of the dialog of the film is presented in an extremely hectoring manner-almost as if it had been deliberately designed to provoke loud and unpleasant arguments between the different people who might be watching this film together, for example.  Most of the social experts and writers speaking on this film take an extremely patronizing and insulting tone about everyone and everything they talk about. They make it more than clear without directly saying it that they look down their nose at most human beings. And they consider their views to be morally and intellectually above any given viewer of the film. The film does this in different was-each worthy of mention as far as I’m concerned.

                                    First off, this film is extremely anti-children-to the point of being abusive. I would even recommend that people under 20 year of age shouldn’t watch this film as it never articulates such a person has any right to be on this planet.  Bill Maher himself states in his appearance in this film that young people are inherently stupid by virtue of their young and that, as in other countries it’s only the old who should be considered worthy of any veneration. An author who spoke toward the end of the film actually evoked  the concept of finding ones inner child to be a stupid concept because, to quote him whenever he saw a child in a grocery store they were “stupid and ugly”. Emphasis on youth is also blamed for Hollywood movies, dumbed down because of pandering to a “younger” audience. It personally attacks actress Uma Thurman for not completing high school with an academic father-along with her apparent interest in metaphysical literature which is of course dismissed as “rubbish”.

                                 Perhaps most importantly every participant in this film are treated in a cruel manner . The man and women on the street, including a homeless street philosopher are interviewed for this film with the plainly obvious intent of making fun of their lifestyles.  Not only that but the film itself dismisses all politicians and artists’ entire points of view as being based in inherent stupidity. While much of the historical information such as tracing genetic intelligence among immigrants, the origin of the term IQ and how the brain has been observed and studied are compelling this film defeats its own purpose by not further emphasizing these points within its own context. Instead it chooses to revel in the side of itself that is emotionally abusive to a number of different people,especially the young, by utilizing the scripted equivalent of bullying tactics. In the end I would never recommend this film to the enlightened, intelligent, the ignorant or the stupid people of the world. And those who created and participated in this should be ashamed for their involvement in this horrible insult to documentary making and all it stands for.


Wreck It Ralph

Wreck It Ralph

                               Since the days when I first started seeing films like Toy Story, its become apparent that a good number of the enormous glut of films Disney/Pixar have released in the past decade and a half are able to perfectly blend CGI animation with seamless story telling and,most important to myself at least,  positively minded social commentary. Truth be told I haven’t seen every one of the many movies Disney and/or Pixar. And a lot of it has to do with the fact that,in today’s society it seems that it’s hard for anything to stand out as being very individual. If a film,a style of music or a book is successful suddenly there are so many people out there trying to copy it that the original concepts that inspired it all begins to lose a lot of it’s original meaning.  And with all due respect to their enormous and amazing contribution to animation, Disney has tended to to be major contributors to this particular problem in recent decades. It tends to leave you to wonder if the real animation film heroes are the smaller ones few know about, or the ones that are the most heralded and promoted. Interesting part is that concept is addressed fairly directly in this movie.

                              Starring the voice talents of John C. Riley and Sarah Silverman, this film tells the story of Wreck It Ralph. He is the antagonists of an 1980’s arcade game called Fix It Felix. The characters of Ralph and Felix have a sun and moon type relationship; that which one destroys the other creates as it were. Within the arcade there exists an entire community-between classic arcade games and more modern ones through a transit authority called Game Central Station. At the same time there are very set rules that Ralph is about to break because,as Felix is honored within his game for his accomplishments, Ralph sees himself literally living in the games city dump and is attending a support group for video game bad guys called Bad-Anon. Here he comes to the conclusion that he wants to be honored for his accomplishments and be the “good guy” in the same manner Felix is. On his journey he soon finds his prize in another game called Heroes Duty,a far more modern and violent game where (in disguise) he manages to win the medal in the game and his chance to be a hero. But his lack of ability in the game causes the escape pod he leaves the area in to get lost in another game called Sugar Rush after being pursued by a swarm of self replicating robot insects called Cybugs.

                     While looking for his medal he encounters a mischievous but very clever character named Vanellope Von Schweets.  She tricks him into commandeering the medal so she can use it in order to instantly build up points in the games massive database in order to join into the game itself as a racer. But Ralph sees how poorly she is treated by the others racers because she’s considered a “glitch” and he comes to her defense  Recognizing a kindred spirit,he comes to her defense and teams up with her in because both are looking to become accepted as heroes by gaining the medal. For it’s part the Fix It Felix game has been put out of order by the arcade,a state that could mean the game being unplugged and it’s characters being forced to live in the lobby of Game Central Station.  This leads the games characters into thinking Ralph has “gone Turbo”,a term coined by the games characters based on a video game character who caused the deactivation of two games by trying to enter into the other competing game in order to eliminate the competition. So Felix teams up with the Hero’s Duty game’s tortured and hardened military leader Calhoun to go find Ralph,as one of the Cybugs who replicate by and into whatever they consume is trapped in the Sugar Rush game with Ralph-putting every game in danger.

                 While Ralph helps Vanellope to become a champion racer in her game,he confronts the games King Candy who is equally as reluctant to have Ralph involved in helping Vanellope, even resorting to attempting to trick him into thinking her winning the race will cause the game to reset and her to be forever trapped within it when it’s shut down. In the end he decides to help her anyway. When Felix and Calloun, with whom Felix has become smitten,arrive they confront her worse nightmare: a mass of of replicating Cybugs threatening Sugar Rush. An inconsistency shows up when the memories of the characters have been erased,which is now understood by Ralph when his noticing of Vanellope’s face on the side of the arcade console made him to understand she was not truly a glitch. During the race,it’s revealed that King Candy is actually a disguised Turbo-who is planning on using the Cyborgs to become more powerful. After Ralph manages to use the games power course to create a light to which Turbo and the Cybugs are attracted to and destroyed like moths to a flame-he pushes Vanelleope’s car over the finish line when her true identity is revealed as Princess of the game,and the characters memory returns. While she remains in her game to try to alter it’s dynamic, Ralph returns to his own game but now as an honored antagonist rather than a disdained one.

                 The first thing that struck me about this movie was the quality of it’s pacing. It started off in a very professional manner by setting up the multi dimensional characters (pun very much intended) and their situations,and begin to bring them into a focus. The main characters all have an inner conflict to fight as their helping each other. Ralph has his quest for heroism, Vanellope has her ambition to be seen as worthy and Calhoun is motivated by anger and a video game form of PTSD to fight the battle no one else wants to. This video game world is set up very much the way the real world is today. Many of the other characters such as King Candy/Turbo, along with the other characters in the  Fix It Felix game are motivated by the very corporate community around them. It’s a community in which,if a game is unplugged the characters become instantly homeless-such as is seen with 80’s arcade icon Qubert in Game Central Station. After realizing that Ralph’s talent at wrecking plays to his advantage,and Vanellope understands her true nature both of them elect to use that knowledge to affect positive change in their respective games. This is very much a film about how ones own self realization can allow them to easier turn disadvantages into advantages. And  therefore makes the film broad minded, entertaining and meaningful enough to be enjoyed by younger and older viewers alike.