Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Movies of 2010

I've decided to make a list of the movies released in 2010 that I've seen, order them and write a few words about each. For future reference.

12. Inception

Inception is the most idiotic movie I have seen that's in this list. Just like in the movie, there are 4 layers to this, and I'm going to go through them.

On the very first level we have what is the main theme of the story. Lead character Cobb has to deal with the memories of his wife, his own guilt and has to succeed to get back to his kids. However, in the relationship with his wife we are never shown more than the fact that she is a psychopath; all we get is Cobb whining about how much he loves and misses her. This is the main point of the movie - everything Cobb does is related to this woman, and everything that happens is because of her, be they Cobb's decisions, or her projection interfering with things. We are supposed to follow with his conflict, yet every time I see the woman I want her gone as fast as possible. Whenever flashbacks or projections of his family appear, all we are treated with is a blank stare. Also, the whole predicament he is in is quite ambiguous. He can very well travel all over the world, meet his father, phone home, but he couldn't have taken his kids with him. Considering all this, how then am I supposed to cheer for the character to succeed when I don't care about his goal?

Stripping all that away, what we remain with is a heist action movie. I've already dismissed the fact that the purpose of what they are doing has any interest to me, so I'm going to go deeper - to the second level. The consequences of their mission is irrelevant to the movie. We don't care whether mister Japan gets to rule the world, and what would have been very interesting to follow - the Fischer father-son relationship is moved to the state of pretext, and is superficially treated. Just watch the scene where Fischer wakes up, shaken by his revelation and tell me that's not ridiculous, since it has no relevance to the main part of the movie.

Granted, the whole plan to convince Robert is interesting to follow and is backed-up by delicious three-level action scenes, a brilliant gravity shifting fight (the best part of the movie) and good, innovative special effects. But towards the end the action is shredded to bits by the moral conflict of the story, or rather the other way around. When Cobb finds his wife, and we are about to get some explanations to this whole deal, almost after each few relevant lines we cut to some men in white shooting or a guy placing yet another explosive.

The movie even tries to show us a bit of team spirit and build some character relations with some brief commentaries and cheap tricks. When I've got to deal with an ambiguous conflict, and a confusing story, the last thing I care about is a bunch of background people with little character to show.

And I really hate Nolan's directing on a large level. The details are great, but the movie is just a bunch of scenes coming one after another without any coherent train of thought, a structure to it, or any build up. The first hour was excruciating to sit through, having to sift through many details, and unknown characters, that you can't tell if they are going to be relevant in the rest of the movie or not.

There are also so many external references and movie homages, that just show how bad Inception is when compared to them.

Moving on to the third level, we deal with the movie's Sci-Fi under layer. In Inception this element is there for the sake of things and not to provide much significance, even though it tries to. We get the technical details - lots of them. This does provide us with some incredible effects, but this is just showing off, as they become almost irrelevant for the rest of the movie. The whole dream "technology" is basically the world the characters have to deal with, the laws that govern it. And they all accept it, for good or for worse. Rarely do they try to delve too deep into any of the consequences. The deepest the movie does go is to imply that the dream is just a trap, from which one should escape. What is the consequence of getting out or staying in? The movie doesn't say.

Finally, into limbo world, we sink into Inception's reflective layer. The ending wishes to send out a message that we have just witnessed something awesome and that we should be asking questions, that there is something profound there, an eye-opener onto the real world. However, for me, it's just smoke and mirrors, offering us several possibilities, none of which make much sense with what we have just seen. Up until the end we are not provoked to question the validity of what we are seeing. Simply showing a symbol is not profound. The ending could have simply been Nolan shouting "Cut!" and the camera panning back to reveal a filming set. That would have had the same effect.

The movie does not put an emphasis on discerning dream from reality, although those are supposed to be its major points. Simply wording it does not count. I cannot tell whether it's best to be in a dream world, or in reality, as there are no emotions shown from the characters part tearing them from one or the other. Our answer to the question "Is it a dream? Is it reality?" is not what's important, more intriguing would have been Cobb's reaction. If he found out he was still in a dream, what would he do? Does he accept it or not?

Rather than asking him, the movie is asking me: is this reality or a dream? It's a movie! I don't care what it is in the movie. It has no repercussions on how I see my world. The dream world is a construction that engulfs the movie world completely, because the movie doesn't want to tell me anything about its repercussions. It just accepts it as a natural fact, just like I accept my world with all the gravity and stuff. If you ask me, it was just one of Nolan's strange dreams in which nothing makes much sense when you think of it, but when you wake up sweaty you have the feeling that it's something great. With that shot of the spinning top, Christopher Nolan has implanted us with the idea that his movie is something great and profound. Do you choose to accept that? Or do you choose reality?

11. Tron: Legacy


This is a bullshit of a movie. Despite being a sequel to the original Tron, it's actually a remake, even though the story is different. Everything that was in the original, is redone here using the latest graphical effects. First we get the Recognizers, then Disc Wars, then we get Light cycles, then the lead gets out of the bounds of the race track, the heroes have to go to someone to help them reach the portal, and to get there they use the Solar Sailer where the guy and the girl can share an emotional moment.

Everything else about the story in this movie is totally irrelevant. It didn't make sense to me, and I couldn't care less what the final outcome was. In fact I think the creators themselves approached this movie by pushing the story to the background. All they wanted is to entertain us with special effects, cool music, hot chicks in hot outfits, cheesy references to the original and to have Jeff Bridges duplicated on screen as a young CG version of himself. Which is exactly what I liked about this movie.

10. How to Train Your Dragon

A movie with dragons and vikings! How cool! But among the cheesy modern teenage dialogue and some mildly interesting action scenes, this is a missed opportunity. Not very much is remarkable or memorable here, except maybe the kid and his relation with the other characters, especially with the dragon and with his father. It's nice to see intelligence being praised in such a movie. Other than that I think I would have like this more if was a kid.

9. Alice in Wonderland

Another not very memorable movie, apart from the incredible scenery and stylistic effects. The wonderful shots, Tim Burton's freakish touch and the empowering score made for a very thrilling experience. Who would have thought this is how Wonderland is like? It had the most immersive 3D effects that I've ever sat through, the height of which is represented by the scene where Alice falls down the hole. Another of my favourite scenes are those with the Cheshire cat, especially the moon turning into the cat's smile. I also enjoyed the ending when Alice dons the stylish armour and sword for the final battle, ending wit the dragon's head falling down the spiral stairs. That's Wonderland, heh!

8. Megamind

No you can't

The whole first act is exceptional. I was so thrilled that I thought this movie would be as amazing as Up with the great storytelling and homage to previous great works, but then it went from a movie with deep moral meaning to a generic action animation. Such a waste!

7. The Social Network

Great movie: great acting, great directing and great screenplay. Without these three you wouldn't be able to sit through the scenes in this film: people talking really fast and witty, people coding, people talking in a loud bar, lawyers talking and so on.

But.... there is a big problem. And since nobody seems to see the elephant in the room, I'll just point it out. This movie has no point! It tries to touch different aspects, but never bothers to stop on something meaningful and it is shallow in everything it deals with. As far as character development goes, it's like turning slightly to the side. Watching "The Social Network" gains you nothing whatsoever, and it does not offer anything emotionally or intellectually provoking.

For a movie with "Social Network" in its name, it's exactly the social interactions that are its weakest point. All of the relationships are soft and superficial, uninteresting and not very believable. The friendship between Zuckerberg and Saverin is never proven on screen, only taken for granted, with lines like "Friends don't do that". Even the conflict between them is weak and artificial, rather than emotional. The reasons behind it are vague and ambiguous, so I for one can't really understand the Saverin's outburst towards the end. I can't understand why Zuckerberg is doing what he is doing, as we get no insight to his emotions. He is simply a jerk, and nothing changes throught the whole movie.

I didn't expect to see the actual history behind the founding behind Facebook. But this is one of the most successful companies in all of history, which would have surely greatly affected its founders and people involved. Instead, we get some vague conflict regarding jealousy over acceptance to some exclusive douchebag club and a great conspiracy which involves a mistreated chicken (the highlight of the movie in my opinion!).

The other conflict, between the Facebook founders and the twins is just as weak, as they do not pose much threat to Zuckerberg's success, neither throughout the movie, nor in the end as we find out. In fact, they have their own story - one of morality, team spirit and boat racing. What that had to do with the founding of Facebook.... who knows?

The movie even turns into melodrama, in the scene where Saverin's girlfriend overreacts. A moment ago she was just some hooker who approached him because of his popularity and gave him a blowjob in the bathroom, but now the relationship is serious, and we find out she is overly jealous. This is soap opera material. In fact, I think the soap opera format would have suited this story much better. Zuckerberg's relationship with Erica is just as fake. From the movie I gathered she didn't matter much in his life, but the end would have us believe otherwise - not to mention the irony behind how meaningless the ending is. That sums up perfectly how little The Social Network has to offer.

Also, from the title you'd take it that the movie is in some way about social networking, a phenomenon so great that has opened amazing new opportunities, and has changed the way that most of us interact. What do we get? A bunch of silly people prancing around, arguing about their meaningless problems, with some cheap insertions of references to social network interactions. I mean, my girlfriend would kill me if I didn't set my relationship status, people get hooked to each other on Facebook, some people spend so much time on Facebook it's scary. But all we get is a few references that have nothing to do with the story whatsoever.

I'm guessing "The Social Network" was supposed to be a snapshot of modern social interactions, portrayed through the relationships of several people involved directly or indirectly in the founding of Facebook. Well, it's not a portrait, it's not a caricature, it's not even a sketch. I'd say it's something in between a sketch and stick figures. And no matter how good you make the lines of the stick figures, it's still not going to be a masterpiece, it'll only be superficial.

6. The King's Speech

The best actor movie on the list. Every scene is wonderful to watch because of this brilliant trio: the stammering king Colin Firth, the comical Geoffrey Rush and the loving wife Helena Bonham Carter. While the latter two have a quicker impact, as the movie progressed, I was drawn more and more by Colin Firth's character, as he could perfectly portray both the fear inside the man, and the power that he inherits through his royal blood, in a manner to which I could relate.

I liked that they tried to tell an inspiring story, but that didn't catch substance and it seemed to me like a just a setting for the brilliant talent of the cast to unfold in. The directorial touches are too obvious, too intrusive and some of the technical details are just superfluous.

Some scenes are way overacted. The first scene felt like I was being punched in the face to accept the larger than life tragedy of this poor man who stammers. Luckily the rest of the movie is nothing like this, making said scene seem taken from another production. In fact, I appreciated the light, merry tone all throughout, even in the more serious moments. Unfortunately, this too is stretched too much in the end, when the king's war speech matters more than the fact that war has just been declared. But all in all, it's just delicious British self-irony. And can you dig that ridiculous Churchill played by Timothy Spall?

5. Piranha

This is one gory movie that I really enjoyed! Rather than just showing would-be frightening or gross scenes, Piranha wants to thrill us, to engage us. The victims are tossed around and mutilated in spectacular ways, with an impression that some more powerful force is punishing them. I think, or like to believe that this movie has some moral message behind all the gruesomeness and blood, although sometimes it does appear to be radical. The scenes are well built and directed, and generally show off that there is some artistic feeling being put in there. I was surprised by the creativity shown at some points. (no spoilers) I also liked how the director even went out of the movie's way, reaching out toward the ridiculous, having something like a lesbian mermaid dance involving two naked girls. I really don't want to give anything away, but I can say that I've barely touched on all the things I've liked about the scenes. The ending shot is great - funny, but I think it also gives another perspective to the whole thing. All in all, a very good, fun, thrilling, artistic, gory movie.

4. Kick-Ass

3. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

I'm putting these two together since they are very similar. First of all they're both comic book adaptations, and second, they both have originality as strong points. This can be seen in Kick-Ass's thrilling action scenes and extraordinary characters. And I mean that last part literally, especially when you think of the star of this show - the 11 year-old killing machine called Hit-Girl. Both movies use innovative narrative devices. While present in Kick-Ass as well, this is more evident in the video-game inspired effects used in Scott Pilgrim; which is just a modern way of telling a teenage get-the-girl story.

But all that originality wouldn't be shit if the movies didn't have bigger than life characters (really - these are the most interesting movie characters in 2010), captivating stories, humour and thrilling action scenes, making them really enjoyable to watch. However, while entertaining, Kick-Ass is just a superhero action-flick and Scott Pilgrim is just a romantic comedy. Nothing too deep or thought-provoking - just fun. That's why these movies won't be any higher on my list. A plus for Scott Pilgrim because it actually has the main character evolve and learn something about himself and his relationship with The World, giving the movie an overall meaning.

2. Toy Story 3

It was really hard to rank this movie. I've moved it back and forth, and finally decided to place it at this spot because of how deeply impressed I was by the ending, it's as emotional as you can get, and Pixar knows how to do it best. It's not really that good as a movie as the previous two, but since this is a subjective list, that doesn't count.

The big problem is that Toy Story 3 looks as two separate movies. It continues where the last one left off with the problem that Andie has grown up and needs to make a decision as to the fate of the toys. In any case it's not going to be a good one. Then, using the common plot device of a simple misunderstanding (present in the first two Toy Stories as well), the movie makes a hard turn into a generic action flick, that has nothing to do with what was shown up to now.

It is interesting to watch, but it just feels like to completely separate parts, and a motive to show something going on and to give all the toys a few moments of peril and togetherness. That is good, as each toy has its moment and backstory, unlike Toy Story 1 or 2 where mostly Woody or Buzz were in the spotlight. Especially interesting is the side story of Ken and Barbie.

The main villain is quite uninteresting and poorly sketched, with an unconvincing background. But at least we have his sidekick, one of the sweetest evil characters ever. And I mean sweet not as in touching, but in the pure evil, creepy way.

I think it's clear that this installment was created especially for the 3D, but I'm very glad they didn't dismiss the rest and put all efforts into making a good movie especially if it's the last one in the series, unlike other franchises that have had comebacks just for the 3D. I also regret not seeing it in the cinema, because I think the effects were really good.

Apart from a slow moment in the middle, the movie's pace is mind boggling, as it has been in the previous two movies in the series, with the heroes being thrown from one peril into another. I must say this is the first time that I see a plan going off without a hitch all the way to the end, when the bad guys just show up. It just adds to the feeling that the writers knew that this part isn't important and that we should go through it as quickly as possible.

But at least they offered us monumental climactic scene, in which the whole movie team seems to have brought its outstanding contribution: the direction, the animation, and the music make for a masterpiece of a scene.

The deep impression this movie left in the end is more than enough to make up for the bad structuring.

1. Black Swan

For me this is by far the best movie of the year. To quote the ending, it's perfect. I don't have anything to complain about this.

The story builds on a couple of age-old myths and the movie wraps around it like a glove. It stems a few side stories, it gives a bit of conflict and some character development, but all these act towards the build-up of the main thread, expanding and evolving it towards the climax and ultimate message of the movie.

Even though the characters are given some personality, they are just avatars to carry the artistic vision and message of the story. All the secondary characters are different faces of the main character and what they symbolize and their role within the story is more important than any individual traits.

Swan Queen Amidala

The orchestration of camera, lights and music is perfect, and all that remains is solid acting, and I think that Natalie Portman has outdone her self in an emotionally and physically exhausting role. I was afraid that she couldn't offer the transformation needed for the ending, but it just blew me away.

All that plus the salt and pepper added by Aronofsky in the form of surrealist introspection (without overdoing it) and (uhm... what's a nice euphemism for sex scenes?) artistic sexuality make for a very delicious viewing. This movie is thought provoking, mind stimulating, emotionally binding and .... yeah.

Final Thoughts

  • If you're wondering why "The Social Network" gets the award for most overrated movie, and not Inception, that's because Inception got the most idiotic movie award.
  • In case you missed it, click on the "Scrooge" Inception poster to find out what's the deal behind it and a higher-detail image of the poster.
  • Did you notice how the people in "The Social Network" keep a running tally of emails and messages they send, so that they can spontaneously come up with lines like "we've exchanged 52 emails", "you couldn't answer any of my 47 texts", and it took me 52 words to write this line?
  • Also, if you can't tell that a website is the next big thing just by glancing over one of its pages for a few seconds, then that is why you are not a billionaire yet.
  • Once again, the best animation comes from Pixar. Heh!
  • Enough with the comic books already!
  • It's nice to find a good diversity in the movies I've seen.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

lecția despre cub. addendum

Se ia o bucată de piatră,
se cioplește cu o daltă de sânge,
se lustruiește cu ochiul lui Homer,
se răzuiește cu raze,
până când cubul iese perfect.
După aceea se sărută de nenumărate ori cubul
cu gura ta, cu gura altora
și mai ales cu gura infantei.
După aceea se ia un ciocan
și brusc se fărâmă un colț de-al cubului.
Toți, dar absolut toți zice-vor:
- Ce cub perfect ar fi fost acesta
de n-ar fi avut un colț sfărâmat!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Apoi se vor îmbulzi toți
și vor fărâma toate colțurile cubului,
și-l vor colora în galben, în roz, în mov,
în verde-vomă, în maro-negru de căcat,
si în toate culorile curcubeului
și dincolo de el.
După aceea se va săruta din nou cubul
cu gura lor, a tuturor
și mai ales cu gura bălosului.
Unii, dar numai cei mai perspicace zice-vor:
- Ce cub urât este acesta
de n-ar fi iubit de toată lumea!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Dar eu
desenez pe nisip un cerc
după care îl tai în două,
cu același băț de alun îl tai în două.
După aceea cad în genunchi,
după aceea cad în brânci.
După aceea izbesc cu fruntea nisipul
și îi cer iertare creatorului.


Saturday, 24 April 2010

Catch the Pigeon!

In the Asylum for Cartoon Heroes, an old Dick Dastardly sits on a wooden chair against a side wall. Two lamps in the corners of the wall shine away, leaving him in a dim obscurity. The other heroes try to avoid him, finding other things to do, gathering in bunches and doing what is generically termed as "old people stuff". Dastardly is not mad, nor has he ever caused any trouble. He will answer you if you talk to him, but he is regarded as just too grumpy to be around. All will tell you that there is something on his mind, something that they just don't want to find out what it is.

There are exceptions, like our little anonymous villain that nobody can remember seeing in an actual cartoon and, thus, ignore him as well. We'll just call him Squirt. He is new to the asylum, just three weeks, and hasn't quite gotten in with the crowd. Dick Dastardly has been his idol ever since he began his career, so you can imagine his excitement when seeing him here. However, he hasn't had the guts to approach him until the ignorance of his fellow heroes had left him kind of lonely.

Dastardly didn't even notice Squirt when he first talked to him. Staring somewhere far into the room, he only moved his eyes from side to side, as though he had heard an unknown sound from somewhere. Squirt called out louder: "Excuse me, Mister Dastardly!" The veteran turned his head slowly and lowered it to where he had heard the sound. "Hmmmm?" he muttered, with an expression that, if you had known him well, you would instantly recognise as showing that he was very surprised.

"Hello, Mr. Dick Dastardly... sorry to bother you... I only wanted to...." He was interrupted by a cough. "Oh... sorry... it seems you don't want to be bothered right now."

"No, do go one, hehehe... I was just so surprised that someone would come up to me. It took me unprepared. Heheheeheheee."

Recognising Dastardly's characteristic laugh, Squirt felt more confident. "I'm a really big fan of yours and...."

"And you want my autograph. Very well."

"No, no. I just wanted to ask you a few things. It is an honour for me to talk with you."

"Aha, I see. But... who are you?"

"Oh, it doesn't matter. You've probably never heard of me."

"Very well then. What is it you wanted to talk about? Iheeheehee."

"Hahaha", Squirt laughed heartily. "That laugh may have toned down with the age, but it sure still does have that devilish ring to it." A short pause ensued as he waited for a reaction which never came. "Please tell me. You were in the races at first. But when it was going so well for you, you disappeared. What happened?"

"I won."

"....Oh....", Squirt acknowledged with a dumb look on his face for not thinking of the obvious short answer.

"Yes, I finally won. And after that it all felt so pointless. What was the meaning to cheating any more when I had proven it works? The thrill of racing was gone. There is nowhere to go from first place. I had reached the top, and the only way to go next is out. If you don't want to go back down that is, eeeheeeheeeheee."

"You are right! So then you joined the Vulture Squadron."

"Precisely. The best team I ever had and the best job, too. I could do it for days on end. And I did."

"Until you retired that is."

"Yes, yes, until I retired and came here. I have done other miscellaneous things during that period, but those were just hobbies of mine. See this medal?" He pointed to the shiny metal on his chest. "That is what symbolises my life's accomplishments and shows that I did not live with nothing to show for it." Indeed, despite being a veteran, the old man did not look run-down at all, except for the obvious wrinkles and grey moustache. The spotlessly kept uniform and the brightly polished medal, and, of course, the hearty laugh, gave the appearance of a man in almost all his powers.

"Speaking of medals... where's Muttley?"

Dastardly's eyes opened up, grew big and stared down the hall. He quickly recovered form the surprise of hearing that name after so long. "He... he..." his voice stuttered. "He died." If his eyes hadn't been dried by the sands of time, you could probably see a salty tear run down that crusty cheek. Then he continued, looking straight at a random spot on the floor. "Of old age. Dogs don't live as much as us. We buried him along with his medals. How he loved those medals! Hehehehe. He was a lovely mutt!"

"Uhm..." Realising his mistake and not wanting to stir deeper into the memories, Squirt changed the subject. "But did you ever catch that Pigeon?"

Dastardly's eyes switched to him, looking sharply through him. They blinked fast three times, then a pause, and another blink. "Er, no." he answered, with no show of emotion whatsoever.

"No?!" Squirt jumped intrigued.

"No. You can't. It's impossible."

"But... The achievements, the medal... I thought you...."

"You can't catch the Pigeon!" Dastardly pronounced categorically. "It flies high above in the sky. It has wings. It blends in with everything around it. It is part of the sky and it is the sky, in all its entirety. You can't catch the sky. Therefore you can't catch the Pigeon."

Squirt was starting to feel like he should have left his courage at home this morning and that he should have just tried to blend in with the rest of the crowd. The captain was obviously cuckoo.

"The Pigeon has wings, while we have to build these blasted machines. We can never get them right. However good we build them we can never achieve the perfection of the wings. It's like I always told Klunk: I hope this dumb invention is better than your last dumb invention. I think he finally got it."

Squirt was totally lost and had absolutely no idea what to say next. If only he could just turn around and be gone.

The window on the right wall, as Dastardly was looking, opened up and a bright light shone in. Seven trumpets blew and a splendid white bird flew in. Its feathers were impeccable, the wings sparkled as they fluttered in mid-air, delivering a delightful sound to Dastardly's ears. The flapping almost slowed down time to a halt, capturing each moment in a frame, before the Pigeon flew out the opposing window, carrying away its forever unknown message.

Dick Dastardly leaned back, exclaiming just one word: "Beautiful!", before closing his eyes and his mouth into a smile.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Fițe pascale

For none but the brave
Shall rise up from the grave
To see the Valkyries fly

Hymn of the Immortal Warriors

Am observat că e la modă să respingi sărbătorile de Paști, mai ales tradiționalul salut "Cristos a înviat!", după cum se plânge o nevastă.

Recunosc, și eu aveam o repulsie când trebuia să răspund la salut. Dar cum mie nu-mi place să fiu la modă, mi-am ridicat un semn de întrebare și am căzut pe gânduri. Repulsia mea, de fapt, nu era la mesajul în sine, ci la tot ce se învârte în jurul lui și care a făcut ca între "Cristos a înviat!" și "Trăiască nea Nicu!" să nu prea existe diferență.

Dar nu înțeleg de ce atâta scârbă față de una din cele mai tari sărbători ale anului. Așa de tare că eu o sărbătoresc de două ori, ha! Mărog, mai puțin în anii precum cel curent. După tradiție am fost la masă la taică-miu. Și în timp ce mâncam la TV au băgat scene cu Amza Pellea. Erau despre Anul Nou și ne întrebam de ce nu bagă și ei ceva de Paști. Apoi îi pică fisa lui taică-miu: "Pe atunci nu se sărbătoreau Paștele sau Crăciunul". Logic. Dar eu, mirat, întreb "Și ce făceați?". "Păi ce facem și acum, numai că nu era la TV". Adică mâncat bun și bine, vopsit și ciocnit ouă, adunat cu cei dragi la povești. Groaznic! Și dacă te simți cultural sau vrei să vezi ce face lumea bună, poți să mergi și la Înviere, să asculți muzică frumoasă, niște povețe și să dai târcoale bisericii cu lumânarea aprinsă. Și apoi la disco, normal! Mie mi se pare prea mult timp pierdut pentru prea puțin, așa că o dată mi-a fost de ajuns. Dar ideea e că a sărbători învierea lui Isus Cristos e aproape la fel de tare ca a sărbători nașterea lui Darth Vader (de fapt, tot o înviere e și asta). Dar na, probabil că Isus e mai popular. O fi de la barbă.

Una peste alta, Isus e tare. În caz că nu era evident, mai zic o dată. Isus e chiar extraordinar! A înviat! Ce poate fi mai tare de atât? A murit și s-a întors să le dea o palmă tuturor fraierilor. Probabil că de aici vine îngâmfarea asta. În loc să admirăm ce a reușit tipul ăsta, invidia ne macină, cum o macină și pe Mîță. Teribil de amuzant, dar probabil că mesajul dorit de autor era altul. Isus râde bine mersi și se înalță la cer, iar pe noi smiorcăielile ne înfig în țărână unde ne e locul.

Finalul e previzibil și nu poate fi decât o dedicație pentru toți dușmanii care crapă de ciudă că sunt muritori:

Cristos a înviat!

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Up: Movie of the Year

There's no doubt about it in my mind. Up is the best movie of 2009. No hippie blue cats, nor soldiers in Iraq, nor some Illiterate Basterds, not even a fat whining black bitch, and unfortunately not even the clueless Prawns can beat the 78 year-old man on the adventure of his life.

This is not just a movie, not just a work of art, it's an ode to all art created by man. It brings together the beauty of many different works such as the Wizard of Oz (the house gets caught in a storm and then almost magically appears in the fabled land), Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Arthur Conan Doyle's Lost World, Odyssey, Jules Vernes' books (obviously), Carmen, C. M. Coolidge, Dexter (as in Dexter's Laboratory you psychopathic serial-killer lovers! - see the episode where he makes a dog talk) and so on.

"Up" has everything! Adventure, action, battle scenes, a deep secret unknown to the common world, symbolism, witty humour, SQUIRREL!!!, tension, chase scenes, tough decisions (like in Matrix - the living being or your quest), a great story that actually makes sense, cool, lovable and smart characters, profound meanings and it's about The Meaning of Life.

When something happens in this movie, it doesn't just happen. It captures you and you move along with it. The opening part is a polished diamond in movie making. It's 15 minutes that not only narrate the whole life of a man and a woman, but sprinkle it with auditory and visual delight. The scene with old Carl waking up and coming to his porch, with Carmen playing in the background - it alone could be considered a masterpiece! If you are so stubborn as to not watch the movie, at least look at these first 15 minutes. If you watched it and were too blind to notice the brilliance, then watch it again.

The whole soundtrack is excellent. Nothing cheesy, besides that Carmen bit, it's basically the same frenchy "beginning of the cinema era" tune, but it works great with the movie's balloony narrative. There are bits here and there that you will notice, because they actually convey something to the atmosphere and are not just bolted to the movie because you need to have some music.

What I found interesting about the secondary characters is that they aren't typical. Usually in such animations, they are doofuses, that only cause havoc and somehow in the end their clumsiness saves the day. Not here. They are actually smart and do useful things. Sure, they are clumsy and say or do stupid stuff, but the creators of the movie took special care to give them another dimension as well.

The fat Asian kid, while annoying (as any child can be to an old man) actually helps a few times - he can apply a bandage, can see the storm ahead, and can even come up with such profound introspective thoughts as "I think the boring stuff is the stuff I remember the most". Dug is probably the dumbest, but not that dumb at all if you pay attention. And he is terribly funny and lovable. SQUIRREL!!!! And finally, they gave Kevin a deeper role, of a mother lost from her children, which gives her a meaning in this whole picture, and is not just a pain in the ass, that one side wants to get rid of, while the other puts all his effort in catching it.

And now, the amazingness again. They basically took great action scenes from iconic action movies and transplanted them into the humorous world of cartoons, while keeping the tremendous joy of adventure from the originals. Does the scene where they flee from Muntz's dogs, swinging from a rope between the stone pillars look familiar? That's Indiana Jones and the Nazis. Then they took Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader and turned it into a grandpa battle of epic proportions of comedy. I can't think of a single person who won't laugh when they see this scene. And what about that canine X fighter squadron, with squishy bones for gun triggers? That's pure comedic brilliance!

Finally, I'd like two end with some amazing shots from the movie, which I think alone should be regarded as masterpieces. (yes, I know, I'm repeating myself)

Compare these two:

And then these two:

I'm beginning to like this:

(If you don't what the second one is, it's from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)

Ok, last one:


Ah, yes. One more thing. Catchphrases. "I see you"? Who the hell is the marketing genius who thought that one up? I'm laughing right now. Probably there wasn't enough budget because of all the state-of-the-art IMAX filming and they just jotted that one down. "Cross your heart". Now there's something all of us can relate to!

I could really dissect each and every frame of this movie, but I'm aware that I can't give the movie enough credit. Not barely! It's really that stunning, inspiring, relaxing, funny and profound!

But in the end it's just:

Ashes to ashes,
Dust to dust,
Houses in clouds....

Friday, 5 February 2010

Man in the Box

I am the Man in the Box.

I live there. The Box is my home. I grew up there. I have explored it far and wide and I now know every nook and cranny of it. I have observed its perfect angles and admired the beauty of how the lines blend into another. I have made certain deductions and I am now 100% sure that the Box is either situated on a hard surface and attracted by a massive object, or that it is moving linearly with constant acceleration, with me inside it, pinning me to one of its sides, which I call the floor.

That was a long time ago. By the end of my teens I was sure I knew all there is to know about the Box. But time and time again, it would surprise me. In fact, the surprises were so regular that their appearance wouldn't surprise me any more. I have refined theories and changed my tastes and philosophical beliefs quite a number of times.

But that all came to an end at some point. No more surprises. That is, until the really big and, dare I say it, last one. You see, attached to the sides of the Box were 11 letters. I discovered them from back when I was a kid. There was a 'D' on the floor, an 'S' on the near end and an 'E' quite close to it.

I was a youngster when I made a remarkable discovery! I had already found the 'I' and the 'G', but not others. I was bored, so I started scratching around one of the letters. Often it is the case that such destructive behaviour is what leads to advancements in knowledge. By proceeding to tear apart the very fabric, I had witnessed a very interesting property: the letter would detach from the side of the Box!

(Actually, I later thought hard about it and questioned myself whether they had this property before that day or did they somehow get it over time. I found it miraculous that I did not discover it sooner. But finally I came to the conclusion that it was irrelevant.)

I was so excited! I quickly gathered all letters I knew of and the enthusiasm pushed me to find 'N' and 'C'. The other's were harder to find. There was the 'H' that was stuck up on the ceiling. I had known about it right after the first 3 that I found, but I couldn't reach it. Was I ever so happy when I finally grew tall enough to grab it. Then there was the case of the 'O' which, would you believe it, I found in my back pocket! Now that was quite a shocker!

There was a gap between the last letter and the one before that. The fact is, I had already found the 'R', but only far later did I act upon analyzing the letters in depth and made another stupendous discovery. It is after a lot of experience and countless surprises that you come to a point where you realize there are some certain patterns all around you. That is when I turned rigorous and started studying my surroundings systematically, especially the letters. It even now amazes me that such regularity lead me to find something that was quite irregular. There is regularity in irregularity, and irregulars among the regulars. That is my current belief. The letter 'R' was in fact two 'R's stuck back to back! I checked the other letters, but 'R' was the only one with this unique property. For what purpose were there two 'R' letters I had no clue.

Soon afterwards, irregularity struck me again, but at a higher level. On opposite sides of the Box, at exactly the same coordinates from the corner (I measured this once), there were two dots. I had not thought about this before, but they could be detached the same as the letters. Incredible! Different kinds of objects, but with the same property! What beauty!

So there I was, with a bunch of letters and two dots. I scoured the edges, I travelled the Box far and wide, studied, analyzed, observed, admired, but nothing more. Nothing surprising happened again. Until now, that is. I was jumbling the letters around, when it happened. Somehow I think I put the dots in the right place. Again, I am amazed that I had not put them in that same position in one of the numerous occasions when I played with the figures before. But then again what strikes me is that I was just moving them subconsciously around. It must have been some pattern that my brain had seen and told my arms to place the figures in that way. It almost seems like something else was in control.

I had no fears, for I had no enemies. There were a spider and two cockroaches. I was frightened by them when I was a kid, even though they did nothing to me, and I would stay away from them. But after I grew up, I wasn't the bit affected by their presence.

Now, however, it is the worst feeling of my life. It rushed through my whole body at great speed. My heart started pounding hard, ready to burst out of my chest. My body followed by shaking vigorously. Not even the End would give me that kind of feeling. In fact, I am quite sure of it, it feels like there wouldn't be any End.

The ceiling of the Box split, a bright blinding light burst inside and the top gave way.

I was the Man in the Box....

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Cine n-are ingineri, să-și cumpere!

Motto: Fă să iasă!

Ora 21. Cei doi candidați unul lângă altul pe ecran. Aceleași portrete, doar că unul e îmbrăcat în costum și cravata norocoasă. Numai că nu e loto. Începe să țopăie ca prostu. Dacă avea cel puțin un procent în plus îl înțelegeam. Oare a uitat ce e aia marjă de eroare? Au uitat toți cei din jur și n-a putut nimeni să-l tragă de mânecă?

Între timp, celălalt anunța și el cu brațele în V că „Am învins!”, în uralele cam neîncrezătoare din jur. E îmbrăcat lejer, în pulovăr, gata să-și suflece mâinile și să se apuce de treaba. Ba chiar a intrat mai repede cu 5 minute. Timpul e scurt și nu e de pierdut. Oricum, rezultatul exit-poll îl știa toată lumea.

Echipa s-a pus pe treabă. Au fost în priză toată ziua, ce urma era „un fleac”. [1] E „așa de simplu” (Videanu). Mecanismul era deja rodat, scuipa numerele la fiecare minut. Ingineria e legată de jocul numerelor. Trebuie să le ordonezi favorabil ție. Să faci să iasă. În primul tur, Băsescu spunea că exit-poll-urile sunt comforme cu informațiile lor și că pâna a doua zi, vor „face” să corespundă. Voturile sunt un joc al hazardului. Tu trebuie doar să-l controlezi. Iar ca să-l controlezi trebuie să știi să-l măsori. ("You can't control what you can't measure" - Tom DeMarco) Apoi trebuie numai să faci corecturile necesare.

Ca să poți măsura cum vor evalua voturile, important e să ai oamenii care să supravegheze desfășurarea votării, ca să culeagă datele. Apoi se centralizează, se fac statistici. Iar asta în mod continuu, pentru că numai astfel poți avea o imagine clară a evoluției. Iar de aici până la extrapolarea rezultatului final e doar un mic pas.

La ora 21 fără 5, știau exact rezultatul. Nu al sondajelor. Cel de la ora 11 de a doua zi - numărătoarea finală. De fapt, se știa chiar de la ora 19. Numerele nu pot minți. Trebuie doar să le înțelegi și ele îți vor spune viitorul. Între timp, prostănacul aștepta ca numerele să se oprească naibii din pâlpâit și să arate câștigătorul. Dacă Băsescu enumera motivele victoriei, Geoană apela la simboluri divine, spirituale și personale.

Ce a urmat, pentru PDL a fost doar o verificare de rutină. Să se asigure că numerele pușcă. Ponta anunța a doua zi că „sistemul lor de fraudă și de furt a funcționat mai bine”.[2] 100% corect! Am apreciat că în cele două zile - duminică și luni, politicienii au fost cât se poate de cinstiți în declarații. Absolut toți. Desigur că au fraudat. Toate partidele au făcut-o. Și desigur că PDL a făcut-o mai bine. De aceea a câștigat. Sistemul PSD e învechit și prăfuit, vreo mașinărie infernală rămasă de pe vremea lui tataia Ilici. PDL însă, și-a făcut upgrade. Softul lor merge și în caz de pană de curent, iar tehnicienii PDL sunt Agili.

Atunci când datele îți arată că rezultatul nu îți va conveni, trebuie să faci corecturile necesare. Controlul. Să făci să iasă. La o asemenea diferență mică, practic votul nici nu contează. Nu putem spune că poporul a ales. Poporul a fost indecis. Așadar mi se pare foarte firesc ca rezultatul să fie decis între partide. Cel mai abil să câștige! [3]

Hrebenciuc declara dimineața că PSD s-a oprit din numărarea paralelă pentru că s-au sesizat nereguli. [4] Și ce?! Un inginer nu se oprește niciodată dacă rezultatul nu-i dă. Îl faci să iasă! Oricum, bătălia era deja pierdută. Demult. PSD au fost total nepregătiți. Iar PDL i-au călcat în picioare pe toate planurile. Nici nu au încercat să exagereze. Au luat exact atât cât le trebuia. Nici mai mult, nici mai puțin. În statistică, un număr prea mare sau prea mic, ar fi considerat o anomalie. PSD ar fi trebuit să facă ceva ca să-i oprească. Dar au fost incompentenți. Când și-au dat seama de greșeală a fost prea târziu, iar acum strigă „Uitați neregulile!”. Astea trebuiau șterse cu guma și corectate în timpul calcului. Nu după ce ai predat tema.

„I-am ciuruit!”[1] declara foarte simpatic (în stilul caracteristic, adică) Băsescu. Din nou, mai plin de adevăr de atât nu se poate. A fost o execuție a adversarilor. [5] O execuție sistematică și foarte precisă. E incredibil cât de bine se poate face o treabă în România atunci când se vrea și când toți își fac datoria. Întrebat cum au reușit să facă numărarea paralelă așa repede, Videanu exulta: „Băieți deștepți!” Excelent răspuns! Bravo! Felicitări! E exemplul perfect de spirit ingineresc pus în aplicare. Dacă e ceva care să mă bucure din toată scârboșenia din ultima lună sau mai mult, e faptul că acest spirit există ș funcționează.

Aparițiile lui Videanu din 10 în 10 minute nu au fost o manevră politică și nu avea scopul să influențeze votarea din diasporă care încă mai avea loc sau orice alt tertip de acest gen. Pur și simplu se lăudau. Numerele erau rostite cu savoare până la ultima cifră. Ele dansau pe ecran într-un joc ce părea aproape magic, pe măsură ce datele intrau în continuu, apropiindu-se de acel fatidic 100%, iar cele două procentaje vroiau să se pupe, dar parcă totuși păstrau distanța respectabilă. Ba chiar pentru un moment s-au întrepătruns, cu un neverosimil 50.01% pentru Geoană, 49.99% pentru Băsescu. O mică glumă inginerească, probabil. De asemenea, acum ei invită presa pentru a le explica cum funcționează sistemul nu ca să demonstreze că e corect, ci efectiv pentru că se mândresc de bijuteria pe care au pus-o la punct.

Inginerii sunt muncitorii de bază al oricărui succes. Sunt oamenii de jos, cei care fac „munca murdară”. E doar un clișeu, o metaforă, de fapt ei savurează din plin ceea ce fac, după cum s-a văzut clar pe fața lui Băsescu, Videanu etc. în momentele în care anunțau ce le șopteau numerele. Chiar și eu admir acuratețea și punerea în practică a acestui proces dintr-un sistem incredibil de complicat și de scârbos numit „politică”.

Dar trebuie ținut minte că orice aptitudine e bună doar la locul ei. Acum ar trebui dat jos chipiul de inginer, și îmbrăcat sacoul de manager. Iar asta, deja nu mă mai interesează.

[1] Băsescu - „Un fleac! I-am ciuruit!”
[2] Ponta - „Sistemul lor de fraudă și de furt a funcționat mai bine”
[3] În atare condiții, mi se par total inutile discuțiile de după alegeri, că românii din țară au ales într-un fel, iar cei din afară altfel. Repet, românii nu au ales nimic pentru că nu s-au putut hotărî.
[4] Hrebenciuc - PSD s-a oprit din numărat
[5] Rețineți, cum am spus mai sus, rezultatul a fost decis de lupta dintre partide, deci afirmația că cei ciuruiți sunt cei 5 milioane care au votat împotriva e lipsită de sens, pentru că Băsescu nu s-a bătut cu ei, ci cu PSD.

Simt nevoia să pun un disclaimer ca să nu se înțeleagă greșit. Acest eseu nu e o laudă subiectivă a nici uneia din părți, eu doar am analizat cum a reușit PDL să câștige alegerile, axându-mă pe această viziune inginerească a lucrurilor. Nu m-a interesat cine a ieșit, pentru mine oricum sunt toți la fel. Am votat cu pierzătorul, pentru că m-am săturat de celălalt și deoarece consider că o schimbare e mereu potrivită. Pentru mine, oricum sunt toți la fel, indiferent de culoare. Deobicei încerc să stau departe de politică, dar în aceste zile am fost captivat de acest joc și de modul în care a decurs.