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Make Believe (2010)
Character driven with a lot of heart.
Just had the chance to see Make Believe yesterday at the Los Angeles Film Festival where it was announced the film had one "Best Documentary." I can see why. In a time where, more often than not, documentary films are about making statements and arguments, Make Believe allows us to meet a number of young magicians, each one of whom has a fascinating story is a truly interesting character.
By focusing on youth who happen to be competing at the World Magic Teen Competition, rather than making it a documentary ABOUT the competition, the filmmakers let us take our time in meeting and interacting with each of the magicians. Offering no judgement while simultaneously avoiding any over-glorification, the right tone is hit perfectly to simply explore a world.
Yes, there's a slightly heavy handed message that magic lets the awkward communicate on a world stage...but they don't push it too hard. All in all, a great documentary. Let's hope I can see it on Netflix soon.
The Lawnmower Man (1992)
I'm gonna say it...it's a good film.
WARNING: PRETENTIOUS ACADEMIC FILM REVIEW Alright, my friends in the pretentious film community may have issue with what I am about to say, but I honestly think Lawnmower Man is a good film with a solid philosophical backing.
Drawing immediate comparisons to Verhoeven's masterpiece "Total Recall" is not uncalled for. Both deal with issues of the representation of the sign within our society. In Lawnmower Man, however, Brett Leonard picks up where Verhoeven ended...what constitutes reality in our postmodern world? Jobe The Lawnmower Man is played by Jeff Fahey, an adequate actor who does what is required of him. At the start of the film before he begins his training with Brosnan's Dr. Lawrence Angelo (who provides a good performance although he overacts a bit during crucial moments) he is bathed in orange light, highlighting his human character. He is a caring father figure to the boy from Last Action Hero, and is taken advantage of by the church (I'm not going to get into the overly obvious religious imagery that is in the film) and a local bully. Yet he is skilled at working with his hands and is a fine lawnmower, even building his own lawnmower("Big Red," to which he bows as he did at the cross previewing his later view of technology as God and himself as Christ...I told you, sometimes the imagery is too obvious, a definite flaw I am willing to overlook.) Jobe is taught through a combination of drugs and Virtual Reality. As he is exposed more and more to images representing images which represent objects of knowledge (Baudrillard's theories regarding third simulacrum can easily be applied to this film.) He is no longer able to distinguish between the real and the virtual. In a constant state of schizophrenia (referred to as Schizo-f***in-phrenia by a cop) Jobe discovers that virtual reality is not simply artificial, but instead "another dimension" which can affect ours. Soon he discovers telekinetic powers and is able to affect our 'real' world through his virtual reality.
The film's argument is solidified as Jobe discusses his progress with Dr. Angelo. Drawing straight from postmodern philosophy, Jobe tells Angelo that they are not tapping into new forms of knowledge. Instead "Nothing we've been doing is new." How very pastiche.
As I hinted above, Jobe WAS altogether human. But as he becomes closer to technology, he becomes wholly rational and is depicted as inhuman, more a machine. The oranges and yellows are replaced with purples and blues, and Fahey's light voice is replaced by a monotone, and accompanied by a 'robotic voice' track. His transformation is complete when he decides to move entirely into the virtual world.
There are a number of side plots I could mention...a lust story...an evil corporation bent on using Jobe as a super-soldier (makes me Totally Recall another movie. I apologize for the bad pun.) The fact of the matter is that there is a lot to analyze in this film, most of which I have not touched upon.
Check it out. Although not without its flaws, it's a fine film and is definitely underrated. It may not be high art, but we've broken down that barrier anyway.