i.e. Ben Burgis: Musings on Speculative Fiction, Philosophy, PacMan and the Coming Alien Invasion
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2006-04-02 5:10 PM
V for Vendetta, M for Miami
I did indeed see "V for Vendetta" on Saturday (yes, the 4:20 showing, although I personally was stone cold sober). I loved it, which you probably could have predicted--it got some mediocre mainstream reviews, but I have yet to see any evidence of any one who actually likes science fiction who didn't like it.
(Of course, it was thoroughly "mundane" sf, apart from an almost-unnecessary hint of an explanation about why our hero can do the sorts of action hero stunts that are standard in most non-sf Hollywood movies.)
Anyway, I can't say enough good about it. Yes, if for some reason one were to take actual literal strategic/tactical political advice from a movie (I can't imagine that any one would) it would be bad advice indeed--the whole strategy of "propaganda of the deed" has been a counter-productive dead end since Russian anarchists and Narodniks invented it in the 19th century, whenever its been tried. No arguments there.
This is, obviously, stunningly beside the point--its like the Israeli apologists who faulted the movie Munich (also brilliant and worth watching) for not presenting an "anternative" to assassinating terrorists. If what you're looking for is an 18-point peace plan, why look for it in a movie? The most a movie--or any other kind of fiction--can do in terms of any sort of political, moral or philosophical issue is to raise it, through the portrayal of events (directly or metaphorically) through the eyes of a certain emotional perspective, not solve it. If it presented "solutions" or tactical advice, it wouldn't be fiction, it would be an essay dressed up in the clothes of fiction, with none of the advantages of either one.
That out of the way, again, it was an outstanding movie, genuinely moving in parts (e.g. the portrayal of the round-ups of suspected homosexuals) and in at least some ways happily non-formulaic--it was actually a big Hollywood movie I could just happily watch and see what happened, rather than being able to predict every twist and turn half an hour in advance.
Without giving it away (although the remainder of this sentence is the closest thing to a spoiler in the whole e-mail), it also (despite the caveats above) probably represented one of the few fictional revolutions I've ever seen on the big screen that didn't feel indulgently silly and implausible, possibly because the form of it was so closely modelled on real events in Eastern Europe and elsewhere.
In any case, despite being in some obvious ways the most over-the-top fictionalization of the current political situation yet (that after all being what sf does, extrapolate current trends not to a moderate and uninteresting realistic guess about how far they'll go, but to an interesting exaggeration that casts light on the milder iterations), it was also the one that's had the most depth and emotional resonance for me. Despite the fact that the comics were written in response to a previous instance of the same crap under Thatcher in the UK in the 80s, the references were updated beautifully and effectively to be half way in between ficitonalized Thatcherism and fictionalized Bushism.
Being made by the Wachowski brothers, there was as one might expect a decent sprinkling of mysticism if you were looking for it in some of the imagery, coincidences and metaphorically significant subplots, but rather than being the main course (a la the Matrix trilogy) it was just sort of a nice side dish that gave the whole thing a lot more depth and resonance.
I'm babbling, but it was good stuff. Really good.
And, in the biggest personal news item of the week, I've finally heard back from everywhere (except for Berkeley and San Diego, where I was waitlisted and the first-picks have until April 15th--the universal deadline--to decide), so today I finally took the plunge and accepted at Miami. I just stuck the signed acceptance in the mail about half an hour ago, and e-mailed Miami to let them know. I will indeed be studying the love of wisdom (philo sophia) in the land of eternal sunshine this fall.
The symbolic scene-setting was nice too--on my way to the post office, it was gray and miserable, and when I came out of the post office with the letter delivered the sun came out.
I also notice--portents and hidden significances to go around--that the change for the stamp I bought at the counter included a Canadian nickel. This is something I grew up being used to, but its worth pausing a beat to think about how weird and Michigan-specific this is, that its taken for granted that you can use Canadian currency, even to buy something from a governmetn institution like a post office. Growing up an hour from the border, it seems totally normal.
I am, however, very happy on balance that I'm going somewhere in the fall where Canadian coins aren't acceptable currency.
(Cue the stupid Will Smith song and smile.)
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