Sunday, July 25, 2010

Influential Movies

I forgot to include this one in my list of influential books, but it's important, now more than ever.

The Return of Depression Economics - I never finished the book, but I learned the parable of the babysitting co-op and that was my first lesson in monetary policy.

Now for my list of movies with good ideas. Most of them just have one good idea that felt novel to me, but that's all you need since most pictures preach platitudes.

Avatar - The trees (and animals) are connected like neurons in a brain. Together, they form a self, Eywa, and can think. Isn't that interesting? What does it say about ecology on Earth? Probably nothing.

Bowling for Columbine - Michael Moore has tackled some questions beyond his reach. But Bowling for Columbine is a masterpiece. He wonders why America is so violent and plagued by so many homocides. Maybe, he suggests, its because we live in fear. I think he's just scratching the surface of social capital and institutions, but I didn't know about that stuff back then.

The Dark Knight - Crime is interesting, if only because I don't know much about it. Gordon introduced the theme of The Dark Knight at the end of Batman Begins: (paraphrased) "What about escalation? . . . We start carrying semi-autos, they buy automatics. We buy body armor, they buy armor piercing rounds. And your wearing a mask and jumping off rooftops . . ."

The Godfather - "It's not personal, it's just business." That's the basis for the the best tragedy in the history of film. Compare vis a vis Anakin in the Star Wars prequels and Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight. And how many people think straight about their professional lives anyway?

The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions - These are a great rumination on causality and determinism. But they don't introduce a lot I'd consider novel until the very end of Revolutions, which would have been great in a book but comes up short on screen. The basic idea is when you ask a yes or no question where both answers would be contradictory*, what is the answer? Neo represents that kind of a contradiction, choice does to, and Neo resolves the contradiction by simply deciding one way or the other (we think he does at the end of Reloaded, but he doesn't, we have to wait until Revolutions for it). That is the only "mind blowing" idea I've noticed in a movie.

* Example: The barber shaves all and only the people in town who don't shave themselves. Does the barber shave himself?

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