Monday, October 20, 2014

Saturday Afternoon Movies

Last Saturday, I woke up not particularly hung over but still feeling quite lazy, not wanting/not having to get out of bed.

Most of the time in years past, when I've channel-surfed basic cable on a Saturday, I haven't found anything interesting at all --- sports, home improvement shows. But this time while I was lying about, I came across on the FX station first "I, Robot," and then "Rise of the Planet of the Apes."

I came across 2004's "I, Robot" in the middle of the film, and forget now what first caught my attention... It wasn't Will Smith, whom I automatically associate with generic action pictures; I almost changed the channel when I saw that he was in it. Oh, I know --- a robot was frantically trying to escape from something and was initially bouncing off walls and later bouncing off the outside of buildings. I wondered, "What the hell?" And had to keep watching to find out what in the world was going on. (And "the pretty girl" in the picture, Bridget Moynahan, was actually a good actress.) And I really was wondering what the deal was with the Rebel Robot! As soon unravelled, there were issues of what exactly constitutes a "soul" and a "free will" going on, along with at what point a created, supposedly mechanical being becomes sentient... and at what point rebellion and violence against an irrational creator becomes a moral decision...

As I found out at the end, the film was based on an Isaac Asimov series of stories, "I, Robot," which explains why the film was so psychologically interesting.

While I was still pondering the psychological implications of THIS film, I dozed off again. And woke up an hour or so later to the same station's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." Again, in my doziness, I was immediately put off by seeing James Franco, whom I automatically associate with pretentiousness. I'd of course heard of this 2011 movie, but hadn't made any effort to see it, thinking it would just be a high-tech, soulless attempt at cashing in on the profundity of the original "Planet of the Apes."  But I got immediately sucked in by "Caesar," the speechless chimp that was being medically experimented upon/tortured --- I remembered the name of the scientist from the earlier "Planet of the Apes" movie, and I started to be curious: "How DID Caesar go from being an experimental chimp to his later position? And what happened to all of the humans?" And the 2011 movie played out intelligently, to my relief. As with "I, Robot," I'd been sleeping during the first half or so, but I was immediately drawn in to what was going on, in this case, the plight of all of the beasts kept in their cages. Caesar's first spoken work--"Nooooooooooooo!!!!!!!" in reponse to an abusive human keeper about to hit him--gave me goosebumps.

There was the obligatory special-effects "battle" between humans/apes on the Golden Gate Bridge. And then Caesar and his cohorts regrouped in the woods. Caesar rejects his former human keeper James Franco, and the apes are then seen silhouetted in the tops of trees as the movie closes.

"Great," I thought, "but HOW in the world did apes TAKE OVER THE WORLD (as in the original "Planet of the Apes" movie)??"  A-ha... Something I'd been asleep for during the beginning of the movie... Simian Flu. In the closing credits, we see a human airline pilot suddenly dripping blood from his nose. The screen then goes to graphics of the paths of global airline flights... (A little too creepily close to the current Ebola scare.)

I was knocked out by both of these films. (1) I can't remember the last time that any film made me think. (2) When I was little, films that I saw by chance on TV, on a Saturday afternoon, often made me think...

I felt like I was 11, DISCOVERING STUFF for the first time.

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