I am now blogging at a new blog: erdman31.com

If you post comments here at Theos Project, please know that I will respond and engage your thoughts in a timely manner.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

It's not about Batman this time

If Batman Begins explored the psyche and motives of Bruce Wayne and his night job, part two of the current Batman series has little to with the hero and everything to do with the villain. Heath Ledger as the Joker is incredible. Compelling. Oh, yea, and disturbingly so. In this film, the hero does not ride off in the sunset; the hero does not win; and the hero does not even get the girl as a consolation prize.

The goal of the villain is the same as the first movie: turn the city against itself. But the difference is that the Joker has no motive, ideals, or desires; he is not in it for the money, power, or attention. He's just here to "watch the world burn."

"I take their little plans, and I turn them on themselves," says the Joker. The Joker simply inhabits the plans, structures, and social orders; he hangs around in them. And then he turns them inside out. Even when the Joker is confined "safely" behind bars, he is still in complete control of the situation, one step ahead. But then again, it isn't the Joker that's in control. He's simply turning the system on itself. Allowing the world to destroy itself. And the interesting thing is that he does it all with just a little gasoline and gunpowder. He's a minimalist. The complexity of the society and order is enough to destroy itself; all it needs is a madman to dance.

This second installment of Christopher Nolan's is the sinister side of deconstruction. It is a cruel grin. The Joker has no end or objective; he has no goal. He only wants to play within the chaos. The Joker's world is not a world that needs to be undone. It is a world where chaos is most fundamental, and one only needs to inform those watching the parade that the Emperor does, in fact, have no clothes.

"In a cruel world, the only morality is chance," says Two Face as he tosses a coin to determine the life or death fate of another human being. This movie is not a battle of ideals. It is not good versus evil. It's a movie that Qoheleth could have scripted: "Vanity of vanities; all is vanity....What God has made crooked, who can make straight?" This movie is not a Batman movie. It is about a criminal who has figured out that you don't need to try to bend a world that is most fundamentally crooked. All you need to do is dance, laugh, and play within the chaos.


tamie said...

Why does the Joker tell stories/lies about how he got his scars, stories that tug at the compassion and vulnerable parts of us? Why is the Joker so invested in proving that humanity won't act against self-interest? He wants to see the world burn, yes, but he has something *invested* in watching whether Batman will violate his own moral code, or whether the people on the ferry will choose to kill each other. And what is with the line about you either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain? It seems like such a bullshit, throwaway line, but it's obviously meant to be key. And why do the writers put that line in Batman's mouth, Batman who is the one person in the movie who decidedly does *not* turn into a villain? And why does Batman say at the end that the people need a lie in order to keep their faith, when he told the Joker that the people on the ferry proved that there is goodness and decency left in humanity? Does he not believe that himself, thereby necessitating the lie that he, Batman, is the villain?

Heath Ledger's Joker was by far, by far, the most compelling aspect of the movie. By far. I won't say more here because I may want to write a blog entry of my own about it.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Tamie, the movie clearly coincides with one of your recent writing intersts: hope. Gotham needed hope. Harvey Dent gave it to them. He became a symbol of hope. (Remember in the first movie, the idea of symbol was central to the creation of Batman.)

Batman just wanted to give Gotham another symbol of hope: a martyr. The Joker wanted to turn Dent on himself (which he did) in order to turn the system in on itself.

Re: the Joker: what do you think he has "invested" in watching the world burn? Joker's main/fundamental interest seems to be fun and play within a world that is inherently unstable, but prides itself on the lie that it is fundamentally stable, that there is balance and harmony in the world. The Joker sees chaos and just wants to laugh and dance a little as he brings the chaotic into the spotlight.

In regards to Batman saying that people need a lie: he knows that the Joker won and that the Joker is right. Even though the people on the ferry kept their humanity (sort of), we all knew it was kind of a fluke. The exception proved the rule to most of us in the audience: people will destroy themselves in these situations because they are self-interested. And certainly Batman gets this, I think; even though he is trying to convince himself and the Joker of the contrary. Dent's trip to the dark side was a truth people could not handle. Batman wanted to give them hope. Hope was better than truth.

tamie said...

But Batman is a man. And in wanting to give the people hope, he seems to act fairly altruistically. Why wouldn't this be hope enough for people?

Joker is a man too. So my question is: how did he get this way? *Why* does he want to just watch the world burn?

And my big question is: why was "hope" better than the truth? Is that kind of hope even hope? Nietzsche might agree that it is, but I myself think it's a cop-out based on a pretty simplistic theory of humanity.

As for Harvey Dent being the symbol of hope, and yes I understood that that's what he was, this is exactly the kind of thing I'm trying to write about right now. That if people base their hope on outcomes then it's almost inevitable that their hope will be crushed when the symbol (Dent, Obama) inevitably shows itself to be more complex and human than they want it to be. Although, Dent was an obnoxious caricature and it would have been a much more interesting movie if he'd been more truly human.

Jonathan Erdman said...

There's an interesting line by the Joker that I just came across watching a preview. He says, "It's not about the money; it's about sending a message."

But what's the message? It's never clear what the Joker wants to communicate. In this sense, then, the Joker seems to embody the ultimate postmodern villain: he has not real center or goal except creating chaos. The Joker doesn't want vengeance, he doesn't want to prove a point, he doesn't want power, and he doesn't care about money. He's just a madman convinced that madness makes the world go 'round and harmony is only a fantasy.

What is also fascinating is that the Joker needs the Batman in order to have fun. He doesn't want to kill Batman, he just wants to play.

FYI: whysoserious.com is kind of a weird website on the Joker.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Wow. Looks like we posted at exactly the same time!

Jonathan Erdman said...

Tamie said: "Joker is a man too. So my question is: how did he get this way? *Why* does he want to just watch the world burn?"

I think this is probably a fantastic subject for the next movie, don't you think????

I wonder: is the Joker a man? Is he human? Or is he just an agent for chaos? He seems both human and inhuman to me; a bit of both.

Tamie: And my big question is: why was "hope" better than the truth? Is that kind of hope even hope? Nietzsche might agree that it is, but I myself think it's a cop-out based on a pretty simplistic theory of humanity.

Well, you'll have to ask Batman, b/c he's the one who made the decision to trump truth with hope. I think in this case it was probably the right one. Without hope, the people perish. I don't know that it is a categorical statement that truth is always inferior to hope; but in this particular case, the Batman felt it was hope that was necessary and that only a false myth could keep hope alive. This is the exact same theme in M. Night's The Village.

Ultimately, because truth is sacrificed for hope, this is why the Joker won: he showed that hope is just a myth and a lie. It would be nihilistic, except that the Joker is not really a nihilist b/c he can smile in the face of chaos.

tamie said...

Yep, we posted at the same time. Weird.

I don't buy that the Joker doesn't want power. He definitely wants power. He wants control. Maybe not complete control (he loves the chase with Batman), but definitely he wants control.

Also, the Joker says he just wants to play. But there are a lot of ways to play, even with chaos. The play doesn't have to be destructive, and neither does the chaos. Just because stuff is random doesn't mean it's all tending toward cruelty and torture. The "why so serious" stuff that he says is clearly deeper than just a simple curiosity about why everyone is so serious. He's twisting things around so that people can't help but be serious, and then he's mocking them with "why so serious."

It's interesting that the Joker is laughing as he's falling to his death. Again, I feel like this should be read as more complex than just a lunatic who wants to "play."

You said that it's not clear what the Joker wants to communicate. Perhaps he wants to communicate that people are not good, that they are always self-interested, even if it means destroying each other.

tamie said...

Ah! Okay, I am just posting one more time and then I am going to breakfast!

My point is that we don't know what the people would do if they were given the truth (maybe in the simplistic cosmos of the movie we do, but in life we do not). Most people would not just lie down on the street and abandon all hope, even if they were given a hard truth. They might go into denial, true, or they might temporarily despair. But we don't know what they would ultimately do. Give the people credit, I say! Maybe the more truth we have, the more of a shot we have at authentic hope.

Maybe it's our own myth of what hope is that is the problem.

Sure, next movie: how did the Joker get this way? Let's make that movie and get really rich. (Because I, unlike the Joker, care about money.)

Melody said...

I had the same questions about the movie that you did.

The scar stories successfully creeped me out, but I wanted there to be more to them that that.

I definitely wanted to know how the Joker got the way he was; I kept waiting for them to explore that more. And I hope that if they bring the joker back to explain it all that they'll find someone able to play the part as brilliantly as Ledger, but I'm skeptical.

The hero/villain line made me think of politics and the church, actually, but yeah I don't think they used it well. Could have been better.

I hated the end when he said they deserved "more than the truth"

What's more than the truth? Is that just a pretty way of saying, "You can't handle the truth!" ? Isn't that just saying that it's easier to play pretend than face reality?

Plus, it made me think about reality and how furious we would be/are about politicians covering up horrible truths with much prettier lies. Are they using the same logic? Does that make it ok?

Melody said...


Even though the people on the ferry kept their humanity (sort of), we all knew it was kind of a fluke.

We did?

No one was actually able to bring themselves to pull the trigger - even though they thought they should.

How would you classify that as a fluke?

Dent's trip to the dark side was a truth people could not handle.

Why? Would you be able to handle it - say if it were real life? I think I would.

I mean, I admit that when they got around to introducing Dent as Harvey Dent I about about yelled at the screen. I've always loved/hated Harvey's story, because it's so real. Most of us aren't going to be the Joker or Scarecrow or even Moroni, but any of us could be Harvey.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Good points.....I'll have to go back to the Bat Cave to mull it over a bit.....

Paul Morales said...

There are certainly a lot of interesting thoughts in this chain, and they're all getting a little jumbled in my head, so instead of a huge of expanse of response, I'll just try to add some of my thoughts to the mix.

I would disagree, to an extent, with Jon's seemingly shallow interpretation of the joker. I think he's, for the most part, a simple man, but there is depth. Concerning the majority of the incarnations of the joker preceding the Dark Knight, the Joker was a man who experienced some kind of tragedy or accident, went insane, and then became evil. Heath Ledger's Joker is much more profound. This Joker is evil, and has always been evil. And he has been so for its own sake. The Joker did not "become" evil through some kind of process - it is a willful, deliberate decision. This fact alone solidifies his madness. But the evil precedes the insanity, not the other way around.

With respect to Batman, his character in this film, for the most part, functions mostly as an audience member. Having been prepared by "Batman Begins" to fight evil fists first, we expect Batman to go charging in head first. Consistently this approach is less than effective, and as Batman starts to consider alternative approaches, he attempts an excavation of the mind of the Joker. But Batman has been right from the beginning: the criminal is not complicated, as Ras Al Guhl taught.

Jon is right. The Joker just wants to watch the world burn, and asking why is akin to asking about God's motivations. All we can be sure of is that they are, and that is all we need be sure of. R.C. Sproul is always being asked why God behaves thus and so, and he always responds, "Because he wants to." I am by now means equating Joker's character to God, I am simply saying that there is no more to him than that which can be inferred from the film.

The filmmakers will never explore the origins of the Joker. They have said this themselves, and they will not do so for the aforementioned reason. He is, according to their statement, "absolute."

I'm just gonna throw out that I really enjoyed Harvey Dent's character, and I wouldn't describe it as a caricature. I think this incarnation of two-face is one of the most interesting and complicated Batman villains we've seen in years and years.

My final comment: The joker does not want power or control. He does not want money. He is motivated though. Not to destroy good, for evil is nothing more than good corrupted, and without good, it has no existence. So, Jon is right in that the Joker needs Batman. He is only motivated to frustrate good, and to show it its weaknesses. That it does not have power or control. And that as long as there is good evil cannot be stopped.

But I believe Batman disagrees. His plan to thwart evil is as follows. Batman believes that Harvey Dent's rep is more powerful as a force of Good than the supposed incorruptible symbol of Batman, and in Joker's absence, I think this is Batman's thought: If evil needs good, Harvey is good and Batman is evil.

This is the heart of Gordon's speech at the end. Batman has sacrificed himself by falling, in the public eye, to the dark side. Now good exists on both sides of the line, and evil has no place in the world. Whether or not good will remain incorruptible is for the third installment to explore...

Jonathan Erdman said...

Melody.....how did the hero/villain line make you think about church?

The fluke: Yes, I think it was a fluke that one of the ferry's didn't blow the other up. Speaking honestly, the probability is that one of the other ferry would blow the other up. The civilians wanted to, but didn't have the courage and guts to follow through....in reality, there is usually someone willing to pull the trigger! The criminals show the greatest honor....but in reality, criminals usually lack honor, which is why they have been branded by society as criminals. Don't get me wrong, I loved that the movie broke the stereotypes: a big burly black criminal does the right thing. Yet it didn't fit the film. I thought it was inconsistent.

When the moment was most intense and I thought for sure that one side would pull the trigger....at that moment, I thought I would see one of the best moments in movie history.....but noooooooooo!


Yes, I think the reason the people "deserved more than truth" was because they couldn't handle truth. Human beings only have so much capacity to handle hopelessness. The truth was that there was no hope. So, Batman pushed aside truth in place of hope.

Here's my point, I think: sometimes hope needs to fly in the face of truth because the truth is only darkness, fear, and disappointment. So, to face the truth is beyond our capacity. Therefore, we choose the lie because the lie can keep us moving forward during our darkest periods of existence.

Jonathan Erdman said...

I agree with Paul: the Joker is an absolute. That helps me put a finger on what I was trying to verbalize when I was talking about the Joker being human and inhuman at the same time.

Paul: This Joker is evil, and has always been evil. And he has been so for its own sake. The Joker did not "become" evil through some kind of process - it is a willful, deliberate decision. This fact alone solidifies his madness. But the evil precedes the insanity, not the other way around.

I'm thinking this: good and evil has very little to do with this movie. The Dark Knight is not your classic good versus evil film. It's a good deal more complicated than that. The Joker is not an evil character at his core; rather, he is an insane character with a genius for understanding how chaos works. The Joker only does evil when evil helps to create chaos. But it is a mistake to say that evil = chaos....or to say that good = harmony.....at least, that's my interpretation of the film. (It's also my theological position, b/c God himself seems to create chaos from time to time; for example, God creates chaos among the humans who are building the Tower of Babel by confusing their languages.)

So, I think the Joker's insanity is something of an end in and of itself. I don't really get the impression that he is motivated by evil for evil's sake.....not from the movie.....I just get the impression that he understand the nature of the chaotic world, and understands how to bring to the forefront the chaos that is already there....waiting to be exploited. Is this "evil"????

Melody said...


The same way it made me think of politics. You know, there are always the church leaders who are committed to something...family values is an easy example, but somewhere along the line they start becoming what they're trying to fight against. They become the parent who never has time,the adulterer, the child beater, what-have-you.

I still disagree about the fluke bit. A fluke would be if they pressed the button but it didn't blow or if they were about to and somehow Batman rushed in and stopped them...something like that.

It's not a fluke, the people were just unrealistic.

You're right about it not fitting the film though. In any other movie I would have been bored because I would have known neither one of those ships was going anywhere.

Even the stereotype breaking was a bit stereotypical - you know? But I was alright with it because I didn't expect it from this movie.

In this one I fully expected one or both of those ships to go.

What I thought they were going to do was have both ships pulling their triggers at the same time, like a minute before twelve or something, and then cut to the joker and show him laughing because they'd blown themselves sky-high and he hadn't done a thing.

On truth, so Jon, you'd be ok with being lied to if the truth was too much?

In this instance I just don't think the truth was that big a deal.

A man who just lost the love of his life and half his face, goes crazy from the pain (physical and emotional probably) and kills five people...most of whom have it coming. What's so hard about that?

You hold a pretty funeral for him and give a touching speech about remember the Harvey who fought for the people and how that's the true Harvey and we have to continue his fight for justice, etc., etc., tears, yada-yada.

What's so hard about asking people to realize that other people are failable just like them? What's so hard about asking them to recognize who's really been there for them?

What hope does lying give them? Their hope isn't in a dead Harvey Dent, however he died.

I think: sometimes hope needs to fly in the face of truth because the truth is only darkness, fear, and disappointment.

If the hope is fake it's going to fail at some point. What happens then?

Rebekah Erdman said...

Although I do think that Heath Ledger certainly did a fantastic job using his take of the Joker, it definitely wasn't true to the original Joker based off of the old German comic "The man who laughs" Someone commented on Jon's blog earlier by saying that they wished that the movie had delved more into what made the Joker so crazy. Well the original Joke was just always scum with a sense of humor, not necessarily crazy. He was first a thug and then he kind of transformed into a criminal master mind. Jack Nicholson's take on the Joker was nearly perfect to a "t" on the original Joker. The Joker was more or less someone that wanted to cause chaos for the fun of it, not really because he is disturbed.
As far as the movie itself goes, the current joker was great for what this movie was trying to represent, and DEFINITELY helped to shine the light on the inner workings of batman. To be honest I feel like playing the joker in this way was done to zero in on who batman is and just how far he is willing to go to bring out the good and hope to humanity in Gotham City. So for this reason I definitely appreciated Heath Ledger's performance....
On the other hand, if you make a movie based on a comic book and running show, you have to be true to the original intent of the character and story line. In this case, Jack Nicholson takes the prize..I don't know. maybe I'm just too old school
I was, however much more intrigued by the characters of Batman and Harvey. It's like someone said in a previous comment about how it was scary because that could be anyone. And I felt that the integrity of Batman was very inspiring. I felt like this was finally the batman movie that discovered just what a hero he really was (at the risk of sounding cheesy)

Emily said...

Ktismatics, please come back to us or we will forever be stuck on July 20th's post!

Berky said...

all these comments are so interesting haha. too bad I can't think of anything as deep XD

but I did post random Dark Knight things on my blog.

I <3 Christian Bale! haha X]

ktismatics said...

This is how one becomes a villain: the hero assigns the job to him. Here's Erdman saying that he's got plenty more cool posts up his queue, but he's not going to put them up. And whose to blame for the sudden dearth of Erdmanian goodness? I am. And it's not even something I've done, but rather something I've not done -- I haven't come back, I haven't made more comments on his a/theism post. So instead of being pissed at Erdman for withholding his precious insights, the Theos Project fans are pissed at me. Let me say I was sorely tempted never to come back, to retain my assigned task as the invisible restraint on the forces of good. Maybe the job just isn't chaotic enough for me.

Melody said...

Haha, he did kind of make you the villian didn't he?

Don't worry, we know it's just a big cover up for his lack of deep insightful thoughts to share.

Sure, he says he has some new heresy he's waiting to share, but for some reason he can't share them until you come back? Pretty convenient.

Jason Hesiak said...

the doyle's recent comment here is a better piece of artistic enterprise than that blasted movie. and doyle wasn't even trying to be too artistic, i don't think. as a film, batman dark night blows. lets face it. its a bunch of contrived intellectualism shoved into the medium of film. just like the matrix and v for vendetta. booo. if i want postmodernism, i'll go read lacan or derrida. if i want a good movie, which might even be described as postmodern, i'll go rent a bunuel or a fellini (maybe 8 1/2). but as it stands i'm a little pissed that i spent 7.50 on dark night.

oh and on another note, for clarity, the joker didn't just cause or bring "chaos." he actually, shot, murdered, and hacked people to death. maybe that's not "absolutely" evil because he is so consciosuly playing on people's unconsious fear of chaos and disrupt people's hope in a mere symbol of hope. yada yada. the folks he killed were still ACTUAL/REAL living human beings with friends, family, ect. well, sort of. that it IS "only a movie (over-stuffed with a bunch of intellectual gibberish)" is why we can even entertain the thought that the joker isn't "evil."

but it wasn't a movie when over the weekend some dude walked into a unitarian church while some kids were performing "annie" and started shooting his shot gun all over the place. and if that guy goes and claims that he was "just trying to make us aware of our unconscious fear of chaos", that he's "not evil," then we will all tell him to kiss our ass and that he needs some serious healing. someone did mention that the original joker was taken to be someone who experienced some sort of tragedy early in life.

Jonathan Erdman said...


Interesting comment.

I'm not quite sure how you can class this movie together with The Matrix. M was a very blatant attempt to blend pomo and sci fi (which I quite enjoyed btw). We can argue the merits of Matrix philosophy (e.g., whether it was "contrived intellectualism"), but at what point in Dark Knight was there contrived intellectualism??? I don't recall thinking that the movie itself commented on its own meaning; Matrix clearly commented on it's own meaning (or lack thereof), so you can call it contrived or accuse the W bros. of merely posing as postmodern philosophers. That's fine. But at what point did DK attempt to comment on its own meaning? Perhaps it did, but I didn't leave the theater with that impression. (I've only viewed it once, btw.)

Also, I don't know that the movie glorified violence or suggested that evil did not exist; however, my suggestion was that the movie itself presented a villain that was not motivated or controlled by evil. Rather, the Joker did evil for the purpose of serving chaos. The main point (so it seemed to me) was not to focus on good and evil. IMO, this departs from most mainstream, big budget films in that most want to create an epic good v. evil theme. I didn't get that sense from the Joker in DK. He is a chaotic madman. He only does evil to create chaos, but he doesn't seem to derive pleasure from evil itself. Evil serves the "higher purpose" of purposelessness.

Jason Hesiak said...

hey erdmanian,

i'm with you on the aim of the intentions of the film in terms of chaos/evil...but my point was simply that...that doesn't ring true for me. although the prototypical good guy vs. bad guy isn't exactly so great for me etiher.

as for whether the film suffered from intellectualism. well first of all i enjoy "intellectualism." if i'm reading an intellectual book or whathaveyou. but NOT when its stuffed into a film. another example besides bunuel and fellini (8 1/2 in particular) on in my opinion the good side of film...might be "the departed." it has obvious postmodern influence. but it is clearly a FILM, first and foremost. it human, deeply human. it touches...us.

so when i say dark night suffers from intellectualism i don't mean that it commented on its own meaning. i mean that it wasn't...a film...it wasn't primarily HUMAN...that's not primarily what it was touching (on). it was like a bad victorian matthew arnold poem. it had something to say and it said it by golly...regardless of the medium (of film), the point of contact with...humanity.

my point is simply that if i want to get the message of the film, i'd MUCH RATHER go read derrida. and i would enjoy that. as a film, it blew. the rhythm/timing was horrible. the cinematography wasn't even that great. heath ledger was clearly awasome. christian bale wasn't at his best. the parts didn't come together to make a whole, either. but hey, that's decosntruction. but that's the whole problem, you can't set out to make a decsontructivist film. it makes no sense. which was another problem with the film. it didn't make sense. it was a thought. and not even that well thought out, it seemed.

one one humourous note...it was funny that bruce wayne went out on his boat with the entire russian ballet team. how random is that? lol.

Jonathan Erdman said...


What point (or points) do you think they were trying to make in Dark Knight?

As a side question....do you believe in the supremacy of art over ideas? Of the medium over message? If so, some might confuse you with a pomo type! And how does this relate to teaching (or preaching) in the church? Should the focus be on the artistic presentation or the message?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Don't get me wrong, Jason....if one wants pure theory, then a philosopher is perhaps the better place to start, but I think film has the unique opportunity to embody philosophy in human form (the word made flesh, if you will) in a way that academic philosophy can never do. Hence, I think that films (like novels) should be appreciated for this ability to humanize ideas and explore the consequences.

Dostoevsky does this when he talks about freedom in The Grand Inquisitor narrative of Brothers.....after reading it through a few times, I'm still reeling.

Jason Hesiak said...


i wouldn't necessarily say that dark night was trying to make a point...or points. i'd say that it had that general sort of postmodern message that you (i think rightly) found in it. what point(s) does (do) pomos ever make? :)

and no in general i don't believe in the supremecy of art over ideas. but a piece of art should obviously be a piece of art, should it not? preaching...i don't know. i like the more imaginative preaching...but then again i am an artist myself. but my pastor is expository all the way and i love the guy and his preaching.

and i think the urge "to embody philosophy" in any art form is misguided and bound to lead to failure in that particular work of art. WHEN that's PRIMARILY what's going on. that starting point of a work of art CANNOT BE "to humanize ideas." that first point of contact has to be the (medium of the) art itself. its like whoever made dark night doesn't even like film...they like philosophy more than film, so the film blows. what if shakespeare would have liked philosophy more than theater? his theater would blow. that said, i haven't read brothers.

i left the theater after dark night with a headache and annoyed because the darn thing was so long. "andrei rublev", however, which is an hour longer, left me in tears.

Jason Hesiak said...

btw "the departed" is primarily a film and secondarily brings a pomo message, but gets the message across BETTER than dark night. it leaves you in a kind of state of wonder/"fear of God"/Quoholet openness to...reality. whereas "dark night"...doesn't do that.

tamie said...

Jason, you rock. I have no idea who you are, but you rock. I hereby invite Jon, Jason, and whoever the hell Ktismatics is, and whoever else cares and wants to join us, to my little apartment here in Flagstaff. We can drink wine, beer, and tea, and talk, or not talk, joke or discuss postmodernity or maybe even something more interesting than postmodernity. And I will even take you all to the Grand Canyon.

Jonathan Erdman said...

I'm in.

Jason's driving (since he lives east of me), and we'll swing by CO (to pick up Doyle/Ktismatics) and then turn south.

Jason Hesiak said...

i think sam should drive, since he's further east than i :))

and tamie - hi - i'm jason :) good to meet you. thanks for saying i rock. unfortunately, however, i'm not a musician. i often like your comments, too. and tamie, if you're interested...her's more of me...although not much there of late...


as far as "whoever ktismatics is"...he's pretty cool, too :)

tamie said...

I do enjoy Ktismatic's comments, though his name is unfortunately unpronouncable. And I forgot about samlcarr, who I assume is "Sam." Sorry, Sam. How do you guys all know each other? Yes, come on down, road trip. Grand Canyon. It'll be great.

You'll have to sleep on my floor, unless you're independently wealthy. But I'm sure that the comfort of excellent conversation will make up for the discomfort of a living room floor. Plus, no humidity in Arizona! Almost anything is worth NO HUMIDITY. But maybe I will catch a ride back, as far as Indiana, to visit mi madre, although I do not know how I will then return to the great Grand Canyon State.

Jason....there are so many ways to rock, doncha know. What stripe of artist are you? Perhaps this question is answered on your blog, which I shall read in a bit.

Let me know when you'll be on the horizon, and I'll put on the kettle and book a campsite at the Canyon.

Rock on.

Jason Hesiak said...

tamie we all know each other from each other's blogs. i think the original congregating point was ktismatic's blog. my first real conversation with him was through a post of his on baudrillard, i think :)

and i'm an architect, poet, and i consider myself a painter but its been a while.

and i'm not sure i'll ever be on the horizon :) but all of us folks getting together in some remote beautiful spot on CO sounds good to me :) when that would be, however, i have no idea, unfortunately.

tamie said...

yeah well, i figured it was a pie in the sky idea, but hey, one never knows. and the kettle is always on.

tamie said...

So. How are all those profound thoughts coming, that you promised us a while back?

Jason Hesiak said...

that question about promised profundity was directed toward the one and only Erdmanian Tornado, right?

tamie said...

oui oui. the one and only.

Jason Hesiak said...

add Burn After Reading to the list of good "postmodern" movies :)

Jonathan Erdman said...

How so?

I haven't seen it yet, but I have wanted to. Cohen bros. w/ Pitt and Clooney? Yeah, looks hillarious.

Jason Hesiak said...

well its not laugh out loud funny like The Big Labowsky but it has that same quality of revealing the nothingness of our "postmodern" world by managing to be both very real (as in human and believable) and, in the end, about nothing. like The Big Labowsky the comedy is found not so much in slapstick (although that is found in The Big Labowsky) as in the "bigger picture" - when you sit back and think about the overall "picture" persented by the film, you can't hlep but giggle...if you "get it"...which one particular randomly selected film reviewer did not...

As close to an answer as you'll get here is that Burn After Reading is an essay in the cocoon of ignorance most of us live in. It pushes the old form of movie comedy — smart people saying clever things — into collision with today's dominant model of slackers whose utterly unfounded egotism eventually worms its way into an audience's indulgence. Which is to say that most of the people here seem like bright lights but are actually dim bulbs. They're not falling-down stupid; they radiate the subtler variety of idiocy that can be mistaken for charm, decency or even brilliance.

That's certainly true of the CIA analyst played by John Malkovich. Osborne Cox: his very name is steeped in two denominations of old money. After decades at the Agency, he has perfected the look and the attitude of a career spook. He wears a smart dark suit and that inevitable flourish of the house eccentric, a bow tie. Osborne's Olympian contempt for his superiors, his overcareful pronunciation of French words ("mem-wah"), the modest shock value of a Princeton man spicing every sentence with the f-word — all these mark him as hailing from that generation and class of American spies who considered themselves more knowledgeable, hard-thinking and highly pedigreed than the politicians they worked for...

McDormand's Linda Litzke, assistant manager at a D.C.-area gym, is at the opposite end of the esteem spectrum. Primally troubled by her sagging derriere, and by "a gut that swings back and forth in front of me like a shopping cart with a bent wheel," she obsesses on the plastic surgery she thinks will give her some kind of a life. The ruck of men she's found through online dating services don't offer much. One of them takes her to a movie comedy and doesn't laugh; to dinner and doesn't talk; to bed and he utters not a word before falling asleep....

I have the sinking feeling I've made Burn After Reading sound funnier than it is. The movie's glacial affectlessness, its remove from all these subpar schemers, left me cold and perplexed. I did appreciate the nicely modulated turns from Richard Jenkins as Linda's sweet-souled boss and J.K. Simmons as the head of the CIA. But for me, the surest laughs came from the portentous percussion in Carter Burwell's wonderful underscoring; it pile-drives an expectation of suspense that the film never delivers.

Except for the suspense about the brothers' aims with their latest movie. Film critics aren't supposed to confess bafflement at the end of a review, but that's what I feel here. Either the Coens failed, or I didn't figure out what they're attempting. I must be like Harry or Osborne, pretending to a sophistication I lack. Burn After Reading is a movie about stupidity that left me feeling stupid.


notably...i knew it was a good Pomo film within the first 30 seconds, before a line was ever spoken by any character. the first shot is a satellite image, and the camera pans down down down to CIA headquarters in Langley down down down through the roof through the room toward the floor and doesn't turn upright to a typical view of the human eye until it is at the level of a man's feet walking down a hallway. also notably, the film ends where it began...panning silently up and up and up back to a satellite image :) Carl Rashke says he piggy backs off of Derrida in equating being postmdoern with being global :)

Jason Hesiak said...

Where does this film leave the Coens? Their unique position, as darlings of both the Hollywood set and the festival circuit, is unchanged. What they have managed to come up with here, somehow, is a light-as-fluff flipside to hardcore "insider" films like All the President's Men, Michael Clayton or, indeed, The Insider: it paints the powers-that-be as goofy, chaotic and definitively non-sinister. This lot, you feel, couldn't bug their way out of a paper bag.


reminded me of Hannah Arend's The Banality of Evil

Jonathan Erdman said...

I saw Burn After Reading last weekend.

I thought it was a good movie, with a good deal to explore. A bit disturbing, but I think they captured something significant.

Jason Hesiak said...

cool. glad to hear you...sort of...enjoyed it :) although lol i'm surprised you were disturbed. i thought chaos was the rule?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Well, chaos can be quite disturbing.

Watching the characters in Burn After Reading just left me with an empty feeling.....but there certainly were parts of the movie that were funny.

Jason Hesiak said...

i was just giving you a hard time :) part of me was also disturbed, but part of me was also amused, knowing (i think) that it was also partially a commentary.