Ready Player One and the Myth of Total Cinema

I recently read the book and saw the movie Ready Player One. I will try my best not to spoil anything it in this post, but it has some interesting implications to the Myth of Total Cinema that we talk about in class often.

Quick background: In the future, everyone spends most of their time in a virtual reality world (The Oasis) and people are looking for an Easter Egg left behind by the developer.

The scenes from the movie are all almost completely different than how it played out in the book, but both were enjoyable and they reflected on two sides of the Myth of Total Cinema.

The movie hits the topic of not realizing you are in the Oasis strongly. Some people are equipped with suits that replicate how things feel on your body and fancy rigs to walk around on. What is more interesting is that in select scenes, there are times when players are shown throwing something to someone else in the game but from the real world (ie a person with goggles throws something invisible to someone else with goggles). This is something that sounds ridiculous because the orientation in the game is not reflected in the real world like that, yet it makes us see how closely the two worlds are to these people. Another time, a group of people standing next to each other in the real world are all killed in the game at the same time by the same strike. This further  blurs that ground between the real world and the Oasis.

The book focuses more on the personal relationships. Do you know who someone is even if you have never met them? This hits much closer to home in that we communicate often with people we never meet. It is less aligned with the Myth of Total Cinema, but it does touch on the idea some. How real are your relationships with friends if they are able to put on a different face when you talk to them? Are they the same person online as they are in person?

In my opinion, I liked both the movie and book very much and I would recommend both.

The consistent yelling in Do The Right Thing

The characters do a lot to anger each other throughout the film, but the way it is filmed makes the viewer more involved. The most obvious of the techniques used are the shots when people are yelling directly into the camera and at the viewer. Most of the time this happens, the person yelling doesn’t have a point to get across, they are just angry and shouting. To a viewer, getting yelled at for no reason about nothing made me uncomfortable, but we are forced to take it like the characters in the story.

In the picture, these happened back to back and are obviously talking about a person/group but the audience feels attacked in a way because it feels it is still directed at us or we feel involved someway. The first person view also gives us more emotion during the “20 ‘D’ batteries” scene when Radio Raheem is yelling at the camera at a dramatic angle to make us feel small.

On the flip side of being yelled at, there is an element of humor that shouldn’t go unnoticed. Once the viewer gets past the fact they are being yelled at about nothing, they start listening to what the person is saying and it is so ridiculous that it becomes humorous.  Obviously this humor is not for everyone. It took me a while to get past the phase of “stop yelling at me!” and get to just laughing at what they were yelling about. It really was not until the afterwards when watching the “20’D’ batteries” scene again that is struck me how hilarious the whole exchange was.

To me, it felt odd to have a film go from making me uncomfortable and angry to making me laugh after re-watching some scenes. For others, I would like to hear your initial reactions to all the shouting and yelling, and if those reactions changed throughout the film or afterwards. Do you think it changes the way you might feel as a viewer after watching the movie multiple times? Does the viewer getting yelled at build more sympathy for the characters in the story when they get yelled at, or does it desensitize us to it more to whats going on?

Watching Brakhage Movies and the Act of Seeing

Relevant Link: https://www.criterion.com/current/posts/272-by-brakhage-the-act-of-seeing

Interesting note about what Professor Zinman said in class about studying experimental film to prepare us for ambiguity in the world, the author makes a point here that “the work generally doesn’t aspire to what is often meant by purity; instead, it’s chock-full of the conflicting emotions and general messiness of life itself.” This is heavily contrasted with many classical movies where the goal of the director is to make the audience feel an emotion in line with what he is trying to convey. Brakhage seems to be approaching the topic as trying to make you feel any emotion, perhaps many emotions, at any time.

Naturally there are a group of people who express distaste for the types of film Brakhage creates, but if the goal is to elicit emotion, then perhaps it could be counted as a success if you dislike the film enough to emotionally react to it.

That is not to say that any emotion is free to express at any time throughout the film. In films in general, there are designated sections where “some characters and scenes evoke empathy and others create tension and fear. These emotions are provoked primarily by the subject matter… but while subject matter is important in Brakhage’s films, they do their work mainly through composition, camera movement, rhythms within images, and the rhythms of editing or paint on the film.” That is to say that Brakhage aims for causing certain emotions with things that are not typically associated with it. While talking about the predetermined forms and story arc structures of most narratives, the article says “all were to be undermined because they block the individual from experiencing the unpredictability of inner life.” This goes back to the life lesson of not always being prepared for something and having to react real time to life.

The narrative rules behind the flashbacks

Within the movie of Citizen Kane, the story of Kane is broken into segments of stories as flashbacks. Each one contributes to the overall narrative of the story by adding their own component, which is an isolated story element. The 6 ‘flashbacks’: 1. News reel flashback, 2. Thatcher’s notebook flashback, 3. Bernstein flashback,  4. Jed Leland’s flashback, 5. Susan’s flashback, and 6.  Raymond’s flashback. Each of these dive into Kane’s background in a different way. Making a general exception for the interview portions and the intro News Reel,  the flashbacks have rules associated that make them not truly flashbacks but help the narrative aspect of the movie plot flow.

To start, the flashbacks do not follow the general rule of thumb of showing only what the person telling the story sees. There are examples within each section that show information that would not be available to the person recounting the story. A mild example of this is when Susan properly recounts the Declaration of Principles, which to her character would not seem that important. To the person interviewing, and us as the audience, we know how important it is and we can see the detail of the page that Susan might not know. Another more profound example of the flashback “breaking the rules” is during Jed Leland’s flashback, where a large section of the flashback involve the confrontation with Gettys, something Jed Leland was not present for. This seems like something unlikely that Kane would explain to Leland. How he receives the information is not important to the story, and it is critical information that we get to the story as a whole. I understand some aspects of breaking the ‘rules’ of flashbacks to get more information for the viewer, but I do not know why they would be so deliberate in having this information be given by someone who obviously should not have this info. Does anyone have a good reason for why Leland would know this or could it be something he made up? I suppose it does not have to be completely true. It could be a fabrication. If he did know the truth, then there are only 4 people he could have learned the truth from and none of them seem likely to tell.

The View of Refugees in Casablanca

Much of the film is about the hardships of being treated as a refugee rather than a person. There is a lot of talk about being stuck in Casablanca and Laszlo even says “I am also a human being” at one point. An interesting note about the creation of the movie is that “Many Nazi roles were filled by Germans who’s actually fled Germany, including Conrad Veidt who plays the menacing Major Strasser. Veidt was an outspoken anti-‘Facist whose wife was Jewish.” (https://www.bestmoviesbyfarr.com/articles/behind-the-scenes-casablanca/2016/02).  Ironically, the movie is about humanizing refugees and here we have actors who act the part of the people whom they have fled from.

A different article relates how the refugees in Casablanca are similar to the refugees seen today in the world. “In the current crisis, the possession of false passports has often been treated as evidence of guilt, but Casablanca attempts to show that the black market is often the last report for otherwise honest people in desperate straits”. (http://www.slate.com/culture/2018/01/watch-the-trailer-for-steven-soderberghs-iphone-shot-thriller-unsane-video.html).  The article goes on to say how the world tends to view refugees today as not people, exactly as the movie referenced and made a strong point against. The article says “it depict the victims of war as sympathetic individuals.”

TGBH Story from Mr. Moustafa’s point of view

Mr. Moustafa (older Zero) told the story as he remembers and so he is implementing aspects of his life working at the hotel into his story. This shows up in 2 major aspects.

First: Throughout the movie, many things are labeled and are always readable throughout the entire shot, often in uppercase. It begins with things throughout the hotel being clearly labeled, as expected for a hotel, but expands to various other things that Mr. Moustafa is remembering. Two quick examples are shown below. The first picture has the text “LOBBY BOY”, “HOLY BIBLE”, “MENDL’S” all displayed towards the audience when Zero is visiting the jail. Later, when the group is breaking out of jail, “CHECK-POINT 19 SUPPLY DEPOT” and ZUBROWKAN REGIONAL LINE” are clearly legible.

The reason for this is that Mr. Moustafa has spent his entire life around hotels by now and he is used to seeing things clearly labeled in uppercase. In fact, it might seem odd to him if something wasn’t properly labeled considering how many legible signs there are during the first few minutes of the film when we see the hotel in it’s current state.

Second: There is repetition in things that happen (often comedic). Two examples of this are: 1) when the Society of the Crossed Keys are calling each other and the interaction was almost exactly the same across the different hotel managers with their lobby boys, and 2) when  visiting the church and each member keeps asking “Are you Monsieur Gustave of…”. Perhaps that this is not the true retelling of the story, but how Mr. Moustafa’s remembers it. Being a Lobby Boy, he was probably exposed to the same series of requests/sentences throughout the day. Perhaps he is so used to mundane things that some of the interactions began to sound the same to him.

I am not sure on this second point and I would like to hear other’s views on why there would be this type of comedic repetition in Mr. Moustafa’s story.