13 October 2014

Mor(e)on a few movies

This little site of mine is constantly in danger of becoming a movie blog. I don’t want that – I love movie blogs, but I want this place to be a place where I can write personal letters to myself and read them and fall in love with myself. But one of my greatest pleasures in life is watching movies, and sometimes I see a few in a row that are so wonderful that I can’t keep quiet. So whatever.

More on Once Upon a Time in the West

Once Upon a Time in the West. It’s killing me. I love it to death. (By the way, note how ruthless this film is: everyone that you meet in the first 12 minutes is killed in an instant; and then everyone that you meet in the next 12 minutes is killed in an instant – all for the sake of introducing the two main characters.) Let me just quote a bit of dialogue that I think is pivotal. The railroad comes to the west, and it brings a new form of existence (to call it that), and of CIVILIZATION, which drives out both the larger-than-life heroes as well as the villains. I see the railroad of those days as similar to our own age’s “internet” – this is mainly why the phenomenon intrigues me. In the lines below, FRANK is a sadistic villain; HARMONICA is a sort of hero; and the man MORTON, to whom they refer, is a capitalist who formerly employed the thug FRANK to do his dirty work.

FRANK: Morton once told me I could never be like him. Now I understand why. Wouldn’t have bothered him knowing you were around somewhere alive.

HARMONICA: So you found out you’re not a businessman after all.

FRANK: Just a man.

HARMONICA: An ancient race.

[Long pause]

HARMONICA: Other Mortons will be along, and they’ll kill it off.

FRANK: The future don’t matter to us. Nothing matters now—not the land, not the money, not the woman.

This scene mesmerizes me because these guys who are enemies have become almost completely indifferent to everything but a code of honor; they’re like ancient samurai. The railroad will bring a new economy—presumably a booming one—but this matters neither to the true heroes nor to the villains: the game is now small and petty; it matters only to the Mortons, the capitalists of the world.

This reminded me very strongly of the movie Executive Suite (1954, directed by Robert Wise). That movie is about the struggles inside of a company whose president has unexpectedly died – the vacant position of leadership is desired by different (opposite) parties: one is a character named Shaw, who is essentially the company’s accountant—his prime concern is with “the bottom line”, and he’s always bringing out charts and graphs, to the chagrin of his nemesis who cares about making the best possible product via experimental research and development. The copy of the disc that I rented had a commentary track by Oliver Stone, and he noted that although the accountant Shaw does not ‘win’ in the movie, the Shaws of our world alas have won in reality. Just like the Mortons of the West. (Mort = death; think of “mortgage”.)

So the railroad drove out the heroes as well as the villains – it left only the moneymen to pick over the carcass of the new world. And the people who headed the corporations that throve in the wake of the ‘wild west’ eventually became even smaller and pettier in their concerns when they allowed their accountants to call the shots, rather than their engineers (or others). And now we have the internet doing to contemporary culture what the railroad did to the Wild West (I’m just speaking loosely, in movieland terms; I hope you’ll refrain from torturing me, at least for the time being).

Another heading to break up the monotony of text

Recently I decided to try to stay away from the social network Facebook indefinitely – forever, if possible. And, to inaugurate my resolution, I re-watched the 2010 movie that tells the (stylized) story of that network’s creation. I wholeheartedly LOVED the movie THE SOCIAL NETWORK the first time I saw it; and I’ve returned to watch it again and again, with pleasure. (Music by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross!)

You can see it as a story about ambition, or friendship, or about human psychology – you don’t have to care a fig about computers or technology to enjoy the movie (that’s mainly what I love so much about it) – but right now I wanted to mention how the achievements of its main character Zuckerberg exemplify the dwindling of heroism. Humans staring at screens lead to lawyers arguing across tables. This is the world that the sadistic killer Frank, and the outlaw Cheyenne, and even the individualistic hero Harmonica of ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ KNEW that they could not bear.

The gunslingers from the Wild West gave way to the bean-counting capitalists like Shaw; and, now, even the Shaws of the world are giving way to something smarmier.

I feel that I should break the text again here

I want to stress that the Zuckerberg of the 2010 movie The Social Network is a figure that I LIKE more than dislike – he reminds me of a diminutive version of Milton’s Satan: and I mean that as high praise. He’s driven by resentment to conquer the kingdom that he believes rightfully should belong to him. The only problem is that our time’s anti-heroes are small; instead of Ahab chasing the whale across the ocean, we get these kids typing insect code on the internet. And look at me: I’m blogging.

What I’m trying to say is that all of us should go out and harpoon something dangerous today. No; but I can’t think what else I should type to end this, so I’ll slink away behind a few quotes from an “extra” feature that I found on the disc for The Social Network.

First, here’s Aaron Sorkin, who wrote the screenplay:

I’m very proud of the movie; I can’t imagine being more proud. When I write something... I don’t try to take everybody’s temperature, ask for a show of hands, and give people what they want – I don’t know what people want; people don’t want the same things – this is all a long way of saying that all I can do is write something that I like, write something that I think my friends would like, write something that I think my father would like, and keep my fingers crossed that enough other people would like it that I could keep earning a living.

Secondly and lastly, here’s Jesse Eisenberg, who plays the role of Mark Zuckerberg:

My girlfriend’s mother would always say things like “If you have time for Facebook, you have time to tutor a child.” So, no one should be on Facebook, unless they’re tutoring a child – and if they’re tutoring a child on Facebook, then they should tutor another child.

I wish that I had neither written nor posted this blog entry. Below is a drawing:


On my break today, I recorded myself casually reading one last poem by Serge Fauchereau: "The crowd swarms through the international exposition..." ALSO: Do you need something to accompany robot bears on an outing? Try Furniture Beat 000019! (I am not getting paid for this.)


More from Bryan Ray