Monday, January 19, 2009

What if life is just one big nocturnal emission or Why "Waking Life" Sucked more than you remember

Wake me when its over: A Re-evaluation of "Waking Life"
An Essay with extensive existential Wikipedia citations.
OR:
A Pretty Pretentious Post-modern neo-existentialist critique through a cultural transcendental perspective on the commentary values presented within the pseudo-intellectual, platitude producing, even more pretentious than this title, rotoscoped motion picture "Waking Life" Department of redundancy department"
by
Joel Straley

The film "Waking Life" is nothing more than self-serving Uber-Pretentiousness at its most in-your-face that any film has ever attempted to be. Its arguments are presented in a way that makes them feel as empty and meaningless as the advice and solutions that are presented in things such as a religious sermon or the film The Secret".....in other words just plain bullshit. I felt it was shot in rotoscope so you'd feel like you're stoned and hopefully these discussions presented in the film will make you go 'wow' just long enough before they're quickly destroyed from your short-term memory and forgotten forever. Lets look at some interesting questions raised within this film/Philosophy-101-term-paper.

What if reality is just a dream?

"Oh, wow, (cough) (cough) that shits crazy man. Or what if our dreamselves are dreaming us...and when we're sleeping that's when they're off in dream-reality! Like 'catch ya later lil dream-dude!" That's freakin' Trippy, man-oh, dude I love this Phish song."

What if its all just a dream? THEN WHO THE FUCK CARES!!

This is childish, debating-with-a-freshmen type of reasoning. Yes, every argument can be pushed back to 'or maybe you're just a brain in a vat'....This idea doesn't make you ask any important questions at all. First off if reality was all just a dream...then how would we have dreams at all. We'd have only one consciousness assuming there is no reality and its all a dream. Because we experience dreams in our reality proves that there are at least two levels or divisions to our consciousness (or existence or however far you want to take it). But life being a dream or not has virtually no effect on how you live your life and the moral and experiential aspects of your existence. If you'd like to argue that you're somehow "free-er" when you accept life is just a dream..then fine, tomorrow why don't you go around without any pants on telling everyone "Its ok, life's just a dream".

For most of the discussions in the film I want to reply "Ok, we all are convinced of solipsism when we try to examine our consciousness, get the fuck over it". For a great example of this, refer to the scene in which the main character tries to put his finger on what it is to experience existing in the present and see how many times you ask yourself "dude, what the fuck are you talking about?". The kid starts to make real points but dilutes them entirely when trying to analogize them to any real ontological examples. All I can say is at least when Sartre rambles on trying to pinpoint our consciousness present reality he doesn't sound like a kid stoned off his ass in the break room of a Starbucks.

I feel we should stick with Sarte's analysis on this that "Human reality is what it is not, and not what it is"...and trying to break it down any further than that makes you sound like a douchebag.

I feel a better argument that should have been presented in order to get the audience to begin actively engaging themselves in asking important questions about their experience through life would have been Nietzsche's view of Eternal Recurrence. Have the audience ask themselves not "is it all a dream?" but rather "is it all going to be the same dream again and again?". This more actively creates a debate on the linear view of time, the practical implications of infinite,
as well as overcoming the mundaneness of our own individual existence. All better discussions than "dude, if life was a dream how could we wake up?..or did i just blow your freakin mind?"

Finally, if all of my existence in reality is nothing more than some dream I am making up then why would I waste my own time making up a movie that I felt wasted my time?


What is with that scene with Ethan Hawk?

In the scene Ethan Hawk starts a discussion,that like much of the philosophical debates in the film, can be seen as supporting pantheism and the idea of one collective intellectual consciousness (that if it makes you that much happier you can call "God"). Ethan Hawk quotes some shady one-off examples of cases and statistics that seem to support his main idea. He quotes a case that involved people getting better results on a crossword puzzle once the crossword puzzle had already been solved by someone else. As the first person solved the crossword puzzle the answers were now "out there" and then the other people soon figured it out as well, by of course channeling the answers through their brain antennae. I really hope that if there is a collective consciousness that Ethan Hawk can intercept what I am thinking about his dumbass right now.

First thing, cross word puzzles are made by people so the 'answers' are already 'out there' in mind-space once the crossword maker finishes writing the crossword puzzle in the first place.

Second, This is also such a poor example that I'm sure even using it is some argumentative fallacy. If this were true that humans all share one mind, I find it a bit odd that Xenophanes in 500 BC asked "why is the God of man a man for wouldn't the god of an ox be an ox, etc?", while now 2500 years later this question is still foreign in the majority of most minds...even intelligent ones.

Where are the important questions?

If I was going to make an intro-to-philosophy/"pack up the purple kush" type film like Waking Life is, the first debate I would start with is an argument entirely overlooked in this whole "isn't life like, crazy, man" discussion: Albert Camus' first question of all philosophy. Camus argues that there is only one truly essential philosophical question that man must ask himself: Whether or not to end ones own existence. Everything else is merely secondary until this question is answered. I suppose the correct realistic answer to hearing that question is "I guess so, I never thought about it". Nonetheless by starting with this you have now established the idea that even if life is a dream, it is at the very least a dream with enough positive qualities to justify the continuation of the dreaming.

While constantly presenting ideas to encourage the audience to have an uncertainty about their own existence I feel many of the film's arguments are actually defended with too much certainty.

For example, in a speech in the film by the filmmaker he suggests that he had visited a dream state that was in essence 'heaven' where he had seen his dog and some old dead lady he knew. While being open to the possibility of contacting an alternate reality/consciousness he holds on to an idea about 'heaven'. While he's open to the idea that life is but a dream, it doesn't acknowledge the impossibility of living eternally with a pet (...and to be fair how fucked up is it that not even in death a dog cannot escape being a slave to your stupid ass.) Does he seriously think that life is honestly a temporary dream in which he will spend billions of years playing catch with a dog he only owned for 15 years MAX? Was the dead woman in the dream wearing clothes? Oh she was. Were these the clothes she died in, the clothes she was buried in, what most people remember her wearing in life, or do you get to pick out your favorite outfit to wear for eternity? Yeah you see where I'm going about the absurdity in this.

Some of these aspects of the conversations within the film reminds of the George Orwell quote "Some ideas are so stupid only intellectuals could believe them".

Nothing, or at least very little presented in the film gives enough attention to the optimistic possibilities of the unknown. The dialogues needed more the I-don't-know-and-you-don't-know-either mentality to really start to get the audience engaged in answering the questions that make up the basics of philosophy for themselves. This film doesn't clearly introduce many ideas as truthfully striking as Socrates view of death in Plato's Apology. The idea that whether death is a meeting of deceased acquaintances or an infinite sleep will never be known as an absolute certainty by anyone. This idea is to be suited alongside the idea that whether or not an after-life is positive or negative can also never be said with any real certainty.

So what did I learn from this movie?
Ummm, I can't turn on or off lights in my dreams..ok, well, that's odd. I guess. I mean I assume the lights will be on anyway as I typically don't dream about being in the dark. And even if I did....I'm asleep, so I kinda already expect shit to be dark.

All I can say is that a lot of these monologues also come off as nothing more than a christian style lecture made to brainwash you into the worship of the god of pantheism. I feel that stating "most philosophers believe life is only some sort of a dream state and death is a dream state too" as completely over simplifying an argument to the point of distortion of what many philosophers 'believe'. I also feel that within the film the image of a televangelist priest used as a puppet to be a bit of a needless cheap shot that bares little relevance to the main point of the film since the idea of a 'puppet-master' or some man-behind-the-curtain is rarely discussed in clear detail.

These stupid "life is but a dream" dialogues are nothing but constant platitudes. So bad it makes the film seem like a intro. to philosophy book written by the creators of The Secret. Waking Life is like getting a History education from a conspiracy theorists, if you want the truth.

Nothing really tops it until when none other than Writer and Director Mr. Richard Lankleter himself appears to drag on about a story of an author who says .. oh, a bunch of shit...but he ends up saying that Time is but a veil and we are stuck stagnant in time forever so we'll falsely believe in Jesus or something. (I'm trying to avoid going too deep in the absurdities of a 'stagnant time' being stuck 'forever' ...like the fact that if time is 'stuck' it cannot also be ongoing
and therefor cannot be as 'endless' as the term 'forever' would imply. etc.)

It all leads up to how he had a dream, that I'd previously mentioned, that wasn't a dream..it was him visiting the land of the dead or 'heaven', and his fuckin' dog was there. And then he woke up and it changed his life, ....but he didn't really wake up because the main dude was still stuck in a dream meaning Richard Lankleter was but a figment of main dudes- oh just fuck this movie, already.

Finally, Someone needs to explain to me what a "Holy Moment" is. This idea of being over-whelmed by beauty by simply stopping to concentrate on the face of a another human person is a bit of a naive approach of trying to appreciate and understand existence. And as one character tells the other that he would find himself overwhelmed with tears to stop and concentrate on his friends face makes me think this guy should go get his . I get that life is beautiful, sure, but I'm not gonna be constantly in joyful tears just jerking off to the sunset every day.

But "The Holy Moment"...that reminds me of something. oh yeah. The Holy Mountain! The best fucking movie ever made, bitch! A movie that makes you ask yourself some real questions about life. A movie that has visual appeal and actual relevant commentary that can call society and life bullshit without having to sound like a preachy douche. A movie that tells the audience to stop watching the movie and go outside.

So turn off Waking Life and pick up a book. Real life awaits you!

If you made this far you see my main complaint with "Waking Life" is that it is not "The Holy Mountain" .....as is my complaint with most movies.

2 comments:

it7276 said...

Yeah I really fucking hated this movie. I think I saw it when I was like 16 or 17...pretentious as shit. I think I got about 20-30 minutes in, since I liked Linklater's "Suburbia" and thought "Dazed and Confused" was alright, then I watched the rest in fast forward, occasionally pushing play if the animation looked interesting.

I remember one thing that really pissed me off, and unfortunately this isn't really about your blog post but I'll say it anyway, is that one of the big things about this film was the "whole movie has been rotoscoped" thing. Otherwise it's just a high-school project since the whole thing was shot on miniDV. But there's one scene, when they're driving in a car or something, where you can tell they got lazy and didn't rotoscope. They were just like "Enh, we'll crank up the color and contrast and make everything kind of pixelated and people won't know the difference." That really pissed me off. It's like "If you're going to make me sit through these mind-numbing monologues, at least give me something interesting to look at."

But yeah, 'til my dying, if someone tells me they like this movie, I will immediately decide that we probably shouldn't be friends.

Lucé said...

"I get that life is beautiful, sure, but I'm not gonna be constantly in joyful tears just jerking off to the sunset every day."

perfection. now if only i had a little book to copy this into...