The Time Has Come to Make a Choice, Mr. Anderson: “The Matrix” and Romantic Realism

The Matrix is replete with allusions to classic philosophical ideas.  The plot references Plato’s Cave and the world of forms, Descartes’ First Meditation and the evil demon, and Hilary Putnam’s “brain in a vat” scenario – all ruminations on the nature of reality and the possibility that we only perceive an illusion.  The film also considers the tension between free will and determinism, mostly conveying its stance on this fundamental philosophical issue not through long-winded discussion, but through an essential tenet of Romanticism:  the plot hinges on the genuine choices made by its characters.

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Clarice Starling, Meet Dr. Hannibal Lecter – a Scene Analysis

One of the most enthralling sequences in The Silence of the Lambs is the first meeting between Clarice Starling and Dr. Hannibal Lecter, and it is a masterclass in visual storytelling.  This piece will analyze this entire sequence shot-by-shot,  explaining the cinematic techniques that director Jonathan Demme and cinematographer Tak Fujimoto use to tell this crucial portion of their story.  We’ll be looking at different aspects of each shot including:  composition, point of view, camera movement, pacing, and more.  We’ll see how in a mere six minutes and three seconds, these 60 shots convey characterization, plot, and even crucial thematic ideas that would develop through the course of the film.

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Why “The Terminator” (1984) is the Greatest Terminator Film

The Terminator (1984) is a better film than Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991).  The three other movies in the franchise are utter garbage and will not be discussed further.  And, if you’ll lower your pitchforks for long enough, this piece will provide several arguments asserting the superiority of The Terminator.  I’ll compare three aspects of the films and explain how The Terminator bests Terminator 2 in each:  1.) The overall plot-theme of the story, 2.) The structure, pacing, and the effectiveness of the storytelling, and 3.) The characters and their respective arcs.  I will show that the first film showcases a stronger and more original plot, streamlined structure, and more interesting characters.  After remarking on the sequel’s deserved accolades, the stark verdict will follow:  Terminator 2 is exemplary, but The Terminator is the greater film.

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“Beauty and the Beast” Pays Fitting Homage to Predecessors, But Can’t Compete with Masterpieces

When remaking a classic, withstanding the inevitable comparisons requires either flawless execution or inspired novelty.  Disney’s latest live-action adaptation has an even greater challenge, as it must compete with two masterpieces:  the studio’s own animated feature from 1991, and Jean Cocteau’s magnificent romantic fantasy La Belle et la Bête (1946).  And though this iteration of the story pays ample homage to both of these predecessors, minor blemishes and stylistic issues prevent the remake from reaching the same heights.  Still, a film should not be judged worthless if it fails to equal titans.  Beauty and the Beast does a great deal right; it simply doesn’t replicate the Earth-shattering experience of its ancestors.

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Is it Any Good? The Scourge of Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic

You may have noticed that here on Plot and Theme I never attach a grade to my reviews. Distilling an entire film into a single number or letter has always rubbed me the wrong way, as it inherently removes any critical nuance from the discourse. But, I am aware that most reviews do provide a grade in summation, and these can help gauge the overall quality of the film. More recently, with the rise of review aggregators like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, scores of these reviews are condensed down into a single number. The result is a peculiar derivative of a derivative – thoughts and words transformed into a number, then that number lost in a sea of others. The purpose of this piece is to explain that process in more detail, and ultimately determining if any of these procedures result in answering a simple question: Is <Insert Film > any good?

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The Basics of Romantic Realism

The first aesthetics post on this blog sought to broadly define the philosophical field of aesthetics, tasked with the study of art and its role in human life. In it, I mentioned that there are many different viewpoints and theories in this field, and that I would be approaching the questions of aesthetics from the perspective of a particular school: Romantic Realism. So, with our foundational knowledge of aesthetics taken care of, we are now prepared to delve into this particular school of thought, which will be the focus of this piece.

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