Cerebral Movies: The Congress

MV5BMjE5MTUzNDk3M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTUwNTQ5MTE@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_The Congress is the story of an aging actress (Robin Wright, ostensibly playing herself) who is given a last-chance contract: the studio will scan her emotions and physical presence.  She will remain forever young when her scanned likeness is used in movies, but she herself cannot appear in any movie or play for the length of her 20-year contract.

Wright reluctantly signs the contract, partially because she knows it might be her last chance at continued stardom and partially because she needs the money to treat her chronically ill son.

The movie jumps ahead 20 years to the expiration of her contract. Wright shows up at the animated Abrahama, the illusory animated world created by the Miramount Nagasaki corporation At this point the movie shifts from being live action to animation. Wright is animated as an attractive elderly woman, but no one recognizers her because the Miramount Nagasaki corporation owns her likeness, which has been turned into a international superstar but is perpetually 33 years old.

In the preceding 20 years, the Miramount Nagasaki corporation have made advances in chemistry allowing them to turn Wright’s scanned likeness into a chemical formula, which may be ingested by individuals. It is the next step in the evolution of cinema: each person has their own private, self-generated illusory world (represented by animation.)

But the illusory world is not as wonderful as it seems: rebels soon invade and disrupt Abrahama. This intrusion allows Wright to break free from the animated illusion and allows her to ultimately transit back to the real world, witnessing firsthand how the chemicals have actually enslaved humanity.

The Congress explores the nature of reality. It also poses the question, is it better to be free and see reality for what it truly is in all it’s unvarnished horror?  Or is it better to be trapped in an illusion where everyone is happy, but enslaved? The Matrix and Dark City explored these same themes.

The Congress is not a perfect movie; it can be hard to follow in spots and does not make sense in some places. But overall, it is a thought-provoking movie and an interesting meditation on the nature of reality.

Worth a look if you like mind bending, cerebral movies which make you think.

Skip it if you like coherent, easy-to-follow story lines.

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The Congress

– steve


Life Itself

MV5BMTQ2OTQzMjcxNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzc2Njk3MTE@._V1_SX214_AL_Life Itself is a documentary which details the life of movie critic Roger Ebert, who passed away in 2013.

Ebert was one of those who found his calling early in life. By the time he was 15, he was publishing and distributing his own newspaper. He later went to work for the local newspaper. By the end of the 1960s, Ebert had been appointed as movie critic at the Chicago Sun-Times.

The movie spends a lot of time chronicling Ebert’s stormy relationship with fellow film critic and “professional nemesis” Gene Siskel.   Siskel worked for the Chicago Tribune, a rival to Ebert’s Chicago Sun-Times. The two collaborated on a PBS television show, in which they reviewed movies. The two were professional rivals, and on mostly civil terms, but often disagreed vehemently on movies; neither was shy about stating his respective opinion. This made for interesting television. By the time Siskel died in 1999 from complications from brain cancer, the two seemed to have developed mutual respect, even if they differed in their views.

Ebert was one of the most popular American film critics. He preferred a relativistic reviewing style, grouping movie reviews by looking at the audience they were made for.  Highbrow movies (read “Oscar bait”) were compared to other highbrow movies; popular movies would be compared other popular movies. This view gave a better indication of whether a viewer would like a particular movie or not.

The film can be hard to watch. Ebert lost most of his lower jaw and throat to cancer and had to be fed through a tube inserted into a hole in what was left of his trachea. Still, losing his jaw and his speaking voice did not silence him. He embraced blogging, posting movie reviews right up to his death in 2013.

Essential viewing if you love movies.

Click on the following link to place a hold:

Life Itself

– Steve