The End…A Farewell

December 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

Hello all,

It has been wonderful being in a class with all of you. I had a great time and it was easily one of my favorite classes, in no small part due to the our awesome class. I doubt many of you will read this – what with the class being over and second semester seniors to boot – but I wanted to thank all of you for such a great semester. Especially Carla, since it’s not often that I get watch The Lion King and call it research =D

 

Have a great 5 days and 2011 everyone!

-Matthew Roy, “sǝɹıɟ & sɹıɟ”

 

 

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Cove

December 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’ll preface this blog with the fact that I’m kind of playing devil’s advocate and know that dolphins and chickens aren’t on the same level.

I don’t really understand why we feel compassion for certain animals but are indifferent to the suffering of others.  I have always struggled with why people are so eager to defend certain animals yet have no problem with supporting the mass murder of others. When I was little I read a statistic about how dolphins and cows come from a common ancestor, something to think about. It’s surprising that people are so willing to protest the slaughter of 23,000 dolphins in a year when they gladly support industries that mercilessly kill 35 million cows in the same amount of time and 23 million chickens per day. I think that in order for humans to feel sympathy towards animals they must project human-like qualities onto those animals.  In the case of dolphins intelligence (and their ever present smile) plays a huge role in why we relate to them but the source of an animal’s value doesn’t necessarily stem from our perception of their intelligence but greater influenced by factors such as cuteness. I will use the overused statistic favored by vegetarians, pigs are smarter than dogs but they aren’t quite as cute or cuddly. I’m not going to argue against the fact that dolphins are very special animals, it’s just that I think that all animals are valuable.

Projection

December 11, 2010 § 1 Comment

Imagine this.  You are a child, about 12-years-old with a practical grandmother whose temper has only gotten shorter as her life gets longer.  For some reason she has decided to take you to see a “kids movie about cute little birds” (as she described it).

This is the situation in which I first saw March of the Peguins, a documentary about the breeding ritual of emperor penguins.  We entered the theater along with a long of quiet, civilized adults.  I walked by the first row of seats to see two women, bent over staring at their laps and knitting iddly.  The rest of the theatre’s occupants were likely from the same graduating class.  They were a lively bunch.

I remember taking my seat before the movie began, and for the rest of the way through I wished I hadn’t.  The rough documentary attracted no children, and for good reason: it bored me.  My take away message was, “If the Penguins fail to do 1 of 2 million incredibly difficult tasks… they will die.”

When I heard that we would be watching th film in my senior year English class I, predictably, did not have high hopes of enjoyment.

As I sat for the second time and watch the movie begin I was pleasantly surprised.  The movie’s narrator, Morgan Freeman, portrays the story of the Emperor penguins as one of hardship, adventure, endurance, and love.  Though I still stand by the belief that the documentary is not targeted to young children, I was shocked by my intense inability to relate to the film as a pre-teen.

The animals, cute penguins who walked, sang, and behavioral like humans (at least according to the narration), were very like those in my adored Disney movies.  They were flexible characters, generally personified to allow the watcher to project their own lives onto the screen.  Why, then, was my own preteen life so un-applicable?

Was it simply the lack of animation?

Or maybe it has to do with the fact that penguins were constantly in hardship? In Disney there is usually one main challenge the character must overcome, and in doing so they experience adventure, excitement, and growth.

Or maybe it was the idea of sacrificing for offspring or even for your family, that I could not yet comprehend at that age.  none of these seem like complete answers.  Maybe it was a combination?  opinions?

Save the Oceans

December 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

Imagine yourself on a plane, gliding over farmlands on your trip across the country. You look out the window noticing all of the circles on the ground, as you fly about at incredible speeds to your destination. If you look up, you can see the dark purple of space, so much closer at the altitude you are cruising at. As you glide you are suddenly caught in an updraft. The plane is thrown all about and you sudden feel like you are falling. You feel the pit in your stomach as you clutch to the armrest to keep yourself from flying out of your seat, and you have that feeling that you might not survive this flight. « Read the rest of this entry »

Lovin’ the love

December 9, 2010 § 1 Comment

Watching Grizzly Man teaches you more about the director (Werner Herzog) than the actual man, Timothy Treadwell. First of all because we learn little about Treadwell, or at least a lot less than we could have.  the bibliographical facts about Tim’s life are splattered throughout the film, and never really get explained (ex: the fact that Tim faked an Australian accent for part of his life). When we do see direct views of his life, or at least interviews with is close family and friends, they seem very staged.  Herzog, the German director of the film, is known to stage his documentaries.  In this one he seems to do the same thing, asking leading questions which hint at a hidden agenda.  For example Herzog asks Jules (a close friend of Treadwell’s) if she “feels like Tim’s widow.”

There are also many scenes I would think had already occurred, or that Herzog would not be invited to. Such as the awarding of Tim’s watch to Jules, and the spreading of his ashes in the wilderness.  Though this staging shows us less about Tim, it brings up interesting beliefs of the director himself.

I believe that animals, in movies, allow the audience to project their own emotions, and lives, onto the screen.  Herzog seems to think this is what Tim is doing with the bears.

Tim names each bear, he explains their “emotions” and behavior to the camera.  Time loves the bears and believes they love him to.

Herzog, however, has a very different view.  He claims that the only emotions in the bears eyes is that of the “overwhelming indifference of nature.”  Herzog clearly believes the bears cannot love Tim.

Watching the movies I would have to agree.  Every time Tim attempts to touch, or get close to the bears they start or move away from him.  If the bears truly loved him he would not continue saying that they could kill him at any moment.  I think if the bears loved Treadwell they would not kill him on a whim, at least I hope that’s how love goes.

The more interesting question to me is whether of not Tim can truly love the bears. Herzog, it seems, would say no.  He seems to portray Tim as loving the idea of the bears, bu the the bears themselves.  He is simply projecting his own desires and emotions onto the the bears and, according to Herzog, onto the camera.

One cannot simply walk into The Cove

December 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

Two maybe…

Anyway, so far The Cove is seriously disturbing. The revulsion I feel is a visceral thing, an instinctive reaction to that much death. What boggles my mind is that the fishermen KNOW that they are doing something that would appear horrible to most of the world. And they happily continue beating dolphins to death.

Which is, of course, completely unfair of us to judge them on.

No, I’m not kidding. I am revolted by their actions and horrified by wanton killing taking place.

Yet, I’m sure that killings and dismemberments every bit as gruesome take place in our slaughterhouses.

We are guilty of our own assembly lines of death.

How would India, where the cow is something sacred, look at something like the image below?

 

I think killing dolphins is wrong. It is revolting. But at the same time we have to understand that our hands are not entirely clean either (unless you are a life-long vegan I guess).

So we should fight to save the dolphins. But also keep in mind, what they are doing is only outlawed from the world because the world opinion is against them. If most of the world saw cows as being sacred it might be us that people would look at nauseously.

Why Use Penguins?

December 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

Following up on our class discussion about why we need animals to use as a means of expressing and discussing human emotion is because it is an act of simplifying the way humans think. After reading puakogirl’s blog post I was left wondering the same thing. Why do I still have so many questions about penguins when I thought this movie was going to be a documentary on the life cycle of Emperor Penguins, which would most likely cover a lot of informational territory. I think that Luc Jaquet, like many directors, decided to use animals to make a deeper comment on human life cycles because it would be a simplified story for the viewer.

Personally, I like this approach because watching the movie I didn’t do a lot of self questioning – there was no real way to make a direct comparison immediately like “oh I wonder if I could waddle 70 miles inland just to lay an egg.” Yes, that natural feat is impressive and I have a lot more respect for penguins but I wasn’t wasting my viewing time constantly comparing them to myself (which might have happened if it were a movie about humans). Instead I was able to think about more broad questions – questions about love, life, and death. I think that this is because of how little I know about this species. I had very little background knowledge going in and so the penguins represented life at a very basic, representative form. They are incredibly cute so they are entertaining to watch, they live in an unusual and horribly harsh climate, and they are very wild. All of these things make them very mysterious so seeing a description of their life cycle in an 80 minute long documentary simplified many of the complex emotions and choices that come with human life and packed it into short, adorable, and beautifully done documentary of a creature we know very little about.

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