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Empathy Machines

Movie, Book, and Music Conversations

Soul Poverty & Mind Control Entertainment

I cut out TV almost completely about 20 years ago (the exception is huge news stories; and great TV series, commercial-free, on the Internet.

Also, news and Facebook (Mind Control Propaganda) are extremely limited for me now. (Who has time for this stuff?)

I have gone to the movie theater dozens of times, wanting to give them my money for two hours of escape into a good story, well made, but all they offer me is soul-numbing special effects, toy robots, and superheroes suitable for a 9 year old. Even Redbox rarely has anything I am interested in.

Whenever there is something good in the theater I always go, because I enjoy the movie theater experience immensely when the stories are good.

Curtis Smale

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Movie store in a book

This huge 932-page Roger Ebert movie review book of four-star reviews from 1967 to 2007, I just realized, on page 67, feels like the printed version of what Blockbuster Video or Hollywood Video used to be: a compendium of great movies, and enthusiasm for the great movies of the past, before everything was taken over by money, transformers and superheroes.

Curtis Smale

Have Some Respect for Artists

“Have some ~respect~ for the artists, those people who use their divine giftedness, skill, experience, intuition, heart, intelligence, subtlety, fearlessness, playfulness, experimentation, and craft to bring you beauty, insight, pleasure, comfort, starry atmospheric memorials, and rarified emotional experiences. Who speak when you cannot, sing when you cannot, show you things when you are down. Who give great gifts. Have some some respect for artists of all kinds. Painters, writers, photographers, filmmakers, actors, dancers, comedians, cinematographers, singers, musicians, and many others. How poor our experience of life would be without them! Have some respect.”

Curtis Smale

After seeing a photo of him, I was just thinking that Rutger Hauer has a soul, that man has a heart. Even his evil characters show a sympathy. Within seconds after having this thought, I ran across this story, this quote from the man himself. Also! as I am writing this, right now, the Vangelis theme for the only BLADE RUNNER there ever was, comes on Pandora. I thought it was my imagination that this theme was playing. I had to look. I cannot remember that ever coming up on my Daving Helpling channel. Those two events were either A.I. or God. Or God and A.I., similar themes as in that most special film to me. —Curtis Smale

 

RUTGER HAUER:

“It looks great but I struggle to see [why] that film was necessary. I just think if something is so beautiful, you should just leave it alone and make another film,” he said. “Don’t lean with one elbow on the success of that was earned over 30 years in the underground.”

“In many ways, Blade Runner wasn’t about the replicants, it was about what does it mean to be human. It’s like E.T.. But I’m not certain what the question was in the second Blade Runner. It’s not a character-driven movie and there’s no humor, there’s no love, there’s no soul. You can see the homage to the original. But that’s not enough to me. I knew that wasn’t going to work. But I think it’s not important what I think.”

https://storiesfrommylife13.wordpress.com/2017/07/23/blade-runner-algebra-and-my-grandpa/

 

He was saying in the interview, depicted on the right, with tears in his eyes, how important that film and that role was to him.

If his Roy Batty never had heart, that scene never would have soared to the ethereal heights that it did.

With tears in my eyes, this is important to me.

-Curtis Smale

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A Great Love Scene, with No Kissing…

One of the greatest film scenes of husband/wife love that I have ever seen was in the James Cameron movie THE ABYSS, where Ed Harris’ aquanaut character is way down underwater in the ocean, being a hero, sacrificing himself for the good of others, waiting to die, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, above, is talking with him on the Intercom, as we think of it now, “texting.” Man, that scene tears my heart out. –C.S.

16 Great Independent Films

What is an “independent” film? How can you recognize one? What sets an independent film apart from a commercial Hollywood movie? What are the distinguishing characteristics of an independent film? What are these films “independent of? What is the “Indy Spirit”?

What makes good independent films so unique and special and satisfying?

I took a look at my shelf of movies tonight, and I picked out every DVD box that I thought was an independent film and then lined them up on the left side of the shelf.

I came up with 12 DVDs. Here they are:

CODE 46

This is a realistic forbidden-love story in a dystopian future starring Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton.

LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE

This is a half road-movie about a really screwed-up family that is trying to get their little girl, Olive, to a beauty and talent contest for little girls. There is more pathos and hope and hysterical comedy and ultimate optimism in this film than you can imagine. The acting in this film is so emotionally ALIVE it’s a cinematic miracle.

BIGGER THAN THE SKY

This film stars Northern Exposure’s John Corbett. It’s a story about the theater and the actors who live their lives in it.

ABOUT SCHMIDT

This movie stars Jack Nicholson as a insurance company employee who retires and who then tries to put some life back into his life. (A briefly naked Kathy Bates is not naked for lust value, trust me.)

THE CLEARING

Robert Redford is the rich owner of a huge rental car company, who evaluates his life, his love for his wife, and his relationship with his employees. Also, by the way, he gets kidnapped by a violent disgruntled former employee played by Willem Dafoe.

SUNSHINE

A group of scientists is flown by spaceship to our dying sun, to restart it.

THE SEA INSIDE

A man who has been lobbying for years to commit legal suicide sees the value in his life.

MATCH POINT

A Woody Allen drama about a man who doesn’t believe in God, and therefore contemplates that no one is coming to punish him… and thinks about committing murder.

THE BIG WHITE

A very funny Robin Williams comedy about falsified insurance claims involving a dead brother.

THE DOOR IN THE FLOOR

Jeff Bridges’ character’s marriage is in trouble and a young male intern of his gets involved with his sexy wife (a gorgeous, fragile, Kim Basinger).

ENDURING LOVE

A man is about to propose to his girlfriend on a hillside in England when a hot air balloon comes down out of the sky and bounces back up with a terrified young boy in it. The man and others run and try to hold the balloon basket down and save the boy. What happens when the balloon rises into the sky and what happens to the people scarred by the experience, creates unexpected results.

MIND THE GAP

About a young woman whose mother tells her outright that she doesn’t love her, and several other stories about people looking for aliveness, art, love, God, and forgiveness.

***

I just bought a new copy of LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE at King Soopers for $5.

Most of the rest of these movies I got, pre-owned, at Entertainmart for $3.99-$4.99.

Please look over this list. I’m curious, how many of these films have you seen? They were all made pretty much the last five years. How many have you heard of?

That is an important point about independent films. They don’t have the advertising budgets of Hollywood blockbusters.

They are independent of the commercial expectations of unrealistic, plot-driven, cardboard-character, lowest-common denominator, Hollywood movies.

(Most people’s impression of independent films is that they are low-budget and depressing. The reality is that the majority are well-made and most are hopeful, not depressing. (I hate depressing films!!))

People who want to see these eminently worthwhile and rewatchable films make the effort to seek them out.

Maybe they join Netflix, maybe they frequent Kimball’s Theater downtown.

The second characteristic of Indy films is that they may or may not have big movie stars in them.

Most importantly, Indy films are centered on characters, not on the plot.

They are concerned with how people think and feel and what gives them hope and a feeling of aliveness in their lives.

I got more from LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE in terms of soul, truth and emotion than I got from the last three times I went to church.

Fourth, usually, independent films don’t usually have $100 million dollar special effects budgets.

Most importantly, independent films are about life insights, their focus is not to create “interesting” (but fake and inhuman as cardboard) characters.

For example, Peter Parker in SPIDER-MAN 3, is a literal comic book character in a Hollywood blockbuster special effects film.

Greg Kinnear, in LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE plays a realistic character who tries to put on his own Success Seminars, but is a failure at it. Now that’s an independent film character!

There is nothing about the Kinnear character that would make him unreal or amazing in a Hollywood way.

What is amazing in LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE is the emotional and perceptual transformations (and the love the characters (eventually!) show each other).

If there is a sex scene in an independent film, it is probably not there for a gratuitous or semi-pornographic reason, it is there to show human emotion and beauty.

Independent movies are more like visual literature and poetry (not boring– interesting), whereas Hollywood movies are more like a Stephen King novel.

Look at the list above again. Even though I picked them out honestly, I was mistaken about two of them. Two of these films are not independent movies.

Can you guess which two are not independent films–and why?

Actually, SUNSHINE and the BIG WHITE, especially, are not Indy movies.

SUNSHINE is big budget science fiction movie with mostly glam-slam characters (with the exception of Benedict Wong who was in a movie I kind of liked called CODE 46. Wong is painfully real with his portrayal of guilt.)

 

THE BIG WHITE is low-budget, but just fluff– unrealistic comedy entertainment.

Here are a few more great independent films:

 

ON A CLEAR DAY

An aging Englishman is disgusted with his life after being laid off, and decides to swim the English Channel.

 

OFF THE BLACK

Nick Nolte is a coach who decides to teaches a lesson to the kid who “toilet papers” his house. Also, he takes the kid to his high school reunion with the kid posing a his son.

 

JAPANESE STORY

The great Toni Collette plays a woman who must take a visiting Japanese man on a tour across the Australian outback. Things happen in this truly amazing movie journey, especially at the end, that you will absolutely never see in a Hollywood film.

 

OFF THE MAP

A depressed IRS agent tracks down a family in the enchanted New Mexico desert. He finds a family headed by a man who is even more depressed than he is (Sam Elliot). Sam Elliot’s portrayal of depression is the only realistic portrayal of depression I have ever seen in any movie, ever. Pure poetry. The entire film comes together in the last two minutes. A miracle! (Not depressing at all–supremely uplifting!)

 

Maybe start with LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE and see if you don’t find in that movie nourishment for your soul and something else that you have never before seen in a Hollywood movie.

These are not normal, safe, fast-paced, entertainment movies.

Some even have the power, I am not kidding, to take you to a world you’ve never been to, to give you an emotion or an insight you’ve never had, or to maybe change your perspective on life for the better.

That’s why I love independent films.

(I wrote this a while back: I would add IN AMERICA and EAGLE VS. SHARK to this list…)

Curtis Smale

Movies and One-Phrase Descriptions

The best movies are timeless, have deep meaning, produce a strong emotional responses, or radically change our perspective on something. In my mind, the following films fall into that category:

ALIEN

In space, no one can hear you scream.

ALIENS

Military action against Aliens, and Mother-Love.

AMERICAN BEAUTY

My heart can’t hold it all.

THE APOSTLE

The opening scene, unheard of in a Hollywood movie, tells you all you need to believe to be saved before you die.

AS GOOD AS IT GETS

Love conquers all.

BEFORE SUNRISE

Romance documented.

BEFORE SUNSET

Romance documented, part two.

BLADE RUNNER

What makes you human?

BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA

A vampire dream. Fact: there are more movies about vampires than about any other subject.

BRAZIL

Another world.

THE BREAKFAST CLUB

Kind of what it was like in high school in the ’80s.

THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY

Romance or commitment?

CASABLANCA

Sacrifice.

THE CIDER HOUSE RULES

You princes of Maine. Father figure.

CITIZEN KANE

Camera angles and an old man’s childhood memory.

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND

“I can’t believe it’s real.”

COCOON

What if old people regained their youth?

CODE 46

The greatest movie ever made, bar none: cinematic beauty, great music, love, empathy, compassion, friendship, great dialogue, and endless layers of story.

THE COLOR OF MONEY

“I’m back!”

COLLATERAL

People die every day, and this guy cares about this one person?

CONTACT

God. Science. Life and death. Romance. Faith. Aliens.

THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO

Great adaptation.

THE CROW

Revenge, or justice?

DEAD MAN WALKING

Justice and mercy.

DEAD POETS SOCIETY

“Never forget this.”

DEEP IMPACT

“Ellie.”

DELIVERANCE

Literature, filmed.

THE ELEPHANT MAN

Humanity.

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

“Luke, I am your…” // “I love you.” “I know.”

EAGLE VS. SHARK

“Welcome to Meaty Boy, may I help you?”

ENDLESS LOVE

Youthful love obsession.

E.T.

Christian allegory.

ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND

Would you do it all again?

42 UP (The UP Documentaries)

The greatest documentary of all time: life, every seven years. Real people.

FRAILTY

What are people really like?

FRANKENSTEIN

…and The Monster.

GATTACA

The spirit trumps biology.

GOOD WILL HUNTING

Hidden potential.

THE GOSPEL OF JOHN

Word for word.

GROUNDHOG DAY

Sparkling comedy that never ages about learning some great lessons of life.

HAMLET

Awesome Zeffirelli version of Shakespeare’s best play. Flows like magic…

HELLRAISER

Witty, sadistic, pinheaded demons…

HOLY SMOKE

Great message about thinking for yourself.

HOUSE OF GAMES

What is really going on here?

HOWARD’S END

Class and caring.

IN AMERICA

Struggle and heart.

JAPANESE STORY

“Miramitsu!”

JAWS

The first 45 minutes are completely seamless. The rest are an historical event.

KOYAANISQATSI

Life, viewed world-wide, and sped up.

LADYHAWKE

Love and Honour.

 

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN

Vampire creepiness in the snowy cold.

LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE

Only love matters.

LOST IN TRANSLATION

It’s not romance, it’s… (whisper)

MICHAEL CLAYTON

Corporate justice.

MIDNIGHT EXPRESS

Guy gets nailed for drugs in Turkey. One of the scariest movies I have ever seen.

MIND THE GAP

Life. Disappointment. Goals. Death. Love. Forgiveness. Beauty.

MONSTER’S BALL

“Dad, do you love me?”

MY COUSIN VINNY

Joe Pesci as a clueless lawyer, with Marisa Tomei as his girl. The scene with him being repeatedly awakened at night is hysterical.

MY DINNER WITH ANDRE

The most unique movie ever made. How can you make a two-hour movie with nothing but two guys talking at a dinner table, and have it not be boring, but very interesting? That is why this movie is on this list.

OFF THE BLACK

Family members are not always related.

OFF THE MAP

Cinematic poetry that can change your outlook on life.

PAPILLON

Prison, friendship and escape.

THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST

What He went through for you.

PLANES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES

Friendship and love.

POINT BREAK

Bodhi.

THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE

The greatest Christian allegory.

THE PRESTIGE

How far would they go to make a really great illusion?

PULP FICTION

“What?! Say “what” one more time! I dare you!”

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK

Love and burning at the stake.

REAR WINDOW

Tenement detective.

REMAINS OF THE DAY

Class and love.

RESERVOIR DOGS

You didn’t tell him your name, did you?

SCHINDLER’S LIST

Selfishness or sacrifice?

THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS

“Clarice….”

SEVEN

“What’s in the box?” // 7 deadly sins.

SHADOWLANDS

C.S. Lewis, the greatest prose author and the greatest Christian apologist of all time, falls in love.

THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION

Prison. Friendship. Triumph. Loyalty.

A SIMPLE PLAN

What would you do if you found millions of dollars?

STAR WARS (1977)

My childhood, recorded forever. The Force will be with you… ~always~.

SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE

“Can you read my mind?”

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

“Let my people go.”

TERMS OF ENDEARMENT

Saddest scene in any movie, ever.

THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE

Black and white brilliance.

THE MIST

Struggling against evil, and each other.

THE ROAD

Father and son’s love for each other in a cannibalistic post-apocalyptic wasteland.

TITANIC

“Make it count.”

TOMMY BOY

“~That’s~ gonna leave a mark.”

TOP GUN

“I feel the need, the need for speed.”

TROUBLE IN MIND

Kristofferson’s best.

WITNESS

Love, Amish-style.

THE WIZARD OF OZ

“We’re off…”

CONTAGION (A Good Old Movie Comment for Steve Andrus)

Absolutely loved this movie: great acting, directing, cinematography, and especially sense of place. Soderbergh is a wonderful director/cinematographer. Matt Damon as a midwesterner was dead on. The movie has a sense of universal, world-wide warmth and common humanity that I love.

CONTAGION is essentially about how several groups of people around the globe, no matter how high or how low in society, react when there is a limited amount of lifesaving medication available.

Unfortunately, this movie literally had no dramatic third act (and people rarely recommend movies without a good ending). This has been the complaint of Spielberg recently, who keeps saying that movies today have no ending. They are just all beginning, beginning, beginning. I agree. But I still recommend it–it is a beautiful film.

Curtis Smale

26 Reasons Why Post-Millennial Movies are So Awful – Video

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