Hawking Up Hairballs

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Instincts And Programming

Sometimes you hit, and sometimes you miss. Babel was a homerun. Monkeys and Robots was a weak grounder to shortstop. I don't know what caused me to choose the latter film on the Netflix site. They have this personalized ratings system for their DVD's. When you return one, they send you an email asking you to rate it on a scale of one to five, with five being the best. Your ratings are compared to those of other Netflix customers to compile a list of recommended movies. It works surprisingly well. I almost always end up giving a DVD a rating that is very close to what Netflix calculated it would be.

I explain this because I don't know what led me to select Monkeys and Robots. Netflix didn't think I would like it, and they were correct. Perhaps I was impressed by the fact that it was featured at the San Jose Film Festival. Shame on you, San Jose. Monkeys and Robots is like a bad student film, or perhaps like what would be taken for a good student film at a second-rate school. There's the self-consciously arty cinematography, the acting that varied from ho-hum to execrable, and finally the heavy-handed symbolism. Just in case you've missed the meaning of the title, the filmmakers are there to remind you. Whenever a character is about to act like a monkey, there's a brief scene of gorillas in the zoo. When he's about to play the automaton, there's a clip of a toy robot. Oh, yeah, that's profound.

So, why am I bothering to write about this movie? It's the title. They had me at the title. Monkeys and Robots. Perhaps that's what led me to choose the film. I wish that I had thought of the title. It could be said that the whole of human nature could be subsumed under those two categories, apes and automatons. It often seems like we're operating under the influence of often self-destructive passions and instincts, or we're sleepwalking through certain patterns of behavior that have been ingrained in us by culture or personal experience. A more optimistic soul than me might say that there's also room for transcendence, but all I have to do is look at the people who succeed in this world. Enough said, monkeys and robots.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home