Sunday, October 28, 2012

the power of Cloud Atlas

“Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others. Past and present. And by each crime, and every kindness, we birth our future.”

If you believe this, Cloud Atlas is a powerful experience. Epic and audacious. Exciting, mystifying, moving. I'm not surprised that it's polarized audiences: this is not a movie that you're used to seeing, and to really connect with it you'll need to discard your cynicism. If you can do that, this movie can give you ideas that might even eradicate cynicism from your palette altogether. Maybe we need more of that. We absolutely need more movies like this. 

The Wachowskis are back--not in the same way they exploded into the zeitgeist with The Matrix, a perfect sci-fi action thriller--but in the way they blew our minds by molding entertainment around ideas, reaching deeper and farther than most filmmakers making big budget movies would be able to go. Cloud Atlas interweaves the stories of six different characters, set in different times and places throughout the past, present and future, connecting them with symbols and sounds and souls. Each story is from a different genre: there's a mystery thriller, a sci-fi adventure, a comedic farce, a tragic love story. There are incredible acting performances from a troupe of accomplished actors all playing multiple roles. It's a puzzle box of connections that taps into the mythic power of images, music, and editing. 

I haven't read David Mitchell's novel. It's been on my Kindle for months and now I can't wait to read it. It must be even more profound. We acquired language to solve our basic problems, without realizing that language itself is a problem--truth is something we can't describe but can only understand when we're in its presence. The creators of this humanist symphony show us truth. The argument here is that we will be presented with choices throughout our lives. Each choice represents potentiality. Not simply for the direction of our own lives, but the direction of our collective future. They hammer this into us again and again until we know it in our bones. 

My initial reaction leaving the theater was conflicted. That was a great movie, I knew that. But I didn't feel like it was "the best movie ever", like some of its critical adherents have been claiming. I had to think about it further. I was supposed to go to a friend's Halloween party, but I went home. I found myself reading reviews, Internet chatter, listening to the Cloud Atlas sextet again and again. I felt sad, for some reason, and I couldn't shake it. I went to sleep early and dreamed about the movie. I can't get the music out of my mind.

This movie reminded me that we are significant and matter in ways we can't understand. It's easy to think the world is meaningless. We have access to all this knowledge that dispels a lot of the magic and myth our ancestors believed in. But we are not omnipotent, we are limited by our minds. We are part of a complex system outside our understanding. Atoms drifting in the solar winds, somewhere in space and time.

See this movie in the theaters and talk about it. It may be challenging but it won't be boring--three hours long but always entertaining. Even if you end up not liking it, I think you'll be glad you gave it a chance.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

choosing the adventure

Aside from poker, writing and storytelling have always been my major obsessions. In between finishing BOOM and writing Season Two of The Micros (writing episodes, but no production plans yet), I've managed to make a significant shift in my professional habits--from online poker pro to writer. This basically amounts to writing a lot, creating training exercises for myself, developing my ideas, and consuming/thinking about/discussing a hell of a lot of movies, television, plays, literature, and video games. It's fun.

Recently I wanted to power up my knowledge and enhance the quality of my ideas, so I've been taking some Coursera courses, which have all been really sweet experiences. I just finished one on Fantasy and Sci-fi, and I'm currently engrossed in The Odyssey for a Greek/Roman mythology course. Coupled with the massive volume of incredibly good anime I've been watching (Cowboy Bebop, now Code Geass), I'm itching to write something new.

So as luck would have it, last night I stumbled on inklewriter. Its a free piece of software that allows writers to develop really nice looking, Choose Your Own Adventure style stories for iOS/Kindle. I have a pretty cool idea for a military SF/action-adventure/mystery story that seems like it would be fun to try in this format, so I am diving in. This kind of stuff is the frontier of modern storytelling--emergent narrative--and I am psyched to see what I can do with this tool. I might post stuff about this little experiment along the way, but my goal is to finish by Thanksgiving and share it here. Maybe that 's an ambitious goal, but if it's not challenging and exciting it's not worth doing, and this seems like it's both. 

I have no expectations other than a complete interactive short story--its not going to be a masterpiece, but we'll see where it leads.