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A few of my favorite things

I’ve always thought you can learn a lot about someone by the ways they spend their time.  For someone such as myself, such clues are an invaluable source of information.  An individual’s likes and dislikes in things like movies, music, and television often say a lot about what makes that person tick.  I’ve found it a far more useful way to gauge a person’s personality than one’s occupation, family background, religion, socioeconomic background, political alignment, or any other usual way people assess one another.

Why this is so has been a source of considerable speculation on my part, but I think it’s because those are all things we choose.  Some things we have no control over.  Our family, birthplace, genetics, race, and nationality are all these are things we’re born with.  For lack of a better word, I’ll call them our individual demographics.   Things like political alignment and religion are substantially influenced by these demographics.  Occupations are influenced greatly by economic forces and our own aptitudes.  Occupations in turn influence socioeconomic status which influences political alignment.  All these things tend to put people in certain social circles based on common beliefs and values.  In short, these are things that aren’t chosen either, or at least it doesn’t appear so from my perspective.  Moreover, they’re all tied together in sometimes complicated ways.  From my experience, they’re also not very predictive of whether I’ll enjoy a person’s company or whether I’ll find them boring, or annoying, or a jerk. It’s been my experience that what people generally call values and beliefs aren’t really very predictive of anything beyond the aforementioned demographics.  No matter how important people may hold these things, a bunch of factors that don’t really predict anything but each other don’t seem all that useful to me.  The only thing I really use these for is knowing what not to say in certain company in order to avoid giving offense.

On the other hand, those other things, our hobbies, our music, our books, our arts and leisure.  All these things are mostly the things we choose.  For the most part, nobody is going to care what TV shows we watch in private or what books we read.  A person may make friends based on things like that, but rarely does one have major disagreements with people about them as is often the case with values and beliefs, nor do people particularly place a great deal of emphasis on whether society sees them as an avid moviegoer or birdwatcher or NFL fan.  In short, these don’t have any social connotation attached to them, and are largely without social consequences.  As such, they are exceedingly useful to me.  I’m generally not interested in what groups a person does or doesn’t want to be identified with.  From my perspective, what a person does and thinks when no one is around is the truest expression of who and what they are.  Add one person, and it’s something less.  Add two people, it is again less.   The more people we add, the farther people get from their true selves.  This is an opinion which I expect most readers to disagree with, because it has everything to do with Asperger’s and how different my thinking is.  I gather that for most people, it’s very important to be perceived a certain way by everyone they meet, even strangers, and that the image they project is of great importance.

But, as for me, I’m not really interested in what people do and think collectively.  I don’t really care what particular herd someone is trying to be a part of, nor do I care what that particular herd wishes to do with itself.  Perhaps that’s because I can’t understand it the way normal people do, or perhaps it’s simply because it simply doesn’t particularly interest me because I can predict it fairly accurately after a relatively small period of observation and a few basic facts.   It doesn’t tell me much at all about the individuals themselves.  I can learn quite a lot more from just checking the preset stations in a person’s car or perusing their collection of DVDs.

So, what’s the point of all this rambling?  Well, part of the purpose of this blog is for me to explain myself in writing because I express myself so poorly in most other ways.  In that spirit, I’m going to talk about myself by talking about things I like.  I’ve always loved movies.  Something about the experience of the bright screen and the dark room.  It’s like the world disappears around me and I can immerse myself in a new world for an hour or so.    So, here are five movies that say something about me.  They’re definitely favorites, but more importantly they are movies that strike a chord with my thinking.  They’re five films that say something about me.  I’ve excluded animated movies and comedies.  I’ll probably get to those sometime later.

5.  The Matrix:  Yes, this movie made the list despite the limited acting skills of Keanu Reeves.  I love movies that challenge the viewer to think.  The idea that the world we know might be a copy created by artificially intelligent machines was really out there, and very original.  Lawrence Fishburne did an awesome job in this movie as Morpheus.  This movie released a few months after I first read Plato’s allegory of the cave, and the parallels really struck me.  Also, when this released, I was just barely out of my “angry at the world” phase, so the idea of an overwhelming system controlling people’s lives was one I could really identify with at the time.  The villains are dressed in business suits and dark sunglasses represent that.  Hugo Weaving was perfect as Agent Smith.

4.  V for Vendetta:  “People shouldn’t be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people”.  Here’s Hugo Weaving again.  Once again, this is a movie that was thought-provoking for me.  I have a pretty deep distrust of governments in general and I certainly don’t have much faith in ours.  I also respect intelligence and wit, so it’s not hard for me to get behind a revolutionary who sounds more like a stage actor. The big plot twist where the heroine is captured by the government but it’s really V was a shocker.   This is one of Natalie Portman’s really good performances, and she isn’t too bad to look at either.

3.  Lord of the RIngs:  I’ll lump all three films in one here, but to be honest, the first one is my favorite.  The climactic moment when Gandalf stands before the Balrog and declares “you shall not pass” is one of the more powerful scenes in recent memory.  All the movies were great, and they were based on my favorite book, so this had to be one of my all time favorites.  It was difficult to really do justice to the book, but Peter Jackson pulled it off.  I will forever be grateful to him for not ruining one of my favorite literary works by making an awful movie that deviates too far from the original work.

2.  Batman Begins: Batman was always one of my favorite heroes.  He was one part superhero and one part dark troubled vigilante.  The animated series was a favorite show in the early 90’s when I was a kid and this movie really had a similar feel to it.  I actually believe this may have been partially intentional as some of the characters, like Detective Gordon and Ra’s Al Ghul, look very much like their animated counterparts.  This was the movie that finally got the Batman character right.  I did enjoy the two sequels as well.  Heath Ledger’s Joker was one of the great villains well, ever.  Altogether a great movie franchise.  Now, please, someone make a decent Spider Man movie.

1.  Stranger than Fiction: This is a Will Ferrell movie so maybe this belongs as a comedy, but really it isn’t all that funny.  I love movies with interesting and novel concepts and this certainly qualifies.  It’s a movie about a guy that hears a voice narrating his life that turns out to be a writer writing what she thinks is a fictional story about a fictional character, but it’s really Will Ferrell’s character.  It’s also easy for me to identify with the boring nerdy accountant main character.  A very underrated movie in my book.

Honorable Mentions:  Tombstone, Star Wars (the original), Iron Man, Inception, 300, Godzilla (the new one), The Last Samurai, Independence Day

Well there you have it.  Maybe not my deepest or most intellectual post, but hopefully you’ve learned a little bit about me.  I may or may not do some other posts like this in the future covering animated movies, television, books (though I read embarrassingly little), and music.  I’m also working on some more fiction.

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