Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Perfect Woody Allen Film

It's called "Manhattan." And it was made in 1979.

It's one of the most beautifully shot films I have ever seen. Woody Allen has always been a source for easy laughs as well as some pretty complex gags, but until I saw this film, I never thought of him as a high visual artist. His economy of space is Wellesian. His sense of balance and tone is on par with the finest noir films as well as the most affecting of classical emotional dramas.

The whole thing just exudes beauty and confidence, two things that Woody Allen has arguably made a career of avoiding.

But maybe that's what makes it such a brilliant film. Finally we get the nebbish, weak-willed, unjustifiably egomaniacal Woody character presented in a coherent, confident manner. This is a film that is, at it's heart, a story of love and loss and the desire for simplicity and the eventual acceptance of complexity. It's got as many layers as "Annie Hall" did, but it surpasses that film in its visual acuity and sheer cohesiveness of vision.

Honestly, I realize I'm heaping praise on this film. But the things that I love about Woody Allen are all here, but without the things I didn't like. It's like a director I like finally made a film that I love.

Maybe modern romantic comedy directors can take a hint from this one. Maybe modern romantic comedies can afford to slow down, take their time, and try to engross the viewer in the world of the story, instead of just invite some chuckles and go for the easy emotion. "Manhattan" is a film that stands as a tribute to New York City as it was when the film was made, but it just reaches so much deeper into what it means to be American, what it means to grow up, what it means to have integrity and to feel love. This is one that, despite its age, remains relevant today.

Try saying that about "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" when about 30 years have passed.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

This Is What Anonymous Actually Believes

"Anonymous" is in the news a lot recently. Last Sunday (the tenth) marked an internationally coordinated cacophony of protests outside of Scientology headquarters buildings. Staggering numbers like 600 protesters in Los Angeles and over 9000 protesters worldwide appear to be exaggerations, but these figures are, in fact, verified. Whoever "Anonymous" are, they really spurred people to act on their "war against Scientology."

But who are "Anonymous?" News organizations have called them everything from "internet hate machine" to something closer to subversive vigilantes. The most common description pegs them as a loosely organized "band of hackers." And, honestly, this description is not far from where "Anonymous" starts.

A slew of "image boards" are peppered all over the interwebs, places where people can post pictures and write comments to go with them. One such very popular image board is called 4chan, and one reason why 4chan is so popular is that it requires no registration to post. People with no real identity can freely dump images onto this board with no fear of repercussions. In essence, posters on this site, regardless of how stupid, insipid, or vile their posts may be, can remain anonymous.

The power of such a gathering of entirely anonymous people with little else to do was realized by this group rather quickly. The group tried a few small excursions into other internet societies, and even executed some large-scale havoc in a place called Habbo hotel. Through the course of these raids, these collected individuals, with their sometimes asinine wit and often grotesque folderfulls of jpegs, became known as "Anonymous."

And so some think the story is essentially over. These computer-savvy, so-called "hackers" trolled around the net (and, more recently, in real life and in front of Scientology buildings) and became the "internet hate machine" now known as "Anonymous."

But I know better than to believe that marked the end of the story. That was only the beginning. And I know this because I am a "member" of "Anonymous."

I bet you are all shocked to hear this. Stephen? That wuss? Part of an internet hate machine? A hacker? A member of a group being called an international terrorist organization by Scientology? There is no way, I hear you sputtering.

But it's true. I am part of "Anonymous." But here's the part that will shock you even more. You probably are, too.

"Anonymous," as an organization, is a misnomer, a myth. Calling "Anonymous" an organization is much like calling the crowd at the mall an organization; the mall crowd just happens to all want the same thing, namely, Cinnabon.

In the case of Anonymous (without the quotes; this is the real Anonymous), the one thing that the whole group wants is the ability to express themselves without fear of repercussions. Much like they did on 4chan and Facebook and Ebaum's World and in hallways and restaurants and schools, Anonymous just wants to find friends and humor in the world without fear that their search for humor will get them harassed or injured. In short, they, or more accurately we, just want to pursue our life, liberty and happiness (in the case of 4chan, happiness often means a particularly shockingly offensive brand of potty humor, but who are we to judge?).

The point is, if you find yourself thinking that people have a right to all of the facts of a situation before they make a decision, you are a prime candidate for Anonymous. And if you support that feeling by telling people that they need to start sharing that information or you might tell all of your friends and maybe start some trouble, you already are Anonymous.

And that is all it takes: a realization that the fundamental rights that we all want for ourselves and each other deserve to be protected, and the willingness to come out in droves to make that message clear. Literally all it takes to become a functioning member of Anonymous is to read a book here and there and give a shit about the world around you.

So we all are Anonymous to some extent. And some of Anonymous think that the rest of Anonymous are twats for putting on masks and trolling Scientology buildings. But we all agree that people deserve the truth about major religions before they start giving them all of their money, not after. And that is what makes us part of Anonymous.

Did you ever see that movie "V for Vendetta?" That iconic mask that V and his followers wear has become a symbol for Anonymous. And it's no surprise when you look at the substance of the film. One of the most powerful messages of that film is that, even when we all fear for our individual safety to the point of having to hide behind masks and become anonymous, as long as we stand as a unified society of anonymous believers in higher ideals, those ideals will triumph.

And this is what Anonymous actually believes.

Reference: Project Chanology on Encyclopedia Dramatica
It's convoluted, but all of the details and press coverage are there.

tl;dr: we are all Anonymous.