Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Best of the 90's - Round 1a

AKA Mia Wallace Division, Day 1. AKA I only have one horse in today's race.

That horse? An actor's actor playing an actor's actor - John Malkovich from Being John Malkovich.

He's facing some bull-headed religious nut who studied Philosophy 101 from a decrepit old book he found in a Zion basement - Morpheus. But enough about a dude with a fixation on 90's Elton John songs.

Granted, my opponent, one HDouble, wrote an eloquent and tl;dr defense of the self-styled prophet, peppered with quotes that themselves are too long to recall (seriously, who remembers anything more than something about taking a pill based on colour?). But quotes taken from the Moleskine of some high-as-a-kite teenager do not a great character make. To the battle!

Vote over at Filmchaw. You'll also find the whole round 1a over there, where below is only my battle for this round.


Morpheus, The Matrix
It's rare to find a movie character who can believably pull off so many dimensions simultaneously.

Prophet, Mentor, Keeper of the Faith, Martial Arts expert, Hero.

As I was trying to figure out how best to show why Morpheus is a "better" character than John Malkovich, I ended up with a few approaches that all failed to capture the greatness of . So let's go straight to the source and break down my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movie characters of all time.

Morpheus: The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you're inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.

Morpheus's first lesson to his pupil is delivered with calm intensity, and explains in simple terms the way in which the "unexamined life" and materialism can imprison us. It's something an expert painter might say to an aspiring painter who has shown early promise. The speech also illustrates the painful reality of being a caring human being: we fight to save our enemies and open their eyes to a way of living outside the system.

Morpheus: I know *exactly* what you mean. Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?

The teacher continues his lecture, using a powerful simile to make his point. The "splinter" he refers to reminds us of those moments when we aspire for a more fulfilling life and a better world. In a world filled with depressing headlines, cynicism and sarcasm fill our mind with storm clouds that threaten apathy. With this speech, Morpheus offers us a ray of idealism that pierces the dark clouds.

Morpheus: Free your mind.
[Morpheus jumps from one building to another a long distance away]
Neo: Whoa

Like all great teachers, Morpheus first explains a concept, and then illustrates the concept by doing it himself. Just as Yoda lifts his pupil's ship from the swamp when Luke sees only the impossible, Morpheus forces his pupil to see beyond the limitations created by his mind. Sitting in the theater as a 22 year old, I remember sharing Neo's amazement at the sight of Morpheus's leap of faith.

How many Malkovich quotes do you remember? Do you remember his voice? Do you remember what he was wearing? Take the red pill.


John Malkovitch, Being John Malkovitch
Some characters are incredibly one-dimensional. Others have some pathetic other side that is intended to add depth. Nowadays it seems everything is going 3D. But Malkovich? He's multidimensional, he's got dimensions you can't even imagine. Accessible through a small door on the 7 1/2 floor, you too can be this broad-based auteur. Thespian, tortured soul, puppeteer and puppet both, a man controlled by the whim of petty man-gods, with direct access to the side of the New Jersey Turnpike, Malkovich fights an ultimately fruitless battle against forces he can barely understand. Man vs Army of Senior Citizens inside his own mind isn't frequently visited territory for most actors, but John Malkovich lives it in a means beyond the deepest method actors. Rare is it that one can face oneself, let alone oneself lying on a piano reciting oneself's name. Morpheus nearly broke under the "duress" of being asked some questions by an Australian with an hearing aid. John Malkovich rebelled against a man almost literally pulling his strings. Also, he's best friends with Charlie Sheen. Morpheus is best friends with some dork hacker who refuses to accept the reality of spoons.

- Astin

No comments: