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Mary Shelley (#110 of 3)

Review: Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions

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Review: Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions
Review: Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions

One of the casual disappointments of the ways we often regard art of all forms is born of that feeling of exclusion that’s often projected and even more often felt. There’s a sense that you have to be educated formally to understand art and to discuss it seriously, and that you might have to be a member of an intangible club of lofty intellectuals in order to be empowered to express a thought about a book or a film or a song that you hope to be taken seriously by others. This is a tragedy, because all great art is an act of democracy that can be felt by everyone. Yes, your background will affect your responses to art, of course, and why wouldn’t it? Your background, which is to say the texture of your life (your childhood, friends, lovers past and present, jobs, education), informs your responses to everything.

Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions is a passionate and engaging read, particularly for fans of del Toro’s films, and, most particularly, for monster aficionados of all ages, shapes, and stripes, but it’s most valuable for the way it expresses the filmmaker’s voracious appetite for knowledge. This is an erudite man, and he wears his references lightly, sensually: He invites you into the realms of his obsessions, which include symbolist painters such as Arnold Bocklin, Odilon Redon, and Carlos Schwabe, and writers such as H.P. Lovecraft, Mary Shelley, Arthur Machen, and Stephen King. All of these artists figure prominently in Cabinet of Curiosities, and so do a variety of other painters, composers, and even biologists. You may have a hell of a reading list after even casually thumbing through this volume.

Jurassic Park as a Means of Discussing Fractals, Chaos Theory, and Scary Movies

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Jurassic Park as a Means of Discussing Fractals, Chaos Theory, and Scary Movies
Jurassic Park as a Means of Discussing Fractals, Chaos Theory, and Scary Movies

With the arrival of the 20th anniversary, 3D re-release of Jurassic Park, what I’d like to convince you of is that the film watered down, significantly, the soul of the novel from which it was based (and we’re talking about a Michael Crichton page-turner for Christ’s sake). Instead of being the kind of decadent, lost-in-the-jungle, labyrinthine cinematic fever dream it could’ve been—one in which the production of the film would’ve eerily re-enacted and factually re-performed the hallucinatory chaos of what it was trying to fictionally record (a la Coppola’s Apocalypse Now or Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, and their respective making-of docs, Hearts of Darkness and Burden of Dreams), Spielberg’s Jurassic Park instead played it safe, and did so in a way that was slick, corporate, and patronizing to its audience. And one of the ways it punted artistically was to almost entirely purge from Crichton’s novel its heavy theorizing about chaos theory and fractals, which, in those days (the late ’80s/early ’90s), had just made its way into the intellectual mainstream. I’d like to briefly make the point that this was a grievous mistake (for the movie), because chaos theory and fractals have everything to do with scary movies, and horror and terror and the kind of man-eating monstrosities Spielberg and his team put so much goddamned time and money into making look realistic.

Poster Lab: 360

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Poster Lab: <em>360</em>
Poster Lab: <em>360</em>

Estamos todos connectados,” reads the tagline on the Brazilian poster for Fernando Meirelles’s 360, its English translation, of course, being, “we are all connected.” To this, a filmgoer’s first reaction may well be one of shock, particularly over Meirelles’s sheer audacity. Is there really anything new to be brought to the hyperlink-narrative subgenre, wherein characters’ overlapping and interlocking stories ultimately reveal their common humanity? As evidenced by dreck like last year’s Answers to Nothing, it’s a cinematic dead zone, whose knell rang out around the middle of the Aughts. Is Meirelles that deluded and out of touch, or is he a savvy resurrectionist with fresh tricks up his sleeve?

In his corner is tony English scribe Peter Morgan, whose credits include the screenplay for The Queen, and whose new tale seems to stitch together the requisite pieces: dark pasts, lies, secrets, and feigned emotions. Paired with the concept of universality, that patchwork approach is what fuels the Brazilian design, a freaky collage that literally fuses the faces of four stars, driving home the notion that all are more alike than different. In the film’s (rather benign) trailer, we learn that each aching soul is searching for something, be it an old man (Anthony Hopkins) searching for his daughter, an ex-con (Ben Foster) searching for redemption, or a wife (Rachel Weisz) searching for satisfaction her husband (Jude Law) can’t provide. Again, despite an enticing international cast (co-stars include Maria Flor, Jamel Debbouze, and Dinara Drukarova of Since Otar Left), this all seems drastically familiar, as if Meirelles felt the need to tip his hat to Mexican peer Alejandro Gonález Iñárritu, who helped bang the coffin nails into this brand of storytelling.