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Thursday, June 23, 2011

My Favorite 'What the F' Moments in Film

What is the reason I didn't call this blog Biggest Mindfucks? Simply for the sake of discretion, not wanting to offend anyone, and to make the site seem more professional. Clearly this is what it is, well maybe not clearly- but it will become clear as more and more words eschew from my fingertips and onto the screen.

Before I present my top 3 biggest mindfucks (I'm not rolling out a top 10 because a GOOD mindfuck is few and far between, and I wanted to represent that) a quick definition and an even quicker caveat. Mindfuck is a pretty self-explanatory term. Let me explain it anyway: Mindfucks occur when a film (or really any medium) when all perceived notions of reality have been denounced, and quickly. It usually takes about 2-5 minutes for this all to occur, and by the end of it another, unexpected, reality is true.

Now, as with all lists, some rules/ guidelines that have unfortunately been followed. First, I could only include films that I have actually seen. That means no Memento, Sixth Sense, Mulholland Drive or Cars 2 (just kidding... but not really). Second, there is a severe breach of the Thou Shall Not Spoil Film's with Plot Twists commandment, for all the films, so if you haven't seen one of the movies, and you don't want it spoiled for ya, don't read it! Otherwise, it's all good and it's time to jump in.

Let's start with the two Honorable Mentions (it's the law of lists, there have to be Honorable Mentions...):

Fight Club (1999)-
I felt so bad about leaving this off the top 3- because its such a good mindfuck-but, as will be made clear in moments, I didn't want to lose the credibility of my choices by picking two apples that fell close to the same tree. Fight Club is an incredible piece of material (based on the book by Chuck Palahniuk- which everyone should read at some point) in which Ed Norton and Brad Pitt come into constant conflict over, what else, their fight club! It isn't a narrative masterpiece but it's testosterone-fueled, comedic, attempts to obliterate capitalism comes to a head with a big mindfuck. Ed Norton IS Brad Pitt; it's shocking really as Norton shoots himself hoping to end all his lack-of-sleep-caused fantasy. I remember seeing it and thinking: "I don't know what the fuck is going on but god dam was that exciting."

A Beautiful Mind (2001)-
You can easily make the case that 2010's Shutter Island had a better-albeit similar- twist, but A Beautiful Mind did it first, and in this life timing is everything. It won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2001, certainly due in large part to the films upbeat message: 'you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it.' But for those of us who HAVE seen the film, the films message was the last thing on our minds. It was the twist. Much like Fight Club the main character spends the entirety of the film conversing with characters who don't exist, who are fragments of a beautiful mind. The twist was not as sexy as some of the other films on this list, but it was surely a show-stopper. I loved it when I saw it in theaters, and even after all these years, well, it still holds a spot in my top 5.

Now to the big boys.

3. The Game (1997)
Your dam right that's a clown.
When I first heard about this film I thought it was about The Game- you know, the one where you can only lose by thinking about playing it? Confusing stuff. Obviously, or maybe thankfully, that is not what this film is about. It's about The Game, a game that makes life more exciting. There are no clear rules, in fact anything goes. But it's through this mystery that excitement is bread- and eventually succumbing to fear. The film is not hard to follow from a narrative standpoint; but to understand its meaning is another story. Mystery surrounds the film and we, as the audience, are intentionally kept in the dark. Until the end. Really there is no game, its all fictionalized, everything that Michael Douglas' character feared-that we feared- isn't true. In the film it's explained as a metaphor, to me it's a mindfuck.

2. Planet of the Apes (1968)
Something must have been funny.
Before Arnold ever coined the term "mindfuck" in Total Recall (just missed making this list), Charlton Heston was running around- with very little clothing- on another planet. The planet of the apes to be exact. The basic premise of this film is that a crew has crash landed on a foreign planet after a 2000 year journey through space (but not time since the crew only ages 18 months). The planet is, you guessed it, inhabited by highly sentient apes and, once Heston is captured, he plots his escape. As he runs he is eventually stopped near the edge of the ocean and the Forbidden Zone and he takes in his surroundings for the first time. What he sees is tragic. The Statue of Liberty is charred and buried in the sand. The planet of the apes is actually Earth and humanity managed to destroy itself. This film really invented the mindfuck- and the film franchise. So now we finally know who is responsible for Pirates 4.

1. Brazil (1985)
Opening sequence. Not sure where it fits in the film.
This is the film that inspired me to write this post. I didn't feel like doing an all out review of it because I had no idea what to say. It's a visual cornucopia of symbols and motifs- more appropriately it's a satire of futuristic societies and the over-reliance on machines/ technology. Jonathan Pryce's character, Sam, runs amok among the ignorant government attempting to chase him down, really just making everyone look foolish. It's a metaphor for the ineptitude of society but the satirical elements leave the film with a highly entertaining and hilarious 145 minutes- as well as a best writing Oscar. Cut in between moments of action and romance are dream sequences. These dreams usually feature a woman- a real woman as luck would have it- and the film follows his attempt to meet her and try to understand the connection between his brain and reality. What makes this film a mindfuck? Well, about 2/3 of the way through the film Sam is tortured for misusing his government position. A cavalcade of his friends comes to bust him out, and just when he ends up with the girl of his dreams the film cuts back to the torture: Sam is catatonic and singing "Aquarela do Brazil." So what was real? What was fake? What was a dream? We don't know. I guess It's a metaphor- because if I've learned anything from this, it's that all twists have a double meaning. At least that's what I think. I don't really know.

I'm so confused.

Here is a rendition of the famous song "Aquarela do Brasil." It's not like in the film (the horn sound is louder in the film), but you'll get the picture.

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