(Warning: plot spoilage below……. skip if you plan to see the movie).

We rented this year's big Oscar winner "No Country for Old Men", and there was some fairly intense discussion afterwards. Pretty gritty stuff if you can cut through the Texas twang.

One theory of good art is that it locates and awakens something personal in the viewer, even if repugnant. Some of the symbols included the post-modern theme of bad defeating good (on all accounts, thoroughly), bad deeds going unpunished, good deeds not going unpunished, the role of chance in success and doom (duh), the attractive logic and invincibility of an intelligent psychopath, the religious quality of effective evil, and the crippling effect of introspection during battle.

A most interesting theme was the role of age in perception. The aging sheriff hesitated in his pursuit of a daunting foe, and commiserated with his peers about how bad things were compared to the old days. But a decrepit old friend (or relative) countered to the sheriff how his grand-uncle-lawman had been ruthlessly killed by Indians back in nineteen and zero-nine. Even though the bad guy put the sheriff into retirement, brutality in the past was as bad or worse.

The reason many think the shiny old days were better may have more to do with our own changes than those of the world. Which makes sense, since at our youngest we evolved within the protected/deterministic systems of our parents, friends, and schools (at least the fortunate ones), which continued sweetly into young adulthood because in hindsight now we know all the endings. There is no risk in the past, only the future.

Many of our days now will one day be precious in hindsight. It is difficult to keep this in mind even part of the time, but ostensibly worth the effort even if the required level of introspection forfeits many battles.

To paraphrase spec posts from 04-06, if you are on the winning side it pays never to give up.

Movie snippet here.

Stefan Jovanovich dissents:

I apologize to Kim and everyone else who loves the Coen brothers. Since my tastes are sufficiently bizarre that I rate Joss Whedon's Serenity a far better space oater than any of Lucas' Star Wars snorers, I hardly expect to win this argument; but those of us here in Chaos Manor simply don't get it. I lasted about 20 minutes with No Country; Nora, who is 23 and has far more stamina, was able to hang on to the bitter end. She said the best comparison she could offer was that it was like part in Annie Hall where Woody Allen goes to visit the crazy country folk and has his special talk up to Dwayne's bedroom - with lots of ketchup and walking down hallways added. The Coen's skillful but truly absurd splatter films are like modern war movies; the tech is magnificent, but the stories can only seem credible if you share the Coen's religious belief that violence offers some special insight into life. Clearly they are relying on the assumption that no one in the audience has any experience at all with firearms. Blowing out the chambers in a revolver to allow it to fire was an interesting bit of make believe, but by the time it got to the bit with an assassin carrying around a compressed air canister attached to a modified nail gun, I had to hold my sides to stop shaking with laughter. What was the guy going to do for reloads? Go to the Home Depot?


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