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Why do we need to know how many light years it is from one end of the universe to the other?

It will come in handy when we resurface the Transgalactic highway :)

Seriously, astrophysics and cosmology are good proving grounds for physics theories, and a fertile ground for discoveries in many disciplines. Something as basic as the radius, if any, of the Universe is a relevant datum.

It really does amaze me how people on this board will argue that there is something wrong with depicting something (even something evil) as it is in reality.
It isn't wrong. But it isn't art, either.

But if you want to see things as they are, that's why people make documentaries, write histories, do studies, etc etc. Literature and the movies are not the place for copies of reality anymore than painting or sculpture are.

An of course you can learn something from a drama outside the story and characters. You learn a bit about architecture from reading The Fountainhead. But if you want to learn about forensics, the place for it isn't CSI.

If you are unable to enjoy movies/books in which the good guys lose, bad guys are given the limelight, and there are no Randian heroes, then I feel truly sorry for you. You're missing out on some of the greatest movies that have ever been made.

Don't patronize me. It's bad manners.

But I'll answer: I prefer fiction where there are heroes, and where these heroes triumph over whatever they face. I don't mind focusing the story on the villain if it's interesting. But most villains, even the grandiose and flamboyant ones from comics and cartoons, are too small of mind to be interesting. I don't find criminals interesting past a clinical point of view. Sure, it's interesting, and useful, to know what makes them tick (and, yes, I'm aware they come in many diferent varieties). But past that, they're not interesting at all.

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Seriously, astrophysics and cosmology are good proving grounds for physics theories, and a fertile ground for discoveries in many disciplines. Something as basic as the radius, if any, of the Universe is a relevant datum.

But you took my meaning. There are tons of facts that we can know about various subjects that, ultimately, will never benefit the human race, other than the fact that some people find it interesting.

It isn't wrong. But it isn't art, either.
It most certainly is. Goodfellas is widely considered one of the greatest movies ever made, as is The Godfather. It takes nothing less than a cinematic genius to make a movie like that. As I am not an Objectivist, you'll have to forgive me if I don't concur with your definition of art.

But if you want to see things as they are, that's why people make documentaries, write histories, do studies, etc etc.

Surely you don't have any objections to attempting to put real life into dramatic form.

Literature and the movies are not the place for copies of reality anymore than painting or sculpture are.
Then why do people on this board tend to condemn the works of Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali?

An of course you can learn something from a drama outside the story and characters. You learn a bit about architecture from reading The Fountainhead. But if you want to learn about forensics, the place for it isn't CSI.

We actually watched Goodfellas in my criminology class one day...granted, that was because it was my group's turn to teach the week's lesson and our professor was out of town, but you'd be surprised at how much we were able to tie the course material into the movie. It actually does quite a good job at illustrating various aspects of criminal psychology and sociology.

Don't patronize me. It's bad manners.
That wasn't my intent. It just boggles my mind how easy it is for Objectivists to write off any books or movies that do not perfectly fit Ayn Rand's criteria for romantic art. I know that this doesn't apply to everyone, but I've found that it applies to quite a few people. Nicholas Provenzo's movie reviews, for example, make my blood boil everytime I read one...much of the time, he makes outright false statements about the movies he reviews. Whether he does it intentionally or not, I don't know. But if it's unintentional, then it's obvious that he doesn't pay enough attention to them to know what he's talking about as he writes the reviews.

But I'll answer: I prefer fiction where there are heroes, and where these heroes triumph over whatever they face.

I don't think I've ever seen a movie that didn't have any heroes. They may not always win at the end, but every movie has heroes. And no one likes to see the good guys lose. But if your objective is to show real life, then the bad guys are gonna have to win occasionally.

For instance, one movie that I would love to see made would be a movie about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Would you be opposed to this, knowing that the Nazis eventually win, and all the Jews in the Ghetto are executed?

I don't mind focusing the story on the villain if it's interesting. But most villains, even the grandiose and flamboyant ones from comics and cartoons, are too small of mind to be interesting.
I wouldn't go that far. Many comic villains are geniuses...they're just evil geniuses. Take Batman Begins, for example. Ra's Al Ghul and the Scarecrow are both highly intelligent men. Al Ghul even has a very complex philosophy and ethical system. Yes, it is an evil system, but you can hardly accuse him of being small minded.

I don't find criminals interesting past a clinical point of view. Sure, it's interesting, and useful, to know what makes them tick (and, yes, I'm aware they come in many diferent varieties). But past that, they're not interesting at all.

I'm not sure what you mean by "clinical." Most criminals don't have any psychological disorders. Most criminological theories assume that criminals are "rational actors." By that, I mean that they weigh the possible benefits of their actions against the risks, and act accordingly. There's nothing clinically wrong with them...they just make immoral choices.

Okay, I'm done responding to your points, now I'd like to make another of my own.

This is a topic I've debated in here a number of times, as is the thing about sex. In the discussions about sex, I had made the point that the Objectivist view of sex appears to be an axiom, resting on nothing but its own supposed self-evident truth. The statement generally goes something like this: "sex is man's ultimate expression of his highest values, with a woman who embodies those values." Whenever I have asked someone to back that statement up with some sort of logical proof, it has invariably led to either dodging the question or circular reasoning...or else, someone responds by saying something like "so you don't think sex is anything special?" in an attempt to indict me as having warped views on the subject. I have yet to hear a straight answer to that question.

This is another topic where I think the Objectivist position suffers from the same problem. You say that art is supposed to portray the ideal and that the good guys should not lose in movies. Well, here's a question that I would like a straight answer to: why? Why should art portray only the ideal and never the unpleasant real?

None of the gangster movies I've seen have portrayed crime in a positive light. They often try to accentuate the positive qualities of some of the gangsters...and, yes, even the scummiest mob boss will not be 100% evil, therefore having a little bit of good left in him. But I haven't seen any that portray murder and drug-dealing as a positive thing.

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This is a topic I've debated in here a number of times, as is the thing about sex. In the discussions about sex, I had made the point that the Objectivist view of sex appears to be an axiom, resting on nothing but its own supposed self-evident truth. The statement generally goes something like this: "sex is man's ultimate expression of his highest values, with a woman who embodies those values." Whenever I have asked someone to back that statement up with some sort of logical proof, it has invariably led to either dodging the question or circular reasoning...or else, someone responds by saying something like "so you don't think sex is anything special?" in an attempt to indict me as having warped views on the subject. I have yet to hear a straight answer to that question.

This is patently untrue. We have provided the answer, you just don't like it. So here it is in a nutshell, again. Man is composed of both a mind and body. Integrity is achieved when the ideas in the mind do not contradict one another and the actions of the body do not contradict the beliefs and values held in the mind. Emotional contentedness is the result. A properly integrated man wants a woman that represents his values. A man can want anything in the world. He can hold any number of contradictions. He can act against his best interests. He can act against reality. He can believe whores are sexy, suicide is preferable, and smears of paint are beautiful and moving. But he can't do that and be integrated and consistent with reality at the same time. Our axioms are that contradictions do not exist and things have a particular nature. Man's nature is that he survives by the use of reason. Reason leads necessarily to the belief that a woman that represents his values is better for his life then a woman who is opposed to his values. It also leads him to believe that art which represents his values is better then art which opposes his values. It doesn't mean that no value can be gained from a somewhat irrational woman or from technically good art with a bad sense of life. All it means is that less value will be attained and a rational man wants more, in value when he can get it.

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This is patently untrue. We have provided the answer, you just don't like it. So here it is in a nutshell, again. Man is composed of both a mind and body. Integrity is achieved when the ideas in the mind do not contradict one another and the actions of the body do not contradict the beliefs and values held in the mind. Emotional contentedness is the result. A properly integrated man wants a woman that represents his values. A man can want anything in the world. He can hold any number of contradictions. He can act against his best interests. He can act against reality. He can believe whores are sexy, suicide is preferable, and smears of paint are beautiful and moving. But he can't do that and be integrated and consistent with reality at the same time. Our axioms are that contradictions do not exist and things have a particular nature. Man's nature is that he survives by the use of reason. Reason leads necessarily to the belief that a woman that represents his values is better for his life then a woman who is opposed to his values. It also leads him to believe that art which represents his values is better then art which opposes his values. It doesn't mean that no value can be gained from a somewhat irrational woman or from technically good art with a bad sense of life. All it means is that less value will be attained and a rational man wants more, in value when he can get it.

I'm not about to get drawn into this, but there was nothing patently untrue about what I said. This is the first time someone has actually answered my question, instead of avoiding it.

Since this is a movie thread, it would have been better for you to respond to my point about movies.

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I'm not about to get drawn into this, but there was nothing patently untrue about what I said. This is the first time someone has actually answered my question, instead of avoiding it.

Since this is a movie thread, it would have been better for you to respond to my point about movies.

What was untrue was that we have somehow avoided the question. We have answered it in a hundred different ways or more in several different threads.

I am not sure exactly how I would be "drawing you into" a conversation you started, but ill let it go at that.

The answer to both questions is essentially the same. Art is the selective re-creation of reality. The choices the artist(of whatever type) make draw attention to or away from, specific details. Romantic realism is the school of art which attempts to depict life as it could and ought to be. The more the sense of life presented in the piece matches the sense of life of the viewer, the more they are going to like it. If the viewer is a rational integrated person, he is going to like films which depict a world where values are achievable and obstacles can be overcome. The shawshanke redemption comes to mind. An altruist is going to like movies like pay it forward.

Why should art portray only the ideal and never the unpleasant real?

Art should portray the ideal, if the artists purpose is the appeal to and inspire other rational minds. If the artist wants to make people feel unhappy and communicate to them that the universe is malevolent, values are pointless, and success when it does occur is a matter of luck, he should make his movie focus on those aspects of reality. What he chooses to communicate tells us something about what he thinks of the universe in the same way that knowing who a person sleeps with, tells us what he thinks of himself.

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This is not a movie excerpt, but I feel it gets the point across since much of what Moose has said about Objectivists and movies also applies to literature.

Major Major's father was a sober God-fearing man whose idea of a good joke was to lie about his age. He was a long-limbed farmer, a God-fearing, freedom-loving, law-abiding rugged individualist who held that federal aid to anyone but farmers was creeping socialism. He advocated thrift and hard work and disapproved of loose women who turned him down. His specialty was alfalfa, and he made a good thing out of not growing any. The government paid him well for every bushel of alfalfa he did not grow. The more alfalfa he did not grow, the more money the government gave him, and he spent every penny he didn't earn on new land to increase the amount of alfalfa he did not produce. Major Major's father worked without rest at not growing alfalfa. On long winter evenings he remained indoors and did not mend harness, and he sprang out of bed at the crack of noon every day just to make certain that the chores would not be done. He invested in land wisely and soon was not growing more alfalfa than any other man in the county. Neighbors sought him out for advice on all subjects, for he had made much money and was therefore wise. "As ye sow, so shall ye reap," he counseled one and all, and everyone said, "Amen."

Major Major's father was an outspoken champion of economy in government, provided it did not interfere with the sacred duty of government to pay farmers as much as they could get for all the alfalfa they produced that no one else wanted or for not producing any alfalfa at all. He was a proud and independent man who was opposed to unemployment insurance and never hesitated to whine, whimper, wheedle, and extort for as much as he could get from whomever he could. He was a devout man whose pulpit was everywhere.

"The Lord gave us good farmers two strong hands so that we could take as much as we could grab with both of them," he preached with ardor on the courthouse steps or in front of the A & P as he waited for the bad-tempered gum-chewing young cashier he was after to step outside and give him a nasty look. "If the Lord didn't want us to take as much as we could get," he preached, "He wouldn't have given us two good hands to take it with." And the others murmured, "Amen."

I can't think of any reason why a "true" Objectivist would love Catch-22, it is not told in a rationally chronological order, its main character is not flawless, and there is realistic depiction of death. Yet I can not see how any one can read the above excerpt and not break out into laughter, how they can not enjoy it as a piece of literature.

It also leads him to believe that art which represents his values is better then art which opposes his values. It doesn't mean that no value can be gained from a somewhat irrational woman or from technically good art with a bad sense of life. All it means is that less value will be attained and a rational man wants more, in value when he can get it.

I get a hell of a lot more value out of those above three paragraphs then I do out of Galt's speech. The comparison is unfair (The above paragraphs are humor, Galt's speech is a polemic) but I still get the impression that most Objectivists would prefer to read the speech over that for reasons such as "Joseph Heller presents a malevolent universe" or "Galt's speech is a perfect enunciations of the values that man must live by while the above paragraphs only represent the futility of the work of good men" and so on and so forth. I hope I can be proven wrong because it begins to reach a point of parody when you can figure out what the likely Objectivist criticism to art is.

http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/mozart.html

CARSON: Wait, Mr. Hackley, perhaps we can approach your problem through aesthetics. What composers do you like, for example?

KEITH (sinks back, a bit relieved, feeling erroneously on safer ground.): Well, the usual, you know. I'm not much of a musician...

CARSON (quickly): That's all right. That doesn't matter. Your taste reveals your musical premises.

KEITH (puzzled): Oh? Well, I like Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, the standard . . .

GRETA: Oh!

CARSON: Keith, how could you? I, who know the depth of depravity to which most men sink, even I have to ask myself, how can they? Beethoven, Mozart, who reek of naturalism, whose whole work tramples on values, whose every note displays the malevolent universe premise.

KEITH (stunned): Malev...?

CARSON: Oh, Keith, can't you see the hatred of life in every bar of their music?

JONATHAN: Mr. Hackley, you told Carson in your letter that you liked The Brow of Zeus because it opposes collectivism and totalitarianism.

KEITH (lights up): Yes, yes, exactly. I...

JONATHAN: Well, how in the name of reason can't you see that a composer like Mozart, on the malevolent universe premise, is on the same premise as the collectivists that you claim to despise? They are all part of the anti-mind, anti-life Enemy.

KEITH (stunned again): Are-are you saying that Mo-Mozart was a collectivist?

CARSON: Oh, not in that very primitive kind of way. But the system of premises interconnect, on a deeper, and therefore on a more important level. Do you see?

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How is he "mediocre?" Winston is definitely above average, when compared to the rest of his society. He did, after all, begin to realize what had happened with his government and he began to break away, whereas most people just sat complacently by the wayside and didn't question anything. Yeah, he was defeated at the end. That just served to make the novel that much more cryptic and that much scarier. Everyone who has read that book will have the words "He loved Big Brother," etched in their minds for the rest of their lives. It's a warning. Once government is allowed to control our thoughts, it will be practically impossible to break the spell. That is why the protagonist lost, in my interpretation. It makes the point that it's easier to stop things from ever getting that bad than it is to fix them, once we've gone past the point of no return.

Okay, slightly above avarage then. :)

Winston fell in love with the almost as a punishment for his own miserable existense. It wasnt in pursuit of his highest values, because there was not much that he valued at all. It seemed more like self-destruction than anything else.

Sure, Winston began to "break away". But that was not much thanks to his ideals and ideas, because he did not have that many(he just liked coffee and sex - can´t blame him for that though ;) ). He did not seem very smart, courageous or strong. The point of his defeat would have atleast been stronger if I had actually cared for him...

Violence in movies has never particularly phased me...except in Passion of the Christ, but that's because violence was quite literally the only point of the movie.

Saving Private Ryan's opening scenes have some very gory violence. However, it is quite effectively used, in that it shows the sacrifice (I use that term in the non-Randian sense) that was made by the Allied soldiers on D-Day. I've seen Casino a number of times, and Joe Pesci's death scene is not all that graphic. As I recall, they show them swinging the bats, but, for the most part, don't actually show them making contact with his body. Even if they did...so be it. The purpose of that scene was to display the utter brutality by which a lot of those people live. It would be less effective if it were candy-coated.

I don´t normally have a problem with violence in movies either. Saving Private Ryan was allright, but I really disliked that scene in Casino... I don´t like seeing that kind ofutter, naked brutality.

What I don´t see is the value in displaying violence in the most real and ugly way possible. I´m not arguing that it should be candy-coated, but they would still have gotten the point across while toning it down a little.

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Art should portray the ideal, if the artists purpose is the appeal to and inspire other rational minds. If the artist wants to make people feel unhappy and communicate to them that the universe is malevolent, values are pointless, and success when it does occur is a matter of luck, he should make his movie focus on those aspects of reality. What he chooses to communicate tells us something about what he thinks of the universe in the same way that knowing who a person sleeps with, tells us what he thinks of himself.

In your opinion, then, it would be wrong to make a movie about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising? Why do you think a rational person cannot want to see a tragic movie? Tragic movies (or books like 1984) serve many functions besides sheer enjoyment. They can provide warnings (1984), ensure that people do not forget the mistakes of the past (Blackhawk Down), or show people how not to live their lives (Goodfellas).

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Okay, slightly above avarage then. :)

Winston fell in love with the almost as a punishment for his own miserable existense. It wasnt in pursuit of his highest values, because there was not much that he valued at all. It seemed more like self-destruction than anything else.

Sure, Winston began to "break away". But that was not much thanks to his ideals and ideas, because he did not have that many(he just liked coffee and sex - can´t blame him for that though ;) ). He did not seem very smart, courageous or strong. The point of his defeat would have atleast been stronger if I had actually cared for him...

I think that, in the book, it was supposed to make the point that the government had done such an efficient job of controlling its people that it got to the point where pretty much no one could break away.

I don´t normally have a problem with violence in movies either. Saving Private Ryan was allright, but I really disliked that scene in Casino... I don´t like seeing that kind ofutter, naked brutality.

What I don´t see is the value in displaying violence in the most real and ugly way possible. I´m not arguing that it should be candy-coated, but they would still have gotten the point across while toning it down a little.

The baseball bat scene in Casino was hardly displayed in the most real and ugly way possible. You see him get hit once with the basball bat, then you see the guys swinging the bats, but don't see them actually hitting anything. If Scorsese had wanted to shock the audience, he would have shown every blow.

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But you took my meaning. There are tons of facts that we can know about various subjects that, ultimately, will never benefit the human race, other than the fact that some people find it interesting.

The thing about natural facts, such as the radius of the Universe, is that you can't say for certain whether it will be useful on some practical aplication or not. a moving magnet causes a current to flow in a copper wire. Later it is found that sparks produced in a gap on said wire affects some iron filings a short distance away. Big deal, right? Well, yes. But a few years later Marconni used that knowledge to develop radio.

And it is interesting.

But movies are art and/or entertainment, not science, psychology, philosophy or history textbooks. On that vein, I must quote out of order:

We actually watched Goodfellas in my criminology class one day...granted, that was because it was my group's turn to teach the week's lesson and our professor was out of town, but you'd be surprised at how much we were able to tie the course material into the movie. It actually does quite a good job at illustrating various aspects of criminal psychology and sociology.
In history class, we read "All's Quiet On The Western Front" and "Is Paris Burning?" as illustrations of WWI and WWII. I also saw movies based on them. They're a useful complement to class. But you wouldn't know why there was a WWI, much less why Germany fought, or even where, from reading "Western Front."

It most certainly is. Goodfellas is widely considered one of the greatest movies ever made, as is The Godfather. It takes nothing less than a cinematic genius to make a movie like that. As I am not an Objectivist, you'll have to forgive me if I don't concur with your definition of art.

I made a mistake. Art is a selective reconstruction of reality based on metaphysical value judgements. Any movie perforce must pick and choose what to show, therefore the moviemaker has to make value judgements. Therefore it is art, provided it is fiction to begin with.

Is it good art? Movies were called at one time the seventh art. Others think movies are a branch of literature. They are both. As a story-telling medium, movies are a branch of literature just as theater is. But as regards cinematography, acting and directing, they are also an art form by themselves, different from other kinds. A good movie integrates both aspects.

Now, what aspect is more important? I say it's the story/character aspect. As regards inmspiration and entertainment, one can derive both from a good story and/or interesting characters, even if performed by crummy actors in front of a static camera amid poor lighting.

Surely you don't have any objections to attempting to put real life into dramatic form.

That wasn't my intent. It just boggles my mind how easy it is for Objectivists to write off any books or movies that do not perfectly fit Ayn Rand's criteria for romantic art.
The first rule of movie criticism, and every spectator is a critic, is to criticize the movie as it was made, not as the critic would have made it or would have liked it made. Given how little true Romantic art is ever produced, this would disqualify most movies a priori.

But a movie has to be judged by a standard, like everything else. It shouldn't surprise you that people write off movies that fall short of their standard.

I don't think I've ever seen a movie that didn't have any heroes. They may not always win at the end, but every movie has heroes. And no one likes to see the good guys lose. But if your objective is to show real life, then the bad guys are gonna have to win occasionally.

I've seen plenty of movies without heroes, or parts of such movies at any rate (it's hard to see a bad film in its entirety when there are better things to do).

And we're back to it: why do you want movies to portray real life exactly as it is?

For instance, one movie that I would love to see made would be a movie about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Would you be opposed to this, knowing that the Nazis eventually win, and all the Jews in the Ghetto are executed?
I've seen at least two movies on that subject. Sorry, I don't recall the titles. But they shouldn't be hard to find at http://us.imdb.com

I wouldn't oppose a movie based on that, no. The uprising achieved everything its leaders could reasonably hope to achieve. It wasn't much (too little too late), but it was something.

I wouldn't go that far. Many comic villains are geniuses...they're just evil geniuses. Take Batman Begins, for example. Ra's Al Ghul and the Scarecrow are both highly intelligent men. Al Ghul even has a very complex philosophy and ethical system. Yes, it is an evil system, but you can hardly accuse him of being small minded.

They were both a great deal more interesting in half hour cartoons than in the movie. Even so, the one Batman villain I ever found interesting was Mr. Freeze, as played in the early version of the animated series (in two eps), and in one episode in the Batman Beyond series.

He's a conflicted character, when so portrayed. He's not an evil man, but he has suffered two great losses and can't get past them. Therefore he stays alive by plotting revenge against those he considers responsible. Furhter, he claims to have lost all his emotions, but he doesn't claim to be acting on reason (a pleasant novelty); and it's clear he's dominated by one emotion, too: bitterness. This is illustrated in one effective line of dialogue. He tells Batman "It would move me to tears, if I had any tears left to shed."

If you watch Law & Order Criminal Intent, the focus of that show is on the criminals. But it's done by seeing how the detective (usually Goren) figures out why and how the criminal acted. That is, we see the heroes at work catching the bad guys (Goren is another interesting character). I find this a great deal more interesting than how mobsters treat their families.

I'm not sure what you mean by "clinical." Most criminals don't have any psychological disorders. Most criminological theories assume that criminals are "rational actors." By that, I mean that they weigh the possible benefits of their actions against the risks, and act accordingly. There's nothing clinically wrong with them...they just make immoral choices.
Clinical as in academic, not medical. You know, as in finding out their motives. A lot of people have irrational morals, but most of them are not criminals. Figuring out their motivations is useful.

None of the gangster movies I've seen have portrayed crime in a positive light. They often try to accentuate the positive qualities of some of the gangsters...and, yes, even the scummiest mob boss will not be 100% evil, therefore having a little bit of good left in him. But I haven't seen any that portray murder and drug-dealing as a positive thing.

In real life, there may be some good in the scum, yes. So what? And why should I care about it in a movie villain?

Aside from that, how often are gangsters portrayed either simpathetically, or as victims of their upbringing (or "society"), or as "cool" guys? I am asking because I mostly avoid gangster movies.

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NOTE: A couple of your quotes are bold and italicized, because it told me I had too many quoted blocks of text.

The thing about natural facts, such as the radius of the Universe, is that you can't say for certain whether it will be useful on some practical aplication or not. a moving magnet causes a current to flow in a copper wire. Later it is found that sparks produced in a gap on said wire affects some iron filings a short distance away. Big deal, right? Well, yes. But a few years later Marconni used that knowledge to develop radio.

But surely there are some facts that truly are useless. Unless we colonize the entire universe (something I don't consider to be in the realm of possibility), knowing the diameter of the universe is a pretty useless fact.

But movies are art and/or entertainment, not science, psychology, philosophy or history textbooks.

But they can be of value for reasons other than pure entertainment. If you disagree, then that should be a personal judgement. Different people find different values in movies. If you only like entertaining movies, that's fine. But I don't think you should preclude the idea that other people might simply be interested in the subject matter and, thus, like it when it is put into dramatic form.

In history class, we read "All's Quiet On The Western Front" and "Is Paris Burning?" as illustrations of WWI and WWII. I also saw movies based on them. They're a useful complement to class. But you wouldn't know why there was a WWI, much less why Germany fought, or even where, from reading "Western Front."

Well, yeah, but I'm not suggesting that watching Goodfellas makes you an expert in criminology. But it contains many useful illustrations that can help to concretize concepts that are taught in the class.

I made a mistake. Art is a selective reconstruction of reality based on metaphysical value judgements. Any movie perforce must pick and choose what to show, therefore the moviemaker has to make value judgements. Therefore it is art, provided it is fiction to begin with.
Agreed.

Is it good art? Movies were called at one time the seventh art. Others think movies are a branch of literature. They are both. As a story-telling medium, movies are a branch of literature just as theater is. But as regards cinematography, acting and directing, they are also an art form by themselves, different from other kinds. A good movie integrates both aspects.

Well, I would consider literature to be a form of art too. Other than that, I agree.

Now, what aspect is more important? I say it's the story/character aspect. As regards inmspiration and entertainment, one can derive both from a good story and/or interesting characters, even if performed by crummy actors in front of a static camera amid poor lighting.
Agreed.

The first rule of movie criticism, and every spectator is a critic, is to criticize the movie as it was made, not as the critic would have made it or would have liked it made. Given how little true Romantic art is ever produced, this would disqualify most movies a priori.

I agree. If Randian Romanticism is your favorite kind of art, that's fine. I have no problem with that. In that case, I would expect you to hold it above movies that don't fit your criteria. But I think it's a bit snobbish to assume that others are bad art.

I'm not suggesting that "good" depends on subjective feelings. There is some "art" that I am perfectly willing to say is bad. Mostly this post-modern crap that you see in sculptures in front of government buildings...you know the stuff...art that is completely bereft of any meaning and is created by a painter covering his naked body in paint and then flailing about on a piece of paper.

I just don't understand why good art has to portray the ideal. You can like that kind of art the best, but I don't think that you are justified in condemning art that shows things as they are in reality.

But a movie has to be judged by a standard, like everything else. It shouldn't surprise you that people write off movies that fall short of their standard.
Criticize, yes. Write-off, no.

I've seen plenty of movies without heroes, or parts of such movies at any rate (it's hard to see a bad film in its entirety when there are better things to do).

Can you name some? I honestly can't think of any. Except perhaps Texas Chainsaw Massacre...but I hated that movie anyway.

And we're back to it: why do you want movies to portray real life exactly as it is?
I like variety. I want to see movies that portray the ideal, and movies that portray the real, even if it is unpleasant.

I wouldn't oppose a movie based on that, no. The uprising achieved everything its leaders could reasonably hope to achieve. It wasn't much (too little too late), but it was something.

But they were defeated. The heroes all died. According to the Randian standard, that isn't good enough. If you look at the heroes of Atlas Shrugged, I don't think that, in real life, similar characters could "reasonably hope to achieve" what they do in the novel. Sure, a Hank Rearden could create some really nifty metal and a John Galt could create a nice motor. But a few industrialists deciding to temporarily retire to Estes Park, Colorado is not going to make the country collapse.

In terms of government, modern American society is not that much different than what it is in Atlas Shrugged. Yet, if the leaders of Microsoft, Wal-Mart, Phizer, etc. decided to destroy their companies, it would not cause the collapse of the United States.

They were both a great deal more interesting in half hour cartoons than in the movie. Even so, the one Batman villain I ever found interesting was Mr. Freeze, as played in the early version of the animated series (in two eps), and in one episode in the Batman Beyond series.

He's a conflicted character, when so portrayed. He's not an evil man, but he has suffered two great losses and can't get past them. Therefore he stays alive by plotting revenge against those he considers responsible. Furhter, he claims to have lost all his emotions, but he doesn't claim to be acting on reason (a pleasant novelty); and it's clear he's dominated by one emotion, too: bitterness. This is illustrated in one effective line of dialogue. He tells Batman "It would move me to tears, if I had any tears left to shed."

I never watched the cartoons, but it seems that you got my point. You even provided an example that helps make my point.

If you watch Law & Order Criminal Intent, the focus of that show is on the criminals. But it's done by seeing how the detective (usually Goren) figures out why and how the criminal acted. That is, we see the heroes at work catching the bad guys (Goren is another interesting character). I find this a great deal more interesting than how mobsters treat their families.

I don't really watch TV, but I'm sure it's a good show. I think Silence of the Lambs is similar to what you described...definitely focused on the villains, but it has a strong heroine who delves into the criminal mind in an attempt to stop them.

Clinical as in academic, not medical. You know, as in finding out their motives. A lot of people have irrational morals, but most of them are not criminals. Figuring out their motivations is useful.
Fair enough. I still hold that Scorsese does a good job at incorporating realistic group dynamics of the Mafia into his movies, thus satisfying this criteria.

In real life, there may be some good in the scum, yes. So what? And why should I care about it in a movie villain?

If it's realism that you're going for, you should want the characters to be portrayed as realistically as possible. This just brings me back to my main question: what's wrong with realism in art?

Aside from that, how often are gangsters portrayed either simpathetically, or as victims of their upbringing (or "society"), or as "cool" guys? I am asking because I mostly avoid gangster movies.

That depends on what you mean by sympathetically. In Goodfellas, for instance, Henry is not portrayed as a victim of his upbringing...his parents try to raise him as a virtuous person, but he makes bad choices and actively seeks employment with the Mafia. Yeah, they are portrayed as "cool" guys. But, when you think about it...that's probably how they really are. If you knew a guy in the Mafia, but didn't know that he was a murderous thug, he would probably be a pretty fun guy to sit down and have a beer with.

A movie like Goodfellas or Once Upon a Time in America is not trying to make you feel sympathy for gangsters. It is trying to take you into their world and see things happen from an insider's vantage point. I doubt that Scorsese or Leone actually want people to come away thinking, "wow, I want to join the Mafia so I can be like those guys."

Edited by Moose

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But surely there are some facts that truly are useless. Unless we colonize the entire universe (something I don't consider to be in the realm of possibility), knowing the diameter of the universe is a pretty useless fact.

Maybe. But it's difficult to say which facts are useless. The diameter, if any, of the Universe, might prove of extreme importance. Suppose, for example, you can prove it's 12 billion light years, yet you can see objects older than that? In any case, ti si a pretty basic fact.

As to how far we'll get, well, I can't see human beings allowing the Universe to collapse. We won't give up living just because the Universe does.

But they can be of value for reasons other than pure entertainment. If you disagree, then that should be a personal judgement. Different people find different values in movies. If you only like entertaining movies, that's fine. But I don't think you should preclude the idea that other people might simply be interested in the subject matter and, thus, like it when it is put into dramatic form.
I read science books for enjoyment. I watch the History channel for fun, too. Of course any movie you can learn something from would be of at least some value. What i question is whether it is of any artisitic or moral value.

I agree. If Randian Romanticism is your favorite kind of art, that's fine. I have no problem with that. In that case, I would expect you to hold it above movies that don't fit your criteria. But I think it's a bit snobbish to assume that others are bad art.

If that makes me a snob, so be it. I'm not afraid to render judgement, and that includes judging things to lack much, if any, value.

I just don't understand why good art has to portray the ideal.
What is art good for? As a means of inspiration, yes, or enjoyment, too. But mostly it is fuel for the soul. It's largely what will keep you going, to know that such beauty and greatness are possible and attainable in some form. "Ideal," BTW, does not mean non-existent or unattainable.

You can like that kind of art the best, but I don't think that you are justified in condemning art that shows things as they are in reality.

I can, because such art fails the purpose I defined above.

Can you name some? I honestly can't think of any. Except perhaps Texas Chainsaw Massacre...but I hated that movie anyway.
I don't see horror movies at all. As for movies without heroes, well, 1984, for one. Citizen Kane, too. I love that movie on technical grounds (indeed, I'd call it the best movie ever made on technical grounds), but everyone in it is contemptible to one degree or another. That's a good example of a young, energetic idealist (Kane) brouught down to cynicysm and bitterness by "reality." That's a common view.

I'd say stories like "A Christmas Carol" have no heroes either.

But they were defeated. The heroes all died. According to the Randian standard, that isn't good enough. If you look at the heroes of Atlas Shrugged, I don't think that, in real life, similar characters could "reasonably hope to achieve" what they do in the novel.

Of course not. It is ficition, after all. Ayn Rand said as much. She was dramatizing philosophical principles.

But look at "We The Living." Kira and Andre die, and Leo might as well be dead (Kira says as much). Leo decides to embrace evasion as a lifestyle. Andre kills himself in atonement for his actions. Kira dies trying to escape. See the difference?

The Warsaw uprising was doomed from the start. Of course the nazis would prevail, for the time being. But it wasn't futile, and it was better to go down fighting than to die like sheep at a slaughterhouse. Materially it dind't accomplish much. It tied up some troops for a short time, it killed some soldiers and SS bastards, it denied the nazis some slave labor. But it was the one heroic act left to the Warsaw Jews at the time, and the best thing they could have done for themselves.

Sure, a Hank Rearden could create some really nifty metal and a John Galt could create a nice motor. But a few industrialists deciding to temporarily retire to Estes Park, Colorado is not going to make the country collapse.
If all industrialists retired, the country would collapse. And if all of France had refused to collaborate with the nazis, and had fought on instead, things would have been different. And if the Jews of Warsaw had a nuclear weapon... you see the implications are not at all incredible, but the conditions to reach them are. That's what amkes it fiction.

BTW in fiction the author has full control of everything. I could write a novel showing a prosperous communist country. I'd ahve to evade reality and engage in contradictions, which I could gloss over, but I could do it. That wouldn't make communism practical.

I never watched the cartoons, but it seems that you got my point. You even provided an example that helps make my point.

I believe I made my point: villains are not interesting. Consider, Batman has a lot of villains and only one of them is interesting. They're all very ingenious, and some are funny and entertaining. But interesting? No. Not the Joker, Two-Face (largely wasted, considering his nature), Poison Ivy, Venom, The Riddler, The Penguin, Red Claw, Ras al Ghul or the Scarecrow.

My interest was in how would Batman, and sidekicks when present, prevail. That took a lot mroe ingenuity than mere super villains could muster.

To be sure, some of the criminal schemes were interesting. A sentient computer named HARDAC decides to replace all humans with android replicas. Scary! And in a sequel we see the Batman replica defeated by Batman's own principles and moral rules. That was interesting. But the villain itself wasn't.

More later. I am supposed to be at work.

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In TRM, Rand says that even if you don't agree with a piece of art, you can still like it for the way it is portrayed. ie. the sistine chapel. I don't agree with it, but I see beauty in how it was painted. The same concept does apply to movies. And don't ask me where it says that because I don't have the book.

bri

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Miss Kufa brings up a good point. It is one that was entirely overlooked in this thread. One can appreciate the art (or movie) for the way it was portrayed. That is part of what separates a good movie from a bad movie, not just the writing. This has been discussed in a poetry thread (the one on T.S. Eliot). We also discussed art that does not have a hero- ie, art that portrays "real life".

Moose, your posts are beginning to annoy me. You use the term "Objectivists" to describe any person who goes along with the "Randian" concept of art and does not like movies that you do. In essence, you are making a collective out of people who label themselves "Objectivists". I personally enjoy certain movies, even if the ending is not happy or the philosophy is not the best. I don't think anybody here was strictly claiming the opposite. Many Objectivists enjoy Victor Hugo and Fyodor Dostoevsky, and their novels are not necessarily happy. Besides that, you seem to think that it is wrong for Objectivists to call movies that you like bad art. My question is: why do you care? I really don't give a damn if you think the movies I like are bad art, why should you make such an attack, collectivizing Objectivists and assuming opinions of Ayn Rand that she didn't give? I understand that people aren't giving you answers, but you are demanding they do so. Personally, I could write an essay about the sex thread, or this one, but I just don't care to do so, partly because your condescending attitude and demand for answers is just plain rude. If you want answers, do not demand them- ask politely and in a scholarly, student-like manner. This is OBJECTIVISMOnline. If I post a movie review here, I will defend my opinion, but I do not care to defend the ethics on which that opinion rests. That can be done on any number of other forums- this is a place for Objectivists.

I am no longer able to see why you are a part of this forum. I'm not yet saying you should leave, but since all you seem to be doing lately is attacting O'ists, I'm very curious as to why you don't.

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Moose, your posts are beginning to annoy me. You use the term "Objectivists" to describe any person who goes along with the "Randian" concept of art and does not like movies that you do. In essence, you are making a collective out of people who label themselves "Objectivists".

That was not my intent, but I thought it was understood that I was speaking in generalities.

My question is: why do you care? I really don't give a damn if you think the movies I like are bad art,
Um...I don't recall saying that movies that other people liked are bad art. And we were just having a friendly debate...it's not like I've been at people's throats in this thread.

why should you make such an attack, collectivizing Objectivists and assuming opinions of Ayn Rand that she didn't give?

What? Show me a single post that can be rightly characterized as "an attack." Show me another where I make any unfair assumptions about the views of Ayn Rand.

I understand that people aren't giving you answers, but you are demanding they do so. Personally, I could write an essay about the sex thread, or this one, but I just don't care to do so, partly because your condescending attitude and demand for answers is just plain rude. If you want answers, do not demand them- ask politely and in a scholarly, student-like manner.

I beg your pardon, but I have not been rude when I have asked for answers. I confess that, after getting fed up with Inspector's straw men in the sex thread, I became rather short with him. But I have not done that with others (certainly not in this thread), because I have been treated with respect and no one has told me to leave the forum for the crime of disagreeing with them.

If I post a movie review here, I will defend my opinion, but I do not care to defend the ethics on which that opinion rests.

You're out of line. This was a discussion on why some (word added so that you will understand this is a generality) Objectivists take issue with movies that don't have happy endings or less than perfect heroes. D'kian and I obviously disagree on a few things, but he wasn't complaining about the fact that I was disagreeing with his ideas and, respectfully, asking him to explain/defend them against my objections. You haven't even posted in this thread until now, after I was pretty much done with it.

I'm not sure why you're complaining about my conduct in this thread, when the people who disagreed with me in the first place didn't seem to have a problem with it.

I am no longer able to see why you are a part of this forum. I'm not yet saying you should leave, but since all you seem to be doing lately is attacting O'ists, I'm very curious as to why you don't.

I beg your pardon again, but questioning some of the views put forth on this board does not constitute an attack. The only person it is even arguable that I have been disrespectful to is Inspector. And he hasn't exactly been respectful towards me/hunterrose/anyone-else-who-didn't-agree-with-him. I admit that, lately, I have been a bit more confrontational than normal. A lot of that is that, before I started posting again, I had spent about 6 weeks with very little internet access and was not able to broach some of these topics until more recently. But this is hardly the first time that I have posted against the grain (so to speak).

Edited by Moose

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I can only speak for myself, and I havent felt attacked in any way, but rather enjoyed a little friendly debate. Although Strangelove should be spanked for posting that bloody Rothbards bloody Mozart Was a Red(yes, sometimes I do curse alot). ;) Seriously, I can´t see that Moose did anything wrong here.

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Moose, perhaps this was posted in the wrong thread at the wrong time. I apologize for that. I re-read all of your posts in this thread, and you're right (in this thread) you are respectful. Again, I apologize. My major concern is that we are now having so much activity by non-Objectivist members of this board that, besides being annoying, it might give the impression that our philosophy is not thought out, when in fact, many people are just too lazy to respond to your points over and over again.

The paragraph that put me over the edge was:

But they were defeated. The heroes all died. According to the Randian standard, that isn't good enough. If you look at the heroes of Atlas Shrugged, I don't think that, in real life, similar characters could "reasonably hope to achieve" what they do in the novel. Sure, a Hank Rearden could create some really nifty metal and a John Galt could create a nice motor. But a few industrialists deciding to temporarily retire to Estes Park, Colorado is not going to make the country collapse.
First of all, the "Randian standard"? I didn't know there was such a thing. I also don't believe Miss Rand ever said that it was bad art if the hero dies. She did write We The Living after all. Secondly, I take offense to tone- saying things such as "nifty metal" and "nice motor" seems to belittle their actual achievements. By itself, this is no big deal, but I've been noticing a general lack of respect toward Ayn Rand, and, as this is an Objectivist board that's sole purpose is to celebrate Ayn Rand, her novels, and her philosophy, that just kind of makes me mad. But perhaps I'm exaggerating.

Another problem I have with your posts is that you seem to think that Objectivism is some kind of dogma that people often follow blindly, when (though perhaps some do take it as dogma) the whole philosophy is utterly opposed to that concept.

Okay, Moose, I will from now on respond to your posts instead of merely getting annoyed, okay? (The only problem is I don't have alot of time. But I'll try.) It was not my intention to offend you (honestly), it was more to question why you are here since you seem to be attacking Objectivism (I know I said "O'ist" before, my mistake). But perhaps this is just because you seem to be posting quite a bit, and I seem to only read threads that you post it. I hope you accept this apology and understand why someone in my position could get frustrated with all these questions (seemingly repetitive) that attack/question Objectivism on an Objectivist board. There is a debate section. But every thread I read seems to be a debate over a fundamental principle- that being "that might be fine for you, but you haven't got any right to say your way is the best". Obviously, there are times when it comes down to opinion, but we aren't debating whether a movie is good or not. We're debating what constitutes "art" and whether the O'ist definition is correct.

If you have any problems with this post, please let me know. I should not have made that last post when and where I did. A mod may delete it, if he/she deems appropriate.

Zak

[edit for some reason it put this post with the one above. ;))

I can only speak for myself, and I havent felt attacked in any way, but rather enjoyed a little friendly debate. Although Strangelove should be spanked for posting that bloody Rothbards bloody Mozart Was a Red(yes, sometimes I do curse alot). ;) Seriously, I can´t see that Moose did anything wrong here.
Yes, I now agree and apologized to Moose (must've been while you were posting). Edited by realitycheck44

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I can only speak for myself, and I havent felt attacked in any way, but rather enjoyed a little friendly debate. Although Strangelove should be spanked for posting that bloody Rothbards bloody Mozart Was a Red(yes, sometimes I do curse alot). ;) Seriously, I can´t see that Moose did anything wrong here.

It seemed like quite a funny parody, hoped it would lighten the mood of the thread.

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I think "Randian" is a poor choice for word. I have often seen it used by the same people who call Objectivists "Randriods", so it can easily be interpreted as a little offensive. Again, spanking could be in order. But I don´t think Moose meant it in an offensive way

Something to consider is that the written word might not always come across as the author inteded. It´s easier when seeing each other face to face. Maybe Moose mentioned Reardens "nifty metal" in a belittleing tone, or maybe just in a fun way with a little smile added to it. I see this every time I write here because for me some of the communication also gets lost with the language. Sometimes i´m struggling not to sound like a retard. I think my english is pretty decent but I cannot express myself nearly as eloquently as in swedish. When reading I try to take most things in a good natured way, because I have found that in most cases that´s how it was meant. If in doubt, I try to ask the other person to clarify.

And if i´m not making any sense at all now it´s because I havent had any sleep and the coffee aint working...

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It seemed like quite a funny parody, hoped it would lighten the mood of the thread.

Don´t get me wrong now, I can take a good joke about Objectivists(and I don´t actually think you should be spanked ;) ). It´s just that, well, I think Rothbard is more malicious than funny.

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Realitycheck also sent me a PM and I accepted his apology.

I'd like to clear a few things up, however. Firstly, I do not think that Objectivism is a dogmatic belief system. But I do believe that there are many people who treat it like one. Unfortunately, these are the ones that most of the non-Objectivism community has had contact with, and it is a large part of the reason why we (I include myself as part of the O'ist community, even though I don't claim to be one) are perceived as a cult. I am usually quite critical of these people, because I am frustrated by the "cult" perception.

The recent thread about sex got way out of hand, though I don't really think that was my fault. The debate was already ongoing when I joined it, and all I did was try to defend the posts of people who were having trouble responding to the objections of about a dozen people who disagreed with them...then I just continued the debate from there. I left it because I felt that Inspector was blatantly misrepresenting everything that I said.

When I use the term "Randian," I do not mean that in an insulting way anymore than I do when I say "Jeffersonian" or "Aristotelian." I was just using it to refer to the heroes of her books. I also did not mean to insult the heroes of her books..."nifty metal" and "nice motor included...that was just comic relief. Yes, I think they are unrealistic, but so are James Bond and Indiana Jones (two of my favorites).

If I've come across as attacking Objectivism, I apologize, because that has not been my intent. I don't agree with all of it, so I do voice my misgivings when I feel the need. But I cannot abide dogmatism, and I will call people out on it if I think they are displaying it. As far as this thread goes, I don't think Alfa and D'Kian were being dogmatic...I just don't think that their views on what makes a movie good/bad hold much water.

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If I've come across as attacking Objectivism, I apologize, because that has not been my intent. I don't agree with all of it, so I do voice my misgivings when I feel the need. But I cannot abide dogmatism, and I will call people out on it if I think they are displaying it. As far as this thread goes, I don't think Alfa and D'Kian were being dogmatic...I just don't think that their views on what makes a movie good/bad hold much water.

The problem is you don't say why you don't think my views hold much water. You do keep bringing up matter not under discussion. For example, I say that a mere copy of reality isn't art, you ask whether I don't consider such things to be of value. That's called a non-sequitur, and it gets tiresome after a while.

I wonder, too, whether you noticed you bring up authority from time to time. As in "these are considered among the best movies of their time." Substituting your judgement for someone else's opinions is not an argument; particularly if you offer nothing but the opinions.

I don't think you're attacking anyone personally. But you're not arguing entirely in good faith, either.

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Yeah, that's the reason I left this thread, originally. We weren't getting anywhere, and the same stuff was being said over and over. I don't see how anything I said is non-sequitur though.

I didn't recognize that as an argument from authority at the time, but you make a good point. I'll avoid that one in the future.

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