Sunday, February 8, 2009

What is it

Movies play a large role in modern life.  We enjoy watching them; we idolize the actors and actresses who appear in them; we analyze the directors. What is special about cinema as an art form, a mode of learning, a technique of propaganda?  Do movies pose special problems for aesthetics?  With the Oscars coming, Ken and John discuss the most philosophically-oriented films of this and past years, announcing the recipients of Philosophy Talk's first annual Dionysus Awards.

Listening Notes

Movies inform our thoughts on nearly every topic—but what makes a movie philosophically intriguing?  John and Ken answer this question by providing two examples of films they feel are worthy of philosophical discussion: Lifeboat and Memento.  However, John and Ken want to specifically recognize movies from 2008-09, and as such they begin a discussion on two of the most critically acclaimed films of the year.  While they agree that both films are worth watching, John sums up his views in stating that one is a great film but lack philosophical focus, while the other is philosophical but not a great film.  So neither receives one of the coveted Dionysus awards.

John and Ken accept nominations for the awards, receiving a wide range of calls.  UC Berkeley Psychology Professor Allison Gopnick nominates a film for its focus on the relationship between children and their parents, and the value of  “protective lies.”  John and Ken hear from listeners who provide new insights on Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Revolutionary Road, and many other films.  Ultimately three 2008-09 films receive awards for the categories of: Best Moral Dilemma, Best Epistemological Thriller, and Most Intricate Moral Maze.  Along the way persuasive listeners convince John and Ken to give out awards for Best Epistemological Thriller of All Time, Best Film From A Nietzschian Point of View, and even a provisional award for a film neither of them has seen.

  • Roving Philosophical Reporter (seek to 7:00):  Philosophy Talk hits the streets to find out what movie-goers are saying about philosophy in the Academy Award winning film Slumdog Millionaire.  Film buffs point out the many philosophic issues touched upon in the movie: fate vs. luck, Calvinist predestination, forgiveness, kinship, and the value of self-knowledge.  Astute movie-goers try to explain what the film can teach us, and why we turn to film in the first place.
  • 60-Second Philosopher (seek to 50:00): humorist Ian Shoales provides strong opinions on twelve films and their philosophical merits (or lack thereof).  From Citizen Kane to The Dark Knight, the 60-Second Philosopher delivers a condensed guide to what to avoid when picking out a movie based on philosophical merit.

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