Lights! Camera! Think!

Thursday, February 10, 2011 -- 4:00 PM

This week, it’s the third annual Dionysus Awards Show. The Dionysus Awards are presented to the most philosophically interesting movies of the year.  And sometimes, when we feel like it, we also honor philosophically notable movies from the past.   Now  unlike your average awards show, we accept spontaneous nominations from the floor.  So we’ll be talking to some of our listeners who wrote in with nominations and to some of our past guests as well.  But since John and I are the ultimate judges, we reserve the right to either grant or refuse awards to nominated movies. 

We’re in the thick of award season  – that time of year when just about everybody and her brother is honoring and celebrating the film industry.  But besides the fact that movies are fun to watch and fun to talk about, we should we here at Philosophy Talk jump on the already overcrowded Awards bandwagon?  It starts with the fact that movies, at their best, are really cool things.  They can make you laugh or make you cry.  They can frighten you out of your wits, transport you to far off places and times, take you deep inside the hidden reaches of the mind.   Movies are kind of magical in that way.   But there’s something else that movies can do, something moviemakers aren’t always rewarded for doing.  In the right hands, movies can be amazing vehicles for expressing and exploring philosophically significant ideas.  And that’s precisely why we inaugurated the Dionysus Awards.  Our aim is to reward and encourage movies that make us think.

Of course, it’s not an either or thing.  We’re looking for movies that effectively explore ideas at the same time as they do all the other things that the best movies do. So in order to win a Dionysus Award, a movie really does have to be something pretty special.  It’s got to be a good movie – a movie that tells a compelling story and works on the heart and imagination in the way that the finest films do.  But it’s got to work on the intellect just as effectively.

In fact many movies that rack up awards in other places are often also-rans in the stiff competition for a Dionysus Award.  Think of Slumdog Millionaire, a nominee for our First Dionysus Award.  It won the Academy Award for Best Picture – and that award was well-deserved.  But we decided it just didn’t measure up to the high standards of Dionysus. Or think of last year’s hard-fought contest between District Nine and   Avatar, for Most Philosophically Compelling Movie About Man’s Inhumanity to Crustaceans.  It was the little-seen and lightly-promoted District Nine in a landslide.

Now Hollywood’s main claim to fame is decidedly not that it churns out movie after movie designed to make us think and think hard.  So every year, aided by a stable of film critics, past guests, and our listeners, we uncover a true treasure trove of films worthy of consideration.  Some of them are big movies, that’ll win many other awards.  But some of them are small movies that hardly anyone has seen. Last year’s Dionysus winners included not just District 9, but also the Academy Award winning, Hurt Locker.  But there were also hardly noticed gems like, Me and Orson Welles, a brilliant and entertaining movie that came and went from theaters in the blink of an eye.  This year’s nominees run the gamut too.   From the little seen mockumentary, I’m Still Here, about the dark side of our celebrity culture. To mind-bending movies that transgress the borders of reality: The Black Swan and Inception.

You should definitely tune in.   It is a fun and entertaining hour.   Unlike most of our episodes,  this one was pre-produced.  That fact enables us to do two things that we can’t normally do.   First, we were able to make it extra-ordinarily sound-rich.  Second, we are able to give a “stand-alone” sort of character.   The latter enables us to offer it to public radio stations everywhere,  even those who don’t normally carry philosophy talk, as a stand-alone special.   Given that it’s award season, and that the Oscars will be fast upon us, it would make a perfect compliment to the regular programming to any public radio station that wants to help their listeners think more reflectively about the movies.

So far,  a dozen or so additional  stations have  expressed interest in our Dionysus Special.   We’d love your help in signing up even more stations to carry this special episode.   Contact a public radio station near you, and urge them to carry our special for the movie season. 

Comments (6)


Guest's picture

Guest

Saturday, February 12, 2011 -- 4:00 PM

it seems curious that dionysus would be the distin

it seems curious that dionysus would be the distinction granted to a movie which is supposedly a philosophical accomplisher when dionysos is the divine embodiment of the Spirit of Man or the return of the essential intellectuality of Man as a return to his physicality and spirit emerging from the relation to his physicality. In any way is Dionysus a philosophical God or figure? but to be that which looks like a complimentary to philosophy and a lame extension of Nietzsche's inclusion of Dionysus in his writings. Grubbing in the way of philosophy, or lame establishment THROUGH the Sign.

Guest's picture

Guest

Saturday, February 12, 2011 -- 4:00 PM

"(untitled)" That is the name of the movie I saw l

"(untitled)"
That is the name of the movie I saw last year (I average one movie a year: not a preferred medium of mine) which had the most philosophical content of any movie I have ever seen. A contemporary music composer/performer and his painter brother strive for self-satisfaction and/or popular approval in their fields, with very different goals and practices. It is a comedy, but almost every line of dialog raises an aesthetic issue of great concern and interest.
Sorry I didn't get this in earlier, but I am in Yogyakarta Indonesia, studying the philosophical issues raised by the great Buddhist temple complex at Borobudur, so 1. I missed the show and you guys, and 2. I think I can be forgiven for this late comment, as an attempt to keep in touch. By the way, the issues I am studying here are: 1. What makes a place SACRED, 2. What is the EPISTEMOLOGICAL technique in practice here, 3. How is MORALITY taught and transmitted, and 4. (always and everywhere) What is JUSTICE, and what evidence is there that it is something like a human instinct (a la Derrida).

Guest's picture

Guest

Monday, February 14, 2011 -- 4:00 PM

One movie I really loved this year was Banksy's do

One movie I really loved this year was Banksy's documentary about the Street Art Movement, Exit Through the Gift Shop. Like a good conversation, this movie touches on a myriad of philosophical issues, yet tarries on none. It raises questions of intellectual property: how does one "own" an artwork that is painted on the side of a building or a sidewalk? It explores art as a criminal enterprise: to what extent is someone's property right trumped by the fact that an exquisite work of art has "grown" on one's business? But perhaps the most resonant theme of the film is what happens to a revolution once it becomes part of the establishment?
Banksy, Sweet Toof and Swoon are like the Robespierre, Danton and Marat of their revolution. They are the daring idealists pushing the boundaries of what we consider to be art. But then once the public catches on, the inevitable commodification of the medium begins and the game is taken over by Napoleon, or in this case, Thierry "Mr. Brainwash" Guetta. While Guetta's mass-produced parodies of earlier street art lacks the visionary genius of its predecessors, it's a lot easier to buy over the internet and to conveniently hang on the wall next to one's entertainment system. Is this Hegel at work? Is opposition, absorption and synthesis the inevitable fate of all revolutions?

Guest's picture

Guest

Monday, February 14, 2011 -- 4:00 PM

Mark Russell: did this movie touch on any philosop

Mark Russell: did this movie touch on any philosophical issues? or perhaps just tarrying? Hegel is such a particular name for getting dirty. perhaps the 'philosophical' event of this movie is the absorption of the dirty.

Guest's picture

Guest

Tuesday, February 15, 2011 -- 4:00 PM

"You don't know Jack" should be on the list, Unle

"You don't know Jack" should be on the list,
Unless of course, you do!
=

Guest's picture

Guest

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 -- 4:00 PM

Just heard the Dionysus Awards show on Yellowstone

Just heard the Dionysus Awards show on Yellowstone Public Radio in Billings, MT - loved it! What a great idea. Thanks for sharing.

 
 
 

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