It's the third annual Philosophy Talk Dionysus Awards show! With the help of listeners and special guests, John and Ken turn a philosophical eye to the past year's cinematic offerings, and presen
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.