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Movies That Test Your Brain (Part 1)

Today, I will look into some movies that really do make you think. Not just on the plot, but the decisions of the characters, science, philosophy, moral dilemmas, etc., while still managing to be entertaining. 

#1: Synecdoche, New York

Out of all the movies that I'm going to list, this one will be, by far, the most challenging to watch, but it is also the best one out of all of them. One viewing won't be enough to understand it, and if you're lucky enough (XD), not even two will have you understand it. However, it avoids pretentiousness, by being a heartbreaking, uplifting, funny, sad, disturbing, absolutely wonderful story, about the celebrations and challenges of life, that definitely gives you a cerebral challenge. Well, to help you a little bit, what exactly does "Synecdoche" mean?? I'm pretty sure that no one knows what this confusing word means (C's and D's next to each other is quite hard to pronunciate). To be fair, the definition is "simultaneous understanding", but what does it truly mean? A Synecdoche is a figure of speech in which:

  • a term denoting a part of something is used to refer to the whole thing
  • a term denoting a thing (a "whole") is used to refer to part of it
  • a term denoting a specific class of thing is used to refer to a larger, more general class
  • a term denoting a general class of thing is used to refer to a smaller, more specific class
  • a term denoting a material is used to refer to an object composed of that material

In a less confusing way of saying it, it is symbolism. So what does the title say? Synecdoche, New York. The movie uses the entire city of New York as a stage for a massive play. New York symbolizes the stage for a play, and the play symbolizes life. In the huge play that is LIFE, there are many characters in it, each with their own plots, each plot with a beginning and an ending. There is lighting, there are scripts which determine the fate of our characters, there are stage defects, there are actions, there are cuts, and most importantly, there's a director that is in charge of it all.

That director is Caden, a theater director who realizes that he has an illness that will lead to his eventual death. He decides to construct a massive play in a huge theater as his big finale. However, the play becomes bigger than expected, and the world of art and life collide, as the entire city is engulfed in his masterpiece. There is tons of heavy symbolism in the movie. Caden's ex-wife paints pictures so small that they require magnifying spectors in order to really see them, which represents how we have to look closely to TRULY see something, and tons of other oddities that are surreal.

But behind all of the heavy symbolism, is the simple story of a man, with a tragic love life, that just wants to live and do what he's always wanted before his untimely death. The movie is Charlie Kaufman's, screenwriter for Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (My favorite movie), first time behind the director's chair, and he has definitely been paying attention to when Spike Jonze (Where the Wild Things Are) and Michael Gondry (The Science of Sleep) directed his three scripts. Not only is it a cerebral experience, it is also a fantastic movie that I think that more people should watch.

Tune in for the next installment which involves the over-rated (IMO), but undeniably intelligent Primer.

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