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Old August 15 2011, 11:43 PM   #640
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Location: Ireland.
Re: Movies Seen in 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes / Project Nim

At one point in the documentary Project Nim, an example of a headline story regarding public interest in the case of Nim is titled 'Message from the Planet of the Apes.' And frankly after seeing this film it seems very obvious that the latest installment in the ape franchise was very strongly influenced by Nim's case, with the future ape revolutionary and the documentary subject both being apes raised by human scientists and taught sign language.

However, while the fictional Rise depicts questionable experiments on animals, one's left with a much greater faith in the moral probity and scientific method of these movie researchers then then real-life researchers into Nim.

Almost everyone in the first stretch of that film repeats the refrain that they are doing good science, but their approaches are by turns feckless (pawing off the ape on a psychological grad student who's more interested in the ape's supposed oedipal complex then the stated research premise of teaching him sign language) or frankly amoral (when confronted with the fact the ape had torn a gash in someone's face, Professor Terrance only concerns are if she would sue or if it would become public.

It's compelling viewing, and the best documentary I've seen in a while. It's entertaining in a very Errol Morris way, some slick visual presentation to make the talking heads business not seem so terribly dull (with some nice graphics and indeed graphs revolving around words), some recreations of events interspersed with an impressive amount of actual footage of Nim... and letting the subjects hoist themselves with their own petards, letting them tell their various stories where conflicting and sublimating any judgements the filmmakers themselves might have on the subject, these expressed no doubt in how they edit the narrative together. I'm not going to say it's Thin Blue Line or anything, but man, it was fun.

...okay Errol Morris is also on my mind because damn it I want Tabloid and I want it yesterday. That can't come to cinemas over here soon enough.

Oh yes, and that Planet of the Apes movie is basically the first film since 1968 to be any good. It's loosely based on Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, although I do think it owes as much to the case of Nim as it does to the previous Ape film about a revolutionary called Caesar. It's very well paced, the special effects are extraordinary, Andy Serkis is stellar as Caesar, and it's just a lot of fun from beginning to end. Quintessential blockbuster entertainment, and beginning by exploiting the scientific forays into the grey area between ape and man is an inspired conceit (though, of course, with the liberties of science fiction we cross over this boundary much more easily).
'Spock is always right, even when he's wrong. It's the tone of voice, the supernatural reasonability; this is not a man like us; this is a god.'
- Philip K. Dick
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