Tuesday, September 29, 2020

I mean, have you ever actually seen your brain?

Being a middle school teacher has never been easy. Not by any stretch.

But now, the fact that I exist solely in a three-inch box on some kid's iPad (in some kid's room...yikes), the challenge feels borderline monumental. It's not the content, either, because let's be honest, no one gives a damn about any of that. What I'm trying to do, what I've always tried to do, is inspire my students. I want to show them some amazing piece of work, and then give them the tools and the desire to make something amazing themselves.

You'd think that all the technology in the world would help this process, but stylish devices and intuitive applications can only get you so far. 

Turns out you need humanity.

Because I was trying to fit a lot in, I lost my way a little bit in that introduction. And that's fitting because I was also a little bit lost when I sat down with the 4K version of Ghost in the Shell last week. Of course, I knew I was settling in with something visionary and the inspiration for countless sci-fi films to follow, but I didn't know it would be so...arduous.

If I followed it, which I more-or-less didn't, Ghost in the Shell tells the story of a (now) near-future where the lines between man and machine have been increasingly blurred. A cyborg agent, known as Major, is trailing some dude known as the Puppet Master, as this a-hole is hacking into 'people' and wreaking all sorts of havoc. That's the straightforward bit.

Along the way, and frankly, much more often than I would like, Major stops to contemplate whether or not she is more machine than human. If I were smarter, or weren't more into kickass mechs blowing things up, this exploration of what it means to be alive would have been some sort of geeky wet-dream scenario. But instead of damp sheets and mild euphoria, I awoke with two things on my mind: mumbo and jumbo.
Look, I'll be the first to admit that many of the themes that Ghost in the Shell explores are probably more relevant today than in the utopia that was 1995 (when the film was initially released), so obviously the legendary status the film has earned is warranted. Foolishly, I showed up for a bar fight where a large-breasted woman was going to lay waste to dudes that looked like Johnny Mnemonic, but instead ended up at a TED talk where a large breasted woman spoke like the Architect from that movie starring Johnny Mnemonic.

At times, I felt a lot like the dude on the left, assuming those are bottlecaps jammed in his eyeballs.

Ergo, vis a vis, here are the perhaps the slimmest collection of Yays and Boos we've dropped in years. In fact, I only used two pages for my notes, when the industry standard is like...seven. Turns out, between [pretend] knowing nods, scribbling giant question marks doesn't take up all that room in the old black-and-white notebook (f--k it, the students won't be using 'em...).

This thing is so badass, I actually found myself rooting for it.
  • The tech is sooooo cool. Those briefcase guns near the beginning? Amazing.
  • As was that entire market chase, water-based battle. The animation is so fluid, it almost makes the brutality kinda feel...pretty.
  • The score is so wild. It's in what feels like a a pretty tight loop during the menu, and was initially irritating, but when it kicks in during the flick...it's f--king fantastic.
  • Okay, that was some top-shelf detective work, checking the floor pressure and such. Kinda made me think of Cameron Diaz in that white suit thingy in Charlie's Angels...which is great news.
  • The finale, well, the climactic battle scene ends in startling fashion. I guess giving up her body made the most sense thematically, but goodness, it was so...graphic (which is oddly satisfying).
  • And finally, I guess check this one off the list, right? When the credits rolled, I felt like I had just finished my goddamned homework or something. Honestly, I'm probably going to go back and watch it again, not only because it's necessary, but, and another thing I dig, it's only 83 minutes long.
Nine years from now...nipples are way more intense.
  • Okay, maybe my eyes are bad (they are, pretty sure), but this is one of the ugliest 4k transfers I've ever seen. Sure, it's probably the source, but I felt like I was watching a VHS tape in my parents bedroom in 1987.
  • Not sure if I can put my finger on why, but this shit occasionally reminded me of the animated bits of The Wall and that's entirely upsetting. My older brother - a fairly aggressive stoner in his day - used to always force that crap on me and I'm pretty sure it scarred me for life. *shudder*
  • I think every Sunday morning, for the rest of my life, I'm going to fire this one up? Sundays always seem to fly by, and no lie this felt like the longest 83 minutes of my life.
  • If this is your absolute favorite movie, I bet I know your ATM pin, you nerdy bastard (if you know me, mine's pretty obvious, too...but still),
  • Totally unrelated, but HOLY F--KING SHIT this new blogger interface is the worst shit in the history of terrible shit. I feel like I need to be Tom Cruise in Minority Report just to attempt to place an image near text. And yes, precogs, I'm about to murder someone.
  • And finally, do I have to see the effing live-action one now? Major shows so much boobage, I think if ScarJo goes half as far, my pants will fly off twice as fast.
In my classroom, Hell, probably in my whole life, I don't think I'm inspiring anyone (I just made my son cry doing his math homework, for f--k's sake), so even bewildering as it was, I respect the influence Ghost in the Shell had on the mid-90s world it was born in, even if it was clearly inspired by Akira. I think.

And if we really play this out, it's obvious that Ghost inspired The Matrix, and that motherf--ker is pretty much responsible for the best parts of every sci-fi film in the last twenty years. All these copies...all these recycled idea falling in on themselves...makes you wonder what's real anymore. Certainly not my students.

They're just pixels on a screen.



  1. Uuuuuh I need to see this one!
    I only ever watched the Scarlett Johansson version but this sounds better.

    1. I actually think I'm going to have to crank up the ScarJo version, only because I have so many questions about...well...EVERYTHING.