THE WHOLE STORY OF MY LIFE
THE SMART MAN IN THE WORLD
Recently I've been wanting to write about the movies I really love, the movies that have proven to mean something to me in my life, that have changed the way I see the world and made me who I am. I wanted to write about these films and explain them, explain how film as an art form can have a deeper meaning and how art has the ability to penetrate a person's soul anddo somethingI wanted to write about the movies I struggled with and came back to, the choices I made in life, and the ideas that floated through my head that can be directly attributed to the movies. And not just my firm belief that mogwai shouldn't be fed after midnight. The 6 movies I'm going to write about in this series changed the whole story of my life.
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THE SMART MAN IN THE WORLD
“I am closer to the absolute truth than anyone before me. i believe it
makes me better than anyone else? no I still work in a bar.
An episode of the excellent Errol Morris TV showFirst person,This half-hour documentary is based on simple, elegant irony: how can someone so smart be so stupid? Even more, how could anyone (by any objective standard) determine that he isthe smartest man in the worldso surprisingly, does he lack almost any of the qualities commonly associated with great intelligence?One of two episodes in the seventeen-film series that focuses on an extremely high IQ subject,The smartest man in the worldit's about a brooding muscular failure of a person named Christian Langan, who once held the Guinness World Records recognized title of highest recorded IQ. Langan is a thoroughly unlikable character from the start: he tends towards too much transparency, false humility, recounts his difficult, smug and extravagant upbringing, smiles, gives examples of how his genius was misunderstood and his turn thwarted - and he still does so before delineating. his grand plan to save humanity through "anti-dysgenics" (aka eugenics) and satisfying his delusional fantasies that the world would be better served by letting him take over. high society. IQ community." Did I mention he works as a bouncer at a bar in Bozeman, Montana and has never accomplished anything noteworthy in his entire life? I don't think it's fair: when he was four years old, he wrote about "an illustrated volume on snakes, lizards and tortoises". As with all but one episode ofFirst person, only one subject is being interviewed, and Morris's voice occasionally chimes in with a series of barking questions that are oddly aggressive yet inviting in character. Morris doesn't want to catch anyone in anything other than the act of being himself à la Alan Funt, and Langan paints a far more humiliating portrait of himself than anything captured by an open camera.
Morris has always been accused of making fun of his subjects, and his portrayal of Langan could easily fall into the "Morris points his camera at an idiot and says ridiculous things" category. The fact that Morris does not have the utmost respect for all of his subjects has caused the documentary community, a generally liberal and well-meaning group of people who have a natural inclination to respect those who are willing to let in a film crew and a filmmaker. , greatly disturbed his life. The fact that one of the arguably greatest documentary filmmakers of all time often portrays rednecks, idiots and misguided losers in unflattering ways has never been a good fit for a filmmaking community that gravitates towards seriousness and social conscience. Over the course of his life, Morris's philosophy on this issue has evolved: "I used to defend myself by denying it. Now I'm less excited about it. Well considered, filmmakers in general, and documentarians in particular, shouldn't promote humanity. Wow. . See how great the human race is. I never thought being human could be so wonderful. Nor should I protect my subjects from themselves. If they are ridiculous, why can't I show them? Morris's work is driven in large part by an interest in human failure - in our legal systems, our governments, in our ability to understand ourselves, in our ability to interpret history and reality - and in Langan he finds one of his most compelling examples of this. I think what's missing from Morris's critique is the implication that he can't find Langan ridiculous and likable at the same time, at least he's genuinely concerned about the deeper nature of Langan's being and isn't just trying to to make points easy for him to collect. no reason other than comedy. Morris's films are in stark contrast to "weird" films like Harmony Korine's,catfishÖheavy metal parking,who don't have much on their minds other than a "watch the monsters" mentality. It could even be argued that watching adorable monster moviescharmedjMordballthey are guilty of a naive reductionism for which Morris cannot be blamed, even at his most absurd grotesques.The Gates of Heavenjvernon florida.Mister ToddIt's about a toothless, betrayed, chain-smoking electric chair mechanic who drinks 40 cups a day and denies the Holocaust, but Morris uses Fred Leucther to explore themes of history, justice, systems engineering and self-deception. I think it's fair to say that while Morris doesn't directly identify with his problems, he does deeply identify with the difficult questions they raise: questions about Langan's existence are very important to Morris, even if I am surprised to learn that he has respect for them. The man.
Morris is an odd character in my movie life as he's been one of my favorites from the beginning. By "from the beginning" I don't mean when I was five and decided that if I couldn't be Indiana Jones because he was a made-for-film fantasy character, then I wanted to be one of those people. Makeup. I remember back in high school when I went from "guy who likes movies" to "guy who takes everything very seriously, including movies, um, movies." Errol Morris almost immediately became one of my favorite directors because of his brilliance.The thin blue lineA film that combined my love of true crime stories with piercing intelligence and a relentless plea for social justice. It was a funny and quirky film about appalling police corruption, the meaninglessness of life at the bottom of the social pyramid, the cosmic injustices of everyday life, violent murders and milkshakes. He made my blood boil and had an icy sense of humor - two perfect elements for a teenager like me who (like many teenagers) probably enjoyspleasurebe more indignant than I understood. But I calmed down with a lot of things that irritated me the most at that age, which is pretty normal for anyone. I think the more you experience the art, the harder it becomes to be impressed: the Coen brothers were exciting when my context was Jim Carrey films, less so after seeing Fassbinder, Busby-Berkley and Hollis Frampton. With Morris it's the opposite: the more films I watch in general, the more I love his work in particular. I think as I've gotten older, the things that concern and fascinate me have become more and more in line with Morris's work: When I Loved de Hal Hartleysimple menWhen I turned 16, it was because my biggest fears were about "problems and desires" with a kicker of agnosticism and desire for transcendence. If I love Morris now, it's because I think a lot about self-deception and the failure of social systems with a kick from the depths of human darkness dissected with scientific precision. I'm not sure I understand better, but I find your movies funnier and smarter every time I rewatch them.
The element of "scientific precision" shouldn't be underestimated either: Morris approaches his subjects like a biologist; As disgusting as it sounds, he treats people like animals and disarms their behavior like a medical student digs up a corpse. There is a complete lack of sentimentality. As he once wrote, "They had some trouble figuring out why people behave in confusing or contradictory ways. You can't plausibly explain their behavior. Imagine you're the gorilla's ape." "I find this very helpful. Once we drop the notion that we are rational, consistent, or even meaningful, we are much better able to analyze our own behavior and the behavior of others." Why do some people find comments like this disconcerting or even overly cynics, but I think they're missing two things: 1) Morris is funny - what he's saying is not a joke, butesfunny. 2) Morris is one of the few filmmakers who has captured and clarified the animal and biological components of man: he is a scientist, but very, very funny. It is no mistake that many of his themes are taken from the scientific community: Stephen Hawking inA Brief History of Time, the mole expert, and the A.I. visionaryFast, cheap and out of control,the charming curator of the medical school museum insmiling in a glassor the Ahab-style giant squid huntereye to eye🇧🇷 This bias allows you to effortlessly deconstruct Fred Leuchter's bad science and Robert McNamara's pseudoscientific rationalizations for Robert McNamara's "IBM machine with legs." Films of him may even be indirect arguments against non-fiction writers like Oliver Sacks, whose analysis Temple Gradin killed.Stairway to Heaven🇧🇷 Few filmmakers probe and investigate their stuff so convincingly and unobtrusively: he often compares his film work to his days as a private investigator, but is quick to point out that his detective work mostly consisted of sifting through reams of paper. Look for errors and anomalies, for significant signs in all the noise. That sounds like Niels Bohr, not Philip Marlowe.
From a scientific point of viewThe smartest man in the worldis a fascinating analysis of intelligence as a concept. As I mentionedbefore, a large part of my identity is related to being repeatedly identified as a “smart” person. That's what makes Langan such a tough reflection: he's a guy who basically has nothing going for him other than a ridiculously high score on a test he found in his back.OmniMagazine. Growing up, I spent a lot of time clinging to the idea that effortlessly high scores on standardized tests and myriad Advanced Placement settings inherently meant something. I will say this: people are very enthusiastic and outspoken when you're young - I've always heard about my potential from every authoritative source I've come in contact with and they've always given me a leap of faith, intellectually speaking. But what about the fact that I'm a horrible student who practically flunked out of high school and accomplished absolutely nothing of note? What about the fact that my teachers hated me and I was little more than a clumsy interruption whenever I bothered to pay the slightest bit of attention? Langan apparently had a similar experience: he was rushed to high school and spent his last years in exile in the library after being kicked out of class for constantly fighting with older students. It's frightening how much his lingering adult disdain for these teachers parallels my teenage rage: I'm the smart guy here, dammit. I'm surrounded by idiots and they're wasting my time. Langan got kicked out of college, worked construction, and then started life as a bouncer in a seedy bar in the middle of nowhere: “I want to give authority to other people. I want to use them "hard if necessary." But wherever he goes, he is still the Guinness Book-sanctioned "Wisest Man Alive". It's ridiculous: his story of losing a piece of paper on which he wrote about "a whole new way of thinking about neural networks" vacillates between insanely presumptuous and downright pathetic. I also often find it cruel: his vision of "a benign form of eugenics...."Anti-Dysgenics" is full of racially coded language about final solutions. But I can also clearly see myself in it. This bizarre contradiction perfectly sums up what Errol Morris manages to capture in his work: a complex identification beyond "respect" or "sympathy".
At one point in the moviewhen he brags that his IQ is somewhere in the "190-210" range, Langan belittles Charles Darwin for being "in the bathroom at 120". It's an amusing moment that immediately reminds me of the work of my favorite nonfiction author, Stephen Jay Gould, the acclaimedthe simpsons- Paleontologist cameo. One of Gould's intellectual heroes is Charles Darwin, and I have read enough of Gould's work to regard most of his books asLeonardo's Mountains of Mussels and the Diet of WormsjThe lying stones of Marrakech are compilations of articles that were written fornatural historyMagazine - that Gould's affection for Darwin rubbed off on me; and Langan's mocking assessment of Darwin's worth became another example of Langan pissing me off. Darwin is undoubtedly one of the most important thinkers of the last 200 years, and evidently few scientists have challenged and reshaped our collective view of nature and humanity to such an extent. works in bars and shits all the intellect of one of the most important geniuses in history? But I mention Gould as an intermediary between Darwin and Langan (and Morris) because my relationship withThe smartest man in the worldIt is one of the best examples of how an essentially unrelated work (Gould's books) both enriched and complicated my understanding of cinema. Of course, I would have agreed with the aforementioned simple and obvious irony that Morris points out, but I wouldn't have realized that Langan is intellectually at war with Darwin in far more complicated ways (although he almost certainly doesn't know it). 🇧🇷 Langan's overarching, supervillain-like premise is that a group of high-IQ people should take over the world and solve the world's problems together; hence his terrible "anti-dysgenic" idea: one of the things I.Q. The community would decide who is allowed to breed and who is not. He claims that the reason people have to give their lives to him is because "we're going to end up wasting all of our resources and killing ourselves for the rest." There is a nobility component to your goals, but personally I do. convinced that his motives are not megalomaniac and not benevolent. But what he is proposing, a controlled orchestration of human evolution, is in direct conflict with the deeply disturbing core of Darwin's idea of "survival of the fittest". part of the strongest*Survival implies exactly what Langan wants to avoid: generations of species being wiped out due to resource depletion, and the remaining organisms forcing the extinction of less suitable competitors.
* "Fittest" means "better", not "stronger", as it is often misunderstood. Though I bet the physically impressive Langan probably sees a lot of "survival fitness" in his massive muscles.
(more inPage 2)
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