Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

Dear Readers,
Happy New Year to each of you and a blessed Feast day of Mary! I am working on my analysis on the totality of films released this year and what the general trends were and why they are important (and why they are preparing us for 2012) and I apologize it is not yet up, but it will be. Have a blessed and joyful celebration and thank you for your kind support!
There has been a lot of discussion in the comment sections on the Blitzchess & Chaos: Sherlock Holmes A Game Of Shadows and Irene Adler vs Mary Morstan: the Women Of Sherlock Holmes posts, so if you have all ready read them, you might enjoy adding your voice to the conversation. I found a tidbit which said the chess game between Professor Moriarty and Sherlock Holmes is based upon a game by Bent Larsen, so I have requested the book on chess he authored via interlibrary loan (after I tried to buy it at a local mega-store and they didn't have it) but, in spite of being without the book, I have a few more lines of analysis I would like to add to that post and will be doing so asap.
God bless!
The Fine Art Diner

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Sweet Despair: My Week With Marilyn

Allow me to begin by saying that My Week With Marilyn is packed with great performances; this is the sign of a great director: coordinating so many talented performers, balancing them against the other and not allowing anyone to be upstaged. There have been a few negative reviews from critics and I think this is why: Hollywood loves movies about making movies (which this is) but My Week With Marilyn tends to be slightly critical of "the method acting style" and Hollywood doesn't like that.
Young Colin Clark, played by Eddie Redmayne, who also played the young monk in Black Death (Two Spiritual Pathways: Black Death ) is the youngest son of the internationally famous art historian Kenneth Clark (I was told by one of his former students that, at times, Sir Clark would wear a cape and weep over works of art during his lectures). Colin doesn't want to go into art history (you can understand why), he wants to make movies, and having been introduced to Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) at a dinner party, he manages to get into Olivier's production company and become a third director's assistant, just as Olivier is starting to make The Prince and the Showgirl (1957) and Olivier is directing the film. Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) arrives in England with her current husband, the playwright Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott). Because Marilyn is so dependent upon her acting coach  Paula Strasberg (Zoe Wanamaker), and Marilyn's other problems, she and Olivier clash which drives her closer to young Colin who is smitten with her.
Kenneth Branagh as Sir Laurence Olivier, the famous actor and director of The Prince and the Showgirl, a light comedy being made in England at the time of My Week With Marilyn. It is suggested to Colin by Olivier's wife, the fabulous Vivien Leigh (Julia Ormond; Vivien Leigh is best known in America for playing Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind) that Olivier is in love with Marilyn and desperate to seduce her, which adds an interesting twist of jealously to his accusations against Colin when Marilyn starts spending time with him.
Why is this an important film?
First, as I am writing my post for 2011 the Year of Fear & 2012 the Written Word (to be posted tomorrow), I am realizing how many of the pertinent categories explored by films this year My Week With Marilyn qualifies for, making it a subtle, yet timely commentary on "the way of life" in 2011; secondly, just as a history film is never about history, so biography is never ever about a single person's life, rather, it is the examining of how that individual's life is reflecting the issues a country is going through or particular issues that person might have been active within. For example, The Iron Lady starring Meryl Streep as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, is not about Margaret Thatcher, it's about what Britain needs now to get it through its crises taking place today.
"Are there two directors on this film?" Olivier angrily asks of Paula Strasberg (left, Zoe Wanamaker) coaching Marilyn (Michelle Williams , right). Why does "the method" get a bad crit in My Week With Marilyn? Olivier was a talented enough actor that he never "needed" something like the method, and wants Marilyn to depend upon him for direction, not Paula. In numerous scenes, Marilyn is simply unable to remember her lines or criticizes the lines because, to a method actor, they don't make sense. Some of Hollywood's most beloved actors and directors employed the method religiously and for My Week With Marilyn to frame the method in a not-so-favorable light puts Elia Kazan, Marlon Brando and Montgomery Cliff, James Dean, Dustin Hoffman and Paul Newman, in that light, as well.
From the trailers, it looked as if Marilyn could symbolize America and playing coy or "little girl lost," but really not being lost (in terms of politics, the economy, moral structure, art, whatever the film might offer up), instead, being a man-eater. If we compare Margaret Thatcher to Marilyn Monroe, as national iconic images representative of their countries, we come up with very striking . . .  differences. ( The same could easily be done with J. Edgar and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy). While Britain looks to its first female Prime Minister who led them victoriously through the Falkland War and goodness knows what else, America looks to a sex-symbol film star who battled mental illness, presidential sex scandals, divorces, drugs, and was either murdered or committed suicide (and that we don't know is an important part of her iconic legacy).
A still from The Prince and the Showgirl with Olivier and Monroe.
So, in one corner, we have "the Iron Lady," and in the other corner, we have a "sex goddess" who is certainly out to seduce young Colin, or at least have fun (and if seduction happens, it happens). She's tearful, she's irresponsible, she's confused, she's a man-eater, she's disrespectful and she's the gorgeous, glowing actress, Marilyn Monroe. Does that describe the "confused state" America is going through now? Upset, on the one hand, that everyone wants "Marilyn Monroe the persona," and then not being herself when she should be (like America the land of opportunity that has lost its opportunity for a lot of people; the land of democracy where a lot of people feel completely helpless and out of touch with elected government; capitalism that gives every one a chance but only 1% or whatever is really benefiting).
Eddie Redmayne as Colin Clark in London, 1957 and all those wonderful cars. Colin completely falls in love with Marilyn, but it's an interesting blurring of reality and the movies for Marilyn, as well. Colin reminds Marilyn of the young king in the movie she's making, and it might be said that she's falling in love with a younger Olivier and the image of the young king in the movie is what she's projecting onto Colin and falling in love with the image of him she has created just as millions of people do with her. When they began production of The Prince and the Showgirl, Colin Clark (in real life) started keeping a diary of everything that happened and the film My Week With Marilyn is based on the book he later wrote from his diary.
Perhaps a further example from the film would suffice.
Marilyn has overdosed on pills and is unresponsive, locked inside her bedroom; Colin gets a ladder and gets in through the window and gets to spend the night with Marilyn (nothing happens). Beside her bed is a photo of a somewhat homely, but loving woman, and Marilyn tells Colin that's her mother, who had given her a white piano just before she was taken to a mental asylum. Then Colin notices that she also has a photograph of American President Abraham Lincoln; "That's my dad," she tells Colin, "I don't know who my real dad is, so it might as well be him."
Symbolically, Colin going "up the ladder" means he's entering a higher state of consciousness, and "through her window" means Colin is getting to understand how she reflects on herself. Her mother giving her a "white piano," symbolically means a "pure idea of female sexuality," because a woman's body is often compared to an instrument (upon which beautiful music might be made . . . ) and white means faithful, innocent, pure. Her mother being put in a mental institution means that is what Marilyn equates pure feminine sexuality with: insanity. If she's sleeping with a man, he will keep her from going crazy or at least out of the asylum; in the film, her husband, Arthur Miller, tells someone "She's devouring me," because it's using up all his energy to keep her happy and sane.
She almost does the same to Colin.
It's very interesting, in the beginning of the film, Marilyn Monroe can't get her passport because her husband Arthur Miller (left) is being investigated as a communist; once the government decides he's not a communist, Marilyn gets her passport and they can visit England. This isn't a by-product or simple biographical detail, rather, like Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol, My Week With Marilyn is revisiting what the Cold War Era did to make this country, good and bad. Just a side note: in real life, Zoe Wanamaker's  (who plays her acting coach) father was being investigated as a communist by the government (he was an actor) and he immigrated to England from the United States because of it.
Marilyn Monroe is saying that she is the product of Abraham Lincoln.
This is timely because there are two films being made about Abraham Lincoln: Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter to be released June 2012, and Steven Spielberg's production of Lincoln starring Daniel Day Lewis. These are details that are important; in and of themselves, maybe not so much, but taken within the vast mosaic of all the films being released, it is certainly important.
At the studio trying to film, Paula, Marilyn and Milton Green (Dominic Cooper) who owns about 49% of Marilyn Monroe. He's also important for telling Colin that he himself had gotten to spend 10 days with Marilyn alone and he fell in love with her but that didn't last, she's a heart-breaker. Of course Colin doesn't listen, he finds out for himself.  Marilyn's late so often, and then has such difficulty with her lines and direction that Olivier complains, "We've only been shooting 4 days and all ready we are 2 weeks behind!"
Abraham Lincoln is the president that was murdered by an actor; Marilyn Monroe may be the actor murdered by a president (John F. Kennedy). Yet examining Lincoln's career, we can deduce some more clues about Marilyn's attraction to Lincoln: he won the Civil War; Marilyn fights a "civil war" within herself over her insecurity and fame, over her drugs and her desire to settle down and learn to make Arthur's favorite matzo soup; her disdain for her Marilyn Monroe persona and her adoration of it. Lincoln is also the one who freed the slaves, and Marilyn is certainly enslaved to many people: her "agent" Milton Green, her acting coach, Paula, her director Olivier, her husband, her public and even her own self image; does she want to be emancipated? As long as emancipation seems a viable option, no, she doesn't but when things get to be too hard, yes, she would then.
Julia Ormond portraying Vivien Leigh, Olivier's wife who becomes jealous over Marilyn and wants Colin to tell her if they have an affair because that's what she's expecting to happen. Leigh had played Marilyn's part on stage, but is now too old to play the part on film. Leigh tells Colin, "I'm 43, no one will love me for very much longer," which opposes itself nicely to Marilyn being in her dressing room, not in make-up and Colin seeing her and Marilyn saying, "Excuse my horrible face." Both actresses faced challenges being taken seriously because of their beauty.
While Marilyn is in England and Colin is with her, she goes into spasms of pain and begins bleeding; unaware of what's going on, Marilyn cries out, "I can't lose the baby!" but it appears that she does. What is the point of including this in the film? Rather like the George Clooney political drama, The Ides of March, Colin is being lost from the production crew just as Marilyn's baby is lost (Olivier is jealous of him) and (in a more innocent fashion) constructs for us an affair between a much-older, famous, married person and a much younger, unknown "intern."  (Symbolically, I think Marilyn's specifically means that, since the baby is lost when she's with Colin, they "don't have a future together" because babies usually symbolize the future).
But that's not the only similarity between The Ides of March and My Week With Marilyn.
Judi Dench portrays Dame Sibyl Thorndike who has a part in The Prince and the Showgirl. It's quite refreshing to see her in such a sunny and generous role; she has to be so tough in the James Bond films. Dame Sibyl simply adores Marilyn and tries to help her (or, "cover for her" is more accurate) whenever Marilyn has problems with her lines.
There are some rather nasty scenes involving unions in both films. In My Week With Marilyn, Colin goes to get a chair for Dame Sibyl (they have been waiting on Marilyn for hours) and a union prop manager gets into an argument about who will hand Dame Sibyl the chair that is only a few feet from her, and threatens to shut-down the entire production with a strike if they don't let the union member do it (in Ides of March, Gov. Morris promises not to make shady political deals with unions but finds himself doing it anyway; for my complete review, please see The Ides Of March: Assassinating the Democratic Party). 
Marilyn shopping in London with Arthur Miller.
Moving towards my conclusion, one of the best aspects of director Simon Curtis' unspoken dialogue with the audience about Marilyn is his incredible use of glass. Colin and a body guard go with Marilyn and Arthur on a shopping trip in London and Marilyn is spotted by some fans. As she is pressed in on all sides, her face is pushed to the shop window and she puts her dark sunglasses on. Throughout the film, especially in the car, driving, her reflection plays on the car window, putting the audience in the position to reflect on Marilyn's reflecting on herself, which is what we are doing now. Wearing dark glasses means that she doesn't want to reflect on what is going on; looking out the car window, she reflects on the "vehicle" that is moving her through life, whether it be her fame or fears.
If My Week With Marilyn is an accurate depiction of the American unconscious right now, it fits in as snug as Marilyn in one of her dresses with other films being released this year (to be discussed tomorrow). Like Marilyn reflecting and choosing not to reflect, naming Abraham Lincoln as her father and loving the British, America is going through many of the same spurts and bouts of depression, fears and anxieties, self-doubts and miscarriages. She might not have been the "Iron Lady," but Marilyn was a lady, in her own way. If we can take Marilyn to be a great parable of America, then, like Marilyn always wanting to be loved, we have to bear with our country through its fits and pains, and show that no matter what, we love it, now and always.

War Horse & the Importance Of Pacing

Steven Spielberg is a genius; War Horse is not.
It's got to be tough, having such an amazing record, always having to perform and there being such high expectations; can't we cut the guy some slack? Well, no. He's Spielberg for a reason, and those reasons are what's missing from War Horse. Within the first minute of the film, you see the birth of Joey, "the horse," and you see a few scenes of Albert (Jeremy Irvine) trying to bond with him, and then his dad--without any forethought--goes and buys the horse (up to that moment, I thought the horse all ready belonged to Albert). The reason the first few moments demonstrate how bad the film is because we can easily compare it to a film like Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark and get a great lesson in pacing and timing, how much information to give the audience and how much to allow the audience to fill in for themselves.
There's several good scenes in the film, and many good characters, yet it just doesn't all add up: it seems contrived and calculated to give you goose-bumps and make you cry, but it just doesn't. Whoever Mr. Spielberg got advice from for this film, he should drop it; nobody but Spielberg can do Spielberg and this isn't a Spielberg movie.
Here's a great example of the pacing problem in the film: the father has just brought home a thoroughbred instead of a plow horse and paid 30 guineas for him, which the family can't afford. They have to teach the horse how to plow because they are going to lose the farm if they can't raise extra crop to make up the difference in the rent. Joey and Albert get an impossible field plowed, then the crop gets in and starts to grow, then there's a terrible rain storm that floods the crop. Not enough time is spent on this, and if that would have meant spending too much time on it, then it should have been cut from the script. Spielberg is being too influenced by films like The Red Violin and Traffic and not sticking with what he does best.
What about symbolisms?
I was interested in the film because, usually, the horse is a symbol of the Holy Spirit and or the soul; a horse placed in World War I could easily be translated into the political wars we are experiencing today, the loss of homes and farms, jobs and nest eggs, etc., but this is where the pacing comes in: too many characters and topics were covered and none of them sufficiently to make a statement. I loved the character of Emilie (Celine Buckens) and she finds the horses (Joey and pal Truffle) in the windmill and wants to keep them. Her parents are dead and she's sickly, being taken care of by her grandfather. But nothing ever develops until Albert is about to get Joey back at the end of the war and the grandfather suddenly appears and outbids Albert for the horse and then gives it back to Albert... there's too much action and not enough thought. I can't make anything out of it, and it seemed so long that my mind started wandering.
Emilie with Truffle and Joey.
My favorite image of the film is when Joey has run through "No man's land," and has belted through countless barb-wired fences; unable to go on, he collapses in a tangled mess, unable to move. I can tell you, I had a spiritual battle like that myself this week. Exhausted and hurt, it takes a British soldier and a German soldier, bravely confronting the enemy's fire to go, meet, and work together to save the horse; you want to think of this as the American economy, and the Democrats and Republicans working together to save the country, but the foundation for this kind of symbolic understanding just isn't laid out through the duration of the film.
It's very sad that Mr. Spielberg, who taught the world so much about telling stories and making movies, has forgotten his own lessons, but perhaps War Horse will remind him of the greatness of his own wisdom and he will take greater confidence in himself in the future.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Shark Feeding & The Descendants

The family is on vacation on one of the islands in Hawaii and Scottie, the ten-year old daughter, wants to know if they can go feed the sharks; her seventeen year-old sister Alexandra tells her no, they are there to do something else, but feeding the "sharks" is exactly what they are going to do. Their mother, Elizabeth, is in a coma from a boating accident and her husband Matt (George Clooney) has just found out from his daughter Alexandra that his wife had been cheating and was planning on divorcing him. When Scottie asks if they can go feed the sharks and Alex tells her no, they are on their way to find Brian Speer, the man that Elizabeth has been having an affair with, and to confront him; so yes, they are going to feed the sharks, not only Brian as a symbolic shark, but the sharks within themselves that want to release their anger, sadness and feelings of betrayal.
I wouldn't hesitate to tell you to wait for a film to come out on DVD, however, Alexander Payne's The Descendants is not the soap opera storyline a basic synopsis would have you believe; the pain that Matt, Alexandra and Scottie King endure deserves a big screen, and it's not because it's just a tear-jerker, like Old Yellar or Little Women; it's genuine catharsis. When Matt King decides to make an heroic act of virtue, it deserves the big screen because it is heroic in the light of all the pain he's enduring, his girls' problems and lack of respect for him and the problems of his family's inheritance.
Matt King (George Clooney, Alexandra King 17 years old (Shailene Woodley), and Scottie 10 years old (Amara Miller). They have unexpectedly stopped to view for the last time the 25, 000 acres of untouched Hawaiian land they are selling.
The story is very aware of itself and what it wants to say.
For example, in the trailer posted above, we see Matt King running, he's going over to his and his wife's best friends because he has just found out about his wife's cheating and he wants to know who she was with. It would be easier for him to drive that distance, but the film wants to show us "what's fueling him" and the lengths he's willing to go to find out. It seems there everyone in the film is barefoot, because, as you know, the feet symbolize the will and for the feet to be bare either means they are on Holy Ground (as in the Bible), their will is exposed/open for all to see or they have no will guiding them. At different times in the film, it's the last two options which exist for the characters, and let's us know what is going on within their souls.
Matt has been told by the doctors that Elizabeth won't come out of her coma; because of her will, they have to take her off life support so Matt and Alex are going around to friends and family to tell them what has happened. They are with Elizabeth's parents, Alice "Tutu" Thorson and Elizabeth's father Scott.
One of the best aspects of the film is meeting Elizabeth's mother, Tutu.
It's never explicitly stated what ails Tutu, however, it is some form of dementia, so when her husband tells her that they are going to see Elizabeth in the hospital, Tutu thinks it's Queen Elizabeth they are going to visit; this may seem like demented behavior, yet, actually, it isn't. Elizabeth was supposed to be a queen, she was supposed to be a queen to her husband and her daughters and her parents and instead, she acted like a teenager, doing crazy things and seeking after thrills and having an affair. There is nothing demented about what Tutu thinks of her daughter and what her daughter actually should have become;the only demented thing is what her daughter actually became.
Brian Speer (Matthew Lillard) with his wife Julie (Judy Greer) whom you may recognize from The Village as Ivy's sister. It's a really great lesson, that when Matt comes to see Brian and tell him that Elizabeth is dying in case he wants to say good-bye to her, that Brian confesses he didn't love Elizabeth and it was just about sex. Brian begs Matt not to tell his wife (they have two small sons) and not to ruin his life, but Brian didn't hesitate to ruin Matt's and doesn't have the decency to go and say good-bye to Elizabeth, Brian's wife Julie does. Julie comes to the hospital and sees them and brings Elizabeth a bouquet of white flowers; even though Julie is in terrible grieving and pain, she forgives Elizabeth for what she did to her and her family and the flowers (white for faith and purity) symbolize that intent.
When the film opens, we see Elizabeth (the only shot of her not in a coma) water skiing and then it fades to black. We meet Matt King in her hospital room after she has been in a coma for 23 days. Her and Matt hadn't spoken to each other in three days when the accident occurred, and at this point, Matt is ready to work on their relationship and get their intimacy back, go on a trip and learn to love each other again. We discover about Elizabeth that she wasn't just water skiing, she was in a boat race, then we discover that she told the driver to speed up and overtake the other boat so they would win, and that Elizabeth was always thrill seeking. In the boat race, she falls and hits her head and goes into a coma from which she won't awaken. Sadly, this is a clear and accurate mirrored-truth of what she was doing to Brian's wife and falling in love with a man who wasn't in love with her: racing to get Brian away from "her rival" Julie, Elizabeth didn't gain the life she was looking for, she lost the life she had. Another sign of this is the party where Elizabeth meets Brian: a super bowl party (life is a game and a thrill) by a jar of pickles. The pickles, as readers of The Family Graveyard: Poltergeist will recall, symbolize the penis and are frequently used to suggest sexual activity.
When we first meet Alex at her $35, 000/year private school, she's out after hours and she's drunk playing golf with a friend (or trying to). It's symbolically important that she throws the golf club away, into the air, because that shows us that she's not smart enough to know what "tools" she needs to get through the "game of life." Her drug habits and drinking has gotten her into trouble in the past. Matt tells her that whatever she was upset with her mother about, she needs to drop and forget because her mother is dying, and that's when Alex tells her that Elizabeth had been cheating on him and that's what they had fought about. It's the basis of the bond they manage to form that Alex stuck up for her dad and recognized that what her mother was doing was wrong, which forms the basis of Matt's respect for his daughter.
After finding out the name of the man Elizabeth had been seeing, Matt walks back home, but stops at a bridge. This is a job of great directing because we are up and behind Matt, as if we were climbing a tree and watching him from below. He has his back turned to the camera. On a bridge, he has stopped and is crying, the beautiful water running underneath. Not only does this clearly symbolize the "bridge over troubled water," and the path that he has to leave behind, but something more cleansing as well. Readers may remember our discussion in my post on The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow & the Battle For America, that evil can't cross running water because running water is pure and evil can't overcome anything pure; this probably refers to his intentions in tracking down Brian Speer so that Brian can say good-bye to Elizabeth before she dies.
This is one of the few panoramic shots of Hawaii in the film; there are plenty of "storm clouds" and water shots, but few of the beautiful land, which is intentional so that when you see the family's virgin land they are being forced to sell because of laws, it really hits you how beautiful it is so you understand why Matt makes the decision he does.
What does the title, The Descendants, really mean?
Matt King and his many cousins are the descendants of the last royal Hawaiian princess who inherited a tremendous amount of land when she married their great great great grandfather. This 25, 000 acres of virgin land is the last that the family has and Matt is the trustee over the it; because of rule against perpetuities Matt
and his cousins have to sell the land within 7 years; they have decided on a local developer, Don Holitzer, who Matt discovers to be Brian Speer's brother-in-law, and Brian, as a real estate agent, will make a lot of money off the deal. This is definitely something Matt considers in his decision (which, has trustee, he has the final say) but it's a deeper symbolism than that, and Matt and his cousins aren't the only descendants the film is discussing.
Cousin Hugh (Beau Bridges) whom Matt sees at a Hawaiian bar as he and the girls have stopped for something to eat. Matt talks to Hugh because Brian Speer and his family is staying in a bungalow that Hugh owns and is renting to them. This is symbolically important to let us in on Hugh's character: towards the end of the film, Hugh threatens Matt that he and the other cousins will come after him for his decision not to sell the land. Brian renting the family bungalow from Hugh shows what Hugh is "open to" and what "occupies" him. You might say that this is just a coincidence, but it's not, the film is too smart for that.
When Matt decides he is not going to sell the land, it's not just the land that he's not going to give up on. His wife has died and he is the father of two disturbed and troubled girls, but he's not going to give up on his descendants, either, and the last shot of the film, of the three of them covered up with the blanket that had been on Elizabeth's hospital bed while she was dying, watching March of the Penguins, assures us that they are "wrapped" in their love for their mom (in spite of everything) and that love and the trauma that has been shared between them has bound them together. Matt isn't going to ship the girls off to schools, he's going to be the attentive, loving father that he knows he should have been so his descendants will have a chance in the world.
This is the shark feeding scene when Alex tells Scottie they aren't there to feed sharks. The young man with them is Sid, Alex's friend, and they are walking around trying to find where Brian Speer is staying. Sid would be a character easy to overlook, and Matt is certainly suspicious of him, as Sid doesn't seem very intelligent. Part of this is Matt's fear that Alex might fall in love with him, but later, when Matt realizes that Alex and Sid aren't sleeping together and that Sid is with Alex to genuinely be a friend and help her, that establishes a bond with him, too.
March of the Penguins is a good film for the family to be watching, because it's about the natural law: it's about loss and struggle, about life and death, and about the cycle of life, validating the pain they have been through and uniting them in what their future holds. Matt and Alex have serious struggles ahead of them, but Alex realizes that she has to make better choices, or she will end up like her mom, and she has to make better choices for Scottie so she won't end up a "whoreless mother" like some of the girls in Scottie's school. They are eating ice cream, there on the couch as they watch the show and, since ice cream is based on milk, we can say they are receiving the "nourishment" of mother's milk that Elizabeth was too busy to give them; it's not a perfect world, but they will make it individually and together.
When they had been driving earlier, Alex was in the back seat with Sid, but then she gets in the front seat with her dad, which means she wants to help him understand "where they need to go" and she's going to be more active in their relationship.
As they are flying to another island, Matt makes the comment that his family is like the Hawaiian islands: all a part of the one chain, but forever drifting apart. He considers why all the women in his life want to destroy themselves; but at the end, he has put a stop to that, and you know that Alex and Scottie will go through growing pains, but their dad will be there to help him because he didn't sell out.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Nuclear Endgames: Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol

It's a complex word with myriad definitions, extending itself into math and all the sciences; in chaos theory, it refers to the degree of complexity a society can achieve before it inevitably begins breaking down and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol illustrates just that breaking point of collapse: nearly every scene demonstrates how a simple, unknown variable in the plan's calculation throws everything off. From a battery dying, the mask-making machine freezing up, a foreign agent arriving ahead of schedule, phone signals being crossed, a giant sandstorm, a cable being too short, a robot magnet freezing up, people in a doorway, people crossing the street, a servant bringing in a tray of tea, all point towards how out of control our control over the world really is. Like Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows, Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol gives us chaos theory, but it's another face of chaos theory.
Ghost Protocol is the fourth installment in the franchise; since the first Mission Impossible, this is the only other one that I have seen; it hits all the marks for which a thrilling action adventure aims but it does something more than that, it situates itself nicely within the context of all the other films released this year and contributing it's own questions about the direction our society is going. You might say--and correctly--that all the elements which I listed above are merely the techniques of thrilling film making, and you would be right; however, it happens too often and contextualizes itself within the delicate balance of international politics to be anything less than intentional.
One of the most chaotic situations in history: an old fashioned seduction. Jane Carter (Paula Patton) and Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) arrive at a high-fashion party in Mumbai, India; their target? A rich social network business man who owns a satellite that is going to be used to launch a Russian nuclear warhead at San Francisco to start a war. Jane has to hook and seduce the millionaire to get him to tell her the override code to stop the warhead. While Nath, the entrepreneur Carter attempts to hook is initially attracted to her, she looks in the wrong direction for a moment and loses his attention; Hunt goes over to her and, acting on a hunch, kisses her which regains Nath's interest in her. Nath doesn't pursue this in a typical, sexual-predatory manner, however, he sends her a tray of cell phones and makes her find him; this uses up precious time to get the code implemented so they can stop the launch, but after Carter finds Nath, he then wants to show her his art collection, then he moves on her but a servant comes in with tea; this causes another delay; when Carter has him alone, she finally pulls a gun, forces him to tell her the code and they get it to the computer team. All of these elements are unknown variables in the initial conditions of the plan, working to bring failure to their designs.
The reason I was not particularly interested in this film is that it involved the bombing of the Kremlin in Moscow, and I just couldn't see how that would be relevant or important today; it's like the last twenty years of history was completely missed by the screenwriters (any bombing of a country's government/historical landmarks is an act of terrorism/war, but I am speaking strictly in the vein of Cold War films and novels). Yet it is relevant because of the reason the Kremlin was bombed: one professor code named "Cobalt" decides that the world would be a better, stronger place if there was a nuclear war from which the world had to recover. What is not explicitly discussed by either Cobalt or the film is, "Why would the world need to become stronger?"
The answer is, because it is becoming weak.
Benji (Simon Pegg) the computer guy. The film opens with Ethan Hunt in a Russian prison and Benji and Agent Jane Carter have to extract him. Hunt realizes he's being extracted, yet, despite the plan, decides to bring a "passenger" a long, i.e., another inmate for them to save as well.
Let's take a very simple example: the battery on your cell phone goes out, you forgot to charge it or you thought it had more energy than it really had; you know the situation. How dependent are you on that phone, and what are the consequences when you don't have it anymore? Here's another example: the electricity goes out and the fridge defrosts. How much money in spoiled food do you lose? What about the washing machine or dryer going out? What about your car breaking down? What about your computer freezing, or getting a virus and needing to be repaired? What would you lose if you lost your computer? What would happen to your life if that happened?
This is the character bringing chaos into everyone's life. Sabine Moreau (Lea Seydoux) intervenes in a courier pick up to steal nuclear launch codes; while she's doing it, she murders Agent Jane Carter's boyfriend. Later, she arrives ahead of schedule at the Dubai hotel and causes a panic because she's early and the team isn't ready. Agent Brandt (Jeremy Renner) looks at her and Moreau sees the "computerized contact lenses he wears" and realizes she's been set up and starts firing, getting in a fight with Carter and getting pushed out a window of the world's tallest building.
These are the questions that entropy asks.
How much, or how little, would it takes to begin the collapsing of all society?
What Mission Impossible successfully achieves is the overall illustrating of that situation on every level when a Russian professor decides to become a Darwinisticwatch the whole begin to unravel, and that's the point of the film: the maze of satellites plus the plethora of non-monitored nuclear weapons from the Cold War Era adds up to it being pretty easy for anyone to do what was done in the film and we have less control over the whole situation than we might have had twenty years ago because we are a far more complex society today.
This poor guy, really has a chaotic situation going against him. He has stolen Russian nuclear launch codes but didn't realize there would be "armed hostiles" tracking him down, or the female assassin also wanting the codes. From his escape in the train station to his escape here, on top of a roof, he manages to get away until he sees a blond.
Here's an example: Hunt and his team have very sophisticated technology to bring down "the bad guys," but what happens when that technology fails? Hunt's GPS device loses its tracking capability in a sandstorm, and the mask making machine goes kaput. A film that seeks to keep you on the edge of your seat is one thing, it's another when, for example, Navy Seals are in the field and their equipment breaks and they have naught but their wits. This is the basis for the Russian understanding that society has become weak: society can't keep up with the pace that society has set. The forces willing to destroy civilization are very few in number, but they are nearly as well armed as the forces trying to protect it, and there are more places than ever to hide.
This is in Dubai, where the tallest building in the world is. Benji realizes that he can't gain access to the hotel's computer mainframe where he is, so Hunt has to climb outside the building up to the floor with the computer; as he climbs, one of the gloves helping him dies and he only has one. When he fixes the computer, he has no way of getting down, so he employs some cable to use as a rope, but it's too short to reach all the way back into their room. He swings himself to get back into the room, and nearly falls out (pictured above) but Brandt manages to grab his leg, and Jane Carter manages to grab Brandt's leg.
There's a lot of faces to chaos, and more and more of them are showing up in films.
This is probably a good reason why some films are going back to the "dark ages," i.e., the 1980s, when there really were no personal computers. The collapse of society is pretty scary, maybe even scarier than a nuclear war; that's one for discussion at your New Year's Party, but intimately intertwined with how convenient life is and how connected we are all, is the inherent dilemma of how weak it is making us and what the consequences of that will be.
Oh, those massive sand storms that turn up just as you need a satellite signal.
One last item: I am most grateful that more and more big budget films are avoiding foul language and nudity; there is none of that in this film, and it seems to be a trend which is catching on and I appreciate that deeply.
Agent Brandt wears a magnet suit; he has to jump 25 feet into a computer with a fan going (that would chop him to bits) and the only thing that will save him is Benji saying, "I'll catch you," with a little magnetized robot that will keep Brandt from hitting the fan. Would you jump, knowing those odds and the probability of the unknown variables? This is, literally, the "leap of faith" which none of us want to take, ever. It's valuable that Brandt takes it because in the story about Hunt's wife dying because of him, that's actually an apt parable for the way in which socialism got into America (the wife, as usual, symbolizing the "motherland")  but it's the satellite and warhead that, while seemingly so old and arcane, is just as much a threat symbolically today as in the Cold War because of the economic and political system that created it: socialism.

A Dark Bomb: The Darkest Hour

Why was I even interested in this film?
The Darkest Hour takes place in Moscow, situating itself nicely between two important films: the James Bond film of 2008 Quantum Of Solace and Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol released this month (I decided to wait and make sure that The Darkest Hour wouldn't color my review of Mission Impossible one way or the other and wanted to see it before posting on Mission Impossible). In Quantum of Solace, a British government official tells M. (Judi Dench) that the Russians aren't selling any of their natural gas and fuel on the market so Britain is forced to play dirty with Dominic Greene who may have discovered oil in Bolivia. In Mission Impossible, the Kremlin is blown up and a defunct Russian agent decides to activate old nuclear launch codes to start a nuclear war. Because The Darkest Hour is about "energy consuming monsters/aliens," I imaged it would be a plot involving international politics or a spiritual parable.
Nope, none of that.
It really is just like the (extremely disappointing) The Thing: all show, no story. I thought a strong diametrical opposition such as "light" and "darkness," would work really well in creating a formula for the story's foundation, but the film makers neglected to develop the story (since the film is barely an hour and a half long, it's possible that original parts were omitted). Any symbols utilized fell flat on their face.
Who would like this film?
Let me put it this way: there is nothing objectionable in it. I was watching one of the Ice Age films this weekend and realized (I had never seen any of them before) that they promote non-traditional families, i.e., gay couples having children (you can't have a "non-traditional herd" that doesn't reflect a family dynamic if morals and values haven't been re-written and debunked to allow for it). There is nothing like that in The Darkest Hour. If you are a fan of 3-D, I am sure the visual effects would be worth it in the theater (I only saw the 2-D version, wearing the glasses makes it difficult for me to take notes). When it comes out on DVD, watch it for a night of mindless entertainment, it would be good for that.
Just as the Norwegians were the best part of The Thing, the Russians are the best part of The Darkest Hour.
My last point: it is possible that this film will make more sense next year with the release of Jack the Giant Killer: the large earth-to-sky power beams the aliens set up in The Darkest Hour resembles (except in color) the beanstalks in Jack and the Giant Killer, so there is still a possible life-line that this film will serve a greater purpose, however, given that it has only a 18% approval rating by critics on Rotten Tomatoes, I am not going to hold my breath.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Dear Readers,
This has been a wonderful year for The Fine Art Diner and I can't thank you enough! I have seen Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol and thought it was surprisingly good; The Descendants,  yes, I now understand what all the hype has been about: it's quite good. I have also seen My Week With Marilyn which is filled with great performances; I am working to get posts up on all these as well as give you a summary of 2011 in film and what it all means, and my outlook for 2012 and how they tie in together; I've been thinking about this a lot and, at least as far as film goes, I think the future looks very bright indeed.
Again, thank you for regularly visiting, and I will have the round-up of 2011 and some thoughts on the importance of all the fairy-tale based films being released in 2012; trust me, this is important and good!
Thank you, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and God's Blessings for you and yours!
The Fine Art Diner

Friday, December 23, 2011

Blitzchess & Chaos: Sherlock Holmes A Game Of Shadows

Please see Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows before you read this post because I really don't won't to ruin the film for you; this is a great film to see on the big screen, with your pals, enjoy it while it plays and then dissect it after wards! I am assuming that you have read both Irene Adler vs Mary Morstan: the Women Of Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes & the Temple Of the Four Orders. I loved A Game of Shadows and I can't wait to see it again!
As I noted earlier, I think the reason why critics are giving A Game of Shadows such a difficult time is two-fold: first, they are mis-remembering their reception of Guy Ritchie's original Sherlock Holmes of 2009; its a film that grew on them after they posted their reviews but, my point is, they acted like they didn't like that one, either and now, comparing A Game of Shadows to Sherlock Holmes, it's like the first one was their greatest movie of all time, but they're not remembering how much they dissed Sherlock Holmes when it initially came out. Secondly, A Game of Shadows is true, genuine chaos theory, not the glitzy-glam, rock-n-roll introduction into pop culture it had in Jurassic Park, but the serious mathematical and social implications of the theory. Since chaos theory has become so indoctrinated into culture, film critics are taking for granted what the film is doing and how well it is doing it.
The larger frame of chaos theory in which the film exists, the balance point of equilibrium maintaining the whole structure, is between the mathematical professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) and the poor fortune-teller Madame Simza (Noomi Rapace): a world-player and an insignificant vagabond; a multi-millionaire and a gypsy, an international diplomat and a nomad. What thread connects them? Simza's brother, who has agreed to commit an assassination for Moriarty to start an international war. As Holmes tells Simza (who is NOT Holmes' love interest in the film), "I see everything, that is my curse," Holmes symbolically sees everything because he's been sitting in on Moriarty's lectures (in disguise, of course) and learning how the professor sees everything so it's the Sherlockian perspective of knowing what Moriarty knows, seeing as Moriarty sees.
This is one of the opening shots, reminding us of the volatile world in which we live, and that's why chaos theory, with its elaborate scheme of connections and inter-connectivity is an appropriate vehicle. Further, chaos theory is appropriate for Sherlock Holmes; in fact, I doubt any other theory is big enough to accommodate Holmes except chaos, because, like Holmes, chaos knows and extends itself into everything. The breadth of knowledge and skill the detective has requires a theory broad and deep, and the new writers for A Game of Shadows knew just where to go.
Watson narrates the story because Sherlock Holmes has died, and Watson wants their last adventure together to be remembered, and the sacrifice his best friend made for the stability of world peace to endure. The film opens in 1891, many years before World War I would erupt on July 28, 1914, but the entrance onto that threshold begins in A Game of Shadows. Why is this important? Holmes tells us the "thesis" steering Moriarty in his evil plot: "He owns the supply and now he will create the demand," referring to the seemingly unconnected deaths of an opium dealer and a cotton tycoon, the buying up of the steel industry and a gun business after the owners' deaths are all connected to "war on an industrial level" which Moriarty plans to wage.
In the  beginning of the film, Holmes, dressed as an opium smoker lies, on the street, supposedly drugged when Irene Adler walks by him. He follows her and relates to her that three men have been following her for 30 minutes, and then she tells him that 4 men are her escorts. They then make a dinner date for 8 o'clock that night and she tells her escorts not to damage his face, and they proceed to beat up Holmes. Holmes manages the four men just in time to keep Irene from getting blown up in an explosion similar to the one pictured above. The importance of this scene is, just as in Sherlock Holmes when Holmes dresses as a beggar with an eye patch and follows her to Moriarty's carriage to discover who she is working for, she realizes it too late; typical of Irene, she realizes everything too late for it to be able to do her any good, and this is the downfall of those who lack wisdom: they are overconfident in themselves and fail to believe anyone else is as talented as they themselves.
War, as chaos theory has taught us, is not just the atrocity of killing soldiers; it's not just generals giving orders, it's not just outnumbering the opponent, it's not one leader against another leader. War is starvation, bad weather, incompetence, brilliance, landscapes and geography, war is surgery and bandages, war is fuel and energy lines, war is spy craft and intelligence, war is the personality and confidence of egomaniacs and businessmen, war is the front line and the thin red line, and how an incoming tide can effect a battle plan or how a lack of fuel can keep the "desert fox" from victory, . . . all that comes from what chaos theory has taught us about the world: everything is connected and effects everything else, and Moriarty knows that and that is why he has bought up the cotton (for bandages and uniforms), opium (medicine), steel (equipment) and guns (arming soldiers) so he can profit from humanity's "insatiable desire for conflict."
Do you remember in the 2009 Sherlock Holmes when Irene breaks into Sherlock's apartment and he slams down a photograph of her onto a table, then, as she leaves, she puts it back upright, then as he leaves he puts it back down? This is the outfit she wears in that photograph (and she wears it later in Sherlock Holmes as well, in the upstairs room of The Punchbowl where he boxes and he explains to Irene and Watson why Blackwood is going to bomb Parliament). Why is this outfit important? Blue usually symbolizes wisdom, but not in this case, it means depression, and specifically, Irene is depressed about working for Moriarty (that's why she wants to meet in a public restaurant where she believes she will be safe, because she knows she is in danger, and that danger is the source of her depression). When the photograph Holmes has was taken, however, Irene wasn't as advanced in the path of sin and self-destruction as she is now, but Holmes retaining that photo of her presents to him, unconsciously his ideal of her, that she could be reformed (at least a little) and they could have a future together, but knowing that she broke into his apartment and his first thought was to check his safe, he realizes, putting that photograph of her face down, that she has no face anymore, she has abandoned herself to a life of crime and has lost herself in it. The purpose of her wearing this same dress is to remind us that we ourselves are not photographs, we change, for better and for worse, and if it's for the worst, we'll end up like Irene: dead.
Just as we saw the Temple of the Four Orders in Sherlock Holmes take order (such as the order that exists in Christianity, for example) and pervert it, literally turn it upside down, so Moriarty takes the laws of math and capitalism and perverts them to his own ends against the rest of humanity. An example of how lethal his calculations are is the death of Irene Adler (we are at least led to believe she dies, I kept expecting Moriarty to bring her out to use against Holmes but that didn't happen, at least not in this one). As I noted in Sherlock Holmes and the Temple of the Four Orders, in our first introduction to Irene, she's talking but we don't hear what she's saying; in the second introduction, we hear her words, but we don't see her; translated, this means that she is not where her words are, or, in other words, her words are not a part of her, she's a liar.
Irene had passed Holmes dressed as the opium smoker earlier, then set her 4 escorts on him so she could deliver a bomb to a plastic surgeon during an art auction. The surgeon insisted that Irene stay while he unwrapped the package and when he and Irene realized it was a bomb Holmes turns up to save her,... again. This is one of many scenes invoking other movies. In this specific scene, an art auction is going on when it's discovered there is a bomb in the room, which summons Cary Grant's character from Alfred Hitchcock's North By Northwest and Paul Newman's character in Hitchcock's Torn Curtain. Like in Mandelbrot sets, there is action occurring within action: the action of the art auction is undermined by the drama of the bomb. Like Grant and Newman, Holmes links the two events to achieve a satisfactory resolution. But the reproduction of Hitchcock's signature style in A Game of Shadows is important for another reason: like the action within the action itself, now there are movies within movies, Torn Curtain within North by Northwest within A Game of Shadows; extending that tradition and reproduction is itself an act of chaos.
In the clip below, Irene meets Moriarty at a restaurant where she is to have dinner with Holmes later that night. She was to have delivered a letter that Holmes stole from her but she doesn't tell Moriarty that, she lies to "protect Holmes" but it doesn't do any good; before she begins speaking to Moriarty (when the clip below opens) she asks that a fresh pot of tea be brought to her because she fears poisoning but that doesn't do any good:
Moriarty now tells Irene that she is no longer bound to employment with him. She gets up to leave and starts stumbling out, taking out her handkerchief and coughing blood into it, falling and gasping for air. Later, Moriarty gives Holmes the blood-stained handkerchief (white with the large I within the A of her initials) and tells Holmes that she died from a rare form of tuberculosis. It was probably in the moment when the waiter poured the tea through the strainer. Why is this important? It mirrors the truth about Irene, which is the only way to get truth out of her. Irene is like the waiter serving her tea: Irene serves up a "filtered" truth to Moriarty about what happened to the letter; Irene not knowing what was contained within the letter and how important it is to Moriarty, is like Irene not knowing the virus in the tea and how deadly it is to her. The "white lie" is as deadly to Moriarty as the tuberculosis virus is to Irene (because a corpse turns white after death, that is why a white lie is deadly, it resembles a corpse).
We're not used to seeing Irene wearing gloves, and the black gloves she wears in this scene signifies that her strength (arms are a symbol of strength) has died (black is the color of death) and she has nothing left with which to defend herself from Moriarty. It's not just that Irene has succumbed to her feelings for Holmes, it's also because she has maximized her potential for evil, like a vessel that is completely full of rot and filth, she just can't hold anymore; Moriarty, in not being wise, looks for a "reason" of betrayal that he can understand: weakness from emotions. Not being able to accurately diagnose the cause of Irene's betrayal means that he will also inaccurately diagnose what Holmes is willing to do to stop him and why.
Because  tuberculosis is a disease which is very sensitive to "initial conditions," (the health of the patient when they first contract the virus, any genetic tendencies towards developing tuberculosis in family history, the method in which it is contracted, the particular strand they contract, etc.) Irene's death by tuberculosis provides another angle on chaos theory for us: the reason it was a fast acting virus is because, in lying, Irene was "open" to receiving the virus, in other words, a lie is a sin, which is a form of death to our soul, so Irene was all ready sick and it didn't take much for the virus to begin acting
The expensive top hat, suit, vest and professorship provides the "urban camouflage" Moriarty wears to blend into the background of a Europe on the brink of war. Please note the castle in the background of the image above, to the right of Professor Moriarty, it's the setting for the chess game between he and Holmes.
Why does Moriarty not seem evil enough to some critics?
Because he's just like the business men of today.
In the 2009 Sherlock Holmes, the villain, Lord Blackwood, had a crooked tooth; since the teeth symbolize the appetites (as a part of the mouth) we can understand Blackwood's appetites to be "crooked" like his tooth; in A Game of Shadows, Moriarty has a gap between his two front teeth; why? The gap symbolizes the natural gap in the laws of math, physics and capitalism which Moriarty exploits to satisfy his appetites. It's that he's a business man par excellence that is so villainous; it's that he's so well-versed in mathematics and the law of physics, employing them for assassinations that's so villainous. That critics don't think he's evil enough is validation of his perfected "urban camouflage" inspiring Holmes to come up with his own.
One of two times in A Game of Shadows that Holmes wears what he describes as "urban camouflage" which perfectly blends him into the background. The purpose, besides providing amusement at Watson's cost, is to balance the urban camouflage worn by Moriarty that permits him to move from the academic arena into the diplomatic arena and into the business arena, which only Holmes is able to track. On a larger scale, it recognizes that we are all a part of the system, anything we do alters the system, but, being a part of the system, that makes it extremely difficult to make accurate observations about it because you can never totally divorce yourself from a situation and Moriarty proves this to Holmes when Holmes makes a mistake.
What does Irene's TB virus, Moriarty's tooth and Holmes' urban camouflage all have in common?
Chaos theory and Mandelbrot sets.
A great example of a Mandelbrot set is a Russian doll: there is a smaller doll within a larger doll, and that doll is within a larger doll and that doll is within a larger doll; they each look exactly alike and have the same characteristics, yet they encompass each other and, unless you open it up, you don't know what it contains. These "repeating patterns" are what the phrase "History repeats itself," is all about. Another good example is Aronofsky's film Pi, when he's looking for the number to start repeating itself, he's searching for the outer border of the reality in which we live, and knowing where that border is gives him the advantage of knowing where he is in relationship to that border. We could say that this is a bit like fortune-telling, which is why Simza is a fortune-teller.
Watson has purchased a car, seemingly the only one in London, in which they drive to meet Holmes' brother, Mycroft for Watson's stag party. Why is there a car in the film and why is it Watson and Holmes driving it? Please note the goggles they wear, emphasizing their eyesight. The machinery of the car reflects the greater machinery of war Moriarty attempts to set in motion for the destruction of humanity (and his own profit) whereas Watson and Holmes (in an invention that will revolutionize the modern world) are themselves the vehicles of civilization because they are sacrificing themselves for a greater good, not Moriarty who sacrifices humanity for his own good. Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows provides us with an important moral lesson: all civilization will benefit when we work together towards greater goods; all civilization will suffer when we think only of ourselves, as, for example, in Margin Call.
Herein is a perfect example of the mathematical face of chaos. Holmes has met with Moriarty and Moriarty threatened Holmes that if Holmes doesn't stay out of his way, Moriarty will kill Watson and Mary. Holmes "disguises" himself (I'll discuss that below) and saves Watson and Mary, but the worst of Moriarty's attack is still to come, so Holmes has worked out a plan to save Mary:
"I timed it perfectly," is not a mere matter of timing (as Holmes and Watson analyze the scene of an assassination by Sebastian Moran later in the film) there is the wind, the horizontal velocity, the vertical velocity, the speed of a train, the depth of the water below, the potential struggle which Mary might have physically put up before being pushed out of the train, all these are factors which chaos theory has taught us to include in our calculations because it effects the outcome of the equation. Later, Sebastian Moran, one of the best shooters in all Europe, has killed a diplomat and Watson and Holmes analyze the scene of his shooting the way we have just analyzed the scene of Holmes "saving Mary."
The morning after Watson's stag party and meeting Madame Simza. Mary triumphs over Irene Adler, as I pointed out in my post comparing the two women, and while we have seen Irene die, we now see Mary, not only wedded, but secure, happy and successful in her aiding of Holmes and the police in bringing down Moriarty. Why is it Mary to whom Holmes sends the deciphering codes? Think of this symbolically, if you will: Mary still hasn't learned how to decipher Holmes, and Holmes giving her a role to play in bringing down Moriarty brings up Mary to Holmes' level and aids her in understanding what Holmes does so she will come to trust him.
There's another feature of chaos theory which this scene with Mary points out to us: language.
It seems strange, doesn't it, that there can be any variance in language: it is so stable, yet the word "trust" is what's unstable in this conversation Holmes and Mary have. "Do you trust me?" Holmes asks Mary, and she replies, "No." What Holmes means by "trust" is, "Do you have confidence that I can work out a plan to preserve you and get you out of risk's way?" Why doesn't Mary understand what Holmes is really saying to her? Because she understands "trust" to mean that trust based on love for the other person: Mary thinks Holmes asks her, "Do you believe that I love  you more than myself and have only your greatest good in mind for you?" and of course she doesn't believe that, knowing how Holmes tried to sabotage their relationship.
"Granted, it's not my best disguise," why is this not his best disguise? We know from watching Holmes that he does an excellent job disguising himself (and critics complain that he wears too many disguises in this film but that is to highlight how bad this disguise is) so why is this one so "bad?" Because it's so good, and it's not disguising, rather, it's revealing, and I mean that in a good way. The red lipstick Holmes wears emphasizes his mouth, which could easily be a sign of appetites, for example, if Irene Adler were wearing red lipstick, however, since it's Holmes wearing it, we can take it to mean that his "words are of love," that what he says is coming from his love for Watson and Mary. The blue eyeshadow highlights his eyes, so (since blue is the color of wisdom) he sees what needs to be done to protect the two of them. His dress not covering his muscular arms combines the feminine and the masculine, so, since it is his arms that are showing (and arms symbolize strength) we can conclude that his strength in this scene comes from his ability to recognize his emotions and love for Watson and Mary and that's his motivation for protecting them. Homes is not disguising his emotions, he is revealing them. I am sure that you recall from Sherlock Holmes when Holmes puts his violin bow in Watson's face and they argue, "Get that out of my face," which this scene invokes, which is to reverse their roles, literally, because Watson is the more caring of the two and Holmes the more "instrumental" and now Watson can't understand this new light in which he is seeing Holmes because he's not used to it and that makes it difficult for Watson to trust Holmes although Holmes truly has only the best intentions for Watson in mind and heart.
How does this illustrate chaos for us?
"Trust" should be a stable word, it's only a word, after all, yet their personalities, their experiences, their understanding of their own selves and of what they perceive of the other, all this goes into "coloring" what Holmes means and what Mary means by "trust, and that's why, in the same scene, Watson gets upset by Holmes, because they have different ideas of  "killing" Mary: for Watson, putting Mary in harm's way, i.e., pushing her out of the train, was harming her, but allowing her to remain was, for Holmes, harming her.
This is a great shot: please note how the light--symbolic of truth--directs us to his eyes so we can see what Holmes sees and why he is able to see it. In some ways, you can compare the life and education of Sherlock Homes to Groundhog Day: Groundhog Day taught us to make good use of our time and to do things for others, to utilize our skills and talents to their fullest possible potential and Sherlock Holmes is the living proof of that lesson.
Before we discuss Mycroft and Moriarty, let us take a moment and discuss two important aspects of Holmes brought out in this film. First, in the shot just above, please note the orange scarf he wears around his neck: orange is the color of life because it combines yellow (the color of gold which invokes royalty, hence our inherent dignity) and red (the color of appetites but also the color of love) and so orange is the color of vibrancy. Why doe Holmes wear this in A Game of Shadows? This challenge Moriarty presents has enlivened Holmes and given him "a new life" after the loss of Watson's friendship in his immediate life. As usual, the neck indicates for us how we are led, what "yoke" or leash do we have? The challenges and risks associated with this case of Moriarty has brought out the best in Holmes (at least regarding his skills and talents) and he's being led by that which gives him life, or, in other words, will help him fulfill his destiny, which Moriarty's case is doing: everything about Holmes has been created for this ultimate battle and Holmes is willing to completely give himself up for it which this clip below emphasizes:
In Sherlock Holmes, he was drinking medicine meant for eye surgery, and as I pointed out, that was because, symbolically, the eyes symbolize wisdom, so Holmes was readying himself for the case of Blackwood to "widen his gaze" so he could see what Blackwood was up to. In A Game of Shadows, we see that, just as he's ecstatic and at the peak of life because of what this case has done for him, he's drinking embalming fluid because he also knows how close to death he will come and so he's "taking in" ways of "preserving" himself in the upcoming battle.
Now we move onto Mycroft in this clip in which we are first introduced to him:
What we have in this scene, in our introduction to Holmes' brother Mycroft, is the affirmation of Holmes' own intelligence because his brother exhibits it, too. Their banter in observation over each other, and picking up clues about where they have been and trying to outdo each other in keenness offers us a further example of chaos in A Game of Shadows, for example, the chimney needing to be cleaned out results in the soot staining Holmes' clothes and face; Mycroft changing his brand of soap either results in the chafing of his skin or has healed chafing that was resulting from his old soap. The point is, everything produces a detectable result, an effect, (popularly known as the Butterfly Effect, e.g., even the flapping of the wings of a butterfly can have an effect on the environment), and it is Holmes' signature style to see the effect and induce the cause; Moriarty will use this against Holmes, knowing how Holmes works. The scene below provides us with some f the difficulties of what Holmes encounters with this case:
The plants which Holmes grows demonstrates how meticulous he is in researching every possible lead that will help to to discover a break-down in the system; Watson's inability to perceive Holmes hiding in the background reflects us and our inability, when looking at a vast system (like seemingly unrelated crimes and deaths) to pick out what "stands out" what "doesn't belong" or what is the clue or the connecting thread? Holmes' ability to do this is his greatest weapon against Moriarty. A Game of Shadows, however, instructs us that we ourselves must be able to do this as well, and examine, as Holmes does, everything going on in the world and see if it is not some part of a larger design.
Watson, Mycroft and Simza in Switzerland before the peace summit (Trish kindly pointed this out and upon seeing the film a second time, realized that my earlier identification of the scene as being in Mycroft's home was totally mistaken). Please note, above Mycroft's head, to our left, is a picture of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Holmes having "saved Mary" on the train, and Mycroft having been in a boat in the water waiting to fish her out then taking her into his custody and protecting her in his home, really symbolizes the protection of the Church. Something like the placement of that picture isn't accidental (like the St. Thomas picture in Sir Thomas' bedroom in Sherlock Holmes). Please note also that the picture is up high, above everything else and we can take that symbolically: above everything else in A Game of Shadows, is God and heaven, the angels and the saints and the genuine purpose for which we were made and created. Still don't believe me, do you? Remember, please, that it was a cathedral which the nationalists and anarchists bombed in the beginning of the film, and that's what has caused this whole mess.
Now, the important question: why does Mycroft walk around naked?
In you will recall, in the 2009 Sherlock Holmes, Watson and Holmes were in the prison yard after the ship had been released into the water while it was still under construction, and Watson gets upset with Holmes and accuses Holmes of always hiding his plans from him. That is why Mycroft walks around naked. If Holmes keeps his plans "covered and secret," Mycroft "exposes" himself and his plans, being completely "open" with anyone and everyone. Mycroft and Sherlock are brothers but they are opposites.
On the left is Sebastian Moran, one of the best shooters in Europe and a former member of the British army. If you look at Moriarty's right hand, to the right of it is a small, reddish notebook. If the full-length black leather jacket was the sign of Lord Blackwood's appetites in Sherlock Holmes, the little red book is Moriarty's. It's red because that is the color of the appetites and leather because leather is made from animal skin, so, specifically, it denotes his animal passion for conflict and destruction. This little red book is wherein Moriarty records all his wealth and plans and which takes Holmes forever to steal from him. It is when Holmes and Moriarty formally meet for the first time that Holmes notices a book on the Art of Domestic Horticulture and the dead plants in Moriarty's office that Holmes finds the key to deciphering the red leather book. The book on horticulture and Moriarty's dead plants counters Holmes' apartment and the thick, lush plants which Holmes has grown demonstrating how the soul is like a plant and Moriarty's is dead while Holmes' is vibrant.
There's a truly amazing chess game, towards the end, in the castle with the waterfall between Moriarty and Holmes. Having done some research, chess fanatics say that yes, the chess game they play is legitimate: Moriarty and Holmes get up and leave the chess board as they walk on the terrace, and continue the game in their heads, calling out their moves (so, not only are they remembering where their own positions and moving are accordingly, they are remembering the others positions and the most recent moves). According to Adam Raoof, the chess consultant on the film, "[N]ot much of the footage of the actual game we filmed survived the edit, but it was a famous Larsen game with reversed colors and using some variations."
Why is the chess game so important?
Chess is a war.
Director Guy Ritchie prepping Harris and Downey on the chess scene between Moriarty and Holmes on the castle terrace. Why does Holmes challenge Moriarty to this game? Does Holmes think he can beat him? I don't think that Holmes is confident of beating Moriarty, but you keep your friends close and your enemies closer. While Holmes and Moriarty play chess on the terrace, Watson and Simza are inside trying to find her brother, Rene, who is about to murder a diplomat and start an international war. In this way, Holmes' and Moriarty compare their actual chess pieces to their "bishops" inside the peace conference (Simza and Watson for Holmes, Sebastian Moran and Rene for Moriarty), and this creates a system within a system. Don't buy it? Look over Ritchie's right shoulder, into the room in the background, the floor pattern mirrors the chess board they are sitting around (in the trailer you see a formal dance with people waltzing on the floor and that's the peace summit wherein Moriarty's plans unfold for starting a war).
Larsen, of course, refers to Bent Larsen who was a daring, creative chess player, known for his seemingly reckless opening moves. I confess, I do not know as much about chess as I should, however, it appears that the specific Larsen citation is to the Bishop's Opening and, just as Irene had failed to be alerted to Moriarty's skill in controlling a situation at the beginning of the film (his ability to make all the restaurant's patrons leave at the sound of the chiming), so Moriarty makes the same mistake against Holmes in failing to be properly aware of Watson and his powers. Yet chess exists throughout the entire film, for example, Holmes has to save a diplomat from a bomb and having found some clues, Holmes believes he knows where the bomb will explode; going there, he finds a chess piece Moriarty had left for him in that exact spot so Holmes would know he had been mistaken and Holmes would know that Moriarty knew. However, Holmes mistake at this point is his blessing later on, Moriarty counts on Holmes making another mistake but Holmes successively sidesteps it. (If you are interested in Sherlock Holmes and the employment of chess in his pursuits, you might enjoy the Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce version from 1943 of  Sherlock Holmes Faces Death where the solving of a riddle comes down to the moves on a chessboard).
This is the first face-to-face meeting of Moriarty and Holmes; it's important that Moriarty sits and Holmes stands because Holmes is spiritually, intellectually and psychologically "above" Moriarty. The book in Holmes' left hand is one of Moriarty's published works and Holmes' asks him to dedicate it for him. Looking at the sample of handwriting Moriarty has unwittingly provided, Holmes concludes that he is "morally insane." Using chaos theory, Holmes concludes that because Moriarty is so criminal, there must be an effect of that apparent in his handwriting, similar to Holmes wanting to dissect Blackwood's brain after his hanging to see if there were some deformity that would be of benefit to science.
How is Moriarty evil?
The point of Moriarty's schemes and his employing plastic surgery tells us that the face of evil has changed: it's harder to fight evil when you don't know that it looks just like you. Moriarty is the criminal of the here and now and of the future, not the kinds of criminals like the Joker from Batman or even Lord Blackwood who was a satanist: Moriarty looks like every other businessman or professor and that's a warning to us not only to be on guard against it, but to make sure that our own activities don't become like Moriarty's that our innocence doesn't turn into guilt because we exploit systems for our own good.
After Holmes has failed to stop a bomb from going off and Holmes, Simza and Watson enter the meeting room. Examining what has happened, Holmes realizes that, even if he had stopped the bomb, Moran, from about 600 yards away, was shooting the target and not taking a chance on the bomb killing him (too many possible conditions could go wrong) so, as Holmes tells Watson, "No one looks for a bullet hole in a bomb explosion," but Holmes has been training himself to do just that: his experiments in urban camouflage has taught him what tell-tale signs to look for and he finds it.
My last point: A Game of Shadows invokes numerous films.
I mentioned above the references to Hitchcock's Torn Curtain and North By Northwest, but there is a third Hitchcock film, the 1940 Foreign Correspondent which won an Academy Nomination for Best Picture that year. Van Meer is a peace negotiator trying to keep the world out of the second world war and he, like Moriarty, likes to feed pigeons (there are many similarities but I will mention just this one, for now). "Bad people do bad things because they can" reminds us of a line from Boris Karloff in the 1935 horror classic The Raven with Bela Lugosi. There is a reference to Pulp Fiction when Holmes has died from injuries while they were under fire in a forest and his heart stops beating; Watson injects him with a shot of adrenaline just as Vincent does to Mia after her overdose.
Examining from where Moran made the fatal shot and everything he took into account to make it.
The reference to A Beautiful Mind with Russell Crowe is pictured below with the "web of conspiracy" that A Game of Shadows borrows. The last reference I was able to catch is to Jet Li's Hero.  Moriarty and Holmes mentally imagine a fist fight they might have after they have played chess just as Nameless and Sky have a battle in their minds in the chess court. But A Game of Shadows also knows it exists within the Sherlock Holmes Canon: when, for example, Moriarty pulls up to the castle in a sleigh, it references the 1985 film Young Sherlock Holmes, when the film closes after Moriarty has arrived in a sleigh.
The web of conspiracy which Holmes has been using to train his mind to see traces of Moriarty in crimes taking place. One last item in this place where it absolutely doesn't belong, but oh, well. The girl being sacrificed in the beginning of Sherlock Holmes is just like Europe in A Game of Shadows. Moriarty points out to Holmes that even though Holmes got the telegraph to his brother, and all the diplomats have been warned, no one is stopping Moriarty because we all have an insatiable desire for conflict, so that ignoring of the warning is just like the girl in the Satanic Sacrifice picking up the knife with her own hand and being willing to take her own life.
So what's the point of this? A cinematic Easter egg hunt?
No, it's far more important than that.
It demonstrates to us an additional layer of self-awareness of the film, that it knows where it has come from and to what it belongs. It's one of the dolls inside the larger dolls and it tells us that it has smaller dolls within it, we just have to look for them. Why? Because then we will realize that we too, exist within a larger doll, and either that doll is the Body of Christ or it's the evil empire of Satan, but no one is outside the system, the system includes us all, and in this game of shadows where we can't and don't see everything like Holmes does, we see enough to know that we must pick sides and be careful in how we choose.