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Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Monday, September 21, 2009

Cloudy, With A Chance of Meatballs (2009)

I got this in an email chain-letter today. I'd heard it before, but found it delightful.
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In ancient Greece (469 - 399 BC), Socrates was widely lauded for his wisdom. One day the great philosopher came upon an acquaintance, who ran up to him excitedly and said, "Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of your students...?"

"Wait a moment," Socrates replied. "Before you tell me, I'd like you to pass a little test. It's called the Test of Three."

"Test of Three?" "That's correct," Socrates continued.

"Before you talk to me about my student let's take a moment to test what you're going to say. The first test is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?"

"No," the man replied, "actually I just heard about it."

"All right," said Socrates. "So you don't really know if it's true or not. Now let's try the second test, the test of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my student something good?"

"No, on the contrary..." "So," Socrates continued, "you want to tell me something bad about him even though you're not certain it's true?"

The man shrugged, a little embarrassed.

Socrates continued, "You may still pass though because there is a third test - the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my student going to be useful to me?" "No, not really..."

"Well," concluded Socrates, "if what you want to tell me is neither True nor Good nor even Useful, why tell it to me at all?"

The man was defeated and ashamed and said no more.

This is the reason Socrates was a great philosopher and held in such high esteem.
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Fun!
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Cloudy, With a Chance of Meatballs (2009)

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Here's something I never thought I'd say again: Mr. T did a terrific acting job, and was perfectly cast. Wow. "Cloudy", in my mind, was birthed in a 1960's R. Crumb cartoon called "Meatball" where, for no known reason, it begins to rain the eponymous edibles. This new 3-D animated film is kinda "B"-ish in that the celebrity voices aren't "A-list", and it more or less snuck under the radar. But "Cloudy", which did great at the box-office this weekend, is subversive and sly, funny and touching, smart and smart-stupid, damned near "Pixar"-level for much of its length, and one of those computer-generated films that says in no uncertain terms that traditional cel animation will never again take the lead. And that is for one very simple reason: cel animation cannot depict the physical world with photo-realism. But 3-D animation can get just as loony and wild as any Tex Avery cartoon. And in "Cloudy," the usage varies right across the board, almost always superbly. The story deals with aspiring inventor Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) who just wants to make his mark and please his father (voiced by James Cann). The town (a tiny island "hidden under the `A' in `Atlantic' on the map!) despises him. The town cop (voiced by Mr. T) intimidates him. And then one day Lockwood creates a machine that turns water into food, and the fun begins. This is definitely one of those animated films where it would profit you to remember that it was made by adults, who are aware that there are adults in the audience. There are more sly references to classic science fiction movies, body function, psychological trauma, food issues, and even other major animated films, than I could count. My son Jason was oblivious, and just loved the images of giant food. And when the movie takes a swing toward...well, the dark side, it had earned it big-time, and the "mad dash to save the world" scenario was one part "Independence Day" and one part "Fantastic Voyage" with a side dish of Jerry Bruckheimer. Not quite a classic, but possessing some genuinely brilliant moments, "Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs" is a surprisingly tasty treat. Take your kids: they'll eat it up.

A strong "B." Maybe even a "B+"


7 comments:

Mike Ralls said...

Nice Socrates anecdote.

Steve Perry said...

I like this version better:

In ancient Greece (469 - 399 BC), Socrates was widely lauded for his wisdom. One day the great philosopher came upon an acquaintance who ran up to him excitedly and said, 'Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of your students?'

'Wait a moment,' Socrates replied. 'Before you tell me, I'd like you to pass a little test. It's called the Test of Three.'

'Test of Three?'

'That's correct,' Socrates continued. 'Before you talk to me about my student, let's take a moment to test what you're going to say. The first test is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you areabout to tell me is true?'

'No,' the man replied, 'actually I just heard about it.'

'All right,' said Socrates. 'So you don't really know if it's true or not. Now let's try the second test, the test of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my student something good?'

'No, to the contrary ...'

'So,' Socrates continued, 'you want to tell me something bad about him even though you're not certain it's true?'

The man shrugged, a little embarrassed.

Socrates continued, 'You may still pass though because there is a third test, the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my student going to be useful to me?'

'No, not really.'

'Well,' concluded Socrates, 'if what you want to tell me is neither True nor Good nor even Useful, why tell it to me at all?'

The man was defeated and ashamed, and said no more. This is the reason Socrates was a great philosopher and held in such high esteem.

It also explains why Socrates never found out that Plato was banging his wife ...

Edwin Voskamp said...

And the acquaintance thought that that little bit about Plato was not Useful to Socrates, huh?

Marty S said...

Edwin: How would that information been useful? Would he have been a happier man knowing or not knowing?

Steven Barnes said...

I think that people care about fidelity for multiple reasons (and yes, I'm guessing that this was a playful question)
1) A small transgression might well lead to a larger one.
2) Disease
3) The chance of accidentally raising children that are not yours, genetically. Only men have to fear this one.
4) Emotional entanglements can lead to broken relationships.
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So...if I knew my wife wouldn't leave me, wouldn't give me a child that was not mine (and yes, I know I adopted a baby...but it was a choice. I would consider a woman who cheats and gives a man a baby belonging to another man, without his knowledge, to have stolen a huge chunk of his life and given it to her lover), wouldn't give me a disease...you know, I might not give much of a shit if she fooled around.

Steve Perry said...

The Buddhist version is, when offering Right Speech:

1) Is it true?
2) Is it necessary?
3) It is kind?

Mostly I'm good with 1) & 2). I tend to fall down on 3). There are times when the kindest thing you can offer will be harsh or painful.

I confess I sometimes want to zing somebody for stepping stupid, and since I don't believe they are going to get the lesson, then it's not kind ...

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

"3) The chance of accidentally raising children that are not yours, genetically. Only men have to fear this one."

And women have a corresponding substitute 3):

The chance that the resources that could have gone to your kids will be sucked away to pay for kids that your husband conceived during his affairs.

(The fact that these two possibilities work differently may cause men's and women's incentives to differ some, here, but both have reason to fear children being conceived outside the marriage.)