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Saturday
Feb062010

Man in the Sky Forbid!

 

The Invention of Lying

Directed by Ricky Gervais

Warner Bros.

On DVD January 19, 2010

 

 

Writer / Director Ricky Gervais casts himself as a tubby loser (surprise) in The Invention of Lying, a film that takes place in a world where people have not evolved the ability to lie.  The setup portion of the movie gives new meaning to the phrase, “The truth hurts,” as every character communicates with the most brutal honesty.  It’s like they can’t even lie by omission.  Everything comes out without a filter, which makes for some choice comedic moments.

Mark arrives early for a date.

Anna (Jennifer Garner): Oh, you’re early. I was just masturbating.

Mark (Ricky Gervais): That makes me think of your vagina.

People share their doubts, depression, and fear of living as calmly as if talking about the weather. There is a decided lack of emotion in this world, on both extremes, with characters showing neither anger nor love.  It makes me ask, what does honesty to a fault have to do with lack of passion?

It’s not much use trying to analyze these inconsistencies, as the world of the movie is just Gervais’ take on what a world without lying would look like.  This cynical outlook on humanity does set up the strength of the film, which is the comedy that is produced when Mark becomes the only person in the world who can lie, turning the rest of humanity into gullible saps. 

After making the obvious choice to abuse this power for sex and money, which provides some high-quality gaffes, the movie takes a pedantic turn as Mark becomes the first person to describe the afterlife when comforting his mother on her deathbed.  Immediately he is a worldwide sensation, because everyone believes every word he says. 

He reluctantly takes on the role of Moses, claiming he communicates with the “Man in the Sky”, even writing down 10 rules on tablet-like pizza boxes.  The scene where he preaches these rules to the congregation on his lawn has some good laughs, as people struggle to understand what it takes to get into their mansion in the afterlife. 

Overall, though, the religious satire that comprises the major thematic material of this film comes off as a bit heavy-handed, essentially espousing the view that people are gullible and that any made-up set of rules can be accepted if it provides a sense of comfort.  The scene where a depressed Mark is wrapped up in a sheet and has Jesus-like locks and beard is far too over-the-top for the small chuckle it received.  

Where Mark does draw the line, though, is when it comes to lying in order to get the girl.  Anna has fallen in love with Mark, but will not mate with him due to his deficient genetic material, the driving force behind marriage in this society.  But when he had an opportunity to get his wish by lying, he passed on it, desiring her to come to this decision on her own, which she eventually does.  He successfully widens her worldview to embrace more than physical beauty or material possessions. 

So while religion is made profane through lying, love remains a pure ideal for Mark (and Ricky).  Even when he admits to Anna that he made up the Man in the Sky, she doesn’t seem to care, apparently because it makes others feel good.  Love triumphs, and the masses stay happily in the dark. 

Whatever my thoughts on organized religion, I have to say that this skewering of faith, religion, and humanity’s desire for comfort is too belittling of a caricature to embrace.  This extreme worldview may work for a society as emotionally destitute as the one conjured up by Gervais, but the critique does not adequately cross over to the complex realities of the real world.  Which is just fine, because it is in fact a comedy, and a slick and well-produced one at that.  The witty, self-deprecating writing that is Gervais’ bread and butter is fleshed out nicely by a supporting cast led by Louis C.K. and Rob Lowe, with Jonah Hill and Tina Fey rounding out the A-list comedic talent.  Jennifer Garner is a great co-lead, showing that she can be funny, sexy, and (eventually) sincere even in a world as doomed as this one.  The Invention of Lying succeeds as a comedy, but fails as a lesson on faith. 

2 / 4 stars

Official Website

Thursday
Feb042010

Motion City Soundtrack: My Dinosaur Life

Columbia Records
January 19, 2010

Motion City Soundtrack has been one of my favorite bands ever since their first album, I Am the Movie came across my desk in the La Salle University Collegian office in Fall of 2003.  It was an easy sell, as I was taken in by the energy, intelligence, and lightheartedness of the music.  And once I saw them perform at The Trocadero a few weeks later, my fandom was cemented by the band's razor-sharp and effusive set. 

The band's 4th studio album and first on a major label (Columbia) is their stongest work to date, representing a mature approach that maximizes their signature sound while retaining that youthful exuberance found in their previous three albums.  Produced by Blink-182's Mark Hoppus, My Dinosaur Life takes the characteristics of the band's early work and packages it in a radio-ready format. 

While My Dinosaur Life could prove to be a breakthrough album for Motion City Soundtrack, I would argue that they've always been readily accessible.  Their amped-up energy hearkens to punk roots, and their infectious hooks redefine the word "catchy" and can be characterized as pop in its purest sense.  Add a Moog keyboard to the mix, and MCS can keep you dancing all night long. 

Another key element to MCS is lead guitarist/vocalist and lyricist Justin Pierre's ability to both tell personal stories and address universal truths in his songwriting.  While it seems some of the material from My Dinosaur Life stems from a recent breakup (see video for "Her Words Destoyed My Planet" below), on previous records he occupied more negative headspace a la Say Anything's Max Bemis, writing about struggles with drugs, medication, and achieving a healthy pysche.  But even in the midst of these weighty issues, he consistently tosses in quirky pop culture references that provide levity more appropriate for the upbeat nature of the music. 

Motion City Soundtrack made their career on the road, which makes sense for any band that starts out in Minnesota.  Their dedication to their profession and fans is admirable, and I still kick myself for not making any of the three sold-out shows they performed in Chicago December 18-20, where they played a different album in its entirety each of the three nights. 

Another unique way MCS has communicated with fans on this latest release is through a series of video testimonials which provide background on how each song on the album was conceived.  This project demonstrated some outside-the-box thinking by releasing the videos through a variety of music websites.

Motion City Soundtrack is a hard-working, talented band who are more comfortable with their sound than ever, and look poised to reap the public acclaim that to this point had remained more localized.

4.5 / 5 Stars

Favorite Tracks: "A Lifeless Ordinary (Need a Little Help)" and "Delirium"

Official Website

 

Tuesday
Feb022010

Welcome to The Creation of Adam

Welcome to the Blog page at The Creation of Adam!  It's been a few years since I've regularly kept a blog, but with my newly affirmed goal of becoming a successful freelance writer, I knew that I needed a space to hone my craft and showcase my talent. 

In this space you will find musings on my personal life, as well as plenty of media-related posts such as music and television reviews, film critiques, and literary analysis.  I will also include links to any of my published work, as well as links in support of friends' and colleagues' works, and maybe even a few links to whatever fun meme is circling the interwebs that day.

I'm looking forward to filling this space with items that reflect my interests and my identity, and I urge readers to engage with me as I embark on this new era in my life. 

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