Friday, March 25, 2011

An Un-Limited Amount of Brilliance

Thursday evening, I decided to treat myself to a movie I had wanted to see on opening weekend. I thought about waiting until Friday, but wanted to avoid the usual weekend crowd. I like going to see movies on an off night (Monday nights are supposedly the best nights, as theaters try to entice people to come on a "dead night" by offering concessions at cheaper prices). At first, I was hesitant to see Limitless because of what I thought might be a pro-drug storyline / plot. If I'm intolerant about anything, its drug usage. I see it as a major threat on reason (because users have no idea the long-term damage they are causing their delicate minds for a short term fix. This could accelerate or cause mental illness). However, I watched several different versions of the trailer as well as watched an intriguing interview by Charlie Rose of star Bradley Cooper and the film's director. The movie seemed to be in the same mold as Inception and The Adjustment Bureau (ironically, both films I was also hesitant about seeing when I first heard about them).

The basic premise of Limitless is about a slacker writer (played by Bradley Cooper) who is suffering from major writer's block, even though he got an advance to write a book. He seems to bumble through life, without discipline or direction. Even his far more successful girlfriend is growing tired of him. When he bumps into someone he hasn't seen in years, they catch up on each others lives. The old acquaintance offers him a clear pill that promises to expand his horizons. He's hesitant to take it but eventually does. One of the most brilliant things about this movie is the way they show his world opening up when the drug takes effect. Suddenly, the world becomes sharper in colour and he notices details in every nook and cranny. He can think many steps ahead and he even becomes a neat freak after seeing the dump his New York apartment is. This drug has the power to open 100% of the user's brain (we supposedly use less than 30% of our brain's power).

In another brilliant visual in the film, letters fall from the ceiling as he can't type fast enough to get words onto his computer screen to complete his book. In fact, the visuals in this film is simply amazing, especially the open title sequence (simply one of the most stunning opening sequences I've ever seen in a film). Finishing his book is not enough, though. He schemes to greater things. However, he was only given one pill, so he goes back to the dealer for more, where he gets sucked into something deeper that adds a high element of danger.

This film is not an ode to the powers of drug use. Like every drug out there, this one has side effects when you're off of it. Long term use could lead to results no one would want. And that's the brilliance of the story idea. It is a true representation on the dangers of drug usage of any kind. Taking the magic pill may do some amazing things for your mind, but would you really want to experience all of that if the consequences for long-term use will actually cause your body great harm? Are the benefits worth the long-term costs? This is something I plan to write in a post tomorrow, because I had a lengthy debate with a church friend regarding the use of marijuana. The person I argued with cannot see the harm in using the stuff at all, but in all the conversations I've had with him (in person and online), I can already see that regular use has made him a stereotype of a stoner slacker: his logic is muddled, he's paranoid, his sense of reality is beyond the realm of most people's perceptions of reality. Its worth a separate post, along with my theory about drugs as it relates to the Genesis.

While on the clear pill, the slacker writer becomes a cool, overly confident, popular conversationalist that everyone wants in their social circle. He seems to know everything and is able to detect patterns for which stocks will make him the most money in the shortest amount of time possible, because he has a big vision for a life that goes beyond being a published writer. His ability to make millions of money from a $100,000 investment (on money borrowed from a Russian mobster) garners him media attention, as well as a request for a meeting by a Wall Street tycoon (played by Robert DeNiro). The makers of this movie were quite timely, because there were references to Libya in some of the business dealings.

The film has a kind of Faustian plot to it, which I love. When he's on the clear pill (known as NZT), he's a highly functioning super-human, but off of it and his mind becomes foggy. People notice that he's not his "usual self." He even mistakes himself on the drug, telling his girlfriend after he has taken another pill that he's back. She wisely tells him that its not the real him, because the real him wouldn't be doing the kind of things he does when he's on the stuff. Faustian dramas are all about trading one's soul for the allure of power, fame, wealth. Its one of the most common storylines (and probably my favourite storyline).

There were moments in the film where I worried about the direction it was heading. The ultimate scene, though, was so ridiculous that I couldn't help but laugh, even as I was wincing from the "grotesque" nature of it. If you've seen the film, you know what scene I'm talking about! If you haven't seen the film yet, well, I don't want to spoil the film for you. Just go see it, okay? I left the theater smiling, inspired, and wanting to try some mind experiments of my own (through meditative power, not chemically-enhanced power that comes from drugs). This movie would be a great double-feature or companion film to The Adjustment Bureau. While it may not be as great as The Adjustment Bureau (what movie can be, though?), I'm impressed that this year's movie releases are already a step up from last year's dismal schedule of bland movies. Call it the Inception-effect. Hollywood has finally waken up to the fact that there is a profitable market for movies that appeal to the intellect of the discriminating film goer. Not all of us want to see another Adam Sandler or Will Farrell stupidity. I am one who wants more, more, more movies that make me think and fills me with inspiration when I walk out of the theater. The true power is inspiration and that doesn't come from any pill. It comes from ideas that engage the creative aspects of one's mind.

If The Adjustment Bureau and Limitless aren't enough to fill my mind with inspiring ideas, next Friday opens another mentally-challenging film that I plan to see: The Source Code. Can this year get any better in terms of movies (as much as I want to see Gnomeo and Juliet, Paul, and Rango, I can wait until they come out on DVD)? I guess I need to get cracking on my next novel. Time keeps on slipping away. Watching a struggling writer as the protagonist was a reminder that I'm slacking on my own goals...but I don't need a clear pill to reach parts of my mind that meditation can also access. Seriously, meditation is tapping into one's mind for insight, vision, and even euphoric bliss. Who needs drugs when your mind can do amazing things without help?

In the film, not taking the drug after you've used it for awhile leads to headaches. Interesting enough, I have suffered a week of migraines that were so intense that I wanted to die rather than endure it (not really...just saying how intensely painful it was). On Ash Wednesday, I walked the labyrinthe at church, focusing on what I should "fast" for the 40 days of Lent. I've never done the Lent/fast thing before, but decided that this was the year to try it out. By the time I left the church, a thought hit me that I should give up drinking soda for Lent. It was either that or give up Netflix!

A couple days after I stopped drinking soda, I had a horribly painful migraine (and no Tylenol or any other kind of pain relief). It woke me up at 4 a.m. and wouldn't go away for an hour. The next day, it struck again. By then, I had the intuitive insight that I was suffering from caffeine-withdrawal. I bought some Tylenol to be prepared for the daily migraine attacks. I was tempted to buy a bottle of Coca-Cola for emergency, just to see if drinking a glass when a migraine came on would ease the pain in my forehead. But I was committed to the forty day fast. After a little over a week, the migraines are gone. But it was painful to endure that withdrawal. Not that I'm completely caffeine-free, but if I can't find any caffeine-free Coca-Cola after Easter (when my fast ends), I may not go back to drinking soda. Well, I shouldn't be drinking as much of it as I have been, as I'd like to go back to viewing Coca-cola as a drink on special occasions, not a daily drink.

I can't help but think, if not drinking caffeine gave me more than a week's worth of early morning migraine wake-up calls, why would anyone want put harmful drugs into one's body? The Mormons are smart to avoid caffeinated drinks. All I know is that I don't want to get my body used to it again and endure the pain of migraines when I don't have my daily Coca-cola drink. If this legal stimulant can cause my brain that much pain, I have no idea why people want to put more powerful chemicals into their mind and bodies. Tomorrow's post will analyze my intolerance towards illegal drugs and those that use them.

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