Sunday, May 22, 2011

I Am (Rhoades)

“I Am” Answers Questions About the Meaning of Life
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.”
In his new documentary, Hollywood-director-turned-philosopher Tom Shadyac seems to be saying, “I am, therefore I love.”
You may not recognize Shadyac’s name, but you’ve certainly seen his movies – “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” “Bruce Almighty,” “The Nutty Professor,” and “Liar, Liar.” He once had it all: Lots of money, a lavish 17,000-square-foot Los Angeles mansion with a big swimming pool, and a bright future as a director of laugh-your-butt-off comedies.
Then he fell off his bicycle.
The injuries weren’t life threatening. A broken hand. A skinned knee. A bump on the head. But he suffered from post concussion syndrome, a condition of lingering pain, hypersensitivity to light, depression, and general malaise. He felt like he was dying. And at that moment of giving up on life, he had an epiphany. What if he’d been living his life all wrong?
Sure, his was the American dream. Rising above the masses with his success. But what if that was dead wrong? What if man’s true nature was not setting himself apart from other people, but one of connecting to them – heck, maybe even connecting to dogs and apes and trees and grass. Kind of a great cosmic consciousness.
So he decided to do something very different with his life. He dumped the mansion and the fancy car and moved into a trailer park with his bicycle. How could he justify living in luxury when people across the street, across the country, across the border, across the world were in need?
And rather than doing another blockbuster Hollywood comedy, he would do a simple documentary … in fact, this documentary ... in which he tried to answer two big questions that occurred to him when his life was at low ebb:
What’s wrong with the world?
What can we do about it?
This film titled “I Am” – currently playing at the Tropic Cinema – is his journey in search of those answers.
Shadyac visits the world’s top thinkers to pose his questions. These include scientists, religious leaders, environmentalists, and philosophers. Among them you will encounter the Dali Lama, Desmond Tutu, Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Lynn McTaggart, David Suzuki, Elisabet Sahtouris, Thom Hartmann, and even Shadyac’s dad who was co-founder of St. Judes Children Hospital with Danny Thomas.
And he discovers some seemingly common truths. That empathy is a common trait, built into our DNA. That man has a propensity for doing collective good. That there’s a democracy among animals herds. That John Lennon had it right when he sang, “Love is all you need.”
Visually dazzling, “I Am” is a scrapbook of movie clips, sound bites, and interviews that support Shadyac’s thesis. Whether or not he’ll convince you, you’ll enjoy sharing this thoughtful journey that helps him conclude, “I am.”
[from Solares Hill]

1 comment:

Bill Iddings said...

The power of Oprah is on display ‘round “I Am.”
An auto-documentary by a director who’s best known for making Jim Carrey talk out of his butt, ‘”I Am” captured attention after Oprah Winfrey endorsed it on national television.
What makes the film’s popularity telling of more than itself is that “I Am” is nothing special. It’s a standard doc that uses the genre staple of talking heads to impart the obvious. Among its revelations: Beyond securing basic needs and comforts, money can’t buy happiness.
It can, however, buy stuff, mountains of which “I Am” director Tom Shadyac piled up after making a fortune from directing a string of hit film comedies. Several of them have starred the elastic-faced Carrey, a career over actor whose professional path remains unencumbered by subtlety. (Carrey gets the last laugh: He’s a huge star, and there’s nothing anybody can do about it, so there.)
Shadyac first gave us “Ace Ventura, Pet Detective,” a movie highlighted by a (thank God) clothed Carrey bending over, extending his derriere towards the camera, grabbing his lower cheeks and using his hands to open and shut them like some crude ventriloquist. Shadyac has also directed Carrey in “Liar, Liar” and “Bruce Almighty,” and abetted Eddie Murphy’s antics as “The Nutty Professor.”
Faster than you can say “Ain’t that a kick in the head,” Shadyac got the equivalent. Suffering head trauma in a bicycling accident, Shadyac for years was laid low by headaches and other health problems. Becoming depressed and disenchanted, Shadyac began to reevaluate his life. Then he got the bright idea to start asking “meaningful” questions of some mellow mental giants.
The result: “I Am.”
The movie is a series of interviews which Shadyac does, face to face, with a string of great thinkers, one of them the moral compass that is Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Seasoning “I Am” with smatterings of animation, Shadyac speaks with a number of philosophical minds, one a philanthropist whom he already knew: his father who co-founded, with entertainer Danny Thomas, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The most pessimistic of the bunch: dear old Dad who thinks we’re beyond repair.
Shadyac has said that his original intent with “I Am” was to find out what’s wrong with the world. Instead, Shadyac has said, he discovered a lot of what’s right with it.
What might that be?
Oh, that eventually we all breathe the same air; that even though we keep killing each other, we are naturally compassionate; that we’re capable of survival, if only we’d get around to doing what needs to be done.
Shadyac even gets around to quoting Anne Frank. Smart money would bet that most people can guess what that quote says.
In the end “I Am” amounts to stuff we’ve all heard before, but perhaps need to hear again because the inconvenient truths don’t seem to be sinking in.
Despite his appearance and bent, Shadyac’s no mere long-haired flake. He’s in earnest, and puts his money where his mouth his. He’s has given away most of his wealth, and several mansions. He lives in a high-end trailer park, and has pledged to donate most of the money he makes from now on for the greater good.
And he’s got Oprah going for him.