Archive | November 2013

High Flying Favorites


With basketball season already in full swing, I have been glued to the TV watching my favorite match ups of the day while also keeping up with my fantasy team.  In addition, I along with two of my friends are creating a basketball league for teenagers in our community, because we realized there weren’t any competitive basketball leagues at the high school level that were outside of playing for the high school or travel ball.  Thus, we decided to work together and create one for kids who for whatever reason couldn’t play for their high school or they couldn’t afford travel ball.  We have decided to name it the ABA, to bring back the notion of “let’s just play basketball and have fun” that was what kind of characterized the ABA back in the day where it rivaled the NBA.  I will be posting a link to my basketball league’s page and videos in posts and be sure to keep all of you updated.  However, to celebrate the launch of the beginning of our setting up process, I have decided to compile my favorite basketball movies.


1. Teen Wolf-1985

This classic 80’s movie stars one of the most iconic actors of the decade, Michael J. Fox.  In Back to the Future, he played Marty McFly on his adventures through time with Dr. Emmett Brown, played by Christopher Lloyd.  In Teen Wolf, Fox plays an average teenager who happens to be on his school’s not so great varsity basketball team.  On his team he isn’t a star but it is more like he’s just there (and the tension between the team doesn’t help).  Along with the troubles of his basketball team, he is also troubled by average things like not being popular, school, girls, and oh yea being a werewolf.  One night when he gets home, he starts getting a really funny feeling and rushes to the bathroom.  Upon looking in the mirror, he discovers he is turning into some sort of monster and soon discovers it runs in his family, as his father is also a werewolf.  Now, he isn’t like a new “Twilight” werewolf or savage by any means, in this movie he just becomes furry and also becomes more athletic.  You can imagine there are few werewolves in your typical high school, so Scott (his character’s name) suddenly gets launched into stardom when in a game he fails to hide his alter ego.  He gets angry during a basketball game and suddenly transforms into a high flying werewolf.  This movie doesn’t focus so much on basketball the sport, but uses it as a medium to tell the story.


2. Hoosiers-1986

This is one of the quintessential basketball films as it is a story on not only the competitive aspect, but the philosophy behind the game.  As far as the plot, it is similar to a more recent movie, Remember the Titans, in the sense that there is the plot development between a community and a new coach being brought in for the high school team.  Similarly, the community at first is uneasy about the new basketball coach, Dale, and also that the town basketball star, Jimmy, refuses to play for Dale due to how he was so attached to the old coach.  Dale introduces a new playing style that doesn’t quite yield the results the community hoped for and threaten to get rid of him.  However, Jimmy decides to play and this turns things around for the team.   The team ends up going to to the state championship and wins it all with everyone on the team stepping up along the way.  This movie is an excellent movie, as to not butcher the beautiful messages and inspiration in the movie, I highly suggest you watch it if you haven’t.


3. Coach Carter-2005

This movie is an inspiring sports drama about the struggles of inner city youth and trying to balance basketball along with their other priorities.  In this movie, the great Samuel L. Jackson plays Ken Carter, an alumni of Richmond High School, is newly coached to run the school basketball team.  He is disappointed in the activities and behavior of the team and before he can teach them basketball he must team them about life.  He forces them to study and has them sign contracts to make sure they wouldn’t neglect their studies.  The movie really focuses on how life and sports are interconnected in both values and responsibilities.  However, when drama occurs in some of the players’ lives and Carter’s son joins the team things get much more complicated.  Carter is so serious about changing his players’ lives for the better that he closes the gym until the players improve their games.  This movie is an excellent example of how sports relates to life and how it can be a medium for self-improvement.


One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest…and apparently Shakespeare

Over this three day weekend, I stumbled upon one of my favorite movies, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  The Academy Award winner for Best Picture stars younger Jack Nicholson, Danny Devito, and Christopher Lloyd.  This movie is about a criminal, McMurphy, who gets sentenced to a mental ward in order to escape prison.  He wants to serve his sentence in the hospital environment and pretends to be mentally ill in order to be placed in the ward.  He starts to take advantage and be the leader of his fellow patients inside while he butts heads with the head nurse, Nurse Ratched.  The tension between Ratchet and McMurphy grows as the plot thickens and in the end McMurphy falls.  On the surface it may not relate to Shakespeare, but upon further review it bares resemblance thematically to Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  


The main connection between Hamlet and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest lies in the two lead characters, Hamlet and McMurphy respectively, and the series of events that surround them.  In the beginning, McMurphy is disgruntled with his current situation about being sentenced by is not terribly upset, and upon meeting Nurse Ratchet he conforms to her policies and ways.  He establishes himself as the leader of his fellow patients when he realizes they all fear the authority of Nurse Ratched instead of thinking about how to one day live in the real world outside of the ward.  Upon doing so,  he upsets Nurse Ratched when he gambles with the other patients and wins all of their rationed cigarettes.  In addition, he asks if she could change the work schedule so that he and his friends in the ward could watch the World Series.  In both instances, she calls him out and humiliates him in front of his peers.  On the other hand, Hamlet starts off as upset from the death of his father and the fact his mother so readily married his uncle and giving up the throne to him.  Claudius, the uncle, tries to suppress Hamlet and keep an eye on him in case he tries to pull off any schemes or causes any trouble.  This is very similar to how Nurse Ratched heavily drugs all of the patients with a concoction of daily doses that are required daily and she also intimidates everyone by watching them through the window of her warden office (a symbol of her tyranny and power).  Upon seeing the ghost of his father, Hamlet seeks vengeance of Claudius for the murder of his father.  In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, after a moment of realization, McMurphy seeks revenge on Ratched for how she humiliated him and how she oppresses everyone in the institution.


There are more similarities between these two characters, including their relationship with characters and how they use their wit.  Both Hamlet and McMurphy attempt to overthrow and take revenge on the tyrants in their worlds, Claudius and Ratched.  Both of these tyrants try to manipulate those below them and make it appear as though all is well in their state.  Claudius does this by making Hamlet pretend as though he is happy to make it appear he is a strong leader like King Hamlet.  Ratched does this by drugging the patients heavily, watching them from her office window, keeping McMurphy in check, and keeping everyone on a schedule.  Hamlet and McMurphy react in similar ways, by keeping their plans low-key and pretending to conform to their tyrants’ ways.  Hamlet pretends to be loyal and obedient to Claudius while McMurphy pretends to be truly mentally unstable as though he actually belongs in their (because he is actually not mentally unstable, he just said he was to get out of prison).  They both use their wit with other characters.  For example, McMurphy escapes the ward to take everyone out on an unauthorized fishing trip and he also tricks everyone to gamble more than they should in their games (poor Martini).  On the other hand, Hamlet is very quick in making sure the guards actually saw the ghost of King Hamlet and he also wants to make sure Claudius killed his father.


“I bet a dime….hit me!” -Martini

Hamlet and McMurphy are both anti-heroes asthey are the protagonists of their stories but don’t have all of the ideal qualities of the idealized hero.  Being tragedies, the anti-hero ultimately meets their downfall and these two tragedies are no exception.  Upon his death in trying to restore the “rotten state of Denmark”, Hamlet dies and he is given a fitting military style burial for all of the recognized good he has done as a noble, respected figure.  Similarly after receiving a lobotomy by the hands of Nurse Ratched, the Chief smothers McMurphy with a pillow as he wants his friend to be remembered for who he was and not in the mindless state he was bound to live due to the operation.  Thus, the Chief kills his friend and allows him to die with honor as he remembered who he was and what he stood for.  This prompted the Chief to symbolically use the sink, that McMurphy tried to throw at the window, to escape and run away.  It is amazing how a movie so different in the setting and time can parallel the literature of the past.



Anosognosia on the Big Screen

Medically, Anosognosia is the lack of self-awareness (or in other words being unaware of what you don’t know).  These unknown unknowns affect us everyday and combating them is crucial for not only self improvement but how we interact with others.  It is also at the forefront of many of our popular stories, legends, and movies.  Many of our favorite movies integrate anosognosia for plot development, to add depth to the film, or for characterization.  Here are some brief examples:


Star Wars

Yes, “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” anosognosia was used for both plot and characterization.  Probably the most popularized instances of it comes from one of the franchise’s most iconic moments, the revelation of Darth Vader as Luke’s father in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.  Before the revelation, Luke had just known that he was to fight against the Sith and that Vader was his enemy.  He knew that Darth Vader and the Galactic Empire were planning devilish schemes to gain dominance in the galaxy.  After all, Vader built the Death Star, which was capable of destroying entire planets (poor Alderaan) and Luke thought Darth Vader had killed his father.  However, knowing that Vader is his dad changes everything.  It changes how he views his enemy, and makes him question himself along with the Odyssey he is on.

Another moment from the original (and really the only) trilogy comes from the Empire Strikes Back as well, when Luke and Leia kiss.  Now at the time they did not know they were brother and sister, but it does change the plot and how the characters interact as Han also had a thing for Leia.  Later when they figure out they are related, it makes it all the more dramatic and things between Luke and Han start to mend a little more.


Jurassic Park

The plot of Jurassic Park is heavily centered around anosognosia, as the unknown unknown to Mr. Hammond and his staff is the affect of the frog DNA on the dinosaurs.   John Hammond creates Jurassic Park as a tourist attraction/living museum by bringing dinosaurs back to life from preserved “Dino DNA” found in mosquitoes in amber.  Due to deterioration, there are gaps in the gene sequence so the scientists decide to fill it in with DNA from frogs.  It is later revealed by Dr. Grant that some species of frogs are capable of changing sexes when there are not enough of one sex, prompting some of the all female dinosaurs in the park to switch genders.  All of this confirms Dr. Malcolm’s chaos theory ideas on how “Life finds a way.” The scientists were unaware of how they did not anticipate the frog DNA would allow the dinosaurs to eventually breed.  This was out of both greed from Hammond, for wanting to recreate dinosaurs as quickly as possible without regards to how, and also from his ethics.

Fight Club *spoiler alert*

For those of you who have not seen Fight Club, it is an excellent movie and I wouldn’t want to spoil the whole premise of the movie for you, thus I have put the spoiler alert.  For those of you who have, I shall continue speaking of Fight Club (breaking the First Rule).


Now the first time I watched this movie, the revelation at the end was indeed mind blowing, to be honest I didn’t expect it.  Watching it again, I kept my eyes open for any hints about the identity of Tyler Durden and how he relates to the narrator.  The very beginning of the movie points out the narrator has insomnia but he doesn’t know it affects him to the degree that it does.  The unknown unknown for the majority of the movie is Tyler Durden’s identity and that Tyler and the narrator are the same person.  The narrator, including the audience, do not know the narrator and Tyler are the same person, Tyler just being his figment of his imagination.  The whole movie focuses around the interactions between the narrator and Tyler and how they affect each other.  Not knowing that he is making up a whole part of his life subconsciously, the narrator believes he is just living out his normal life with a new friend he has made.  When he finds out Tyler is not seen by anybody else and that he is Tyler, it completely changes his perception of life.


Fight Club movie image Brad Pitt