Loving the Planet of the Apes movies as only someone who was a little boy in the 1970s could, it's fun to have just seen the first good Apes movie to be made in forty years. Rise of the Planet of the Apes isn't half as good as the brilliant original, but it's not worse than any of the other entries in the cycle of films that followed it. And it's ten times more satisfying than the 2001 Tim Burton oddity. The most openly pro-revolution commercial movie I've seen since V for Vendetta, it's also one of the most autistic. I nearly titled this review "Rise of the Planet of the Aspies." Best autistic line of dialogue: "Careful. Human no like smart ape."
There are spoilers if you read on. It's not the sort of movie that relies on surprises, and I won't tell you how it ends. But there are some very smart things going on in this one, and I'm more interested in talking about them with you then in protecting your viewing experience. So if that's going to interfere with your enjoyment of the movie (it would mine), go see it first. Then read the rest.
I'm taking a special interest vacation to the Overlook Hotel.
Visit the thAutcast Amazon store if you'd like to join me.
One strategy that every person with autism should be aware of is the special interest vacation. We need two different kinds of rest-- the kind where we sleep and rest our bodies, and the kind where we indulge our special interests and exercise our minds. I'm pretty good at directing my special interests and getting practical use out of them, but sometimes my mind demands some time to just play.
That's what I'm doing now with the 1980 Stanley Kubrick film The Shining. The is the first post of I'm not sure how many that will document my recent obsession with, analysis of, and creative work based on this movie. I think it has value here, because it will document an important part of how my autistic mind works.
Yesterday, I was talking to my friend JJ and he said that everyone sees something different when they look at autism. That is also true of the haunted hotel in the movie. Kubrick made a horror movie about cognition, and how untrustworthy our perceptions are. I think that also makes his film a worthy subject for consideration here.
But-- it's a horror movie. A gory one, with nudity and very scary themes. If you're a kid, or you're very sensitive, this one's not for you.
In Citizen Kane, Orson Welles turned ordinary filmmaking on its side-- literally.
What appealed to me most in David Fincher's film The Social Network was the extent to which the movie about Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg seemed to be an homage to Orson Welles's masterpiece about newspaper billionaire William Randolph Hearst. I've already written about my disgust with Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin's need to make Zuckerberg "smaller than life" in direct contrast to Welles' ability to create a true giant of a man in Citizen Kane. But I'll admit that the movie is as clever a riff on what many consider the greatest film of all time as Brian da Palma's Dressed to Kill is on Psycho. And just as watching Angie Dickinson die in that movie always makes me want to watch Alfred Hitchcock's shower scene, my primary thought when I left The Social Network was I want to see Citizen Kane.
It took me until a couple of weeks ago to actually convince Max to Netflix it and sit down and watch it with me. Of course, he loved it when he did. I don't think it's the best movie ever made, but I do think it's one of the most technically brilliant and fascinating. Now Max is annoyed with me because I held on to the DVD for too long, but I could watch Citizen Kane a dozen more times, just to learn about visual storytelling. It's the only movie that I think surpasses the first two Disney features for that.
Given my autism, it is inevitable that I would speak of Citizen Kane immediately in terms of one of my special interests-- the obsessions and areas of expertise that make up much of the safe territory in the world of someone on the spectrum-- in this case, Disney feature animation from before 1960. And since autism itself is now my most urgent special interest, it's completely unsurprising that I should see it everywhere I look.
Even in Citizen Kane.
I stopped writing about media that did not have any direct relationship to autism a few months ago because I did not want to bore people who came here for general autism coverage with my own special interests. I think I now have a volume of material on the site that allows for an occasional post that is more tangential. I've brought back my "Autistic Critic" feature to allow me to write about three sorts of media: those that relate directly to autism, like John Elder Robison's new book Be Different; those that include characters and situations of general interest to people on the autism spectrum, like Abed on Community; and those that I think can be revealingly examined from an autistic point of view, like Citizen Kane.
I'm not saying that Orson Welles intended to create a portrait of a man with Asperger's syndrome in Charles Foster Kane or that Citizen Kane was meant in any way to be an autistic movie. I am saying that the inner world of someone with autism is difficult to see; Citizen Kane is easy to see. If I can use it, or any other movie or book, to help people understand what autism is like for me, then maybe I can open a window into a more general autistic experience.
Or maybe I'm just indulging myself by rambling on about one my special interests. Won't you indulge me, too, by reading?