Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Review of "Man on the Moon"

This movie review was written for an Objectivist publication back in 2000; however, it was never published.

A Review of “Man on the Moon”
by Randy C. Finch

The magician waves his hands stealthily over the limp body of his beautiful female assistant. Suddenly, the magician’s hands change their motion as if they are lifting an invisible entity into the air. Telekinetically, the female assistant begins floating upward, suspended on nothing but air. She continues to move upward until her prone body is above the magician’s head. The magician gracefully slides large hoops around the floating assistant to show that no wires are attached. A look of wonderment floods the faces of the audience. Deep down they know it is an illusion, but what technique is being used? In the recesses of many minds, the possibility that the assistant is really floating is considered, as no other explanation is forthcoming.

Just as the magician makes the unreal appear to be real, so did Andy Kaufman the comedian and entertainer. But in addition, Andy sometimes made the real appear to be unreal. In the movie “Man on the Moon”, Jim Carrey does a masterful job of portraying the late Andy Kaufman. A few years ago, Mr. Carrey played the role of E. Nygma (a.k.a. The Riddler) in “Batman Forever”. In this offering, he plays a real-life enigma. He was brilliant in both roles, perhaps because he is a bit of an enigma himself.

If anyone could make Ayn Rand turn over in her grave, I believe Andy Kaufman could. His life was an infusion of the real and the unreal. This was true both on stage and off. As his girlfriend says to him in the movie, “There is no real you.” Not only did he have his fans confused about who he really was, he also had his own friends and family confused. When he announced to the people closest to him that he had cancer, no one believed him. They thought it was just another antic he was about to perpetrate on the public like his wrestling with women. Keeping his fans on their toes wondering what he would do next and then being puzzled as to whether he was for real or not was the apparent goal of Andy Kaufman.

However, even as Ms. Rand is turning over, she must also recognize many of the same traits in Andy Kaufman that she wrote into her fictional character, Howard Roark. Andy was fiercely independent, wanting to entertain his way without regard to what other people thought. When presented with the opportunity to portray Latka in the TV series “Taxi”, he was uninterested as it would require him to perform from a script that was not his own. He only relented when ABC agreed to his terms, which included several TV specials where he had artistic license. At one point in the movie, George Shapiro (Andy’s agent) asks Andy what the purpose behind his entertainment was, to make the audience laugh or to make himself laugh. It was obvious throughout the movie that the latter was the case.

You have most likely known of a practical joker that hated having practical jokes played on himself. Apparently, Andy Kaufman was not one of those people. When he traveled to the Philippines in a last ditch effort to be cured of his cancer, he was expecting a miracle. The healers there were burying their hands in the bodies of the sick and pulling out the offending matter without surgery. As Andy lay on the table, he noticed that the offending matter was already in the healer’s hand before the procedure began. He is then shown laughing his head off as he realizes that this healer had duped him just as he had duped people throughout his career. Yet, in the throes of death, he found the ability to make the unreal real to be extremely funny, even when perpetrated by others.

Yes, Andy Kaufman was an enigma. People typically either hated him or loved him. If you are one of the former, you will probably find this movie stupid or boring or both. However, if you are one of the latter, as I am, you will be spellbound by it. In either case, the movie is a good study in how people view that which is real and that which is unreal, and how it can be difficult at times distinguishing the two, especially when an accomplished artist is purposefully confusing them.

Finally, be aware that the movie was produced in a style that would have been pleasing to Andy. Although it answered many questions about what was real and unreal in his life, it left many unanswered and even presented new ones for the audience’s consideration. In fact, as the movie ended, I was questioning whether or not Andy was even dead or not. It would be his style to fake his death and remain in character for 16 years. Consider this. Most people know how great Andy was at imitating Elvis Presley. What if all those Elvis sightings are the “late” Andy Kaufman messing with our minds as only he could. It’s a thought.


Randy Finch is an engineer living and working in Alabama. He earned his BS and MS from the University of Louisville. He enjoys creating computer software and writing articles about computer programming. He has had over 60 articles published in magazines, journals, newsletters, and conference proceedings. He also enjoys reading, writing, and discussing philosophy, particularly Objectivism. Interestingly, Randy was born on February 2, 1955, exactly 50 years to the day after Ayn Rand was born. Also, notice that the name Ayn Rand can be created with just the letters in his first name (if the “a” and “n” are used twice). If anyone knows of any significance to these coincidences, please let him know.

The Truman Show: A Review (from 1998)

The following review was published in a philosophical journal in June 1998. The journal was Full Context: An International Objectivist Publication, Vol 10, Num 10.

The Truman Show: A Review
by Randy C. Finch

Are you ready to watch a major motion picture that promotes the integrity of the individual? One that vividly illustrates how a human being must be in control of his or her own destiny? Then look no further than “The Truman Show.”

“The Truman Show” is about 30-year-old Truman Burbank, brilliantly portrayed by Jim Carrey. This role is a bit of a change for Mr. Carrey. Known for his slap-stick humor and amazing facial and body contortions, the role of Truman Burbank allowed for little of this. Truman is a business man living a happy, peaceful, “Ozzie and Harriet”-style life. He has a beautiful wife who has his best interest at heart, a wonderful mother, an extremely loyal best friend, and a good, stable job. Yet with all this going for him, Truman is missing something. In some inexplicable way, his life seems mundane and he longs for more. Part of his longing is for the girl he was in love with in college that had been whisked away to Fiji by her father in the midst of their first date.

Truman decides to take control of his life and go to Fiji, only to be thwarted at every turn. Airlines are booked for a month, the bus breaks down, a forest fire blocks the road, and a nuclear reactor begins to leak. It appears that everyone is conspiring to keep him at home. Other subtle clues like a suspicious radio transmission and a fake elevator only add confirmation to his suspicions. He slowly begins to realize that he is being watched wherever he goes and his every move is known.

And indeed he is right, for unknown to him is the fact that he had been adopted by a corporation when he was a baby and has been part of a very popular, 30-year, around-the-clock TV show. Further, all events surrounding his life are just part of the script for the show.

But Truman is not a man to give up easily. He resorts to trickery to evade the unknown conspirators and actually overcomes his greatest fear to make his escape. Drastic attempts to stop his escape almost result in his death. But Truman’s desire to discover the truth and escape the directing hand of his adversaries does not let him turn back. In the end, when confronted with a choice of living in the safety and comfort of a world under another’s control versus an unknown world in which he could create his own destiny, Truman opts for the latter.

While the whole premise of this movie is far-fetched, the message is not. An individual needs, yea requires, control over his own life. Without it he is nothing but a puppet living at the whim of others. Don’t miss “The Truman Show.”