Avatar Film Group Week 10:
Thursday February 6th, 2014
Warning! Major Spoilers!



Philip Seymour Hoffman

Week 10 Recap by Eli Williamson-Jones

In paying tribute to the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman who recently just passed away, we voted on a film of his that none of us had seen; Charlie Wilson's War. This film takes us back to the Cold War where the Soviets were battling it out with the Mujahedin in Afghanistan. The Congressman Charlie Wilson (played by Tom Hanks) persuades his constituents to spend millions of dollars arming the rebels with high-tech weapons capable of defeating the communists and sending them back home to Russia packing. Philip Seymour Hoffman had a strong role in this film even though he was not the lead.

I personally found this movie to express a disturbing aspect of our society where detached rich Americans use poor people on the other side of the planet as pawns in the game of war against their enemies. Although this covert operation succeeds to drive out the Russians, what this film fails to do is show the aftermath. When funding of the Taliban is cut off, it is Osama Bin Laden who comes in to fill the void.

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character recites a Zen Koan that very well sums up the moral ambiguity of victories and losses faced by some of the main characters in this movie.

Gust: There’s a little boy. Now on his 14th birthday he gets a horse, and everybody in the village says “How wonderful the boy got a horse,” and the Zen master says “We’ll see.”

Two years later the boy falls off the horse, breaks his leg, and everybody in the village says “How terrible,” and the Zen master says “We’ll see.”

Then a war breaks out and all the young men have to go off and fight, except the boy can’t cause his leg’s all messed up, and everybody in the village says “How wonderful”…

Charlie: Now the Zen master says “We’ll see.”

Gust: So you get it?

Charlie: No. No, cause I’m stupid…

Gust: You’re not stupid, you’re just in Congress.”

At the website sensitivity to things, this Zen Koan is broken down further;
“In the context of Charlie Wilson’s War, this parable of the fleeting nature of reality is used to illustrate that today’s victory may be tomorrow’s loss, today’s loss tomorrow’s victory. It is 1989, and real life congressman Charlie Wilson has seen himself vindicated, his policy of arming the Afghani Mudjahadeen paying off spectacularly in the defeat and withdrawal of the Soviet army, a pivotal turning point in the Cold War. Yes it is a victory says CIA Agent Gust Avrakotos, but where will today’s success take us tomorrow?”

And what was perceived as a victory ended up becoming a loss. The very person who was once funded by the CIA used his power to strike back at America and trigger one of the longest wars in its history, whose outcome is still yet to be seen. Might American foreign policy be seen by the US government in the same light as the Zen koan? The outcome of unscrupulous and morally questionable activity such as drone strikes, torture and preemptive military invasion is viewed as ambiguous since it is not certain the results will be wonderful or terrible for the nation. The moral ambiguous attitude towards these policies and the danger that they might provoke blowback, seem to be whitewashed over with the ambivolent attitude, "We'll see."

Before starting the movie, we all watched the Vimeo short Beauty which unfortunately has now been cut down from its original length. The short is pretty impressive considering that the artist took some of the greatest masterpieces in art history and animated them.

B E A U T Y - dir. Rino Stefano Tagliafierro from Rino Stefano Tagliafierro on Vimeo.


After Charlie Wilson's war, we watched the GoPro Stratos jump which was just recently made available on YouTube.


We also examined the Coke Superbowl ad and talked about the controversy behind it.


We also viewed the trailer to Cosmos 2014 as a preview of what will hopefully be one of our showings in March. Stay tuned for the details.