I <3 Huckabees in relation to "the ideal landscape"

In class we were discussing “the ideal landscape”, or what makes one landscape more aesthetically attractive or impressive than others, and how this affects how important the landscape is to people. Seems that certain characteristics have an impact on how valuable the land is. I think we reached the conclusion in class that people are more apt to save a canyon or string of mountains than they would be to save a marsh or plain. This discussion immediately reminded me of an aspect of one of my favorite movies, I ❤ Huckabees. Since the movie is somewhat difficult to describe with words alone, I’ve provided the trailer here:

I ❤ Huckabees Trailer

So now you’re probably wondering (if you haven’t seen this movie before), this movie seems to be a philosophical comedy about existential crises and the meaning of life- cool. But what does that have to do with landscapes? All of this existential probing, pondering, and investigating actually stemmed from the main character Albert (played by Jason Schwartzman) and his struggle with his job as the leader in a local chapter of an environmental group called the Open Spaces Coalition, a group dedicated to protecting meadows and wetlands while keeping jobs and construction – because nothing is more important than protecting the open spaces we live on. Brad is his antagonist, and he is the head of a corporation called Huckabees, looking to expand on Albert’s beloved open space. I want to bring up how certain characters relate to the discussion we had in class.  Albert represents the attitude and understanding that every aspect of nature plays a vital role, and allowing the seemingly mundane land be destroyed is a violent act. Brad represents the most banal human tendencies, to shallowly put image and money before morality, the environment, and deep thinking. To me, Brad also represents the early attitudes we were discussing, before we really knew about our own impacts on the environment. All people saw was the immediate aesthetic reaction to the land. Why work hard and pour money to preserve something that seems to have no immediate aesthetic value when it could so easily be turned over for “real” monetary value?

I like I ❤ Huckabees because it brings to light a lot of philosophical quandaries and has a good message. I don’t want to give away too much because I highly recommend watching this movie, but each character in the story individually comes to realize the same conclusion at the climax- we are all the same and everything is the same stuff, united under one blanket. Once they realized that, each found their niche in the universe and were able to reach “enlightenment”, in whatever form it came in for them personally. I think its a good way to look at many aspects of life, and particularly the physical world around us. Its all the same. No part is different or more or less valuable than any other. We should preserve what we can when we can, and try to coexist with our surroundings rather than conquer them.

I’ve always wanted a place to quote this and I think it’s relevant, for those who haven’t heard/read astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s response to the question “what is the most astounding fact you’ve learned?” I think it’s relevant.

“The most astounding fact is the knowledge that the atoms that comprise life on Earth, the atoms that make up the human body, are traceable to the crucibles that cooked light elements into heavy elements in their core, under extreme temperatures and pressures.

These stars, the high-mass ones among them, went unstable in their later years. They collapsed and then exploded, scattering their enriched guts across the galaxy.  Guts made of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and all the fundamental ingredients of life itself.

These ingredients become part of gas clouds that condense, collapse, form the next generation of solar systems – stars with orbiting planets. And those planets now have the ingredients for life itself.

So that when I look up at the night sky, and I know that yes, we are a part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhapse more important than both of those facts, is that the universe is in us.

When I reflect on that fact, I look up – many people feel small because they are small and the universe is big – but I feel big, because my atoms came from those stars. There is a level of connectivity.

That’s really what you want in life.  You want to feel connected, you want to feel relevant, you want to feel like you are a participant in the goings on of activities and events around you.  That’s precisely what we are, just by being alive.” ~ Neil DeGrasse Tyson

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4 thoughts on “I <3 Huckabees in relation to "the ideal landscape"

  1. Interesting connections with this film! Its been quite awhile since I’ve seen this movie (though, because of it I have a habit of saying “You rock, rock”) and I think the connections you’ve made are insightful. There is a strange scene in it when Dustin Hoffman’s character is sitting in his office with broken pieces of a teacup arranged on his desk, he is interrupted and he slides everything into his desk drawer. I’ve always thought that this was reference to Land Art artist Robert Smithson’s early work, “Yucatan Mirror Reflections.” Thoughts on that?

    • Oh yeah! I wouldn’t have thought to put that scene and Smithson’s work together, but now that you mention it, I can totally see that. But why was Hoffman so quick to stash his arrangement? Hmm… It’s been a little while since I’ve seen the full movie myself, but I went through a little bit of an unhealthy obsession with it for a while, so I’ve seen it plenty haha. I’d love to write a full-on essay dissecting all the symbolism and references in this movie. When I was researching a little bit before I started writing, I stumbled upon a few movie responses about it and got stuck reading them for a while. I always like to watch it with different people because talking about it afterwards always fosters a good conversation about different outlooks on life, and everyone takes away something different from it. I pretty much forgot about that scene until you mentioned it, and it stands out to you because it causes you to reflect (no pun intended) on your internal database of art history knowledge, since that is what you do for a living. I think there are many scenes like that throughout the movie that are just left vague or unexplained to spur different responses.

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