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A few days ago, Columbia was kindly informed about an outbreak of meningitis at our beloved weekend trip destination, UPenn.

Well, the week has ambled onwards, and still the dirge of meningitis hums over us. Meanwhile, a graduate student at the UPenn petri dish has reportedly contracted measles and our campus continues to slick itself in snot with one collective fit of the sniffles.

Right now, Bwog believes the best thing for all of us is for you to huddle down with a Snuggie and a bowl of chicken noodle soup, flick on the nearest video screen, and get down with the sickness.


12 Monkeys (1995)

Doused in gritty pools of light and overlaid with a looping and raving plot, slowly descending into a decadent, kicking and screaming madness, 12 Monkeys is the realization of the ultimate fever dream. The brainchild of Monty Python animator Terry Gilliam, 12 Monkeys broke a decade’s silence by the twisted and fanciful mind that brought us 1985’s Brazil. Gilliam’s film, like his Python animation, is enchanting and captivating, but a prolonged dosage to any not thoroughly invested in two hours of deranged revelry will cause one to feel led about in circles of red herrings and shivering hallucinations culminating in a grand mental rape. For those in the heat of fever and the haze of sickness, though, I propose 12 Monkeys to be an opportunistic and self-indulgent journey tantamount to a pseudo-philosophical acid trip.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Director George A. Romero’s film is more than just a piece of outmoded horror, more than just a movie about a radiation disease reanimating the dead; Night of the Living Dead is itself a disease. Before 1968, horror movies were weak, predictable and archetypal pieces of matinee dreck. Save for the thrillers of Hitchcock, since Nosferatu (1922) they involved light and dark, good and bad, and quite possibly crab men from Mars – an utterly predictable and absurd array of villains and outcomes. Sure, there was the occasional death, the occasional city destroyed, but the scope, the sideways portrayals, and overacting usually made the genre fodder for small children to shriek with delight or for teenage couples to snog each other senseless and protectively clench each other in the soft and squishy bits. Romero changed it all and let loose a disease of terror, of honest fear mingled and amplified by human emotions, by the urge to survive, by blind rage, by the mirror image of our deepest hidden desires and motives. We cannot stymie the spread – Romero made monster horror horrifying forever.

Children of Men (2006)

When I first saw the previews for Children of Men, I was rather nonplused with the concept. A pandemic ailment rendering humanity infertile – it just seemed to simplistic, too open to debauchery and blind wailing, too much like a porn film I once caught my friend watching. Yet director Alfonso Cuarón somehow avoids the potential silliness of the plot, once more exemplifying the magical ability of the medium of film to transform even a kitschy pulp novel like P.D. James’ 1992 Children of Men into a monumental, chillingly introspective achievement. The film draws a great deal of power from its consideration of an atypical doom – in most scenarios, the death of humanity comes swiftly and kills us all within days, if not years, but the disease of Children of Men works slowly, cutting us off and numbering our days. Humanity is left to monitor the actions of the world’s youngest man, to lament their condition, and to slowly fall into decay, apathy, hatred, and the throws of a passive suicide. Cuaron asks us how we would react if our days, not just as a man, but as a species, were numbered. Could we believe? Could we hope? Could we live? He never answers the petty questions as to the origin or possibility of curing the ailments of humanity, but the questions of spirit and of humanity he answers most clearly and prophetically: yes we can.


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