The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A natural film critic.

Watching films with Ainan can be an instructive process. He doesn’t just sit there and watch, as most eleven year olds would – he scrutinizes the film in minute detail, tearing it down to its essential components and analyzing just how the Director put it all together.

In a way, it is a bit uncanny how much Ainan sees in a film. It makes me realize that he is finely attuned to what is happening around him. He sees very deeply into things. However, this habit of his does cause problems, for him – and for anyone who is watching, with him.

“How many movie producers are there in the world?”, he asked, whilst viewing Inception, recently.

“Why?”, I wondered.

“ I just want to know how come I have never seen a film that I can’t find flaws in.”

He had spent the first ten or twenty minutes of watching Inception, pointing out little things he had noticed, which he regarded as less than perfect film-making. His observations came so quickly, that I didn’t really have time to absorb them, so I can’t note them here. However, he was very intense, as he spoke and very focused on the slightest minutiae of the work in front of him.

He not only noted flaws, but he did something else very interesting. He compared shots used and techniques deployed, ACROSS films, of Christopher Nolan. He was reviewing, in his mind, all the Christopher Nolan films he had watched and noting where and how similar shots had been used, in each one. I am not sure that many people would be able to do that – that they would be able to recall the films in sufficient detail to compare them, shot for shot, technique for technique in their mind’s eye – but that is what Ainan was doing.

He essentially summarized the habits of Christopher Nolan, the shots and techniques that formed his style, by his on the fly comparison of films. I just listened, not being equipped by similar knowledge of the films to be able to comment.

Rather than give the details of his comments, it is more enlightening to tell you how it feels to listen to him do this. The question that comes to mind, as he rattles on is: “How does he do this?”, “How is it possible?” The only answer that comes to me is that he must have, within himself, a completely searchable, detailed record of each of the films he has watched – and that he is able to scan them for similarities and differences and identify patterns – all with no real apparent effort. There is no other way that he could do what he does, when he watches movies, since he is able to compare existing movies, with movies he watched long ago – and do so with accurate insight and telling comment.

Should he decide not to be a scientist, he could easily be gainfully employed as a devastatingly perceptive film critic. Incidentally, I was once a film critic on my own arts and entertainment magazine – so it is warming to see him to take to the same activity, without prompting. Perhaps, however, the world’s film-makers might be safer were he not to do so – for I am sure of this: Ainan would reveal every problem with their technique, style and choices, that they ever make. Many would, no doubt, rather he didn’t do that – though the wise some, would find it helpful to their future work, to be so examined.

In the meantime, I am quite happy to listen to Ainan show me what he sees in the filmic world. Quite often, he sees things I doubt whether anyone else has ever noticed before. It is refreshing.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 2:08 PM 


Blogger E. Harris said...

Well, maybe film would be a more rewarding career than science. Both are very political and while it is difficult to rise to the first rank in either, for the truly talented film is perhaps less of a gamble and certainly more potentially rewarding. Film reaches far more people and affects them more deeply than pure science; it allows conveying the truth of one's experience rather than mere sterile and contingent facts - so, if one wants to reveal truth, going into film would likely be more effective than going into science.

Some films which I think are worth analyzing and trying to surpass are: Das Boot, Ran, Dancer in the Dark, Slacker, Waking Life, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, My Dinner with Andre, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Touch of Evil, Donnie Darko, Harold and Maude, If, Star Wars, ET, The Matrix, Raiders of the Lost Ark; The Wages of Fear, Oldboy, M, The 400 Blows, Seven Samurai, Wings of Desire, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring, City of God, Spirited Away, Lawrence of Arabia, The Third Man, Million Dollar Baby, The Princess Bride, Good Will Hunting, Grave of the Fireflies, Amélie, (and some other movies, mostly less depressing.)

3:00 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

At this time, Enon, it is not possible to know what he may eventually choose to do. I would be unsurprised, however, to find him making films, at some point. It would fit his outlook, too.

Thank you for the list of films. If I get the chance to buy any of them, in Malaysia (not everything is available), I will see how he reacts to them.

Re. film and science and truth.

I think they both speak of different truths. Film is more powerful for speaking human truths...but science has its domain, too, and its own type of truth. I think both have their merits.

Thanks for your thoughts.

4:31 PM  
Blogger Pam Lim said...

But Science is not Technology. Science is discovery and explaining laws. If you put them to application, then that Science becomes technology and affects human in a positive and more sustainable way. You'd see them in artefacts and they pass from generation to generation.

If Ainan were my son, I'd ask him to focus on Technology rather than Science. Innovation rather than Invention. Afterall, it's always nice to have a warm thick wad of cash in the pocket. The advancement of knowledge is great, but it does nothing to personal lives besides a string of accolades, though it contributes to mankind.

Sorry I have to be selfish and think about these things, but it helps to feed the gang, and never be in the mercy of people who would fund our Science and research. I'd rather provide the cash than to have to chase after people who have them. Film is technology.

I think I'm beginning to surface as someone really practical. Yep, being gifted is one thing, using your gift to reap cash, like what George Lucas did is another. Who dare say he is not a genius?

9:45 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi Pam,

I always hope to see a natural fit between a child's interests and abilities and what they eventually end up doing. In Ainan's case, I would say that he is interested in both Science and Technology. One of his great passions is engineering, specifically automative engineering, so I think it likely that he will make practical contributions as well as theoretical ones.

What are your children going into?

9:58 AM  
Blogger Pam Lim said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:14 AM  
Blogger Syahidah and Valentine said...

Hi Pam,

Sorry, I didn't realize that your post wasn't meant to be posted. I see you have deleted it. I didn't even know you could do that.

If you intend something to be just between us, please let me know in advance next time. I wouldn't want to offend by posting what was not meant to be.


12:16 AM  

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