Brows Held High - Primer

(125 votes, average 4.79 out of 5)
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Comments (64)
  • Samsneeze  - AAAaaaaaannnnd...
    Another film I'm set to watch because of one of your reviews. Sure it's going to be confusing as all get out, I'm genuinely intrigued by it.

    Great review.
  • Reliena
    avatar
    Ok, I'm replying to the top comment merely because I have a question I feel needs to be answered. WTF happened to the last video of this show? I just watched the last review of Brows Held High entitled "What Is It?" last night, and then come to find that it's been taken off the site this morning. Was it too offensive because it has Down Syndrome actors? What the What?
  • Sewblon
    avatar
    I do not know for a fact why the "What Is it?" review was removed. But since the film "What Is It?" was never released publicly and Oancitizen obtained it by pirating it. I suspect that it was removed at the request of Crispin Glover, or by Blip to prevent Mr. Glover from taking legal action against them or Oancitizen.
  • Kezzup
    I totally understand this movie!

    Ha, no.
  • OrangeMilky
    Yay, a new review! Oh, wow, your laugh is really sexy.

    ...Also, this was a wonderful episode. I've never actually seen this movie, or even heard of it, honestly, but I think I'll have to check it out now. Whether it is your intention or not, you always seem to get me so interested in whatever films you review.
  • Mr.Evil
    avatar
    Hey, an actual movie of yours that I've seen. It even gave me the inspiration to study temporal mechanics and...

    Edit: Wait, no, I didn't actually see that one because some guy in a mask came to my house three years ago and told me that I better not see it or he'll set all the cheese in my house on fire. Funny how I didn't remember that before. Well, maybe I'll rent it now...

    2nd Edit: Wait, just found a letter on my kitchen counter saying that if I ever watch this movie all the baby ducks in the pond next to my house will mysteriously die. Normally I have no problem with mass death, but it's expensive fishing corpses out of that pond.

    Sheesh, what is it about this film?
  • Ratin8tor
    avatar
    Primer makes sense once you get the plot twist that the characters have already lived through the movie once and are, in sense, reading straight off the script. Once I got my head around the idea that they were future characters trying to play the present versions, everything becomes a lot more clear.

    Not that I totally understood that while watching it though. But I like being challenged when I watch a film. I like having to be forced to think. I'd argue that turning off your brain to enjoy a film is one of the worst things you can do.

    Still, great review as always.
  • panman92
    avatar
    I'm glad that I was not alone in having no goddamn idea what was going on in this movie when I watched it. Feels good man.
  • invisiboy42293
    I have a friend who talks about this movie all the time. I can't wait to watch this review when I get home from school tomorrow.
  • ladydiskette
    avatar
    A arthouse movie for science majors by science majors.


    Is as close as I can to understanding this movie. Although, I will admit with a title like "Primer" I first thought it was going to be a arthouse film about paint drying.

    What? It might exist, you never know.
  • TheIrrehensibleTJ
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    I'd be disappointed if it *didn't* exist. (:
  • ladydiskette
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    "I'd be disappointed if it *didn't* exist. (:"

    Oh my god, someone should definitely make a arthouse film about paint drying just so that we can make Oancitizen review it.

    That would be enjoyable to watch.
  • saxonjf  - Highly Enjoyable!
    avatar
    Not Primer itself. It might as well have been the layer you slap onto the wall before the paint...

    But the commentary is among your best work. You attempted some humor, which worked well. It had a Back to the Future cum Multiplicity schtick to it.

    The exploration you made of future/past tensing of language is just one of MANY reasons I tend to hope time travel never really becomes a feasible concept. But the humor you gave to it is some of the best stuff since I watched Ninja the Mission Force. As long as your commentaries don't get to risqué, I'll keep watching...
  • Heisanevilgenius
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    I have to largely disagree.

    The jargon was weird and confusing, but even though I didn't understand it, I could tell the characters knew what they were talking about, which gave it a great sense of realism that drew me in. Unlike Star Trek, where you can clearly tell they're talking out of their asses.

    The experiments genuinely intrigued me and although they didn't spell out exactly what they were doing, I could follow along well enough. Personally I don't think that everything in a story needs to be explained down to the smallest detail. I love when a movie is mysterious and you leave with at least a few questions to ponder.

    I didn't find the characters quite so bland as you did. I could get a sense of their characters, although they were both very similar to each other so it was hard to tell them apart. I have to be honest and say that I couldn't even tell which character was named which because names are so rarely dropped and the movie is so fast-paced you don't really have time to get to know anyone.

    As for how time travel worked in the movie, I understood it perfectly. The diagram I found online later helped, but I understood it fine in the movie the way it was presented. It was more confusing than necessary, but I managed to follow along.

    The part with Rachel's dad seemed a tad weird, but I managed to stay with it.

    Now, as for how things get insanely complicated in the last twenty minutes or so... yeah, I got totally and completely lost. I think you're right on that the last fifteen minutes could have been its own movie. They could have expanded this movie and make it twice as long and then I think it would be understandable.

    As for the whole thing about their moral dilemmas being boring, I really disagree. It seemed easy to relate to them. The issue wasn't that they were important dilemmas. The issue was about how they were abusing time travel in order to solve these dilemmas. Saving Rachel from her ex-boyfriend wasn't important. They just wanted to do it so the one character could impress her... okay, that part wasn't explained at all and if they did explain it it would make more sense, and you're correct that they should have at least shown it.

    As for the confusing ending, after I read a synopsis afterwards, I understood completely a few minutes later. I'm not saying that makes it okay. In fact, it just shows me that they could have made the ending a lot easier to understand if they spent just a few more minutes explaining.
  • Heisanevilgenius
    avatar
    The third failsafe machine was one that blond dude set up prior to telling his friend. In the event that they took things too far, he would have an opportunity to go back and prevent himself from telling his friend about the time travel machine. Which is pretty smart, both for the character and for the story. But then the friend found out about the failsafe and tried to prevent him from preventing him from knowing... ack. Brain hurts now.

    Overall, I thought the movie was pretty brilliant and fascinating. The third act is where it got pretty insane. Overall I would definitely recommend it for its intended audience, and I don't think it's anywhere near as bad as you make it out to be.
  • animedude360
    “If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.” - Albert Einstein
  • MindOST
    avatar
    Oancitizen is reviewing a film I actually like?

    It's a rare day indeed :P
  • LikaLaruku
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    Classic review from 2010.
  • teddifunken
    If I may respond to your speech at the end:

    As someone who knows a good bit of science, and one for whom education and understanding are continual life goals, I agree with your basic premise, that scientists should do their best to communicate the ideas that arise from science to non-scientists in easy to fathom ways.

    However, to some degree this is a completely impossible task. For instance, most real understanding of scientific concepts arises from mathematics, and most people would require at least two additional years of math before reaching the point where they would have the required intellectual tools to explain science. Cosmos is a great series, and the good its done is immeasurable, but at the end of the day, scientific thought is an unnatural way of thinking for all people (in fact, much training in the sciences is just learning how to think like a scientist) and so it can be extremely difficult for a person to have even so great an understanding that they understand why it is that their understanding of science is incomplete.

    This isn't even as a result of things one sees in other areas of academia, like 'in crowd' mentalities that produce needless jargon or what have you as a way of keeping others out (at least, it's not completely the result of those things.) A few prominent areas of science are only understood through the math because it's science which deals with things that are completely outside of any human's sensory perception and beyond any real imagining of them (here you have your quantum physics, your special relativity, and so on).

    Now, I've never seen Primer, so I don't know how much this applies. However, in a movie made by a guy who obviously seems to enjoy science for its own sake, the idea that there's no way that the movie could have simply and concisely explained what the writer was trying to convey kind of rings true to me. I mean, I still have yet to encounter anyone who has explained quantum mechanics in a way that is digestible at all. One can engage in focused study of the subject for years and still struggle with its basic concepts.

    Science does not, as you said, revel in mystery or multiple interpretations in order to create an aesthetic. Science necessarily is mysterious and given to multiple interpretations because much of what it deals with is often so removed from human experience, and much of what is being interpreted is not understood even by the tops of their fields. Even science education has to spend a large amount of time trying to drill into people ways of thinking that go completely against what comes natural to people.

    Now, could Primer have been made simpler and easier to explain? I don't know, as I said I've never seen it. It certainly would be desirable to make it more understandable if such a thing is possible, no arguments from me. I'm not even trying to argue a point so much as attempt to communicate the diffic...
  • Vismutti
    avatar
    I haven't seen this movie but from what I've heard I think there is a place for it, even if it means that it alienates most of the people in the world. There are people who like it and it's something different and unique and that's a value in itself because it creates something new. It doesn't have to be likable for everyone. Hell, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't like it but I appreciate the fact that it exists. Especially for the idea of "sci-fi realism" which is something I'd really like to see more.

    Btw, seriously, I find this kind of time travel much more plausible than any other ideas for it. In my own story ideas, whenever I have time travel or dimensional travel, it has similar limits: I think of it like a sort of a railroad that you have to build before you can take a train. Thus making sense of the fact that we haven't met any people from the future; they can't come this far back since there are no time machines now to use as a sort of a "station" to target.
  • JethroQ
    avatar
    My theory for your ending is, that there are at least a few dozen Kyles running around. The one in the kitchen is the oldest one, who has however been away from home so long he forgot where things were, but remembers his own journey, being put in the closet, putting himself in the closet, and hising under the bed to ambush himself... that one was about five, six cycles ago, when the recursions starter really taking their toll on your sanity. Despite it being a self-fulfilling prophecy. Last iteration Kyle then comes to save second iteration (stuff in the closet Kyle) to lead him to further parts down the road, and after completing his unknown objective, takes first iteration Kyle from the closet, explains the situation and takes him to the time machine so that he can travel back to stuff himself into the closet.
  • WarpedElements  - Not sure if it's considered 'art house'
    avatar
    But I liked this movie when it was called "Time Crimes" instead.

    It also had charts, and the narrative was a lot easier to follow.

    Spanish flick that, if I took anything away from it, explains WHY the fuck you don't do scientific experiments next to rich neighborhoods.

    If you check it out, do NOT watch the trailer as it gives away some serious plot points/twists.

    Dunno if it's still streaming on Netflix, but it's definitely at least worth a rental if you like time loop stuff. As I said, it's easy to follow because the scientist involved draws an easy to follow chart and explains every little thing.
  • JethroQ
    avatar
    Phil buni actually reviewed that film, and that's a very good episode. GO check it out.

    I think (based on just the reviews, mind you) that Time Crimes is a bit more simple and contained in its plot. There's three timelines more or less, and here we had that, what, nine, out of which only six are seen onscreen?
  • NotACritic  - GEB!
    avatar
    You won me over with just Bödel, Gescher, Ech.
  • Toucanbird
    avatar
    Bleh, I'll stick to Steins;Gate thank you very much. At least you could consider that "art".
  • alexthed
    avatar
    Two Oan videos in one day - excellent!
  • timotaka
    I have a question about the science in this film: In the end you have several parallel versions of the same person existing simultaneously and who will continue to do so indefinitely. How does that not violate the principle of conservation of energy? The method of time travel in Primer had me convinced until it decided to screw over one of the most immutable laws of nature without explanation.
  • tyrong kojy
    All time travel does this. Doesn't nesesarilly mean it's in of itself impossible. Just means that, if sucessfully preformed, time travel I mean, that the law is no longer a law. But basically yeah, time travel that allows this totally violates this. Now, the show Quantum Leap however makes sure to NEVER violate this. You can't time travel to your own lifetime. the only time that happens is the last episode, and that's where he meets God, so... yeah, laws of physics be damned.
  • timotaka
    I disagree. In my opinion, the case could be made that time travel simply moves energy (and mass) around in time rather than create or destroy it. There are plenty of time travel stories where if a person travels back in time and then somehow prevents him/herself from leaving in the first place, one of these versions of the same person wink out of existence or something even worse happens.
  • tyrong kojy
    Ha ha. Nice use of Melody Sheep's "Symphony Of Science" there at the end. I'm pretty sure that's what I heard. I've mirrored them to help get him out there more. Love those.
  • Shinigami
    avatar
    Today we got double dose of Kyle.
  • Carteeg_Struve
    avatar
    As someone with both a physics and space science degree, I had to work to follow the movie. However I did follow the general layout of some of the details going on.

    Basically the guys are trying to put together a start-up company during off hours. The invention they are working on I believe is trying to do one of two things: (1) levitate items, and/or (2) reduce objects effective mass. I like to think #2, because that would be a damn cool way to save energy. Imagine being able to ship a shit-ton of items across country while using the fuel needed to just transport the vehicle, the effective-mass-reducer itself, and only a tiny fraction of the load. It's sci-fi, but it's a cool trick.

    But they should had spelled that out.

    The "one thing" that can be flipped to negative in that equation was "time", which was a foreshadowing of events to follow... if you had all of the physics and engineering classes required in order to recognize that.

    So they should had spelled that out.


    The looping between A and B chart was nice, although they should had said the two points where moments in time - meaning that those two points didn't need to be a week apart, but even just a minute or so. The item can remain in that loop for months looping over and over and over until it is plucked out on the B end and thus had months of mold growth in the span of a VERY short time. The one advantage the human trials had later is that by being a human on the inside of the loop, they can choose when to leave the loop (one half-cycle = the first time at point A) without needing to go around and around and around.

    That is all the classes bought me with this film. Everything else was by paying REALLY close attention and watching multiple times.


    The bleeding ears and hand shaking was simply side-effects of the time travel; and just points out the stupidity of running these experiments on yourself without extensive testing before-hand.

    The Granger incident.... was awesome. Normally you see an original timeline (or you hear about it) and you see the person later go back and change the events. What happened here is that eventually Granger is told of the device (likely Abe and Aaron brought him in to sell the idea and get rich), but something bad happened that made Granger go back in time to prevent it. The 'side-effects' the others were experiencing was too much for him, possibly because he went too far back, and it sent him into unconsciousness. Unfortunately, his actions by going back in time prevented anything that caused him to want to go back in time from happening, so we never find out why he went back.

    I'd like to say they should had spelled this out... except the confusion over what happened would had been damped if they did.

    (cont)
  • Carteeg_Struve
    avatar
    So many times I've seen movies that I wish didn't spell everything out to the point of thinking the audience has no brain cells. This is a movie that I think goes in the opposite direction of not spelling anything out to the point of thinking the entire audience has PhDs in physics. It's technically wrong... but a part of me REALLY enjoys seeing this done for once.

    It's like when that bitch Nini-Legs-in-the-Air spills the beans to the the Duke in Moulin Rouge about the relationship going on behind his back. My first thought was "Why would she do that? It would only screw over the entire production!" And my be-to-wife, who was active in theater performance, told me: "Why wouldn't she? It's screwing over the lead actress. Anybody who was playing second fiddle in a troupe would do this, even if it was to everyone's detriment." And she absolutely loved that moment because it was so completely accurate to the world in which it was taking place, even if nobody else understood it. In fact, she would had found it UNrealistic that nobody told the Duke.

    It threw me, but later when I saw Primer I experienced the same feeling. It was a moment to enjoy something that I'm certain "wasn't" made for everybody to instantly understand. I hate to say "You don't get this because the movie wasn't made FOR you," but... I think that very well might had been the case.

    I don't think I'd want this habit to continue in more movies, and I COMPLETELY understand everybody else's frustrations at getting bowled over with the lack of explanations, but there is a very selfish part of me that likes the fact that I got to experience this once.
  • PlayMp1
    avatar
    Funny enough, the second trick you mention is exactly part of what the mass effect in the Mass Effect game series does: a special unobtanium (called element zero) has an electrical charge run through it. This generates a field that either increases (positive electrical charge) or decreases (negative charge) the mass within it.

    Using that technology, you can effectively raise the speed of light within an area by lowering its mass, allowing FTL (as compared to normal) travel. It also allows a bunch of other things, like hand-portable railguns with comparatively low recoil and flying cars (of course). It's actually pretty well explained in the game, from a pop-sci perspective. The explanation for the source of element zero is bunk though (matter that has been affected by the energy from a supernova - no, just no, since all elements heavier than iron are made in supernovae).
  • WesleyFoxx
    avatar
    I'm sorry, I couldn't pay attention towards the end, because you started playing Symphony of Science. acharound mindfucks.
  • Hallie Slidepath
    avatar
    And now I have to watch this movie. Damn.
  • FlyinyourSoup  - Love this movie
    avatar
    Carteeg, you hit the nail on the head with your comment about the movie being made for scientists. I think this is why me and all my science and engineering friends love the movie so much. The first time I watched it was with my husband (physics degree) and a good mutual friend (several degrees in chem and physics). We loved the movie, found it really interesting, and talked about it for a couple hours after it ended. We all really enjoyed figuring out the puzzle of the timelines, interpreting the science jargon to try to figure out what they were doing with their experiments, and all the other bits in the movie that weren't precisely spelled out. We had SO much fun watching and discussing it, because we hardly even get to do that with movies.
  • morphman86
    avatar
    My 2 cents:
    Primer isn't a movie for the general public, it is for us tech-heads who complain about other movies being too simple, oversimplifying things leads to Star Trek technology. Sure, Star Trek had 8 engineers working on the scripts to make the technobabble and they used actual working theories, BUT... it is also over-simplified to a level where it actually becomes unlikely, and they constantly mistook one thing for another.

    Primer is a movie for all of us who actually have delved deep into the theories of time, as you see, time doesn't exist!
    Time is a measurement of speed contra distance and is a human invention.
    With this in mind, time is relative to how you measure it and the more you think about it, the less sense the actual concept of time makes.

    HOWEVER, if you want a movie that explains this in a "dumber" way, go see Donnie Darko, BTF or Bill & Ted.
  • Carteeg_Struve
    avatar
    I guess in the end, Primer isn't an "arthouse" movie as much as it is possibly the first "techhouse" movie.

    Whereas an arthouse movie is so filled with artistic motifs that the general public just believes it all to be total bullshit, a techhouse movie is so filled with scientific motifs... that the general public just believes it all to be total bullshit.


    Added note: I love the "shittiest time machine ever" part of the review. Because it is accurate. If somebody were to ever build the first time machine in their garage, it would likely be more like the Primer time machine and less like the Delorian. More importantly, because this is one of the few time machines where you can move back in time... but you can't "jump" to other moments. You actually have to spend the time going backwards.
  • Flaregun
    avatar
    I'm not sure why Kyle felt it necessarily to get himself tangled in a Time Travel causality loop, but at least the resulting multiple copies of himself kinda helps explain why he pops up in nearly Every Frickin' Video TGWTG put up last night.

    I loved the reference to All You Zombies, and I strongly second your comments about the book version of 2001. It's kind of a shame that with all the acclaim the movie's received, Clarke's in some respects very different novelization seems to get overlooked & not recognized as (IMO) a classic piece of Sci-Fi literature in its own right.

    I tracked this movie down back when I first saw this review in you Blip archive, wound up liking (and *possibly* understanding) it a bit more than you, although that's no doubt largely because this review prepared me to view (and judge) it like a particularly unforgiving brain-teaser rather than as an entertaining story, per say. Also, I kinda suspected from your review (and the many convoluted Time Travel stories I've read over the years) that this would turn out to be one of these stories where what was originally assumed to be the "original" timeline at the start of the story would ultimately turn out to have been altered by time travel. (I'm not sure whether you didn't pick up on this suggestion yourself or you just deliberately didn't mention it due to your policy of leaving some elements out of your reviews so that people like me have something to discover for ourselves when we check out the movie you've led us to, but I've decided to go with the option that makes me feel smarter than you)

    What also helped, not so much to understand the movie as to accept some of its incomprehensibility, was how the importance the characters put on keeping information from themselves and others in order to preserve the timeline suggested to me that (especially once multiple time travelers were involved) no one can ever really see the full picture of what's going on, and once the timeline has been changed enough times (along with the histories of the people who changed it), some of the information on how & why some changes came to be will completely disappear from the Universe forever.
  • mumbls
    avatar
    That's right, he did have a cameo in the Fantasia 2000 review, but that was an AU version.
  • Dutchtica
    avatar
    I like this movie because it's the only movie I restarted at the end not because of how awesome it was (happened once or twice) but because I didn't GET IT (Even things like the Sixth Sense or the Usual Suspects had a couple of days in between).

    This is... like you said confoluted.
    But fuck me it's challenging to watch.
  • Arigomi
    avatar
    Why am I not surprised this movie was made by a software engineer? It looks like entire movie was written using a software flow chart.
  • PlayMp1
    avatar
    If... And... Or... Then... Else...
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