‘Limitless’ – Film Review and Analysis

What if there was a special pill out there that you could take once a day that would suddenly allow you to tap into all your brain’s potential? What if you were able to recall everything you had ever learned, every language you had ever studied, and every fight move you ever watched? How would your life change if you able to fully actualize your abilities to your full potential, both physically and mentally? Now, you may think of these as silly questions but Limitless as a film does so in an entertaining and thought-provoking manner.

Instead of working hard, taking risks, and pushing ourselves to be better people, Limitless proposes a fictional scenario where a special pill, taken just once a day, can make all the difference. You don’t have to do any heavy lifting as the pill you take while unlock all your hidden potential allowing you to be free to pursue your dreams and goals. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Well, Limitless lets the audience decides if this illustrious pill is worth the risk involved and whether you would even truly need a pill to become the best version of yourself.

Released in 2011 by Director Neil Burger, Limitless is a mixture of genres blending together to be quite a unique concoction including science fiction, drama, and even some action. The star actor in the film, Bradley Cooper, plays Eddie Morra, who is a struggling author living in New York City who is going through a serious case of writer’s block. Eddie is your typical Average Joe kind of character struggling to make his dreams and goals a reality. The viewer of the film is meant to feel a bit bad for Eddie’s situation since he seems to be doing his best to become a successful author.

However, from Eddie’s unkempt appearance including shaggy hair and heavy bags under his eyes, one’s sympathy for Eddie is undermined by the fact that he can’t even take care of himself physically let alone his apartment, which is a mess filled with strewn about clothes and dirty dishes. The main problem that we learn about Eddie is that he is a well-meaning guy, but he looks for shortcuts and is undisciplined to the point where he is behind on rent payments and his girlfriend is about to leave him.

Instead of changing his ways internally by looking at ways to make himself have more self-discipline and willpower, he instead looks for a shortcut to get himself out of his career, relationship, and financial woes. Eddie runs into Vernon, the brother of his ex-wife, who deals him a strange, new nootropic drug named NZT-48, which Vernon says will help Eddie unlock his brain’s capacity at 100%. Eddie is skeptical at first until he takes one pill and realizes that it is not just a joke and that he is now able to remember everything through enhanced memory and is able to write for hours without losing his concentration. He can also clean his messy apartment, befriend the landlord’s wife, and start to get his life in order.

Because of what this one pill did for him, Eddie goes back to Vernon for more NZT to keep his peak mental capacity going. Horrifically, he discovers Vernon murdered by people also looking for the NZT as well. Eddie is able to find Vernon’s secret stash, which allows him to keep using the nootropic drug to make his life bigger and better. While concerned about what just happened, Eddie becomes addicted to the NZT because of how effortlessly it improves his life and how much more successful he can be without really putting hard work into it.

The old adage of ‘Be careful what you wish for’ is prevalent throughout Limitless as Eddie increasingly puts himself and his girlfriend, Lindy (Abbie Cornish), into greater and greater danger. By needing to use more and more of the drug, Eddie gets addicted to both the potential and the power he gains from enhancing his mental abilities. He become stubborn enough to put himself in harm’s way all to risk it for a chance to becoming a powerful, successful, and wealthy man. Despite being at odds with an finance and investment tycoon, Carl van Loon (played by the legendary Robert De Niro), and being chased around New York City by loan sharks affiliated with the Russian mafia, Eddie’s life is doing a complete 360.

Because of the NZT, he has no shyness or doubts in his interpersonal skills. He gets Lindy, his girlfriend back into his life, he picks up multiple foreign languages including Italian and Mandarin Chinese, and he is able to build up his body through working out and martial arts. In addition, he can concentrate for hours on end and remembers everything he’s ever read, seen, or heard making him a mathematics whiz and an investment genius overnight.

The accumulation of wealth, power, and status can take a lifetime for some people with most never achieving the level that Eddie does in the film. NZT allows him to do it overnight but at a seemingly great risk to his health and survival. The NZT pill is wanted by van Loon and the Russian mafia with Eddie standing in their way. The climax of the film focuses on whether he will be able to use the pill and its abilities to outsmart those around him who would take it from him and leave him to die.

Eddie Mora is a flawed character who is seduced by a powerful nootropic that slowly but surely takes over his life. Actions have consequences and Eddie started mixing with the wrong people. Due to his frustrations with his life and not wanting to suffer to reach his goals, you could argue that he took the easy way out and it could cost him dearly. Had he persevered with his writing and started to take personal responsibility for where he was in life, perhaps he would have never gone to a drug dealer for the NZT in the first place.

This movie may not be one of the best movies of all-time but it is entertaining and carries a few nuggets regarding how any of us should not look for shortcuts in life when things get hard. Taking the easy way out comes with unintended consequences that may be more severe than we realize even when the payoff is really tempting. Eddie, instead of doubling down on his goals and becoming more disciplined and utilizing greater willpower in order to better his life, took the easy way out because he was not built of strong moral fiber. As a result, Eddie gets mixed in with the wrong people and risks his life for a drug that he can not live without.

Any of us, if we are not careful, can be seduced by quick wins and five-minute solutions when true personal development, both mentally and physically, takes years and even decades to get to a high level. While luck can help us along the way to shorten the road to success, it is perseverance, willpower, and the right mindset that can take us further in the long run.

You don’t need any kind of pill to produce a novel (strong shots of espresso maybe), to learn multiple languages, or to get into great physical shape. What’s holding you back are your excuses and your lack of action. With consistent effort and hard work, the goals that Eddie achieves because of NZT in this film can be achieved by the average person without needing what he needed. First, you need to believe in yourself and then you need to write down your goals and come with a plan of action to become successful. As mentioned earlier, true progress in personal development does not happen overnight but can take months and even years. With sustained effort and hard work, you’ll reach your goals and you’ll do it in the right way.

While far from a perfect film, Limitless is entertaining and thought-provoking regarding human nature and what the average person will do to change their lives by taking the easy way out. The story of ‘Limitless’ is a referendum on hoping for a magic pill to solve your problems rather than working through them by your own grit, sweat, and toughness.

The character of Eddie Morra fell to his own short-sighted belief in wanting success by any means necessary but I hope you, if you watch this film realize that it’s far more satisfying to achieve your dreams and your goals through your own hard work rather than looking for an easy fix in the form of a magic solution peddled by others, which may not work or get you into trouble.

I do want to recommend Limitless for the impressive visuals, the acting by Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro, and the important life lessons that it imparts on the audience by the time the final credits of the film begin to roll.

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Tlatelolco and Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe

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Location: Mexico City, Mexico

The Rule of Diminishing Marginal Return

There is a well-known law in economics called the ‘Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility’, which states that as consumption of a good or service increases per unit, the satisfaction derived from consuming an additional unit or more will lead to a subsequent decline in its overall utility. In other words, the more you consume, the less satisfied you will be with each additional product or service you purchase. The first thing you buy, use, or consume will be the most satisfying but the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th unit of the same item you utilize will not be as useful and could even not satisfy you at all.

This fundamental law in basic economics is one that is worth memorizing because it makes total sense. The first chocolate bar you consume will be delicious and fulfilling. You may not be satisfied with just one chocolate bar so you may end up eating another one since the first one was so tasty. However, anyone will tell you that the 2nd chocolate bar will not be as tasty or satisfying as the 1st one and you may even end up with a stomachache from eating too much chocolate if you are not careful.

The ‘Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility’ does not just apply to economic principles but goes far beyond that in terms of being applied to human psychology. The act of consumption, I would argue, is not just an economic one but also applies to the psychology of choice and how we live our lives. Everybody is a consumer in one way or another whether it’s the air we breathe, the water we drink, or the food we eat each day. Without any consumption, we would not survive but it is our choices that define our consumption habits and how we behave not just as economic actors but as human beings.

In a psychological context, instead of calling it the ‘Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility’, I would refer to it as the ‘Rule of Diminishing Marginal Return’, which is similar but discussing more how it’s a rule of life that the more we buy of something, the less return on that investment we will get out of it. The first of something whether that’s the purchase of a new car, a first trip to a new country, or the first time you try a new cuisine. These experiences will captivate you and do its job of putting your happiness level to a 9 or 10, but it’s a rule of life that it won’t stay there. While the memory of that experience will provide you with satisfaction and joy in its remembrance, your psychological state will revert to the norm of being level in terms of happiness or satisfaction with life. You may try to buy or consume more of something to recapture that feeling of happiness but that would actually be counterproductive in the long run and actually create false expectations compared to the first time you purchased or consumed that activity, experience, food, or drink.

How do you avoid the marginal returns of consuming, buying, or eating too much? Well, that is not easy to do but that is part of being a mature and responsible adult. You must have enough willpower and be able to reason with yourself that one more plate of food, one more drink, or one more car will not do the trick in giving you happiness. You must realize that your base level of happiness as a person won’t change as a result of consuming more and it may end up backfiring by causing your satisfaction to be lower because you consumed too much in the first place.
Being able to limit your consumption and controlling your vices will make you better off. If you can master your desires or your urges, then you can focus on bettering yourself or making you happier through more sustainable means. If you are working on personal projects, devoting yourself to a volunteer cause, or working on improving yourself mentally and/or physically, that kind of satisfaction will have a higher return on investment than just mindless consumption.

Consumption of goods and services may spike your happiness and satisfaction levels in the short run, but that kind of joy is short-lived and can often feel isolating if you are not sharing in that joy with others. That is why a meal with friends or family is often much better than eating by yourself. It’s why travelling with a close friend will generate more memories than a trip by yourself. It is not wrong to sometimes treat yourself to a nice meal, a nice trip, or a new gadget but shared experiences will make you happier and create more memories than those times that you were on your own in consuming.

One should carefully watch what they consume and monitor how much per day, per week, per month, and even per month they are consuming whether that’s food, drink, goods, etc. Everything in moderation is a good way to be as an adult and if you want to abstain entirely from consuming something, then that is an admirable thing to do as well. The worst thing you would want to do is to become overindulgent or overly reliant on a consumable good to make you happy or give you long-term satisfaction in life. You know better than anyone else the limits of your consumption and that true happiness is derived through shared experiences in life and of challenging yourself to be a better and more developed person.

In the long-term, I believe you get increased rather than diminished return through producing instead of consuming, by challenging yourself mentally and physically, and sharing yourself with others whether that’s through a good meal, a volunteer experience, or a worthwhile group project. All the chocolate and ice cream in the world won’t add to your happiness but would rather detract from it. A bowl of ice cream or a chocolate bar will satisfy you for a few hours, but you eventually will be back to that same level of happiness homeostasis that you had previously.

Instead of looking to keep yourself content or happy all of the time, know that happiness is not everything in life and that you benefit more from the hard work and the struggle that you put yourself on a daily basis than of just sitting on the couch and eating ice cream until the end of time.

When you get to that 2nd or 3rd bowl of ice cream, you should realize that you’re starting to get a stomachache and that you should stop yourself before you get sick. The diminishing marginal return of trying to seek out happiness through ice cream should be counteracted by getting off the couch and into the gym to start working out those extra calories you just gained.

By embracing the struggle of a gym workout and burning off all that ice cream, you’ll be sacrificing that short-term happiness for that long-term struggle but eventual satisfaction of improving yourself physically as a person and making yourself happier and healthier in the long-run as a direct result of your choices and decision-making. You should not be afraid to indulge a little bit every now and then but remember that life is better experienced in moderation and you should always watch what choices you are making as you go through your life as both a consumer and a producer.

Castillo de Chapultepec

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Cherry Blossom Season

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The Downsides to Sarcasm

Sarcasm is one of those things in life that should be used fleetingly or in moderation so as to not step on anybody’s toes or to get yourself into trouble. Sarcasm has its place and time but when it is used commonly, so much that you are not even sure of whether you yourself are being serious or sarcastic, then you may start to have problems in your interpersonal relationships. Sarcasm may be considered funny or humorous at times but there are much better ways on how to put a smile on somebody’s face.

How do we define ‘sarcasm’? What exactly does it mean? Well, sarcasm is essentially the using of contempt or irony to mock someone or make fun of someone. Sarcasm is often negative in terms of its usage and while it can be funny to some people you’re not referring to as the focus of the joke; others may be offended by it or not find it tasteful. The thing with sarcasm is that once you start using it on people, you may be liable to consequences where people make fun of you in return using sarcasm. Sarcasm is an unclear form of communication and while it can be considered witty or clever, you’re risking it that the joke may not go over well or that the sarcasm will be turned against you.

You also should be careful about who you are using sarcasm around because some cultures and some peoples are not familiar with this form of humor and will think that you are being serious instead of being aware that you’re joking around. While not limited to only the English language, Sarcasm is considered to be most commonly used in English and is rather foreign to other languages who do not use it as a form of humor.

Sarcasm can often be misconstrued even when it is meant to be funny leading to angst and resentment that can hurt friendships and relationships. The biggest downside to sarcasm is that at the heart of it is dishonesty or a lack of forwardness that can cause mixed emotions or bad feelings over time. When it is used over and over again with the same person, they will not be able to tell if you’re ever being serious or if you’re always being sarcastic instead. When you are hoping to clearly communicate with another person in an honest and frank way, you want to stay far away from using sarcasm at all.

While using sarcasm with friends and family isn’t the worst thing if they are familiar with what it is in terms of humor, you should avoid using it with strangers, employers, or people in official roles. You would not be sarcastic with a firefighter if your house is burning down nor would you do it with a police officer if your car got pulled over for speeding on the highway. These kinds of situations are where you do not want to use sarcasm at all because it could backfire on you in terms of hurting your future.                  Using sarcasm at the office or the workplace is also highly inadvisable especially because of the likelihood that it can be taken the wrong way.

This is especially true if you do not know the person well or know about their sense of humor. Using sarcasm with the wrong people or in the wrong situation could backfire on you severely causing you to lose your job or even lose your friendship when you are not careful about it. Sarcasm with strangers is also not a good idea because they don’t know who you are, or they might not even know what sarcasm which is could put you in potential physical danger if you are not careful. Because of these examples that I have cited, we can conclude that sarcasm should only be used with close friends or family members especially sparingly so as to not cause miscommunication or hurt feelings.

Also, compared to other figures of speech in the English language, sarcasm neither translates well to other languages nor can be written in any real form. You can only use spoken sarcasm usually with humorous or hurtful intent, which means it may be one of the least useful figures of speech to learn and use. Sarcasm is mainly used to mask a true form of communication and is a shortcut or cheap way to undermine being honest and open with other people. People who use sarcasm often and without previous thought run the risk of being seen as emotionally distant or uncaring. They will be perceived by others as putting up walls and not being able to hold a serious conversation. As a result, a lot of sarcasm can cause a lot of harm to one’s personal life and prevent somebody from forming deep, real, and lasting relationships.

Sarcasm, when used in the right way can be very funny, but it is one of those things in life that has a diminishing marginal utility the more it is used. People don’t want to be around someone who is sarcastic all of the time and can’t be trusted to have a serious conversation. Open and honest communication is the antithesis to sarcasm, and I think most people would rather deal with someone who is honest rather than sarcastic. There are also much better and more sincere forms of humor out there that can generate a lot more laughs without hurting someone’s feelings. To poke fun of someone in a real way is alright but to constantly do it will lead to serious problems and broken friendships if the sarcasm does not stop.

Unsurprisingly, sarcasm is most popular with middle school and high school children, but it should be a stage that you grow out of in college and beyond. If you’re a grown man or woman using sarcasm all of the time and never being honest with your co-workers, friends, or family, it is almost certainly going to backfire on you and cause issues in your life. The next time you think of being sarcastic as a grown adult, think deeply before you do it and think about the person or people, you’re making the butt of the joke. If you do not think before you speak, it is likely to end up with negative consequences for you.

Sarcasm is a figure of speech in the English language but to me, it is a mostly unpopular and overrated one that doesn’t translate well or write well either. The next time you hear a sarcastic conversation go on for too long, politely step away and ask to be excused. It’s not worth your time and it’s best you spend your time with other people who are more open, honest, and serious. Being able to handle mature conversations without using sarcasm will set you apart from others and show people that you are a serious adult who is not to be made fun of or messed around with.

Lastly, sarcasm is the lowest form of humor in the English language and as a figure of speech, it leaves a lot to be desired when compared to others such as irony or metaphors. While sarcasm isn’t going away anytime soon, let’s try to limit it down to only being used when a really funny situation arises.

San Francisco

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