Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Truth That Makes You Squirm*

Friends,

This past Friday I attended a production at The Staircase called Slut (R)evolution, a one-woman show starring Cameryn Moore.

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At the risk of over-simplifying the subject matter, the performance was an exploration of her sexual development, and showed the progression through sexual awakening, becoming a lesbian, slutting it up in college and becoming straight again (sic.).  I stuck around for a few minutes after the show and spoke briefly with her, and when she asked me what I thought I kind of blurted out that I was extremely uncomfortable for the whole hour and a half.  Rather than be put off or insulted she seemed to take it in stride and asked me why.

My response wasn’t very eloquent and I said something (only half-honest) about the subject matter (BDSM) being very racy for my vanilla sensibilities.  But in reality it wasn’t that at all; free and open access to internet porn has more or less taken the edge off seeing extreme sex, let alone hearing about it.  Rather I felt uncomfortable by just how vulnerable Cameryn made herself.  She really laid herself bare for all to see, and save for a few uneasy laughs at the beginning I was mostly dead quiet throughout the show. It’s hard for me to say what the exact cause of my discomfort was but here were a few things that made me uneasy:

The Backlash Against the Commodity Status of Female Sexuality

Traditionally a woman’s virginity has been viewed as a symbol of her virtue, and while things have relaxed to the point where women can breathe a little bit and have some of that sweet pre-marital, even that has imposed limits.  After all, many of us likely have a number in our heads of how many men is acceptable for a woman to be with (a symptom of our society’s obsession with quantification among other things), and where does that leave women who go past that number?  There is an amorphous, poorly-defined line which seems to widen and narrow arbitrarily which a woman must walk if she wishes to explore her sexuality without being seen as a slut by others.  The solution of course (like the solution to so many things) is for a woman stop caring about what others think, because its none of their business who she has sex with.

However, some women instead react to the pressure by becoming the insatiable sluts they have already been pre-judged to be,

eminem the way i am

“I am whatever you say I am; if I wasn’t then why would I say I am?”

and even go so far as to delude themselves into believing that they are being liberated.  This is not me just making this up; Moore makes a similar assertion in her show when looking back on earlier promiscuity and how she justified it at the time as more than simply rebelling against her father.  Speaking of her father..

The Shame of Your Parents is a Motherfucker

The one time which she explicitly mentions her father is when she talks about overhearing him and her mother fighting about the crowd she had chosen to hang out with as a teenager.  Being raised a Mormon, hanging out with dudes who wore make-up apparently said a lot about her own sexuality, and she recalls hearing her father yell to her mother that she was “just a fat slut.”  She then laments that this was before she was even sexually active.  Or particularly fat.

Its funny how people’s expectations of you, particularly those of caregivers, can really influence  the course you pursue.  And when these expectations are in place alongside stringent moral standards regarding chastity, well I can only imagine the result is overwhelming for some people.  For my own part, I have often thought, “What if I had been born a girl?”  For starters, I used to drink quite a bit and go out to clubs and parties, seeking the attention of the opposite sex and looking to get laid.  I can only imagine how if I had been a girl I might have been much more successful in all of those endeavours to my own detriment.  It occurs to me that were I a girl I might have just been a fat drunk slut like so many others, but fate saw fit to give me a penis, and so society and I both regard me with a gentler eye.

Everyone is Just a Different Aspect of You

There is no artful way to say it, so I will just come out with it: I don’t find Cameryn Moore particularly physically appealing.  Furthermore, her attitudes toward toward sex, though some would call them progressive or liberated, unpleasantly remind me of an emptier time in my life where I didn’t place a particularly high value on my own sexuality and sought to just sleep with girls for the sake of bragging rights.  I will say that she is a gifted performer in that she is able to make herself completely vulnerable, but watching her show was like watching Requiem for a Dream; I saw it once and I don’t need to see it again.

In its own way, her detailing of her sexual misadventures and misuse of herself was like watching a WorldVision infomercial or a documentary about a bloody war.  Its like, “Here’s the society we enable and what we reduce people to.  A generation, nay, a society of people who don’t value themselves and aren’t valued by anyone else.”  In our own way, we are all fat sluts but we maintain a narrative that things are going according to some plan in the vain hope that we can convince ourselves of this by convincing enough of the others around us.

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Cameryn Moore made me doubt the validity of my own self-affirming narrative and I am still having trouble forgiving her for that.

***

If you get a chance to see Slut (R)evolution you definitely should.  You may not be as troubled by it as I was, but if you are … well we all need our conceptions shaken up from time to time.

Best,

-Andre Guantanamo

*“Find the truth that makes you squirm” was a piece of advice I read in a Men’s Health investment guide a few years back.  The logic was that when doing a financial self-assessment you don’t want to lull yourself into a false sense of security, but rather address the areas of your finances which might not be secure.

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Filed under Critique, Review, Uncategorized, Understanding

Movie Review: Super Mario Bros. – A Flop Revisited

Friends,

Sometimes the passage of time can ferment the initially overlooked positive and redeeming qualities of art, and make something that was scorned upon its unveiling worthy of a second look.

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Super Mario Bros. may be just such a movie so I am going to watch it.  Please feel free to join me.  I’m gonna start by watching the movie and sharing my thoughts with you at regular intervals.  Then we’ll move on to more discussion.

Part 1: Watch-Through

0:21:24

So Daisy just disappeared into a rock wall and Mario and Luigi are standing dumbfounded looking at it trying to figure out if they should jump in to follow.

ImageThey of course do.  Up to this point the movie has been good.  I care about the characters, there is a belieivable doting older brother relationship between Mario and Luigi, and a cute, innocent romantic one between Luigi and Daisy.  Spike and Iggy, though not yet named are really filling the role of bumbling henchmen well with some good dialogue, and while Koopa was introduced briefly at the beginning, the biggest villain thus far is Scapelli.  On top of sabotaging Daisy’s archaeology site he also seems to be a bit of a perv which makes him easier to hate.  So far this movie is good.

0:25:12

   Mario and Luigi are starting to realize that they’re “not in Brooklyn anymore.”  This realization comes after falling off a walkway into a pile of fungus and seeing two baby dinosaurs fighting.  Now before setting out to do this review I had thought a lot about the fungus as it appears in this movie.  My interest stems largely from having listened to some Terence McKenna lectures recently, and its only fair to mention that I am viewing this film with an observant eye turned toward how the fungus figures into the story and from there I will make what interpretations I think can be made.

   It bears mention that the Koopa world seems to be a little bit wackier and slapstick than our world (Koopa just sent out a “plumber alert,” which then aired over a loudspeaker into the city).  These zany antics are, so far, tolerable because they fit with the tone which has been established in that world.  Let’s hope they keep it consistent.

Note: Koopa sent out a “plumber alert” after hearing the revelation that the plumber’s had taken the macguffin meteor rock.  He didn’t actually know that they had come to the Mushroom Kingdom, so even in the context of this bizarro world the alert was a little premature.

0:37:30

    I feel like some problems have developed; Koopa just responded “Tyrannosaurus Rex, the lizard king” when Mario asked what single-celled organism he evolved from.  Let the record show that Tyrannosaurus Rex was not a single-celled organism.

   And why the hell did the movie producers turn Toad, an anthropomorphic mushroom, into a dinosaur?  I get that as a citizen of the Mushroom Kingdom he evolved from a dinosaur, so within the context of the movie it makes sense, but it just seems like such a bizarre departure.  Plus, by turning all dissidents into these Goombas, Koopa is knowingly creating a loyal army of lobotomized retards.  And he wonders why the meteor slipped through his fingers.

   As well, at some earlier point Koopa established that he needed the meteor to bridge the Mushroom Kingdom to our world to take it over or something.  Yet at the movie’s beginning he stalks Daisy’s mother here with no apparent problem.  As well, Spike and Iggy seem to travel between the two worlds with some ease and regularity, kidnapping a woman (the wrong woman) each time they do.

   Which brings up another problem: why would Koopa wait twenty or so years to send Iggy and Spike on missions to kidnap women and recover the rock?  He was there the night Daisy’s mom escaped and so probably had some idea of how long she was gone.  Why didn’t he think to himself, “Hey, in the half hour she was on the New York streets she could have only gotten so far.  Perhaps I can check every church in the immediate area.”

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Churches being really the only place to leave an egg which will hatch into a baby soon.  

If he had, he might have resolved the whole missing meteor piece relatively quickly.  But instead koopa waits for twenty years while the kingdom he has apparently usurped from the Mushroom King faces a water shortage and gets choked by fungus.

   ***NOTE: I’m watching a later part of this movie and Mario and Luigi are interrogating Iggy and Spike in the desert and Mario asks why Koopa didn’t just come through earlier and get the rock like Iggy and Spike had been doing.

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Iggy (or Spike) says that the pathway was obstructed until (Scapelli’s) excavation dynamite cleared the way.  True, the opening sequence does show the path getting obstructed, but why can Iggy and Spike pass through and not Koopa?  Why would Koopa not just blow the obstruction up himself?  And furthermore, why obtain the rock to merge the two dimensions?  Why not just lead an invasion army into Brooklyn through the portal once he clears up the debris?  So many questions.

   You know that feeling where you start to think something has gone wrong but you can’t quite blame it on one thing?  I think that’s where I’m at now.  I thought it was when they introduced the de-evolve chamber but that doesn’t bear all the blame.  The movie is not ruined (yet) but its freewheeling and noone seems to be at the wheel.  Let’s see what happens.

0:46:54

   Ok, so now they are sending Iggy or Spike (as if it matters) into the de-evolving chamber BUT with the specific instructions to evolve him to an advanced level of existence.

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So I have to ask: Why, if Koopa could evolve his minions and have them be something beyond retards, would he not do so?  Furthermore, why would he de-evolve so many of them only to keep them in his employ?  Even Furthermore (sic.), why would he not evolve himself to the furthest extent possible as that would conceivably give him some edge in his mission of conquest?  Thinking about these seemingly obvious yet unemployed tactics makes me think that Koopa is perhaps the biggest retard of all and I wonder how he maintains control, let alone how he got control in the first place.

   With regard to the use of fungus in the movie, it figured into Mario and Luigi’s escape from the de-evolving chamber.  First, it tried to give them a Bob-omb,

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and then it caught their stolen police car as it fell out of a tunnel into the desert.

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Now it is still early in the film and the fungus has more of a role to play, but it strikes me as fairly obvious that the fungus is helping the mammals survive and become ascendant in a world which has thus far been ruled by dinosaurs.  This smacks of McKenna’s “Stoned Ape Theory,” which posits that psychadelics like amanita muscaria and psilocybin cubensis mushrooms, eaten by apes could have served as evolutionary catalysts much like the monoliths in 2001: A Space Odyssey.  If the notion that the filmmakers were influenced by this theory seems far-fetched, please note how prominently the theme of evolution figures into the plot.

0:52:35

   Koopa forcing himself on Daisy is creepy as fuck.  I’m not sure if this works for his character or not.  The wagging serpent tongue might be a little too racy for a kids movie but the rest of the movie is a little too goofy for an adult movie.

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WHAT THE FUCK!?

1:03:35

   Okay I just watched a puzzling bit of cinema where Mario and Luigi escape from the desert by working with Iggy and Spike to get back in the city.  Their plan is to accost innocent garbage workers who work in the outskirts of the city and conveniently wear masks which they can then put on to fool security and get back into the city driving garbage trucks.  I’m just not sure why the masks and outfits of the workers looked like BDSM outfits.

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This film was released before Pulp Fiction so in fairness they couldn’t have known about the gimp, but from now on anyone who watches this will think of BDSM whenever they see the Mario Bros. attack one of these unfortunates with a plunger.

   Now during the aforementioned interrogation of Iggy & Spike (who, though now evolved to talk smarter, still behave stupidly) in the desert, Mario and Luigi discover that the large, black woman who stole their piece of the meteorite is actually a bouncer at a night-club, so now we have a pointless night-club scene.  It’s interesting to point out that in this club scene, Mario is wearing a yellow suit and (ugh) turtleneck, while Luigi is wearing a red one.  Furthermore, earlier in the film Mario was wearing a green jacket while Luigi wore a red sweater.

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I only point out these wardrobe selections because Luigi is known for wearing green and Mario is known for wearing red.  I’m not saying that they have to dress in those colours all the time…

power-rangers1

…a la Power Rangers…

…but if they are going to wear conspicuous colours why confuse the palette?

   After Mario dances with Big Bertha and manages to get the rock off of her neck, Goombas led by Lena bust in to apprehend them.  Luigi then needlessly huddles with Mario to quarterback how they are going to lose the rock.  It just seemed so dumb to me that they would stand in the club throwing the rock back and forth when they could have just ran away and escaped, like they did as soon as they lost the rock.

1:08:00

   FUUUUCK.  From a plot-making-sense perspective, this is starting to get dumb.  Mario and Luigi make an assumption about which tower Daisy is in and decide they have to make it to the top of that one.  But since there are only like two towers in the city…

mario7

…I suppose its not a super unreasonable guess.  In true plumber fashion they decide to sabotage said tower right in its under-serviced plumbing pipes.  Here we get a weird joke about how the shitty maintenance of the pipes “must have been a non-union job.”  This doesn’t make sense; wouldn’t a union job, where noone could conceivably get fired, be more likely to show poor results? (This isn’t me stating my opinion but just examining some common criticisms)  And since the Marios are in business for themselves, why would they make fun of fellow non-unioners?

   Whatever.  They find their properly-coloured maintenance coveralls, suit up and get to that whole rescuing business.

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Oh yeah and at some point in there we are treated to a 30 second scene of Koopa ordering a pizza where he hysterically requests they,

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Hold the Mammal!

My….sides…..

….ahhhh…

…splitting!….

…pain.

   Soooo, after Mario and Luigi get on the elevator, we again cut to Koopa who dismisses Lena before she can reveal she has the rock.  Fine she decides, she’ll merge the world by herself if not with him.  Really?  Is that all?  She is going to carry out his ultimate wish to get back at him?  Like does she think if it is she who merges the worlds he somehow won’t be able to rule?  He’ll see them merging and probably be like, “Hey, these shits are merging,” then he’ll get to ruling them.  And she’ll be left having to explain why she didn’t tell him she had the rock.  Not too bright, but then again none of the henchpeople are.

1:13:13

   So when Mario and Luigi’s elevator filled with goombas they started rocking them back and forth and made them dance which allowed Mario and Luigi to escape through the roof.

   But, hold on… wouldn’t rocking henchmen make the plumbers more likely to run into them?  I get that it was a comic relief scene, but even Luigi, endearing goofball that he is, must have realized that no good could come of making contact with the enemy.  And I’m not really sure how making the goombas rock back and forth aided their escape through the roof unless rocking mesmerized them somehow…

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That’s it, they were mesmerized.

   Fast forward to Daisy aaaaaaaannnnnd Lena is trying to kill her in a fit of jealousy on account of Koopa likes that fresh young, Earth-raised straaaaynge.

mariomovie5

You stay classy, Koopa!

The whole sequence struck me as a tad overkill (Lena already had the rock after all, and even though her plan was misguided to the point of retardation, all she had to do was head to the meteor),  but then I’ve never had to vie with a younger, prettier girl for the attentions of an older, lecherous man-lizard, so who knows?

   While we’re on the topic of believability, somewhere in the mad dash to escape Lena’s homicidal rage, Daisy runs into Iggy and Fuckface, being escorted to the execution area for execution (sic.).  There is a problem here: We know Daisy is on the top floor of the tower from an earlier establishing shot, so why would the goombas be taking the retards to a penthouse execution chamber?  Aren’t executions more of a ground-floor or sub-basement affair?  It seems like a small point, and it is, but it struck me as odd that they happened to be being escorted to their death in the same time and place where Daisy was making her daring escape.

   Speaking of Daisy’s daring escape, we know it was daring because a) she is running, b) the homicidal Lena has just stabbed Yoshi in the neck (GANGSTA!) and is in pursuit, and c) Iggy and Spike’s captors are now shooting fireballs at her.  Even though the situation is tense and there is a definite urgency to escape, Daisy grabs a fire extinguisher to put out the fire on Toad which the other goombas created.  This heroic move showcases her compassion and actually adds some depth to the character so its fine, though it does leave her with less time to escape.  Yet with this intensified time-constraint, two flamethrower-wielding lizards aware of her presence, and a known homicidal maniac on the loose, she somehow convinces the retards to take her to her father, who has been de-evolved to fungus.  Weirdly, they seem more than obliging when they should really be more concerned about escaping from the tower of death whose top floor they are trapped on.

   Daisy’s meeting with her father raises some more interesting questions.  For starters, if he has been de-evolved to the point of fungus, how is he smarter than every other character in this movie?  Seriously, in spite of not saying a single word (or perhaps because of not saying a word) he proves himself capable of working toward a consistent and clear goal, something the other characters are a little goofy about.  From when they first arrive in the Mushroom Kingdom the king tries to assist Mario and Luigi who, not yet done fucking around until later in the movie, don’t recognize the potential value of the high-explosives he keeps sending their way.  And lets not forget his save in the desert.  I appreciate the clarity of purpose.

   Another question I have about the king is a little less tactful; namely, why does he look like a penis?  Superficially of course, but still, it’s there.

Picture 4Penises are even slangily called “mushroom-heads” and he is a head literally made of fungus, so they pretty much spell it out for us.  It doesn’t help either that the head slides in and out of a kind of fungal sheath/foreskin apparatus.  As a kid I always thought I was weird for thinking this, but as I get older I see that perhaps I’m not the weird one.  Add to the mix the constant clear fluid dripping from the head and you have a penis with not only jock-itch (penis fungus) but the clap as well.  Great Job!

Movie’s End

   I set a goal after the last couple paragraphs to watch the rest of the movie without making any comments.  For the most part I was successful although I did have to pause it once and write down one line of dialogue which struck me as bizarre and completely misplaced.  But more on that later.

   So after the Mario Bros. locate Daisy in her father’s throne room, Daisy explains that the rest of the girls, including Mario’s girlfriend are being held elsewhere in the tower.  There is an amusing exchange here where Luigi begins addressing the fungus king respectfully and explaining why he is the right guy to date Daisy.  And I’m pretty sure that was the last chuckle I genuinely had.  What follows from that point of last amusement is a bizarre rescue where Mario races down a frozen pipe on a mattress with the missing Brooklyn girls.  I get that scenes like this are “fun” and “exciting,” but what killed me here was the music.

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Check it Out Here

It just seemed so cheesy and unrelated to the movie.

   They end up crashing in the street below which is where the final showdown takes place, but I have to backtrack a little bit here, to fully explain how off the rails this movie got.  Remember Lena?

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Well after trying to kill Daisy and then stabbing Yoshi in the neck she makes an executive decision to head directly for the meteor and merge the dimensions.  However she is apprehended and we cut to a scene of one of Koopa’s security team bringing the rock to him.  Koopa, re-invigorated by finally getting what he has been questing after for the whole movie, starts barking out orders, last of which is “RELEASE LENA.”

   WAIT, WHAT!?  You know this chick tried to betray you!  Earlier, when you felt that Spike and Iggy were trying to betray you ordered them to be executed even though they were mostly harmless.  This chick seems to have half a brain in her head and she actively tried to double-cross you and you want to release her?  Well, I guess we need her to be released so we can facilitate the later ridiculousness of the final battle.

ON TO THE FINAL BATTLE

   Koopa has taken to the streets with Daisy and Luigi in tow (they got captured conveniently after Mario had already left to go ride a mattress down a frozen pipe) and as he makes his way toward the meteor Mario’s mattress busts out of the frozen pipe and lands in front of him.  Of course, Koopa is so flabbergasted by this new development that he allows the re-united Mario brothers to over-power him in a ridiculous sequence that involves rocket boots.

Picture 7

   Now its important to mention here: Luigi shouldn’t even be alive.  Remember earlier when the goombas were trying to kill them with flame-throwers during the prison break?  Koopa obviously had no problem with them being dead even though he didn’t have the rock.  Now equipped with the rock, he has Luigi and Daisy in custody and they are still alive??  At least you can make an argument for Daisy’s continued survival; there is some unexplained plot aspect which makes her the only one who can merge the worlds without dying (this doesn’t make sense either though, because Koopa could have just ordered a minion to sacrifice his life to merge the worlds, and therefore not had to  tote Daisy around.  But he did seem to want to fuck her, so we’ll assume he had ulterior motives), but Luigi should have been shot in the back of the head as soon as Koopa had both him and the rock.  Or at least put in a jail cell.  But no, he is brought on the excursion through the city (on foot mind you) where any number of opportunities could arise for him to throw the proverbial wrench (lol, cause he’s a plumber) into Koopa’s plans  Opportunities like…

Picture 3

…MARIO OUT OF FUCKING NOWHERE!

So here we see Luigi’s continued survival, Mario’s mattress ride, and Koopa’s nonsensical order to release Lena all converge to facilitate Koopa losing the rock…and Lena getting it again.   And as she makes her way unmolested to the meteor she says perhaps the dumbest thing ever:

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“MY TIME HAS COME; THE UNIVERSE IS MINE!!” -Lena

What the actual fuck is this woman talking about?  Since when does merging two worlds give one unarmed, middle-aged woman who looks like a cat lady dominion over the universe?  I understand she just got electrocuted and all,

Picture 5but is her brain actually that fried?  I guess even the filmmakers were like “screw it!”

   So Lena then dies from merging the worlds,

Super Mario Bros 40because apparently the universe didn’t want to be ruled by her.  At the same time, Daisy & Luigi are leading the Brooklyn girls through the portal to Brooklyn and Mario is battling Koopa who still thinks that he has the rock.  Koopa keeps thinking Mario has the rock until everything…

Super Mario Bros 41

…including himself…

…starts disappearing and he realizes that someone put the rock in the meteor.  Rather than be distraught, he seems positively overjoyed, and we realize he need not have concerned himself with recovering the rock if anyone could insert it into the meteor and allow him to begin his worldly conquest.  This just illustrates my earlier point about how unnecessary the rock was as a plot vehicle.

   Yet Koopa, for all his talk of conquering shit, seems unequipped to even conquer a small excavation site, as the only havoc he manages to wreak during his brief tenure in the merged worlds is to de-evolve Scapelli into a chimpanzee.

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Its important to note here that he faces nothing in the way of resistance although he is transported into the center of what appears to be a protest against Scapelli wanting to do construction on an excavation site.

 cops

This means that there are cops there whose job is literally to keep control of situation like this and noone even takes a shot at Koopa or the 8-foot targets he has for bodyguards even though they witness him discharge an energy weapon.  The police officer that the camera pans to looks more bemused about the adorable little Scapelli chimp

coplookingatchimp

than he looks concerned about the disintegrated World Trade Center towers,

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or eager to regain control of the situation.

   Thankfully, that loveable scamp Luigi has been working with Daisy to remove the rock from the meteor and un-merge the two worlds.

Picture 6

This sends Mario and Koopa back to the Mushroom Kingdom

Picture 1

where the Bob-omb Mario wound up earlier has walked its way closer to where Koopa is standing.  It is interesting to note here that even though Mario and Koopa were moving around in our world (Mario even dove through the air to evade getting de-evolved) they end up right back where they were standing before the worlds merged.  Again, most people have stopped caring at this point, I only bring it up because to let it slide would be a disservice to this review and to the movie itself.  I criticize ’cause I love, or at least because I want to love.

   Since this is getting lengthy I’ll give you the last plot points in brief, with criticisms as required:

-Koopa orders the goombas to fire on Mario

Picture 2

-they hesitate because Toad plays his harmonica to get them to dance

-Koopa knocks the dancing goombas out with one punch in a manner reminiscent of The Three Stooges

-Luigi jumps to the walkway wearing the boots handed to him inexplicably by Big Bertha and hands Mario one of the two de-evolve guns handed to him by Toad prior to his harmonica solo

-Mario and Luigi begin shooting and Koopa starts de-evolving into a T-Rex only for the Bob-omb which was wound earlier to explode and knock him into this weird hanging bucket thing

-Koopa then emerges in full beast-mode for one final scare  and the Mario Bros de-evolve him into primordial ooze

-Koopa’s de-evolution and defeat somehow magically re-evolve the king, and he comically says “Love those plumbers.”

king

I cringed, hard.

-Daisy decides she can’t go back to Earth because she belongs in the Mushroom Kingdom

-Since the portal for some reason closed, Daisy uses the meteor rock to open it with a laser beam.

Picture 14

   Even with the already written-off tone and plot of the movie, I had some problems here because not only did they never explain why she was the only one who could withstand the force of merging the dimensions, they now gave her a new power to shoot lasers.  But again, does it matter at this point?  Personally, I think if they wanted to blow some leftover money, they shouldn’t have used it on the visual effects here, but on getting something besides the open-source generic rock-music they used in the frozen tunnel scene.

   The movie ends with Luigi being a third wheel on Mario’s dinner-date with his girlfriend when there is a knock at the door and Daisy bursts in wearing tattered clothes and holding a flame-thrower (which she must have just walked through Brooklyn with to get to their apartment), asking for help and  telling the Marios,

Picture 34

You’re never gonna believe this!

I guess this was them setting up for a sequel which mercifully never happened.  That about concludes the watch-through and we’re only 4200 words deep.  Let’s go for broke as we begin…

Part 2: What Went Wrong?

   There were so many things here that contributed to this movie’s downfall.  Off the top of my head, one glaring problem was,

The half-baked video game references which were extraneous to the plot.

   I think the king turning back into a human being after Koopa’s defeat was a reference to the various kings in SMB3 for NES who had been transformed into animals and were transformed back to men as soon as Mario retrieved their wands from Bowser/Koopa’s various children.  In that game it made sense because it was consistent.  In this film, it seemed shoe-horned in as a shout-out to fans.  The only problem is that that particular reference is not even that obvious and it only occurred to me while writing this review.  If you’re going to make an extraneous reference, it can’t also be obscure.  Its like telling a five-minute joke with a shitty punch-line.

   The second such reference was the pipe chase scene I have been very critical of.  We get it, Mario goes through pipes to get around.  My uncle is a plumber so I know thats just kinda how they roll.  But a frozen ventilation pipe on a mattress?  If they really wanted to incorporate pipes into the story they should have had an enchanted water main which led to the Mushroom Kingdom from Brooklyn.  True, its completely ridiculous, but then so is the plot as it exists now.  As long as they commit to the ridiculousness I don’t care how cock-a-mamie (???) things get.  Another problem was,

Too much stupid shit was introduced to keep a handle on.

   This is a movie based on Super Mario Bros., so why does it feature evolution, meteors, archaeology, the Mafia, fascism, infrastructure based on bumper cars, scantily clad women in night-clubs, and sado-masochism?  Even if all of these elements were somehow worked into the film artfully, they are still too disparate to appeal to a specific audience.  Furthermore, some of the references are too mature to be understood by kids while the movie as a whole is too goofy to be enjoyed by adults.  So really who does that leave?  Tweens?

The Writing is Horrible.

Here is sampling of the dialogue:

“I’m Luigi Mario; you got a problem with that?” – Luigi

You know what they say about little girls, don’t you?  They say they never forget the first time they were kissed by a lizard.” -Koopa

Monkey.  HEE-HEE, Monkey.” – Koopa

Treat your tools like a friend; keep them by you; never let ’em down, and they’re always at your side.” – Mario

And of course, my favourite:

MY TIME HAS COME; THE UNIVERSE IS MINE!!” -Lena

   What is an actor to do when they are being directed to spout off such drivel?  In defense of the actors in this movie, its wasn’t the acting that was the downfall.  The writing, though engaging in some parts, kinda just tapered off at others.  This indicates that it might have been written by a committee, and one person in that group might have been a better writer than the others.  Or there might have been one good writer who didn’t quite have creative control.  Either way, some genuine talent breaches through the cracks like a rose growing from concrete…

Then a garbage truck driven by S&M “bottoms” runs over it.

And then a lobotomized dinosaur-man takes a shit on it.

Then it gets grown over by sentient fungus.

Then and only then does it seem that the material is ready for the dramatis personae to recite in front of a camera.  Lots of credit goes out to Dennis Hopper; for someone who was given the shittiest of the shitty dialogue he committed 93.7% to it which must have been no easy feat.

   Finally,

Where the fuck are the turtles?

  If you’ve played any Mario game, you’ve probably stepped on a turtle or a beetle (or a spikey-shelled thing and died) and then used their shell as a projectile.  In fact, a fixture of Mario games is the ability to use the enemy’s carcass to kill more enemies (It’s done adorably though, so kids can play).  But instead of that we get dinosaurs sans shells.  I suspect this was done partly to capitalize on the “dino-mania” (sic.) that summer which existed in anticipation of a little film released a month later.  Perhaps you’re familiar with it:

 jurassic-park1_481597

Suddenly turtles must not have been cool anymore.

TMNT_III_film

This was released a few months earlier, so maybe everyone was just a little “turtled-out.”

I suspect that somewhere along the lines someone wanted to make this movie real-er and grittier (because we go to movies for realism) and to them that meant anthropomorphic dinosaurs as opposed to anthropomorphic turtles.  In the end it came off as more bizarre than any of the games.

   I could probably go one but we’re just shy of 5000 words so let’s get moving.

3. What Went Right?

   This movie had some redeeming qualities.  You’ll remember when I was only about half an hour in, I was enjoying it immensely.  First and foremost,

Luigi is Charming as Fuck

   Maybe it’s ’cause he spends part of the movie with his shirt off, maybe its because I know what he looks like in drag, but whatever it is, I have a bit of a man-crush on John Leguizamo.  He doesn’t typically make great movies, but I find he always puts forward solid performances.  This is another case of that.  Luigi is very endearing and Leguizamo manages to find a certain alluring bewilderedness which I typically only see in Brad Pitt and Matthew McConaughey interviews.  I don’t necessarily like how his character develops into a kind of mystic who always gets “feelings,” but overall he’s likeable.

Bob Hoskins is a Believable Mario

   I thought Bob Hoskins nailed the role perfectly.  He added a loving gruffness that isn’t there in the games  but it makes sense for an older brother (age difference between Mario and Luigi isn’t really explored in the games).  The accent was good, as was the body type, and he did the best with what he was given.  Alas, it was not enough.

The Mushroom Kingdom

   There was a cool aesthetic achieved in the main thoroughfare of Koopa’s city.  Even without all of the fungus, you could tell it wasn’t New York.  The fashions were pronounced and involved lots of spikes and studs but on the whole it wasn’t too S&M-y.  I thought that making the goomba outfits reminiscent of totalitarian secret police was an interesting route to go, and the fact that they were dumb was perhaps a critical statement about fascists, Nazis, etc.  Again, sometimes they went overboard, like with the gimps in the garbage dump, but overall it was a cool theme which I think could have been explored a little more.

Somehow I Care

   You would think that I wanted to slit my wrists while watching this, but that wasn’t the case.  With the exception of the relative lull in the desert, the action is pretty constant and it doesn’t really give you too much opportunity to mull over the shortcomings (until afterwards).  And while it would be a stretch to say I felt any suspense in the action sequences (The flame bursts from goomba weapons literally travel at the speed of gently-served tennis balls, so the well-being of the protagonists is never seriously threatened.  In fact Im fairly certain the special effect for them was a tennis ball doused in gasoline and set on fire) I did want the good guys to win.  Let’s call it the pacing of the movie; even though the plot is full of holes, and the dialogue can be bizarre, and the characters make ridiculous choices, and there are scenes that don’t make sense, the pacing of things keeps it engaging, even if minimally so.

4. Stoned-Apes?

   I haven’t alluded to my observations about parallels between this movie’s fungus & evolution combo and McKenna’s stoned-ape theory in a few thousand words, so let’s wrap up there.  After viewing this movie and mulling it over, my findings are:
(drumroll please)

Not conclusive one way or the other.   Its hard to say with any certainty if the filmmakers were psychonauts, but there is enough overlap, especially if plot points are abstracted to broad strokes, to make a connection.  Lines like “Trust the Fungus,” which became a tagline in the movie’s marketing campaign, could be a wink/nudge nod to any tripper having a bout of paranoia or uncertainty, but then it could just be shitty writing too.  I already explained too the abstract notion of mushrooms helping mammals in the movie mirrors McKenna’s theory of mushrooms helping mammals in the wild, but that could just be coincidence.
You know what?  Fuck it, I’ll say with 51% certainty that the filmmakers knew about the Stoned-Ape and now that I think about it McKenna was particularly active in the early 90s.  Mind you, his book Food of the Gods only came out earlier the year this was released, but let’s assume that the writers knew about his theories from earlier lectures.  And besides, Mario had already been around for years and so it could even have been Shigeru Miyamoto (Mario’s creator) who was the McKenna fan.  Maybe we’ll never know.

5. Overall Thoughts and Recommendations

   I am going to give this movie a (generous) 4/10.  Its the kind of movie I would never pay money for, but in a world of streaming and downloading, there are much worse things you could be watching.  If you’re a fan of any of the actors in this movie that is a good enough reason to check it out because each of them acts their hearts out.  Best case scenario you might even have a laugh or two at some of the cheesiness.

********

   If you managed to get through all that, congratulations;  you need a new hobby.  Just the same I appreciate your readership and hope you have gleaned some new perspective on more or less properly understood classic.  I want to give a quick shout-out to Red Letter Media; their Half in the Bag and “Plinkett” series of reviews have really opened up my eyes to what it is I was liking and not liking about movies that I was liking and/or not liking (sic.)  Please go check out their site and their reviews for more thorough deconstructions like this.

Except theirs are in video format.

And they’re funnier.
Best,

-Andre Guantanamo

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Filed under Critique, Deconstruction, Movie Review, Review, Uncategorized

Walking Ass-First into the Future

Friends,

   There is a lecture by Peter Joseph which ranks among my favourites called “When Normality Becomes Distortion.”  My fondness for it stems from the fact that it critiques our current methods of doing knowledge and calls into question our assumptions of what is empirical.  Among all of the interesting ideas presented, there is a simple yet profound one which screams to me every time I hear it: “The projections of thought in any point in time can only reflect the state of knowledge at that point in time.”  This idea is illustrated with reference to the constellations and the forms they represent.  “Spoons, oxcarts, scales and common animals” are the pictures astrologers see in the sky, not “space shuttles, TVs, and laptops.”  This bespeaks “the cultural characteristics of the period of origin” of these constellations and shows how the conceptions of primitive man were extrapolated and applied to all he saw.  The important realization here is that we still do this and we need to recognize that the cultural fixtures we conceive of as permanent have no actual permanence or empirical basis.

   Think about our current mainstream conceptions of the future from The Jetsons to Looper to Firefly to Alien.  Notice how the characters in these examples inhabit a world (or space) which is fundamentally like the one we exist in now?  People go to work and school, exchange currency for goods, and have a lot of the same problems and trials that we have now but with a futuristic twist (i.e. Instead of a car breaking down, a hovercar breaks down).  I think this is because while we can paint a picture of the future which takes into account the possible future trends and direction of current technologies (and posits new technologies) it is a lot harder to predict how ways of life, cultures and taken-for-granted assumptions about contemporary life would change in the future.

Image

“Scientists are saying the future is going to be far more futuristic that they originally predicted.”

   While Peter Joseph’s quotation is well-stated and well-received, I have paraphrased it into the words, “We must not let our projections of the future be bound by our conceptions of the present.”  This is where I think is the real challenge lies and where overused terms like “paradigm-shift” actually have merit.  In the box solutions like augmenting/expanding obsolete infrastructure, the passage of more laws, and the exchange of currencies when we have the technological ability to live in a post-scarcity world, are so many examples walking ass-first into the future, looking backwards to lead the way forward.  These ideas have no empirical value only represent the attempts of primitive people to deal with things they didn’t fully understand.  And we’ve been taking their word as gospel from our governments to our mediums of exchange to our ideas about work and incentive.

   When we think about possibilities for the future and what we are capable of we must try not to assume too much about how permanent today’s fixtures are.  For one, its depressing to think that way, and more importantly its just plain inaccurate.  Just like paleo-lithic man could not conceive of inter-continental travel, much less conceive of the idea of continents, we too don’t really know what our future capabilities are and we shouldn’t get too attached to the way things are now.
Best,

-Andre Guantanamo

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Filed under Uncategorized

Absent the Messenger

Dear All,*

Last night I volunteered at my improv school, The Staircase, for a performance called The Six-Minute Memoir.  As a fringe benefit of working the show (and I use the term “working” very loosely) I got to see 13 different writers share their experiences in writing and life.  All of them shared something of value which resonated with me to varying degrees, but I want to mention a thought I had when I was listening to the youngest speaker in the ensemble, Eva Kay.  Only 17, she is already an accomplished poet, and from what I could tell in the brief time I spoke with her, a lovely girl.

Yet I have to confess that I had some negative thoughts when she was reciting her poetry; She touched on some heavy themes and I started to think, “What serious shit has this girl ever dealt with that makes her think she knows about life?”  I mulled this thought over for a few seconds as I listened to her recite words that seemed pretentious from my clouded point of view, but then I realized something: It’s not about her experiences. it’s about mine.  Good poetry, good art for that matter, should be appreciated differently by each person because of their own different experiences, and not uniformly as a result of the experiences of the artist.  In fact, the art itself should have a transcendent quality wherein the artist’s disposition, experiences, etc. don’t even factor into your appreciation of their work.

I feel kind of dumb for lapsing into this trap of credentialism.  So often we go on the authority of what recognized masters say rather than seeing how a message resonates with us without prejudice.  And age-ism is just another form of this credentialism.  I assumed in my arrogance that because this girl did not share my struggle that she did not know struggle.  This is obviously malarky, and to that point one of my favourite quotations is,

“Everyone I know is in the fight of their life.” -Ben Harper, Better Way

Whether or not someone has been through what I’ve been through, they’ve been through something, and to them it was hard, like it was for me.  We really have to evaluate every cultural input as if it had no author, lest we allow our ignorance and prejudice to deprive us of some really wonderful things.

To punctuate this point, have you ever gone back and read something of your own volition which you were forced to read in school?  If you felt you got more out of it the second time around it wasn’t because the author’s experiences had changed (they might have been dead for years), it was because you had changed.  And, as well as reading in a more engaged manner, you had a different (not better, different) perspective that allowed you to get something out of the art which wasn’t there for you before.

The grand revelation is that it’s all about you: If you like a piece of art it’s because you see something positive of yourself in that art; if you are averse to a piece of art it’s because you see something of yourself in the art which you don’t like; if you are indifferent its probably because you don’t relate to it on any level.  Either way, the artist as the messenger shouldn’t factor into your judgment.

Best,*

-Andre Guantanamo

*Since I’ve abandoned the “Most Interesting” theme I used in blogger.com, I am not quite sure what I want to use as my intro and sign-off for my posts.  I may play around with a few things over the next few entries, so expect some inconsistencies.

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The Most Dangerous Kind of Politician

My Friends,
   I have zero faith in the political process.  I think it is an antiquated, obsolete and detrimental way to make decisions for society at best.  At worst, and a little closer to reality, any politician who has any chance of getting elected has already been bought and paid for by various interests to finance their campaign.

One example of this fuckery, albeit a dated one

Or, if that’s not the case, any sweeping fundamental change they would want to make, beyond the passage of new legislation, would probably get blocked or get them assassinated.
   Bearing this in mind, its very easy to dissociate myself from all the noise.  Even moreso when everything politicians say is typically flawed or constrained by present modes of thinking.
   Enter the Boston Marathon Bombing.  Not having a television means I get to miss most of the news coverage but some does creep into my facebook newsfeed.  One such gem I noticed was that Stephen Harper was taking shots at Justin Trudeau for his comments regarding the bombing.

Trudeau’s comments were:

“Now, we don’t know now if it was terrorism or a single crazy or a domestic issue or a foreign issue.  But there is no question that this happened because there is someone who feels completely excluded. Completely at war with innocents. At war with a society. And our approach has to be, where do those tensions come from?”

And Harper’s criticism was:

“When you see this kind of action, when you see this kind of violent act, you do not sit around trying to rationalize it or make excuses for it or figure out its root causes.  You condemn it categorically and to the extent that you can deal with the perpetrators you deal with them as harshly as possible and that is what this government would do if it ever was faced with such actions.”

Both quotations taken from the National Post.

   Let’s deal with Harper’s buffoonery first.  He takes the notion that thought should precede action and rips it apart.  He wants action.  ANY ACTION, so long as it vindicates the national honour.  Forget preventing future violence, just condemn the perps (or whomever we have conveniently labelled the perps) and punish them harshly to satisfy the mob’s biblical need for revenge.
   I’m reminded of a line by rapper The Game in his song “120 Bars,”  where he references another rapper talking shit about him.  Game says, “He don’t write his own raps so I gotta forgive him.”  This is how I feel about Harper et al.  These fucks don’t actually write their speeches and they have PR teams to make sure that they portray a certain image so how am I really supposed to get mad at him for shit he didn’t think up?  Bearing this lack of accountability in mind, I have to approach Justin Bieber’s Trudeau’s comments with the same wariness but also the same magnanimity.
   So obviously he didn’t write his own comments.  But given the circumstances that’s kind of a drag because HE’S SAYING SHIT THAT ACTUALLY MAKES SENSE.  If you read my blog with any regularity, you have probably read the words “root” and “cause” several times, as well as derivatives like “causality.”  For example, I use such terms extensively here, here, and here.  So needless to say my spider-sense tingled when I read these comments from Trudeau.  And here is where the danger lies; its easy to dismiss the “why plan when you can react” rantings of Harper for the idiocy inherent in those words, but when Trudeau comes at me with a message that makes sense, its tempting to forget that he is part of an establishment which actually cares little for root causality and fundamental, structural change.  In fact, such change is anathema to the political establishment because the viability and necessity of the establishment itself would have to be questioned.

“People are not elected to political office to change things, they’re put there to keep things the way they are.” -Jacques Fresco
   It’s important to mention I have no problem with Trudeau personally (or Harper for that matter), but I recognize that they have to play a game where the main guideline is “say the right thing.”  But knowing that (and I think we all know that’s what politics is on some level), the best course of action is not to accept the most appealing set of lies, but to reject an establishment predicated on lying altogether.  I know this is hard; politics paints things as epic battles between “your side” (aka “the right side”) and everyone else. You begin to see things as a fight for right and you put your support behind your champion/politician.  It feels good when your champion gains traction because you feel a part of it.  Conversely, when your champion loses you feel indignant, but righteously so.  And motherfuckers love them some righteous indignation.  
   Furthermore, when one of these champions name-drops something which is of interest to me (i.e. causality) its tempting to focus my attention on their struggle for me and my interests.  But politicians wear causes like pantsuits…
…and what was fashionable one day might not be fashionable the next.  If something is empirically (objectively) right however, it is beyond public opinion and the tyranny of the 51%, a realm which the politician calls home.  A politician may hit on the right note every once in a while but they only have as much integrity as public opinion allows them to have, otherwise they’re out of a job.  Or assassinated.
   So as you struggle to be free always remember that people are gonna say things which at face value may seem amenable to you but always dig deeper, because there are a lot of diversions which will give you that feeling of doing right without actually doing any right.  I am reminded of a part in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, when “looter,” Hopton Stoddard approaches architect and protagonist Howard Roark to build a temple for him.  Roark, not being religious, is initially reluctant but Stoddard has been briefed by antagonist Ellsworth Tooey on exactly what to say to Roark to get around his apprehensions.  Through the use of words and words alone, Stoddard convinces Roark that they are actually on the same page and that Roark IS religious in his own way, leading Roark to relent and build the temple.  This is how I feel about Trudeau’s comments; they have been calculated to get around the defences of a growing number of critical thinkers disaffected with the political establishment.  But like the words of Stoddard, they are just so much hot air.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo  
   

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Filed under tzm, zeitgeist

Movie Review: The Dark Knight Skyfalls (Spoilers)

My Friends,
   Forgive me if this post is a little less than timely.  Life happened and I never got around to it.  In the past year (2012, for those reading this in a distant future) two movies came out whose similarities were made much of:

The Dark Knight Rises, and…
 
Skyfall.
 
I wish to jump on that bandwagon by doing my own comparison & contrast-ison.
   Now before I continue I want to point out that I am writing this blind in the sense that I haven’t searched out any other blogs, articles, or reviews which might be making a similar case, save for some of the initial reviews of Skyfall (those which gave me the idea for this post) that pointed out superficial similarities with DKR in regard to how dark they both were (Given that one of the films has “dark” in the title I think we can do much better than that).  So you will have to forgive me if someone else has already written these exact same things elsewhere because I never bothered to look.
 
First Off…
 
What’s Different About These Movies?
   For starters, everyone in Skyfall seems to have an inexplicably British accent, 
 
…well, most everyone…
 
…while just about everyone in DKR  seems to speak ‘Merican.
 
 Except him.*
 
So yes, there are serious linguistic differences in the film.
That just about covers the differences.
 
On to the Similarities:
   Compare & Contrast is a peculiar species of review which demands discretion, because any movie abstracted to a certain point is identical to any other movie abstracted similarly.  Like I would have a hard time saying that Billy Madison ripped off The Land Before Time if I compared the plots of the two films.  But if I abstracted both plots to their most essential details as follows,
 
Protagonist faces adversity
Protagonist struggles with adversity and meets new friends along the way
Protagonist overcomes adversity

you can see that Billy Madison is a direct rip-off of The Land Before Time which came out years earlier.  So I will try not to be too abstract when comparing the similarities between SF and DKR, but ultimately its not an exact science.

 
On to the Similarities For Realzies This Time

The Characters and Their Relationship to the Plot
   It seems to me that almost every main character in DKR has a parallel in SF.  Sometimes, one character from one movie has similarities to two or more characters from the other movie but still they function in largely the same capacity.  Let’s start with the easy one…

Bruce WayneBatman vs. James Bond

 
   The obvious comparison.  As protagonists, these two share a common arc involving a fall and a rise.  In the case of DKR, the focus of the story is redemption.  Bruce Wayne’s struggle is a largely internal one and questions about how (physically) ready he is to don the cowl after a lengthy sabbatical are more or less put to rest when he straps some hi-tech brace to his leg and kicks down a brick wall.
 
 
Later, when he is physically bested by Bane in their first match, we get the impression it is not because of any physical flaw, but due to some mental block which he overcomes while watching Gotham tear itself apart as he recuperates in the prison Bane sends him to.  As if to reinforce this point, Batman neatly, if not easily defeats Bane in fisticuffs in their next encounter. 
   In SF, Bond’s “fall” comes early on and it is a literal fall from a bridge after Moneypenny accidentally shoots him when he is fighting some douche-fag on a train in Istanbul.  He recovers from his apparent death pretty early on however, and unlike Bruce Wayne, he struggles more with the physical difficulties of getting back in the saddle than any emotional blocks or guilt.  (*This actually seems to be a consistent distinction between the two films: the struggles and repercussions in DKR tend to be more emotional and mental, while the struggles in SF are of a more immediate physical kind).  Still, we really only see Bond’s physical difficulties in his training montage.  When he goes back to active status he seems to fare pretty much the same as ever and the only give-away that he is struggling is when other characters allude to how old he is.
  Oh yeah, James and Bruce are also both orphans


Bane vs. Raoul Silva

 
   The two antagonists serve as dark mirrors to the protagonists in many ways.  What’s more importantly (sic.) is that in some ways you feel sympathy for these characters because both have been fucked over by The League of Shadows and MI6 respectively.  Of the two, Bane is definitely the more sympathetic even though his crimes could be considered worse.  Generating sympathy for a guy who wants to nuke a city of innocent civilians is an impressive feat to accomplish especially when his hulking, lumbering gorilla frame makes him seem a brute.  But then we have the revelation from Talia that it was she who escaped the pit, not Bane.  It was he in fact who protected her and facilitated her escape.  During the telling of this story the camera pans to Bane and we see this:
 
 
 
2:00-2:20 (You may have to view it on youtbe to see the tears clearly)
 
He’s not just a hulking lumbering gorilla, he’s a hulking, lumbering gorilla with feels.  
   And if we didn’t already feel bad enough for Bane at this point we then realize that he loves Talia but she at some point went and fucked Bruce Wayne.  The fanboys of the internet found this particularly offensive and have pointed out this injustice in their memes:
 
Bane, a sympathetic character if ever there was one
 
   While we don’t ever feel the same level of pity for Silva we do find out that M handed him over to the Chinese where he was tortured and unsuccessfully tried to commit teh suicides a la cyanide.  We start to think, “Wow, M is kind of a bitch and maybe, just maybe she deserved this guy coming after her and MI6.”  This potentially great conflict however is neutralized not long after it is introduced when M explains herself to Bond and justifies her actions for the greater good, explaining that Silva had become problematic in the field.  “Oh, so basically he is/was not justified in the least?  M is/was completely in the right and Silva is/was completely in the wrong?  ‘Cause that’s how real life conflict actually works…”  M’s explanation seems good enough for Bond who doesn’t question M’s leadership or choices and does not even seem to realize that but for the grace of M herself, he could be the next agent given up to an enemy nation.  Since a clear line between MI6’s good and Silva’s evil is drawn in the sand (and because he doesn’t cry while telling his story) it is hard to feel sympathy for Silva even though he has so much potential to be an interesting character.  
   But this lack of sympathy is a double-edged sword because I also don’t feel much disdain for Silva either.  Remember a few lines back when I said it was impressive that the creators of DKR make you feel sympathy for Bane even though he was gonna nuke Gotham?  Well, you would think that because Silva is ultimately less sympathetic that it would be easier to condemn him for his transgressions.  Buuut, I have a really hard time caring about his victims or his targets.  Let’s review them, shall we:
 
James Bond: Not even a primary target, just a guy who got in the way.  Also a sociopath whose chosen profession allows him to kill with impunity while he drapes himself with the flag and sings “God Save the Queen” to lull himself to sleep.  I am supposed to care about this guy who works in the shadows to maintain the hegemony of an empire with a legacy of murder and oppression around the globe?
 
M: An ice queen and bureaucrat who tries to keep fear alive in her country to justify her inflated position and salary.  Too dumb to realize that she should have turned over Silva to the Chinese with the caveat that they must kill him when done with him lest he come back for her and vengeance.  I don’t really care about this character.  
 
MI6: Uses up the tax dollars of the average working Briton and doesn’t divulge its secrets.  Its existence is predicated upon the fear of external threats and xenophobia.  
 
If you ask me, Silva should have used more explosives.
 
Severine: I cared so little for this character’s death that I actually had to look up her name.
 
When it comes down to it, the only victim of Silva I feel bad for is the glass of 50-year old Macallan scotch he wastes when he shoots Severine.
 
Evidently, Bond feels the same way.
SILVA, YOU BASTARD!!
 
On the whole I would say that Bane is more menacing as well as more sympathetic, while Silva (although creepy as fuck) doesn’t elicit a lot of hate or sympathy from me.  That said, both fill their respective roles in their respective films well enough because DKR is, like I already stated more about internal struggles while SF is more about action and therefore needs a less complex villain.  In fact, giving Silva any complexity at all is simply icing on the cake, so my criticisms of his lack of depth are given with an awareness that the same film series that produced Silva also produced Jaws
 
This guy is a regular fucking Hamlet.
 
Catwoman/Selina Kyle vs. Miss Moneypenny

 


   I find the greatest similarity between these two characters is not that they are both femme fatales, but the role they play in the fall of their respective protagonists.  In the case of Selina Kyle, she led Bruce Wayne down to the underground base where Bane accidentally his spirit and his body (sic.).  Moneypenny was a little more directly responsible for Bond’s downfall, y’know having shot him and all.  From a plot perspective I think Selina Kyle is more necessary to her film as it could have been any rookie field agent who shot Bond, or even a bad guy, but the fact that it was Moneypenny sets up a cool sexual tension and a grounds for flirting throughout the film.  There is definitely a romantic tension between Bruce and Selina Kyle as well, but it is less grounded in physical attraction and more a result of mutual fascination.
   Again, I have to point out here that this seems to be in line with the more internalized struggles in DKR versus the more physical ones in SF.  In fact, the relationship between Bruce and Selina never strikes me as particularly sexual at all, which is interesting considering that their relationship at film’s end seems perfectly natural and genuine.  This is important because there was high potential for their courtship to be glazed over and their romance assumed to be a given simply because he is the hot male lead and she is the hot female lead.  Also, Bruce fucks Miranda Tate after already being fascinated with and attracted to Selina.  This is great because its how romance works in real life; you can have a crush on someone and still bone someone else.  If Bruce had refused to bed Miranda cause he liked Selina and saw her as a fellow nightkin, it would have been unrealistic as hell.  Especially since, from a strictly sexual perspective, the tension between Miranda and Bruce was much more tangible at that point in the film, so boning made sense.  But carnal delights and sexual gratification have no place in a film about internal struggles and succumbing to temptation must be punished.  Want proof?  Look how their relationship ended:

   By film’s end both Selina and Moneypenny each have a retirement of sorts, with Selina (presumably) giving up crime and Moneypenny taking a desk job.  In a way this is kind of disappointing because both “retirements” really only serve to facilitate their continued relationships with their respective protagonists: Selina has to give up crime because Batman wouldn’t allow it (although in the comics, her bad girl streak is precisely what made her so alluring to Batman.  I guess since he’s no longer Batman by film’s end, all bets are off.), and Moneypenny had to give up field work because Bond couldn’t have another operative in the field always shooting at him and such.  Plus he needs someone to flirt with/wave his penis at tauntingly when he returns to HQ to get briefed.

Robin John Blake vs. Gareth Mallory/Miss Moneypenny


   I could probably abbreviate this criticism to be just between Robin and Mallory.  I only include Moneypenny in the comparison because who these characters really are/what they are to become is revealed (cheekily) at the end of the film.   That said, lets keep the comparison between Blake and Mallory.
  Blake as a lowly beat cop seems to butt heads with Deputy Commissioner Foley because of his willingness to circumvent the chain of command and his sharp instincts.  He saves Gordon’s life (twice) and is instrumental in helping the resistance in Gotham after Bane takes over.  Later, he throws his badge into the bay when he realizes that the structure of the police force cramps his “do what needs to be done” style.  At movie’s end he reveals himself to be Robin, finds the Batcave and presumably goes on to fight crime as Bruce Wayne’s replacement.
   Unlike Blake, Mallory starts off with some status, being the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee.  However, he still alludes more than once to his dickhead boss, the Prime Minister.  He ends up saving M twice, first when he gets the Intelligence minister to lay off during the review hearing, and then again when Silva tries to shoot her.  While he never abandons the establishment he is part of, he does show a willingness to flout the rules when he discovers Q unofficially assisting James in setting a trap for Silva.  By film’s end he reveals who he is to become, namely M’s successor at MI6

Lucius Fox vs. Q


   This one is a no-brainer, as every modern hero needs a gadget-guy (as well as a 1337 haX0r).  Q’s cheeky-as-fuck attitude and hipster fashion sensibilities are reminiscent of his older Gotham counterpart, but the similarities continue from there.  Both characters prove to be instrumental to the bad guy’s plan too, as Lucius’ handscan lets Bane access the fusion reactor and Q’s hacking allows Silva to escape from MI6’s emergency HQ.  After these respective fuck-ups though both turn their efforts toward stopping the bad guys, Lucius aiding the recently-returned Bruce Wayne when Gotham is under siege, and Q leaving a “trail of crumbs” for Silva to follow to Skyfall.   At film’s end both characters are still alive and while it is certain that Q will go on assisting Bond, we can only assume that Fox will help Blake when he eventually takes up the mantle of the Batman.  Otherwise why would he have been running a diagnostic on The Bat’s auto-pilot at film’s end?

Commissioner Gordon vs. M

  
   Both of these characters serve as quasi-parent figures in their respective film series.  You will remember that scene in Batman Begins when Det. Gordon protectively puts his coat around a recently-orphaned Bruce Wayne to comfort him at a police station.  Later on throughout the series, Bruce reports to Gordon as Batman, and while he doesn’t strictly take orders from him, he works collaboratively with Gordon where possible.
   Ditto for the relationship between M and Bond.  As far as a parental dynamic, Silva spells it out during his first meeting with Bond when he says,

Mommy was very bad,” 
 
about M.  And throughout the film James shows a steadfast, if rebellious devotion to M, which is in line with the parent-child dynamic.  Everyone calls her ‘Mum’ for shitsakes!
   The similarities between Gordon and M deepen though as both are plagued by past crimes.  In Gordon’s case it is guilt; the opening of the film almost sees him come clean about the circumstances regarding Harvey Dent’s death.  Later, when Bane outs him for lying about Dent, he tries to justify his actions to a disappointed John Blake.
   M on the other hand is haunted by past indiscretions in a much more tangible way by former operative Silva. 
 
 
I mentioned this distinction between the two films already; while the struggles in DKR are of a more emotional nature, the ones in SF are typically more in the form of direct physical threats with little emotional struggle.  To be fair, M does show some regret about having to give Silva up but she views things in Machiavellian terms, acknowledging that it was a necessity of her position and for the greater good.  Beyond this, she doesn’t let her past keep her up at night.
   There is one final similarity between Gordon and M which bears mention; both are explicitly referred to as relics of war-time who no longer belong in peace time  In the case of Gordon, this happens in the party at the film’s beginning when Foley is ambitiously plotting to become the next commissioner.  In the case of M it is at her hearing when the intelligence minister is criticizing her paranoia about the threats in the world.  It is sad that the paranoid types and symbols of war like Gordon and M are eventually vindicated by the events in their respective films, as it reinforces the message that constant paranoia and vigilance are how things should be and that we should be wary of peace of mind and a lack of fear.  I don’t know if the majority of viewers picked up on this sub-text but it kind of made me cringe.  It didn’t hamper my enjoyment of either movie too much because I realize that they are fictions, but we should really try and stay mindful that the good/evil duality is unrealistic and only works as a narrative tool.

   Two notable omissions from this character comparison are Talia/Miranda Tate and Alfred Pennyworth from DKR.  Although I mentioned Talia in passing I didn’t feel she had a direct parallel in SF, instead sharing similarities with many of the characters in the Bond film at various points in her character’s development.  In the case of Alfred, his disappearance at the beginning of the 2nd act seemed peculiar to me because abandoning Bruce did not seem in line with his character.  Certainly I could compare him to M in the way he chides/advises Bruce, or I could do a very complex reading and compare Alfred’s abandonment of Bruce to M’s abandonment of Silva, but ultimately SF was just more economical in its casting, so no matter who gets compared to whom, some DKR characters will not be paired up with anyone.

 
Miscellaneous Similarities
   Having gone on at length about character similarities, and in the process, plot similarities as well, it is time to have a little more fun and point out the random similarities.  While these are of a more superficial nature, it does make you pause and wonder if the creators were trading notes while developing their respective films.
 
Both films have a literal representation of their respective titles:
   
This is a dark knight ‘rising’
 
This is James Bond ‘skyfalling’
 
Both Batman and Bond mysteriously reappear to their “parent figures” after extended disappearances  to explain their absence and ultimately get back to work.
 
 

Both antagonists have fucked-up faces:

Both protagonists demonstrate proficiency for walking on ice:

Both protagonists seem pretty magnanimous toward the chicks who betrayed or accidentally shot them.

In a bit of role reversal, Bane’s troops take on the role of peace officers prior to the climactic battle, ordering the assembled GCPD to disperse.  This role-reversal is reinforced by Dep. Com. Foley as he and the other freed cops advance on city hall toward film’s end.

 
On a more superficial level, Silva and his men just dress like cops for their assault on M’s hearing.
 
 
Both villains have plans which involve getting captured at some point.
 
 
I almost missed it but DKR has some minor homo-eroticism as well in the form of Bane caressing Daggett.  This of course is nowhere near as pronounced as Silva and Bond flirting with each other in SF.
 
 
Well, that’s all I got.  Hopefully you didn’t hate it.  If there is anything large I missed please feel free to point it out.  If you haven’t seen either or both of thse films go check them out as they are both well worth it.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo
*I didn’t put a joke about Bane’s muffled voice here because the claims about how difficult he was to understand seemed mostly overblown to me, and even worse it became an easy joke which could be made without thinking.  I try and keep the humour a little elevated here. 
 
 
 

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Keeping Relationships Beige

My Friends,
   Since first I heard it, I have had trouble with the word “partner” when used to refer to a significant other.

However, my apprehensions about the word kinda just stayed in the back of my mind because not many people I knew used it.  Yet for whatever reason (likely the crowd I have immersed myself in as of late), I am hearing it more and more often.  So let’s explore it.
   Now first off, I get why someone would use it.  At the most superficial level, it adds a veneer of maturity to a relationship:

       Fig.1: A “girlfriend” and “boyfriend”

Fig. 2: Two “partners” doing exciting partner stuff

While young love may typically be more exciting, mature love bespeaks steadiness; a kind of slow burn which endures.  And if there’s one thing people in our society generally prefer, its security over excitement, hence the desire for a reliable, steady mate (even if in name only).
   But like I said, this is just a superficial aspect of the word.  On a more substantial level, I think the term partner gained traction sometime in the last twenty years as same-sex relationships became more normalized.  During that transition, loaded words like girlfriend and boyfriend which presuppose a significant other of the opposite sex, naturally became problematic.  I don’t even need to go into the complications implied by same-sex marriage (“I now pronounce you man and husband”).  God forbid! 😛  In a show of solidarity with their gay/lesBros, straight people have adopted the term to be a more politically correct, gender-neutral way of saying who they’re boning.  Kind of like women calling themselves Ms.
*As an aside, a gay male friend of mine matter-of-factly referred to his “boyfriend” the other night which was refreshing, although admittedly it caught me off guard.  
   Unless there is some egregious oversight on my part (wouldn’t be the first time) I think I have covered all two (2) reasons why someone would refer to their romantic relationship as a partnership.*
   So how do I feel about it?  Not too bad I suppose.  Certainly I am no fan of labels,
so “partner,” being a little less specific than bf or gf works a little better for me, although it is a label nonetheless.  And that is really the problem; if you’re going to label someone with a term based on their relationship to you, why half-ass it?  In my eyes its better to go all the way.  For me personally, I enjoy calling my partner “woman” (If used as a formal address, it’s “Woman” with a capital W).  I never thought too much of this until I sat down to write this sentence you are reading right now, but in its own way, the term “Woman,” when used as an address, is an indictment of labels in general by taking our obsession with categorization to its absurd extreme.  Its certainly a greater statement against gender categorization than a contrived term like “partner.”
   So for all you people out there who use “partner” (a word completely devoid of any emotive or descriptive power) when referring to that special someone in your life, ask yourself why you use it.  If its to escape the tyranny of loaded words and labels like “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” consider using more crude terms like “my man/woman” (or if those are a little too plain for you, try funstick or ovary-box) to illustrate just how absurd defining people based on relationships actually is.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo
*Going back to my first image pulled from the movie film, American Beauty, I do take issue with commercial connotations of the word “partner.”  One of my problems with marriage for example, as alluded to in an earlier post, is that as well as being a religious union, it is also a legal/financial one.  I don’t think people bear this in mind when they use the word partner, especially when they are simply dating and not married, but I feel we must be very particular about the words we use.  For example:,
From “The Law Dictionary” app

I don’t think people are aware of just what they mean on a legal level when they use the word partner.  It is a legal/commercial term and all statutes/regulations/codes are applicable only to commercial/legal entities such as persons. corporations, and partnerships.  Heads up, nigga!

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