Category Archives: Review

Reviews of films, books, or other media.

Children of Mandalorians

Friends,

I just finished Chapter 3 of Prince Oberyn in Space and (SPOILERS!) something occurred to me as I watched its Mandalorian protagonist eavesdrop on Werner Herzog’s “Client” character before rescuing baby Yoda: The Client, it seems, wants something extracted from the infant and he doesn’t seem particularly concerned with the its survival. Right off the bat this reminded me of harvesting ADAM from little sisters in the Bioshock series…

this is four panels show how a little sister is harvested in bioshock

…and ADAM was essentially stem cells.

Chapter 4 of The Mandalorian has not dropped yet, but I would hazard a guess that the Client wanted Midi-chlorians. MCs are not stem cells per se, but they do some pretty incredible things and I think it’s significant that the client wants to extract them from an infant, as it makes the stem cell comparisons inescapable.

So now we have two assumptions:
1) The Client wants Midi-chlorians from baby Yoda, and…
2) Midi-chlorians are an allegory for fetal stem cells
Let’s run with these assumptions, taking them all the way to their ultimate conclusion and see what Disney is trying to tell us about stem cells through coded messaging.

Harvesting Stem Cells From Babies is Bad

If you listened to Alex Jones’ most recent appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience (and you definitely should), and if you furthermore believed even half of what he talked about, you would know that harvesting terminated pregnancies is very lucrative in the United States, and agencies like Planned Parenthood are bravely leading the charge. In our little allegory, the Client (a German eugenicist who employs a mad scientist) and his Imperial Remnant faction could be said to be Planned Parenthood insofar as they intend to profit from what they harvest from Yoda.

“You could harvest these nuts, nukka!”

In the scene where the Mandalorian rescues Yoda we even see him dispatch one of those floating “abortion orbs” which extracted something from Leia (information, but still…) in Episode IV.

In retrospect, this makes me wonder about how many abortion references I missed in the original trilogy. Probably millions…

Yoda for his part seems drugged up and oblivious to the fact that they are about to steal his mojo…

….and this only reinforces his lamb-like innocence.

Man(dalorian) the Fuck Up!

I know the word Mandalorian has been around in Star Wars lore forever, but it’s nonetheless fitting that this male character with such a manly appellation (he’s even called, ‘Mando’ by no less a man than Apollo Creed himself aka Carl Weathers aka Greef) would be the one to rescue the helpless child from the abortionists. After all, protecting the family -born and unborn alike- is a father’s job, and Mando is very heavy-handedly established as a surrogate father.

the mandalorian and yoda imprinting pn each other and establishing a father child dynamic

However there is more than one Mando, and collectively they, the Mandalorians, have been forced underground since the abortionists (a term herein being used interchangeably with ‘the empire’) did away with them in The Great Purge. In their exile they have retained their warrior ways, their honour, and (a few personal flourishes on their armour notwithstanding) a high-standard of uniformity in dress and deportment.

this image shows that all of the mandalorians have unique flourished to their armor but there is nonetheless a consistent them

In fact, The Mandalorian’s rebuilding of his armour is a fairly prominent plot point of the first three episodes, and the other, non-Mandalorian bounty hunters seem to resent his highly-visible self-improvement when he walks into a bar in his new threads (more on that in a moment).

“I’m here to rescue fetuses and chew bubblegum…”

But before you reductively think that Disney is making a statement that men are based and all women are abortionists, it bears mention that the Mandalorians are led by a matriarch, and she, as well as being their blacksmith and authority, also seems to be their keeper of traditions, stories and children -or foundlings at least.

Wretched Hives and the Scum & Villainy Therein

Remember how I said that the other bounty hunters all looked like bums compared to Mando in his new dipped threads? A large part of it has to do with their individual deportment; nobody looks particularly well-armoured or strong.

More importantly, they all seem very ragtag -there is no uniformity, just a bunch of poorly-dressed, self-interested individuals about as organized as atheist, godless protestors who have no higher principle to organize behind than a desire to tear down what is good –fashion slaves protestin’ to get in a fuckin’ lookbook as it were (word to Killer Mike!).

Contrast that to the Mandalorians, a tightly-knit, albeit quarrelsome, family who have a higher ethos than self-interest; a higher calling than mere bounty hunting. Specifically, the Mandalorians have a religion referred to as “The Way,” and for better or worse, it keeps them cohesive while underground, it places priority on continuity through the sponsoring of foundlings, and it leads the tribe to come to Mando’s rescue when he is ambushed by the (pro-choice?) bounty hunters attempting to steal the baby away from its newfound father for a reward. And all of this while comporting themselves with a high-degree of uniformity.

So what does it mean? Well I think how we put ourselves out in the world matters. Guy Richie talked about how a man’s suit is his suit of armour -it’s how he openly and honourably shows how he’s part of the game, it shows which game he’s playing, and it furthermore shows how he invites all challenges. Mando does no less, making no apologies for what he is all about, walking into Greef’s hangout, wholly unafraid of making a statement.

That Statement?: “I’m better than you.”

And that is how the righteous must always be -nay, that is the only way they can be.

the path of the righteous man“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.”

Don’t be virtuous unless you are well comfortable with being hated and schemed on by others.

B A S E D Favreau?

So is the show’s writer and EP, Jon Favreau consciously trying to make an anti-abortion statement? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was his sub-conscious feelings peeking through; as a father, this is his story. Still, it’s important to remember that we’re operating on two assumptions: The unconfirmed assumption that the Client wants Midi-chlorians from Yoda; and the poetically licentious assumption that Midi-chlorians are allegorical for stem cells. However, even if both of these assumptions are incorrect, the fact remains that the Client wishes to harvest something from Yoda and cares little if he survives. This dynamic has real world parallels and I find it difficult to believe that Favreau was not cognizant of those parallels.

On it’s own, I don’t find this story outrageous in light of said parallels -on the contrary, fathers protecting children is about as old and traditional as stories get. That said, I was nonetheless surprised to notice such an allegory in a Star Wars program, as the Star Wars franchise since the Disney takeover seems to have prioritized progressivism and female empowerment. Meanwhile The Mandalorian is at the very least a celebration of older values, and at most, a condemnation of the progressive values which have led the franchise astray.

Still, maybe I’m seeing something that’s not there, but I studied English literature so can you really blame me?

Looking forward to Episode 4: The Abortionists Strike Back!

Best,
-Dre

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Position, Review, Uncategorized

6 Nov 2019 Lecture Review

Friends,
I attended a lecture this evening which I was very excited to see -a Muslim speaker from the UK defending the idea of faith from the irrationality of atheism. Lovely, as I feel most mafuccas need more Jesus (or one of his archetypal counterparts) in their lives.
I was disappointed.
Right from the get-go as one of the “lucky” 20 early arrivals I “won” a t-shirt but could only claim it if I signed some forms denoting how I could wear it and what purposes I could use it for. I realized that this was going to be a highly-politicized thing and not a good faith talk about reconciling faith and rationalism.
Needless to say I passed on the shirt for this reason and also because all my t-shirts say “Nicaragua” or “San Juan del Sur” on them and I wouldn’t wanna deviate from a working formula.
I listened intently to speaker when he came on and did my best to follow his arguments, but he chained together a lot of words whose meanings I know, but whose combined meanings I had to think about for a second. Now English is my first language and I know my way around some big words, but guy was tripping ME up at certain point with his verbose bombast and jargon, so I doubt that the broader audience – a lot of international students and people taking their first crack at post-secondary- were picking it all up. (Keep this in mind)
At halftime Q&A I asked him about his earlier assertion that there was no connection between “truth and survival”. First I asked if that was his contention or if it was something he said while laying out the position of his opponents. He said it was his contention.
SO I then asked him a specific question about his example, his example being: “If we were all dropped in the forest and I said ‘all mushrooms are poisonous’ and nobody ate them, we would have a better chance of survival, even though my statement is not true.”
I asked him if he thought that this was actually proof of the lack of connection between truth and survival or if it was a problem regarding the level of analysis -for example, was that little lie about all mushrooms being poisonous nested in a larger order truth about needing to make ‘one size fits all’ rules to ensure maximum survivability? He evaded this question and moved on. I was disappointed, but it was destined to get worse.
For part 2 of the talk he quoted a verse from the Quran which laid out four possibilities for creation:
You were created from:
1) Nothing
2) Yourself
3) Another creation (infinite regression as he termed it)
4) Uncreated creator
I asked him to clarify the importance of the word “Uncreated” in 4) and elaborate on how “Uncreated” differed from “Nothing.” It turns out that “nothing” is nothing and nothing can’t exist, whereas an “uncreated creator” is something and therefore can exist.
I can’t make this up, people.
The problem was not that his explanation was a purely semantical one (especially after he had condescended to an audience member for listening to his words and not his meaning), the problem for me was that he could have gone so many more interesting places with “Uncreated” -the threshold between being and not being where the rules bend and life is created; the “friction point” (no pun intended) where masculine leaves its impression on feminine and creation happens; a point on the cusp of being and not being.
But no. Uninspired, dogmatic, proselytizing semantics is what we got.
I also asked him to explain why we couldn’t have been created from another creator going back in perpetuity and why this eternal process of becoming and unbecoming couldn’t be considered God.
Well evidently because that was not what he had learned. No, God had to be a static thing.
Now remember I said to keep in mind that a lot of his ostentatiously sophomoric word combinations were beyond the reasonably expected level of comprehension? Well, the most avid of commenters, two older gentlemen up front who seemed to to be comprehending him as well as me, took him to task for his unfounded and recklessly-made claims. He not only evaded but also began condescending to them for their faith in the scientific method. I forget the term he used, but it was some slur for rationalism, “scientism”perhaps….
Then he took a moment to (and I fucking cannot stand this) read off the names of books that we the audience should all read, finishing with “and then come talk to me.”
Yes, he literally said that. He told us to go educate ourselves. The college paid money to bring this guy to speak. It was fucking embarrassing.
By this point my eyes were rolled into the back of my head and I’m pretty sure I had developed brain lesions for the stupidity of it all.
The piece de resistance though, and what made me finally walk out was that after giving us a reading list, he started ranting and condescending to us, repeating the phrase “Don’t believe what you see on youtube” and “Don’t believe the youtube philosophers”. There were other spontaneous utterances interspersed between these fallback slogans, but the whole thing seemed to me like he was trying to film a highlight sizzle reel for his own youtube intros. I walked out in disgust.
The whole thing seemed like a calculated attempt to polarize people against Muslims through smug, self-assuredness; there’s a lot of this polarization on yt because by rousing up the most ignorant of you intellectual opponents to be the most vocal, you can then classify all of your opponents thusly. Transparent as hell!
Oh, and I’m not big fan of Richard Dawkins, but this jokester spoke the man’s name as if he was on his level. He was not.
I’m glad I went, but I will never attend a talk by this guy again. Nor will I provide his name.
Dear Muslim Society of Georgian, please aim higher. There are so many great compassionate, humble, erudite Muslim speakers you could have invited, but you chose a smug, preening, psuedo-intellectual who covers for his ignorance with big words and who wears what his what he knows like an ill-fitting suit.
I invited a Christian couple to this event, and I would have been embarrassed if they had been able to attend.
Best,
-Dre
PS: Real conversation as I left
Organizer who had invited me: “Yo bro how was it”
Me: “Well I ‘m glad I came, but I decided to leave when he started insulting the audience.”
Org: “I can’t talk about it”
Me: “You just asked me, though”
Org: “I’m not allowed to talk about it.”
Me: “So you don’t want to know how it was?…”
Org: ……
Me: “Ok, well have a good night.”
Can’t make this shit up!

Leave a comment

Filed under Review, Uncategorized

#ourblackpanther

Friends,

I just walked out of Joker and I am sitting in a Tim Hortons well after midnight compelled to write about all my feels. This will be a somewhat scattershot post but at the very least it will be organized by headings. Also, it is less of a review than a description of all the ways the film mapped onto my life and spoke to me. Thank-you in advance for your indulgence.

Prologue

I worked all day in the Sadlon building at Georgian College. I have been working on my computer from there a lot but today was Friday and by 5pm it was empty and I was feeling like I needed to do somewthing. The idea of watching a film came to mind. I have long wanted to go see Once Upon a Time in Ho9llywood, but I wasn’t sure if it was still playing so I didn’t bank on it it. At about 6pm I decided it was time to make some moves. I hadn’t eaten all day and so had to go to the plaza where both grocery store and and cinema are located. I stopped at home first to drop off gym clothes and extra gear, expecting to walk to said plaza for groceries and see what developed from there.
At the grocery store I ate meatballs (keto af) then proceeded to work on my computer at my editing job. My boss…he used to be my friend, then we got to know each other better. I don’t think he wants me to work for him anymore, but he is scared to have me terminated because he knows that his whole existence is a house of cards that will come crumbling down at the slightest disturbance, and putting my livelihood at risk will cause said slightest disturbance. He knows this even if it is unspoken. After living with him for two months in Berlin this past summer I have a better idea of just how precariously he is holding onto his job and how scared he is of having his true nature exposed to scrutiny. I am going through the motions, keeping him appeased, but ultimately being less responsive to his passive aggressive attempts to pass his own insecuritiues on to me through professional channels. His words are meaningless, and I no longer make the mistake of responding to them beyond the minimal requirement.

************************

I wokred until about 9:30 in the grocery store’s cafe debating whether I would buy some alcohol to enjoy during the movie, slated to start at 10:15 pm. I really struggled with the decision of whether to buy booze because I am trying to drink less. It’s not like I drink a lot now, but I know how slippery a slope it is.
Work got boring to me and I decided to leave and head to the liquor store to pick up a small bottle of gin.
Since I had my backpack with me and I expected the theatre staff to want to check it, I purchased a small bottle of beefeater which I could fit in the back pocket of my jeans. The cashier carded me. I’m 35. Felt good I guess.

Prologue Part 2

I went into the theatre and purchased my ticket but when I went to have my ticket validated, the ticket checker said that I couldn’t bring my backpack in with me. I said I could and he disagreed. I channeled my Karen and asked to speak with a manager. The manager strolled up and we argued. My position was that I didn’t trust them to be stewards of my Macbook and bag, and also that they wouldn’t take a woman’s purse, so why should they take my backpack?. Their position was that no backpacks was company (Cineplex) policy. We argued for a moment and then I said that I was going to go in and watch the film, and unless he was going top use violence to stop me, he had better call the cops.

“Fine, I’ll call the cops!” was his response.

Reinforce the point I was making

Well yeah….I just said that…

I sat in the theatre in a state of some anxiety. I was expecting popo to roll up any minute and escort me out. I didn’t dare crack the gin I had smuggled into the cinema in my back pocket (expecting a bag search) because an unopened bottle of booze doesn’t count as contraband in the Soviet Republic of Canuckistan. I figured this was a sign that I wasn’t meant to drink tonight; after all, if the cops approached me in the theatre I could state truthfully that:
-no refund had been offered
-noone had asked me to leave
-no official door policy had been put forward ensuring the safety of my property up to a certain dollar amount
As long as I stayed sober with an unopened bottle of booze in my back pocket, I had the legal high ground.

I breathed deeply and tried to relax even though I felt the dragnet encraoching upon me. Out the corner of my eye I saw the ticket-taker eventually enter the theatre during the pre-trailer commericals. He came up to my row. I kept my eyes to the screen. He paused for a moment and then walked up to me.

“Hey man, we were wondering if you would compromise by letting us have a look in your bag.”

Years ago, I would have taken the checking of my bag as an affront, but I guess the security state has become the norm even in my own psyche and so I enthusiastically agreed figuring it was preferable to an encounter with the cops and also wanting to smoothe things over. I showed him the interior of all the multitudinous pockets of my military-style backpack (the gin was in my back pants pocket) and, satisfied, he sat down next to me for a moment and admitted he thought that the bag rule was stupid but that they had had someone come in to see the movie with a weapon already. I sympathized with him, and kind of felt bad for being an obstinate dick. I sincerely wonder how Sister Rosa Parks felt after refusing to give up her seat on the bus. Even if we are in the moral right, it is a taxing ordeal standing up to other people, and we are wont to question the justness of our actions when we see the strain it puts on our fellows who are “just following the rules.”

And so it was, after the initial elation of getting away with standing up to the crooked Cineplex PTB, I felt a sense of foreboding that I was making wrong choices. Self-destructive choices which I would regret. I felt bad and I felt low and I felt dread about my choice to drink gin.

But then I smiled and thought that this was a perfect frame of mind with which to watch this film.

I cracked the gin as the light dimmed and the movie began.

The broken, Oedipal man

Arthur Fleck aka Joker is a pathetic man who lives with his mentally unwell mother. He loves his mother and she is not shown to be cruel to him (although cruelty is alluded to later in the film), but the sickenss of their relationship can be summarized in a scene where he is giving her a sponge-bath; she is naked in a tub and he is bathing her as if it were the most natural thing in the world. This is a sad state of affairs, and I would guess that it is the common state of affairs for incel men (living in their mother’s basement/mother is their best friend) taken to a visceral extreme.
Personally, I have worn many hats, and incel, Oedipal son has certainly been one. My relationship with my mother was violent and abusive most of my life, and then I was completely estranged from her from 17 onwards thanks to the efforts of a step-father who wanted out of his marriage as much as he wanted the best for the children he was raising. My mother was a tyrant and violently abusive, and my step-father, step-brother and I got her arrested and put up on multiple charges and removed from the household. Yet in spite of all the violence and intimidation I remember so well, she would balance it out with something even worse; a tendency to stunt my growth by crutching on me as a male ally in the household when she fought with step-father and smothering me with Oedipal, maternal affection. It’s complicated to explain because she was as critical as she was was encouraging, but throughout my childhood I was kept in an insular box and made to be useless and weak; and all the while I was criticized for my uselessness and weakness.
There is one story that sums up the sick nature of my mother’s affections aptly: About 5 years ago, things were going well between me and my mother. We were making inroads toward reconciliation and things were becoming normalized. I was spending many weekends at her house and it was all normal and fine. Like how it should be I suppose.
But then one night as she was going up to bed she gently suggested that if I wanted to I could come up to her room and into bed with her and snuggle.
Even thinking about it makes really uncomfortable. My mother never sexually abused me, but I realized at that moment the extent of the emotional abuse I had received, because at 30 years old with 15 yeasrs of estrangement between us, I had the perspective to see how wrong her smothering behaviour was.
I didn’t take her up on he offer.
In Joker, Arthur ends up smothering his bed-ridden mother to death with a pillow while she lays in a hospital bed.
Fitting? Perhaps.
Poetic? Possibly.
Relatable? Definitely.

Fixation on Black Women

There are four black women whom Arthur interacts with: a social worker, a therapist, a love interest and a stranger who reprimands him for “bothering” her son. Why the emphasis on black femininity? Well I can’t say for sure, but it resonated with me and so I’ll at least comment to that extent. I like black women. I am attracted to them. I don’t know why exactly but I suspect there are two reasons:
1) Assertion of white masculinity
2) Respect and reverence for primordial, divine femininity
I am trying to be more honest in my writing than I ever have been before but I’m not ready to talk about these things in greater depth right now. They need more thought. Hopefully the bluntness of how I stated these two ideas gives enough imagination fodder.

Searching for a Father 

A big theme throughout both the film and my life is the protagonist’s search for his father. He is led to believe that he is the illegitimate offspring of Thomas Wayne, but when he confronts Thomas Wayne he is rebuked and punched for his troubles. While my father never rejected me there are broad parallels between Arthur’s estrangement and my own.
There is a great scene where Arthur visits Wayne Manor and meets a young Bruce Wayne -his ostensible younger and legitimate brother. There is no malice here and he interacts jovially with the young boy until a butler (Alfred Pennyworth presumably) intercedes and tells Arthur to leave. Alfred, as the impediment between Arthur and his father; as the impediment betweeen Arthur and his little brother, was very reminiscent to me of my step-mother, Anita. It seems my whole life she has been keeping me from my father and I have long resented her for it.
Of course she wasn’t the only one keeping me from my father; before her it was my mother who chose to be unfaithful, then divorced, and then moved far away from my father so that I missed him my whole life.
My father, for his part is not perfect, having made, like Thomas Wayne, some stupid mistakes. There were times where when I was a teenager, living , much to my step-mother’s chagrin, at his house, and he would have to bend the truth to placate both me and Anita. I could loosely relate then when Arthur, being spurned by a pternity-denying Thomas Wayne, laughs, saying, “Why are you saying these lies?”
Ultimately there are further developments in the film which, rather than definitively answering the question of Arthur’s parentage, only obfuscate matters further, giving an unsettling Fight Club uncetainty vibe to the whole thing. Thomas Wayne’s eventual death then, at the hands of a clown-masked rioter encouraged by Arthur’s actions, pivotal though it is to young Bruce, sees Arthur simultaneously celebrating on the hood of a cop car in his brief moment of glory while crowds laud him after freeing him from police custody for the murder of Murray Franklin. The death of his possible biological father is shown to be meaningless as well as indirectly a result of his actions.

What of Murray Franklin?

Murray Franklin, a Gotham late-night talk show host, is significant because he represents an idealized surrogate father to Arthur and object of his delusions. Before Arthur even learns of of Thomas Wayne possibly being his father, he has reservations about the man. He has no such reservations about Murray Franklin, whom he fatasizes about meeting and being accepted as a son by.
Murray Franklin is portrayed by Robert DeNiro, and this is significant because the film draws inspiration from two of DeNiro’s earlier films, Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. These earlier portrayals of DeNiro give a sort of meta-believability to his status as surrogate father figure to Arthur. However, the idealized version of Murray Franklin which Arthur fantasizes about is a far cry from trhe real version who lampoons Arthur’s secretly recorded initial overtures toward stand-up stardom and only has him on his show due to fan outcry.
Franklin, like Thomas Wayne, has been an absentee father to Arthur. Perhaps even neglectful. Nonetheless, when Arthur exacts his vengenace on Murray, who at the time is scolding him on live television after Arthur’s revelation that he klilled three men on the subway, I felt it was simultaneously appropriate and overkill.
Murray Franklin and Thomas Wayne both die the same night by the hand of men in clown masks/paint. Chaos ensues/continues. Even though these men were both neglectful, mean and spiteful, there is still something tragic about their deaths. Their passing represents things becopming undone and unraveling. When the father dies, all is chaos.

The Three Men on the Subway

Arthur’s arc gets interesting when he shoots three drunk men on the subway. The men are harassing a young Asian women (significant?) and Arthur’s condition (uncontrollable laughter) flares up. The Asian girl makes her escape and the men (employees of Wayne Enterprises) frustratedly approach Arthur seeming almost amused, but ultimately they beat him down in a scene echoing his beat-down at the hands of (multi-racial) kids during the opening of the film. This time however, Arthur is both armed and being attacked by three white men in suits, so when he lets off with his .38, it is less Bernie Goetz and more OWS. In fact, this scene really made me wonder why the film was so controversially received; from a racial and economic perspective at least, Arthur kills all the right people.

Post-Kill Blues

My favourite scene in the film occurs after Arthur kills the three subway harassers. He runs to a park bathroom, locks himself inside and then….dances? This dance scene actually made it to one of the film’s posters:

I know what it looked like to me because I have done this same kind of dance after moments of accomplishment, during moments of excellence and even when I am really enjoying some food -it is the movement of someone experiencing a rush of serotinin and channeling -nay, savouring-it’s movement through his central nervous system. Arthur is allowing the divine energies to course through his body/kundalini and heal his sick self. We see him here in a moment of becoming, and if our vision could go beyond the visible spectrum, into the subtler, higher vibrational realms and observe his spiritual body, we would see Arthur spreading his wings for the first time. His movements, vaguely reminiscent of tai-chi, are the same movements I have made on many dance floors when my spine/kundalini/chakras are properly aligned and I am basking in the heavenly and earthly energies moving up and down through me.

 

Honk Honk!!

And Pepe brings me to perhaps my most cynical thought of all: Sometime in in 2019 I became aware of the #clownworld/#honkpill/#honkler meme; a derivative of Pepe with a more acute dedication to pointing out the hypocrisy and absurdity of the world and laughing at it. I was immediately enamoured of this meme and by the time I sat down to watch Joker, I was well primed to appreciate Arthur even more than I otherwise might have. And this made me think: “Oh no, have I simply been manipulated? Were honkler and clownworld simply dreamed up by marketing execs to obliquely promote the film months in advance of its release?”
I don’t know, but it is entirely within the realm of possibility that I have been duped. It is entirely within the realm of possibility that my own susceptibilities as a somewhat disgruntled man in his 30s, with problematic relations with his father and even worse relations with his mother, have been exploited. This bothered me somewhat, but in truth, not as much as I would like to think it would have. It was actually reassuring on some level to know that someone (or some marketing firm) could know me and speak so deeply to my condition. Like Winston getting interrogated and tortured at the end of 1984, I just want to be understood I suppose, even if it is in a clinical and dispassionate way. And I don’t think I am alone.

The Rock & Roll Easter Egg

At the begining of the film’s final act, Arthur gets dolled up in his final Joker ensemble for the first time, preparing to step out for the evening and be a guest Murray Franklin’s show. As he leaves his house, we see him dancing down a set of stairs, and while this scene was shown in the trailer, the music was different. In the film, Rock & Roll Part 2  by Gary Glitter plays. The young college kids I was in the theatre with probably missed the reference, but Gary Glitter was busted for among other things, child pronography. While Rock & Roll used to be played at every sporting event when I was growing up,and in every Mighty Ducks film, since the late 90s it has been effectively blackballed. To me then, including the song was a nice touch; a perfectly oblique and tasteful nod to the fact that marginalized men can be wont to take out their sexual frustration on children, and it was an acknowledgement made without directly demonizing Arthur in an unforgivable way by making him a pedophile.

And the scene was fucking awesome; I had a big grin on my face as he got suited up for a night of mayhem and danced his ass down the stairs.

Swag!

The Final Analysis

The backlash against the film that I have read seems mostly like posturing and so unworthy of calling out by name, but as someone who unashamedly relates to Arthur Fleck I will tell you what the film was to me –a cautionary tale. It gave me and others like me a glimpse of what happens when we allow ourselves to be made weaker by our mothers; what happens when we allow oursleves to be too invested in the opinions and acceptance of our fathers; what happens when we fetishize women; amd what happens when we allow our worst impulses and delusions run our lives. Sure, there may be a brief moment on top of a cop car, cheered on by rioters , where we are immortal, but that too will pass. The path of Arthur Fleck is not one to emulate, but it hits home nonetheless because there but for the grace of God goes me.
When I think of a hero in film, I think of someone who, in the most abstract sense, shows me the righteous path forward. A hero is someone to emulate.
What then of an anti-hero? Well, irrespective of whatever the accepted definition of an anti-hero is, it seems to me that it has been perverted into referring to, essentially, a grittier version of a hero, who is yetr still ultimately worthy of emulation.
I find this to be a shallow reading of what an anti-hero should be. For me, I rather take the literal approach: If a hero is a role model, an anti-hero is just the opposite; the aforementioned cautionary tale. We can understand and relate to him just as much as we can relate to his more traditionally heroic counterpart, but his behaviour is self-evidently degenerative and not to be emulated.

Some consider the Joker to be the greatest villain, but he’s not, because villains can’t be understood or related to. Heroes and anti-heroes can. That doesn’t make PunisherVenomSpawn, et al. anti-heroes though, because excessive violence notwithstanding, they still do the right thing.

Thanos? He’s a villain because we can’t understand him. It’s like, “Bitch! Just snap your fingers and double the resources!

Juggernaut? Great villain because its hard to empathize with someone who just wants to destroy everything.

But Joker? Someone that relatable, and who can furthermore incite a whole demographic, in real life and in the film, to rioting? That’s more than a villain; that a hero, even if an antithetical one.

Best,
-Dre

Leave a comment

Filed under Review

107 Acting Tips in Review

Friends,

Recently (other) friends of mine shared the article “107 Acting Tips” (http://www.stagemilk.com/107-acting-tips/) and I thought I would weigh in with my opinions on each tip. I am no expert, I just do what makes sense to me.

So without any further ado…

1. Watch a play. If you haven’t watched a play this month book a ticket now. – I’ve seen plays but its not really my favourite way to take in entertainment. It’s important to see a couple I suppose if you haven’t ever, but beyond the need for having a cultural context, only see them regularly if you enjoy them.

2. Work a scene with a friend THIS WEEK. – Agreed, but moreso about working a scene portion. If you have a friend great but you don’t need someone else to plumb the depths of a character’s psyche.

3. Do something you’ve never done before. – Sure, why not. But since shitting while standing in line at the grocery store falls into this category…

4. Read a poem. – Yes. Analyze them too and look for meaning and patterns even if they seem extraneous and far-fetched. This is how you get smarter

5. Speak a poem out loud. – Agree.

6. Delete embarrassing Facebook photos. – Torn on this because I have said some dumb shit that I don’t agree with anymore but nothing is ever really deleted on FB and if someone finds out you deleted everything it looks mad suspicious. We need to embrace past mistakes even if only to show how far we’ve come. This is a lesson we are slow to learn and we always try and rewrite the past to our own detriment. NOTE: I see now it read PHOTOS. I have un-tagged myself from photos people have tagged me in but ask yourself this, “Do I want to get to a level where I can’t hide anything online?” If the answer is yes, embrace whatever’s out there and even try and capitalize on the notoriety a bad pic might garner. If the answer is “no” then enjoy your comfortable, near-certain obscurity.
As a side note, don’t take yourself too fuckin seriously. Yeah, I get it, it’s your career, but if all you got to offer is a blemish-free presence online, then Jesus-Fuck you’re in for a rough go.

7. Breathe. You can’t act when you are holding your breath. – Agree

8. Do you have an agent? Spend the majority of your time getting an agent. – As someone who is self-represented for three years now I am torn on this. I can see opportunities I may have missed but I also know how influence works; you become friends with someone and you want to do right by them, but right by them might mean doing something that doesn’t fit your artistic sensibilities. I would say only look for an agent when you have exhausted every other avenue, and then only if you find someone who is on the same page as you regarding how you want to develop your career. Agents are strong personalities but its your career so you gotta be stronger otherwise you’ll get too caught up in their plans for you.

9. Sign up to IMBD Pro. – Yes, but only if you have some credits there. While a necessary cost eventually, it’s prohibitively expensive for a starting actor

10. Have a favourite actor. – Depending on my mood, mine is either Erica Fontes or Rebecca Linares. Michael Parks is good too…

11. Watch the IMDB Top 250. Finish the top 100 this year. – Meh….

12. Follow StageMilk on Facebook and Twitter. – Gonna check these guys out before making a call but in general following people online costs nothing and means a lot to them so do it.

13. Read something on Stanislavski. – Fine, but keep in mind, every generation needs a revolution.

14. Read a voice book. – 100% I gotta make developing my voice more of a priority.

15. Read The Power of the Actor Chapter 1 – 3. – Only if you can bootleg it.

16. Do an acting class. Even if it’s one hour do something THIS MONTH. – Drop-ins only! Your certificate from a four-month program doesn’t mean shit.

17. Buy a camera. – Agreed.

18. Hum in the shower. – At a minimum. I like singing and rapping. Also, scrubbing my teste-satchel.

19. Congratulate people on their success. – Only if you mean it
(19b. MEAN IT! If other people’s success bothers you then check yourself and figure out what you’re really unhappy about -my two cents)

20. Try Tai Chi. – Tai Chi isn’t really my thing but try it.

21. Try Feldenkrais – Sure…now if I only knew what this was.

22. Try Alexander Technique. – See 21…..

23. Try Yoga. – Fuck Yeah!

24. Exercise 3 times this week. And next week. And every week until the day you die. – Exercise EVERY DAY!

25. Read Plays. – Sure.

26. Learn your lines. – Agreed. Learn them like a pro so you can ad-lib like a master lol

27. Do a voice warm up. – 100%

28. Get a haircut. – As long as you don’t go completely bald like me and become competition 😀

29. Watch films. – Only ones that appeal to you

30. Read every night before bed. – Yes. I should do this more instead of dicking around on my phone. Read widely on a lot of different topics. If you just read about acting you’ll be a dullard.

31. Read the first three pages out loud. – Agreed

32. Watch television shows. – But not television. There is great programming on television but advertisements are cancer & AIDS in A/V form (sorry if commercials are your bread & butter) and an assault on your consciousness. Every fibre of your being should resent that assault. Don’t own a television. Watch on your computer. Install adblocker.

33. Read books on acting. – Occasionally, and only if you’re looking to tweak a certain part of your skill-set. It’s not like you’re gonna hurt yourself reading acting books, but at the same time there are only so many hours in a day and so many things that will give you a much broader glimpse of the human experience, which in my experience is what really gives you material to draw from.

34. Get an acting coach. – Can’t really speak on this but one day I might.

35. Read plays out loud with friends. – Sure

36. Tell stories. – Agreed.

37. Tell jokes. – Agreed.

38. Learn to dance. – Agreed, but that doesn’t mean you need lessons. Get high, put on music and dance alone in your room in front of the mirror in your underwear. Emulate your favourite music videos (Method Man’s moves in Da Rockwilder were a formative part of my repertoire). That’s the dancing you’re gonna truly enjoy

39. Dance. – Agreed.

40. Learn to sing. – Agreed.

41. SING. – 100%

42. Fall in love. – With several people. All at once if possible. I would recommend falling in love at least once a day. If you can’t you either have a faulty heart or you’re hanging around uggos.

43. Live your life. – Disagree on principle because this is really trite. But insofar as it means “don’t try and be someone else,” I agree.

44. See a therapist. – If you want to experience the egoic masturbation of talking about yourself in depth, just do quizzes online. I might recommend a Meyers-Briggs test…

45. Watch interviews with actors. – Agreed. You’ll see that everyone struggles and hear meaningful anecdotes you can relate to

46. Write everyday. – Fuck, if you can discipline yourself to do so then absolutely.

47. Read everyday. – Agreed

48. Go to drama school. – Get Fucked!

49. Listen to podcasts. – Onlu if you find them interesting.

50. Talk about theatre. – This seems dumb to me but whatever. I guess it makes more sense if you’re a theatre actor…

51. Ask questions! – Only if you have a question. Don’t ask questions for the sake of asking questions.

52. Have your heart broken. – This isn’t one of those things you can put on a to-do list but I think it’s an important part of the human experience which will enrich you as an actor.

53. Be vulnerable. – Always.

54. Have an opinion. – Have a view. And hold onto it loosely, always willing to change it if new evidence presents itself.

55. Get political. – Don’t be a cunt though and make sure you get mad about the right things, not paltry and inoccuous shit like offensive words when 1 billion people are starving. Vicinczey said it best:
“To be great is to assume great concerns.” -We would all do well to remember that.

56. Learn to love conflict. – I would rephrase it to “Learn to love controversy.”

57. Be honest with yourself. – 100%

58. Get a mentor. – Agreed, but my experience with mentorships is that they happen organically so you cant really look for one.

59. Get an apprentice. – If you ever see someone struggling in a position you were in ALWAYS help them.

60. Stay flexible. – Survival of the most adaptable

61. Open your heart. – The phrasing of this bothers me but sure. Know what moves you. For me its certain songs and monologues and they will elicit tears no matter where I am. Cry often

62. Start a writing group. – Agreed. Creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum and its better to have many names on a great script than one name on a mediocre one.

63. Join a book club. – If you’re inclined to do so and it helps you read regularly.

64. Engage in your community. – 100% These are likely gonna be your first fans. Never forget where you came from.

65. Write a play. – I suspect this list is geared toward theatre actors more, but yes, write a script of some kind. A play too if it helps you think more spatially in terms of where everything has to be.

66. Go to fringe festivals. – If you’re inclined to.

67. Go to opening nights. – I’ve always had a strict hierarchy of priorities: Shoot – Rehearsal/Table Read – Audition – Party. But some premieres are more important than some shoots. Choose carefully.

68. Make a short film. – If you’re a film actor, absolutely.

69. Produce a play. – If you’re a theatre actor, absolutely.

70. Go backstage in a big theatre. – Especially if you’re not supposed to be there…

71. Stand on a main stage. – Sure

72. Make mistakes. – Don’t be afraid of mistakes would be better.

73. Do what scares you. – But only if it feels right.

74. GET FIT. – Agreed, but understand that you’re body is a reflection of your values and experience and also that certain body types lend themselves to certain roles. What do you want role-wise? Go get it!

75. Meditate… – Absolutely. Do a 10-day Vipassana retreat if you want to

76. Download Headspace. – Will have to google what this is.

77. Do an improv class. – Absolutely

78. Roll around on the floor.

79. PLaY like a CHILD.

80. Trust yourself. – Yes

81. Trust the director. – 99% of the time

82. Trust your casting.
83. Read the play before learning your lines. – Agreed

84. Watch people. – BUt don’t ever identify as a “people-watcher” -these people are insufferable and pretentious

85. Listen. – Agreed

86. Listen to your parents stories. – Agreed

87. Learn history. – Having a degree in history I can tell you that this is the single most important rule here.

88. Learn the history of theatre. – Sure

89. TRAVEL. – As an avid traveler and adventurer I can tell you that this is the single most important rule here….srs though, it helps give you context for life and see the people around you in more detached, observant ways. Plus, there’s a way in which new places can spur latent creativity in you.

90. Try new things. – Anal? It doesn’t mean you’re gay, it means you’re an actor and you do kooky sex stuff

91. Enjoy your own company. – 100%

92. Stay up all night. – Fuck yeah. Add an open word processor file and a bottle of scotch and you have the makings of excellence

93. Go sky diving. – Meh

94. Learn EVERYONE’S names. – I’m bad for this but working on it. It’s nice to be remembered.

95. Help friends with auditions. – Sure

96. Build something. – Agreed

97. Learn a poem. – Agreed

98. Write a poem. – Agreed

99. Get a diary. – I get what they mean here but honestly notepad on your phone is the best route

100. Write. – I could have sworn this point came up earlier. Yes.

101. Buy a Dictionary. – No. Dictionary.com and thesaurus.com are free…..definitely use them though

102. Learn a new word everyday. – Fuck, if you can. I’m in the position of re-learning words I forgot the meaning of.
(100b. Create new words/neologisms to encapsulate ideas, feelings and emotions that existing language is inadequate to describe.

104. Learn a new skill. – Always.

105. Sit in on a rehearsal. – Sure

106. TEACH. – If you’re in a position to pass on knowledge, do so freely and willingly.

107. Be E.P.I.C. – This is the straw that broke the camel’s back -not sure what this acronym means and after all the goofy fluff advice in this puff-piece I’m not really inclined to find out. Also, it’s 11:54 and I got blown up on set multiple times today.

A few that they missed….

108. Develop your online presence. – Your fans want to hear from you and they can only do that through instagram, twitter, facebook, youtube, snapchat, etc… Closing yourself off from any of these is a slap in the face to all the users, basically telling them to get on your level. BUT, all these things take time. This blog here takes time. And you only have so much of that. Luckily we all find literal hours per day to dick around (vagina around) on our phones. Make that productive time.

109. It’s not about who you know, but it is about building relationships. – Beware anyone who says “I know a guy…” because he is trying to sound connected. Who you know doesn’t mean shit. Who thinks of YOU first when they have a project or a problem is what matters. If you wanna work with someone be in the top 3 of their mental rolodex.

Related to that….

110. 95% of success is showing up – You’re lucky if you get one shot. Don’t fuck it up. Also, even if you only have a small role, don’t be daunted. Treat it like it’s you first project and people witll remember your enthusiasm.

111. Have a life before acting. – The need for child actor’s notwithstanding, there’s more to life than standing in front of a camera pretending.

112. Never let money or lack thereof stand in the way of a project you wanna do.

113. Don’t try and squeeze every last penny out of your project. Get it seen by as many people as you can and book your next job off of that. If it’s good enough to get distributed its good enough to bootleg.

Me sleepy now

 

Best,

-Andre Guantanamo

2 Comments

Filed under Review, Uncategorized

Hall of Otis

Friends,

One of my favourite songs from recent years is the Jay-Z and Kanye collaboration “Otis” from the joint album, Watch the Throne. In short, the song is disgusting with almost universally positive reviews.* But you know how it go: you do something that works and everyone imitates it. In fact, there has been a falsehood perpetuated over the last few years in hip-hop that success can be measured as proportionate to level of hatred one receives, but the truth is more intuitive: success is directly proportionate to how many people jock, dick-ride, emulate and straight-up copy you. “Imitation is the highest form of flattery,” after all. And imitators there have been, all taking the song’s slick beat and dropping tight lyrics about their own exploits. Four such imitators are noteworthy enough to me to warrant mention and I want to rate them and see how they stack up against the original.
So first, the original…

1. Otis by Jay-Z and Kanye West
Best Lines: ” I guess I got my swagger back.”
“Sophisticated ignorance, write my curses in cursive.”
“Everything’s for sale; I got five passports, I’m never goin to jail.”
“Build your fences, we diggin’ tunnls,” etc… (near every line in the song is a best line)
Worst Lines: N/A

F0BEEF0BD855D6A89B989EDBD67E52CC

   Fuck, what can I say about this song that hasn’t already been said about a finger in your ass while getting a blowjob? Amazing! The wordplay is playful, clever and tight and it’s an unapologetic celebration of everything that’s wrong with the world. In fact, the only legit criticism I have ever heard levied at this song came from my friend, Adriana who lamented that the homage to excess, vice and privilege was completely un-ironic and thus an unwitting display of aberrant values. For this view I have some sympathy, but only to a point because my appreciation of the song is more contingent on what it meant to me and not what it meant to Jay and Ye.
This song is gonna serve as the control, if I may be so bold as to potentially misuse scientific language for the purposes of a “for fun” blog post. Gonna rate it on the scientifically-approved scale of 10.

Rating: 10/10

Now for the challengers…

2. Otis (Remix) by Busta Rhymes & DMX
Best Lines: “”Two niggaz reppin’ the ‘R’ -X and X!!”
“Don’t worry bout what condition I’m in, you cats can’t survive half the places I been.”
Anytime DMX growls like a dog.
Worst Lines: “DON’T. TALK. BACK. When your father’s talkin’ to you!”

Busta-Rhymes-DMX-OTIS-REMIX

   This version fucks with me. At the outset I thought to myself, “OH NOES, poor Kanye and Jay are gonna get murdered on their own track.” It was a reasonable assumption; on top of the fact that neither Busta or DMX are slouches on the mic, both have achieved mainstream success and arguably even icon status throughout their careers. And, in the case of DMX, everyone loves a comeback. But somehow this version…fails to deliver, and I’m not even 100% sure why. Even the wack rhymes aren’t that bad.
Some observations though: DMX is definitely the stronger MC on the track but that has less to do with him being “better” than Busta in any absolute sense. Rather, I think it has more to do with the fact that Busta seems to be gearing his delivery to sound more like DMX, menacing and violent. Don’t get me wrong, Busta can be legitimately threatening, but nobody does it like DMX and when you are going back and forth with him on a track it only accentuates how much better he is than you at it. I would have preferred Busta to deliver his rhymes in his more rapid, staccato style with heavily accentuated breaks followed by near-immediate, seamless re-immersion into rapid, staccato delivery (See What’s Happenin’, Fire, Thank-You, etc.).
Also, I don’t like the heavy use of sound effects on the track. I’m not saying it’s bad but it just doesn’t appeal to me personally.

Rating: 8/10

3. Otis Freestyle by Cassidy feat. Jag
Best Lines: “Scream at me if you need the trees, or the ‘white bitch’ (COCAINE) -I work the morning and the night shift.”
“In Philly I’m a willy/wheelie like a bike trick,”
“I’m from a ‘get shot in the face’ hood,”
Larsiny we in this bitch now -niggas need to leave, apply pressure to a nigga neck -he don’t need to breathe,” etc..
Worst Lines: N/A

cassidyjag3

   Straight-up: this version is ill and it probably comes the closest to eclipsing the Jay/Kanye original. Why? Well it’s a solid track with no wack rhymes for one. And while I think Cassidy clearly shines brighter than Jag, the latter is no slouch either. Rather his more subtly delivered punchlines serve to compliment and offset Cassidy’s often crude hilarity. The two have a definite rapport which I where I think they outdo Kanye and Jay, as their back and forth is seamless like Ghostface and Raekwon. For the uninitiated, that’s lofty praise.
On a separate note, I have become something of a fan of Cassidy in recent years, and that’s in spite of the fact that my tastes in music have changed and matured. While I listen to less and less music promoting criminality and violence I can’t help but smile when I hear Cass’ well-wrought punchlines about cooking up dope, killing people, etc. And it’s that same cleverness which really elevates this track.
The sad reality is that because neither Cassidy or Jag have the profile and stardom of Jay and Kanye, this track never got the exposure it deserved outside of the internet. Still from a technical perspective, it’s pretty unfuckwithable.

Rating: 9.5/10

4. Otis Freestyle by Justin Bieber
Best Lines: “Pull up on my enemies, see if they remember me, soon as they remember me, I wipe away they memory.”
“Ridin’ in a all-black Benz, with the all-black rims, and we lookin at some 10s through our all-black lenses.”
“Get it done abundantly, she wants to get up under me, I swear that I got hundred these cause baby I’m a money tree, so be my little honey, be my little bitty bunny, I got honeys all up on me -baby I just get it dunny.”
Worst Lines: “Started playin’ drums when I was only 2, now I kick it in Japan -Kung Fu!”
“I thanked Jesus at the awards, I’m never goin to hell, call me Zack Morris I’m savin ya by the bell.”
“My girls says I’m perfect … I think she is perfectly perfectly perfect.”

bieber

   There is so much right with this version that it’s a damn shame some of the lyrics are so wack. Out of all the challengers, JB is in the best position to cut a track in the same spirit of opulence, stardom and fabulous wealth as the original. And so he does, even quoting Kanye’s line, “Can’t you see the private jets flying over you?” But the problems are of a more technical nature: Pubescent white-boy delivery notwithstanding, Justin seems to be good at emulating great rap but his verses and delivery seem a bit robotic and overly MCish. He tries to cram too many multi-syllabic words in as a seeming cover for not feeling comfortable enough in his own rhyming skin to just flow on the track.  Overall, this version has a a “Hey, look what I can do” vibe rather than the “Shut-up and listen while I break it down for you real quick” vibe I would prefer and which would be better suited to the tone he is aiming for.
I love this version and I respect his effort, but I think JB needs to spend more time developing his rap voice to the level of his singing voice before he can be a serious contender in the rap game.

Rating: 7/10

5. Otis (Remix) by Papoose
Best Lines: “Actin like you fly -STOP, Imma tell you like they told Joe Pesci, go get your motherfuckin’ shinebox!”
“There’s no tomorrow, throw a hollow, all the haters know the motto, cop a mother-lode of bottles, tell the waiter hold the sparkles…”
“You fickle, you couldn’t hustle a nickel out a dimespot.”
“I serve my beef with shells like a fuckin’ taco.”
“Make my Bed in the Stuy -I sleep in y’all streets.”
Worst Lines: “I live in a condo big as Kilimanjaro.”
“I don’t even know the vowels, I-O-U,  gener-AL like Colin Powell,”

images

   Once again, so much right with this track that it pains me to see so many missteps. From a technical perspective, this is the kind of delivery Bieber should be aspiring to right now, but from Papoose, a seasoned MC known for lyricism, I think he coulda done better. Like JB, there is way too many instances of ostentatious muli-syllabic rhymes which just seem extraneous. And while there are some great punchlines (I absolutely love the Joe Pesci/Goodfellas reference) on the whole it wasn’t consistently amusing enough like Cassidy’s raps to take me forget that he’s rapping a lot of negative, crime-related shit.
I will give Pap credit though, he does wax conscious in certain parts, like when he tells young girls, “You don’t need implants to get your body all stern, if you just eat right your ass will be more firm.” Actually he spends a few consecutive bars toward the end of the track trying to “teach the younger generation,” going so far as to lament that young black girls, possibly taught to be ashamed of their blackness, seek perms to achieve a more white aesthetic. That’s my interpretation anyways, but I gotta give him props because he shows real honesty and pretty skillfully walks the line between conscious and preachy.
   One more similarity between this version and the JB version is that it’s a solo track. While I’m not necessarily against that, I don’t think it’s any accident that the two highest-ranking versions of the song I have here are duets. It’s a BIG beat and if you’re gonna attack it solo you gotta bring it.

Rating: 8/10

   I hope you enjoyed my critique of these tracks and that it has instilled a similar appreciation of the original song and all of its spin-offs in you.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

*By “universal” I simply mean that I hadn’t seen a single bad review of it in my thorough and exhaustive search on google where I didn’t look past the first page.

4 Comments

Filed under Review, Uncategorized

“One Fish, Two Fish, Putin, Obama” – A Study in Imposed Dualities

Friends,

Something occurred to me last night as I was getting ready for bed. Let me explain it in a roundabout way, my preferred method of explanation: You see, I have been following the buildup to World War III for about a year now, and before the US was making overtures toward attacking Syria in an attempt to goad Iran into conflict, it was stroking itself to the idea of attacking Iran directly.

iran-wants-war

While that more direct route was being considered, Russia and China had already made statements to the effect of, “We will fight you if you attack Iran,” “You fuck with Iran and you fuck with us.”  These sentiments from the once and current Communist blocs have not really changed too much even though the US is considering a more meandering route to Iran.  Notably, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been very vocal about condemning Obama, and, in light of these criticisms of American war-mongering and his harbouring of Edward Snowden, he has gotten a weird sort of good guy image makeover in the view of the West.

ggp
(To be clear, I made this image to illustrate my point)

This heel/face turn has been helped along by the letter (incorrectly attributed to Putin) “From Russia With Love,” which was written in the Russian President’s voice and has been making the viral rounds.

So yeah, it seems like Vladimir Putin is a pretty cool guy.

But if that’s the case, then why do I not feel right about singing his praises and vaunting him as the last bastion against American imperial expansion?

Well for starters lets rhyme off the superficial reasons for mistrusting Putin:

1) He’s former KGB

Putin_KGB

2) This is the same dude who has taken a heavy hand with feminist activists, Pussy Riot.

-

3) This is the same dude who has taken a heavy hand with gay rights activists.

enhanced-buzz-6581-1374515190-381-840x550

4) This is the same dude who has taken a heavy hand with Chechens.

8095_1

Hmmm, all these factors combined certainly make me reconsider my earlier statement that Putin is a pretty cool guy, but they don’t really account for my incredulity with regard to his good guy image.  I think my mistrust has more to do with IMPOSED DUALITIES.

Imposed Dualities
Do you ever notice that most of the choices you are presented with come down to two main options?  And while often these choices are only distinguished from each other by the most superficial of differences, people will still make great judgments about you and your character based on which of the two you choose.
Let’s review some of these dualities:

Evil vs. Good

Dark vs. Light

3

images

2

communism-vs-capitalism-575x250

Presentation1

125177754

It’s no accident that both sides of any of these choices are broadly similar and superficial differences are emphasized to create the illusion of diversity.  A good example would be how many video game retailers will have retailer exclusive DLC for games pre-ordered from them.  In the game Batman: Arkham City for example, you could get various costumes for Batman depending on where you pre-ordered your game. Voila; diversity of choice!

new-batman-arkham-city-bonus-costumes-revealed-earth-one-the-animated-series-batman-beyond-and-more

This is what freedom of choice looks like.

I have a hunch that its also no coincidence that red and blue are used extensively for the purposes of distinguishing broadly similar factions/parties from one another.  I am no colour psychologist though, so I’m not exactly sure what this denotes.

However, I want to draw attention to the last red vs. blue duality I included:

125177754

Most people probably recognized this as denoting the rivalry between the American Republican and Democratic parties, respectively.  These two parties have often been accused of being broadly similar in recent years,

demopublican

yet they manage to keep the veneer of differentiation though head-butting on issues like women’s rights, gay rights, fighting insurgency, etc.  However, since they are both essentially fed by the same hands,

The Most Dangerous Kind of Politician

there are necessarily proverbial  hands that both parties won’t bite.   This is not to say its a grand conspiracy where the wealthy elite control the puppets.

demopub

On the contrary, its a rather common and disingenuous conspiracy where parties and politicians recognize where their self-interest lies and make the appropriate choices to maintain their positions of power vis-a-vis campaign funding, airtime and favourable press.

Furthermore, do you notice how any up-and-coming candidate for the presidency (and by association, senate and congress seats) always pledges to undo the wrongs of his predecessor should he be elected?  This angle resonates with those disaffected most with the existing administration while polarizing the incumbent’s base, a base who, though they might not be 100% satisfied with their candidate’s performance when held up to his campaign promises, still prefers to stay the current course rather than make a departure

So how does this relate to Putin?

Well, someone’s gotta be the bad guy and someone’s gotta be the good.  That is, someone’s gotta be red and someone’s gotta be blue.

If you think about it, in spite of his newfound popularity, Putin is not so different from Obama: He criticizes Obama for his handling of the Snowden affair while openly admitting that he would have prosecuted a similar Russian whistle-blower for treason. You might recognize this position as the broad similarity I mentioned earlier when talking about imposed dualities and intra-national politics.  It seems that broadly similar imposed dualities exist at the international/global level of politics as well.

sdg

“It’s not about the one I like more, its about picking the one I hate least.”  (Paraphrase)
-Cynical Voters

Putin vs. Obama is the latesst permutation of Obama vs. Bush*, and in each case the appeal of the former is a direct function of how dissimilar they appear to be to the latter and how much the latter is hated.

Soooooo, why waste time waving the flag for either?  Good question!

I quoted Miyamoto Musashi in my last post, “When Truisms Lie,” and I will quote him again here:

“If you know the way broadly, you will see it in all things”

I think if we apply this view of imposed dualities at all levels of politics (global, national, provincial, regional, state, municipal, INTERGALACTIC!!!) we will see it represented faithfully, which to me is a testament to its truth.  And it follows that if we should avoid getting fooled by the smoke and mirrors at one level (say, national politics), then we should avoid getting fooled by the smoke & mirrors at all other levels as well.  In all cases we must look past the obvious conflict which is being presented to us and see who is benefiting no matter which side wins. 

CUI BONO?

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

*I realize Obama never ran against Bush but he was touted as being the remedy to two Bush terms and two un-winnable wars.

Leave a comment

Filed under Review, Uncategorized

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.

Image

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.”

Image

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.

Picture 22

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.

Picture 18

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,

 Picture 14

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

Picture 15

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.

Picture 17

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.

Picture 24

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.

Picture 29

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.

1

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,

Picture 3

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…

MjAxMi0wMzQyNjM0YjY4ZjQwYWMy

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.

Picture 1

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?

images

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:

Picture 8

“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.

Picture 4

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,

Picture 26

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

3 Comments

Filed under Review, Uncategorized

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. 
 
 
 

1 Comment

Filed under Review

Movie Review: The Last of the Mohicans

My Friends,
   I have The Last of the Mohicans finishing up in another window as I write this.

This movie came out like 21 years ago and I am just watching it now in spite of the universal praise I have heard it receive.  I should have watched it sooner cause it appeals to me on a few different levels.  Lemme get past the meat & potatoes philosophical aspects before I get to the more more whimsical stuff.

The Redcoats Are Not Always Bad
   Is it just me or have we been programmed to always view the red coats of imperial British soldiers as evil?  In The Patriot they burn down a church full of colonial women and children to goad Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger into attacking them

It works btw

In Zulu, Michael Caine and his soldiers are portrayed as brave holders of the fort against amazing odds…

…which distracts from the fact that they were foreign occupiers.

Cary Elwes was a douche-bag in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book… 

…although he didn’t wear red.

And let’s not forget the most recent example, Assassins Creed 3,

where, as a young half-Indian assassin, you are on a mission to bring down a secret society called the Templars against the backdrop of the American Revolution.

   So yeah, reasons aplenty in pop culture to hate the British empire.  However, LotM does its best to actually humanize the Brits and puts them on the side of right in the North American theatre which was unprecedented to me.  Mind you, they are still a little cunty, what with their attempts to force colonials to join their fight against the French-Huron alliance and their desire to hang Daniel Day-Lewis for sedition.  But in spite of these shortcomings, the real cunts of the film are a faction of Huron Indians led by Magua, who seem unable to accept the peace terms that their French allies set up with the British rivals.
   Now some liberals might say it is a little cruel to portray Indians as villains in a film set against the conflict between two European powers vying for territory which belonged to Indians, but this is interesting for the same reason that seeing the Brits as “good guys” is interesting: Frankly, conflicts aren’t black & white.  History doesn’t have good guys and bad guys, just people with conflicting motivations; for every cunt in history who is remembered for his cuntiness, there is a perfectly understandable set of motivations and causality which led up to said cuntiness.  It is actually unfair to the Huron Indians to portray them as universally good, just as it is unfair to portray the Brits as always bad.  Both were victims of their cultures and acted within a framework which dictated (broadly) their actions and motives.
   So yeah, to recap, while the film still portrayed an unrealistic good vs. evil dichotomy, it did so in an unconventional way where things were shown to be more complex than “native = good and foreign occupier = bad.”

The Huron Indians Were Fucking Terrifying
   Miss Weir taught me a lot about the Huron Indians in Grade 8.  I learned that they were fierce warriors who lived off the land, (yawn) respected nature, traded with the French, etc.  Needless to say, such explanations of their fierceness never painted a vivid picture of just how fierce they were:

Check out the first two Indians who lead the ambush starting at 0:55

Those two fuckers literally come out of nowhere screaming.  I would defy the bravest motherfucker I know not to shit his pants in such a situation.  Or better yet, watch this entire scene which chronologically comes first in the movie:
See where that dude gets fucking scalped?  I cringe when I think about the times I had sliced skin off my scalp while shaving, never mind losing the whole top of my head.  And the way they came out of the woods screaming after a musket volley?  I guess I never appreciated how terrified European soldiers must have been even with their superior numbers and firepower.  
I Want To Be An Indian
   Ok so not actually, but watching DDL and his fellow Mohicans running fleet-footedly through the forest at the beginning of the movie reminds me of how much I love the feeling of….
I dont really have a word for it.  Its a feeling you get, particularly in nature, when you’re fit and agile, and traversing the terrain, aware with your whole body of obstacles and fluidly moving around them in an optimized way.  The equivalent in the city would probably be parkour.  Again, its not about backflips or flair, or even looking cool.  Its about economy of movement and confidence of ability that come from knowing a place and oneself.  At the end of the day its what I believe all the working out, running and fitness is for: mastery of your environment.  
   They say you shouldn’t run from a bear if you see one in the woods, but watching the opening scene from LotM, do you really think a bear could catch the three Mohicans if it wanted to?  
I have my doubts.  
Similarly, do you think the police could catch parkour founder, David Belle in the environment he has mastered?
Again, I have my doubts.

If you have never had this feeling I pity you, but I suspect most people have.  I think most children at one point or another feel a certain connectedness with the world around them.  Its something as simple as not being afraid of getting dirty by rolling around on the ground; at its essence its just a connectedness with the world around you whether natural or man-made.
   This is a connectedness which I never want to lose but I face a problem in that my current lifestyle is not entirely conducive to it.  Will have to work on that.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

Leave a comment

Filed under Review

What I Learned From Playing Batman: Arkham City

My Friends,
   I just returned from spending the weekend at my older brother Alex’s place.  My younger brother Adam was also in town from Montreal, and it was good to have a long weekend with all three of us together.  One thing I did a lot of this weekend was play Batman: Arkham City with Adam.  I had tried some of the challenge stages a few weeks back but this time around I started a file and began the story-line.  If you don’t know, this is the only game I have had any real urge to play in the last while.  It came out while I was travelling and such was my anticipation to see/play the game that I watched a 25-part walkthrough of it on youtube while staying at my cousin’s place in Italy.  A couple weeks after that I dreamed about the game while sleeping/freezing near a highway on a cold November night in Turkey (see “Turkey by Thumb,” 16 November 2011).  Basically, I had a raging boner for this game, and it didn’t disappoint.  You can basically do whatever Batman does.  And the sheer variety of moves allows you to be very inventive and deal with problems like Batman would.
   But anyhow, this isn’t a review of the game.  As the title suggests I learned a few things, both from the game and from the conversations me and Adam had while playing the game.  Allow me to share:

Revenge is Not Sweet
   A substantial portion of the game revolves around Batman infiltrating the Gotham Museum to free Mr. Freeze from the Penguin, as Mr. Freeze is the only person who can concoct a remedy for the sickness which The Joker afflicted Batman with.  As you make your way through this part of the game, the Penguin is there at every step with his Guy-Ritchie-gangster-movie voice taunting you, killing cops in front of you…

…and trying to feed you to his shark.  

As the coup de grace, he forces you to fight Solomon Grundy, a fucking Superman villain, before submitting to Batman and a well-deserved slap-fucking.

Skip to 0:55

   Yet even though you eventually best him in combat I found I still wasn’t satisfied.  I could have done with beating him some more.  In fact I would have liked that as a mini-game included alongside the main story: How much of the living-fuck can you beat out of the Penguin in 60 seconds?  But even then I have my doubts about whether or not my lust for vengeance would be sated; he’s just that annoying.  I think this begs bigger questions about revenge in general.  For example, even though Batman beats up the Penguin he hasn’t really addressed the larger problems of trash-talking super-villains or British accents in general (more on that later).  Batman is just setting himself up for more disappointment by using his fists as a band-aid solution.  Speaking of which…

Perpetuating Cycles of Violence
   The in-game combat system is both easy to learn and challenging to master, and the animations for the fight scenes are equal parts brutal and beautiful.

However as I dealt out punishment to the denizens of Arkham City (an area of Gotham City quarantined for the purposes of incarcerating the inmates of Blackgate Prison and the now-defunct Arkham Asylum) I began to wonder if the beat-downs I was doling out were really what these ne’er-do’wells needed most.  I don’t doubt for a second that knocking them unconscious is the most expedient way to deal with them in the context of a crisis, but Batman’s 1-2 special of fisticuffs & incarceration seems to be a throwback to earlier times when (abnormal) psychology wasn’t understood as well as it is now.
   For example, while prowling the rooftops you can overhear the conversations between groups of thugs.  One particular conversation stuck in my mind as very telling of the motivations of violent criminals.  One thug alludes to how his mother got up to no good at her prom.  The other thugs, thinking he is alluding fuck-making, start to bust his balls about hooking up with his mom.  When he sees the misunderstanding, he explains that his mother actually killed a bunch of people at her prom and has in fact gone on subsequent prom-night massacres, including the thug’s own prom.  Given this type of upbringing, do we then really wonder why this thug is here in Arkham City, doing dirt for one of the various super-villains and generally waiting to get his ass handed to him by the Bat?  I don’t.
   Now I’m not sure if in his capacity as Bruce Wayne, Batman subsidizes any kind of programs to rehabilitate criminals and alleviate poverty (the Nolan films allude to the Wayne family nearly bankrupting themselves to better Gotham), but from the very day he decided to don the cape and cowl, his whole M.O. has been striking fear into the hearts of “evil-doers” and punishing them.  Surely, someone as intelligent as Batman (often touted as “the World’s Greatest Detective”) would realize that he isn’t stopping crime by beating the fuck out of people and turning them over to the authorities.  The criminals just get more inventive and brutal for the next cycle of escape-crime spree-capture.
   Ironically, Batman’s one cardinal rule, to never kill, would, if broken actually see a reduction in crime.  It’s weird to see his progressive stance on killing juxtaposed against his barbaric beat ’em up and let ’em rot in jail attitude.  However, this is not intended to be an essay on Batman’s efficacy and complexity, just what I learned from the game.  And what I learned in this instance is that as much fun as punching, kicking and bataranging (sic.) bad guys is, I don’t see it as a solution to crime.

Inexplicable British Accents are VERY Hit or Miss
   While playing the game we lauded how they had used the voices of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill (Batman and the Joker respectively), as these two had done the voices in Batman: The Animated Series in the early 90s.  Then we must have got to talking about other classic Warner Bros. cartoons because Animaniacs came up.

Pictured: The Animaniacs being ‘zany to the max’

We talked about how the show had several instances of adult humour and references which the average child would not understand.  Then we talked about what the deal was with Wakko’s (bottom left) voice.  Adam felt his voice was pretty much an imitation of George Harrison’s while I concurred that he was definitely some kind of Beatle tribute.  While we didn’t talk about this explicitly, I mulled over how this had always kind of annoyed me; even as a kid this use of a British accent for an American character had always seemed misguided to me.  
   Less misguided, but no less inexplicable is the Penguin’s aforementioned accent.  I have to say that I can appreciate the fresh direction, and by all means they pulled it off well.  Certainly someone doing their best Burgess Meredith impression for the game’s voiceovers would have taken away from the serious mood.
“YOU’RE A BUM, ROCK!!”

Definitely one of the few cases where British-accent-out-of-fucking-nowhere (BAOOFN) worked out okay.
   An instance where BAOOFN didn’t work so hot?…
Cut that shit out; it’s pretentious and annoying

Then again she’s selling records like a ma, so what do I know, really?

‘Diddling’ is Always a Bad Touch
   To explain this I need to go back to Saturday night where we were drinking at a friend’s place.  We started playing this game where you give a clue which is a synonym for a rhyming set of of words.  So for example, “Catching an STI from a 7-11 drink” would be Herpes Slurpees, “An evening of quarrel” would be Fight Night, and “A Kick to the Vagina” would be Cunt Punt.  
Any questions?

   Anyhow, this game was such a barrel of fucking monkeys (I feel like I’m dropping too many F-bombs) that we decided to keep it going while playing Arkham City the next day.  We decided all the answers had to use the name of a Batman villain.  Here’s how the conversation went:
Adam: Okay a villain who likes weed
Me: “Smoker Joker”
Adam: I was gonna say Toker, but yeah…
Me: Okay, A Batman villain with a giant stereotype for a nose
Adam: uhhhh….
Me: “Jew-Face Two-Face”
Adam: lol, okay, a villain who molests little kids
Me: uhhhhh… (a few seconds pass) …I have no idea
Adam: Diddler Riddler
Me: Diddler? That’s a pedophile thing?
Adam: Yep
Me: Hmm, I always thought it was just another word for finger-banging
Adam: Finger-banging a minor, yes
Me: So you’re saying that ‘diddling is always a bad touch?’
Adam: Exactly
Me: Fascinating…
I refuse to believe that this upstanding gentleman has ever ‘diddled.’

This guy I’m not so sure about.

This seemed profound at the time although the ramifications of this new knowledge have proven meagre.  It really hasn’t changed my life in any way, but it did give me a pause to reflect on a guy I worked with on an army base a few years back.  His name was Didiano and, well, you can guess what his nickname was.  
   It seemed a really benign thing to call him at the time.
I Can Not Own a Video Game System
   When I think about how much sunlight I missed out on this weekend I kinda get mad.  Now I don’t have any regrets because at the time it was awesome and chilling with my brother all weekend was dope.  But if I had a gaming system and a ballin ass TV with surround-sound at my place like my older brother has at his, I would be spending many a sunny day in shady isolation.  Funnily enough, I actually do have a PS3 but I lent it out to a friend so long ago that at this point I don’t even care anymore.  Besides, PS3 is the most disappointing piece of shit gaming console I ever bought, and you can quote me on that.
   Back to the matter at hand, I think it is far better for me to not own a cutting-edge system, but rather just make frequent trips to my brother’s place.  Not only can I get my gaming fix but I am also ostensibly visiting family as well.
So thank-you Arkham City for all you taught me.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo
   


Leave a comment

Filed under Review