Sunday, July 28, 2013


A link to Part 1 of my dio-story, RENEGADE ANDROIDS. Suggested rating: PG-13.

(looks best on a computer screen or tablet)

Synopsis: Secret operative Macabre, on hire to seek and destroy an immortal half-man, half-machine adversary, undergoes a physical, philosophical, & psychological journey.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Pacific Rim (Guillermo del Toro, 2013): Film Review

We know before walking into the theater that we're about to see huge monsters fight against giant robots, and we know that it's going to be awesome because Guillermo del Toro is at the helm.

But what else can be done to provide intrigue to a standard movie type? Pacific Rim (though not perfect -- the current IMDB score of 8.0 is spot-on) does not fail to impress in this regard:

1) each Jaeger robot is operated by two pilots who must synchronize their psyches in order to be successful, enabling narrative conflict since Jaeger pilots must find a compatible partner to share the most hidden aspects of their unconscious experience;

2) the Kaiju monsters are not only physical beings, but access earth's topography via an almost demonic/spiritual, extra-dimensional wormhole at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

While the film's dialogue, and a handful of awkwardly presented facial expressions, do not present that shoe-shine polish we might expect from Marvel film productions, this deficiency is made up by -- not only the visuals and special effects -- but also the following concepts:

3) the Jaeger operation is run by neither the military nor the business community entirely ("we don't need them") which, perhaps like a film production crew, seems to present a kind of socialist utopia (albeit apocalyptic) in which operations work only if it is all for one, one for all;

4) allegorically, the film presents two of a society's options when facing conflict: to either behave defensively (by building walls), or behave offensively (by building Jaeger's) -- this is a broad-scale observation, but it's a broad-scale film;

5) the main character Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) looks exactly like a thin, muscular version of director Guillermo del Toro -- it's the directors' doppelganger having all of the fun. And for the duration of the film, so are we.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

World War Z (Forster, 2013) & Baudrillard

World War Z (Forster, 2013) has been a pleasant surprise this summer for fans and reviewers alike who expected the worst. The film contains a few flat moments, yet as a whole it is strangely endearing. I walked out of the theater into the sunlight midday and found my entire psyche altered -- I love it when a film can do that. This film was all about the gaze: Pitt's character Gerry Lane looks back at the destruction, always one last time: out of a plane window, through a pulled curtain -- so we can see things we hope we never see.


The film's apocalyptic vision presented in in CGI brings to mind the opening paragraphs of Jean Baudrillard's essay "After the Orgy":

"If I were asked to characterize the present state of affairs, I would describe it as 'after the orgy'. The orgy in question was the moment when modernity exploded upon us, the moment of liberation in every sphere. Political liberation, sexual liberation, liberation of the forces of production, liberation of the forces of destruction, women's liberation, children's liberation, liberation of unconscious drives, liberation of art. [...] Now everything has been liberated, the chips are down, and we find ourselves faced collectively with the big question: WHAT DO WE DO NOW THE ORGY IS OVER?

"Now all we can do is simulate the orgy, simulate liberation. We may pretend to carry on in the same direction, accelerating, but in reality we are accelerating in a void, because all the goals of liberation are already behind us, and because what haunts and obsesses us is being thus ahead of all the results -- the very availability of all the signs, all the forms, all the desires that we had been pursuing. But what can we do? This is the state of simulation, a state in which we are obliged to replay all scenarios precisely because they have all taken place already, whether actually or potentially. The state of utopia realized, of all utopias realized, wherein paradoxically we must continue to live as though they had not been. But since they have, and since we can no longer, therefore, nourish the hope of realizing them, we can only 'hyper-realize' them through interminable simulation. We live amid the interminable reproduction of ideals, phantasies, images and dreams which are now behind us, yet which we must continue to reproduce in a sort of inescapable indifference."
-- Baudrillard, translated by James Benedict


At the same time, World War Z seems to contain a certain humanity to it that can't entirely be regarded or discarded as simulation.

Waste Land (Walker, 2010): Mini-Film Review

Consumer culture is a broken system, a fact impossible to ignore when watching Waste Land (Walker, 2010), a well-presented documentary focusing on Brazilian artist Vik Muniz's efforts to photograph garbage workers in the Jardim Gramacho landfill outside of Rio de Janeiro. Artist Vik Muniz realizes at the end of the film that he became more attached than he anticipated to the people he met along his journey; hopefully this sentiment might similarly summarize the experience of the audience: we are connected. Superb soundtrack by Moby.

Monday, July 8, 2013


Two mornings ago I had a dream between snooze alarms that conformed perfectly to the narrative rhythm of a horror film:
  1. The Illogical & Unnecessary Exposition 
  2. The Fake Scare 
  3. The Real Scare
First, for some reason there was a bear blocking a hallway that some friends and I needed access to. (Lately I have dreams in which tigers are chasing me -- no wonder Life of Pi (Lee, 2012) got to me -- my other fear is sinking on a ship), so anyways, we decided to wake up the bear -- a person I was with shot a slingshot to wake it up and then we (are these people really my friends?) and I ran screaming out of the hallway.

Horror Film Step 1 Complete: The Illogical & Unnecessary Exposition -- there is no need to wake up a bear in a hallway, just like all of the horror films that would never be scary if the actants did not: enter into that dark house alone, decide to make a film about a cult, stay in a remote cabin for the weekend, etc.

Next, we ran into a parked van with a sunroof -- as we scrambled into the van the door handles did not work properly and actually broke off after we got into the van. We laid down quietly in the hopes that the bear would not know where we were. THEN ALL OF THE SUDDEN a stranger jumped on top of the van and looked down at us through the open sunroof -- he asked us if he could come in the van too because he and some other hikers were being chased by a bear. We all let our guards down to have a brief conversation with this friendly, frantic man.

Horror Film Step 2 Complete: The Fake Scare -- out of nowhere, this hiker comes by to scare the heck out of us because we thought it was going to be the bear. But it wasn't the bear, just some nice hiker who happened to be hanging around a building with a hallway with a bear sleeping in it.

Finally, the bear grabbed the friendly hiker -- the nice hiker SCREAMED as he was dragged off of the roof of the van, and the entire van was rattled violently by the roaring bear.

Horror Film Step 3 Complete: The Real Scare -- after being placated, calmed, and relieved to see a nice hiker on top of our van, the bear suddenly showed up and scared the socks off of us.

... then the alarm rang and it was time to get ready for work. That's not a deus ex machina, that's real life.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Marcuse on Oppositional Art, Quotation by Douglas Kellner

"Marcuse writes that truly oppositional art must be shaped in such a manner that it reveals the negative system in its totality and, at the same time, the absolute necessity of liberation. The work of art must, at its breaking point, expose the ultimate nakedness of humanity’s (and nature’s) existence, stripped of all the paraphernalia of monopolistic mass culture, completely and utterly alone, in the abyss of destruction, despair and freedom. The most revolutionary work of art will be, at the same time, the most esoteric, the most anti-collectivist one, for the goal ... is the free individual." 
-- Douglas Kellner

Monday, July 1, 2013

The 30 Year Rule in Cinema

I've thought about this before, yet it was after recently watching Milk (Van Sant, 2008) and the Bones Brigade: An Autobiography (Peralta, 2012) skateboarding documentary that an idea seemed be be confirmed:

there is a 30 rule in cinema; namely, after 30 years a given historical topic is optimal for cinematic treatment in terms of audience receptivity and, likely, profits at the box office.

Both of the films mentioned above deal with the "living history" of the late 70's/early 80s -- moments prevalent in the minds of one generation and still accessible to a new generation interested in its past. After 30 years, filmmakers might enjoy both the advantage of historical hindsight and the ability to gauge the current reverberations of the event/s depicted.

Has this been written about previously? Perhaps there are correlates with fashion cycles? It's probably not an earth-shattering observation, and likely been written about before although I have not yet encountered it -- while I am aware of the 30 year rule in technology -- and I'm certainly not offering this 30 year rule as an absolute, for certainly any given era might be a subject for the camera.

But there remains a possibility that the 30 year rule exists. I know that personally, watching Mississippi Burning (Parker, 1988), a late 1980s film that represents the early 1960s, was quite formative for me in terms of developing a social consciousness as a teenager when I saw it in the early 1990s, and it roughly follows this 30 year rule pattern.