Tag Archives: film

If you haven’t already seen this Oscar-nominated animated short then you probably should

Just a brief fly-by to share this fantastic short animation that’s been nominated for an OSCAR!

Best of luck to everyone involved.

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#Occupy Christopher Nolan

Yeah, I woulda gone with #Occupy Gotham but I’d be super late for the party on that one.

So, my lovely Gurlfrenn just booked us tickets to the pant-shittingly anticipated The Dark Knight Rises and at the BFI IMAX no less. But why is it then, as a life-long Batman fan, that after the four year wait and year-long, ever intensifying marketing campaign I am overcome with what can only be described as blockbuster ennui? I am rarely a victim of hype but I do fall for the occasional, clever hysteria machine (which recently left me twice shy after getting a nasty bite from Ridley Scott) but not so this time. Frankly, the marketing for Christopher Nolan’s latest Bat-sequel has been inconsistent at best – each trailer giving off a different tone and each poster drive featuring wildly divergent styles, one’s left a bit confused and, after Joss Whedon’s delightful four-colour fun-fest Avengers it all looks very…grey.

Batman getting a new high-score in Angry Birds. The closest the gritty Nolanverse will get to depicting Robin.

But, what worries me the most about the whole affair are the Occupy overtones and the series’ ultimately conservative leanings. This isn’t news and neither is it very subtle. Here at the Slate they pretty much outline all the relevant Occupy-esque scenes from the film’s first trailer. Catwoman’s (Anne Hathaway) dialogue is the most damning evidence, as she denounces Bruce’s world of excessive wealth:

There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches. Because when it hits you’re all going to wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.

The rest of us, presumably the 99%. Now, I’m not disparaging that a blockbuster is using contemporary issues as a backdrop or even as an arena of discourse but what’s troubling is associating Occupiers with terrorists, revolutionaries with evil and the police state with order, heroism and honour. Also necessity.

2005’s Batman Begins is by far the superior of the two Nolanverse pictures to date. It combined (and invented) the Gritty reboot, with an air of the gothic – Eerie old institutions, secret Ninja Tibetan hide-outs and weaponized Bats! The more bizarre aspects would be entirely eschewed in a sequel that is over-plotted, clunkily edited and devoid of humour. The closest Begins gets to politics is Wayne’s problematic choice to Leave R’as al Ghoul in the run-away train. As the car speeds towards imminent doom Wayne leaves his old master saying “I’m won’t kill you, but I don’t have to save you”  which serves to solidify the vague Libertarian notions that had been bandied around the film thus far. It stuck out as odd, because the Batman I knew (from the Animated Series!) would have undoubtedly tried to save his nemesis with his trusty grappling hook. Batman has an almost Hippocratic oath – he would have had to save him. Even my mum tutted audibly at this scene lamenting the  murky morals at work.

So Batman may be a libertarian who believes the state  is complicit in the corruption and chaos that ravages his city and must work outside the law to enact change. I can buy this, I guess. If Batman were real he would be terrifying and anti-state.

Uncanny

But then there’s The Dark Knight. For the most part, The Dark Knight draws from the U.S’s demented War on Terror, casting the Batman as  George Bush – who goes to perilously dangerous lengths to capture the madman and terrorist, the Joker. Not only does Christian Bale look eerily like him but his Bruce Wayne mimics Dubya in his policy of violence, kidnapping and phone-tapping up to and including extraordinary rendition. Again, I actually embrace using contemporary issues as source material and I love that the Batman doesn’t have to be our hero in every sense – that he can make morally disturbing choices and doesn’t have to be the audience surrogate that heroes usually are. But the film squanders this in its final moments; instead of merely reflecting recent history it decides to come down on one side. Even though Batman has lost his love and has conducted an immoral campaign of spying and surveillance against the people he has sworn to protect he has beaten the Joker and virtually shut down organised crime. To maintain order and peace in Gotham and keep the baddies behind bars (objectively good things) he must lie and say he was responsible for Dent’s murderous rampage. He utters the most tripe, Iraq invasion apologist bullshit line I have ever heard.

Sometimes the truth isn’t good enough. Sometimes people deserve more.”

WTF IS THIS SHIT?!

You don’t even need an arts degree to decode this here, boys and girls. There were no WMDs in Iraq. BUT the ends justified the means. Things are better because of a lie and thus, it was worth it. The above line is probably repeated ad nauseum by the entire Bush administration and Blair every night before they hop into their plush King-size beds. And then from the mouth of babes, Jim Gordon’s blonde, innocent son – “But he didn’t do anything wrong!” in context it’s beyond parody. He had to make the difficult choices and he will be hated for it – nay hunt him for it. Because he can take it. Because he’s not the hero-….bla bla bla bla bla bla.

So Batman’s a neo-liberal, willing to lie, cheat and steal and fuelled (like Dubya) with a zealot like fervour. He compromises his own moral codes in order to “bring peace” because he is “outside” the law – No UN resolutions for him! He’s also responsible for the crime of having a really silly voice.

Interestingly, Rorschach is offered the same choice at the end of Watchmen. But Rorschach is a proper, nut-job libertarian – he’s honest:  “Never compromise. Not even in the face of Armageddon.”

And…uh…that ended well

 I don’t think the Batman of the comic would allow Superman to craft a new Utopia if it meant Supes would have to fry a few skulls with his heat vision to do it. But Nolan’s Bush-man obviously has a different set of ethics.

And now we come to The Dark Knight Rises. The trailer has the “war-hero” cop Gordon being set-up for retirement as it’s now “peace-time”. If we thought the allegory in the previous film was circumstantial then BAM it’s just been confirmed. The follows a slew of images of scruffy-looking peeps ransacking Wayne Manor and mass scruffy uprisings around Gotham. The latest trailer even shows a gang or rising, scruffy Untermensch descending upon an up-market hotel. The lines are clearly drawn – the only question is which side is Batman on.

One is a screencap from Dorkly’s hilarious Batman is the 1% sketch and one is a poster for the upcoming blockbuster. But which is which? Eagle eyed viewers win a free picture of my balls.

And to make matters more interesting the film even wanted to shoot at Wall St. while the Occupy movement was there, the trailers feature “terrorists” shooting up the Gotham stock exchange and now we get these, rather intriguing comments by Chris Nolan on the film’s scale and vision:

“It’s all about historical epics in conception. It’s a war film. It’s a revolutionary epic. It’s looking back to the grand-scale epics of the past, really, and for me that goes as far back as silent films. I’ve been watching a lot of silent films with my kids on Blu-Ray. We’ve shot over a third of the movie on the IMAX format, and that naturally puts you more in the mode of staging very large events for the camera. It’s my attempt to get as close to making a Fritz Lang film as I could. It’s also more in the mould of ‘Doctor Zhivago,’ or ‘A Tale Of Two Cities,’ which is a historical epic with all kinds of great storytelling taking place during the French Revolution.

There’s an attempt to visualise certain things in this film on this large scale that are troubling and genuinely to the idea of an American city. Or, to put it another way: revolutions and the destabilising of society have happened everywhere in the world, so why not here?”

This seems to be a direct allusion to things like the Arab Spring, most recently and his talk of a “revolutionary epic” brings to mind films like The Battle of Algiers, Strike! or I am Cuba. Giving my pinky, lefty, faggy, Communist background I would probably welcome a film depicting a people’s uprising in America to battle their subordination by the wealthy elites and their corporate sponsored congressmen. But given where the story’s come from and the apologist tone of the previous film will Batman be defending a corrupt, totalitarian state from a popular uprising? Is the Batman going to be defending “order” and “stability”…thus defending the likes of Mubarak or Gaddafi ?

The trailers depict armed, violent militias and freed prisoners attempting to “destabilise” society, orchestrated by a shady, esoteric Eastern terrorist group we can assume is  The League Shadows from the first picture. If this is meant to reflect either Occupy or the Arab Spring it is insulting to both as both championed the use of non-violent demonstration and strikes. Any descent into violence occurred at the hands of the violent reaction by the police and armed forces. Also, having an Occupy uprising secretly organised by a shady, Eastern terrorist cell reads something like a Tea-party wet dream. The reason the police and the Tea-party never clash is that the tea-party are so well-armed at their rallies. Surely they would be more likely to attempt an armed coup on their black Socialist president.

Hmmm….from Frank Miller’s “Batman: Year One”. Sounds like that Occupy nonsense.

Batman and Fascist propaganda are no strange bedfellows. Frank Miller, creator of the famed and yes overrated Dark Knight Returns graphic novel, gave the character new-life as a quasi-fascist, anti-state loon and also wrote and drew an anti-muslim propaganda rag entitled Holy Terrorthough DC Comics were wise enough to allow him to actually feature Batman in the book. The writer recently sunk to new lows in an online rant about the Occupy movement which is so uninformed an demented it reads like a Rorschach journal entry. Given that TDK Returns revolves around the Batman coming out of a stretch of retirement, just as the latest film will, it merits mentioning.

Will The Dark Knight Rises really go the whole hog and confuse Occupiers with armed terrorists, terrorists with ninjas, revolutionaries with terrorists, order with peace? Or will Wayne turn around and realise he could have enacted more significant change had he paid more taxes and instead of buying mini-tanks just gave some of his loose change to upgrading the city’s infrastructure like his good ol’ Da did.

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I Just saw Prometheus

Just out of the 00.01 showing of Ridley Scott’s latest sci-fi offering in the BFI IMAX. And may I just say wow. That is a huge screen. It lurches one’s stomach rather like the feeling you get when you stare up a large tower or grounded sailing ship from the very bottom and feel as though it may just slowly fall on you. Its sheer height actually makes you a little emotional for some reason – I found myself strangely moved by the trailer for the Dark Knight Rises which I’d already seen and been pretty indifferent to.

Anyway, onto the matter at hand; Prometheus. Caution, fellow travellers, thar be *SPOILERS* ahead.

 But I must confess to something first: The first Alien film I ever saw was 2004’s Alien VS. Predator. This didn’t stop me from becoming the avid Alien fan that I am or appreciating the subtleties and horror of first two films or from developing that special place in my heart for the much maligned Alien Cubed. It acted as a doorway into a wider, more satisfying universe and thusly, I have to say I’m glad I saw it. Every Alien fan should.

Seminal

I wish Ridley Scott had. Because then he might not have accidentally remade it.

Ok that might be a bit harsh but seriously Prometheus is full of “haven’t we already done this?” moments and leaves the audience with so many unanswered questions that one wonders why there was any merit at all in making this film only tangentially refer to its progenitor. Why Lindelof and Scott thought there was anything so new and original in this story that it required its own spin-off is beyond the reasonable mind.

Let’s get the AVP similarities out of the way. The plot similarities, both based on nut-case Eric Von Daniken’s “God is an Astronaut” theory, are excusable (AVP isn’t exactly the apex of its genre here) but the way in which it’s introduced –  a lecture delivered to a group of hard-case experts, in a hanger of their vessel which is heading toward the point of interest – is identical. In both cases it’s absurd that these professionals would hop on a ship heading toward uninhabitable landscapes with no foreknowledge of what they were there for but in Prometheus we’re told they’ve been in Cryo for 2 years and they only get briefed when they reach their destination?

Oh and the reason they’ve spent a trillion dollars and  relinquished two years of their lives? Some paintings…you prolly saw it in the trailer. There is literally no better reason given for their expedition . At least in AVP there was a fricking pyramid heating up in the Arctic to justify their adventure. Also, in AVP they had a heat-signature to locate their future tomb –  in Prometheus the crew flies their star-bug down to the planet and just happens upon some Nazca lines and Alien-God jackpot about a minute after arriving. Pretty lucky. Other comparisons are slim but no less irritating including the “No guns; this is a sciencey trip?” “Whatever you say, lady” exchange between strong female expert and gruff worker character and having two of our underdeveloped fodder characters getting lost in the maze-like alien tomb. Oh and dying member of the Weyland family who bankrolls the venture, inadvisably tagging along only to be killed off by a gargantuan extraterrestrial.

But let’s get onto the real meat. Music sets the tone. Alien is famous for its restrained use of any orchestral score only appearing intermittently during transitions or as the creature attacks. The infamous tagline “In Space no one can hear you scream” accurately evokes the bed-shitting silence at the end of the film when Ripley is left alone with the Phallic nightmare. Conversely, Prometheus is underscored with a grandiose and uplifting motif akin to the Aaron Copland American sound which is more at home in the Star Trek series than a grotesque space-horror. The score tends to displace the mood, and moments which in the trailer seemed ungodlily creepy and horrifying can blip past without evoking a simple jolt or shudder.

But perhaps you’re normal and don’t even notice the music unless it’s terrible. The dialogue is pretty worn. None of the characters seem to ask any reasonable questions and consequently, the audience isn’t given any satisfying answers. Moments which should be great literally fade before you as there is never much fuss made out of anything that happens. **SPOILERS** They discover the first sign of alien life, they discover it looks just like us, they discover that it shares our DNA, they discover that they made us, Naoomi Rapace gets impregnated and removes a giant horrific squid from her guts and NOBODY SEEMS TO CARE. Not even the director. And then, how are we to?
There’s far too much cod theology and many many empty exchanges which tend to drag the story around its ankles.

The whole story, thematically, is about parentage, and it’s about as subtle as a chestburster. Dr. Lizzy can’t have babies, Holloway, Vickers and David clearly all have daddy issues and they occasionally “reveal” these insights in choice moments that I presume were intended to be plot twists. **SPOILERS** Theron’s dramatic turn around to Wayland toward the end with the immortal “Father!” was particularly loll-ful. **END**

What was good? Well, what was good was great! I loved the Engineers. Ever since I laid eyes on that dead Space Jockey in Alien they had transfixed me so getting to see them fleshed out and move in all their lumbering glory was a treat. There was something very LOST about their introduction. The Black goo, the loin-cloth…probably the loin-cloth.  But they were gorgeous; their statuesque form, marble skin, Roman noses and their loin-cloths evoked classic gods but somehow managed to gel seamlessly with the Alien universe. Their motives, however, do not sit so well.

We are told they have been to Earth previously and instructed primitive people to find them, “inviting” them to this nearby stellar constellation. We learn that they create biological weapons. Devastating, resilient, biological weapons of mass-destruction. We learnt that these weapons turned on them, hence there being no Engineers left. We learn that they created us. We learn (through just about the weirdest last minute piece of exposition I’ve yet seen) from the Cap’n that the planet isn’t their home but a place to store their super-dangerous weapons. We learn that their ship was bound for Earth, full of weapons, presumably to destroy it.

So, to recap…They make weapons, they make man; the most dangerous weapon. They decide to destroy man. They teach primitive species the directions not to their home planet but their weapon stash? A weapon stash they were going to fly to and dump on Earth eventually anyway? I…whut?

Then there’s Wayland who finances the whole trip based on cave maps and secrets himself on-board, with a vague plan of achieving eternal life granted to him by creatures he doesn’t yet know to exist? And he makes David infect Holloway…because…? and tries to sedate Dr.Lizzy why? and they all seem to forget about it immediately because…the…plot…and…The pace is simply to choppy and fast to accommodate any answers to these questions.

David, however, is a joy to watch. Fassbender once again steals the show with his curious, captivating, open face and dubious, self-righteous malice. With the leads being so dissmissable/dislikeable you almost cheer when he tries to do them in. Rapace fails to ignite any sympathy – hackneyed faith in the face of insurmountable evidence plot drew a yawn or two. Vickers was far more interesting a character and the moment she stepped up and refused to let the infected Holloway on-board I saw flickers of Ripley there and thought Scott had out-clevered us again; making us think Rapace was the strong woman who survives when in-fact it’s the by-the-book Vickers. But no-dice. She gets squashed. I really though Shaw deserved to bite it, like all mad scientists should, when their follies cause the deaths of everyone they know and love. It’s uptight “bitches” like Ripley who should get to survive.  But no, Shaw has her faith rewarded. Humbug.

The HORROR!

So, all in all, I enjoyed it, of course I did. The first half is fantastic, raising question after question and genuinely creates an interesting mood. But it just kinda falls apart. I think the disappointment you’ll feel with this film will be measured by how high your expectations are. And mine were unfortunately pretty high. And I don’t think Ridley Scott’s promotional campaign helped that much. The ads promised creepy, shock, grotesque alien body-horror, eerie atmosphere, the unknown and deliberately harked back to the original Alien trailers so it is completely fair to compare them and to say that yes, it did disappoint – yes it failed to satisfy not just my expectations but also the expectations it itself raised.

For me the final insult is it’s having nothing to do at all with the ship found in Alien which would have given the whole affair a kind of reason for existing.

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