Category Archives: Film

Hypocrisy in the Ingroup? Unheard of!

G+ & Mediaite

Frankly I expected this to not be a thing in 24 hours. The Twitters and the Facespaces and Instamessengers are all aflame. I think it has been more than 24 hours now. I’m not sure. I don’t really care. Yesterday the trolls started up with the what about Samantha Bee? on liberal groups everywhere. Here’s one example image. Conservatives think they’ve got a point, and that the point isn’t on the top of their heads. A point they’re willing to flog endlessly. As I said on that thread,

The finer point that is never made is that if you are offended by comedy sketch artists and think they should be punished for it (aside from losing their jobs. For not being funny enough) then you have completely missed the POINT of comedy. Get a sense of humor, everyone.

The in-group can do no wrong. This is a common problem in politics, liberals defending Samantha Bee when even she admits she crossed a line is just the most recent example of ingroup/outgroup bias. Something I’ve tried hard never to fall prey to.

I roundly criticized Bill Clinton in the 90’s because of his excesses with women, a fact that gets me in trouble with Democrats to this day. He had no business taxing that ass when that ass worked for him in the White House let alone at the governor’s mansion. That is simply not the way you relate to people from a position of authority. When Stormtrumpers throw what about Bill? at me I have always pointed to my own history of not putting up with crap from him, so I have no compunction with holding the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) accountable now.

The motivated numeracy that afflicts political groups is truly troubling. Conservatives do not see the degree of crimes that the OHM is guilty of as being any worse, and probably less detrimental, than what they believe Bill and Hillary Clinton are guilty of. Never mind that Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton are demonstrably different people and are not interchangeable characters (no matter how much they sold us on the two for one special we got when we put them in the White House) or that the Clinton murder list that they frequently cite is complete bullshit as are all the other dismissed charges that have been raised over the last twenty-five years.

I’ve started in the middle of the story again. Drat. Let me start from the beginning. Roseanne Barr set Twitter aflame with a racist tweet that she has since deleted and she was canned for it by her network. As I said on a friend’s wall on Facebook three days ago,

I hated Roseanne in its final years in its previous incarnation, I hated the new show from the beginning. What I would like is some honesty from the people who talk about how honest Trump is. The fakery in the new show was so transparent as to make the acting cringe-worthy. …having said that, if only it were this easy to fire a president over embarrassing tweets.

Why did I hate the last few years of Roseanne? Because she had become a fake. She had money by that point. She had plastic surgery and mental health counseling and a marriage failing over creative differences and too much money. She was no longer convincing as the trailer-trash domestic goddess that she was in the beginning. I remember her stand up routines. She has great timing and she is quick and clever. But she doesn’t pull punches and that isn’t becoming in someone who literally has the money to get her way pretty much all the time. Her brand of comedy doesn’t fit coming from someone with money and sense. Maybe she should grow a little sense and she could keep a job.

But then not saying whatever thing comes into your head that sounds funny to you is not how you become famous as a stand up comic. So perhaps she’s still on the comedy track and I simply can’t appreciate her comedy anymore. That is entirely possible.

I don’t like either Roseanne Barr or Samantha Bee. I figured out who Samantha Bee was on The Daily Show. I rarely found her funny then, and I’m still not finding her funny often enough to take the time to watch Full Frontal now. I follow comics, it’s something I do for the occasional laugh. I stop following the comics when they stop making me laugh. I certainly don’t pay to see their shows if I’m not laughing. Most conservatives forget that they were pissed off at Roseanne a decade and more ago when she butchered the Star Spangled Banner at a baseball game, an event that was brought to mind by someone with a question about it on Snopes two days ago,

I remember this well. I remember that I thought it was an overreaction at the time. She was a stand-up comic. Her act (and most comedy acts) include ethnic slurs. If you can’t accept the humor, don’t watch it, read it or listen to it. That doesn’t mean that she shouldn’t get in trouble for her jokes told in bad taste, or for comedy routines (like the OP) that bombed. 

What is telling is how many comics who pride themselves with doing mostly ethnic slurs end up supporting people like Trump. Very instructive

Why are people listening to comics that don’t make them laugh? There isn’t a Rush Limbaugh fan who has laughed at him in a decade or more. Why is that?

Yesterday the creator of the G+ group Conservative Union a man with twenty-six thousand followers decided to troll the members of the G+ group Being Liberal. I’m not one to question the motivations of people who clearly have way more attention than most of us should be comfortable with, especially when their actions are bound to create more distraction and attention for themselves that isn’t of a positive nature. But he decided he’d demand answers of the membership of that group, a group demonstrably populated with more trolls than liberals. Perhaps what Being Liberal needs is a moderator that can make sure that conservative trolls don’t get into the group to stir up ugliness on a regular basis. Moderators that control content like Dan Lewis does for his Conservative Union group. But I’m getting ahead of myself again,

I mean, you post this bullshit here, just JAQ’ing off, as if you are asking something weighty. As if people who don’t follow shock jocks and outrageous comedians are offended by a lot of what passes for public discourse these days (take a number after “grab ’em by the pussy”) and simply adjusts their filters accordingly, and at the same time you demand that we all pay attention because you think this is important. 

Well, it isn’t important. Roseanne hasn’t been important in twenty years and Samantha Bee’s fifteen minutes are about up. Nobody cares except for white nationalists and anarchists who want to see America made white again. People who support Trump and won’t admit that they are racists for supporting him. Those are the people who need to wake the fuck up. 

He invokes ad hominems. Antifa. As if I should think that punching Nazis like Antifa does is somehow unAmerican. I can’t figure out why you shouldn’t punch Nazis, unless it’s some kind of official rally and cops would arrest you for punching them. That I get. Otherwise it seems like the most American thing to do, if you know the person at the other end of your fist is a Nazis. I’m thinking Inglourious Basterds here. Maybe punching isn’t a strong enough response? When I suggest that content control is something everyone profits from he alludes to Antifa. When I suggest I might block him for being a troll (demonstrated) and probably an anarcho-capitalist (suspected) I mean, he doesn’t let just anyone into his groups. Or as I put the rhetorical question to him,

How exactly do you intend to listen to the input of 8 billion people when they all try to speak at once? When every single one of them must be given the attention they demand? Take as long as you need to answer, since I know there isn’t an answer you will admit to.

And when he feigned incomprehension,

It’s a simple question. All 8 billion people on the planet will have something to say and according to the rules you have set up, all of them must be heard. How will you achieve this when all of them will want all of the time you have remaining on earth? 

A little FYI is warranted here. I block people I determine that I cannot reason with. I do this on every platform and in every social interaction. If I start talking about the weather in a face to face conversation, you should know that I am blocking you right to your face. I have determined that you are not someone I can reason with. This fact is established over several encounters, so if I see you for the first time and I mention the weather, understand that I don’t say how are you? as a greeting, the most common form of blowing someone off while pretending to care. I simply don’t have time for a lengthy conversation on my journey from here to there. I do not exclude people for reasons other than the ones relevant to the conversation in question at any given time. For what it’s worth, those people are found everywhere, on all sides of every issue. It’s why several hundred people on any given platform cannot see what I write. It’s better for my sanity and health and it is better for their sanity, too. I would say their health as well, but I don’t want anyone to think I’m threatening them, so hot outside today, isn’t it?

The troll and the defenders of Samantha Bee then proceeded to conducted their rolling orgy in a cesspool after that point, because that’s what these trolls and the people who feed them do. I didn’t care less then and I still couldn’t care less now. Roseanne should have been fired because she has no intention to conform to some kind of societal norms. Maybe there is a return to decent stand-up routines in her future, I’m not the one to ask on that score. Samantha Bee deserved to be dealt with harshly if she hadn’t apologized. She has. It’s up to her network now, just as it was with Roseanne, when it comes to what happens next.

The Other 98%

The thing I’m left with is the hypocrisy. The hypocrisy on all sides when it comes to these issues. Anyone who objects to Samantha Bee using the word cunt in reference to someone in a position of authority in our government (elected or not) should be outraged by this t-shirt proudly worn by Stormtrumpers during the 2016 election that gave us the OHM. Anyone surprised by racism coming from people who support the OHM were not paying attention during the election and have not been paying attention since he took office. Am I surprised by the hypocrisy? I’m surprised that anyone notices hypocrisy since the OHM descended the golden escalator in 2015 and started the shitshow we are in today. 1 year, 132 days, 6 hours, 46 minutes and 44 seconds. That’s how long the OHM had been president when I wrote this. Is he still President? Then the hypocrisy continues. Wake me up when the impeachment hearings start.

It is the work of the mendacious to claim allegiance to a past that we all share, all the while excluding those who don’t fit the mold they create with spurious data. Everyone who lives in America is an American. This fact is demonstrable. Conservatives cannot abide this kind of judgment because exclusion is how they secure the zero sum game they have created.

Not Bedazzled. GroundHog Day.

“I’m here to tell you that there is an enormous difference between those who want power only to benefit themselves and those who seek power for the betterment of us all.”Jim Wright

That take home line from Hunting the Unicorn — to Extinction is worth including in the blog based on its own merits. But the subject of that Stonekettle Station article is something that is at the core of all politics and one of the reasons I find myself restless in the Democratic party right now; uncomfortable but determined to see this thing through to the end.

Jim was telling liberals and progressives that claimed they could not vote for Democratic candidates to stop it. Conservatives, we know you won’t vote Democratic. You proved that when you held your nose and voted for the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) instead of Hillary Clinton. As I’ve said many, many times, first saying it in Hillary for President? the Republicans were going to nominate a nutjob in 2016 because the Republican party is certifiably insane. They don’t know what they want and they just couldn’t vote for that woman. So they voted for a serial-philandering, money-laundering tax cheat instead when they could have had John Kasich, a perfectly reasonable compromise candidate that is quite demonstrably sane if a little preoccupied with eating. The Republican party has grown more and more dysfunctional as the Tea Party and Religious Right exert more and more control of the process of selecting its candidates, wresting control from traditional Republicans who find themselves ill at ease in the presence of so much openly expressed white nationalism and Christianist dogma. The current state of schizophrenia that the Republican party is experiencing is also proof positive that plurality voting does lead to the worst candidates rising to the top of the ticket and attaining office. Never argue with math.

So when the Democrats nominated Hillary, and why not, she was the most admired woman in the world more than once; and the inevitable misogynistic blurring of the lines between Bill Clinton’s actions and her still being married to him occurred, creating this illusion of taint on Hillary that the media was more than happy to feed on, a distinct vein of fear of Democratic corruption emerged. I see most of this as sour grapes. You never get the candidates you want, and if you do get the candidates you want, most of the time they can’t win anyway because you are not we and we elect leaders. That simple phrase is politics in a nutshell. But this dissatisfaction with Democratic business as usual persists. How much of it is real and how much of it is counter-intelligence operations by Russian disinformation services is entirely open to question.

Olga Yurkova, TED2018 Inside the fight against Russia’s fake news empire

The same people who refused to vote for Hillary, but were not Conservatives or Republicans, are still insisting that they can’t vote for Democrats who won’t swear an oath to support every, single, thing that these people think are important. They’d rather stay home and pretend they are doing us all a favor than to participate in the process and maybe be responsible for some candidate or other that they might disagree with getting elected. The point, as Jim makes several times in his essay, is that even not voting is a choice and if you don’t vote then you voted for the OHM and all his supporters anyway. And you did this because even not choosing is a choice with consequences which you cannot avoid. The current administration is a poster child for the fact that not voting leads to outcomes which are every bit as undesirable as any other you can possibly imagine. A textbook case for mandating voting and participation in the process at all levels, but that is an argument for another essay.

IMDb.com

This essay is about the allusion that Jim chose to make in order to relate his point. Bedazzled was the wrong movie to turn to for instruction on this subject. The movie he should have drawn comparisons to is Groundhog Day. In Groundhog Day the title character doesn’t even know what he wants in the first sequence that he is doomed to repeat for years of time during the film’s duration, just like more Americans have no clue what it is they want. It is only after he has dallied with every other distraction in the terrifyingly small world he is stuck in that he seizes on the one thing that might save him, the wholly genuine character of the producer he’s been stuck with for all these years one day at a time, a character beautifully played by Andie McDowell. It is at that point that he begins to move in positive directions, finally able to leave the hell of Groundhog Day that he’s been stuck in for much longer than the audience that watches the film is. He gets to leave because he finally becomes worthy of leaving Puxatawny with the partner he really needs, that tiny hamlet in Western Pennsylvania that isn’t featured in the film.

It is true that the protagonist does learn his lesson by the end of Bedazzled, but the journey of Phil Connors is demonstrably the exact same journey that the malcontents who refuse to make themselves better citizens need to take. They have to accept that the problem is them and not us. Hopefully they manage to do this before killing themselves more than a score of times and spending a purported thirty-four years stuck in a time loop. In the meantime I’ll still be here repeating what I’ve been saying for the better part of two years now.

Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today. – Phil Connors

Thank You! to TWD for Ending my Cable Addiction

April 4th, 2016 – RottenTomatoes posed the question what did you think of The Walking Dead season six finale?

I am thoroughly ambivalent about The Last Day on Earth. The episode didn’t fit with the tenor of the rest of the season. It smacked of torture porn and marked the end of an unknown character, probably more than one character.  I’m waiting to see what happens next, for the first time in six seasons of loyal viewing, to decide if I’m still going to watch. More torture porn will make it not watching.

One of the other commenters observed to me I’m thinking that the season 5 finale marked a good point to end the series on a high note.
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I’ve mentioned elsewhere that the Alien sequels ended with Aliens. That’s right, there are only two Alien movies in my headcanon. Hicks & Ripley settled down and adopted Newt after arriving safely back on Earth. End of story. Having already written my own endings for popular fiction in the past, albeit in my own head, writing my own end to The Walking Dead (TWD) will not be a problem. They all died. End of story. The season 5 finale was more positive, but also less definitive. I really was wondering what would happen next after watching that finale, a feeling I’m completely lacking this time around.


Someone resurrected this zombie thread (pun intended) with a spam comment today and while I was reading back through the comments I noticed that the one after mine took the time to break down how the camera perspective meant Glenn was the guy being beaten to death with a baseball bat.

Beaten to death, with a baseball bat. Let that sink in for a few, because it is a wakeup call. One of the most popular shows on television ends its sixth season with one of the most loved characters on TV of the time possibly being beaten to death with a barbed-wire wrapped baseball bat. We’ve come a long way from The Andy Griffith Show, just to mention another totally random show featuring a character that has a sheriff as its lead. Even if you compare TWD to Gunsmoke, the changes in America’s viewing culture is quite shocking.

It also bears noting that there is a certain amount of fatalism inherent in shows like TWD. All of the characters will die unremarked by anyone around them, because it is a story about the zombie apocalypse. No one will be left to record their last words, because there will be no one to recount the story. This is above and beyond the fatalism of TWD comic book fans who already know how your favorite characters die in their comic books. A literalism that they attempt to write onto the screen with every passing episode.

I can safely say, with not a hint of spoilers, the death wasn’t Glenn’s as the other commenter described. Not that Glenn didn’t die anyway. As I said, no spoilers. I binge-watched season seven on Netflix this past month, prepping to binge watch the final season this fall. Seventh season’s viewing numbers were so low that AMC decided to end the show on a high note and wrap it up with a second season of Negan vs. Rick.

I should thank TWD for making me finally cut the cable. Within a month of watching the season seven opener, the Wife and I decided we didn’t need to spend money on cable television that we weren’t going to be watching anyway. With BBC America moved to the even more expensive tier of cable subscription than the one we had, there was nothing on the TV we were overpaying for that we wanted to watch. Aside from which, it was less jarring to watch TWD on Netflix as a binge event, and not paying for cable TV has saved me a couple of thousand dollars by now.

On the subject of the eighth and final season of TWD, I’m having a real hard time believing Negan isn’t dead yet, much less figuring out why anyone would follow the son of a bitch anywhere. My experience over the last two years of TWD has shown me that you can’t take comic books and make videos out of the stories and characters directly (as if the DC movies are not proof of this already) it is better to let people who understand the medium of television write for that medium themselves.


TWD on G+

The promo for the mid-season opener popped up on my feed yesterday asking,

2 weeks left. Is the Kingdom ready for one last stand? #TWD

Of course, the pro and con trolls then proceeded to make hay over their various opinions on the subject of TWD in general and not the final half of the final season in particular, including one particular troll who threatened bodily harm to the naysayers. I haven’t watched the first half yet, not being willing to spend actual cash on seeing it before the season is finished. But opinions? I have a few.

I started with Threatening  us with injury is a punishable crime; as is everything Negan does in the show. I don’t accept that the character of Negan is realistically drawn or portrayed. I don’t accept that people will simply do as they’re told because they are afraid. There are too many examples of the contrary being true throughout history. The Governor was far more believable as a character, which means TWD has done the evil leader thing already in the show, and done it better previously.

Religious zealots who adopt labels like savior, groups that submerge the self, like Fight Club and Tyler Durden, they have a certain way of speaking and thinking, at least on the screen. This is important if you want your audience to come along with you for the ride. The first Negan’s, the first saviors our heroes meet in TWD? They displayed this behavior in a vague sense. It was a nice teaser, as far as teasers go.

Unfortunately it was a tease that was completely lost when we meet the Negan himself. He is no Tyler Durden. He doesn’t suffer to show his followers his dedication to the cause. The Negan is just another dictator. Kill him and the cult of personality dissolves because the power, the person, is lost. The problem of repercussions is negated if the saviors fall apart without him. The more complex, religiously motivated cult-like group is probably what the comic portrays (I don’t know or really care) but the writers for the television show wrote something else.  Negan grooms his people to blindly follow him. Without him they are nothing. This is just basic character motivation here. It isn’t hard to follow.

No, Negan would have been dead the first time he handed Rick the bat. Be honest. There wasn’t enough saviors there to do anything except die. The show has been torture porn since the end of season seven. I have only continued watching out of vague curiosity as to how the writers will complete the story. I ceased caring about the characters somewhere about minute 45 of Last Day on Earth. I ceased caring out of  a sense of self-preservation. It was clear through the course of that episode that the writers were purposefully tormenting the viewers with the death of their beloved characters. I don’t have time for that kind of mental illness.

If you are enjoying torture porn, you might want to ask yourself why? It’s a question everyone watching should ask themselves, and at least be truthful with yourself about the answer. What the answer implies is between you and your conscience alone. After all, no one will remember why you died in the zombie apocalypse. They won’t even remember that you lived.

Online comments reposted to the blog, with an addendum. “It is always now on the internet”


Czar Putin Declares Pogrom Against Russian Love Story

That is the headline that The Guardian should have gone with when they wrote this story,

Christian State-Holy Rus, a radical Russian Orthodox movement, warned in February that “cinemas will burn” if Matilda was screened.

This month, another Orthodox Christian activist destroyed part of a cinema in Yekaterinburg, the central Russian city where the royal family was murdered, by driving into it in a minibus containing gas cylinders and a barrel of petrol.

Uchitel, whose film studio in St Petersburg was targeted in an attempted arson attack in August, says police have ignored his appeals for protection.

Natalia Poklonskaya, a prominent MP with Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia party, has said the film “insults the feelings of religious believers”, a criminal offence in Russia since 2013, and has called for it to be banned.

With the declaration by the Russian Orthodox Church that this film should not be seen held firmly in our view, with a member of Putin’s government calling for prosecution of the makers of this film, it becomes almost a human duty and definitively an American’s patriotic duty to take the time to watch this film. There is no more basic difference between Russia and the United States than the widely misunderstood notion of freedom of speech.


2017 Matilda Trailer It took me a bit to find a trailer with English subtitles.
I would love to see the film dubbed in English. Here’s hoping there is an English version.

The last Czar of Russia, Czar Nicholas, was the equivalent to the pope of the Russian Orthodox Church, and has been elevated to sainthood in the revived church. A church which has been in ascendancy along with Vladimir Putin, and not coincidentally by many accounts. What is left unsaid in this pogrom against the film is that Vladimir Putin should be seen as the current figurative head of the church (the Pope in Catholicism) or Czar of Russia; or would be seen that way if his hand was allowed to be seen initiating this persecution of free expression in his country. Vladimir Putin is far too canny to be seen so transparently manipulating his people.

When Jesus Christ Superstar was originally on Broadway, it was scandalous,

The Broadway show and subsequent productions were condemned by some religious groups. Tim Rice was quoted as saying “It happens that we don’t see Christ as God but simply the right man at the right time at the right place.” Some Christians considered such comments to be blasphemous, the character of Judas too sympathetic and some of his criticisms of Jesus offensive. At the same time, some Jews claimed that it bolstered the antisemitic belief that the Jews were responsible for Jesus’ death by showing most of the villains as Jewish (Caiaphas and the other priests, Herod) and showing the crowd in Jerusalem calling for the crucifixion. The musical was banned in South Africa for being “irreligious”. A 1972 production of the play was banned in the Hungarian People’s Republic for “distribution of religious propaganda”.

When The Last Temptation of Christ was first released on film, it was boycotted around the country and protested outside the headquarters of the film’s creators,

Because of these departures from the gospel narratives—and especially a brief scene wherein Jesus and Mary Magdalene consummate their marriage—several Christian groups organized vocal protests and boycotts of the film prior to and upon its release. One protest, organized by a religious Californian radio station, gathered 600 protesters to picket the headquarters of Universal Studios’ then parent company MCA. One of the protestors dressed up as MCA’s Chairman Lew Wasserman and pretended to drive nails through Jesus’ hands into a wooden cross. Evangelist Bill Bright offered to buy the film’s negative from Universal in order to destroy it. The protests were effective in convincing several theater chains not to screen the film. One of those chains, General Cinemas, later apologized to Scorsese for doing so.

The Calvert Journal

I attended a viewing of The Last Temptation of Christ on principle. I’ve actually seen it several times. I won’t sing its praises the way I will Jesus Christ Superstar, but then I’m not a christian and most of the issues that christians objected to in the film miss me by a mile. I think Jesus should have given up his hatred of family and settled down to raise one. He would have lived longer. The world might even have been a better place if he had. If that unexplained tangent confuses you, you probably should go watch The Last Temptation of Christ and retain your American Patriot status.

The creators of Matilda should be lauded for being willing to take on the subject of Czar Nicholas and the end of Czarist Russia, not persecuted for daring to tell a tale deemed to bawdy and uncivilized for a saint of the Roman Catholic Church. I will be paying to watch the movie in a real theater if I can find one showing the film in my area. It is the least I can do to support the arts and freedom of speech across the globe. Every America should go see it because it will piss off Vladimir Putin, if for no other reason. After giving us president Trump, it is the least we can do in return.

I originally titled this piece Pope Putin Declares Jihad Against Russian Love Story. I mixed the religious connotations on purpose; Jihad for the violence the label recalls to mind, Pope because most people don’t know that the Czar is the pope of  the Russian Orthodox church. As usual, my attempts at clever word play are too clever by half. Now revised to its current form, it stands in testament to the fact that clever headlines never again sound as clever as they did the moment you come up with them. Most of them just start sounding offensive and stupid. It still should be Czar Vladimir, not Putin. Czar Romanov wouldn’t tell you which one of the Romanovs was currently the Czar, and it is a duplication of terms since the house of Romanov was the Czar’s house for several hundred years. But Vladimir has too many syllables, and Vlad is somebody else in history. We’re not doing vampire stories on this blog, and Vlad the Impaler wasn’t Russian. 

In Defense of the Supporting Actor, An Ode to Bill Paxton

We lost Bill Paxton last Saturday and it was quite a blow to me as a film buff. I remember pretty much every movie he’s been in, and his characters in each film. What I found surprising going through my traditional (morbid?) ritual of watching something that featured the recently deceased, I couldn’t find anything that I wanted to watch that he starred in as a leading man.

Everyone remembers Twister, obviously. I probably remember it a little differently than most people. I grew up in tornado country. As good as the rest of the film is, I can never get past the final sequence of the two lead actors running uphill to lash themselves to a pipe in a wooden shed, with horses calmly ignoring the digital storm they couldn’t see around them. This poorly thought out and executed sequence pulls me right out of the film and worst of all, ruins the whole thing for me. The rest of Twister deserves the kind of tribute that the storm chasers gave him upon learning of his death. I hadn’t known it was such an inspiration to young kids of the time, motivating them to go into the field of meteorology and storm chasing in particular. Any film that inspires young people to do something good with their lives has to get a passing grade no matter what its other failings might be.

Similarly I wanted to like the film A Simple Plan but was put off by the fact that it was sold to us as a comedy in the trailers and promotional material, but was so definately not a comedy in viewing. It is a tragedy and a drama and worth watching. No matter how good it is it’s not going to be remembered in a kind light when The Wife wants a comedy and she’s mad and crying. That doesn’t bode well for the film ever being rewatched in this household.

We settled on Apollo 13 and Tombstone for our tribute to him, two excellent films in which he plays positive if lightly comedic supporting characters, which was actually what Bill Paxton was the best at.

This shouldn’t be seen as a slam or a put-down. The leading actor or actress in a film or play is only as good as their supporting actors allow them to be, and he was a consummate artist at playing the comedic foil or the well-intentioned loudmouth. My favorite film features him in a role he was essentially made for as an actor, the role of PFC. William L. Hudson in Aliens. It was just one more in a series of great supporting roles that enabled the top billed names to shine through his artistry off-screen as well as on it, but the stars were right in that film.

My favorite director combined with my favorite actor and actress of the time, with hands down one of the best supporting casts ever assembled. Case in point. I stumbled across this interview in my teary-eyed path down memory lane, and marveled at how these two work the interview together.

My favorite actress and one of my favorite supporting men, just naturally continuing the leading lady, supporting actor relationship established in the film; him laying up subjects for her to embroider as a leading lady should. Just a gentleman and the support that he should be, happy to be part of the interview.

I’ll have to sit down and watch his directorial efforts Frailty and The Greatest Game Ever Played just to confirm for myself that they are as good as my friends have said they are, but he will always be Hudson to me. I hope he doesn’t mind if I remember him that way.

It’s shocking and sad that American film and television creators won’t be able to rely on Paxton’s rough-hewn decency, his game sense of humor, and his canny ability to steal a scene. Paxton was dependably watchable in projects that weren’t as good as he was, and great in roles that gave his characters the scope and depth to display their irreverent and essential humanity.  

Variety –Remembering Bill Paxton, Hollywood’s Scene-Stealing Everyman

No Hollywood Ending for Special Effects Companies

Freakonomics

The Wife & I always sit through the credits. The reason for this is not only professional interest (CGI is a hair’s breadth away from CAD and Sandra has worked on dozens of films) but also stress relief. Read the credits, miss the mad rush to go elsewhere.

It is mind blowing that all those thousands of names listed under “special effects” are people who aren’t making that much off of the films we’ve just enjoyed. That most of the firms only make a few films before going bankrupt.


Freakonomics, No Hollywood Ending for the Visual-Effects Industry

In their chase for a global audience, American movie studios spend billions to make their films look amazing. But almost none of those dollars stay in America. What would it take to bring those jobs back — and would it be worth it?

Facebook Status Update backdated to the blog.

Can’t Do a Western Top Ten Either

David Gerrold requested a quick list of Westerns the other day. I immediately fired off a quick list of ten films that fit the bill in random order;

Silverado, Two Mules for Sister Sarah, The Outlaw Josey Wales, True Grit, The Sons of Katie Elder, Unforgiven, McClintock, Dances With Wolves, Tombstone (with Kurt Russell), The Cowboys, Young Guns, 3:10 to Yuma which was the last western I watched.

But as you can see, I can’t count.

Not only can I not count, but I left off at least a dozen films that I know are better than the ones I put on it. I know that, because I read back through the hundreds of posts and kicked myself for not putting them on the list.

For starters, I’ve been doing a Netflix Clint Eastwood retrospective. Not exhaustive, just felt like I wanted to see some of his films I enjoyed back in the 70’s and 80’s and hadn’t seen since. The son wanted to watch Dirty Harry, so we’ve made our way through all five of them and now we’re about to start the spaghetti westerns. His middle work, the westerns that followed Sergio Leone’s films, those I’m just going to add to the home library, which is why I kicked myself for not including Pale Rider or High Plains Drifter, just to name the next two films I’m planning on buying.

But that’s just to name what is going on in my head right now.

I completely forgot I watched The Hateful Eight quite recently, and that is damn annoying because it was such an excellent tribute to the vanishing art of super 70 wide screen films. It was good too. Not as good as 3:10 to Yuma which I own and did remember. Not even as good as Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino’s previous film.  I’ve seen all of Quentin Tarantino’s work, it is all worth watching if just for the experience. There is a reverence for the art of filmmaking in his films that you can’t find anywhere else.

I also forgot The Revenant along with the 60’s original Man in the Wilderness (h/t to Jim Wright) both based on the true story of Hugh Glass, and if you don’t know that name, you have some really interesting reading to do over the next few hours.

But again, that is just scratching the surface. Reading back through the other comments reminded me of Little Big Man which I haven’t see recently but remember fondly. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, a mainstay of my childhood that held up well the last time I watched it. Many mentions of Shane. I hate to admit to the cardinal sin of never having watched Shane, but I guess I can always atone for it by watching it soon. So I will.

I just barely scratched the surface of the impact that John Wayne had on my young life. I literally didn’t even have to think to name three films of his that I rated top ten. I could have done all ten as John Wayne films and still had some left over. I remembered True Grit because I saw the remake recently. Really can’t watch the John Wayne version without watching the unofficial sequel Rooster Cogburn. Really can’t watch McClintock without watching its unofficial sequel Big JakeThe Man Who Shot Liberty Valance had the most mentions, but I think The Shootist is the most memorable of all his films because he was already dying of cancer when he made it.

High Noon had the most mentions of any film (rough count) but truthfully I didn’t find it that memorable. I mean, I’ve seen it. I don’t recall anything about it. I don’t think I’m a Gary Cooper fan, to tell you the truth. I remember more about the movie tribute to the TV series Maverick than I do about that film. Both the series and the film are worth watching just for the experience, but then I grew up watching The Rockford Files so go figure.

For the many people who recommended Magnificent Seven (or the more recent remake that is on my list to see) I suggest you watch the original. No, not the 60’s American film which was so popular they made a sequel and a series. No, I’m talking about Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa.  I’ve seen three or four of his films and I have not been disappointed by any of them. Fair warning, be prepared to read subtitles.

Finally I suggest Cowboys & Aliens because, why not? You have cowboys and they are fighting aliens. What could you possibly hate about this film? Just joking, save your criticism, I’m well aware of its failings having seen it four or five times. It is one of the Wife’s favorite films, and it really is quite good once you’ve seen it a few times.  This from the guy whose favorite episode of recent Doctor who featured Cowboys & Aliens, just different ones. Episode title A Town Called Mercy. Give it a try.

Weirdest film I’ve run across in reply to David Gerrold’s hive mind query? Well, weirdest film that could be called a western anyway? Zachariah. Just watch the trailer. If you can that is. I couldn’t, but I’m going to try to watch the film.

So as you can see, I can’t do just ten, and I’ll be kicking myself for forgetting something that just has to be part of this list the minute I hit the publish button.  Such is my life. 

Madness Takes the Reigns

As a people, we don’t believe in America. We stopped believing in America sometime after WWII. Maybe it was some time during the McCarthy hearings. Maybe it was the assassination of JFK. Maybe it was the sixties and the Vietnam war. Maybe it was Nixon and Watergate. And maybe it’s been the sea change in our culture. Maybe the democrats failed to understand the smoldering resentment of the red-state voters. But probably it was all of these things. – David Gerrold on Facebook

America became someplace else after WWII. Before WWI, before the crash in ’29; before all of that, the US was mostly farms and industrial manufacturing focused on delivering products to Americans who needed them. After WWII we became aware of our power. More importantly, our leaders became aware of it and used it to throw our weight around the globe, influencing other nations to enter our circle of friends, the people who would get rich off of our prosperity with us.

Today we consume most of the production that the world generates, while paying little to nothing for it aside from letters of credit to foreign powers who then use that wealth to buy up parts of the US.

Demanding what we want at the point of a gun, as we have done since the 80’s, is getting old now. The rest of the world is beginning not to care what we whiney Americans want, and they aren’t going to keep buying our debt in exchange for their blood and treasure if we don’t let them own us in return.

The system which worked following WWII has come to it’s functional end. It is time for a new system to be born, and I don’t think the world is ready to take on that herculean task. I don’t think we can afford to wait, either.

This change since WWII, this focus on the Military Industrial Complex and it’s servants in Washington D.C. are why Philip K. Dick’s stories have played so well in the last few decades. There is a madness there in his stories, a madness that the man himself suffered from profoundly. That madness is echoed in the world around us, the disconnection between what is real and what we want to be real.

It is almost as if we didn’t win WWII. It is almost as if we… lost?


The Man in the High Castle, Season One Trailer


The Man in the High Castle, Season Two Trailer

(Facebook Status backdated and added to the blog)

Thirteenth, a Netflix Documentary.

“There has never been a period in our history where the law and order branch of the state has not operated against… the black community” Kevin Gannon, Thirteenth

This was a hard film to watch, especially as a white man living in a Southern state.  A Southern state that will probably go for the self-described law and order candidate. Thirteenth is a documentary that horrifyingly depicts the long-term effects of a single clause in the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The hardest thing to accept about this film isn’t the graphic depictions of blacks being killed at the hands of police at the end of the film. It isn’t the detailed narrative that traces the effects of the end of slavery through Jim Crow to the admission of a Nixon official that the drug war was wholly conceived as a method to end the 1960’s era of black rights activity, concluding with the election of Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton all under the coded language of law & order candidate, all promising and fulfilling that promise, to continue what we now know to be a racially motivated war on crime and drugs.

No, the hardest thing about watching this film was knowing that the group that would profit the most from this film would never sit down and give it a chance to change their minds.

The people who will go to the polls and vote for the lying real estate developer (but then I repeat myself) who speaks in coded language, language whose code is known by everybody by this time in history, promising to jail people whom we know are innocent, prosecute people who have done no crime, exclude people who are demonstrably dying by the hundreds.  The people who will vote for that guy, the Orange Hate-Monkey, the Birther-in-Chief, the people who don’t understand that #MAGA means Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans, Those people? They’ll never watch this film. They’ll never watch it because they are afraid.  Afraid of being wrong. Afraid of having been wrong for longer than most people have been alive on this planet.

But they, above all other people, need to understand this film.  Because when their candidate loses (and he will) it won’t be because the election was stolen from him.  It won’t be because their voices weren’t heard.  He will lose because the vast majority of Americans are not afraid of the future. We embrace it, as we always have. They need to understand that they are part of history.  They are a part of history that we want to leave behind in history. 

Abramanations Multiply

This is my current review for Star Trek: Into Darkness on the Rotten Tomatoes website;

It doesn’t matter if it premieres the resurrected Great Bird of the Galaxy himself, I won’t be going to see this film in a theater. This will be the first film in Star Trek history that I’m actually hostile about before I’ve even seen it, and one of three that I loathe ever having been created (FYI, it’s the last three) I cannot express the level of revulsion that I feel when I contemplate what kind of depraved acts will be enacted on the corpse of one my most cherished memories from another time. Better to just pretend it isn’t happening, I guess. 

I did catch a “edited for television” version recently.  It was every bit as bad as I imagined it would be, and then some.  Somehow the internet haters really failed to communicate just how ridiculous this farce of a film was.  I’m not sure how this is possible, but it is.  Magic blood.  A Khan that isn’t South Asian. Starfleet officers engaging in conspiracies, taking the lives of their own people when they fail to submit to aggression.   

That Khan failed to pervert the crew of the Enterprise in the TOS episode “Space Seed” because future man is no longer susceptible to terroristic threats of this kind is a philosophical achievement lost on the creators of nutrek and the Abramanator himself.

The number of violations of Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future are almost uncountable.  They will remain uncounted by me.  It was enough for me simply to confirm that the film was bad and not just bad Trek. 

My apologies to the ghost of Gene Roddenberry for having witnessed this narrative of depravity. 

The film rates half a star on the 5 star system. I can’t rate it lower than that or I would.

Having failed to keep up my end of the bargain and actually never watch the film, I felt I had to come clean and admit to my transgression.  This article isn’t just about Star Trek: Into Darkness.  I haven’t been a Trek fan for quite a few years.  I quit following the show or hanging around with fans of Nutrek ages ago, not long after declaring Star Trek dead in 2009. I have no interest in being an internet hater.  I have even less interest in spending time in the presence of people who like things that I think are unforgivable violations of the intellectual property of a long-dead inspiration.

I am quite happy sitting here alone in my office.

I am forced to revisit this subject because the abramanations continue, and the general movie-going population remains vacuously enamored of J.J. Abrams’ tripe.

I sat down and watched Star Wars VII a few weeks ago with the Wife. We had planned on watching that film on the big screen and we missed it because it left theaters within a month of coming out, quicker than any other Star Wars film in history. I distinctly remember saying;

Given what George Lucas has done to Star Wars, I can hardly imagine how Abrams could fuck it up more than he has.

When it was first announced that J.J. Abrams would direct that film. Having watched the film I feel I now owe George Lucas an apology.

I owe George Lucas an apology because Star Wars VII is just Star Wars IV told even more poorly as a story, while millions upon millions more are spent on meaningless effects sequences.  It is a marvel to watch from an effects standpoint (much like Mad Max 4) while being almost incomprehensible from a plot and story perspective (also like Mad Max 4) And since George Lucas filmed Star Wars IV with less money and with no example to script by, I have to conclude that his is the superior intellect when contrasted with the abramanator.

It is nice to be proven wrong on occasion, even when the proof takes a few hours out of my life and a few yards out of my intestines due to the indigestion caused by stress.  Stress caused by having to watch bad filmmaking being rewarded so lavishly.

I blame LOST.

I never did do a post series write-up on that show, even though (as the link illustrates) I was quite the fan, following all the crumbs and clues and waiting for the next episode and the next season with breathless anticipation.  Until the story stopped making any sense at all, sometime during season four. I doggedly continued to catch every episode even then, and bought the DVD collections for each season, trusting that somehow it would all make sense in the end.

Except it really never did.  LOST is singularly the worst written story arc ever to be completed in a television show. It is the only show that, having gotten to the end, I really wanted all my invested time back. Not only does the story not make any sense, but the finale attempts to make every possible fan prediction about what the island was, and how the characters survived, be true simultaneously.  It is the series that best manifests the truism trying to make everyone happy is the surest way to piss everyone off.

Every season following the third season became harder and harder to watch.  Far from being the finale that ruined the show for me, it was the reliance on tropes and heuristics to ‘sort of’ move the show along to the conclusion that most of us saw coming years before the confirmatory finale; the finale which so deflated everyone’s expectations about the meaning of it all.

Why season three?  Remember the season three cliff-hanger ending? (I despise cliff-hanger season endings. Loathe them. What happens if the stars die or back out of their contracts? Just pretend the viewers weren’t left hanging?) Charlie’s big sacrifice? Didn’t mean anything.  It might have meant something if the Oceanic 6 hadn’t then gone on to… What? Go home, become helpless invalids? Fail to raise children and then return to the island? Return to the island in the past (a past that the smart guy in their midst says can’t be changed) Return to the island and be blown up by a nuclear explosion (an event that historically didn’t happen) which traps them in a time bubble. For all eternity. With people they hate as well as the friends they love.

I hate to break it to this guy, but if you have to explain what the ending meant in order for people to get it, then it really wasn’t closure of any kind, much less a good ending for a series.  The only reason people still talk about LOST is because the J.J. Abrams is Hollywood gold for some inexplicable reason, and so people feel obliged to say nice things about the series that launched him to success.

I watched in disbelieving horror when Damon Lindelof was paraded out a few years back on The Nerdist, which was airing on BBC America at the time.  Held up as some kind of authority on time travel stories, taking apart what turned out to be better, more interesting stories that used the story-telling vehicle in question.

Damon Lindelof. An authority.

An authority on stories about things which most scientists will tell you are theoretically implausible, which is about as close to impossible as you can get a scientist to go.

Let me put it this way. My reading of time travel stories and watching time travel movies, being obsessed with the concept of time travel for as long as I can remember. My discovery of Doctor Who in 1972 on a hotel television screen in Denver colorado (on a channel called PBS that I’d never heard of) makes my left testicle more of an authority on time travel than Damon Lindelof or J.J. Abrams himself.  They so screwed up time travel as a story vehicle in every episode of LOST and in the Abramanation, making the story vehicle a distraction from rather than the method of telling the story that I can’t even begin to explain how they might fix it other than to tell them to go talk to actual speculative fiction writers about what they did wrong.

Which brings me to the real reason I started this post. I ran across a clip on Youtube (see, I said it was bad news) advertising an HBO series that riffs off of another movie and story that I grew up on. That would be Westworld.

This is one of those rare films I was allowed to go see as a child. What is most interesting to me looking back at it; this film and the Andromeda Strain mark the beginnings of my exposure to Michael Crichton, which ended with his death in 2008 and the novel State of Fear, which many people mistake for non-fiction. In the middle was Jurassic Park as a high note and the poorly adapted Congo as a low note (the novel was much better than the film) it seems that his imagination has served as punctuation marks along my journey through science and speculative fiction.

I liked the original film. It is quite campy now and probably barely watchable. I don’t know for sure.  What I do know is that the J.J. Abrams is highly touted as having a hand in the HBO series.


Which spells doom for the series from the outset, if you want to take my word for it.  I doubt that most people will, since most people think that Star Wars VII is a good film, so I’ll try to put it another way.

The watchability of this series will be in direct inverse correlation to how much actual control Abrams has over it. 

It could be a good series, I won’t be holding my breath.  I won’t be able to watch it anyway until it hits Netflix or some other third party site since I don’t pay for HBO any longer.  That is one fine trailer though. Gunshots and partial nudity. Deep bass vibrations in the music to amp up the fear. Lots of famous actor cameos. Hits all the marks that advertising executives require. Just like the trailer for Star Trek: Beyond. Haven’t seen that Star Trek either, but I might watch it. I might even pay to watch it. Someone else wrote and directed it, so it might be OK as an experience.  Remember, an inverse relationship to Abramanator control. The Star Trek trailer sports the Bad Robot logo, though. Not a good sign.

HBO is riding the crest of a wave that they hadn’t expected to be on.  Who would have thought that George R.R. Martin would hit it big on television, with HBO as a backer creating the adaptation of his long running A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series which only people who live in caves without the internet won’t recognize as Game of Thrones.

I am now obliged to offer an apology to George R.R. Martin as well as George Lucas. Not just because I’ve first mentioned him in this article about the dreaded Abramanations; but also because, unlike the rest of the family and probably the rest of Austin if not the entire US has seen, read or listened to his stories and I still can’t name one title of his I’ve read even though I distinctly remember sharing a table with him at an Armadillocon somewhere in the murky past.  For that, and for mentioning you here, I truly am sorry.

But HBO is the channel riding the wave now, as AMC was riding the wave of popularity following Breaking Bad and the first few season of The Walking Dead. We’ll just have to see if AMC continues to ride the wave with the next seasons of The Walking Dead and Better Call Saul (which I like more than Breaking Bad, but my liking things is usually bad for their continued existence. Just a word of caution) After the lackluster reception for the cliffhanger ending season 6 of The Walking Dead, they’ll just have to keep their fingers crossed.

Since Westworld isn’t likely to include nuclear weapons or time travel, it is probably a safe bet to watch it. A safe bet for HBO to back it. I’d be on the lookout for the Abramanator to find some way to include those devices in the show, if I had money on the line. If he does, take your money, run and don’t look back.  You’ll thank me for it later.