Category Archives: Movies

I am a Patriot, and I Love My Country

“The first round of explosions has started.”  –  A July first Facebook status post.

I’m hoping the people who try to burn down our neighborhood every 4th of July will finally make friends in the country so they can go out there and frighten the wildlife. Either that or get someone to drive them downtown for the city’s fireworks display. My dogs hate the explosions and I haven’t celebrated independence day for almost a decade now. Between the dogs and my own disabilities, there is little sense in mucking up the air with burnt offerings to the gods of independence. All of us are dependent on somebody. Some of us are just more cognizant of this fact than others.

The episode of On the Media that was playing in my headphones when I started writing the reply to the above status post was topical for the looming July 4th holiday. A similar holiday also happens on July 1st in Canada. Canada is celebrating 150 years as a nation. Except they really aren’t. Celebrating, that is. Not in the way Americans would recognize.

“Canadians kinda don’t need [patriotism] we have hospitals” – Stephen Marche

Snark aside, there is something about the July 4th holiday and the near-manic manner in which it is celebrated that leaves the outside observer and likewise the cynic wondering “what do they have to celebrate?” With incomes at all-time lows for the average American, with poverty on the rise and the mega-rich in ownership of the entire US government; with popular denial of science leading to defunding of scientific ventures like the SSC, the international space station and the space program which in turn has led to Europe breaking new ground in science exploration over the last decade, one really wonders what it is about America that we really are celebrating.

I mean, we aren’t the free-ist. We aren’t the happiest. We aren’t the richest. The one thing you can put your finger on that we do better than anybody is build an impressively large military, spending more on our military than the next 8 countries combined. We pay a lot more for healthcare than any other country, and we get some of the shoddiest results from this overspending. We  consume the most. We throw away to most. We throw away so much usable stuff that there are countries whose economies are benefitted by buying our cast-offs and putting them to use.

I set this piece up with the chorus from Jackson Browne’s song I am a Patriot several years ago. Before Trump. Before Obama’s second term. That is how long I’ve been stewing on these ideas I’m putting down here, the conflict at the heart of America’s need to scream their love of themselves at the world. There is something really, horribly wrong with this picture.

I am a patriot
And I love my country
Because my country is all I know
I want to be with my family
The people who understand me
I’ve got nowhere else to go

This observation is at once achingly true and laughably simplistic, which is why this song rings true with me. Most people are patriots because, what else would you want them to be? Hate their lives and where they live? Who lives long in that state of mind? Not too many people. Consequently, everyone is a patriot and no one is, simultaneously. This is a truism just as everyone is as free as they want to be is a truism. Absolute freedom is to be released from constraint, to not have to eat or sleep or breath. Not have to feel pain or feel anything at all. Absolute freedom is death, to not know constraint of any kind. Are the enslaved then to blame for their own enslavement? Only if you believe death is a preferable state of being. Of non-being. Embracing freedom as a concept that can unite all people in the third verse is an acknowledgement of the universal appeal of these fuzzy concepts, and yet freedom is as indefinable as patriot in the real world.

So I don’t hate my country anymore than the next fellow. I just don’t understand why it is we in the US feel compelled to try to burn the whole place down every 4th of July. If I had to pick one thing, just one thing, that I thought was superior about the US, about America, I can give that answer without much thought. The best thing about our country is the first amendment to the constitution. Freedom of speech makes everything else possible, because the ability to form concepts and communicate them to another is possibly the most human thing we do. The most distinctive thing about us as living creatures. It is the first of the four freedoms for a reason.

That is why when the US fails to live up to the promise of the First Amendment, it can be so devastating to those caught in the crossfire. People like Aaron Copland.

“Copland’s scores and recordings were banned in hundreds of overseas libraries. Access officially denied.” – Sara Fishko Fishko Files

I recognized Fanfare For The Common Man as the inspirational music for Air Force One almost immediately. But then, I’m a movie buff as even a cursory reading of this blog should illustrate.

Every Independance Day for the past decade and more I have sat down and watched movies with The Wife. My go-to film is 1776 on laserdisc. I like this version better than the streamed or bluray offering because it is actually a statement on the divisive nature of American life.  Visible across the length of that film are splices and ink-marks and scissor cuts where Jack Warner at the direction of the Nixon White House cut scenes and whole songs from the film. Nixon didn’t approve of the apparent cowardice of the conservatives as portrayed in the play. Their stated willingness to allow others to risk so that they could preserve their wealth and security. The words may be placed in the mouths of the actors on the stage, but the sentiment of the time is beautifully captured in the verse of the songs, the fervor of John Adams, the melancholy of the (real) dispatches from George Washington in the field. Franklin’s open pragmatism. The feeling that America must be free to find her own destiny, not ruled over by Europeans intent on subjecting it for the purpose of profit for themselves, no matter the cost. This version speaks to me in my soul, the tension and conflict then and now. The pulls in different directions, to risk for the sake of principle, to recoil at the prospect of loss. This is life in the US and possibly life as it is throughout the world.

The Wife watches either ID4 or Live Free or Die Hard sometimes both of them. Over-the-top explosions, hammy one-liners and the good guys winning in the end. I think she shares more with the sentiment of the average American than I ever could just in her choice of movies. Nothing in life has ever been that simple for me, and maybe that’s the point. She seeks escape in her movies. I seek new ways of looking at the world and myself, insights that have never occurred to me before. That I haven’t driven her screaming mad in 30 years of life together is more a testament to her strength than it is to my willingness to compromise on what movies I will sit and watch repeatedly.

What the Hell Did That Mean?

I need to stay away from Youtube. That’s what I’m learning.  Just FYI, 100% of this is !spoilers! if you haven’t watched the films in question.  Consider this fair warning.

I disagree with Verhoeven and quibble with most of the other answers given here. I hated Lost in Translation.  I was Lost. In Translation. Actually I was lost in the crypt keeper having a fling with a high school student and it supposedly being romantic. But that is beside the point. I really don’t care what was whispered to the young girl at the end.  I just wanted the old guy to leave her alone. I love you Bill Murray.  This is not directed at you specifically.  I had the same reaction watching Havana. Old men and young women.  Yuck.

Verhoeven may think he knows what the ending to Total Recall means, but there really is no answer within the content of the film.  The light comes from the sun in the film, not the blade of a knife. Like most of these explanations, if the film doesn’t contain it, the interpretation is open to question no matter what the director intended. In the same vein, Donnie Darko ends with him killing himself in much the same way that the director’s cut of Butterfly Effect ends with a very bad ending that is supposed to be interpreted as good for everyone except the protagonist. Too bad that the suits at corporate headquarters were right and made the director change the ending.  It is a much better film that way.

Star Trek 2009 is not Star Trek, nor do NuSpock’s notions of logic or ethics actually equate to anything Gene Roddenberry filmed or wrote about Vulcans.  Nothing about that film made sense to anyone aside from the Abramanator.  Same with the second film.

If you really have unanswered questions about obscure films, blame the director. The art, the film, should contain all the relevant information needed to understand it in itself. If miscommunication happens it is the artist’s fault, not the fault of the viewer.

Better than blaming the director; if this frequently happens to you, take someone with you to walk you through the film afterwards.  Audience makes all the difference.  Most comedies are targeted to a specific audience.  Take a member of that group with you to watch the film, preferably with an audience the film is targeted at.  The comedy might actually be funny that way rather than just striking you as stupid or cringe-worthy. 

Top Ten Science Fiction Movies. Can’t Do It.

This is going to be a bit like stream of consciousness to the reader. My apologies in advance for this if you find it impossible to follow.

I clicked a Youtube video link not realizing I was going on a journey that would take all day.


Archangel Films Unbelievable!!!!! The Movie – Official Trailer 2016

This kind of slapstick comes across as too funny. Too funny as in 90 minutes of this would kill me with stupid. I might watch it. I might not. I can’t say. It is billed as featuring 40 previous iconic “Star Trek” actors so I might have to see it. But then that is what the filmmakers are counting on when they make these kinds of movies.

While I’m sitting there contemplating whether to hazard my diminishing quantities of brain cells watching so much stupid at one time (like a Marx Brothers film) the dreaded Youtube autoplay kicked in. First it was this short.


Looper, 6 Movies That Audiences Walked Out Of

Camera motion, blood effects. Chopping one’s own arm off. Yeah, I can see walking out of all of these (I haven’t watched any American Horror Story. It’s just not my style. I am surprised the wife hasn’t wanted to watch it) which is why I haven’t seen some of them. Infrasound would explain a lot of things about certain horror films and my reactions to them.

Crap. Autoplay kicked in again while contemplating Tree of Life (Should I, shouldn’t I? Have I already? Is this me thinking?) What the hell will be next is anybody’s guess.


WatchMojo, Top 10 Underrated Science Fiction Movies

I’ve seen all but three of these (those three are now in my Netflix queue)  Two or three of them are on my “must see” list when someone asks me what to watch next (hint; I have a soft spot for Bruce DernRoy Scheider and Sam Rockwell) For the inquiring minds, Heavy Metal was a movie about an adult comic book which apparently nobody ever admits to reading, not about the rock music which may or may not have been either inspired by or the inspiration for the magazine.  The artwork in the movie is drawn directly from the various illustration styles in the magazine. Yes, I will admit to reading a few copies in my youth. Regrettably I don’t own any of them anymore.

Had Pitch Black made it on their list, it would have been four movies. I am once again victimized by autoplay.


WatchMojo, Top 10 Best Sci-Fi Movies You’ve Probably Never Seen

Not sure all of these films are worth watching, much less being best films you should watch but haven’t. Foreign language films are not for everyone, so I don’t generally recommend them to people I know who won’t be up for reading subtitles, even if I might watch them myself.

I would personally recommend A Boy and His DogThis is where the list starts to go sideways for me. This and the list that follows this one. It starts with the still image that introduces the list.

Don’t get me wrong, I think 2001 is a fine film. I think you should watch that and 2010 back to back. But 2001 is a snooze-fest. It is glacially slow as a movie.  I don’t think a lot of people watch that movie over and over. They remember watching it as a child, but haven’t tried to watch it recently. I have, several times.  Like the 60’s it was created in, it takes the right kinds of drugs to appreciate this film properly.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Stanley Kubrick.  He has three films at least that I would put in the category of Best Science Fiction Films. Not just 2001 but also A Clockwork Orange and Doctor Strangelove.  Most film critics will speak highly of Stanley Kubrick and his films. He is an auteur, his films bear the indelible mark of his authorship.  But few of his films are light or fun to watch.  You don’t just pop in A Clockwork Orange for a bit of light afternoon entertainment.

If they can recommend Strange Days without a caution (and I wouldn’t do that. Be prepared for murder and rape scenes conducted in the first person) then A Clockwork Orange is a walk in the park to watch.


WatchMojo, Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies of All Time

No top ten list of Science Fiction is complete without Metropolis and Forbidden Planet.  You cannot be a science fiction film fanatic without having seen those two films and recommending those two films. They can’t be on a list of films you haven’t seen; and if they are, your fan credentials will be subject to revocation.

Metropolis is arguably the mother of all modern Science Fiction, a film that has been revisited and reimagined in nearly every tale of dystopia, every film that questions who we really are, any film that posits the difference between man and machine.  In the same vein Forbidden Planet is the forebear of Star Trek, Star Wars, etc.  Those two films have to be on the top ten list or the list is invalid, in my opinion.

Especially any list that credits The Empire Strikes Back as the best science fiction film of all time. I doubt very much that anyone who wasn’t raised on Star Wars will think that Empire Strikes Back (much less any other Star Wars film aside from the original) should be on the list, much less topping it.  Well, perhaps the original Star Wars; not the now-titled Episode 4, but the film which aired back in 1977, the film that may single-handedly require my maintenance of a functioning laserdisc player in my home.  You remember, the movie where Han is the only person to fire a blaster in the famous bar scene? That film goes on a top ten list, if I could ever settle for ten.

I’m lying by the way. I won’t maintain the laserdisc player just for Star Wars. I will do it for the making of disc for The Abyss, for Tron, for the pressing of Highlander 2 Renegade cut and the copy of 1776 with the bits Jack Warner personally cut out of the film spliced back in and the splice marks still visible. I can link the version of 1776 that says “director’s cut” but there isn’t any way to watch the version I like other than on laserdisc. Same for the making of the Abyss which goes into the ordeal of constructing a set inside of and then flooding an abandoned nuclear reactor vessel so that real underwater shots could be pulled off with that deep water feel. The Abyss (special edition only) is one of the many, many films I would have to include in any list of Science Fiction films worth compiling.

There are a lot of good films included in their list, but I disagree with most of the films in the top five. I like them but they are all modern films. Derivative works of derivative works, unless you are talking about the Matrix or the Terminator (Not Terminator II. It’s good and a decent rewatch, just not as good as the first movie which it is derived from) both of which should be way up the list, higher than the Matrix actually appears.

Ten through six are all good solid films. I need to rewatch the War of The Worlds. I haven’t seen it since the 70’s on broadcast TV.  I have the box set of all the original Planet of the Apes films. They all rewatch well aside from the last one.

Children of Men was a heart-wrenching film to watch, but I have little doubt it will survive as a cautionary tale of meddling with mother nature. The original version of The Day the Earth Stood Still was almost unique in its time period with the portrayal of aliens as not being hellbent on destroying us (a fact that the equally good but not as memorable remake decided to change) which lends it the credibility to withstand time. Children of Men is actually one among many films which portray humans as our own worst enemy.

Jurassic Park is showing signs of age, despite their insistence that it isn’t. Maybe it is the weight of the miserable sequels that colors my impression of it. Can’t tell yet. But Aliens? Really, Aliens but not Alien? I agree the sequels that follow are best forgotten, but how do you watch Aliens without first watching Alien? Can’t be done.

Which is the problem with derivative works and especially sequels.  Without context the film is divorced from most of its meaning and has to survive on its own merit alone.  This is why The Empire Strikes Back will not be remembered as the best science fiction film ever. Because without the first film (1977 Star Wars) you don’t know who the Empire is. Why the villain being Luke’s dad is a problem. Who the hell Luke is in the first place.

If we’re just going to recommend sequels, movies that you have to have watched the previous versions to be able to appreciate, I’d like to put in a shameless plug for Terminator Genisys (deja vu if you’ve read my last post carefully) As I’ve noted when recommending previously, the first 10 to 20 minutes of the film (after the first time jump) is a shot for shot tribute to the original film. It is the most beautifully made and scripted film that I’ve seen for awhile now, and it builds on established previous entries into the film canon, builds on them then knocks them all down, in ways that the viewer will not see coming. If you want to watch a good sequel, this is one for you to enjoy.

If I was going to make a list of ten films you probably haven’t seen recently (if ever) but speak highly of, 2001 is going to be top of that list. In fact, most of the Top 10 list that WatchMojo put together are films that I guarantee the compilers have not rewatched recently.

If you surf over to the WatchMojo website you will notice that they do an awful lot of top ten lists. Way, way more of them than is healthy, quite frankly. In fact, I can’t even find the films-by-decade lists that are mentioned in the Top Ten list just to see if the films I think are relevant are on those lists. I think that creating these endless list films that they produce keeps them from taking the time to enjoy the life that they rate in top ten increments several times a day.

I appear to have stumbled upon the kind of site that internet surfers loathe.  The dreaded clickbait. The site that sucks up all your life and time, without giving you much in return. This explains why their films list is mostly modern films, or films recently remade with modern versions, like War of the Worlds and The Day the Earth Stood Still. Not an in depth analysis of any real kind at all. And I’ve written how much on this subject now? Several pages, at least.

So what about a real Top Ten List? The ten best SF (Science Fiction) films ever made? I don’t think I can create a list of only 10 of them. I tried to create one of those kinds of lists ages ago on Flixster. I soon found out that limiting the list to ten films requires that I eliminate films that are essential to understanding the artform.  Films like Metropolis and Forbidden Planet.

The profile link for my list says I have 15 films on it. I can’t see them because their website enters an error when I go to click on my own created content.  The web 2.0, more broken than the web 1.0 and now featuring more advertising. Luckily I copied a version of it off and posted it to this blog. I have no idea if it is the last one or not, but here is at least one of my lists.

Avatar should be in the top five. We can start with that. A lot of people love to hate on Avatar, but it is the film that inspired the resurgence of 3D and it wasn’t the 3D in the film that was remarkable. It is the fact that you cannot tell the animation from the real images in the film that makes it so remarkable. That you can have such a realistically animated film and not cross the uncanny valley in the process.  It is an amazing film, soon to be a series of 4 films.

Top Ten worthy films produced since Avatar? I can offer a few.

Ex Machina. Highly rated and very watchable, it explores the boundaries of what is or isn’t human better than any film I’ve seen on the subject.  A film worth mentioning that is also in the vein of Ex Machina is Transcendence, one of those poorly received for no good reason films, consequently not a film that would make a top ten list.

Because commercial success figures into the calculation of what is or isn’t good, what is or isn’t preserved, what is or isn’t watchable by people who pick up the material to watch later.  It was highly rated and it made a lot of money, it is also still a valuable experience to have, even though I don’t know who Luke is (figuratively, from the future) if you want to make lists that don’t make you sound like an idiot, you have to take all of those metrics into account. And since future prediction is something we humans suck at, most of our lists will be utterly worthless.

Take, for instance, Gravity. This is a fine film. Highly rated. Made lots of money. Probably won’t be remembered (my apologies to Sandra Bullock) because it deals with current technology and doesn’t do that really well, even though the cinematography is excellent an the acting is nearly faultless.

In the same vein the mainstays of current cinema, the sequel, the franchise, none of those films survive without the other films in the series, like the Saturday morning serials of old.  Consequently no Star Wars, no Star Trek, no Mad Max, no Alien will go down in history as worthy of mention, unless the first in the series merits it, or there is established a place for serial media (like television) to be consumed in the order it was produced.  This gives it context, gives it meaning it doesn’t contain by itself.

That is why Alien appears at number five in my old list, and Aliens at number 10, and those are the only sequelized films on the list. Because films that are part of another genre, that can’t hold their own alone, will not be remembered. This means most of the comic book movies will also not be on any lists, if we can call those Science Fiction and not Fantasy. That is an open question, so don’t dismiss it.  If we’re talking fantasy films, that is a whole other ball of wax.

Blade Runner would also have to be on the list. It is iconic. Worth mentioning is Dark City a twisted little film with the same feel and a completely different storyline. Both of those border on fantasy, so I could see how they would be excluded from a hard SF list.  That is, if anyone actually knew what hard SF was, could meet others who thought they knew and that group could then agree on what the term meant.  I consider that likely to be a fantasy in and of itself.

As I go down that old list, I can discard several films as being temporarily relevant. Films like Serenity. I still love it, but I am reconciled with the show never returning now. I keep hoping the Firefly online game will release, but I’m beginning to suspect that is also not going to happen.

Vanilla Sky and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind really are hard to rewatch. The Truman Show is still watchable, but really not surprising in the current age of reality TV. You can easily see someone pretending not to be on camera, deluding themselves into thinking the illusion is real. Sadly, it is all too believable now. Truman not knowing he was on camera? That is hard to believe.

I think A.I. should still be on the list, but it may fall off soon. We are just now getting to the point where robots are real things, much less making them capable of passing for human. The singularity that futurists are still fascinated with is portrayed loosely in that film, making it still relevant. Once the robots are among us, there is no telling what will happen next.

The last film that I’ve seen that should probably be included in any top 10 list is The Martian. Worlds better than Red Planet or Mission to Mars (Hollywood is so incestuous) both of which I paid money to see (Red Planet is good fun, just not good science fiction) The Martian holds up to the most intense scrutiny of scientists (other than the storm at the beginning) making it the most solidly science based fiction film since 2001.

Worthy of mention is Interstellar. Almost a time travel story (almost!) it mixes science and fantasy and comes up with a decent little film exploring the near future and what we might be facing soon if we aren’t careful.

Which brings me to the last great film that Robin Williams was in before he died, the movie The Final Cut; the story of a man afraid to live his own life, so instead spends his time authoring the stories of other people’s lives.

The actual current list? I’m still working on that.

Redefining Piracy

Huffington Post Tech artcile

I know I’m wasting my time here, because the entertainment giants have all stacked the decks in their favor and defined piracy as any activity that they don’t approve of, but just how many of these legally defined ‘pirates’ profit from their activity? Would have the money to pay for the entertainment that they share for free? How many people will have their abilities to function in today’s world hampered by these bumbling attempts to stop something that wouldn’t exist were the content simply made available when desired at a reasonable price?

Aren’t these media conglomerates simply shooting themselves in the foot, alienating potential future customers with harassment? The music industry has been forced to the table, and the low per-song price through iTunes and Amazon for a single song is the result of their capitulation to the new information reality we live in. The instantaneous access to information that the average user demands. The savviest of new bands now offer their music directly from their websites, and even offer free songs to draw people in. They do this because they know that their audiences want more access, more music, and they want it right now, not after they visit a store and make a purchase. Get your music from the source, cut out the middleman.

What piracy remains (musically) is the corporate properties that haven’t learned to play ball, want to charge more, won’t put their libraries online. Study after study has shown this; that if the content is available, people will pay for it. I balk at being forced to buy music libraries a third time (once on tape, once on disc, and again on unprotected mp3) I will still go to torrent sites to pick up copies of music that I’ve already paid for. However, with the emergence of remastered music that is of superior quality to CD, even I am admitting that I may have to buy the music again, for a fourth time.

No, the yelling and screaming about PIRACY! comes from the MPAA and corporate television entities these days. They just haven’t figured out that the game has changed yet. When the average movie goer starts boycotting corporate films and embraces independent content (something that is already beginning to occur) maybe they’ll figure it out.

If I download a song, never listen to it, and then delete it, have I profited? If I download a movie or television show, if I pay for a subscriber service, can’t access it, and then download a torrent copy of the exact show I already paid for, but then don’t watch or listen to any of it, have I stolen anything?The corporate property owners say you have, and you are a pirate. I’d simply like them to prove how the temporary existence of a file on a computer system represents anything other than a cost, not a benefit. If I can’t be shown to have even watched or listened to the files in question, but the files belong to the corporation that objects to their existence, I’d say they owe me storage fees for holding the information for me. But I’ll happily wave the fees and simply delete the files. Let’s see how many checks show up in the meantime.

Facebook status and comments added, edited and backdated to the blog. Summary paragraph added.

Best science fiction movie?

Answered this Yahoo Question today…

Best science fiction movie?

i’m watching tv-movie “supernova” while typing this and im afraid it’s just a complete insult to my own intelligence … can anyone recommend a really good science fiction movie to make up for this friggin’ atrocity?

If I was subjected to torture (being strapped into a chair and forced to watch an endless loop of Barney reruns, for example) and forced to select One Film above All Others as The Best SF film ever made…

I’d have to say Blade Runner. It has the timeless quality of a real classic film, and it is very nearly flawlessly SF.

Since I’m not being subjected to torture, I’ll offer some further thoughts on the subject of “Great” SF films.

The last great SF film was “Wall E”, that I’ve seen. Yes it’s a kids film, go see it anyway.

The Essential SF list runs like this

Metropolis
Forbidden Planet
A Clockwork Orange
Blade Runner
Alien
Serenity
Vanilla Sky
The Abyss
The Terminator
Aliens
Pitch Black
A.I. Artificial Intelligence
Children of Men
The Truman Show
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

Source(s):