Amazon is IOI

So we’ve discovered the genesis of IOI then? Well, that’s good news.

What’s IOI? Innovative Online Industries. You know, the corporation from Ready Player One. If you haven’t read it, get the Audible version read by Wil Wheaton. It’s excellent. Don’t watch the movie of the same name; or more exactly, don’t watch the movie of the same name and expect to see the story from the book. The movie contains an entirely different narrative, with different characters and different FX sequences. The plot for the book would have been far less exciting on screen, and would have made for a much longer film. As far as video stimulation goes, the movie has excellent FX sequences, they just aren’t plot points that occur in the book. At all.

How do I know that Amazon is the corporation from Ready Player One? Well, for one thing, that cage looks like something that IOI would think was OK for workers to spend the majority of their lives in. For another, the links to the book and the movie both go to Amazon. I could point other places, but they’ll all be owned by Amazon eventually.

The Wife and I watched the film a few weeks back. I had never read the book at the time, she had read the book. We set the viewing up on purpose as a test to see who enjoyed the film more. I’m pretty sure I won that contest. I had nothing to compare the film to and so had no expectations for it to fulfill. She spent the first thirty minutes of the film just trying to figure out where in the book the scriptwriter started the narrative at, because it certainly wasn’t anywhere in the first half of the book in spite of the fact that the first scenes have him living in the stacks.

Having watched the movie I then fell asleep to Wil Wheaton’s voice in my ear for the next week or so, describing the world of Ready Player One. A world that is either a post-apocalyptic hellscape or a capitalist paradise depending on your point of view going into the book. In any case, as usual, the Hollywood version has cardboard cutouts for villains and the novel has pretty well-fleshed characters that you can believe exist somewhere. Neither tale is free of flaws, but both have their own moments of entertainment value.

Just understand that, when I envision the giant robot battle for capitalist dominance of the globe, I will now picture Jeff Bezos inside the Mechagodzilla.

Based on a Facebook status from last week

The Day After

The August 8, 2018 episode of On The Media included a little trip down memory lane for me.

On The Media, The Day After, Today, August 24, 2018

In 1983, 100 million Americans watched an ABC made-for-tv movie called The Day After, depicting the immediate fallout from a nuclear exchange between the US and the Soviet Union. Tensions between the two powers were high, with President Ronald Reagan calling the USSR an “evil empire” and building up the country’s nuclear stockpile. Just weeks before The Day After, NATO war exercises were nearly mistaken by Soviets for a real attack.

The movie wasn’t very good, but what it showed was so horrifying that it inspired a national conversation about US policy. Following the broadcast, Ted Koppel hosted a panel debate on deterrence and disarmament with prominent thinkers like Carl Sagan and Robert McNamara. Schools organized discussions for classes, ABC distributed a viewer’s guide, and psychologists warned that children under 12 shouldn’t even watch the movie. Marsha Gordon, professor of film studies at North Carolina State University, wrote about The Day After for the website The Conversation in January. In February, she and Brooke spoke about the public debate sparked by the movie, and what it might mean for a new generation to see a remake.

So who else remembers watching The Day After with the family? I remember watching it quite well, even if I can’t remember much of the film itself. I remember it was depressing. I remember the reassurance from Koppel afterwards that none of this was real. ABC was anxious to not start any panics, so they went to great lengths to make sure everyone knew this was a staged event.

Their care in making sure that audiences knew the show was a fake stands in stark contrast to today’s reality TV programs, where the very same people working in the media today fake everything in front of the camera and then proceed to tell the audience all of what they saw was real. Try explaining the false sense of surety that comes from seeing something happen to your pre-teen children. No, dear. It isn’t real. It’s Youtube. Nothing on Youtube is real. I know this because they still use cameras to focus your attention where they want it. Try explaining to stormtrumpers that the guy on The Apprentice wasn’t really Donald Trump. Let me know how that works out for you.

I also remember discussing The Day After with the Wife a few years later, and her insisting we watch Threads so that she could show me what a nuclear holocaust was really like. After watching Threads I had to admit that they soft-pedaled the effects of nuclear war in The Day After. I don’t blame them for soft-pedaling the harsh reality of nuclear winter. Watching Threads made me want to die.

Later that same year another friend insisted I watch Koyaanisqatsi and later Powaqqatsi in an attempt to show me that nuclear winter was a walk in the park compared to what some humans endure today. After watching those two films, I wondered if nuclear winter might actually be a blessing in disguise. So, you know. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Facebook status and associated comments posted concurrently to the blog.

Free State of Jones

Smithsonian

We watched Free State of Jones starring one of my favorite Austinites, Matthew McConaughey, Friday night. I really, really wanted to like this movie, which is probably why its meh presentation frustrated and disappointed me so thoroughly. It’s slow in places. The film makes some unexpected turns and time jumps that leave the audience puzzling over events and characters, distracting them from what is happening on the screen.

Perhaps another editor could have fixed this problem? It’s really hard to say. Films like this one are a testament to just how hard it is to get even the most gripping stories and well-written scripts in front of audiences in a form that they will understand and appreciate. Thousands of people have to do their jobs flawlessly. The directors, editors, and producers all have to have the same vision of the finished product in mind the entire time that the film is in production. The actors have to create believable characterizations that can speak to the viewing audience. The film crew and audio crew have to capture those performances flawlessly. If any one group of people fails to do their job, including craft services, that failure will be noticeable in the finished product. If what the audience ends up watching doesn’t connect, for whatever reason, all of those people’s time, energy and dedication can come to naught. It is heartbreaking when this happens to good actors and good stories.

The story of Free State of Jones is one that everyone should be familiar with, but have probably never heard before. It is a portion of the life story of Newt Knight, a plantation owner who never owned slaves while living in the slave state of Mississippi in the years leading up to the Civil War,

“He was a Primitive Baptist who didn’t drink, didn’t cuss, doted on children and could reload and fire a double-barreled, muzzle-loading shotgun faster than anyone else around,” said Moulds. “Even as an old man, if someone rubbed him the wrong way, he’d have a knife at their throat in a heartbeat. A lot of people will tell you that Newt was just a renegade, out for himself, but there’s good evidence that he was a man of strong principles who was against secession, against slavery and pro-Union.”
Smithsonian Mag.,The True Story of the ‘Free State of Jones’, March 2016

After volunteering for the Confederate army and being involved in several botched battles with heavy casualties, he deserted the army and returned to Jones County and his now-ruined plantation. All of this is covered in the movie, to some extent. What extent is real and what is contrived for the convenience of filmatic storytelling is open to question; open to question because not even historians agree when it comes to the details of Newt Knight’s life. The one thing they all do seem to agree on is that, after the war was ended and the South was returned to the Union, Newt Knight remained a supporter of equal rights for all without regard to skin color. Which is why he’s still a pariah in his home state and even in the county of Jones, Mississippi. It is also one possible explanation as to why the film about his story is so hard to follow. It’s hard to follow because the principles involved in the film are too close to the subject matter and so cannot see the big picture, the story that needs to be told.

Which is a shame. Because the story of a white Southerner who rebelled against secession, a plantation owner who hated slavery, is exactly the kind of story this country needs right now. It just isn’t the story that the film Free State of Jones ends up telling. Maybe someday the events of that war, the history of slavery in the US, all of it will be far enough in the past that we can give the story of Newt Knight a proper telling in a visual medium. Maybe in that future time there will be a monument to Newt Knight in the Jones county seat, and not a monument to the Confederate soldiers of the Civil War. The existence of that monument is a testament to the fact that the cause of the Civil War still exists in the minds of the people living in the old South and all across the United States. The cause still has converts living in the US right now. Maybe someday we will end that war, if we are lucky.

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” – William Faulkner

Expanded from four sentences, 27 words and a web address, written as a Facebook status. To say I expanded this one is just a bit of an understatement. 

Dead Again Movie Review

Dead Again, 1991

I really wanted to like this film. I don’t hate it, but it really isn’t that good. It was so forgettable I forgot it and mistakenly rented it a second time thinking I hadn’t seen it. Not even Robin Williams’ (the reason I queued it up a second time) brief appearance is enough to save it from its mediocrity. It delivers what the trailer promises. If you are into these kinds of stories and haven’t seen it, you won’t be disappointed. Still, it could have been better. Maybe.

Rotten Tomatoes movie review backdated to the blog.

Primer Movie Review

Primer, 2004

I’m a time travel story junkie. I have been into time travel stories for as long as I can remember. The problem with this film isn’t that it concerns time travel. The problem is that the story is not well-fleshed. The audio is hard to follow, and the story points are clearly added in later as an afterthought.

Even on rewatching it really doesn’t make sense. Not because it is time travel, but because the story is not fleshed out enough to leave breadcrumbs for the uninitiated (people who have not read the script) to be able to follow it. In the end you have to take the narrator’s word for it that the film makes sense.

There is a story here. I personally hope someone else takes the time to tell it well.

Rotten Tomatoes movie review backdated to the blog.

The Duellists

I just finished watching the Duellists for the second time, this time with secondary audio track playing. When I like a film, I frequently check to see if there is a secondary audio track, and if there is I generally queue the film back up and listen to the audio play over the film that I just watched. I just want to get an impression of what the director or actors or writers have to say about their experiences in making the film.

The comment that caught my ear for this film was from the director. He said that it had never made it’s money back. That is a shame and a terrible fate for such an impressive work as the Duellists is. The beauty of the cinematography alone should have netted this film recognition, if not box office success. I’m beginning to think I watch movies for different reasons than other people do.

TVTAG/Facebook comment backdated to the blog. TVtag (Getglue) was an experiment in essentially MST3King everything on broadcast TV. Unfortunately for TVtag, the DVR made the interaction necessary for MST3K treatments to work nearly impossible to achieve. TVtag later turned itself into something called Telfie, which has also ceased to function. I can’t even find the archives on the Wayback Machine, consigning Getglue/TVtag/Telfie and all my comments there to oblivion.

Dr. Who Christmas Special. My First Amazon Review. A Twofer.

Image courtesy BBC
& Dalekdom on Deviantart
available on Amazon.com

Posted here on Amazon.

Let me set something straight. I love Doctor Who. I have watched every episode available from the First Hartnell to the latest Matt Smith. My cable system and PVR let me down and didn’t record this years Christmas Special, (wasn’t marked “new” apparently) so kudos to Amazon for having it available to purchase and stream (can I get a round figure on what it would cost to own all of the Doctor this way? Less than 5 figures, please) Doctor Who remains Doctor Who whether we’re talking about Hartnell’s Captain Kangaroo delivery, Pertwee’s 007 flamboyancy, Tom Baker’s charming teeth and curls, or Matt Smith doing a fair impression of Troughton’s second doctor. It’s all British, it’s all time traveling entertainment on a grand scale.

Watch this one, it’s good.

However, I write this post because, once again, I’m sent a message by Amazon asking me “how many stars I would give this show”. The same hook they use each time I purchase ANYTHING. From a song to a book to a movie that is 20 years old; to this film (which could probably benefit from a positive review) and each time I fall for the hook and wander over here, it’s demanded of me that I wax verbose on the subject of whatever it is. If I’ve purchased a single song, I cannot leave a review without writing an essay about it! That is simply ridiculous.

Please. Please, I’m begging here. Remove the requirement that essays be written for each and every product that you purchase, just so you can give an ‘attay boy’ to something that deserves it, without having to struggle with wit and punctuation, and heaven forbid CAPS LOCK. Let us just give a star rating, please? At least quit pretending in your e-mails that a star rating is all you want.

How Many Stars, Amazon? You Mean Write 150 Words.

Amazon sends me eMail asking me (again) how many stars I would give a streamed purchase I’ve made. However, when I click on the link, it doesn’t just want me to give the movie a number of stars, it wants me to wax loquacious about the merits of the film, and then summarize the entirety of my thoughts into a title for the post.

This time it was Dead Poets Society, a film that I could actually write quite a few words about, if it wasn’t 20 years old. The previous film was Blind Date, which I only purchased because a) it had Bruce Willis in the cast and b) we had never seen the film, with a possible c) we were drunk and shopping online. Considering the factors involved, I’d give it a 3 out of 5 stars, but what do you say review-wise about that?

Facebook status backdated to the blog.

Star Trek by the Minute, the Last Minute

With minute 117, STBTM has come to a close. I think this quote from the comments pretty well covers it.

I believe the point that this film was shamefully sexist, religious, ignorant, inconsistent, and poorly written in ways I never would have imagined…
…all have been made sufficiently by the detailed qualitative assessments in each segment.

I haven’t done an exact count, but the number of minutes with women speaking or appearing in this film amounts to less than a quarter. Considering that the only ‘person of color’ in the film also happens to be the only woman with a significant speaking role is just a further indictment of the film.

I stand by my original assessment. RIP Star Trek. I won’t be wasting any more money participating in fannish activities that would force me to acknowledge this horribly flawed film.

Star Trek by the Minute – Read the Comments too!

Slowly reading through Star Trek by the Minute. I’m savoring, don’t rush me. I’m also taking the time to read the comments for the separate posts. Like this one, from 063.

Of course, as we all know, the amount of time it seems to take and the ability of the transporter to beam a person in crisis at all is governed by a formula that takes into account (a) the needs of the writers at that moment and (b) whether the person being beamed is a regular character or a guest, and (c) whether said person is wearing red.

Priceless insight. That’s what that is. The writer has his own blog, Star Trek Musings, full of insights like the above. Check out Tribble Trouble, see if that doesn’t skew you thinking on the subject.