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The Dark Knight (2008)
Fight Club for stupid people
Instead of questioning Capitalism, Communism, Taoism or Existentialism... and challenging the audience... it is about corruption and surrendering to corruption like surrendering to jaded teen boredom. Fueled by the claustrophobic helplessness due to terrorism, and the merciless acceptance of hipster nihilism, TDK is a cold unrealistic mechanical set-up sold over and over again by it's proponents as "ultra-realistic". That is the most frightening thing about the obsessive if not immoral blatherings of TDK fans is the Emperor's New Clothes insistence that the film represents "realism". From the Joker's precision timing to drive a school bus into a line of school buses, with one space left for him... to Dent's facial damage due to 5 seconds of burning gasoline... the film is rife with movie fakeness sold like Ad (or ADD) pitchmen for "Nolan's formulaic realism", which is actually just him stealing from "The Long Halloween".
A meaningless Rube Goldberg contraption, Nolan takes the audience on an endless set of fake-out twists and turns to deliver very little but loud moments. As calculated and obsessive as The Joker is, and to the degree he plans about 5 separate "back up plans" that come to fruition, he enters the level of anal retentive... yet somehow we are to believe he is some "agent of chaos". Which, means cool. Chaos = cool, get it? There's nothing cool or chaotic about this drugged out riffing Joker, and as fun as Ledger makes him, he overshadows what should have been the center of the story: Harvey Dent. But it's Batman so, business as usual... problem child villain acts up, makes a mess, BatDad shows up to clean up the mess. Crowd applauds.
Unfortunately what the film creates is a subtext of a NeoCon wetdream with "by any means necessary" militarism, where the Batman uses unethical means to "detect" the Joker, and we are to assume this fall from grace makes him heroic because he is banished and falsely accused (for 1 minute of nagging by the Joker, turning Dent evil for yet another film coincidence) of driving Dent from white to dark knight... so Batman takes the blame and is the dark knight cuz he's just a Christ figure. So our sacrificial Justice League hero is supposed to be a sympathetic figure of crossing moral boundaries to save society... George Bush must have loved this puppy. Not sure half the tween tards watching this caught that bit of hooey, but as much as the poster art evokes Fight Club, this film is about as far from punk anarchy as you can get. Maybe they should all be sent to military school if this is their idea of rebellion.
Parts of Season 1 worked...
But I got sick of what I deemed this show to be from the beginning.... suspense porn. Every commercial break needs a "dun dun daaaaaah" sound effect. Season 1 was somewhat interesting as the Island's supernatural mysteries, mixed with slow revelations of back story, kept the primitive survivalist state of the character's fresh and raw... Season 2 and the stupid machine got tedious and the second survivors all annoyed me. Now Season 3 with the Others just feels way too M. Night Shyamalan "Village" contrived... and I know more little broad stroke metaphors are in the works... so I get plot reductions from co-workers, I've decided to pretty much only pay attention to Season openers and finales since they sum up the complete season's story lines neatly then anyway. Very overrated show, and I think people just like it for it's simplicity.
An Inconvenient Truth (2006)
"Friends, let us pray... " drawl drawl yawn
Let me qualify... I voted for Al Gore, usually vote (but don't consider myself) Democrat, and believe that global warming, as well as energy conservation/alternate energy, are probably the top issue(s) we all need to concern ourselves with... and not just for "save the whales/world" way, but for divorcing ourselves from the middle east economy in general, as well as basic practical pragmatic cost concerns. That said, this movie is the most cloying, sappy, poorly edited, and painful movie I've seen this year. My whole beef with Al Gore is that he sounds like the Minister from the Simpsons, and is as tedious and preachy as that character. And ironically, Al's lecture on global warming begins with a Simpson's parody of a fake 1950's global warming educational film. Add in unneeded footage of him losing the election (suggesting he would have stopped global warming had he won), and Bush winning (yes we get it, Bush certainly is A if not THE problem in regards to energy problems today), the film it comes off as a not-so-subtle biopic, about a candidate reeling from a defeat after being considered having no backbone or mission, artificially coming up with "his mission": traveling back to the Tennessee riverbanks, going to Antarctica, touring college campuses. And edited in a way to be more of an infomercial for his cause, than about the subject in earnest. And instead of offering solutions (which is done in an infomercial way at the end, mixed into the credits) he pushes "separating truth from fiction"... somewhat antithetical to a movie smearing together dubious personal anecdotes and real scientific data. I've seen about 10 far more interesting, terrifying, and mind awakening docs on PBS regarding global warming than this... I would have rather watched them again. This came off, the way Kerry and Gore have in their election runs, as "talking down" to the lowest common denominator, instead of standing up for what they say they believe in. I really looked forward to seeing this, I wanted to be awestruck, and was just oozed over with smarmy sloganeering and cheesy presentation.
Electric Dragon 80.000 V (2001)
This movie is silly, and seems rushed at times, but it was made in a week what the hell do you want? The soundtrack rocks, as the leads formed a band with the director, and did the graphics... the closing credits I think are the best I've ever seen in any movie. Phenomenal. With vague references to technology and information, it's plot is mostly just "lizard part of brain activated by electric jolt" and "2 electric enemy fight" ... crazy stoopid violence and electricity! The DIY ethos of the group pretty much seals it as a punkrock endeavor, less a cyber one. Excellent photography, acting, and tight, quick storyline... efficient, entertaining, inspirational.
Where's the beef...
Part of my beef, is now 3 movies deep into the prequels... Palpatine and Anakin are still essentially normal "good" citizens. Their transformation is rushed, unbelievable, and mindless. The Sith needed to be more developed overall... and unfortunately there's no evil here to speak of, just some dopey fretting and rather conspicuous manipulation. Why should we care if the powerful Jedi's can only beat up some non-firing security-guard robots, and then some crusty Senator out of the blue can kick 3 Jedis and Samuel Jackson's ***... That's just resolving an outcome that's already been decided, with zero narrative to lead us there. It's like if Trent Lott suddenly had Jet Li's fighting skills and Nicolai Tesla's ability to fire electricity... with no explanation.
For that matter, my second larger "Industrial Light and Magic" beef is this... these are pre-quels. The technology should be say, older and more primitive to the 4th New Hope installment. Why does the technology seem to be more advanced in these "older" movies, and seem to get more and more complex with each prequel... to the point we have R2D2 jumping, having the ability to catch items thrown to him... it's just dumb. The pointless waterwheel battle on wooki-oine...there's a scene where you almost expect to see Chewbacca water skiing... it's absurd. And stupid dragonfly ships. That whole planet battle scene looked like a bad Johnny Quest than a SW epic struggle. A friend mentioned a lot of the CGI "concepts" were stolen from various Japanese anime, like Obiwans' lizard steed... and this cut and paste aesthetic shows through as a desperation move by someone short on imagination. "Um yeah, have uh, one of your creative team sketch something up for me, I'll be at soccer practice and okay it later.... wow, that looks 'different', sure let's go with it." This corporate design-by-committee style just makes the prequel series totally bland and utterly uninspired.
Gone is the sense of scale that made the originals powerful... the first image of the Star Destroyer filling the screen, the Jawa sandcrawler lumbering along, slowly being drawn into a monstrous moon-sized battleship, or massive dinosaur sized Walkers... those designs generated a sense of awe via scale, and convey power without overkill. As opposed to attempting to create awe via sheer mass volume... 2 light sabers... then four light sabers... millions of boring toaster-headed clones... spamming the viewer with millions of ships on screen battling all over the place. That's not dramatic or impressive or awe inspiring... it's spamming the audience with volume, quantity over quality.
This prequel series was a pathetic missed opportunity... at the very least they could have had Spielberg direct one of them, alas Indiana Jones, just to bring back some wonder, real action, and real direction.
Eyes that do not see...
I think many of the complaints about this movie are by those that overlook one of the most obvious statements of the movie... that day to day life is boring & tedious, (walking hallways, taking lonely boring train rides, feeding your dog, watching an annoying person eat) all the while the visual world (read spiritual, artistic, visionary, higher level, etc.) is breath-taking. None of the characters of this world are privy to the visual poetry we are being exposed to as viewers... and that is part of the point, they are blind to it... yet it's a reminder that technological obsessiveness, or material obsessiveness, blinds everyone from simple visual beauty. The lighting alone in the movie was incredibly inventive, variations of sepia tones that went from red to green to blue during the course of the movie... overall the lighting and photography in the movie was amazing. You could take any given frame of this film and have a very beautiful photograph. There is a lot of CGI work in this movie that many nay-sayers called "low budget" and didn't even notice. Watch at the very end of the movie how the ghost's mouth wavers, almost like the Mona Lisa, from sad half-frown into a smirk, and this was done in post. I'm sure many people missed very subtle and beautiful touches like this on first viewing. If someone were to critique it for lack of complexity, I would agree... Blade Runner was not "deep" in the same way... but both, upon multiple viewings, remain almost timelessly poignant while being very reflective of when they were made, and I'm sure in 10 years this movie will seem as striking, as Blade Runner is to me now over 20 years since it's release. This will be one to watch over and over again every 6 months.
One caveat... the Miramax version is rubbish. The translations are horrible and stupid. Literally you lose half the meaning of the film. At one point Ashe is talking to the Gamemaster discussing Avalon (the mythic island) and discussing Odin and the helmet of forgetting... right as she puts the VR helmet on. In the Miramax version... the Gamemaster just says "be careful it's dangerous in there"... etc. Not even close, it's like they didn't bother even attempting a real translation, pathetic.