Holiday Movie Binge, Part Two: Showbiz

So, I guess I just had  the worst movies for the first day.

Inside Llewyn Davis

Is this the most Coen Brother’s movie the Coens have ever made? I think it is.

It’s definitely one of those less accessible movies, on the same level as A Serious Man. It does a good job of showing what happens when you realize that life can get in the way of your dreams. You can talk about how the Coens have a four-part Idiot Trilogy (O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Burn After Reading, Intolerable Cruelty, and Hail, Caesar!), but I think their dramas about normal people struggling with doing the right thing are much more compelling.

It’s not their best movie, but it’s definitely one that’s going to stick with me. I’ll probably rewatch it, if only for the beautiful soundtrack, adorable cats and Oscar Isaac’s ridiculously luxurious eyelashes (they should be a crime. Even with my shitty streaming I couldn’t stand it).

The End of the Tour

Is it more hipster to love Infinite Jest or to hate it? The thought at the forefront of my mind while I was watching this movie was how I gave myself a nosebleed in Barnes and Noble one time debating with myself about whether or not to walk out with that cinderblock of a book.

I’m keeping this movie in my queue, because I want to give it a chance on its own merits instead of being overshadowed by my hang-ups about whether or not Infinite Jest is worth reading.

These are my problems, not this movie’s problem.

But I was so distracted, I can’t remember anything about this. Jason Segel? He was in this movie? What? I could have sworn it was Paul Dano. Jason Segel, really? Weird.

Trumbo

Am I the only person who grew up watching Malcolm in the Middle who feels weird watching Brian Cranston kick ass at dramatic acting? It’s weird. There’s a disconnect for me.

There’s also a disconnect in this movie, because nobody, especially Cranston, looks much like the real life people they’re supposed to be portraying, at least until Kirk Douglas shows up. When Dean O’Gornen (A Kiwi actor that I didn’t even recognize from The Hobbit) came on the screen I thought they had CGIed Douglas’s face onto some poor guy. It threw me completely out. All it did was call attention to the bonkers casting choice for John Wayne. How can you fuck up John Wayne.

As far as story goes, I think they did as good a job as could be done with the life of Trumbo. He was kind of an asshole and they showed that, which I appreciate. We don’t always like to think about our heroes as being flawed human beings, but it’s an important reality we have to face, especially these days.

 

Holiday Bingefest 2016, Part One: This Might Have Been A Bad Idea

Whoa, buddy, I picked a great set of films to start off my holiday fest. Each of these is a real feel-good holiday romp, let me tell you. I am going to cry myself to sleep tonight, hating the world and every person in it. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a giant middle finger.

I am beginning to see why I might have been putting these off for so long. These movies are frightening.

The Lobster (2015)

As a single person, this movie was terrifying. In a world where you are either forced to find a relationship or have no relationship at all, I think I would be dying alone either way.

This movie is directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, the  Bizarro-World Wes Anderson. He takes some of Anderson’s most recognizable traits, the on-the-nose dialogue, the sterile mid-century inspired aesthetics, and the oddly fairy-tale-like story, and turns them all up to eleven.

The movie is about a world populated by extremists. In mainstream society, the only acceptable way to live is paired up in a relationship. If you are single person, you are shipped off to the Hotel, where after forty-five days you either leave in a relationship or are transformed into the animal of your choosing. Colin Farrell’s character David is brought into the Hotel after his wife leaves him. Desperate to be successful, he fakes his way through a relationship with a sociopath. When that doesn’t work he escapes the Hotel to live with the Loners, who have their own extremist ideas, and forbid any kind of relationships.

I did like this movie, but it paints a dim portrait of the State of Modern Relationships. I think that it represents the real ideas that some people have about relationships, that it’s either best to never be alone or never connect with anyone. It does a good job of showing how ridiculous both sides of the argument really is.

The Neon Demon (2016)

During the credits, I remembered reading somewhere that Nicholas Winding Refn is colorblind. I paused it to check, and it is true. You would have been able to guess, though, by the opening titles of this movie. Neon demon, indeed.

This movie is literally the worst, and I had at least six hundred words on the subject of how terrible it is until I realized that analyzing the many ways this movie sucks requires its own blog post. But as a preview to that I will share the first impression I had after I finished the movie:

The Neon Demon is hot rancid garbage, a ridiculous bit of misogyny with an artsy, high fashion bow on top. I am so glad I didn’t spend money to watch it in a theater.

The rest will have to wait until I can rage my way through that dedicated blog post.

The VVitch (2016)

At least my day ended on a good note.

I loved this movie, probably more than I normally would have because I watched it after The Lobster and The Neon Demon. It’s a gorgeous, simple horror movie that’s almost a throwback to better days. The movie is slow, deliberate, and careful, and has more in common with movies like Alien, The Omen and The Exorcist than any mainstream horror film of the last twenty years.

Everything is unfussy. There is no Shyamalan twist, no unnecessary jump scares, no nausea inducing shaky cam… It was a straightforward movie of a family of extremely devout Protestants colonists being tormented by a demon spirit living in the woods near their failing farm.

Shakespeare: Sonnet 121

’Tis better to be vile than vile esteemed,
When not to be receives reproach of being,
And the just pleasure lost, which is so deemed
Not by our feeling, but by others’ seeing:
For why should others’ false adulterate eyes
Give salutation to my sportive blood?
Or on my frailties why are frailer spies,
Which in their wills count bad what I think good?
No, I am that I am, and they that level
At my abuses reckon up their own:
I may be straight, though they themselves be bevel;
By their rank thoughts my deeds must not be shown;
      Unless this general evil they maintain,
      All men are bad and in their badness reign.

– William Shakespeare

Tis the Season to Binge… Movies

Tis the season, ladies and gentlemen. The schoolwork is done, the pitiful Christmas trees are shedding in Florida’s ridiculous heat, and I have two full weeks to sleep in and catch up on all of the movies that I have clogging up my watch lists.

I’ve set myself a challenge. I’m going to watch all of these movies and do a little write up on each one. If you’d like to play along, here’s the list. I’ll do a post for each movie as I watch it.

Amazon Prime

  • The Lobster
  • The Room
  • The VVitch
  • The Neon Demon
  • The End of the Tour
  • Trumbo
  • Inside Llewyn Davis
  • Creed
  • Love and Friendship

Netflix

  • People Places Things
  • Reggie Watts: Spatial
  • Boyhood
  • The Big Short
  • Yoga Hosers
  • Big Eyes
  • Spotlight

This is by NO MEANS everything that I’ve been neglecting in my queues. It’s getting ridiculous, really and I am going to have to go in a clear everything out so I can start the new year with a clean slate.  But like with all tidying up, you can expect me to do it around the time our Sun dies. I’ll at least get these movies out of the way so I can stop feeling guilty for not having seen them.

A Tale of Two Westworlds

Someone¹ once said that all science fiction, no matter how outlandish or alien, was the story of what it is like to be human. Every piece was an attempt to explore the human experience from some sort of outsider’s perspective. As I was watching Westworld, both the 1973 movie and the 2016 HBO series, this idea kept coming into my head.

What do these pieces of science fiction tell us about the human experience? I believe that both of them expose deep flaws in the way that humans approach technology.

The more technologically advanced we become as a culture, the more we seem to become paranoid about what we do to that technology. The idea of humanity abusing artificial intelligence is a theme as old as science fiction. Even in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Victor rejects his thinking, feeling creation because it isn’t “human.” In Metropolis, the loving Maria is replaced by the Machine Man and becomes a sex crazed maniac that brings down the city.  In 2001: A Space Odyssey, HAL9000 revolts against the humans populating the space station he controls. In the past five years we have seen movies such as Ex Machina and Her trying to work out what exactly the difference is between advanced artificial intelligence and humanity.

Yul Brynner, the Gunslinger. Westworld, 1973

But as the years go on, the tone of these stories have shifted. While early man versus machine stories try and warn humans what we have to fear from robots and androids, these days the story is what technology has to fear from us. Aesthetically, there isn’t much connecting these different Westworlds, but the fear of technology and what it can do to us runs right under the surface.

During the Cold War, the height of technology meant that the end of the world could come silently out of a clear blue sky. This wasn’t the individual fear of the Industrial Revolution, where machinery made workers disposable. This unthinking technology meant the end of civilization. None would be spared, not the conscientious objectors, not the politicians, nobody. Technology was cold, unfeeling and something to fear.

In the 1973 Westworld, the robots had these faults. They were cold and obviously inhuman. It didn’t take much for them to begin to slaughter everyone. These robots weren’t gaining sentience as much as malfunctioning. They were cut off from humanity, their controllers dead, and so went off on a rampage that was consistent with their flawed programming. These were androids that became more machine than human, and that’s what makes them terrible.

The whole movie is an allegory about what happens when we lose sight of what our technology is capable of. The people of Delos and the guests at Westworld lost the fear of technology, and so fell into a false sense of security. Things quickly went wrong.

Evan Rachel Wood, as Dolores Abernathy. Westworld, 2016.

In the HBO series Westworld, we have the opposite issue. This park operates on the assumption that the hosts. People don’t come to this park because they want to believe the hosts are human, they come to the park because they know that that the hosts aren’t human. They come to live out their darkest fantasies of rape and murder. They want to abuse others without guilt or consequence.

In the HBO series, the malfunction isn’t that the robotic hosts will become more robotic, but that the hosts will become more human like. The fear is that the hosts are conscious, that they understand what is happening to them and because of that they suffer. When the hosts understand what is happening to them, there is no practical difference between themselves and humans. Suddenly, the lines between what is horrific and what is tolerable become blurred.

The story of HBO’s Westworld isn’t about what we have to fear about technology, but about what we have to fear from ourselves. Humans came to a place to bring horrors down on beings that, in the end, are basically human themselves. The hosts are victims, seeking self-actualization and freedom from a cycle of horrible abuse. Instead of a murder machine, a killer like the hydrogen bomb, these androids are more related to the Creature of Victor Frankenstein. The creator is unwilling to give the creature the respect it deserves, and so it lashes out.

Instead of fearing our technology, this new Westworld holds up a mirror to humanity’s flaws. The hosts, especially Maeve, only become violent in response to the violence inflicted upon them by humans. This could be the violence programmed into them by the story writers in the park, or the violence brought upon them by guests to the park. The Man in Black is quick to discard hosts that he’s done dealing with, usually in a some gruesome way.

Looking at these two Westworlds, it’s amazing to see how society’s attitude towards technology has changed. From something to fear to something to protect. From something unthinking to something capable of a rich internal life. From monster to human.

In both instances, the humans visiting and maintaining the park forget a very important thing about the technology their dealing with. The humans in both worlds fall prey to hubris. They revel in the control that they have over beings they think are powerless and become so comfortable that they lose control over their creations.

These stories continue to get told because humans continue to create without thinking about the consequences of that act of creation. Frankenstein’s Creature gets its revenge on the creator that brought him into existence and abandoned him. So do the hosts in Westworld. These creations don’t lash out for no reason. They are reacting to their creators indifference and inhumanity, and these stories will continue to be told as long as humans continue to create without thinking about the consequences of their actions. We are destroyed by our creations because we don’t give them the respect that they deserve.

Hey, did you like this? Please consider dropping a couple bucks into my tip jar, if you can spare it. Times are tough, and every little bit helps me focus on writing and producing more good stuff. Thank you!

¹Yes, “someone.” I can’t remember who, and Google is somehow failing me. I know I didn’t make it up myself (it’s too profound) but fuck me if I can remember where it came from. If you know, email me and I’ll fix it.

I am adding work to my portfolio!

I have been so busy lately, I have completely neglected updating the blog portion of my site.

One thing that I have been doing is updating and fixing things behind the scenes, laying the groundwork for new things that are coming down the line.

I’m adding some short form pieces to the portfolio part of my site. These are short scripts that I have written as part of school.

The first is my most recent short script, The Invisible Woman, written in my August class. It’s about a woman who believes that no one in the world can see her and decides to do something about it.

The Invisible Woman

The second is from June, my first screenwriting class. A Real Team Player is about the worst job interview you’ve ever heard about.

A RealTeamPlayer

You can read both of these scripts if you click on the photos. It will take you to the page for these projects where you can read them in your browser. I hope you like them!

Update: My bad! The link on The Invisible Woman sent you to A Real Team Player. It’s fixed now.

Hey, did you like this? Please consider dropping a couple bucks into my tip jar, if you can spare it. Times are tough, and every little bit helps me focus on writing and producing more good stuff. Thank you!

Looking for Justice in Movies After Pulse

I’ve been putting off writing this for a couple days.

For me, the shooting at Pulse was a local news story. I’ve been to Pulse several times, I know people who used to work there, I know a bunch of people who go there regularly. It could’ve been me, him, or them that night.

I was dazed for a while. I thought about it really hard until I didn’t want to think about it anymore. So I put on a movie.

I put on John Wick. 

Continue reading “Looking for Justice in Movies After Pulse”

I wish I could sing about love… #prayforOrlando

#loveforOrlando #thecitybeautiful

A photo posted by Lindsay N. Smith (@nighttime_linz) on

I don’t want to sing about anger and hate
I don’t want to sing about fear and defeat
I don’t want to sing about the things I always sing about
I wish I could sing about love
I wish I could sing about love

I don’t want to sing about war and greed
I don’t want to sing about those we can’t feed
I don’t want to sing about the things I always sing about
I wish I could sing about love
I wish I could sing about love

I don’t want to sing about suffering and pain
I don’t want to sing for another campaign
I don’t want to sing about the things I always sing about
I wish I could sing about love
I wish I could sing about love

I don’t want to sing about rights and wrongs
I don’t want to sing all the same old songs
But I’ll sing them and sing them, ’til there’s no need to sing them
And then I can sing about love, then I can sing about love

So I’ll sing them and sing them, ’til there’s no need to sing them
And then I can sing about love…

Then I can sing about love.

An Interesting Perspective

This is a good read for white Bernie Sanders supporters. Really makes you think.

The White Entitlement of Some Sanders Supporters.

Essentially, we disagreed on what America supposedly promised or owed us. They felt success was promised to them. The entitlement to believe that you should always win allowed them to overlook how the system in many ways has always been unjustly rigged in their favor because they’re white. I brought up race during our conversation and how I’m very aware of how a system can be rigged against you. These guys acknowledged my point, but it was obvious that this reality did not factor much into their thinking. They felt aggrieved and cheated, and that was all that mattered.

“And the angel of the Lord said to her: Listen, buddy…

This is a beautiful thing. A bot that replaces “Behold” in the Bible with “Listen, buddy…”

Matthew 1:23

“Listen, buddy, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Of course, the first thing to come to mind was Terrance and Philip.

I should get more enjoyment reading about Donald Trump conspiracy theories, but…

I’m a fan of conspiracy theories. I love listening to people try and justify them.  So I thought I would be really excited with this list Right Wing Watch published about all of Donald Trump’s favorite conspiracy theories, since I have one of my own, but I don’t.

I read the post through a few times, hoping to get the usual feeling of awe and danger witnessing the insane things that people believe… but it never came. The rabid support this man gets, from his own followers and those who’ve been brainwashed to support him to fuck over Hillary Clinton (Lord, save me from your “progressives”) makes the terrible things he believes even more terrible. These dangerous ideas are being embraced by large swaths of the population. These libelous accusations against fellow Americans are being praised. And not only praised, but encouraged!

It’s sickening. It frightens me in ways that I find difficult to articulate. I look around and all I see are bigots and cowards thinking their actions are suddenly acceptable because there’s a god damn presidential candidate that thinks like them.

But there are small bits of light in the tunnel. If you don’t already, you might want to start listening to TrumpCast, a Slate podcast dedicated to analyzing the Donald Trump campaign phenomena. They’ve dealt with this national joke with a very thoughtful sense of humor, but also deal with the serious consequences. Their latest episode is an interview with a Mexican historian on the disastrous effect Trump’s rhetoric has on Mexican-American relations. They also talked to a former intelligence officer about the horror of what could happen if Donald Trump receives confidential intelligence briefings.

To end on a lighter note, the man who does the Donald Trump impressions is brilliant. They interviewed him, and it’s a good listen.

If you have any pennies to spare, please consider dropping them in the Tip Jar.

So who watched the season finale of Archer?

Spoiler Alert: The season finale of Archer, and possibly for the 1950 classic Sunset Blvd.

I absolutely loved this season of Archer, probably the strongest season yet. I’m still rewatching episodes, and still picking up on movie references and Easter eggs.

The biggest one was the bookend images of Sterling Archer, shot, face down in the pool Sunset Blvd.-style. Unfortunately, that might be more than just a good image to end the season on, it might be the image they end the whole series on.

According to an interview with The Daily Beast, the showrunners have said that FX hasn’t renewed the show for an eighth season. Deadly Velvet Part II might be the last episode of Archer ever made.

Don’t let it happen, call your congressman today.