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Knowing with Nicolas Cage

Posted in Personal by Will on Saturday, August 29th, 2009 ~ 11pm

The film “Knowing” with Nicolas Cage actually made me feel ill. Perhaps I feel ill because I recently binged on some food that is now nearly out of me, or, it is because of major problems with the film:

(Be advised, I spoil the story in these comments.)

1. The film sets out with Nicolas Cage as the hero, a guy with a chance (thanks to extra intelligence and admirable strength) of figuring out a prophetic code and in so doing — one would expect — to avert a disaster. The film subverts the expectation that he will be a hero; he fails.* Subverting the expectation is an admirable goal for a film. But, the film is too lightweight to be worthy of this development. Mixing a popcorn movie with the lead character’s failure is simply not a palatable blend.

2. Additionally, the film takes one potentially realistic, serious element — that of a part of humanity being saved by strange, humanoid beings to repopulate the planet later on — and sticks it into a film that cannot handle that kind of idea. Again, an attempt to mix something too radical into a popcorn flick fails. Indeed, the film resorts to Christian mythology images in order to make the last act of the film seem possible, and this Christian imagery is used as a visual shorthand so that the film doesn’t have to convey any sort of explanation of its own making as to who the beings are or where (or when) they come from. And that is intellectually lazy.

Given that the two main failures of this film involve trying to put weighty story developments into a popcorn movie, it may be that the failure is actually the rest of the movie — the popcorn parts. If they’d been changed, would the weighty parts have worked? I suspect so.

The popcorn parts are entertaining. There are several smaller disasters prophecied which Cage’s character witnesses along the way to becoming a believer that an upcoming bigger prophecy may be real. Those smaller disasters are presented in the tradition of action movies, with state of the art special effects allowing for realistic city environments to be the setting of fast-flowing destruction, seen up-close and personal.

And perhaps that is where the planning of this film went wrong. If the initial smaller disasters had not been presented in the heart-racing style of a Die Hard action film, if they had, instead, been presented from a distance, a distance that would not have given the viewer adrenalin thrills but instead given them somber reflection on catastrophe, the tone of the film would have been consistent.

That the filmmakers chose to make the tones contrast indicates they hoped that the mixing of disparate tones would work. It simply did not.

* Footnote: It can be argued that Cage’s character did not fail entirely. He wanted to save his son. And his son lives. But I’d counter that his son’s salvation was not through anything Cage’s character did. The most that could be said is that he drops his kid off. But there was every indication that his son would have been picked up regardless, albeit without his father learning what would become of him. This is evident by the fact that the strange beings know where he lives (they visit his house more than a few times), and the boy even says that they can find him anywhere.

Dreams of last night

Posted in Dream by Will on Friday, August 21st, 2009 ~ 7pm

Dreams last night included floating above nude female models that were doing some kind of placid nude art show… actor Ron Silver (but I called him Ron Rifkin, mistaking the two Rons) finishing dinner at this art show and then mistaking me for a waiter or something and asking me to have his car brought around (even though the celebs at this dinner were supposed to stick around)… I also have a vague impression of a woman telling me (in an almost desperate, sadness filled inflection) she loves me (was she one of the models?) (this is the second night recently in which that has happened — the first night she gave me her name too, but I didn’t write it down, figuring she’s *probably* not a real person)… a non-flying part of the dreams in which snow had fallen so thick and fast that cars were abandoned, double-parked along nearly every road, which I had to climb over to get from the street to the sidewalk area (which I did in the nick of time, as a bus streamed past right after I’d climbed up, clipping and dashing away part of the snowbank… I had no food or money as I walked in that cold, snowy place, looking for an open door, a place to crash for the night …. wandering into all-night bars…. I often dream of underground shopping areas that feel very Euro circa 1970s which such bars might be…. dreamed I had a car and my car’s breaks did not work and so I had to drive down hills with my emergency break on to try to keep slow enough…

Sideshow Collectibles are Scaredy Cats!

Posted in Personal by Will on Wednesday, August 19th, 2009 ~ 5pm

We finally have an answer about why Sideshow Collectibles has not made figures from The Fifth Element — they’re too scared to even look into whether they could! Here’s the exchange from their recent Q&A:

Has Sideshow ever considered making 12-inch Figures from the movie ‘The Fifth Element’? I personally would love to see the Diva Plavalaguna, Leeloo, Ruby Rhod, Corbin, Zorg and even a Mangalore immortalized in plastic and this would be a perfect scale to see them in. I’d especially be interested in a Diva figure, as she is such an iconic as well as exotic Sci-Fi character. Has Sideshow ever given any of these some consideration?

To the best of our knowledge, no company has ever successfully released figure products based on the 5th Element. Rumors behind the failures range from rights issues to alien abduction, but they have kept us from investigating too seriously. It’s a movie that we love too, but we’re unlikely to license 5th Element anytime soon.

…And my comment is:

Fifth Element (Leeloo anyway) would be a must-buy. Very sad to hear that Sideshow won’t even look into it (!) simply because one previous company (N2Toys) failed to get the licensing rights. That’s really lame. I recall a video game with Leeloo, so apparently there’s no problem in getting the rights to her, the star of the film. Nor is there any problem with the aliens, since the Mangalore and Mondoshawan bobbleheads came out.

It comes down to: does anyone care if Bruce Willis is not included? I don’t. I don’t even mind if Gary Olman is not included. Leeloo is the main character of the film, she’s the one with the outfits, she’s the one with the style. Get the rights to Leeloo. That would be enough.

P.S. Someone mentioned Blade Runner as similar to The Fifth Element in the rights-issues respect. In fact, after Sideshow gave a similar response about why they haven’t made Blade Runner figures, I asked the producer of the recent ultimate edition about it, and he said they’d hoped and wanted for some companies to make products to coincide with the release — but that none made an effort, even though all the ownership matters had been fully identified to make it easy (well, relatively easy).

Socialism

Posted in Personal by Will on Tuesday, August 18th, 2009 ~ 12pm

Good comments about socialism (by others) that I’m saving in case more ignorant rethuglians claim that socialism is evil:

“Wow, some of you commentators are either trolling from 4chan, or just really ignorant. Socialism isn’t the same as Fascism(Hitler, Mussolini) or Communism(Stalin). Fascism is a Right-Wing extreme and Communism is a Left-Wing extreme, and neither worked. Socialism is a much more moderate Left-Wing leaning form of government than Communism, and has never come close to being fully implemented in any government in history. Socialist domestic programs, on the other hand, have been implemented all throughout modern Europe and have greatly improved the quality of life there. The EU spends a hell of a lot less money than we do and get better results thanks to these programs. But of course, we try to implement something like that here, and stuff like this happens, thanks to the raging misinformation and ignorance ripe within our population. It’s a shame, really.”

And another:

“I know posting this statement will fall on deaf ears, (i’ve got 5 minutes before work starts) however Socialism is not inherently evil. Those who equate Socialism with Hitler and Mussolini, are stretching the facts and truth. Socialism existed in these countries before said dictators took over, these dictators modified their socialist states to become facsit military-police states. Socialism by definition is a government of the people by the people… (sounds sort of like “democracy” doesn’t it?)…What do I know, right? It doesn’t matter that I’ve grown up in a socialist country and have had real exposure to what I speak of, I’m still wrong aren’t I?”

And another:

“A lot of people are saying socialism is evil, but they can’t seem to explain why, except that ‘Socialism leads to communism.’

There are modern countries which use socialist policies in combination with capitalist policies. America is one of them, leaning towards the capitalist. Sweden, Switzerland, Britain, Japan, and France are other examples, leaning to various degrees more to the socialist side. Some industries function better in private hands; others, such as the provision of clean drinking water to the population, work best under government control. There are plenty of examples out there to study and evaluate. It’s not a giant mystery or anything.

The only slightly socialist idea Obama has proposed is government-administered health insurance, which would be modeled after already existing government health programs like Medicare and the VHA. So, we already have a little bit of socialism in our government and it hasn’t killed us. I suppose some kooks will say that private enterprise would do a better job taking care of Veterans and the elderly, but the track record of private insurance companies really undermines that idea.

Moral of the story: socialism isn’t inherently evil, any more than capitalism is. All the hysteria about socialism is just that: hysteria.”

And another:

“If Socialism is evil, then renounce your Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, water, sewer, fire, police, all other municipal and county services as well as OSHA workplace protections, 40 hour weeks, child labor laws, paid vacations, volunteer (paid) military, etc. etc. All societies going back thousands of years have had a mix of socialism and capitalism. The best societies are those that can balance both systems.”

And another:

“As a Canadian living in a SOCIALIZED country, I must ask: if socialism is so evil and leads to communism and fascism, then why hasn’t Canada gone this route? There are a lot of socialized countries in the world that do very well; most of them joined forces with you when you went to war, by the way.

It’s befuddling to see Americans so outraged about Obama having such a noble goal: ensuring health care for all. As someone who goes to the hospital without his credit card and will never have to worry about going BANKRUPT for having an appendix burst, I support his goal. No one’s trying to enact death panels. No one’s trying to force you into a public option. They just want to give an option to those who have not AND keep the insurance companies honest so you don’t get screwed all the time.

Before you start calling socialism “evil”… please… look at the U.K. and Canada and tell us if we’re so evil. In fact, stop being so US-centric for a second and ask us about how we feel about living in a socialized country that ensures Health Care for all. And if you still think we’re so evil, then maybe you can fight the war in the middle east on your own!”

And another:

“Anyone who thinks socialisim is evil is an idiot. I had surgery in France 3 days in the hospital no paper work not BS from the gov’t. Cost me $80US. my perscription about $4US. The same surgery in America 10 years later paying $500 a month I was kicked to the curb the moment I woke up. For those of you who say we have the best medicine, yes, it’s true IF you can afford it. They still have a private sector in Europe. Why all are you rep. concerned about the private sector? What have they done for you?”

And another:

“All those countries who take care of their citizens with successful public health programs are really just idiots.”

And another:

“I feel sorry for all of you who think that socialism is evil. I know you never traveled, never went to socialised country. Your politicians want you to believe that socialism is evil and that this is the best you can get. It is not. I lived there and here. Nothing wrong with helping other. Education, healthcare we all give a little and everybody was covered. Don’t let them to scare you.
There is world out there you do not know nothing about.
You should be proud of this president.
Good luck.”

And another:

“I love the morons on here who are saying “Socialism is evil”. I’m a History major and your ignorance is really disturbing. …If you don’t like government assistance then you should forfeit your medicare and social security benefits. Ask the veterans if they want to get rid of their benefits as well.

“All the property that is necessary to a Man, for the Conservation of the Individual and the Propagation of the Species, is his natural Right, which none can justly deprive him of: But all Property superfluous to such purposes is the Property of the Publick, who, by their Laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other laws dispose of it, whenever the Welfare of the Publick shall demand such Disposition. He that does not like civil Society on these Terms, let him retire and live among Savages. He can have no right to the benefits of Society, who will not pay his Club towards the Support of it.”

Benjamin Franklin, letter to Robert Morris, December 25, 1783

The above is up against folks who have no idea what they are talking about — here’s a sample of their comments:

“‘Who said being a socialist is evil?’ maybe a few of the 100 million people killed by their own governments in Caommunist/Socialist countries in the 20th century?” … “Oh being socialist isn’t evil??? Sorry, I guess Castro in Cuba, Stalin in USSR, and Jong Il in N. Korea are (were) very nice people.” … “Socialism was the core principles of Hitler and Mussollini.” … “In this country socilaism is evil. We were founded with this slogan, ‘Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness’ to which socialism cannot factor in as it requires government to interfer with the everyday lives of all Americans. I would hope that the school he attends does a better job of teaching that very point.” … “SOCIALISM IS EVIL, as it denies our Creator and as a result fails to recognize where our rights come from!” … “If you value life and if you value liberty, ‘evil’ would certainly be a fair characterization of socialism.” … “Who said being a socialist is evil? How about the millions who suffered under it? Oh, right! They can’t speak, because they were executed under socialist regimes.”

I hardly need to detail how the idiots in the paragraph above have their history wrong, do I? I’ll just summarize: The folks who name every dictator they can remember in the hope that one of them might have been a socialist name a bunch of fascists, not socialists; fascism is the opposite of socialism. Some seize on the fact that Hitler’s party was called the “Nationalist Socialist” party, without recognizing that it was not socialism that Hitler brought. The person who hopes that schools do a better job teaching history doesn’t seem to be aware that public schools are a socialist system. And the one who said socialism “denies our creator” doesn’t seem to know that socialism is an economic system (and her comment makes me wonder, does she believe God is involved in capitalism?). And the imagination required to think that Canadians and the British and Swedes and French are being executed by the millions is beyond me; but of course, yet again the writer is referring to any and all totalitarian regimes in the hope that maybe one of them was socialist and would prove his point.

For my own reply I just echoed the social services line that everyone knows by now:

“For some elements of civilization capitalism does not work, so socialism is used instead. But some folks still think of Breshnev’s eyebrows when they hear the word, instead of thinking of their favorite elementary school teachers, or the heroes who put out their house fire. -Will”

UPDATE: President Obama has finally made a nice statement about the situation:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/21/obama-invokes-fdrs-battle_n_264791.html

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