Thursday, January 21, 2010

'The Book of Eli' - The Bible on the Big Screen

I saw The Book of Eli today. Aesthetically, and conceptually it's very similar to The Road. Both are post-apocalyptic. Just like The Road we don't know much about what caused the apocalypse. And just like the protagonists in The Road are 'the good guys' who are 'carrying the fire' to the West coast, so too is Denzel Washington's Eli. Though in this case 'the fire' is something more tangible than it was in The Road. It's a Bible. More on that shortly. It's pretty strange for two movies released so close to each other to have so many similarities. And both share similarities with Children of Men as well, which I pointed out in my note on The Road.

The fact that he's carrying a Bible isn't really a spoiler, this is known pretty early in the movie, although it oddly isn't referred to as a Bible until almost the very end. Prior to that it's just "that book", or "this book", but it's obvious from the outset what book it is, since Eli reads passages from it, and it has a cross on it. It's a bit humorous to me that they don't just call it a Bible, and my guess is that they didn't for fear of making the movie feel too 'preachy' or heavy handed for general audiences. And yes, just saying the word 'Bible' a lot of times is probably what Hollywood considers 'preachy'.

Eli is wandering through a post-apocalyptic America attempting to reach the coast with a book. He has heard a voice tell him that that is his mission. He stops in a city along the way where he meets a leader, and builder of a town in the midwest played by Gary Oldman. Oldman's characters has his goons out searching for a specific book because he believes with the words in that book he can become more powerful. He can use the words in that book to rule other towns, other people (because almost all books were burned after or during the apocalypse, so he believes this particular book and these particular words can have that effect, especially since not many people can read). Eli just happens to have the book he's looking for. But Eli is one bad dude, and kills a bunch of Oldman's goons and escapes. Oldman gives chase, and things develop from there.

I liked the movie thematically, but I think technically it wasn't that great. Specifically my major complaint is with the aesthetic. The sky is painfully fake-looking, and obnoxiously, obviously green-screened. In this aspect The Road created a realistic, interesting aesthetic where this movie did not. It's really bad. The shots of land, the sets, and the locations are actually fairly well done. It's only the sky that looks fake and bad. This is a little nitpicky, but it annoyed me. Also, too many of the characters look and feel like Hollywood actors. The Road made Robert Duvall and Guy Pearce so ragged and beat up they were hardly recognizable. Here all the actors look like they have had pampered lives, but they're supposed to be living in these horrible circumstances. So most of my complaints are with the production design, casting and general aesthetic. These are somewhat superficial issues, but important when making a movie.

The most interesting thing to me was that the central plot device was a Bible. This is pretty rare for a mainstream, big budget Hollywood film. And it wasn't used in a derisive manner. So that was a pleasant surprise. If it weren't for that the movie would be a pretty dull and run-of-the-mill action flick. Though Washington and Oldman are both great, as usual. The story is decent, and there are some good action sequences, specifically the shootout that occurs at the old people's house. Overall I enjoyed it and would recommend it, with some reservations on the technical side.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Massachusetts and Personality Politics

"In the television age, people do not so much agree or disagree with politicians as like or dislike them." - Neil Postman

The results of yesterday's election in Massachusetts offer a stunning confirmation of this statement. A Rasmussen poll from just yesterday shows Obama's approval-disapproval ratio in Massachusetts at 53/37. This on the same day that the state voted in a Republican Senator. In a state that has 65% of it's voters registered as Democrats. In a state where one of the most liberal Senators sat for 30 years. Following two election cycles where Republicans were resoundingly rejected, and a Democratic president took office, winning the presidential election by a wide margin. This is the climate under which a huge underdog Republican won a seat as Massachusetts state Senator.

How does one explain the continued relatively high approval rating of Obama, at least in this state, while Brown's victory represents a pretty strong rebuke of Obama's policies and performance? By noting the disconnect between personality and policy in the minds of voters.

There are always innumerable factors to weigh when analyzing results like this, but the following is my best guess as to what is happening in Massachusetts, and macrocosmically in the country as a whole. As noted above Obama still has a fairly solid approval-disapproval ratio in Massachusetts. That is; people still tend to have a favorable view of Obama the person, the speaker, the figure, despite apparently not being all that enthralled with his either his performance or his policies. People are still out of work, and many more are going out of work, and they see the Democrats, with super-majorities in both houses, accomplishing literally nothing at all on that front. And the one front where they are at least attempting something (healthcare reform), they are failing miserably. If voters in Massachusetts were so inexorably committed to the policy of universal healthcare, or to the Democratic economic platform and job-creating plan, then they should vote for a Democrat in a race that's as high profile and pivotal as this race was. The fact that they didn't means that there has been a change of attitude toward Obama and the Democrat's policies and performance. Though not a huge change on the issue of Obama himself, as a person. Voters can, and do, separate the two things.

Some might contend that Coakley just ran a bad campaign and Brown just ran a good one, and that the results aren't a referendum on Obama's policies or on the Democratic party as a whole. It's difficult to make that case given the political make-up of Massachusetts. Plenty of huge underdogs have run brilliant campaigns against lackadaisical incumbent opponents/parties before, and still lost. In fact this is precisely what happens in most cases, especially in a state where the registered voters are heavily one party or the other. It most often doesn't matter much how well, or how poorly you campaign in a state like Massachusetts, the Democrat should almost always win regardless. And they do. Which means there has to be other factors at play with this upset. And as I stated above it seems to be a surging conservatism, and a resounding rejection of Obama's policies, and the Democratic party as a whole that were the factors.

Not to mention the recent negative stigma carried by the title 'Republican'. It doesn't matter how poor a candidate Coakley was. She couldn't be bad enough for an extremely liberal state to elect a Republican, a pariah Republican, over her and take Ted Kennedy's seat in the senate for no good reason. But there was a reason. People got their 'change' and realized change for change's own sake isn't an inherently good thing. Sometimes change means change for the worse.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

In Very Mild Defense of Pat Robertson

Hopefully the title is enough of a disclaimer. Certainly he said something stupid, and what is worse, said it at a very poor time. If he had made the same statement about Haiti a week before the events in Haiti I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have made the news, and even if it did, not very many people would have cared.

Most of the criticism I've heard leveled against him was along the lines of "Well, even if he thinks that is true, that isn't important now, what's important now is helping these people." Which is of course true. The ironic thing to me, in light of that criticism, is that the context in which Robertson made the statement was while urging people to help in any way they could. The comment came in the midst of some televised campaign to garner donations for Haiti and was bookended by humanitarian pleas for people to give and to help in any way that they could, and I'm sure his program raised a bunch of money. What he said may have been dumb, and misguided, but he said it while doing a tangible service for the people of Haiti. Certainly doing more good than I ever could hope to do for them. Which doesn't excuse his statement, but makes me a little hesitant to be too critical since, if put on a scale, the good that he was doing most likely outweighed the negative of a stupid, tasteless remark.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

If you think Anton Chigurh was a good villain then...

Prepare yourself for The Judge in another Cormac McCarthy adaptation. Slated for 2011 release is Blood meridian. Perhaps the most violent, brutal book I've ever read. Currently this is my most anticipated in-production project, and possibly my most anticipated period. Read the book ASAP. Many hold it as one of the greatest books of the 20th century.

McCarthy's stuff (NCFOM, The Road) is awesome, and Blood Meridian is by far his best book, and The Judge is by far his best character. Of course, much of what made Chigurh such an epic, awesome screen villain was Javier Bardem and the Coen bros.' execution of the villain. Whether we get similar genius execution w/ Blood Meridian remains to be seen.

Todd Field (In the Bedroom, Little Children) is slated to direct. I saw In The Bedroom when it came out, and remember not liking it much. And I haven't seen the more recent Little Children which got very positive critical reception. But I'm already somewhat worried about the final product. When the film first got greenlit it was Ridley Scott who was going to direct and when directors start changing, that often means heavy studio influence, which is never a good thing. Todd Field seems to be a talented young director, but the work he's done to date can't tell us much of how he will handle a blood-soaked epic like Blood Meridian. Not to mention the simple fact that this even being put into production in the first place is likely the result of studios riding the recent wave of McCarthy adaptation successes.

All that being said, the source material is brilliant, and it's highly filmic in nature. Particularly the character of The judge. Although 'the kid' is the main protagonist, this story belongs to The judge, and virtually everything revolves around him. Similar to the character of Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men, The judge owns every scene that he is in, and seems to linger above even the events he isn't directly involved in. The character of the Judge is also similarly enigmatic, ruthless, and near-other-worldly. But where Chigurh seemed to be Death incarnate, The judge is more like War incarnate. And he's a little harder to figure out. He's more cerebral and has many more layers than the character of Chigurh, who was a great character (in both book and on screen), but rather 1-dimensional. If done right The judge has the potential to be the most iconic, indelible, brutal 'villain' to ever grace the big screen. I'm dying to hear who gets cast in the role.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

'Blood Meridian' - 2 excerpts

Excerpt #1: The Judge does geology

In the afternoon he sat in the compound breaking ore samples with a hammer, the feldspar rich in red oxide of copper and native nuggets in whose organic lobations he purported to read news of the earth's origins, holding an extemporary lecture in geology to a small gathering who nodded and spat. A few would quote him scripture to confound his ordering up of eons out of the ancient chaos and other apostate supposings. The judge smiled.

Books lie, he said.

God dont lie.

No, said the judge. He does not. And these are his words.

He held up a chunk of rock.

He speaks in stones and trees, the bones of things.

The squatters in their rags nodded among themselves and were soon reckoning him correct, this man of learning, in all his speculations, and this the judge encouraged until they were right proselytes of the new order whereupon he laughed at them for fools.

Excerpt #2: Tobin the expriest and 'the kid' converse about The Judge.


No, said Tobin. The gifts of the Almighty are weighed and parceled out in a scale peculiar to himself. It's no fair accountin and I dont doubt what he'd be the first to admit it and you put the query to him boldface.


The Almighty, the Almighty. The expriest shook his head. He glanced across the fire toward the judge. That great hairless thing. You wouldnt think to look at him that he could outdance the devil himself now would ye? God the man is a dancer, you'll not take that away from him. And fiddle. He's the greatest fiddler I ever heard and that's an end on it. The greatest. He can cut a trail, shoot a rifle, ride a horse, track a deer. He's been all over the world. Him and the governor they sat up till breakfast and it was Paris this and London that in five languages, you'd have give something to of heard them...

The expriest shook his head. Oh it may be the Lord's way of showin how little store he sets by the learned. Whatever could it mean to one who knows all? He's an uncommon love for the common man and godly wisdom resides in the least of things so that it may well be that the voice of the Almighty speaks most profoundly in such beings as lives in silence themselves.

He watched the kid.

For let it go how it will, he said. God speaks in the least of creatures.

The kid thought him to mean birds or things that crawl but the expriest, watching, his head slightly cocked, said, No man is give leave of that voice.

The kid spat in the fire and bent to his work.

I aint heard no voice, he said.

When it stops, said Tobin, you'll know you've heard it all your life.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Helen Thomas and "Why?"

A few days ago I saw a clip from a White House press conference where long time White House press core member Helen Thomas pressed the Obama White House on the question of 'why' Al Qaeda wants to do harm to the United States. Suggesting that the issue of 'why' was what was 'always missing' from this administration's briefings on the issue. I normally have no problem with someone giving Obama and co. a hard time, and in fact almost always encourage it. But in this instance, Helen Thomas is just gone off the deep end.

The reason the issue of 'why' is not commonly addressed is because the 'why' is self-evident at this point. Al Qaeda is not shy about sharing it's goals. They articulate them regularly. Everyone knows why Al Qaeda does what it does, because Al Qaeda tells us exactly why they do what they do. It isn't a mystery. Google is your friend, Helen Thomas.

If the White House were to concentrate on articulating the 'why' on a regular basis they would rightly be accused of redundancy and banality.

In response to Thomas' question the Obama White house (not Robert Gibbs, but the DoD guy), gave a true, but incomplete answer. Basically saying the reason why is because of the terrorist's perverted view and use of Islam. Which is an exceedingly politically correct, and incomplete, way of putting it, though still essentially true. He could have gone further and said that the explicit stated goals of Al Qaeda are a global Islamic caliphate, under sharia law, and the destruction of the West. That is 'why', Helen. Everyone knows why. Why are you asking why? Ah, now that's the real question.

Helen Thomas doesn't really want to know why, and she doesn't want to hear answers. Her question isn't really a question, but an accusation. Her question was intended to elicit admissions of guilt on behalf of United States foreign policy in creating the problem of Al Qaeda and terrorism. The problem here is that, when you do answer the question that she's asking, the answer shows clearly that the goals of Al Qaeda exist wholly independent from United States' foreign policy. If we were isolationists Al Qaeda would want us dead. If we were imperialists Al Qaeda would wants us dead. The goals and aspirations of Al Qaeda exist as they are without regard to US foreign policy, or any 'aggressive' actions of the US on foreign soil. Sorry, Helen, we just are not complicit in this. I know it's a crushing blow to your worldview to find out that there just REALLY are bad guys in the world that we weren't in someway responsible for creating.

So many of the terrorist sympathizers want to believe that our main, or only, issue with the terrorists is with their chosen political tactic of terrorism. In the case of Al Qaeda or other Islamic fundamentalist groups, this is not the case. It isn't only that Al Qaeda wants to use death and destruction as a political tool; it's that their political goals themselves are unacceptable and incompatible with everything that the United States and the West stands for. Even if they were seeking power through democratic and peaceful means it would still be imperative for us to fight and defeat them.

The answer to 'why' may be slightly more nuanced than 'they hate our freedoms', but it isn't much more complex than that. Cliche's become cliche' because of the truth associated with them. The 'why' is basically an exhaustive list of 'they hate A, B, C' and 'they want X, Y, Z' (X, Y and Z all being antithetical to freedom, democracy, progress, and civilization).

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Poker and Life Lesson #1 - Money

Playing poker has an interesting affect on how you view various aspects of life. Many of the lessons that poker teaches can be translated to life. The most obvious and direct way is the way in which you feel about, and use, your own money. Playing a lot of poker, for a steady income, at once fosters a higher disregard for money, on one level, and a higher respect for it on another. Which is approximately, I feel, what a healthy view of money should be. Respect for what it represents (a product of your own hard work, and a means by which to sustain one's life), while at the same time recognizing that it is ultimately not an end unto itself, and is rather unimportant, in the larger scheme of things.

When I first began playing poker, and put like $200 on a site, losing $20 felt like a really big loss or downswing relative to the total I had available. As I started to win money and moved up in stakes a $20 tournament loss, or downswing, started to feel like nothing. But the $100 loss or downswing still hurt. I would look at my account after it went down from $1000 to $900 and think "dang! I just had $1000! I lost ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS! That's a lot of money!", and I would feel it. As I continued to move up in stakes, $100 fluctuations become unnoticed and negligible. But $500 downswings still hurt, etc. Phil Ivey says "everyone has a pain threshold", where the losses start to hurt. Even the best high stakes players who experience frequent $200k downswings, for them it might take, maybe a $1 mil losing day before they really feel it, but everyone has a point where it hurts.

One might think that my attitude toward 'poker money' would differ from 'real life' money. And it does, to a certain extent. I do tend to keep them separate. But as my tolerance for larger and larger swings in poker money increased, so to did my tolerance for spending larger amounts of money in real life. Not that I started to spend extravagantly on things I didn't need. I always have been, and still am, very practical and conservative regarding money management. But now if I do need or want something, or if I want to buy something for someone else, money is no object. Whereas before I would always check price tags and be concerned with them, now I don't even look at them. Which, I think, is a healthy attitude to have towards money, assuming that your finances are in order and you're not living paycheck to paycheck where you need to be very consciously aware of what money you do and don't spend. Before poker I would not like spending $100 on much of anything, but not because I didn't have the means of spending that amount if I wanted to, but because it just "seemed like a lot of money". And now it doesn't. Which is not to say I have a ton more money now than I did before poker, because I don't. I have a similar net worth today to what I had then. The only difference is that now I see money more as a means to an end rather than as an end in itself, which is, I think, a good thing.

"Who's there?" - "I Am."

(spoilers within)

Not being very familiar with Hamlet (I think I read it once a very long time ago, and have seen various film adaptations, but don't recall much), I wasn't aware of the various references and allusions being made to it in Infinite Jest. One of the most interesting that others have pointed out is that the first two words of Hamlet are "Who's there?", and the first two words of Infinite Jest are "I am". I find this interesting because the most overt Hamlet references in the novel revolve around Hal and Himself. i.e. Hal holding up JOI's skull a la Hamlet holding up Yorick's; JOI appearing at the end of the novel as a ghost; JOI's production company being titled 'Poor Yorick Entertainment'; Hal perhaps being a central 'hero of inaction', a la Hamlet and Hal's own essay on the same subject; the title of JOI's 'perfect entertainment'. And the exchange of "Who's there?", and "I am" is a good way to to give a cursory summary of the relationship between JOI and Hal. i.e. JOI trying to reach Hal, and get him to 'speak', or become less solipsistic. Hal declaring who he is in response, clearly (if not audibly). That, as he says a few lines after the opening two words, "I am in here". Whether who he is internally manifests itself outwardly or not.

Also, as to the character relationships that mirror Hamlet, to some degree. I found this overview in the sparknotes for Hamlet:

"When Horatio and the watchmen bring Prince Hamlet, the son of Gertrude and the dead king, to see the ghost, it speaks to him, declaring ominously that it is indeed his father’s spirit, and that he was murdered by none other than Claudius. Ordering Hamlet to seek revenge on the man who usurped his throne and married his wife, the ghost disappears with the dawn.

Prince Hamlet devotes himself to avenging his father’s death, but, because he is contemplative and thoughtful by nature, he delays, entering into a deep melancholy and even apparent madness. "

Clearly there are some heavy plot and character parallels here, that might even be clues to interpreting the events of Infinite Jest. Prince Hamlet = Hal, King Hamlet = Himself, Claudius = C.T. and Avril = Hamlet's wife. However, there is no suggestion anywhere that JOI's death was anything but a suicide. Though there is no suicide note, and JOI's wraith never explicitly admits to 'eliminating his own map'. Further, as outlined in previous blogs, there are a lot of hints and clues that Avril has connections with Quebecois separatists, and had nefarious intentions re: Himself and his work. Recall the end of the novel where Orin is captured by the AFR and placed inside a giant tumbler, and they release roaches, his greatest fear, into the tumbler with him. How did they know his greatest fear? They had sent their female operative to be intimately involved with him and learn these details, and are now exploiting them. Perhaps Avril functioned in the same way to JOI, acting as an embedded operative. JOI was an important political figure for numerous reasons. Recall Hal and Mario's discussion about Avril not being sad about Himself's death and (get this) always having to travel to various locations for meetings of various kinds by herself and now she stays at home, always, since JOI's death. Suggesting that her going to meetings was so that she could relay information about JOI to the separatists groups, who have gotten a hold of her and recruited her. And after JOI was gone she no longer had any reason to go to the clandestine meetings. Further it's possible that, in the same manner Orin's deepest, darkest fears were discovered and exploited by the AFR, so to were JOI's (i.e. the fear of his son being terminally solipsistic), and that it was through a similar method that Avril (perhaps in league with C.T. and other separatists) forcefully, intentionally drove JOI to suicide (recall the Wild turkey 'gift' from Avril at the scene of his suicide). Which would complete the parallel between Hamlet. i.e. C.T. and Avril 'killing' JOI for political purposes, and immediately getting together afterward, while the 'mad' son Hal can not, or will not, has some mental block against, connecting the dots. Then JOI's ghost tries to help Hal connect the dots, but, by the 'end' of the novel, he still hasn't (though he probably has by the time he's digging up his father's head).

Speaking of Avril and chapter 1, where is she?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Some Infinite Jest Theories and Thoughts

Infinite Jest is so ripe for discussion and analysis but, to my dismay, I personally know 0 people who have read it. Even in online circles none of my online 'acquaintances' have read it, that I know of. And, what's more disheartening, I can't in good conscience even recommend it to hardly anyone I know, given the large amount of work the novel is. I believe it was well worth it, and will continue to voice my own enthusiasm about it, and look forward to a day where someone, anyone, I know has also read it. Now, on to my theories, thoughts and analysis, mostly for my own benefit of thought-organization since none of this will make much sense to anyone who hasnt read the novel (this will have spoilers).

I'm re-reading some of the beginning chapters of Infinite Jest and it's pretty remarkable. A lot of the stuff at the beginning is introduced w/o much context, so the first time through it doesn't necessarily stick with you. And a lot of the details are details about places, characters and events you know nothing about at that point. And by the time you reach the end of the monstrous tome the events and conversations from the beginning are so far removed, they are not even within recall. The opening chapter with Hal is a bit of an exception, and mostly stays in your mind throughout the rest of the book (though, w/o returning to it regularly some details, such as Hal + Gately digging up Himself's head, will likely not be within immediate recall).

But, for example, the 3rd chapter with Hal going to a professional conversationalist (who turns out to be his father, JOI, Himself in a disguise), hints at a bunch of things that only make sense in the light of the rest of the novel. Hal is conversing fully with JOI, apparently, yet JOI insists that Hal is silent. And this is when Hal is only 10 years old. Hal calls this an illusion of JOIs, and we have a pretty good picture by the end of the novel that JOI committed suicide because of his inability to get Hal to 'speak'. It isn't clear whether JOI is so mad that he truly, literally believes that Hal can not or does not speak, or whether he hears him speaking but feels that the things that Hal says are so empty, withdrawn and solipsistic that Hal is effectively, figuratively 'silent' from Himself's perspective. Or it's possible that Hal believes that he is speaking in Himself's presence when he really isn't. We see that Hal experiences periods of detachment from himself [not 'Himself', capital H], where his inner monologue doesn't match his outer one. There's an example of this happening 'before' the events of chapter 1 (and before whatever happens after the end of the novel, whether he drops DMZ or whatever). Specifically his fits of hysterics near the end of the novel, where he has no clue that he is laughing. So while his 'subanimalistic' behavior in chapter 1 is very likely tied to later DMZ use, his inner/outer monologue discrepancy can not be attributed to that.

Also in this chapter Himself references Avril cavorting with 30 Arab medical attaches, and asking Hal about Quebec separatism. In the very next chapter the Arab medical attache receives the sazmidat on April 1 (Avril I). Joelle says near the end of the book that Himself didn't want the sazmidat released but rather wanted it buried with himself. What connections does Avril have with the Quebecois separatist terrorist groups? Did she steal and help disseminate the sazmidat against Himself's wishes? It appears that might be the case. And now, at the end of the novel, Himself's wraith is attempting to remedy the situation, turning to the man that killed DuPlessis, and beat up some Quebecois separatists (perhaps not realizing Gately did these seemingly politically motivated things accidentally/incidentally).

Still another revelation in this chapter is that Himself claims that he has some kind of film cartridge device implanted inside his own cerebrum, emphasizing the literal, physical structure of whatever it is. It is likely that he is haunting Gately and Hal to get them to retrieve this, because it's only through this device that they can possibly craft something to counteract the sazmidat that Avril helped to disseminate. Himself was simply trying to reach Hal with the sazmidat; he had no interest in releasing it ever.

I'm eager to see if there's a point where Himself answers a phone in the book (I don't recall if there is one). It is said in a section here early on that sons answer the phone in the same way their father did whether they knew their father or not. Hal proceeds to answer the phone "mmmyellow", as does Pemulis later in the book. We know Avril isn't a pillar of fidelity, so my temporary theory is that Hal might not be Himself's son, by blood. Rather the result of an affair of Avril's, perhaps with Pemulis' father. This theory could easily be derailed with a little more research, or confirmed if there's an instance in the book where Himself answers a phone and doesn't say "mmmyellow". And actually, just as I am typing this, I recall the physical description of Hal that occurs a couple times in the book. Darker, olive skin, very dark black hair. And now recall that Himself told Hal that his mother 'cavorted' with over 30 Arab medical attaches. Further, in the prior chapter with Himself, it's mentioned that Hal (again, even at 10) is a fan of Byzantine erotica, and in the next chapter, at the Arab med. attache's house, is a stand of Byzantine erotica. Even further, in chapter 4, with the Arab medical attache', note his conscious effor to be 'unlibidinous', and only look at a catalog of women's clothing where the women are clothed, head to toe. Now recall Hal's own seeming lack of a libido (like father like son), when later in the book he says that he's a virgin and pretty much plans to stay that way. While his brother Orin has a raging libido (perhaps not just a personal difference, but a genetic one). Evidence mounts that Hal is not a true, full-blood Incandenza. So I'm further convinced Hal is the product of an affair of Avril, but am pretty much scrapping the notion about Pemulis' father, going instead with the idea that Hal is 50% Arab.

With the last 2 paragraphs in mind recall that Infinite Jest the film, the sazmidat, features a pregnant mother who is also Death. And Himself made this film to reach Hal, on the subject of mothers. i.e. Hal's mother, and the truth about her.

Also in an early chapter Hal converses w/ Mario about Himself's death, and Avril not seeming sad after he died. Mario keeps saying "hey Hal?" while Hal is talking. This could be another case of Hal believing he's speaking out loud when he isn't, because Mario keeps repeating 'Hey Hal?' after he had asked a series of questions, while Hal seems to be addressing those questions. So either Mario, being in some senses simple/slow, is just repeating himself trying to get Hal's attention, but it seems more likely now that Hal just isn't speaking, but believes he is. The first time reading through it seems maybe that Mario is just naive re: the Moms, but in a second read through it seems possible that she just really wasn't sad. That in fact she likely contributed in some way to Himself's death and had nefarious intentions re: his work.

Recall also Avril's affair with John Wayne, both Canadian. Recall John Wayne, wearing a mask, ALSO present at the site of Hal and Gately digging up Himself's head. Perhaps wearing the smiley-faced mask of the AFR. John Wayne is the best young tennis player alive (or close to it), so it's concievable he's so athletic that he is able to dodge trains so well that he is the lead, young member of the organization that feeds members to the AFR. And is embedded at ETA as a spy, or secret operative.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Few thoughts on 'Moon'

I watched Moon recently. Moon is a sci-fi film released this year starring Sam Rockwell. It's about a man who is stationed on a base on the far side of the moon at some time in the future, harvesting moon rocks that somehow have absorbed energy from the sun, and are being used for cheap, clean energy on Earth. Sam (also the character's name) is near the end of his 3-year contract, and preparing to go home soon. 'Gerdy', the on-board artificial intelligence voiced by Kevin Spacey doing a dead-on Hal from 2001 impression, is his only company. Sam interfaces with his wife at home through recorded video messages. And then strange things start happening.

Rockwell is awesome as usual. He is the only human actor throughout the length of the movie, other than a few of the humans that he sees on recorded messages on video screen, (his wife, and the higher-ups at whatever corporation, or government agency he's working for) and he handles the job well. Fear not, this isn't Castaway in outer space. Also, Clint Mansell, who has scored all of Darren Aronofsky's films, does the score for Moon, and, though not as genius as his scores for Requiem for a Dream or The Fountain, it is a nice, emotive score.

That said, the film comes off as a mixture of 2001, Solaris and a third film which I will mention below in the spoiler section. But it's still an interesting, enjoyable film, overall. If not wholly original.

Now for some spoilers, so don't read on unless you have seen Moon, or don't want to see it.


Spacey being cast as the computer, and doing a dead on Hal impression vocally, I think was done as a piece of misdirection. Of course everyone knows what Hal (and subsequent AI/androids in other movies) were programmed to do; preserve the mission, to heck with the humans on-board. And Spacey, ever since playing John Doe and Kaiser Soze, has that veiled-menace thing to his voice. Like the first time you see Usual Suspects he just comes off as effete and even weak, but on a second viewing you hear like an underlying evil. So you have these prior associations with this character, and this vocal actor, but then in this movie the computer turns out to be an altruist computer, confounding expectations. Like the anti-Hal, even going so far as to sacrifice itself to help the clones. But then it's almost too obvious in the other direction, because right from the beginning I thought "they're not going to have this comp. turn out to be a killer too, are they? they can't", cause that would have been TOO derivative, so I was actually expecting that not to happen.

Also the scenes where he has visions of his daughter grown up early in the film A) don't make sense and B) are pointless. The film has enough stuff going on, it didn't need those bits thrown in

The third film it's a mixture of is Multiplicity, w/o the comedy. But it has clones interacting with one another, and the clones, due to genetic imperfections from the cloning process, are easily injured etc. Like the progressively dumber/weaker clones in Multiplicity