Posts from 4th November 2004

4
Nov 04

‘The applause of the French in Cannes for Michael Moore’s 9/11 was the sound of the cement drying over the corpse of Kerry’s chances of carrying the Midwest.’

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‘The applause of the French in Cannes for Michael Moore’s 9/11 was the sound of the cement drying over the corpse of Kerry’s chances of carrying the Midwest.’ — Counterpunch.

But Counterpunch also says that the dread scenario confronting us is a rightward shift by the Dems to take the Midwest next time around: are they advocating cynical politicking or aren’t they? If the Midwest middle-class doesn’t like gay rights, science, or Michael Moore, then obviously the progressive party will have to find another constituency among the 80m-odd non-voters. But it’s trivial to bring individual movies into this. What’s been brought into focus, from a movie perspective, is just how little you learn about countries from their films — or perhaps about the US in particular. And this is new: the Old Testament world of Westerns provides the best kind of map, I think, for this election, not in the obvious ‘Dubya as cowboy’ sense, but in terms of the antimonies of ownership and exploitation produced by puritan morality. The seeming contradiction between ‘natural rights’-based hostility to abortion and the denial of said rights inherent [sorry am writing like a drain, can’t think why] in the assumption that the earth is there to be manipulated and exploited is at the heart of many six-gun epic. I don’t mean to suggest that ‘social comment’ entails Loach-like observational realism, far from it, and I, like most of the world’s cinemagoers, am unenthralled by modern westerns. It’s natural that young filmmakers should be happy to have escaped the interior for LA, and that they should regard it with contempt (as in Solondz) but I suppose that where directors like Sam Fuller had *some* life-experience (he as a reporter in the South during the Depression) feeding into their dramas, the socio-cultural background of most directors now is that much more narrow.

END-TIMES WATCH

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END-TIMES WATCH : xtian attempts to convert lions

THAT OVERWHELMING MANDATE IN VISUAL FORM

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THAT OVERWHELMING MANDATE IN VISUAL FORM

(via pandagon)

FT Top 100 Films #12: Escape From New York

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What if? There are not enough “what if’s” in modern cinema. Sure there are plenty of “what if we put Kate Hudson in a rom com” questions being asked but the answers are so obvious they do not need to be tested*. Rather I am thinking of the big “What If’s”, perhaps best illustrated this year in Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow, namely what if they could have made the current big kind of dumb action movie in the 1930’s?

Escape From New York is a big WHAT IF movie from a plot point of view. What if crime had got so bad they decided to turn Manhattan into maximum security prison. And then what if the president accidentally got caught in said prison. Who could you get to rescue him? Only the baddest muthafucker on the block, that’s who (or at a pinch you could get the bloke from The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes in an eyepatch). But how do you get him to follow your orders, he is a bad muthafucker after all. Obvious you put a bomb in his bonce.

Escape From New York is clearly meant to be a silly, over-the-top movie and John Carpenter’s ideal partner in crime is Kurt Russell who gurns remarkably through the whole affair. Coupled with Donald Pleasance’s surprisingly straight turn as the President and you get the feeling that fun was the order of the day at every stage of the production. Special effects are ropey, the distopianism does not bare thinking about but this is a celebration of cinema as stupidity and is an excellent ride. It is also one of the first films wot resemble computer games, which is impressive because there were not really computer games like this at the time. The boss/level end dichotomy is played out a number of times to Carpenter’s Commodore 64 music and its influence – if not in film – can be seen in hundred of early nineties Nintendo games.

Actually, its influence on dumb action movies is pretty obvious too.

*Pretty much what happened the last time you put Kate Hudson in a romantic comedy.

If you’re somehow not yet sick of votes…

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If you’re somehow not yet sick of votes… the I Love Comics poll is now underway on that board.

Grumpy Old Men

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Grumpy Old Men

It’s the theocrats’ world now, so we’d better get used to it. Casting around for something historical to write about, I thought I’d begin at ‘the beginning’ – with the enormous claimed ages of the Biblical patriarchs (900 for Adam and so on).

From an armchair anthropologists’ perspective, it’s not difficult to work out why ancient cultures claimed great ages for their ancestors. It’s common to a lot of belief systems after all – the Sumerian king lists happily slap down twenty-thousand year spans on their oldest monarchs; the Greeks who believed in a Golden Age knew that men back then lived a very long time (as well as being ENORMOUS – ancient giantism is another common factor). The reasons are both practical and moral – if your job in a society is to police morality it’s a good idea to remind everyone how wicked they are, and since people are aware that relative to one another they’re not actually hugely evil you need to invoke the past as a time when things, and people, were better. In societies where people die young this means talking about ancestors who lived a long time.

Obviously no mythmakers sat down and plotted this – the beliefs in more favoured ancestors and golden ages would have evolved gradually and their social uses emerged over time. Practically, though, huge claimed ages are probably a quirk of a calendrical system based on king (or patriarch) lists. Such systems are particularly unfriendly to gaps (the idea of “don’t know” as an acceptable historical answer is a Greek invention and even then hardly widespread) as suggesting that periods in a nation’s history were rulerless would be highly un-PC. So the solution is simply to stretch the numbers.

That’s my opinion. But I’m Godless. So what do fundamentalists say?

I think if I was a Biblical literalist I would have a certain amount of sympathy with the “LOOK IT JUST IS OK!” end of the argument. It seems more honest and direct to just ignore the skeptics and quote the Bible than to get involved in pseudo-scientific justifications. But it also seems a lot less fun.

Obviously the patriarchs’ ages must be right – this is the starting point for the creationist argument. But why are they right, and more importantly, why don’t people live so long now? “God did it” is the obvious answer and would satisfy most of the target audience. But how much more useful to be able to deploy science – or words that sound a bit like science?

“After the flood the earth was completely different than the earth before. There were widespread global differences. These would include changes in the climate, composition of the atmosphere, hydrologic cycle, geologic features, cosmic radiation reaching the earth, ozone concentration, ultra violet light, background radiation, genetics, diet, and a host of other subtle and/or profound chemical and physiological changes.” (This site has some particularly emphatic arguments to do with MATHS)

Wow! Elsewhere we have the argument that animals seem to have genes that programme their lifespans ergo the patriarchs had similar genes, only better ones. Why would that be though? GOD DID IT. The problem with all these arguments – in fact with pretty much every creationist argument – is that it ends up at “IT JUST IS, OK!!!” in the end. Sooner or later you run into the man behind the curtain and the pretence of rationality collapses. But it’s so tempting to drop a bit of science – even quite a sterly literalist site gets a little bit excited by post-flood nuclear radiation. The era of the patriarchs in these re-readings isn’t some golden age but a terrifying post-apocalyptic world, a sort of Mad Max with 300-year-olds in robes.