Saturday, December 08, 2018

Yours, Enemy Mine, and Ours

Enemy Mine tells the heartwarming story of how Dennis Quaid overcomes space racism in either the not-too-distant or incredibly distant future. I'm not sure exactly, and the film isn't too big on specifics of chronology. The movie is truly an artifact of its time, that time being the 1980s. In fact, if one were to describe the genre of Enemy Mine, it would be "The 1980s", with "drama," and "science fiction" close second- and third-place finishers.  It was the kind of one-shot, high-concept sci-fi story that wouldn't get made today without studio interference insisting on a shared universe or a movie trilogy or decent editing.

I'm not going to argue that Enemy Mine is some masterwork of cinema, though. I love this film dearly, but by god, there are a lot of elements in terms of editing, writing, and special effects that are either glaringly, objectively bad, or have not aged well at all. Especially considering that the director, Wolfgang Petersen, had just come off of a career high with the critically acclaimed submarine war drama Das Boot, something just doesn't add up. I mean, this is the guy who is also known for other big budget films like Air Force One and Troy that were well-made films.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Under the Gunn: Disney and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Decision

By now, you've most likely heard the tragic tale of the firing of James Gunn as Disney decided to go in a different direction with the director of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3. It's a tale as old as time: man begins his film career with low-budget, ultra-violent films and develops fan following, that same man makes some off-colour jokes on Twitter involving paedophilia, years later that man is hired by a giant megacorporation to direct a movie starring a lesser-known pantheon of comic book characters that fits into a larger cinematic universe, after making that megacorporation a shitload of money an angry, belligerent Internet troll digs up those old jokes, the megacorporation - who was already well aware of those jokes - summarily fires that director to get out ahead of a controversy that doesn't even exist. Classic.

What should have been a mere blip in the cultural radar turned into a full-on, foot-long shit sandwich with all the fixings. This whole crazy ride is extremely troubling for several reasons. Not only did a global corporation very publicly summarily dismiss somebody without any pretense of due process or the slightest evidence of forethought or careful consideration, they did it based on off colour remarks he made in his own free time in his private life. Even worse, Disney's decision to fire James Gunn seems to have been entirely based on the campaign of a well-known and admitted shit-disturbing troll who set out with the express purpose to specifically get Mr. Gunn fired, and shows no demonstrable proof that he actually believes that the director's jokes about rape or paedophelia were indicative of any actual real-world wrong-doing.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

I Feel Like a Million Dollars, But Nobody's Picked up the Tab Yet... Amy Schumer is Better than Hitler, and So Can You

The Internet has proven to be a revolutionary force, not just in terms of communication on a global scale, but in terms of how it has impacted society as a whole. And while it has also made clear that very rarely can any significant cross-section of people agree on anything, even pizza toppings (I will never understand the hate for pineapple), there are a few general, truths (nearly) universally agreed upon that the Internet has illuminated:

1) We like watching people have sex. A lot.
2) Everybody is literally worse than Hitler.
3) People really seem to hate Amy Schumer.

Honestly, that last one never made a lot of sense to me. It always seemed that Amy Schumer, for whatever reason, has attracted a disproportionate amount of vitriol from the usual gang of (online) idiots. The only verifiable controversy that ever seemed to justify any level of ire was accusations of ripping off some jokes from other comedians, which seemed to fizzle out fairly quickly. The only thing that came to mind was that some of the misogyny that has somehow found a fertile environment in which to fester in the nether regions of the Internet had reared its ugly head, and Schumer was a woman working to be successful in a field traditionally dominated by men and was famous enough to draw the attention of adoring fans and unprincipled assholes alike. Upon further consideration of all of the plethora of evidence available from that self-same Internet, it then occurred to me that all of the vitriol directed at Amy Schumer wasn't because she was a woman and famous or a woman and a trailblazer.

It was simply because she was a woman.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Star Wars Episode III: The Sith, The Clones, and the Jedi

“A Kansas City Shuffle is when everybody looks right, you go left.” – Mr. Goodkat, Lucky Number Sleven

I remember going to the theatre to see Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith for the first time, and kind of being blown away by the opening sequence. I couldn’t shake the feeling that George Lucas had completely pulled the rug out from under the audience in the best of ways. As Lucas himself has pointed out, Star Wars and its subsequent sequels and prequels have always been essentially modern-day fairy tales with the requisite binary morality. Revenge of the Sith still falls along this spectrum, but if all of the previous Star Wars films were the sanitized Disney versions, then Revenge of the Sith is straight up, motherfucking Brothers Grimm. Revenge of the Sith is the version of Cinderella where her stepsisters cut off their own toes in order to have their feet fit the glass slipper only to be found out due to the copious amounts of blood easily visible in transparent footwear.

After two prequels worth of the typical Star Wars fare, Revenge of the Sith takes a dark turn early on that I don’t think a lot of people expected despite knowing where the story had to go. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back is still hands down today the highest regarded film out of the saga among nearly any group of fans that you ask and is touted as being dark, but I think that Revenge of the Sith takes the mantle for the darkest entry any day of the week. The moment that indicated that this was going to be a different kind of Star Wars was the confrontation between Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) and Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) that ended in Anakin not just dismembering the good Count by cutting off both of his hands but then by brutally decapitating him once he is subdued and no longer a threat. Watching Dooku’s head bounce away like a tennis ball being chased by your pet nexu signalled a turning point in both the film and the series. In a film series that never shied away from casual dismemberment, there is something a lot more sinister here, something that “Oh shit” just doesn’t quite cover.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Life, The Universe, and Stephen Hawking

On March 14, 2018, the world witnessed the passing of Stephen Hawking, world-renowned (dare I say legendary) physicist and one of the truly greatest minds of this or any other time. To say Professor Hawking was a significant contributor to human progress is a bit of an understatement; his name is now mentioned in the same breath as Newton and Einstein as one of a very select group of individuals who has so greatly increased humanity's understanding of our universe that it seems unfathomable to the average person. There are very few people - living or dead - of whom it can be said that it was an honour to simply inhabit this tiny, blue orb hurtling through space into the unknown at the same time that they did. Stephen Hawking was one of those few.

Over the years, Stephen Hawking reached an iconic status, not just for his groundbreaking work in physics and cosmology, but also for his ambition and his ability to take his complex theories and make them accessible for a broader audience outside of academia, perhaps most notable with his most well-known work, A Brief History of Time.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

ReBoot: The Guardian Code. ReBoot's... Reboot Reimagined

ReBoot was an animated show that aired in the mid- to late- '90s that had the distinction of being a) the first fully CGI animated show and b) Canadian. Not only was it groundbreaking technologically, it was also made in the best country in the world (of course, as a Canadian, I may be slightly biased.) It expanded quite a bit narratively in later seasons, but the basic premise was simple: a bunch of digital sentient beings living in the city of Mainframe were protected by a Guardian named Bob and his companions Enzo and Dot Matrix from a multitude of threats in the form of anthropomorphized computer viruses like Megabyte and Hexadecimal as well as games being played by the user, which manifested as giant glowing cubes of energy that would engulf and endanger huge swaths of the digital city and its inhabitants.

In short, it was sheer awesomeness.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Sitting on the Dock of the Baywatch, Watching a Film Float Away

As I was watching the 2017 cinematic reimagining of the staple '90s TV show Baywatch, one question kept popping into my head: Who was this made for? It wasn't a rhetorical question either. I genuinely couldn't fathom who the intended audience of this movie was. I wasn't a huge fan of the original Baywatch TV show, though I was familiar with it insofar as many young men of my generation were familiar with it as ready source of scantily clad women running in slow motion directly off the screen and into the hearts and spank banks of millions. I don't know if you could have beeen a heterosexual boy or teen in the '90s and not have Pamela Anderson be a part of your sexual awakening.

The point in danger of getting lost is that I am by no means an expert on the plot lines, characters, or themes of individual episodes. All I am left with is an overall impression of the show in general and a grudging respect for David Hasselhoff's impressive chest hair. And despite the fact that the original Baywatch TV show seemed like an excuse to show off some fit dudes and chicks in their bathing suits wrapped up in melodrama, it all seemed to be earnest in its intent. There was no satire or winking at the audience; there was no need for any of that. There was no deeper or secret meaning or commentary or metanarrative. Everything that Baywatch wanted to say was out there, barely contained and bouncing around in a bright red bathing suit.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Somewhere Over the Deepwater Horizon... Unnatural Disasters...In Search of a Villain

I'm always kind of leery about movie based on modern historical events, i.e., anything that's happened within decade or so of the movie being made about it. I think it's difficult to get the perspective needed to truly treat the subject matter in as dispassionate and objective a manner as possible, which is the goal - stated or implied - in any kind of based-on-a-true-story movie. Unless you're someone like Oliver Stone, whose movies like JFK are actually best classified as historical fan fiction, as they borrow the names of actual people, but in no way attempt to represent actual events in any effort to achieve any semblance of verisimilitude (much to the protestations of Stone himself). Don't get me wrong: I love JFK (the movie). I think it's scarier than most horror movies (something about conspiracies, when done well, creeps me the fuck out), but it's also mostly based entirely on the mad howlings of conspiracy theorists, and its wild claims are easily debunked with the combination of a few minutes of your time and a working Internet connection.

Despite my misgivings and the temporal proximity between its subject matter and its development, I was genuinely surprised at how much I enjoyed Deepwater Horizon. The film covers the immediate aftermath of the disastrous explosion and resulting catastrophic oil spill of the titular drilling platform, depicting how the workers on the oil rig were able to survive those harrowing first hours until they were able to be rescued. It's a surprisingly apolitical depiction of the worst ecological disaster in recent memory, choosing - quite correctly if somewhat unsatisfactorily - to focus on the human cost and toll instead of taking the all too easy approach of vilifying BP, the oil company in charge of the site and ultimately held responsible for the horrific events of that fateful day, including the deaths of eleven people.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

2017, A Year in Review: Is that a New Year in Your Pocket, Or Are You Just Happy to See Me

Of all the years that have ever been, 2017 was certainly one of them. Not to sell 2017 short. Well, kinda, I guess. It was relatively harmless, and not particularly earth-shattering. I suppose that's the kind of banal sort of back-handed platitude that's as meaningless as it is uninspiring, but it has the benefit of being true. Personally speaking, 2017 represented a slight upward trend; as for the international sociopolitical trend, well, I will expound on that at another time, but needless to say our neighbours to the south in the grand old US of A seem to have gone off the rails a bit.

Maybe it's the slow grind towards middle age, but as the years go by, I can't help but feel a little bit of Groundhog Day syndrome, where it feels like I'm stuck living the same year over and over again to a certain extent. I suppose 2017 is what I might term a baseline year, in that nothing truly extraordinary was added to my own personal history, but it is necessary to help establish a point of reference against which to weigh future experiences.

So once again, I will raise the metaphorical glass and tip the metaphorical hat to a year gone by. 2017 did some heavy lifting; she deserves her retirement.