Sep 122018
 

Imagine: Ted is a gorilla not a teddy bear.

Imagine: Walberg is The Rock and not from Boston.

Leave the rest.

So: these life-long friends have a special bond but suddenly fall on rough times and can’t get along. At. All. Eventually though, they work it out. Yeah, they’re rude to each other, vulgar even, but that’s how guys are together when they’re buds and need to say “I love you” but can’t. And before the credits, Walberg—I mean The Rock—gets the girl!

In this way the film ends: two buds and a babe. Happily ever after.

 September 12, 2018  Movie Logs Tagged with:
Sep 122018
 

This movie is so much better than Prometheus, and, as my brother said to me over the summer, it makes that earlier movie appear better in retrospect than it was at the time. This is fairly hesitant praise though and begs the question, what’s the problem with these new Alien movies? My thought is that they suffer from real confusion about their subject and their narrative obligations.

The most obvious of these obligations is that Aliens movies are about the xenomorph chasing humans in a labyrinth. The first two films and the director’s cut of the third stick to this subject and excel by offering variations on it. The second increases the numbers of monsters and people. The third explores the perversity which leads some people to empathize with a monster. The three later films, however, all stumble in their attempt to vary or enlarge that basic principle.

Alien Resurrection is, in a sense, the most confused and the most honest about its problems. Its representation of the xenomorphs approaches parody, which I read as an implicit, perhaps unknowing acknowledgement of the limits of the series’s basic monsters-in-a-maze premise. It gasps for air in an ultimately failed effort to develop story material from the veneration of Ripley and the ongoing ambivalence toward the inhuman android looming over each of the previous films.

Prometheus jettisons all of this in favor of origins and creation mythology. It aims to take a series based on a sci-fi revision of the dark house movie and turn it into “cinematic universe.” It is, in other words, what an Aliens movie looks like in the age of three (and counting) Spider-man reboots and The Avengers.

To the extent Alien: Covenant surpasses its predecessor—and it does—it surpasses it by overtly returning to the narrative touchstones of Alien and Aliens, repeating the iconic moments of those films as a narrative collage, as if these moments were established paroles in a generic discours. Ultimately though, I don’t think the film cares much about these moments or even its xenomorphs. The face huggers and chest-bursting and the slobbering, metallic beasts are more-or-less instances of the film pandering. What seems genuinely to interest the film but what it is too timid to embrace as its subject are the dangers posed by an uncanny and out-of-control synthetic intelligence, a motif found in every Aliens film since the first but that here seems to beg to be exploited as primary material.

It seems clear to me that in Covenant the true threat, the true parasite, is artificial intelligence lodged in an android body. This threat is a legitimate source of felt horror in our contemporary moment. The Aliens movies offer a vehicle for representing and exploiting it. But this latest film doesn’t do so, choosing instead to place its narrative chips on new stagings of familiar scares.

So as the credits roll, I feel relief. Finally, a real Aliens movie. Yet I also feel genuine disappointment because in this film, the true monster only shows—what?… itself?… himself?… the uncertain status of the artificial is part of its monstrosity, and it is this monstrous anti-humanity that seduces and captivates. Yet it reveals itself in only two or three scenes. So I walk away from the movie wishing that it had been different than it was and better.

 September 12, 2018  Movie Logs Tagged with: , ,
Sep 052018
 

And as a follow-up to my last post, my wild guess is that this op-ed was written by a Pence proxy and announces to the few republicans needed to support impeachment that there is a safety-net in place, that the back-up team is ready, and that they can act to save the party.

Et tu, Mike?

If this were a cheap novel, that’s how I’d write it.

 September 5, 2018  Reflections Tagged with:
Sep 052018
 

The New York Times has just posted an anonymous editorial by an “senior official” inside the White House claiming to be part of a “resistance” that is working to save the country from Trump.

Some thoughts.

This “insider”—who could be anyone from Mike Pence on down—tells us nothing new really. Yes Trump is incompetent. Yes the White House is toxic and chaotic. But that really isn’t news to anyone who’s been paying attention. Neither is this whistle-blowing. Trump is surrounded by people as unprincipled as he is. Some are making moves to save themselves where the rest of us can see. But this isn’t rats jumping ship. At best, it’s one rat checking to see if they can make some space for themselves and some friends somewhere under the seat of a life-raft. Not for now. For later. And just in case they need it.

To which I say: it takes quite a trick to come off as a cheaper and more cynical than Trump and his still-loyal toadies, but this writer manages it.

Whoever wrote this is a coward in the service of a full-on criminal-become-president and they are attempting to rewrite that service as something principled and heroic. I don’t actually know how to respond to something so base. I mostly feel contempt because if what this writer states is true—and we’ve more or less known that it is for awhile now— and if they do care about the country then the only ethical, moral, reasonable or honorable thing to do would be to go to Congress, to testify on the record under oath and to try to help fix the problem.

That’s not what this person does though. Instead, they continue to work for Trump’s administration, they speak out but only anonymously in order to protect their job, and they do this for the most craven reason imaginable.

As they write:

Don’t get me wrong. There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture: effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.

But these successes have come despite — not because of — the president’s leadership style, which is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective.

“I Am a Part of the Resistance”

Which means, once unpacked and translated:

Even though this entire piece is written to say that Trump is a danger to the U.S., to the world, and to the very ideals of enlightened democracy and even though we (i.e. “the resistance”…but not the leftist resistance, eww) must thwart Trump’s impulses and instincts at every turn, and  even though we want you to admire us for doing so, we are staying on as tools, and we are hiding behind anonymity because Trump’s ongoing shit-show has given us cover to effectively implement our own extremist partisan agenda. We’ve largely dismantled the EPA and clean energy initiatives. We’ve hobbled health care. We’ve stolen and transformed the Supreme Court. We’ve served up huge tax cuts to our donors and future employers, and we’ve done all of this while acting tough and pretending to be super patriotic as we used the money for grandma’s social security checks to buy more guns. In other words, despite what you’ve heard in all the negative coverage—which 50% of the time we are totally okay with, because “fake news”—this administration is a huge success, HUGE, and we’re standing behind it everywhere except in this op-ed. And yes, we’re continuing to cross things off our backers’ bucket lists as fast as we can. So “Go Team!”

But back to my point, obviously Trump is very mean and very bad, and like you we’re all focused ONLY ON THAT even to the point of stealing a paper from his desk once. You’re welcome. And we want you to know that when we’re not using Trump as cover for doing everything we’ve dreamed of doing for years but couldn’t, we are also definitely resisting him, reigning him in and saving you—and the world—from him. (Because he’s such an idiot, right? I know. Tell me about it! And we have to live with him EVERY DAY! Can you imagine?)

And that is why we’re writing: to let you know the good work we’re doing so that when he’s gone and there’s no more cover and we all have to stand up and be counted either as cronies or as part of the resistance, we can be counted as part of the resistance. And then we want to shuffle off into Crony Valhalla as members of Pence’s campaign team or maybe as consultants for Big Oil or Big Coal or Big Pharma or maybe even as a commentator on a cable news show where we will provide “balance” by offering hack partisan “insight” in order to make the media “fair.” When we do one or all of these things, we hope that you will remember our heroic struggle on your behalf and be grateful.

My takeaway:

Trump is to the current crisis like HIV is to AIDS. He’s the disease, but not what kills you. It’s the cancers and the parasites—like whoever wrote this op-ed, and like the people who will glory in it as proof that the White House is rotten and stop there, and like those who will take comfort that there are “good people” inside the administration fighting the good fight (praise be Jesus for using even the wicked!)—it’s these cancers and parasites that are killing a country made weak and vulnerable by Trump’s presidency.

I’m angry.

 September 5, 2018  Reflections Tagged with: