Cafe Coca and Snake Eyes

Cafe Coca from De-Phazz (YouTube) samples some movie lines at about the 2:00 mark:

And in the end we’ll meet in one of the seven circles.
And I’ll be there for not doing what I could to help you.
And you’ll be there for doing what you could to stop me.
You’ll blow my brains out.

It always stuck with me, and after some searching it appears to come from a 1993 movie called “Dangerous Game” or “Snake Eyes.” Google revealed it from Subzin.

The Best Review Of “Let Me In” That I’ve Seen

Recently, my parents found an old dog that had been abandoned.  He stunk.  We needed to bathe him, and he wasn’t keen on the idea.  It might seem mean to hold him down and spray him with a hose and soap with all his whining and complaining and whelping.  It would seem to the dog like he was being abused, and would sound like he was being abused.  But if we don’t clean the dog, no one is going to take him in.  It is a loving action to wash the dog.  Whereas if we let him go on stinking, it will be much happier, and will surely die of starvation in a matter of weeks.  That isn’t loving.

This is also a concept largely missing in modern morality.  Evil can wear kindness, and good can wear cruelty — God was once praised as “terrifying”.  Don’t be fooled by appearances, but intention.  Love looks to better the other, while true hatred looks to please the other so as to use them for one’s own wishes.

Go read the review to see why I picked that particular excerpt. Via the Wood between Worlds: Let Me In: the anti-Twilight.

Kubrick’s comments regarding ‘A Clockwork Orange’

The violence in the story has to be given sufficient dramatic weight so that the moral dilemma it poses can be seen in the right context. It is absolutely essential that Alex is seen to be guilty of a terrible violence against society, so that when he is eventually transformed by the State into a harmless zombie you can reach a meaningful conclusion about the relative rights and wrongs. If we did not see Alex first as a brutal and merciless thug it would be too easy to agree that the State is involved in a worse evil in depriving him of his freedom to choose between good and evil. It must be clear that it is wrong to turn even unforgivably vicious criminals into vegetables, otherwise the story would fall into the same logical trap as did the old, anti-lynching Hollywood westerns which always nullified their theme by lynching an innocent person. Of course no one will disagree that you shouldn’t lynch an innocent person — but will they agree that it’s just as bad to lynch a guilty person, perhaps even someone guilty of a horrible crime? And so it is with conditioning Alex.

Films and TV are also convenient whipping boys for politicians because they allow them to look away from the social and economic causes of crime, about which they are either unwilling or unable to do anything.

Q: Alex loves rape and Beethoven: what do you think that implies?

A: I think this suggests the failure of culture to have any morally refining effect on society. Hitler loved good music and many top Nazis were cultured and sophisticated men but it didn’t do them, or anyone else, much good.

Q: In your films, you seem to be critical of all political factions. Would you define yourself as a pessimist or anarchist?

A: I am certainly not an anarchist, and I don’t think of myself as a pessimist. I believe very strongly in parliamentary democracy, and I am of the opinion that the power and authority of the State should be optimized and exercized only to the extent that is required to keep things civilized. History has shown us what happens when you try to make society too civilized, or do too good a job of eliminating undesirable elements. It also shows the tragic fallacy in the belief that the destruction of democratic institutions will cause better ones to arise in their place.

Certainly one of the most challenging and difficult social problems we face today is, how can the State maintain the necessary degree of control over society without becoming repressive, and how can it achieve this in the face of an increasingly impatient electorate who are beginning to regard legal and political solutions as too slow? The State sees the spectre looming ahead of terrorism and anarchy, and this increases the risk of its over-reaction and a reduction in our freedom. As with everything else in life, it is a matter of groping for the right balance, and a certain amount of luck.

The Kubrick Site: Kubrick’s comments regarding ‘A Clockwork Orange’.

Star Wars is dead

Disney used to be a wonderful organization itself.  Now it is the evil vampire squid of the entertainment world, mindlessly devouring and excreting out the stinking remnants of one entertainment franchise after another.  It was never going to happen, but imagine how much creativity could have been unleashed if George Lucas had released Star Wars under the LGPL.  Instead, we’re going to get gay Ewoks singing musical numbers and Hispanic princesses wielding lightsabers and going on intergalactic voyages with sparkly alien vampires where they defeat the evil Ritt Momney and Pand Raul in the process of learning the important lesson that the ultimate truth in life is to be tolerant of others who are different… unless they are Republicans.

via Vox Popoli: Star Wars is dead.

The Real Hero of “The Princess Bride” Is Inigo, Not Westley

Almost everyone who knows me has had to suffer through me talking about Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. The short version: all hero stories share common elements, character types, and motifs; these elements are present in mythology, religion, and in movies today.

For example, have you ever noticed in cinematic hero stories that it’s always “two guys and a girl”? Harry, Ron, and Hermione; Luke, Han, and Leia; Neo, Morpheus, and Trinity; hell: Bo, Luke, and Daisy. There’s usually an “old man as mentor”: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Professor Dumbledore, Uncle Ben. There is the death of a father. There is a gift of magical assistance. And so on, and so on.

I’ve been wondering for a long time now how “The Princess Bride” fits into the Campbell analysis. I have recently realized that the real hero of “The Princess Bride” is not Westley; it is, in fact, Inigo Montoya.

To illustrate, let’s compare the characters of “Star Wars” to those of “The Princess Bride”:

Character Type              Star Wars       Princess Bride
--------------------------  --------------  --------------
The Pirate                  Han             Westley
The Swordsman               Luke            Inigo
The Girl                    Leia            Buttercup
The main villain            Darth Vader     Count Rugen
His overseer                The Emperor     Humperdinck
Whose father gets killed?   Luke's          Inigo's
Who does the killing?       Darth Vader     Count Rugen
Who avenges his father?     Luke            Inigo
Who gets the girl?          Han             Westley

The one whose father is killed, learns swordplay, seeks out his father’s murderer, and confronts him as part of a final attack: that is the hero. That means Luke/Inigo are the heroes, and Han/Westley are the pirate characters who get the girl in the end. Westley is central to the plot, and the main story is about Westley and Buttercup, but Westley is not the hero; Inigo is.

Here’s another fun bit: for the final attack, it is the pirate who plans it, but it is the swordsman who must confront the villain.

Plot Element                Star Wars       Princess Bride
--------------------------  --------------  --------------
The target                  Death Star 2    The castle
Attack planned by           Han Solo        Westley
Villain killed by           Luke            Inigo

Once again, the hero appears to be Inigo, not Westley.

I know, it’s heresy. But still.

The Economics of Death Star Planet Destruction

For the Empire to actually exist as an institution, it needs to have the mechanisms in place to exist – namely, donks like Queen Amidala and Senator Jar Jar Binks who basically just sit around and handle boring government work. And you also need people everywhere. Like, if the Emperor controls everything, he needs to make sure every Speeder Registry office in every settlement on Tattooine has somebody working the counter except during major Imperial holidays. And he needs to pay them something (they can’t all just be clone slaves – that’s clearly not how the Empire works). If you don’t pay your people, they tend to first, be lazy, second, take bribes and be likely to betray you, and third, leave their posts or actively conspire against you.

To maintain order, the Emperor would generally need a MASSIVE, MASSIVE bureaucracy. The Old Republic built up a serviceable one over thousands of years, but that took a lot of time, money and effort, and in the end it was bloated, ineffective, and ultimately subverted against the Old Republic.

The more you spend on bureaucracy, the less control you have directly over your Empire. The less you spend on bureaucracy, the more you have to tighten your grip, and the more star systems slip through your fingers.

So, the Emperor and Tarkin focus on making one really huge, high-impact investment: The Death Star.

via Think Tank: The Economics of Death Star Planet Destruction » Print | Overthinking It.

Pixar’s “Up”

I saw this movie in the theater when it came out, and I found it a very powerful experience; let’s say my allergies acted up through the whole thing. On my rating scale, I give it the highest marks: “see it twice at full price”. I just watched it again this evening, via Netflix On-Demand, and I wasn’t quite as much of a wreck this time, so I could pay more attention to deeper aspects.

While “Up” is perfectly appropriate for children, I think emotionally mature adults will have a hard time watching it without benefit of kleenex. Hell, this is the most shamelessly manipulative film from Pixar yet. It’s a roller coaster: love and loss; innocence, and realizing the world is not what you expected; determination, and despair, and finding strength to go on anyway; and understanding at last what your promises really mean, and the sacrifices it will take to keep them.

There is one major theme that really stood out for me on this second viewing: that of personal growth, and of self-discovery, and of letting-go. (There’s a lot of M. Scott Peck’s “The Road Less Traveled” here.)

It is Carl’s childhood promise to Ellie to visit Paradise Valley that motivates him to leave his old world after her death, and go against his old safe nature to begin an adventure (“it’s out there!”) when thought he had nothing left to lose. But he *did* have something to lose, and he carries it around with him through the whole film. Carl’s house is symbolic of everything about his old life: all his possessions, all his memories, everything that remains of Ellie, and everything else that he loved. He wants to keep these things and transplant them to new surroundings, to keep everything inside without changes while still keeping his promise to go to the valley. He wants to go to a new place, but stay the same person; he doesn’t know yet that by the time you get to your destination, the journey will have changed you.

When he and Russell first touch down in the valley, he has his first brush with what will be required of him; as they teeter over a cliff, Carl literally screams into the abyss as he sees danger to him self (and to his sense of self). He carries all of his old life with him: it hangs over him, he lives in its shadow, he struggles to keep it; he won’t let it go, but in some ways it carries him too. It’s only when he has other people to take care of, when he sees where they are in their lives, when he makes promises to them like he made to Ellie to protect them and keep them safe, and when he fights to keep those promises in the face of despair and impossible circumstances, that he finds strength and talent and power he had never tapped before. His old life helps him through the new challenges, but when the time comes, he is finally ready to let it go — and *then* he gains new life, while at the same time honoring all the best of his old life.

And that’s just one aspect of the movie. It’s a great, great film … I just can’t watch it very often, you know, because of the allergies.

Avatar and America

But the more blatant lesson of Avatar is not that American imperialism is bad, but that in fact it’s necessary. Sure there are some bad Americans—the ones with tanks ready to mercilessly kill the Na’vi population, but Jake is set up as the real embodiment of the American spirit. He learns Na’vi fighting tactics better than the Na’vi themselves, he takes the King’s daughter for his own, he becomes the only Na’vi warrior in centuries to tame this wild dragon bird thing. Even in someone else’s society the American is the chosen one. He’s going to come in, lead your army, f**k your princesses, and just generally save the day for you. Got it? This is how we do it.

via In Which We Teach James Cameron A Thing Or Two – Home – This Recording.

James Lileks “Star Trek” Review

Kirk: I think I have the least to say about him, because he made the most of the opportunity to remold the character without changing it. If he didn’t seem Kirk-like to some, it’s a reminder of how much Shatner’s performance hinged – on – mannerisms, the abrupt! Gesture. There was one perfect moment when he nailed Shatner-as-Kirk, though: walking on to the bridge at the end of the movie. They must have loved that in the rushes, and it makes you wonder how much more he could have done. It was wise not to do more.

via » Blog Archive » Tuesday, May 12: the inevitable review.

I saw Star Trek this weekend, and while I have complaints, all is forgiven. The movie is a *whole* lot of fun. I rate it “full evening price”, and I expect to see it in the theater at least one more time at a matinee.