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  • 31184.1246

     

     

    Watchmen,

    considered unfilmable by its co-creator, Alan Moore's stance begs the eventual question: why let others control the sub-rights of your IP, dude? Sifting through the gate at 2 hours and 45 minutes, Watchmen is a bloated, straight-faced cheat, like all paranoid myths about humanity it strives to make the impossible possible and to have its cake and eat it too. Don't worry, more idiomatics are coming. This attempted elevation of conspiracy theory lays the blame on a mythical bunch of anti-heroes whose inner-struggles never get them any real sense of closure.  Superhero films are always about an identity crisis among the collective us and while they temporarily shift the responsibility to ubermen and uberwomen who take the world on their shoulders, eventually the weight overtakes the hero(es) and reality comes crashing down in an awareness mirror (what were we thinking handing the keys to a bunch of fictional weirdoes?). Watchmen posits that old idiom 'you cant live with them you cant live without them' to make their existence seem more possible.   The superhero idiom here is internally crafted with its own identifiable predecessor mythos, a backstory group of Minutemen, donning hilariously color-coded costumes replete with wireframe wings and trusses (and before their time sexual dynamics) that spawn the now defunct Watchmen, who are a legally disbanded totem of human deviltry as the film begins. Snyder suggests the dysfuntion of all families as he strives to integrate the daughter of a mythic rape, and the first murder that kicks off the plot is the death of this rapist in question, The Comedian, who practices a vain form of hate-sarcasm (these are all self-hating humans after all, retroactively, he takes particular aim at women). His death should actually put the power dynamic problems at bay, but instead, the film's conflicts only increase.  The entire affair is sullen and it stands midpoint between our history (how the cold war seemed to end), our memory (how the cold war evolved) and our present (we have never lived without a 'cold-war': we manufacture them as a culture). The film veers between alternate sentiment and downright nihilism: weirdly, its one central, messy symbol seems to be a distantly revered World Trade Center, the paradoxical survivor of a precursor terrorist event (Snyder elevates the towers by gunsighting them innumerable times, including an unironic view through a cemetery gate cap.)  This use of the twin towers proves Watchmen is more than a little behind the times, somebody beat them to the real event the comic book ends with. Film's that are building a mythology this size need symbolic systems all their own, whether it's a color pallette that evolves from a source or an image that repeats without the audience becoming too aware of it, Snyder though, leafs through his copy of Moore's and Gibbon's myth and comes up short. The happy face just doesn't cut it, it's a cheap lift from an already existing brand-name era.

    The film and comic share the almost exact same plot thus the film becomes cantankerous as it tries to ape every possible transgression and axiomatic meeting (imagine a movie made directly from Action comics early Superman panels). Visually he keeps the frames and characters unconsciously still, Dr. Manhattan FEELS paper-bound and rigid because Snyder cannot imagine anything visually too far beyond the novel (and his voice, he sounds like an altar boy, wouldn't the time-traveller sound like a time-traveller? Imagine the distortions that were possible), and in a way, this is an R-Rated Dick Tracy, each scene lovingly frozen in a time-warp, a reproduction of an era that must be aproximated.  As in 300, Snyder is uncareful to let the press know he uses the source as his storyboard, so we know he's just motioning between panels: and crazily, Dave Gibbons is essentially his unassuming co-director.  Storylines and plot mechanics that are acceptable or transcendant in comic terms become laughably idiotic in the film: the identity of the Watchmen remains 'secret' though they all appear near enough to the comedian's funeral (and near enough to the one uninvisible Watchman: the emotionless Dr. Manhattan) to be dead giveaways. Rorschach, the film's coaxial-soul, leaps across fences and doorways but instead unlocks the gate to the cemetery in question, making us realize that Snyder is only half in charge of the affair, he defers to the text instead of making a story that's reliably filmic. He's a supermarket planner posing as a director, the trucks arrive with a common freight, he's just arranging the aisles in a new way. The posings of characters remain resolutely unidimensional, The Comedian keeps his gruff sardonic presence, Rorschach, though now in possession of an animating fabric mask that defies logic, remains severe in his view of humanity, they're haters without souls or cleverly defined backstory. His mask and character were opportunities to play with the audience (what if everytime we cut to a different shot of the character the mask element was a different, still inkblot, testing the audience rather than catering to its craven desires for effects). When we get a peak at the backstories, nothing suprises us, and Snyder even blows these opportunities for awarenesses. When we see Rorschach's first murder (a grievous pedophile-murderer) he's already donning his morphing mask, despite the ingenuity the scene provides with spraying, blotting blood as an origin image. Rorschach's only ascendant moment is his chow-line headbanger: after burning a would be revenge seeker in prison, he looks at all the prisoners licking their lips to get a piece of him and he howls: I'm not in here with you, you're in here with me. It's the only moment his speech directly reflects his mask and of course, he's no longer wearing it. An earlier scene that could have been equally wild comes with a police psychologist who tries to test Rorschach with his own set of actual Rorschach inkblots. The scene is so inexpicably dunderheaded, it plays as if the psychologist has no idea who he's interviewing and Snyder uses it as the most mundane ironic interplay to force backstory sequences.   Snyder continuously robs the audience of any chance to feel what these superheroes evolve into or what they really fall from. There's no grace here, just inordinate, carefully plotted collapse. He makes no real visual, or story arcs to decipher why the Watchmen are uber, he treats them as a bunch of phoneys, and perhaps that is his point. Was it Moore's? Maybe the cohesion in Moore's book is an indictment of Charlton Comics' underplayed Randian ethics and here it's diffuse, unwilling to weave a thematic reason for this plot. In contrast look at Aronofsky's The Wrestler, Watchmen's complete opposite in the same sub-genre, a filmed-comic-book indictment of our present-day made heroic within interweaving signs and symbols of decay (Aronofsky uses suburban decay to greater effect than Snyder's urban) and it begins with a similar credit sequence: scored, stilled and mythic and the subtlest use of that comic font. Hilariously, Watchmen may be a victim of American excess that backfires on its own message.


    Visual motifs culled from other films that culled theirs from Watchmen's comic pages are regurgitated here ad infinitum with less panache or sense of play, Comedian's death-fall seems cheaply reproduced from Matrix Reloaded, the prison riot and Psychologist interview feels lifted out of Batman Begins, and of course, there is no real gender bounce happening, Moore is about stripping women of their roles and here, Snyder seems all too willing to comply with his regressiveness, unable even to satirize the silliness of watching a superhero rape a superheroine, he plays it straight and mean and later bounces Silk Spectre II between a time-dimesional, emotion-free Dr. Manhattan and an equally flaccid Night Owl II (Patrick Wilson who reprises his role from Little Children as a much lesser Clark Kent).  Somehow Snyder blows the ending by making the decider into a receder, Dr. Manhattan rethinks his mistrust of humans by the 'miracle' of Silk Spectre II's rape-origins and then is convinced by his former partner's slight-of-hand immolation of midtown Manhattan (a terror act much less psychic than 9-11 he takes the fall for: there is no suicide component), an act that warms the inevitably transforming cold war: heroism by remote control holocaust. The hilarious element is that Watchmen's ending is syrupy and sweet, as if the Manhattan Project (his name grows inexplicably into a true double-meaning) bomb ended the cold war, and out here in the real world, the actual 9-11 became a pretext for an entirely new warfare collapse, Snyder's message is to ignore the potential outcome in our new world order and candycoat a sentimental arc that is only really relevant in 1985. Snyder doesn't have the cojones to adjust the message to our slightly newer exchange rate of ideas.  And the character abuse: Dr. Manhattan, though labeled as hiding an emotional interior by Veidt, is revealed as more ambiguous than any of them. That's what is meant about the cake and eating it, each character is only as important as how they influence each scene, there is no actual emotional through-line that takes root. While reviewers can laud an opening sequence skillfully rendered aesthetically to Dylan's "Times they are a changing," they cannot critique its pointlessness, history is not character, nothing told to us from these sequences makes us understand the total collapse of these superheroes as a group, they simply fend for themselves in an increasingly paradoxical landscape, their choices are not thematic nor do they surround a central idea in flux, they're still just acting out Moore's tangents as betrayals. Centrally Watchmen is about a god who chooses not to be (Manhattan) and a man who wants to be one who isn't (Ozymandias), and in effect this history is throwaway . The film never shows us their consciousness through actions, only reactions to one another (in duplicity) or the serving of political agenda (the Vietcong's demise).  With knowledge and truth in interplay, cynicism ensures Rorschach will meet a mirror demise to himself (mirrored by his first cleaver-happy justice as killing) without us ever discovering what he means under that mask. The hero narrator intones from his afterlife and he may have reason for the disdain of humans, but he's one of the few people that dies onscreen at the hands of the monotonous, now alien, Dr. Manhattan, he didn't see that one coming.  One thing is clear, these heroes are the victims of humanity and not vice versa, each must devour pain and suffering like all humans and vapidly, they exercise it among themselves in archaically increasing ways until they fall prey to Veidt's terminal act of push button terrorism. Somehow Moore's paneled story kept this pain and sadness as an aura to explore rather than a filmic bat that beats it into your head. Snyder doesn't so much as film a graphic novel, he cheapens it by assuming the role of a dramaturg, blending and compressing scenery, amping the violence and design to give this era its due, the complexities here are merely plot based. Had he really wanted to make a movie, he would have taken their origins and told us who we really are under our costumes.

  • 31163.1005
    Ray Jackendoff is the heir to Chomsky and the evolution of his theories of universal grammar. By structuring grammar, syntax, semantic and morphology he claims he has a window into the neural structure "of language." It's a bit like saying we know the bones of the body by studying the planet's outerwear. Do the external tools expose the inner structure? My guess is logically no, there is a relationship but the outer doesn't decode the inner; but don't let that stop you from reading his seminal work. It has its riveting moments. Here in the west we seem to be primarily driven by our awareness of syntax, which is why our semantic use of language is distorted. Just listen to politicians bend words for deceptive purposes. Perhaps there is a better tangent to explore, like Piaget's take, the teaching of language as opposed to the learning (or acquisition). Crucially, the diagram below exposes a central flaw in Jackendoff's argument (the spatial nuances of languages are explored poorly much later in the book), the sentence explored below is one of highly abstract spatial systems and in his illustration, he uses a Penrose five-pointed star as a stand-in for what must be a highly abstract holographic neural shape. Can a corrosive tool like English be used to map the brain's symphony?

  • 31141.1555

    "It is our despair at the textural inadequacies of

    language that drives us to heighten the structural ones toward"

    From the back cover:

    "THE SUN HAS GROWN DEADLY...

    THE WORLD HAS GONE MAD, SOCIETY HAS

    PERISHED, SAVAGERY RULES

    OVER ALL. ALL THAT WAS KNOWN 

    IS OVER, ALL THAT WAS FAMILIAR IS

    STRANGE AND TERRIBLE. TODAY

    AND YESTERDAY COLLIDE WITH TOMORROW.

    IN THESE DYING DAYS OF EARTH, 
    A YOUNG DRIFTER ENTERS THE CITY"

     

    The book William Gibson wrote an introduction for and admitted he didn't understand. If Cormac McCarthyism has a counterpart in science-fiction, it is Dhalgren, the most absurdly accurate 'apocalypse' set in some form of earth, in a time-frame no one is exactly sure about. And hallucinations occur sometimes in words that no longer exist (you'll have to read it to see what I mean). It might be a work that outlives us and tells future generations what we really knew about the decay of knowledge and the oral histories that will travel along our children's, children's children. Memories barely of the beginings of the end: "the riot began with a murder, some say it was a plane that crashed. No one really knows. That was the time of fear." The hero is an amnesiac who is labelled "The Kid" and enters the soon to be mythic city of Bellona, only now its inhabitants live mostly in memories, and whatever fragments of life can be scraped by on - temporarily, since cities have no purpose except to store mass memories and here, there are few being made. Just living from cans, having sex, and fighting and sometimes group socialization. Oh, wait, it sounds like our present day cities, only without electricity, cars, running water... Maybe the memories will have meaning. The following chapter-heading paragraphs transition to third-person immediately afterwards.

    "2  It is not that I have no past. Rather, it continually fragments on the terrible and vivid ephemera of now. In the long country, cut with rain, somehow there is nowhere to begin. Loping and limping in the ruts, it would be easier not to think about what she did (was done to her, done to her, done), trying instead to reconstruct what it is at a distance. Oh, but it would not be so terrible had one calf not borne (if I'd look close, it would have been a chain of tiny wounds with moments of flesh between; I've done that myself with a swipe in a garden past a rose) that scratch.

    II   Here I am and am no I. The circle in all, this change changing in winteress, a dawn circle with an image of, the autumn change with a change of mist. Mistake two pictures, one and another. No. Only in seasons of shortlight, only on dead afternoons. I will not be sick again. I will not. You are here.

    ..How can I say that that is my prize possession? (They do not fade, neither those buildings or these.) Rather what we know as real is burned away at invisible heat. What we are concerned with is more insubstantial. I do not know. It is as simple as that. For the hundreth time, I do not know and cannot remember. I do not want to be sick again. I do not want to be sick."

     

  • 31141.1422

    This brilliant, too readable book's first three chapters should be required reading for every English speaker. It begins with a careful illumination of how metaphor suffuses our communication, from directions ("things are looking up") to qualities ("look on the bright side of things"). The balance dissects the deeper complexities in how language remains qualitatively abstract while delivering information we share. How and why these metaphors interact. The book is a meeting point between phenomenology and linguistics.

  • 31127.0649

    What is the next narrative? The path we follow from The Ramayna to Buddah to Gilgamesh to Prometheus to Osiris to The Odyssey to Jason to Jesus? How did its path blend with isolates like Hainuwele, The Popol Vuh and many others.  Is this transformation complete? And if not, how will these two ‘paths’ fully merge with our present day assimilations like The Space Trilogy, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, The Matrix, Avatar? Myth is not a tool for crystallizing technological progression, though it is endlessly employed for this purpose (Avatar flirts with this mythotech lineage, this past year alone myth was employed as a lure to these technofantasies: Inception and The Social Network). Myth is a story-based reflection of our hidden narrative, evolution, as complex as the DNA battle we emerge from as somehow victorious. What is the next iteration of the Monomyth?

     

  • 31117.1038

  • 31111.0715

  • 312307.1042

    Frame blow-ups selected by Kubrick for his illustrated screenplay to Full Metal Jacket, Knopf 1987

    Part one of this article is here.

    In a film where a stand-in for Kubrick, Joker, dials in the concept of duality, he shares the obvious, there are always two parts to FMJ, noticeably a beginning and ending. One mythic, timeless, the other mythless and referencing time (the photography). There are doubles, mirrors and inversions of many things on display, but they're threaded sub-liminal, just below our thresholds of comprehension.  These illustrate the interplay in our species's mad dash for projection. And inversions supply the nuances, focusing their goals at both endings: the fade to black happens twice. One has graduation marching followed by killing, the other killing followed by marching, with a chanted marching tune (in reverse to the instrumental Marine Hymn), The Mickey Mouse Theme. Like many things (action and gestures made from signs, symbols, metaphors, allegories, myths) scattered throughout the film, it's been predicted by a framing in a window with notebooks, consenting the blending to its spoken theme: visuals into words. Another notable movement: the unit's red and yellow flag accompanies them throughout Parris Island and reemerges in the finale into the darkness by being the only colors that illuminate them in the pitch black.

    The film builds its logic carefully, it internally dictates what Joker is experiencing in closed ways (the visuals and gestures) and in open ways (the dialogue, which is spoken mostly in metaphor - including the final march). Joker makes a specific series of choices, visually distributed throughout the film, including his teaching/learning. Few are localized in the dialogue, most are visual.  What he journeys to see etc. The moronic question and answer sessions at the gravesite are a brilliant contrast to Parris Island, it inverts Joker's Hartmann exchanges, themselves inversions of perceptions (follow closely: Hartmann's 'threatening' act to graduate his maggots is mostly scare tactic versus the soft-voiced Colonel's 'threatless' but nonetheless much more dangerous warning).  Though trained as snipers on open fields with towers they conquer in regulation time, the Marines emerge as targets of a variety of sniping games using lures and decoys (the wounded). Likewise Joker's killing of the sniper is the reverse equation of Pyle's suicide, though the inversions are many, the equations are substantial, same location of bullet, same music thread (there's the proof, like the Ligeti string equations in Shining and 2001). The sniper girl, like Pyle, like Whitman, like Oswald, are a morphing archetype, a noun crossing fluidly between war and peace. Embodied in a lineage by men, appearing, finally as girl and in any locale: Dallas, Austin, Hue. Kubrick's most oblique insertion ito the last act are the "Plaza" deaths of Eightball and Doc Jay (and finally Cowboy). During the exceptionally complex documentary-within-the-film sequence, Doc Jay does a dead-on impersonation for the camera of L.B.J. By killing him at the hands of a eurasian sniper girl, Kubrick restages Kennedy's Dealy Plaza death with an effigy. This president assasinated figuratively at the Tet Offensive. This is the most impressive burial of his, to fold America's most shocking assasination within the Vietnam conflict.  As death (the sniper, the mirrored dead V.C. 'guest of honor'), the lens (the hooker), the rifle all merge, we end with a woman shot by a rifle and executed by a gun; the duo that venture with paper and camera tag-team this murder similarly. Joker temporarily leaves the Marines (his rifle JAMMED) when he kills a sniper with a policeman's weapon. A gun. "This is for fighting, this is for fun" comes to life. And to boot, as a writer covering a war, he's just gained his first kill, and he can't even file it as a story, it's unreportable. His own story about the sniper must be externally false. Which is the same story as the article he's writing at the war sequence's beginning. "Joker where are the kills..." "didn't see 'em." The key paradox of the film, its ultimate joke is her murder is illegal under the rules of war. Joker "didn't see it." And the metaphysics, in its own inversion, the execution of the sniper is Joker's erasure of the Pyle suicide memory, that is the film's portal into itself. Even the similarities between Pyle and Animal Mother are another tangent altogether that leads back to the girl (whose visual identity is a part of the Kubrick canon). The marched ending helps gives it away, it's the reverse (and the reverse order) of the graduation, order-to-chaos, angles reversed, sunlit to firelit. Once he's reversed the two endings, Kubrick then transfers the final nights, and the nights' qualities blending from part one's own endpoint into the unknown, moonlit to moonless (only the fire illuminates them, only the moon illuminates Pyle). Fading to black from two distinct nights, solidifying the meaning of the end title - "Paint it Black" has happened twice. Other cues in the film operate just as substantially (see caption below).

    Below, we got the story, foreground technology and background myth.

     

    Above and below, part two of FMJ's bookends: girl photographed and a girl executed, the inversion/equation is obvious. Both occur in plazas, both in countries' wartimes, one in warzone one outside. The sniper's game more parallels with the Nancy Sinatra song than the streetwalkers. Look at Kubrick's final freeze-frame above, the 'weapon' floating, like the 2001 bone/Shuttle, into what was Rafterman's final SLR framing before the camera's stealing.

     

    Part 3 of this article is here.

  • 312297.0922

    Although upper education has existed for millenia, its organization into a clerical then secular form took place with style in Europe, with 12th Century medieval beginnings in Italy then Paris, followed by Oxford. Below is a time-colored map to explain the growth and reach of the college/university in Europe and a layout of Paris's Latin Quarter, ostensibly the first 'campus' with numerous colleges making up a total collective (each number on that map represents a college). Later universities collect these disparate ideas begun in the Latin Quarter and assemble 'pure' universities instead.

  • 312296.0809

    Along with his siege of the desert city of Gaza, Alexander's sacking of island fortress city Tyre was proof he tackled the impossible using the curiosity of an adventurous inventor. Almost a half-mile offshore, Tyre was a strategic necessity in Alexander's conquest since it was the strongest port in Phoenicia, its fleet patrolled the nexus of all trade emanating from the east, and the city held a key temple to his godhead mirror of Heracles. With his entreaties rejected, Alexander commisioned a mole, a land-bridge, made of stones pulled from a previous, ashore version of the city ('Old Tyre') to connect mainland to island. Though its construction was attacked several times, Alexander entered Trye within months and sacked its citizens. The mole proved its value: it created a natural collection point for sand and today, the Alexander's isthmus is the structure a city has been built upon. Built July 331 B.C. During the siege, Alexander received from his enemy Darius an offering of peace promising him half of the Persian empire. Hiding the offer from his closest generals who would have questioned the sanity of rejecting such an offer, Alexander sent in reply a scathing letter only he could properly back-up:

    Your ancestors invaded Macedon and the rest of Greece and did us harm although we had not done you any previous injury. I have been appointed commander-in-chief of the Greeks and it is with the aim of punishing the Persians that I have crossed into Asia, since you are the aggressors. You gave support to the people of Perinthus, who had done to the Greeks about me, to push them to war against me, and sent money to the Spartans and some other Greeks, which none of the other cities would accept apart from the Spartans. Your envoys corrupted my friends and sought to destroy the peace, which I established among the Greeks.


    I therefore led an expedition against you, and you started the quarrel. But now I have defeated in battle first your generals and satraps, and now you in person and your army, and by the grace of the gods I control the country. All those who fought on your side and did not die in battle but came over to me, I hold myself responsible for them; they are not on my side under duress but are taking part in the expedition of their own free will. Approach me therefore as the lord of all Asia. If you are afraid of suffering harm at my hands by coming in person, send some of your friends to receive proper assurances. Come to me to ask and receive your mother, your wife, your children and anything else you wish. Whatever you can persuade me to give shall be yours.


    In future whenever you communicate with me, send to me as Lord of Asia; do not write to me as an equal, but state your demands to the master of all your possessions. If not, I shall deal with you as a wrongdoer. If you wish to lay claim to the title of king, then stand your ground and fight for it; do not take to flight, as I shall pursue you wherever you may be.