After wandering in the desert of adaptation, The Wachiowskis finally return to their self-designed micro/macrocosmic battles; the Earth's Chicago stands tall as the simula CITY did circa 1999 (aka The Matrix) whose macro was a dessicated, darkened wasteland where things moved mechanically only in a city made solely from machines. Here live the rulers of humans of CITY, and lo, they ruled as well, indirectly, over the escapees in ZION. "There" actually came out in 1999. "Here" in 2015 the macro is a galaxy sized madhouse where all embedded earthly conflicts between ownership, class and animal kingdom are magnified and spliced genetically into a swampland of data and potential plastic toy figurines. It is 'out there' the rulers of Earthly humans live, and like the blank citizens of The Matrix, we too live unaware of their rulership. Essentially the same dark satire of The Matrix that veers into kinetic comedy. The mechanics of Lucas's prequel trilogy blended unevenly into The Matrix's liberation theology from unseen imprisonment. When it works it's great (scenes minus dialogue), think of the looney Fletcher Hanks photographically under more stable hands. Fights, aerial and zero-g battles are top-notch, the battles feel effortless and swift. That first dogfight above Chicago is stellar to its end, an 8 minute battle is gone in seconds. And moments of the space arcadia work, but the shifts in tone are out of tune. We know these siblings can hack it, but the light tone they've embedded since Speed Racer doesn't fit. We know how dark it is out there: The reveal of Jupiter's eye as an industrial smokescreen for the Abrasax empire's chokehold on life-giving serum is a typical moment underplayed, left strangely unnoticed by the editing. There's a moment that should be bringing the paradox home, relatively, instead it's merely a spot that Channing Tatum's Cain Wise has to go to "get her." When it doesn't (work) - Marxist theory meets pulp comic - it turns into a pummeling, chuffing out of control train that's managed (somehow) to tie you to the tracks before it runs you over. The problems lie in the constraints (both for the audience and the onscreen Earthlings). The Matrix was perfectly imagined with ingenious limitations in mind (obviously: a simula starring dreaming humans that still must walk and drive to work), Jupiter stretches the opposite tack, where anything goes and it goes overboard. Eye popping 'scapes, feats of physicality that defy sanity, feats of tone that defy deliverability. And no one seems to be able to explain why Earth is so valuable, why the universe's queen spends a day in bureaucratic hold-ups, and why protocol and deception can't beat pure and simple assasination. The Wachiowskis should be the first to know that going all the way isn't at the root of entertainment. Spectacle needs a certain amount of withholding to pop. Otherwise it fizzes.
Only on Earth could you see a film like this. Physically legible only in IMAX.
Edward Snowden is revealed as the leaker of the N.S.A.'s convulsive and monumental data collection capabilities. Hearing him wax about Web 1.0 buys the whole enchilada in the gambit. Listening into a brief analytical speech about how metadata is spawned between the linking of your transportation ticketing to your credit/debit card gives everyone a ground level view into the software's mortar. Our 'freedom' vs. what's never really mentioned: an attempt to built an A.I. for oraculation and prediction purposes, dominantly in the service of a vast military network. One that attempts to head off minute miltary events, while far greater populations die from disease, starvation, you name it. Billions if not trillions spent to create the ultimate totalitarian listening service inside a democracy. And that leads to a basic question: can governments really continue to grow if they're paradoxical Januses? Statistically, this is the real prequel Terminator film (it fits the Matrix too), and Snowden is the first John Connor/Neo archetype, instead here he's fighting a ghost of a machine that can't materialize as yet, it its place is The State. He can live in redoubt, somewhat safe from the drone capabilities of U.S. forces. He's deadly serious, possessing a will to match world leaders. The direction is restrained. A must see.
Does OTM need it's own OTM? Hadn't listened to it for a while, but there's an unusual amount of mythologizing these days happening on npr's observational window to the media. It isn't so much a question of bias, rather an agreement with the mythology of the outcome.
SNOWDEN/POITRAS: A segment where satire is played straight.
OTM seems to assert Snowden is sainted; whether the piece underlines it without any contrasting views, or knowingly relies on the perspective, both pre-crucifixion pictures are offered by Poitras (who can't watch dailies and lets her editor make selects) and her erstwhile critic George Packer, who almost lampoons himself describing Snowden's skin tone and hotel room. Whether or not Snowden's contribution to information is ethical or transformative is not the issue at hand. By adding heavy emotive meaning to the event, the show forces a sentimental mood to the exchange between whistleblower and reporter. And we're tied to it by the verbal description that lingers from Packer (the movie doesn't have to be seen to get what Poitras is going for, it's a puff piece). The segment isn't the cold, methodological job Frontline does (mentioned in the piece), who take their time observing participants. Here are personal terms, personal views, where archetypes overtake reality; the desire for myth prevails yet the photographic proof being discussed convinces us it's too real. Why mythologize? The word sacrifice gets aimed more than once at Snowden, and to what end? His 'suffering' creates a legible persona, one OTM, Poitras, Packer believe an audience can relate to in that role.
Later in the same show, the musings of media theorist McLuhan are telegraphed. Here, modern technophilia asserts dogmatic control over the wordings of Marshall McLuhan, whose prophetic rants came true in more than a few respects. These days McLuhan is being reedited, reassigned for other purposes in the new IT economy. For one thing, McLuhan's predicting of text's extinction has been labeled mistaken by the sons of the PC-age, (here it's claimed that text is a rising medium in the age of the smartphone) yet this segment uncritically neglects to tell you literacy is declining globally. Even here in the U.S., where text is dissolving as a medium whether we like it or not, it's begun shrinking to the literacy of tweet and text-msg; surely it will not survive in a handheld medium. Without any precision in the short-form, indo-euro text will become unintelligible fast-food.
Even further, Nick Carr looks into the smartphone and sees a hot media. But what is a medium that shrinks all other media into one? Is it a media or is it the reverse? Is it ONLY content? Is it a transmedia thing. Or does it need a new word, like Content Screen. Apologists for the age of the PC (whether desktop, portable, or handheld) misunderstand a key facet of the progression of the newest OS docks by calling them smartphones, they miss (or hide) the point that we're holding PCs in our hands. They're only 'phones' by default: a marketing lure in one medium that's erasing the phone network we buy them from, on already established credit-lines. A kind of corporate chessgame at megascale. Instead of offering credit to 30 million people in one fell swoop, Apple employs the cell net's companies to front the handheld PC's costs. So you could say handheld PCs behave as economic parasites and viruses that erase competitive networks (and media) right from under the noses of 'providers.' And contrary to the show's wager that the 'smartphone' is a hot medium, these little computers are more likely cool mediums in McLuhan's eyes, since they are non-sequential and can work in varying spans of attention. Isn't that a computer in your hand? (I can only find one reference to the medium being 'cooling' in McLuhan's writing).
Sure, handheld PCs are unifiers. Expensive ones whose costs are buried in spreadsheets and two-year plans. Maybe as bad as they are good. Maybe more than bad.
ps: OTM on ixquick, on oogle.
Strangely, almost nothing. Both propaganda by death are desperate yet well-planned attempts to lure the West into a multi-regional war. A first and second attempt to set off WWIII, acts of provocation very similar to the assasination of Archduke Ferdinand one hundred years ago this year. The progression here is from dispersed terror group guest to an Islamic state, to claimed state-level government, however fleeting on these geographic terms, it has a source. The question becomes, why be lead into the first? And was it a feint, was the invasion of Iraq a distraction from the true targets? Fundamentalism within Saudi Arabia, Militancy from Pakistan. Strange, no? We attack a country that enforces sexual equality and religious secularism, true it is a Sunni totalitarian state (Iraq) yet so is a Sunni kingdom with oppressive laws for women and a legal definition of witchcraft that sometimes ends in a death sentence. Diplomacy increases in complexity, are the coming wars symmetric? If not, admit them, assign the internal conflict a name. The east-west divide between Saudi Arabia and pre-invasion Iraq. Something like detente or lynch-pin.
A recent incoherent op-ed by the distant architect of multiple military coups over democratically elected officials (including Pinochet over Allende), Kissinger now writes as if converted to the fantasy view of democracy of Bush 2, not the strern real politik he practiced when in office. The facts are: most world state borders of the 'developing world' are arbitrary, many designed for external colonial concerns, in the aftermath of war. To enforce most of them one needed enforcers, and that's what the West backed, not democratic or parlimentary systems. Each state, no matter its origins, needs a central bureaucratic authority. The fragmenting of power in Iraq, Egypt, Syria, and now Libya caused their collapse since they lacked properly defined transitions to power. It's time to teach global realities. A bureaucracy comes before all other realities. If one is shattered, then the country may shatter. Colin Powell's mythic words to his President have come true: "If you break it, you own it."
This taut exercise in Blockbuster reductionism-revisionism is the best film of the summer. Actors and gestures of the golden age of blockbusters meet their younger generation in flip-mode. Aliens's Bill Paxton graduates from grunt to sarge (the squad seems cloned private by private from the Sulaco's), while usual leader-like Cruise enters cowardly, praying he'll just survive the day. Restaging Normandy starring Joan of Arc over and over even loads a perverse comment on the immutability of anniversaries by way of timelessness. Here everyday is D-day. Edge's Joan is Rita, a name copped from Groundhog Day inhabited by an actor from a recent looping film, Emily Blunt, who managed to avoid any loops in Looper. Here in Tomorrow she's a recent looper herself. Although the filmmakers keep the plot as simple as possible, they let the overlap and gaps in the repeat let us fill in the blanks for much of the film. Certain mutations are seen on their first go around, others on the umpteenth, and that's how the weaving gets us, we don't know where we are in the loop numbers (and neither do the other actors). We're in Cruise's Private Cage's drama, whose keeping some kind of headcount, it's his 'film.' Unexplained arrivals are left just that, that's where the film's magic sits. When we piece together the logic, the audience guesses Cage can't succeed unless he goes off-the-grid: the humans (likewise us audience members at first) don't have the imagination to realize Cage's value vs. the alien Mimics inability to use the gift of their own being, and maybe the human adds the transporting, multiverse simultaneity. Maybe it's something about the infection: Cruise is bathed in mimic blood causing a human trigger, the dna, the cell life of his begins a repeating as a chain reaction of the poisonous meeting between both's composition, a 'broadcast' (remember, everyone who repeats is shown only in his proximity...his 'aura' is sustaining this new path). The resultant contrast, how Cage is treated on arrival at the first lair (far behind enemy lines, also involves a liquid, though it's Cage who chooses his, he drowns himself instead of allowing the Mimics to drain a slow death) contrasted against the hunt on him and her after stealing a choice weapon: Liman's stating pretty bluntly that innovation has enemies on both sides. Realizes the in-between is the only smart place to fight a war of time from.The Mimics feint their head honcho as a lure, it's their stopgap that Cage barely grasps the set-up in time. These touches like the Dam-lure verge on abstraction proving Liman's ability to slide underexplained phenomena into what seems to be a pretty straight story (despite the daily loop, the narrative pretends to be videogame simplistic). Creativity is about riding a particulary dangerous edge with unlimited outcomes. The best part is the cake-and-eat-it ending, which plays coldly impossible at first, but slowly worms around in the gray matter pushing a profoundly cinematic impact. The crescendo's Spielberg ape (from the very parallel War of the Worlds) is its funniest homage, you realize Cruise was meant to be reborn. It's some aura he's earned, and now it's more popular in export than stateside.
When will the scourge of 3-D post-conversion be over? This film is FAR SUPERIOR in 2-D.
Addendum: Somebody wrote and asked why Looper was never reviewed here...except in rare cases like Edge, overt time-travel flicks never seem to support their weight in ideas. For all the cleverness in Looper, each chess-move creates far more holes. Go to the basics in the story. If a young looper erases his escaped elderly version by dying (demo'd at the end), why create Old Seth's body-part subtraction game in the second act? Just kill him, right? You're not letting noseless Seth go off to finish out his life. But of course, that erases the film's choice gimmick of messaging-by-scar. Now take the ending at face value: if the 'Rainmaker' was so all-powerful, instead of his focused goal killing loopers in revenge, wouldn't he have just sent a team to head off his mom's death? Time is obviously mutable in the film's logic. The loopers that headline then become sub-plot players in a story centralized later on Mom-saving. The implications there are far more absurd than the play we're shown (and might have lead to a more adventurous film). But Johnson is wedded to his genre-stablizing version, with the self-Oedipal conflict posed by 12 Monkey's Willis vs. Young Joe strung out against a parody of Matrix-like 20th century crime tropes. Imagine a showdown using four timeframes converging instead of the three we're shown. That's the loop we should have seen breaking. A son that didn't need saving against a backdrop of two versions of the same person fighting for an identity, one of whom wanted to save that son. There's a far nuttier movie hiding in the dry logic of Looper. And beyond plot and structure, there's the retrograde females in the film: strippers, mothers, waitresses and idealized saviors. That's the residual effects of Lynch on the generation, a fifties view of gender stuck to millenial anxieties. This isn't Kubrick where women's roles are explored through male collapse, here they're ecclipsed. Johnson has the storytelling skills for the decade, he knows how to build ghastly tension, but his overall approach peels conservative, maybe even nostalgiac. And the trouble is it's both conscious: the time-travel expediency, and unconscious: the calcified gender roles.
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Twitter's best attribute is its 'newsgroupthink,' which lets the user DJ as many services as possible, unearthing what would be highly stable research individually, and combining it with other sources, even fields. These two articles below both deal with differing ideas of Norse mythology and statistics. One is from a past, histories that actually unfolded (like the Illiad) and was then encrypted into mythology. A recent statistical study deciphered these ancient myth's social structure of its characters and found them to be realistic. The research suggests the myth evolved from real events and real participants whose tales were structured into posterity and have lasted time until now.
The other is from a highly technological present, the on-line game EVE, which was designed by Icelanders and offers a tabla rasa galaxy as a playing realm where users create their own saga against the vastness of space. Statistics are evidenced at every level of EVE and help users to become leaders and warriors of any number of types and qualities. Mythic events take shape as players evolve the game beyond the basic rules of diplomacy and subterfuge is employed. Both articles have numerous crossovers.
Viking sagas decrypted through stats: http://nautil.us/blog/vikingstheyre-just-like-us-social-networks-in-norse-sagas?
Stats help build online game Eve: http://www.polygon.com/features/2014/2/24/5419788/eve-online-thrilling-boring