Monthly Archives: February 2019

No Country For Old Men (2007)

It’s bleak as fuck, but it’s still one of the Cohen brothers’ best films. On the surface, No Country For Old Men is a postmodern noir Western for the age of open borders and narco warfare. However, both McCarthy and the Cohens are always reaching for biblical scale symbolism and allegory, so I believe it can be convincingly viewed through a few different lenses. I read it as grand scale tragedy of the dissolution of the American social fabric as it transitions from the Greatest Generation to the Boomers. Though the film focuses on Llewelyn Moss’ attempt to outrun and survive Anton Chigurh, the film is seen through the eyes of Tommy Lee Jones’ Sheriff Bell. He yearns for a time when police officers didn’t have to wear guns, the moral fault lines were clear, and the administration of justice was swift and certain.

In this film, our ostensible hero is a Boomer Vietnam vet who lives in a trailer with his girlfriend. He has no children and he’s retired from a welding career. He happens upon the scene of a drug deal which turned into a bloodbath and makes off with a suitcase full of cash. So the acquisition of his great treasure is not the product of a Joseph Campbell-esque Hero’s Journey or the result of sacrifice. Right away, we’re asked to place our sympathy with a character who came by his reward through sheer happenstance. He merely stumbled upon a random carcass that was collateral damage from the drug war.

As a Boomer archetype, Llewelyn is perfect because he has a compelling mixture of damaged patriotism, trailer park chivalry, and a perverse sense of entitlement to his ill gotten booty. Since he is rendered as a Vietnam vet, his military service represents the last gasp of collective patriotism before the nation descended into a permanent posture of malaise, cynicism and discontent in the post-Watergate era. I mean, what’s wrong with scraping a little cream of the top of drug war, amirite?! Get those Benjamins, dawg! Woot!

He is pursued mercilessly and relentlessly by Javier Bardem’s cold blooded assassin, Anton Chigurh. Resembling something in between Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 and Benecio del Toro’s cartel killer in Sicario, Chigurh takes on a supernatural and superhuman quality. When we’re introduced to Anton, he kills a random motorist by using a captive bolt pistol after dispatching a police officer and stealing his car. Not only does Anton seemingly kill indiscriminately, his weapon of choice is the same one used in abattoirs to slaughter cattle. This suggests a man who sees himself at the apex of the Darwinian predator/prey dominance hierarchy. He’s not bound by quaint notions of morality. That shit is for the plebs. His purpose is to be a pure conduit for Fate. Life and death are decided at the flip of a coin. He’s just the functionary whose entire existence is about ensuring that the cosmic machinery of determinism runs smoothly.

Chigurh carries out his task with a frightening level of patience, forethought, and discipline. It brings to mind the kind of methodical planning someone like Stephen Paddock exhibited in carrying out the Las Vegas massacre. When considering these qualities along with his ability to self-administer advanced medical treatment after suffering severe gunshot wounds, Chigurh is very likely a programmed assassin with deep state military training. He exhibits the qualities we expect to see in a James Bond or Jason Bourne. There’s nothing in the film that would lead the viewer to draw this conclusion and I suggest this is by design. There’s a despairing fatalism underneath this film and I suspect the Cohens want the viewer to think Chigurh is just a natural product of the modern world.

Sheriff Bell’s final lines suggest that this film is the Cohens’ lament over the passage of a more civilized and stable America. Their employment of Roger Deakins’ cinematography leaves me with the impression of their abiding love for the beauty of America. In contrast to detestable horseshit like Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, the Cohens’ underlying affection for America always seemed sincere to me. They’re Boomers themselves so there’s more than a little bit of Llewelyn in each of them. They helped usher in the America in this film and, by extension, the world in which we live. Like Llewelyn, they too are just the lucky beneficiaries of America’s post-WW2 ascension to global superpower. That’s not to say they’re talentless hacks, but they are firmly ensconced in the Hollywood establishment. By default, they’re implicated in building the world we currently inhabit. We may nod in despair to Sherriff Bell’s grim ruminations, but I’m fairly confident the Cohens themselves are standing right alongside Rob Reiner and Steven Spielberg cheerleading for open borders.

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David Weigel: The Show That Never Ends

Most commonly referred to by fans and detractors alike with the shorthand term “prog”, progressive rock is arguably the one branch of the pop music family tree most likely to elicit sharply divided opinions. Boasting a fanbase that has a borderline religious devotion, prog has been long overdue for a book length canonization. I don’t know if David Weigel’s latest book, The Show That Never Ends, will be the definitive statement on the history of progressive rock, but it’s a solid contender despite being in an uncrowded field. Writing a chronicle of prog’s trajectory through the pop culture sphere which begins with its early pioneers and brings us to the present is no small feat. Much like his subjects, Weigel has staked out an ambitious mandate for a 278 page book. Nevertheless, The Show That Never Ends is eminently readable and, for my money, is as satisfying an overview as one would hope for given its length and scope.

King Crimson

Yes

Genesis

ELP

As one might expect, The Show That Never Ends focuses on the biggest movers of the progressive genre. The career arcs of Yes, Genesis, Jethro Tull, ELP and King Crimson are given a generous space while the also-rans, second stringers, side projects, one-off supergroups and fan favorites are also given a hearing. The leading lights of the Canterbury scene are also given a fairly robust treatment. Fans of Soft Machine, Gong, Caravan, Daevid Allen, Kevin Ayers, and Robert Wyatt will doubtless enjoy Weigel’s respectful recognition of the significance these players made to the movement.

Rush

Weigel’s focus remains primarily centered around the genre’s British origins. When he finally turns his attention North America, it’s limited to Rush and Kansas. Any book that covers this much territory is bound to leave some people dissatisfied. One can easily imagine the indignant proclamations of outraged prog fans everywhere as they debate the exclusion of [fill in the blank]. I’ll add my indignation to the bonfire by stating that I was disappointed by the short shrift Magma received and I was absolutely gobsmacked by the twin omissions of Henry Cow and Saga.

Even at the most superficial level, Weigel’s account poses worthwhile questions. Is there a subgenre of rock more maligned than progressive rock? Was this hatred manufactured? Was punk the natural course correction rock historians have long claimed? Should rock even be “progressive” in the first place? Is prog elitist pomp or is it populist high culture? Are the pioneers of progressive rock geniuses or charlatans? Was the emergence of progressive rock an organic phenomenon or was it simply the product of upper crust Brits with too much idle time? Does prog even matter anymore?

Prog was and is ambitious music. By and large, rock’s calling card was its libidinous energy, hedonistic lyrics and its primal simplicity. It was mostly designed to piss off your parents and priests. It was also mostly a soundtrack for getting wasted, defying authority and getting laid. In the wake of the release of Sergeant Pepper’s and Pet Sounds, proggers sought new horizons. The progressive rocker wanted to liberate rock from the rigid confines of blues based harmony and the pedestrian grind of 4/4 time. The characteristics of “high art” music suddenly became raw materials for an alchemical transformation in the incantatory fires of rock’s furnace. Anglican church hymns, classical harmonies and structures, jazz improvisation, and English folk were all fair game. Lyrics no longer fixated on banalities like romance. Instead, proggers took to themes that drew from fantasy, sci-fi, history, religion and the occult. From the ferment of Britain’s rock scene in the mid and late sixties, the progressive rock genre took shape. Prog became the soundtrack to late nights, black lights, and bong hits for a mostly educated, upwardly mobile middle class in Europe and America.

There’s something about hymns, they’re simple and they’re direct but they have a kind of connection. – Tony Banks, Genesis (p. 12)

Weigel is clearly a fan and his treatment of the subject matter is very sympathetic overall. However, he is an establishment writer, and he is attempting to play the role of neutral arbitrator of events. While this approach serves to make this an entertaining and reasonably informative synthesis of a significant slice of rock subculture, it also feels painfully banal and aggressively anodyne in places. Particularly when it comes to the musicians’ proximity to the military-intelligence community, the Tavistock Institute, the Royal Society, the British aristocracy, the Labour Party or the occult.

I was so involved, I didn’t know what to think

This is very apparent when recounting Robert Fripp’s time at Sherborne House in the mid-70’s after the demise of the first iteration of King Crimson. It’s especially curious given that Fripp’s exploits within and without King Crimson comprise a fairly significant portion of the book. Along with Keith Jarrett, Kate Bush and George Russell, Fripp had developed an interest in the cultish teachings of George Gurdjieff. He had befriended Daryl Hall of Hall and Oates and had done so during a time of pure isolation from the outside world. According to Fripp, it was a time that was “both physically painful and spiritually terrifying” (p. 180) Weigel cites a quote from a 1978 interview in which Fripp confesses that “Sherborne filled its residents with the “the kind of cold that freezes the soul” (p. 180). I found myself wanting to understand more fully what Fripp might have meant by that, but Weigel drops it on the floor and explores no further. Instead, he goes on to recount the Hall and Fripp collaboration which resulted in the Hall solo record, Sacred Songs. It’s not a secret that Sacred Songs was inspired by Hall’s fascination with Aleister Crowley. Surely, Weigel knew that this was the common ground between Hall and Fripp’s interest in Gurdjieff’s esoteric teachings. Furthermore, he ignores the vast influence of John G. Bennett, the founder of the International Academy of Continuous Education, on the various strands of New Age thought we find today. Weigel abandons a juicy lead which links this artistic movement with the proliferation of what now passes for “spirituality”.

I think that whoever is listening to it should feel the same thing, that they are in tune and in time with God. – Jon Anderson, Yes (p. 72)

Sinfield reached into his notebook and pulled out “King Crimson,” a term he had come up with to fill in when “Satan” didn’t fit a rhyme. (p. 43)

Choice, choice, freedom? I have no choice, I can only do the will of God, this is freedom. – Robert Fripp (p. 197)

Fohat digs holes in space, man!

What’s gone is gone and I do not give a damn

The same superficial gloss is given to his casual mention of Jon Anderson’s spiritual beliefs, the deeper inspiration for Christian Vander’s vision, the Roches’ fascination with Wilhelm Reich, the gnostic overtones to Peter Gabriel’s focus on Carl Jung, ELP’s knowledge (or lack thereof) of Giger’s occult inspirations as well as Daevid Allen’s fairly well publicized fascination with ritual magick. This may seem like pointless muckraking, but it gets to the essence of what proggers were actually saying as artists. Weigel obviously thinks this is an unfairly maligned genre and that it should be accorded more respect. Prog is a cool soundtrack for smoking weed and most of them were first rate virtuosos, but all the proggers had something to say at some level. The messages seemed to run the gamut from an attempt to create meaning from nothing to messianic zeal. To selectively emphasize these things seems like journalistic malpractice.

The only reason I’ve been able to come up with as to why we became musicians was because there wasn’t anything to rebel or fight against. We weren’t doing it with another agenda as a means to escape. If we were seeking to escape, then it would have been from a kingdom of nothingness. Michael Giles, King Crimson (p. 10)

This tendency is especially egregious in his treatment of Rush. Weigel exposes himself as yet another progressive partisan hack when discussing Neil Peart’s affinity for Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy. As usual, he appears to think the British Labour Party has nothing for which to apologize, and Neil Peart’s critics were completely justified. He ensures that the critical scorn heaped on Rush was clearly spelled out in case there’s any mystery about what the woke intelligentsia thinks of you dumbass LOLbertarians. Not only does he fail to mention that Neil Peart went on record with a softened stance on libertarianism in 2012, but he openly aligned himself with the Democratic Party in a RS interview from 2015! Weigel had ready access to this information while writing this book. Why else would you place so much emphasis on his former libertarian convictions if not to feed the already overheated Ayn Rand hate mill? He even goes out of his way to score easy ideological points by mentioning Rush’s refusal to allow Rand Paul to continue using their music on the campaign trail. See? Even Rush shut down Rand Paul. LMAO! Ooh. Sticking it to the Randian Objectivists. How #EDGY, Weigel.

Maybe his mind is for rent after all.

A casual glimpse of Weigel’s Twitter feed reveals him as a typical leftist stooge who fancies himself some kind of brave dissident embedded on the front lines of the Trump #RESISTANCE. In other words, the embodiment of kind of the anti-authoritarianism that formed the basis of the album he lionized, 2112. If Weigel had an ounce of intellectual honesty, he would cast a skeptical glance toward the Corbynistas and the Eurocrats. Ayn Rand wasn’t right about everything, but if he actually allowed himself to examine the grievances of #Brexiters without his ideological blinders, he’d recognize that Peart apprehended the harm Labour has visited on the UK with greater clarity than his fellow media lackeys. Progressives are contemptuous of libertarianism except when it’s convenient for their agenda.

His partisan allegiance is significant because it may explain his seeming unwillingness to examine the extent to which prog’s demise was driven by the very media establishment to which he belongs. It’s true that plenty of bands built careers defying the establishment consensus, but Weigel’s refusal to investigate his own people speaks volumes.

The downfall of progressive rock happened quickly, with an entire critical establishment [emphasis mine] seemingly rooting for its demise. (p. 200)

This is especially significant given that the media’s pretense of neutrality has been revealed as a contemptible lie in the Trump era. If we take the case that the media are handmaidens of the deep state who are merely taking orders from an elite class more invested in cultural engineering than journalism, Weigel’s observation suggests much, much more.

You can force people to go into trances, and tell them what to do; it’s mass hypnotism, and you’re really setting yourself up as God. – Dave Brock, Hawkwind (p. 96)

Speaking of establishment elites, his ideological blinders also stunted his ability to investigate the extent to which prog was being encouraged by the social engineers of the Tavistock Institute and Royal Society or the extent to which they were under the influence of MI6 assets. Curiously, he included a quote by Crimson alum, Gordon Haskell, which speaks directly to all of these possibilities. My suspicion is that Weigel’s decision to include this quote was to hold him up as a conspiracy obsessed lunatic with an axe to grind against Robert Fripp. Of course, Weigel doesn’t explore any of these allegations, and allows the quote to go unexamined.

“The King Crimson weapon is musical fascism, made by fascists, designed by fascists to dehumanize, to strip mankind of his dignity and soul,” he said later. “It’s pure Tavistock Institute material, financed by the Rothschild Zionists and promoted by two poncy public school boys with connections to the city of London.” Gordon Haskell, King Crimson (p. 62)

Weigel concludes with a brief overview of prog’s unlikely resurgence in the midst of the nihilistic howling that defined the 90s grunge aesthetic. Led by neo-prog revivalists like Porcupine Tree, Dream Theater, The Mars Volta, Opeth and Spock’s Beard, prog had absorbed a more muscular and metallic edge from its stylistic progeny, but it seemed even more anachronistic than in its previous generation. Despite what is implied in the term “progressive” in contemporary parlance, I contend that there’s something reactionary about playing or enjoying prog in 2019.

We’ve become accustomed to the idea of the pop culture sphere being a quintessentially Darwinian ecosystem. It is the epitome of a dominance hierarchy in which the lowest common denominator generally captures the biggest market share while those who swim against the tide get bulldozed. It cannibalizes itself, but only to reflect and refract the most fashionable aesthetic trends and sensibilities of the moment. Prog’s sonic and compositional innovations were eventually flattened and absorbed into blueprints for virtually every style that comprised the 80s once the punk template had been firmly established as the new artistic orthodoxy.

While there’s usually enough bandwidth for a mass market Serious Artist or two who reaches an arena sized audience, you generally find the contemporary progger playing a 1000-seat venue or at a niche festival like ProgDay. The idea that a multibillion dollar rock industry which extends into every corner of culture is in any way rebellious or transgressive is a pathetic joke. Even if it’s loaded with odd metered rhythms, dense harmonies and extended psychedelic jams. Subsequently, the very idea of playing a form of rock music, the ultimate anti-tradition tradition, which adheres to a set of bygone ideals however loosely defined can only be seen as…well….conservative.

Prog was a byproduct of the 60s counterculture, and embodied the utopian idealism of the Flower Power generation which originally coronated it. As subsequent generations of rockers turned increasingly hedonistic and cynical, the Holy Mountain of progressive rock continues to attract acolytes precisely because it at least stood for something. Even if proggers had disparate goals, the fundamental message of the pursuit of a transcendent ideal seemed to be the binding force. I suggest that for today’s musicians, progressive rock is seen as something akin to a sacred calling. A spiritual cosmic journey that will always beckon mystics, dreamers, and charlatans along with the hardiest and most dedicated souls.

The existence of David Weigel’s history of progressive rock is a laudable achievement all by itself, but it also happens to be a fun read. Perhaps it is churlish to nitpick and we should simply enjoy the fact that it is here in the first place. If nothing else, we proggers are an opinionated bunch. You develop high standards when you’re an idealist.

By the time John Wetton’s Asia had sold millions of copies of its bland radio-friendly pop in the 80s, the post-hippie counterculture that was progressive rock, based on the idealistic impulses of the 60s, had finally run its course. The dream, or illusion, of individual and global enlightenment was over. Progressive rock, like the period that gave rise to it, was essentially optimistic. The whole underlying goal – to draw together rock, classical and folk into a surreal metastyle – was inherently an optimistic ideal. At its best, the genre engaged listeners in a quest for spiritual authenticity. We took ourselves too seriously, of course, and its po-faced earnestness could lapse into a moronic naivete, but it never gave way to bitterness, cynicism or self-pity. – Bill Bruford (p. 250)

Joni 75 (2019)

This concert film showcases everything that is simultaneously wonderful and loathsome about the Flower Power generation. Filmed over the course of two nights at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Joni 75 features an all star cast of peers and proteges who came to pay tribute to one of the modern era’s most unique and influential artists.

Originally hailing from Alberta, Mitchell’s career took root in the ferment of the now infamous Laurel Canyon scene. Despite her reputation as an icon of the allegedly counterculture 60’s, Joni Mitchell remains a true maverick amidst a sea of revolutionary wannabes. She has demonstrated a remarkable ability to both avoid the ideological pigeonhole that defines her more openly partisan peers and sustain artistic vitality in an industry which disfavors innovation.

With a career that spans 19 studio albums over the course of more than 50 years, Mitchell has attracted a following that draws from the worlds of pop and jazz. She’s that rare artist who can leave the listener’s heart wrenched by the immediacy of her lyrics while the musicians in the audience all puzzle over her unusual chord changes. Backed by a top notch band, Joni 75 featured performances by Brandi Carlile, Glen Hansard, Emmylou Harris, Norah Jones, Chaka Khan, Diana Krall, Kris Kristofferson, Los Lobos with La Marisoul, Cesar Castro & Xochi Flores, Graham Nash, Seal, James Taylor, and Rufus Wainwright.

On the one hand, it’s a beautifully shot, recorded and performed concert featuring some of our finest artists singing mostly successful covers from the Joni Mitchell songbook. It’s unfussy and straightforward. The footage of artists showering Joni with praise is kept to a merciful minimum. Surprisingly, Peter Gabriel’s prerecorded tribute had a rare moment of honesty when he suggested that she’s probably a raging cunt when you have to work too closely with her.

On the other hand, despite its ostensible goal of just being a straightforward concert film, it couldn’t help but draw attention to its own wokeness. The band was so #DIVERSE! The guests were so #INTERSECTIONAL! Oh snap! Rufus Wainwright just mentioned his HUSBAND! What’s Mike Pence going to think?! And of course, Graham Nash just had to politicize the whole thing. What should have been a sweet remembrance about the creation of the song “Our House” was completely poisoned when he linked it to the 2018 election results. Way to convince people you aren’t raging totalitarians underneath all that hippie horseshit, Graham.

The film also draws attention to the question of whether multiculturalism and universalism are in fact mutually exclusive propositions. While Joni has taken public positions that set her apart from the rigidity of contemporary woke orthodoxy, the concert felt like another self-congratulatory advertisement for multiculturalism and immigration. This was especially true of the treatment Los Lobos and La Marisoul gave to “Nothing Can Be Done”. It’s a vibrant and joyful rendition that gave the song a Mexican flavor while being propelled by a gentle quasi Afro-Cuban groove. Chaka Khan’s ecstatic interjections managed to elevate it even further. It’s the kind of cross cultural collaboration that we’re supposed to celebrate as sophisticated cosmopolitans. Yet at the same time, the Woke Stasi are constantly browbeating and shrieking at the unenlightened rubes about the nefarious evils of “cultural appropriation”.

Is multiculturalism a melange from which anyone and everyone can freely pick and choose? Or is it a collection of disparate subcultures which must remain within the confines of their respective people groups in order to retain uniqueness? Or is it just another excuse for SJWs to be selectively outraged over fake transgressions?

More importantly, is multiculturalism building a universal culture? Or is it appropriating different cultures only to strip mine them of their context and uniqueness? Is it just a self-reinforcing orthodoxy which operates on the presumption that there is no downside to infinite immigration? Does it inculcate an unwavering belief that there are no issues of cultural assimilation and that the future that awaits us is a rainbow hued utopia of vegan taco trucks, body positive belly dancing and gender neutral drum circles? Is it just an excuse to revel in a smug sense of cosmopolitan moral superiority? Does the obsessive liberal quest for global “oneness” degrade cultural distinctions or enhance them? Is it just an excuse for progressives to be selectively outraged over “racism” in one moment while in the next moment being selectively outraged over “cultural appropriation”?

I love Joni Mitchell’s music. The artists mostly did a great job. It was beautiful but also kind of sad that a collection of aging wealthy Boomers still affect a pretense of being edgy revolutionaries. That somehow, another collection of self-satisfied children of the establishment celebrating their engineered cultural revolution as an unqualified success was finally going to convince the unenlightened peasants of flyover country that they’re stupid and backwards. I mean come on, bigots. “Big Yellow Taxi” is the theme song for the Green New Deal! Get #WOKE!

Perhaps what I heard in Joni’s gnostic rallying cry for the Age of Aquarius was something she didn’t necessarily intend. When James Taylor delivered a heartfelt rendition of “Woodstock”, it wasn’t heralding the advent of a secular New Eden. It was, in fact, the sound of a generation that has spent its entire adult lifetime trying to convince you that its complete monopoly of institutional consensus is the height of counterculture and rebellion. That all you need to usher in the final revolution is to don the pussyhat, hoist the placard aloft and post that fist pump to Instagram, baby. And that, my friends, is the sound of exhausted desperation.

We are stardust, we are golden
We are caught in the devils bargain
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden

Star Wars Prequel Roundup: The Empire Strikes Out

Like millions of others who were lucky enough to see it for the first time on the big screen, my world was rocked by Star Wars back in 1977. It wasn’t simply that it was the most incredible sci-fi spectacle I had seen up to that point. It’s that I never had a cinematic hero quite like Luke Skywalker before Star Wars. He was the pop culture hero I never knew I was looking for. The emotional void of never knowing his parents resonated with me at a deep level. His yearning for a greater sense purpose and meaning seemed a mirror image of my own. His frustration with his surroundings and the determination to escape the provincial shithole he grew up in felt identical to mine. It wasn’t simply that I could relate to Luke Skywalker. I felt at some level that I was Luke Skywalker.

When George Lucas announced his intention to tell the story of Darth Vader’s slide to the Dark Side, I was intrigued but somewhat perplexed. Return of the Jedi ended on such a triumphant note. Does Star Wars even work as a Shakespearean tragedy? Does it make sense to recast the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire as a Star Wars film? Ladies and gentlemen, the answer is a resounding No. I realize this isn’t a particularly new or controversial opinion, but I wanted to put down a few words about why they’re bad films as well as why I believe they’re toxic pieces of social engineering. As much as I am tempted to attribute all blame for the corruption of the Star Wars franchise to Kathleen Kennedy, Rian Johnson, JJ Abrams, and their minions at the Disney Corporation, George Lucas managed to hasten that process completely on his own.

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

Yes, it’s a turd. I know.

I still think the most persuasive case for the prequels is Nick Gillespie’s piece which casts them as an allegory for the moral collapse of the Boomers. This story had potential for being coherent and good, but it would have required too many risks for someone as entrenched as George Lucas.

When he finally enlarges the Star Wars lore and attempts to deepen the story of the Old Republic, the less sense it makes. Whether it was ideological possession, laziness or myopia, the sheer quantity of bad choices he visited upon this screenplay boggles the mind.

  • Midichlorians? WTF, George. When Obi-Wan first describes The Force, he says it’s “an energy field created by all living things”. Now access to the Force is determined by the quantity of microscopic cells. So that means the Jedi quest is only accessible to people who are blessed with the right genetics. Very progressive, Lucas.
  • The inexplicable ineptitude of the Jedi Council. This was supposedly the Jedi at their peak, but they were blindsided by the reemergence of the Sith? No one picked up the fact that Palpatine was the Phantom Menace? Obi-Wan knew that Alderaan had been snuffed out, but not a single Jedi felt a disturbance in the Force? Really? Not even Yoda? Speaking of Yoda, he actually laid down some deep shit in Empire, but in every scene with the Jedi Council they just seem like effete dumbshits. Even Qui-Gon’s pronouncements are lame. Yes, it has continuity with Kenobi’s teachings to Luke, but it made more sense inside the larger context of Jedi ethics. This just seems like the wrong message to impart to the youth.

Qui-Gon Jinn: Remember, concentrate on the moment. Feel, don’t think. Trust your instincts.

  • Tatooine’s gangster/slave economy. This was the Pax Galactica before the Fall, and you’ve got an entire world that’s run by slave owners and gangsters? How does anyone make an honorable living on this planet? This was the period of peace and freedom before the iron fisted dominion of the Empire that we’re rooting to see restored? Not exactly a ringing endorsement of a multi-planetary democratic imperium.
  • Pod racing as gladiatorial sport. I realize Lucas is reaching for a Ben-Hur parallel here, but at a basic level, they’re allowing a kid to compete in a life threatening competition. This was a sort of proto-Hunger Games scenario.
  • War as video game. This criticism is hardly limited to this film, but the battle scene between the Gungans and the droid army felt like an ad for the LucasArts game. You are supposed to make a cursory effort to portray the danger, fear and carnage so that the audience perceives the gravity of the situation.

When you combine the plot problems with the character problems and your bad guys sound like they have Down Syndrome, picking on Jar Jar Binks just seems pointless.

Lucas wants you to empathize with Anakin, but there’s not much to go on. You knew this was his wunderkind period going into it, so there was no real growth arc with which to identify. At no point do you ever sense that you’re actually watching a child. He performs amazing feats of technical wizardry and displays virtuosic piloting skills without fear. His final farewell to his mother reeks of falsehood. I realize he’s the Chosen One and everything but this is exactly why Rey was so unbelievable too.

Neeson and McGregor come out the most unscathed overall. I don’t particularly love Natalie Portman in the first place and this is easily her most dreadful performance.

Good lightsaber fight though.

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones

Though almost unseated by the abysmal dungheap known as The Last Jedi, Attack of the Clones still holds the dubious distinction of being the nadir of the once glorious Star Wars franchise.

Pointing out the flaws in AOTC feels a bit redundant at this point, but I think the biggest Jedi Mind Trick of this film was Lucas’ attempt to make you believe it’s not itself a piece of propaganda for global Empire.

The heroine of the film is a monarch and a functionary in the Old Republic? Her world was invaded and occupied as a consequence of bureaucratic inertia in the last film and she remains a true believer in “democracy”? Star Wars celebrated the restoration of a monarchist aristocracy, but the emergence of a secessionist sentiment is a calamity that heralds the onset of tyranny? Granted, the Separatists were controlled opposition, but still. There weren’t any grassroots planetary sovereignty movements?

We’re meant to see Anakin’s slaughter of the Tusken Raiders as an act of barbarism that foreshadows his moral collapse, but why should we feel sympathy for Tusken Raiders? He may have taken things a bit too far, but come on. They kidnapped his mother! They shoot podracers indiscriminately! They attacked Luke! Fuck the Sandpeople!

I am beginning to think the epic cringe of the Padme/Anakin affair was a cinematic act of demolition on heterosexual romance itself.

The subplot surrounding the clone army presages the advent of gene editing and suggests the potential for Brave New World-style eugenics and dysgenics.

And there’s just no excuse for this, George. Come on, dude.

Anakin Skywalker: I don’t like sand. It’s coarse, and rough, and irritating, and it gets everywhere.

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

It’s the most tolerable of the three prequels, but this doesn’t compensate for the outright malevolence of its underlying message. Lucas undoubtedly wants this to be perceived as a space opera reinvention of Julius Caesar, but a more sober analysis suggests that this film represents a grand scale act of vandalism on the heroic male archetype.

What we see in Anakin is essentially the caricature of the impetuous, impulsive, romantically challenged dudebro/incel dumbshit that is now omnipresent throughout the culture. In short, I believe the story of Anakin Skywalker’s submission to the Dark Side was a Trojan Horse for the vile and idiotic “toxic masculinity” meme. Just scan any article or blog post by a feminist and I guarantee that her baseline assumptions about men can be mapped to some aspect of Anakin Skywalker. Part of me thinks this is why Lucas chose an actor as unlikable as Hayden Christensen and then gave him such a turd of a role to play. The goal was to make him awkward and unsympathetic.

Despite the negative archetype he represents for men, the film is also by extension a stealth commentary on one of feminism’s sacred cows: single motherhood. Anakin Skywalker may have singlehandedly ushered in the “toxic masculinity” meme, but let’s not forget that he was raised exclusively by a woman prior to meeting Qui-Gon and Obi Wan. What mother would just hand over her son to a couple of occultist/spy warrior monks she barely knew and show so little anguish? Whether this also suggests the manner in which children are groomed for Hollywood is yet another angle to consider.

Anakin’s perfectly natural desire for a father figure is also subverted and sabotaged. The Jedi oath of celibacy seems virtuous in a world of profligacy and indulgence, but it’s never explained well. Obi-Wan’s advice to Anakin amounts to little more than “Stop getting a boner”. His allegiance to the Jedi pits his natural urge to have a wife and a child against the Jedi code. He has no role models for traditional chivalry, courtship or fatherhood. No wonder the Naboo frolic scenes are so painful. When Palpatine dangles the possibility of preventing death through knowledge of the Dark Side, it speaks to his natural urge to be protective. Of course he would find that power tempting. He’s in love. Men will do anything for the women they love. But Lucas wants us to see him as this man who had allowed himself to be corrupted and manipulated by pure evil.

What we have in Anakin Skywalker is a man who sought what men have fought for centuries to preserve. A sense of duty and honor. A sense of pride and purpose. A legacy to hand down to his progeny. A desire for peace and order. The love of a woman. The joy and fulfillment of a family. What George Lucas did in this trilogy is portray the pursuit of those virtues and ideals as a path to moral degradation. He took the best attributes of manhood and perverted them into something to be shunned and condemned. Utterly reprehensible.

On the positive side, Lucas is giving us a subtle and valuable lesson in managed geopolitical dialectics. The Jedi are properly viewed as an occult/espionage organization roughly analogous to the CIA. Just as in real life, the CIA have controlled assets in the criminal underworld as well as vast intelligence gathering networks. Lucas’ clever cinematic trick is to portray the Jedi and the Sith as the two presumably opposite sides of this dichotomy. One Good and the other Bad. Marvel uses the same device with SHIELD and HYDRA. The Bond series also uses this device by portraying SPECTRE as the shadow cabal who stands in opposition to MI6 and our beloved 00 agent, James Bond. Palpatine was, in essence, the Manchurian Candidate/double agent who kept his true identity as Darth Sidious hidden. As a Sith, he was controlling the Separatists and as a politician, he was able to exploit the chaos to secure greater power. Does this have a real world analogue? You bet your ass. The way these films always navigate the moral conundrum of absolute power is simply by saying that it must never fall into the Wrong Hands. That’s really all Lucas is saying by this film’s conclusion.

By the end, we don’t really understand why Padme dies. It just seems like another arbitrary script decision which brings the film to its predetermined conclusion resulting in two infants without parents. Because they’re children of elite pedigree, they remain in the care of elites. Luke gets the shorter end of the stick, but his CIA handler/Jedi Master-to-be sets up shop on Tatooine just to keep tabs on him and initiate him into Skull and Bones/the Jedi Order when the time comes.

I believe that Nick Gillespie was fundamentally correct when he argued that the prequels marked the Boomer generation’s embrace of Empire. They came of age promising revolution, peace and freedom, but in the end, they left a legacy of war, bureaucracy, and social unrest papered over by the most vacuous platitudes. The only thing I’d add is that final film embodies the sheer contempt the Boomers hold for the younger generations. The Original Trilogy made Luke heroic. If you were a boy, you wanted to be him. Anakin is not given the same treatment. How many boys are still going to walk out of Revenge of the Sith wanting to be Anakin just because he looks cool with a lightsaber and bagged Natalie Portman? Whatever your guess is, I guarantee it’s higher.

Die Another Day (2002)

James Bond: I’m looking for a North Korean.
Raul: Tourist?
James Bond: Terrorist.
Raul: One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

Trash it if you must, but it has its charms. Not the least of which is Halle Berry’s homage to Ursula Andress. Beyond the fact that the action sequences approach Marvelesque levels of absurdity, there are some interesting pieces of geopolitical subtext to note.

It’s easy to dismiss Bond films as pure escapism, but just about anyone who pays real attention to geopolitics can plainly observe that the real movements of world events take place behind the veil of NGOs, military black operations, shell companies, intelligence fronts, and vast networks of deep state assets. In short, a Bond film offers a window of insight into the true nature of power politics. Of course there’s eye candy. Of course there are going to be hot chicks, gun fights, car chases and high tech razzle dazzle. We expect these things in a 007 film, and Die Another Day delivers these in heaping portions. But this franchise wouldn’t be this big if there wasn’t an agenda behind it.

Die Another Day is most accurately seen as a piece of post-Cold War/post-9/11 propaganda. Specifically, it’s a piece of anti-North Korean propaganda. Released a year after 9/11 and the initiation of the invasion of Afghanistan, the longest war in US history, Die Another Day offers more than a few eyebrow raising propositions to ponder. Especially in light of current events. This film wants us to buy into the idea of North Korea as a military powerhouse which has a net surplus of armaments to hock in the arms trade black market in exchange for African blood diamonds. So not only are these repressive Juchebags exacerbating the conflicts in the mineral rich African countries, they’re exporting arms to innumerable baddies throughout the world. Even worse, they have imperial ambitions to reclaim the Southern half of the country lost to the capitalist running dogs of the decadent West.

Isn’t that something? When George W. Bush and the woke overlords of the Western world were mobilizing all of our collective military might into fighting the Taliban and eventually, Saddam Hussein, Die Another Day wants us to see North Korea as the font of Pure Evil.

But why? Maybe to divert your attention from the fact that the very phenomenon the filmmakers are pinning on North Korea was being underwritten by the West to prop up the War on Terror. In fact, the 2002 story of Sanjivan Ruprah’s arms trafficking to the Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone bears a striking resemblance to the storyline in Die Another Day. Isn’t it interesting that this nefarious arms dealer managed to secure a gig as Liberia’s deputy commissioner for maritime affairs? And isn’t it even more interesting that he just happened to be in contact with the CIA with information pertaining to arms smuggling to the Taliban?

[Here be spoilers and shit]

And it gets better. Our chief nemesis in Die Another Day, Colonel Tan-Sun Moon, is the heir to the seat of power in North Korea occupied by his father, General Moon. It’s a mirror image of the real life hereditary dictatorship of Kims Jong Il and Un. Also mirroring his real world analogue, Tan-San Moon is portrayed as the recipient of a Western education. When it’s revealed that he has transformed himself into aerospace/geotech mogul, Gustav Graves, through gene replacement therapy, the presumption is that his acquisition of Western scientific knowledge allowed him to build a solar geoengineering weapon. So our dastardly North Korean dictator who presides over an impoverished communist country in real life threatens the world through access to Western education, capitalism, technology, and gene therapy.

Right.

Above all else, these films are about acclimating you to technological innovation that has far reaching implications. Back in 2002, geoengineering wasn’t even discussed publicly, and 17 years later, it’s out in the open. The idea of a satellite that can replicate or block sunlight and can be weaponized to manipulate weather seems outlandish to most people, but we’re already starting to see this idea being discussed openly as well.

The most disturbing element is the human trafficking implications of the gene therapy subplot. The Avengers franchise eventually used this as a plot device for both Captain America and Black Widow. It’s being used in a similar way here because both Zao and Moon become genetically engineered super soldiers through the process. Halle Berry’s Jinx discusses the therapy with the Cuban physician who administers the treatment, he says that the blood plasma comes from “orphans, refugees and people who will not be missed.” What a pleasant thought. The movie wants you to be repelled because it’s being used by the bad guys, but in real life, this is being touted as a kind of all purpose miracle cure and fountain of youth.

What’s the more plausible thesis about this film? That the organization behind the Bond series just pulled this story out of their asses? Or that it’s a useful distraction and a mental palliative to alleviate the necessity of thinking about things too deeply? Hey. Credit where credit is due. Halle Berry AND Rosamund Pike in one 007 movie are pretty decent distractions.

Anthony Sutton: America’s Secret Establishment

Understanding how the cultural climate got to its current place has been a central preoccupation on this platform, and I suggest that Anthony Sutton’s analysis of the influence of Skull and Bones on global politics and social consensus, America’s Secret Establishment, provides a plausible thesis. You don’t need an advanced degree to know that the range of acceptable opinion narrows with each passing day. While libertarians hold to the premise that this is still a free marketplace of ideas and all that one needs is libertarian historical revisionism and a dogmatic adherence to the Non-Aggression Principle in order to win the day, Sutton’s analysis of American history is far more credible. Sutton holds a right leaning libertarian view of both American republicanism and the primacy of the individual which locates his own thinking within the spectrum of conventional thought. This should not preclude a serious engagement with his analysis of the evolution of American institutions under the hidden hand of the shadow elite he refers to as The Order.

Christian monarchists hold that this socio-political order is upheld as an ideal because it corresponds to the metaphysic of the family outlined in the Bible. In other words, the patriarch is the head of the family. By having a hereditary monarchy, you have an institution at the center of the sociopolitical order which mirrors the family itself. By contrast, the democratic order places a network of institutions and representatives who have no connection to one another and no hereditary connection to their successors to bind them to the larger extended family of the nation state. Despite the founders’ best efforts at creating an organic aristocracy, the executive ends up being a de facto monarch surrounded by an impossibly byzantine bureaucracy which is captured by corporate interests. In short, it’s a sociopolitical order which lends itself to shadow government and secret societies. This is the core idea behind Sutton’s thesis and his book walks you through the formation of all of America’s institutions.

The irony is that the collection of elites to whom Sutton refers as The Order are in fact a sort of hidden aristocracy. Hidden in plain sight that is. Sutton asks at the outset something that I believe is a perfectly reasonable and rational question. “If there can be conspiracy in the market place, then why not in the political arena?” (pg. 3) Of course, nowadays, there is acceptable conspiracy theory (i.e. Russiagate) and there is unacceptable conspiracy theory (e.g. 9/11, moon landing, JFK assassination, Sandy Hook, etc). Espousing belief in the former will never draw a word of reproach whereas any inkling of sympathy towards the latter conspiracies will get you drummed out of the public square.

The entire collection of presumptions that comprise the bedrock of classical liberalism is stunningly effective because you grow up accepting that these ideas represent the pinnacle of human thought and the end of history. All that remains is the continued perfection of the institutions and the process. If we just continue to accord unquestioned deference to the continued expansion of “human rights” and “democracy”, a glorious future of human cooperation, prosperity and equality surely awaits. Sutton’s book suggests that every sphere of American thought from economics to medicine to the arts has been intentionally colonized and molded to conform to a narrow range of acceptable ideas. More specifically, he posits that the Left-Right dialectic was an idea appropriated from Hegel in order to engender servitude to the State and shepherd a process of perpetual change. Contrary to popular belief, capitalism and communism are not the diametric opposites we’ve been trained to believe.

Libertarians and conservatives are correct to oppose socialism and communism, but the error of both positions is the belief that the pure advocacy of free markets represents a view that stands in opposition to global progressivism. Russell Kirk makes a similar case in The Conservative Mind, but Sutton makes a compelling case that it is in fact the shadow aristocracy comprised of capitalists that have financed global communism. Not only have the mustach twirling Randian übermenschen historically aided and abetted leftist and communist regimes and social movements, but they continue to fund these groups in media, academia and the arts. The obvious #NotAll caveat certainly applies here, but the larger point is that the framework of the debate creates the illusion of two irreconcilable ideological poles. I’ve often found myself perplexed that the institutions and individuals I believed to be ideologically opposed to leftist political collectivism are the very people sounding the loudest bullhorns for these ideas. I found myself repeatedly playing defense when presented with the idea that wealthy capitalist donors and foundations were the ones so generously underwriting PBS, NPR and all the other media companies who openly promulgate progressive politics. Sutton argues that by funding and promoting two sides of seemingly opposed sides of a Hegelian dialectic, the shadow elites are able to manufacture crises, purchase the levers of cultural consensus and weaponize culture to ensure that the populations are debased, atomized and subservient only to the proliferation of the gospel of global liberalism.

America’s Secret Establishment focuses on the one secret society whose members bear the largest footprint of influence on American life: Yale’s Skull and Bones. For my money, the most revelatory claims pertain to The Order’s funding of both National Socialism and Bolshevism. Oh, but these are polar opposites! How can this be? That’s exactly the point. It’s a managed dialectic. After you’ve divorced concepts like “nation”, “liberty”, and “social welfare” from any larger theological or metaphysical context, they can be politicized and set in opposition to one another. The entire system is designed to produce conflict and opposition. The politicians are the self-appointed saviors who are charged with bringing people together under the banner of “human rights” and “democracy”.

Discussion of Skull and Bones and the influence of secret societies has long been regarded as the province of conspiracy theories. While I’m certain these ideas will continue to draw derision from the gatekeepers of GoodThink, that’s exactly the response I expect. In 2006, Robert De Niro made a film called The Good Shepherd which portrays the life of a Bonesman and his journey through the creation of the OSS and eventually, the CIA. Not only does it confirm the descriptions of Bones rituals and initiations Sutton describes, it basically says that these people are the true Masters of the Universe. So if all this is just a bunch of idle conspiracy theory, why would De Niro put these words in his script?

Richard Hayes: This whole wing will be your part of the world: Counterintelligence. Take a look around. I’ve got an oversight meeting. Can you imagine? They think they can look into our closet, as if we’d let them. I remember a senator once asked me. When we talk about “CIA” why we never use the word “the” in front of it. And I asked him, do you put the word “the” in front of “God”?

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

Part of me thinks the best thing about this film is Psylocke’s kink/bondage combat outfit. Enjoy it while you can, folks. Sexy superhero costumes are headed for the memory hole.

Anyway.
Meh. It’s okay.

I’m generally cool with the Marvel franchise, but if I’m paying more attention to the political subtext and the symbolism than the story, something is off. I don’t mind that Marvel movies are overt pieces of military-industrial globalist propaganda. I just hope that the characters and storytelling are compelling enough to lend a smidgen of dramatic heft to the destruction porn. Sadly, in X-Men: Apocalypse, it’s lacking in this department.

But boy oh boy, is this movie packed to the brim with symbolic inversions, historical revisionism, geopolitical and deep state intrigue. Yes, these are superhero destructathons, but these movies wouldn’t be made if the various institutions behind them weren’t deeply invested in the messaging. People are way more interested in watching J Law kick ass in a body suit than Hillary Clinton cough up a lung in a pantsuit.

Between the Avengers and the X-Men, there are lots of overlapping ideas and themes. Since the X-Men are mutants, there is a little more emphasis on genetic engineering, mind control, panopticism, and believe it or not, geoengineering. I also propose that Magneto’s ability to control magnetic fields suggests aether based occult physics that are also a feature of the Avengers series.

As the film opens, we’re taken to the Nile Valley circa 3600 BC where our antagonist, En Sabah Nur (aka Apocalypse), is attempting to transfer his consciousness into a younger body the old fashioned way: through ritual magick. The proles revolt and he’s buried in a tomb.

From a symbolic perspective, Apocalypse is a Luciferian mutant inversion of Adam. He has a veneer of Egyptian and pagan mythology, but he’s grafted with elements from Christian theology. Apocalypse is presented as The First Mutant, but because he’s a bad guy, Marvel have been very explicit about his demonic origins. His adoptive father is Baal. Baal is an actual character in the MCU, but Baal is known more widely as one of the seven princes of Hell in goetic occult texts or as a Phoenician deity from the Old Testament. He is guarded by The Four Horsemen; entities that are associated with The New Testament and herald the rise of the Antichrist. So remember, kids. Despite Christianity being a bunch of dogshit that’s only for brainwashed Trumptards, it seems that the geniuses at Marvel need to borrow and invert all this religious stuff in order to generate their own superhero mythology.

Could it be that metaphysics and theology provide the foundational maps of being from which we derive guidance, inspiration and purpose? Could it be that these logoi form the basis of our entire knowledge of ourselves, the physical world, and our underlying assumptions about how reality itself is ordered?

Nah! We’re just sacks of meat floating through a universe of chaos and meaninglessness fighting off delusions of free will, dude.

Naturally, Apocalypse is eventually stirred from his slumber after our Indiana Jones wannabe/CIA asset, Moira MacTaggert, starts digging some shit up amongst the Egyptian pyramids. Finally revived after a successful occult ritual, Apocalypse is displeased with humanity, and sets out to wipe the slate clean with a master race of mutants leading the way. Of course, Apocalypse is just updating an idea that Blackwolf already tried in Wizards back in 1977, but whatever. Luciferian mutants just wanna fuck some shit up, I guess. It’s just the latest cycle of creative destruction in an endless wheel of time man!

Essentially, what the X-Men mythology presents is the idea that mutants have Luciferian origins, but being bestowed with superhuman powers isn’t grounds for being shunned or hunted down all by itself. They’re just different and special, bro. More evolved. If they go to Charles Xavier’s Hogwarts School for Gifted Youngsters, they’re good mutants. If they get too caught up in Apocalypse’s depopulation agenda, they’re bad. Don’t worry if there’s massive collateral damage, global surveillance, or if one of the baddies succeeds in killing off some of the population. Just accept the idea that there are people working in the corporate military-industrial complex and the deepest recesses of the state on harnessing these powers for good. And they definitely don’t have any nutty ideas about depopulation despite the fact that nearly every sci-fi offering presents some kind of doomsday scenario that wipes out humanity.

What Marvel and Bryan Singer have done is subvert your expectations by making the X-Men heroic embodiments of ideas that might not go down so easily if you think about the ramifications for five minutes. Ororo Munroe/Storm is essentially a one woman geoengineering facility. Perhaps even a proxy for HAARP itself. Cyclops is a living Directed Energy Weapon. Wolverine is a genetically engineered, MK Ultra super soldier. Charles Xavier and Cerebro together are the most powerful global surveillance operation ever. Not only does he have total information awareness, but he can steal memories and manipulate thoughts. Apocalypse wants to control Charles’ mind because when he does, he’ll be able to control every mind. Don’t think for a minute that this is just a comic book driven flight of imagination either.

There are interesting geopolitical details as well. When Raven liberates Nightcrawler from the mutant cage fighting match, she takes him to Caliban so he can forge IDs and passports and gain entry to the US. Because our sympathies are with the X-Men from the start, we’re totally distracted from the fact that they’re running an underground ID forgery operation. By extension, they’re creating a fast track for illegal immigrants to enter the US that bypasses the standard protocols. Does this have a real world analogue? I know which side of that bet I’m on.

I also propose that film, including and especially these Marvel movies, are subtle forms of historical revisionism. They reference actual historical events, but are refracted through the lens of fiction. They’re giving you grains of truth, but they’re occluded and distorted by the fictional packaging. When we’re introduced to Scott Summers (aka Cyclops), he’s learning about a big showdown between Mystique and Magneto. There was a Paris Peace Summit in Paris in 1973, but I’m certain that Magneto and Mystique weren’t there. What were the filmmakers saying about this event if Mystique and Magneto represent two competing sides of a mutant class of super beings? Perhaps that the two factions represented at the Paris Accord was a completely controlled dialectic from the start and the whole thing was a stage managed PR stunt? Kind of like a real life X-Men movie but without Olivia Munn in a kink/bondage combat outfit? You decide!

Above all else, the X-Men franchise is promoting transhumanism. Whether they’re scientifically engineered or innate paranormal/occult powers, these films want you to accept the idea that mutants and mutation represent humanity’s future. The people you think are outcasts or freaks are really just potential X-Men who haven’t yet been initiated into Charles Xavier’s Hogwarts School for Gifted Children. That article you just read about “brain-computer interfaces”? That’s just the next Jean Grey, man. Don’t be such a paranoid, conspiratorial bigot. It’s only the natural course of human evolution, bro.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

I saw Close Encounters at least twice when it was initially released, and on one of those occasions I was reduced to a weeping mess by the film’s conclusion. After rewatching it all these years later, it’s clearer to me why it hit me so hard back then. Yes, it’s an alien visitation movie and it’s got all the UFO porn you could ask for. But if we take the case that the mythology of extraterrestrial intelligence has been inserted into the culture in order to mainstream various forms of esoteric and Eastern religious beliefs, the film reads as an allegory of the Boomer generation’s nihilistic and narcissistic pursuit of Enlightenment. Roy Neary’s final decision to join the aliens is meant to be the triumphant fulfillment of his messianic vision quest, but he ends up jettisoning his family in the process. Whether it’s the chase for hedonistic thrills or the desire for institutional power and stature, Neary’s departure feels like a large scale symbolic removal of the father figure from the pop culture consciousness. It’s an act of cinematic demolition that has proceeded unabated since then.

Above all else, Close Encounters is a study in the power of visual and aural symbols. If you think this is a reach, consider the scene when François Truffaut’s Lacombe and Bob Balaban’s David Laughlin travel to Northern India to record the ecstatic song of the villagers. When the translator asks the villagers to identify the source of the song, they simultaneously point to the sky. The crowd is singing the 5-note melodic motif that will eventually be used to communicate with the aliens. Good luck getting that out of your brain. Jay Dyer has suggested that this tone sequence resembles the Tetragrammaton, and I think this is plausible. However, I also it’s a variation on the Gayatri Mantra, a devotional hymn to the sun deity, Savitr. Spielberg himself has said that it’s “When You Wish Upon a Star” meets science fiction’. A filmmaker as skillful as Spielberg doesn’t divulge something like that arbitrarily so it’s not unreasonable to surmise that a chant used to communicate with beings from the stars carries all the esoteric meaning connected to stars within the occult and Eastern traditions. Even the imagery on the poster suggests the same idea. An open stretch of highway with a glowing light emanating from beyond the horizon.

Roy’s vision of Devil’s Tower is similar. He is smitten with what amounts to a divine revelation of an Axis Mundi or a Holy Mountain. He is so consumed by the vision that he is compelled to fill an entire room in his home building a replica using everything from garbage pails to uprooted shrubbery. His wife played by Teri Garr is understandably frustrated and disturbed by his obsession and eventually leaves Roy with the children. Roy is initially upset, but his distress evaporates when he receives visual confirmation of his vision on the television newscast. He defies federal orders to stay clear of the area and begins his pilgrimage. But what kind of quest is this if Roy’s Mount Sinai is called Devil’s Tower?

There is a conspiracy component to this film as well. While it’s undoubtedly meant to stoke the longstanding theory of a government coverup of UFOs, it’s very subtly telling you that the military-intelligence complex is capable of manufacturing a public panic. Right down to the deployment of nerve gas agents that correspond to the the fake threat promulgated in the news media. I also couldn’t help but think of the ghetto liquidation scene from Schindler’s List when I saw the panicked townspeople feverishly scrambling to board the train. Obviously, Close Encounters wasn’t nearly as harrowing as Schindler’s List, but the essential idea that was put across felt the same. A frightened citizenry being herded onto a train by military forces. If we take the case that the coordinates featured in the film point to some hidden military dictatorship ensconced beneath or around the Denver Airport, then maybe this film is a nightmarish piece of predictive programming I certainly never previously imagined.

Roy’s ascension to the alien spacecraft reads as an initiation rite and an ode to Boomerseque self-absorption and narcissism. In the absence of any larger sense of purpose or meaning, an opportunity to join either a secret society, fraternal order or an “alien species” seems like a more important quest than being a devoted father. As it turns out, Richard Dreyfuss was declared a Mason at sight in 2011, so Spielberg’s casting choice was a window of insight into how he is perceived to the establishment elite.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind belongs to a well established tradition of films which explore the idea of a visitation from an advanced and benign intelligence. Picking up from the globalist message of The Day The Earth Stood Still, Close Encounters arguably jump started the UFO mythology for the modern era of mass entertainment and internet culture. As shows like the X-Files and the recently released Project Blue Book attest, the appetite for UFOs is bigger than ever. Coincidentally, the stories appearing in the mainstream media which tease the prospect of an actual sign of extraterrestrial life are also multiplying. But is it a coincidence? Maybe after all of our hubristic posturing of scientific rationalism, people are ultimately drawn to one idea that provides a sense of something greater than our seemingly empty and insignificant existence.

WE ARE NOT ALONE.

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