Ed Norton made a real movie. He really did. Yes, there’s some woke pandering, and we’ll get to that, but there is real cinematic achievement here and that warrants recognition.
A little bit Chinatown, a little bit The Fountainhead and a little bit Peter Gunn, Motherless Brooklyn is Ed Norton’s bid for an update on the old school hardboiled crime drama.
As Lionel Essrog, Ed Norton is a private detective trying to unravel the mystery of the murder of his employer. His investigation leads him to the heart of a massive gentrification effort led by a megalomaniacal developer named Moses Randolph. The effort is opposed by a progressive coalition of working class poor and minorities. Of course, the leaders of this woke coalition are two women; black and Jewish respectively. The film predictably places your sympathies with the woke underdogs and the Tourette’s afflicted gumshoe, but the characterizations, atmosphere, music and dialogue lift this effort above your average Hollywood panderfest.
Alec Baldwin’s Moses Randolph is undoubtedly supposed to be a composite of Trump and Howard Roark, but there’s a cursory attempt at making him somewhat sympathetic. When he waxes about his architectural achievements, you’re taken in by his quasi-Randian hubris. Norton probably wants you to just see Trump in Randolph, but he’s just as easily a proxy for progressive icons Harvey Weinstein and Bill Clinton.
Making him some kind of progressive caricature of #WHYTE #SUPREMACY was an unfortunate misstep, but I guess the Big White Boogeyman is unavoidable these days. The woke intelligentsia makes it seem as though whites are the only racial group that has any notions of superiority or supremacy. What about the Asian supremacists? Or better yet, the Jewish supremacists? Oh, that’s right. The European white man is the only one capable of true racism. My bad.
On the whole, the music is absolutely first rate. Not only is there a character who is undoubtedly a stand in for Miles Davis, but the noir jazz soundtrack is masterfully baked into the fabric of story.
Norton’s portrayal of Lionel’s Tourette’s is decent, but it does feel a little like pandering. Just as Asperger’s is being portrayed as some superpower, Norton is attempting to do the same for Tourette’s. It seems calculated to empower the ableism narrative.
Generally speaking, the artists who garner the praise of the cinematic establishment are those who stare into the barren soul of modern man and render its depravity in painstaking detail while hopefully, but not necessarily, offering a small glimmer of redemption in end. This is especially true of the films of Ingmar Bergman. This is a difficult tightrope to walk because the joke is that there is no real redemption in secular modernity. There is, at best, a competition of wills over some presumed “greater good”.
The praise that is accorded to Bergman is warranted for a few important reasons. First and foremost, his passion for the storytelling potential of cinema is genuine and awe inspiring. He appreciates the importance of crafting intimate and emotionally honest character portraits. The Serpent’s Egg meanders a bit, but for these reasons alone, Bergman commands your attention.
The Serpent’s Egg is a story of an American Jew living in Berlin in the twilight of the Weimar Republic. Most people will read this film as another spin on #NazisBad. Don’t believe them. Bergman has bigger fish to fry.
The fundamental delusion of the scientific materialist paradigm is the underlying belief that man’s moral defects can be quantified and stripped out through Pavlovian conditioning. The Serpent’s Egg may not be Bergman’s greatest film, but it is worth watching because it is the one film I’ve seen thus far which casts a bright light on the clinical and pathological architecture of this mindset.
Nowadays, we hear a constant drumbeat of feigned outrage and manufactured moral panic from the progressive establishment over the existential threat of a resurgent “fascist” sentiment in Europe and America. The shills who promulgate these concerns focus on bumper sticker moral transgressions like “racism” and “nationalism”, but anyone who has dedicated five minutes of genuine introspection over the real aims of the post-Enlightenment liberal project can easily see that Bergman is revealing something that is not limited to the national socialist mindset of pre-WWII Germany. When the behavior scientist Hans Vergerus confesses that the privately funded research in which he was engaged is destined to become global, it is among the most blood curdling lines ever uttered in cinema.
I was not surprised to see that Star Trek: The Motion Picture was the lowest rated film on Letterboxd featuring the original cast, but that doesn’t mean I’m less certain that the consensus is wrong. Whether you’re a fan of Wrath of Khan, the TNG series, or the Abrams reboots, y’all can suck on it because this movie is fucking Star Trek. Period. No, I don’t care that it’s similar to “The Changeling”. This is the quintessential Star Trek film.
Yes, it’s basically 2001 rewritten for the Star Trek universe, and that’s exactly as it should be. It’s about a giant ass AI ship that’s headed for Earth, and the crew must use their wits to subvert the AI’s logic protocols and save humanity from being snuffed out. What is more Star Trek than that?
Robert Wise was the perfect man to helm the director’s chair. People grouse about the pacing, but I feel he finally lent this franchise the gravitas for which it always strived in the first place. He takes his time introducing each character and you feel like you’re getting to know them for the first time while reveling in the special chemistry these actors shared in this setting. Of course, Scotty is stressed about the new design. Bones is a lovable crotchety grump about the new sick bay, but Kirk lays down the law and tells everyone to buckle up because humanity is at stake. Spock’s arrival aboard the Enterprise is easily one of best entrances ever. He’s bringing so much Vulcan stoicism that it approaches Eastwood levels of badass.
Thematically, this is just a remix of 2001, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The V’Ger AI had amassed tremendous quantities of information, but it had no human consciousness. It was an AI facing a Nietzschean existential crisis. Subsequently, it saw humans as pathogens to be eliminated. It wanted to evolve by merging with an actual human. If 2001 went over your head, Roddenberry repackaged the same idea for a younger generation. Now, folks like Ben Goertzel and Elon Musk are discussing these ideas openly.
The irony is that Roddenberry was a secular liberal globalist who had largely skeptical view of religion. While the show always presented the combination of Kirk’s human intuition and Spock’s ruthlessly rigorous scientific mind as a harmonious and heroic dynamic, the worldview itself leads to the barren ennui of V’Ger.
This is a minor gripe in what I consider the crown jewel of the Star Trek films featuring the original cast. Besides, you’re never going to see six full minutes of Kirk and Scotty just cruising through space dock taking in the glory of the USS Enterprise quite like this ever again.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Besides being one of the best sequels in modern cinematic history, it’s also a clever reimagining of Moby Dick and Paradise Lost. Even if you aren’t familiar with the literary references, the entire film can be seen as an extended exploration of one the RAND Corporation’s biggest exports: game theory. Specifically, the no-win situation.
The film opens with Kirstie Alley’s Lieutenant Saavik taking the now famous training simulation, the Kobayashi Maru. Rescue the Maru, and you violate the Neutral Zone treaty and precipitate hostilities with the Klingons. Ignore the signal and the crew dies. What’s a Starfleet cadet to do?
This conundrum is emblematic of the paradigm of enlightened scientific rationalism that has always been Star Trek’s calling card. We see the world through the eyes of a military starship captain. The welfare of the collective is always measured in terms of maximizing some Benthamite calculus. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”.
This is also an early and explicit example of geoengineering in film. Where Star Trek Into Darkness completely bypassed the moral implications of geoengineering by justifying it under the aegis of the Prime Directive, much of the drama of The Wrath of Khan comes from the fulfillment of David Marcus’s fear that the Genesis Project could be weaponized. Just as we saw in Avatar, we see an unholy alliance between the world of scientific innovation and the military-industrial complex. The movies always trick you by making you think there’s a bright line between the motivations of scientists and the military hierarchy overseeing them.
David Marcus’s reconciliation with Kirk is very heartwarming, but his skepticism towards Starfleet and militarized science is not unfounded. Khan is himself the byproduct of genetic engineering gone awry.
What’s truly remarkable is just how restrained the overall tempo and volume of The Wrath of Khan is. It’s a film that allows the tension to build organically. Especially in comparison to the Abrams reboots. Maybe attention spans have been permanently diminished, but one gets the impression that Abrams doesn’t grasp what made Star Trek tick in the first place.
The ending still gets to me. My love for these original films is eternal. Absolutely classic.
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
Star Trek has always glorified scientific utopianism, but anyone who doubts that it is deeply spiritual at its core needs to give this one a spin. Not only is it loaded with Biblical symbolism, but the Vulcan ritual at the end is as pagan as it gets.
Despite Star Trek’s overt sympathies for globalism and scientism, this film levels a scathing critique at scientific hubris. The Genesis project may have raised Spock from the dead, but besides being a failure, it was sought by the Klingons to be utilized as a superweapon.
I feel sorry for anyone who really thinks that the Abrams reboots truly represent Star Trek. If you want to understand the difference between then and now, just marvel at the way Nimoy managed to make the Enterprise’s escape from space dock dramatic. It’s the kind of patient filmmaking you’ll never get from a JJ Abrams.
Aside from the very obvious Genesis/Lazarus symbolism, this film reveals that Star Trek is ultimately very concerned with spiritual questions but is packaging them in a veneer of scientific rationalism. Kirk undertook the mission because his soul was at stake.
I suspect that James Cameron borrowed from the katra ritual to some extent for the conclusion of Avatar.
Vulcan mysticism is very overtly pagan. I’d argue that it’s fundamentally Platonic.
Star Trek glorifies the achievements of Starfleet and the Federation, but almost every one of Kirk’s great achievements requires him to buck the bureaucracy and disobey orders.
Despite the radical scientific advancement that the Genesis project represented, it was a failure and it was sought by the Klingons so it could be exploited as a superweapon. Once again, you have the veneration of scientific advancement (e.g. warp capabilities, transporter tech, terraforming, etc) while simultaneously showing how these technologies can be weaponized.
Deep state assassin plays surrogate father for his deep fake GMO clone who’s trying to ruin his retirement.
I always feel a little bit dirty for being taken in by a film like this because you know that’s when its psychological toxins are taking root. Like Doctor Sleep, Gemini Man exceeded my minimal expectations. It is another piece of deep state chic about a super soldier assassin who is being targeted by his genetically engineered clone. The main gimmick here being the seamless integration of CGI effects on the Will Smith double.
When Henry and Junior finally meet, there is some genuinely compelling psychodrama as Henry tries to appeal to his conscience and his capacity for free will. It’s subject matter that has plenty of precedent in sci-fi, but it’s capably handled here. I was almost encouraged when Henry tries to dissuade Junior from pursuing the deep state assassin life and raise a family. But alas, I was let down in the final confrontation with Clay Verris, the bad surrogate father who raised Junior from the time he was just a test tube specimen.
Verris wanted to create an even better version of Henry. A soldier with all of his killer acumen and none of his defects, vulnerabilities, fears or doubts. This required filling the deficits of Henry’s single mother upbringing and being the father he never had. That means showing him…get this….love and affection. Scandalous. I think you can imagine what happens to Verris. I suppose it’s a form of cosmic justice since it wasn’t true, unconditional paternal love, but from a symbolism perspective, it’s another swing of the wrecking ball against the edifice of fatherhood.
Ramona Flowers turns in a likeable performance as another nu school archetype of feminine Wokegnosis. Academic smarts, combat capabilities, yet desexualized and semi-maternal all at once. All the checkboxes are filled out, but there’s just enough real humanity and vulnerability to make her engaging. Together, she and Henry form the kind of quasi-alchemical, artificial parenthood that the establishment hopes to normalize.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. Every Hollywood film is a clever mixture of art and propaganda. Gemini Man is noteworthy because it is further proof that Hollywood is specifically propaganda for military black operations, espionage, mass surveillance and media, eugenics, artificial intelligence, and all manners of superweapons. It’s a big deal because the MSM narrative insists that the idea of a “deep state” is just a conservatard talking point. From a Hollywood perspective, it is normative to see portraits of espionage and black operations as heroic. Yet, they’re also telling you that these forces are the very first boots on the ground in any unstable region of the world deposing leaders, fomenting dissent and training death squads.
Not only does Gemini Man want you to believe that the black ops assassin is a great guy who is just doing his patriotic duty, it wants you to believe that he’s the guy who’s going to thwart the plans of people like Verris who take things a little too far. When Henry and his pals raise a glass, they toast to “the next war which is no war.” Don’t you want to believe it?
The film was shot at 60 fps as opposed to 24. While this was probably sold as a cutting edge effect, it is also probably includes the latest piece of hypnosis tech. This is also probably the test film for a new generation of deep fake technology. May God have mercy on our souls.
Growing up in the secular liberal paradigm requires you to take lots of assumptions both as a priori truth and unquestionable articles of faith. First and foremost being an ironclad assumption that society must progress. There is an unswerving belief that we remain shackled by social values that are both antiquated and deeply ingrained. These attitudes are a consequence of ossified institutions which perpetuate outmoded ways of thinking underpinning a vast array of pernicious, omnipresent structures of “oppression”. The only way forward is to demand change and remake the system. Smash it and rebuild if you fancy yourself a radical. Following closely behind these beliefs are three corollary beliefs; true progressivism is the ideology of the underdog, the system is fearful of change, and that all progressive political advocacy is good, true, pure and right. Anyone who stands in the way is just motivated by hate, ignorance, fear or bigotry. Probably all of the above.
In 2020, Progressivism is the ideology of the ruling class. Once effectively able to affect a pretense of working class legitimacy, the modern liberal establishment is unabashedly global, cosmopolitan, and aristocratic in temperament. Most importantly, they’ve gotten filthy rich. Once comprised of labor unions, blue collar workers, and various bleeding heart middle income urbanites who could convincingly exploit grievances against the 1%, the modern liberal establishment is clearly the plutocracy it once opposed. Comprised of pretentious academics, judicial activists, NGO’S, non-profit sector denizens, media elites, effete celebrities, sports tycoons and their overpaid, preening athletes, Silicon Valley moguls, hedge fund and private equity barons, Wall Street titans, intelligence professionals, bureaucrats who inhabit every level of power from the municipality up to the UN, IMF and World Bank, and legions of annoying professional activists in every corner of cultural influence, the progressive establishment is anything but an embattled underdog.
Joe Biden is one of the most honest, decent, practical, & experienced individuals with whom I have ever worked. If nominated & elected, he is capable of unifying our country & restoring America’s standing around the world. https://t.co/JUtvAfPSLy
Needless to say, if you subscribe to this worldview, you aren’t likely to question the success or failure of yesterday’s policy victory nor the underlying belief that today’s cause célèbre is anything less than a moral imperative. Christopher Caldwell’s new book, The Age of Entitlement, is a look back on the entire spectrum of legislative and cultural reforms of the 60s and the ways in which they ushered in an entirely new social compact and subverted constitutional precedent. What’s fascinating about his analysis is that he reveals that these changes were so sweeping, they continued their inexorable march through every power structure regardless of who occupied the White House or which party held a Congressional majority. While conservatives may feel a sense of vindication and triumphalism by the Trump presidency, The Age of Entitlement should make anyone with traditional sensibilities deeply concerned.
At the center of his critique is a sweeping indictment of the Civil Rights movement. Specifically, the Civil Rights Act of ’64 and its subsidiary revolutions, feminism and the so-called “counterculture“. While Caldwell isn’t the first to go after these sacred cows, he is taking a different tack than Thomas Sowell and Paul Gottfried did in their analyses. The Age of Entitlement is useful in the sense that it provides a serviceable narrative to describe the massive cultural and institutional transformation ushered in under the banner of civil rights. What’s less useful about the book is that it offers no remedy nor any refuge for anyone who claims the mantle of conservatism of any kind.
Not only does it shed a light on the origins of today’s demagoguery disguised as activism, it exposes these reforms as simultaneously the most sweeping in the history of the republic and the biggest failures in terms of creating a more harmonious relationship between blacks and whites and men and women. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 created a bureaucracy of judicial activists, academics, and compliance apparatchiks so vast, the net effect was nothing less than a complete disassembly of constitutional norms of free association in favor of a police state mentality which looked for bigotry and discrimination even if there was none to be found.
Even if Trump secures a second term, the Right must contend with the cultural reality that the outworking of the liberal worldview has wrought. As Seraphim Rose argues in Nihilism, the underlying presuppositions of liberalism have become unraveled and its hollow core is exposed as never before. Caldwell argues that the new Civil Rights compact set the old constitutional norms in opposition to the new ones. It might be tempting to say that all that’s required is a reset of old fashioned constitutional principles, but who really believes that this is a tenable proposition at this juncture?
The country would therefore become an economic part rather than an economic whole, rendering nonsensical, at least for a while, all kinds of inherited cultural and political beliefs about sovereignty, national independence, and social cohesion.
Political conservativism is built on the liberal operating system. It can only work for a while as long as the assumptions of the premodern mindset remain intact. In other words, it assumes that there are objective moral principles and that there are transcendent truths to which we and our leaders are bound through the nation state. However, at this point in time, nothing can be taken as a given nor can any inherited tradition be considered exempt from the bonfires of revolution. If a society can no longer agree on what is shared or held to be sacred, then you’ve got a social malady that extends far beyond the purview of any legislative remedy. Christopher Caldwell has done a fantastic job chronicling the unraveling of 20th century democratic capitalism, but it does not answer the question of where to place your ultimate faith in the tumultuous years that lie ahead. And I daresay that may require an appeal to a higher power.
There is an unquestionable overabundance of woke agitprop coming from Hollywood these days, but between this and the 2018 “documentary” by Julie Cohen and Betsy West, the cinematic love letter to Notorious RBG has become its own subgenre. I went in expecting epic cringe and it didn’t disappoint. It is the veritable hymnal for the feminist catechism that I expected.
However, the film seems to be running at cross purposes with contemporary sensibilities. On one hand, it is refueling the feminist grievance industry by attempting to portray the world of 2020 as completely unchanged from the world of Harvard Law School in 1956 when RBG was one of six women in her class. As Sam Waterston’s Erwin Griswold confers with his team in preparation for the Charles Moritz case, Mimi Leder absolutely wants you find this cabal of white men who bloviate over the sanctity of the family loathsome and omnipresent. Down with the patriarchy! When Marty toasts Ruth’s new professorship after being turned down at law firms, you’re supposed to feel the revulsion and disappointment on Ruth’s visage as he refers to her as “mom”. Fuck motherhood man! Garbage collection gender equality NOW!
Yet, at the same time, there is something decidedly unwoke about this film. While the film centers around RBG’s quest for redress of Charles Moritz’ denial of a caregiver tax deduction, the film already feels out of step with the cutting edge of the feminist ideological vanguard. In her arguments to the 10th circuit judges, RBG says that sex is an immutable biological reality. Whoa! Ease up there, Hitler. DIDN’T YOU READ JUDITH BUTLER, RUTH?
But none of that matters. If anything, it’s proof that the progressive ruling class doesn’t take anything it says seriously. They’re all just different shards of ideological weaponry that can be deployed when necessary. As is usually the case with the best works of propaganda, it’s very clever about how the message is delivered. As a newly radicalized Jane Ginsburg tries to femsplain to her unwoke mom that Atticus Finch was a role model attorney, Ruth shoots her down by appealing to THE PENAL CODE as evidence of his unethical behavior. Ah, but why is Ruth Bader Ginsburg putting everything on the line for Charles Moritz? BECAUSE THE LAW IS WRONG. So the lesson is that the law is the ultimate authority until it’s politically inconvenient. Because every woman must have an equal opportunity to work street sanitation or fulfill her lifelong dream of working an oil derrick.
As Ruth and Marty arrive at the 10th circuit courtroom for the climactic trial, Mimi Leder hovers over the quote inscribed on the wall. It reads “Reason is the soul of the law”. Sounds great, right? Standard Enlightenment rhetoric. It’s the stuff of which the American Revolution was built. It’s supposed to be the kind of lofty ideal on which which every American can agree. But who really thinks America in 2020 can agree on what “reason” means? Or who possesses the capacity to exercise it properly? Let alone believes in the existence of a “soul” within the law. RBG is the ultimate progressive power fantasy because she embodies the You Can Have It All feminist dream. She has a devoted husband and she’s a game changing crusader for Womyn’s Rights. She’s a mother and an educated career oriented woman. But Mimi Leder isn’t interested in whether or not this is attainable or desirable for everyone. Like everyone else in the progressive ruling class, the fantasy of ideological purity is the overriding priority. This is just as much a slice of a decades long social engineering experiment carried out by the progressive establishment as it is the story of a pivotal case in RBG’s career. Academia and the ACLU are just as important to this story as RBG herself. When Kathy Bates’ Dorothy Kenyon admonishes Ruth to “change minds, then change the law”, this feels like a page from the ruling class playbook. As a footnote, there is also what appears to be a nod to the Pentagon’s role in the development of artificial intelligence in the judicial system; a job that would later be outsourced to Silicon Valley.
Just like the Cohen and West “documentary” from 2018, Mimi Leder also isn’t interested in looking back and taking stock of what the legacy of the feminist establishment has wrought. It’s painting RBG’s career as an unquestionably righteous neverending battle while simultaneously subtly denigrating marriage and motherhood. If equality is your highest ideal, then that necessarily entails that the hierarchy of values that once defined the social order will be equalized as well. When sex becomes recreational, then you shouldn’t be surprised or appalled by an entire generation of infantilized men or the dissolution of chivalry. And yet, that’s exactly the grift Leder and the progressive ruling class is attempting to pull off in this film. Just be sure to tweet SLAY KWEEN as you watch RBG do her slo-mo march up the SCOTUS staircase.
At least, those of us who’ve been written off by Kathleen Kennedy and her clone army of SJW shills as butthurt fanboys, bigots and Russian bots. We knew. We absolutely knew it would come down to this. As sure as the prophecy of The Chosen One.
We knew this film would be an unmitigated catastrophe. It was merely a question of magnitude.
We knew there was no way JJ Abrams was going to pull off a satisfying conclusion, let alone a coherent movie, out from the trash fire known as The Last Jedi.
We knew that this whole God forsaken sequel trilogy was a meandering hodgepodge of SJW talking points pretending to be a story.
We read all the leaks on Reddit and facepalmed at each revelation.
We knew that none of these characters had an ounce of real charisma, chemistry or charm.
We knew that both JJ Abrams and Rian Johnson ran roughshod over the canonical pillars of the Star Wars mythology for the express purpose of pandering to their imaginary legions of woke superfans.
We knew that there was no real story here at all.
We knew this was an unplanned and haphazard patchwork of half-baked ideas and malformed characters; an execrable and contemptuous spitball of a film directed squarely in the eye of every person who ever cared about this franchise.
We knew it, and yet, all we could do is watch from the sidelines as JJ Abrams, Rian Johnson and Kathleen Kennedy absolutely demolished one of pop culture’s most durable mythologies like a three-headed Admiral Holdo Cerberus running a kamikaze mission on First Order Star Destroyers. All while being insulted and attacked by Johnson and his media minions as trolls and bigots for daring to have a critical view of his shitty movie.
Young fools! Only now, at the end, do you understand!
So how bad is it?
Honestly, not that bad. Search your feelings. You know it to be true.
The Rise of Skywalker has earned the most dubious distinction in pop culture history. It is the most entertainingly brazen act of contempt, incompetence and indifference ever committed by a major entertainment company. When even the establishment media shills are openly conceding that JJ Abrams spends a good chunk of the film walking back Rian Johnson’s choices, you know there is no way this film can avoid being an epic calamity. And yet, somehow, against all the odds, that’s exactly what he did. Indeed, the Dark Side is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be… unnatural.
It feels redundant to point out its myriad flaws because the entire trilogy has been mismanaged from the start, and as expected, The Rise of Skywalker is loaded with them. It is filled with major abuses, missed opportunities, and earth shattering WTFs. However, to be perfectly fair, it has some honest successes. So let’s take a look at the Force miracles and missteps JJ Abrams has performed for this would-be epic finale to the Skywalker saga.
Rise of the Retcon
How the fuck is Palpatine even in this film? Seriously. The motherfucker gets thrown down a shaft and then survives the explosion of the Death Star? Really? Look, I can buy into the fact that Sith are never fully vanquished, but this was simultaneously the most blatant appeal to nostalgia and act of desperation ever committed. After Rian Johnson completely derailed this trilogy, I understand why this was necessary, but it doesn’t absolve JJ Abrams either. Apparently, theres’ a Sith homeworld called Exogol with genetic engineers, giant ass statues and legions of Sith acolytes who sit around doing incantations while Palpatine is kept alive with a midichlorian enriched IV drip. Somehow, no one ever knew about this homeworld nor suspected that the Palpatine zombie ghost was pulling all the strings the whole time, but whatever man. The most galling thing about this entire device is that it absolutely nullifies the triumphs of the original characters. Luke, Leia and Han put everything on the line to defeat Palpatine the first time, but HAHA IT’S ALL A RUSE YOU DUMB FANBOYS! GEORGE LUCAS WAS JUST TROLLING AND YOU NEEDED KATHLEEN KENNEDY AND JJ ABRAMS TO LIFT THE VEIL! I guess it’s something JJ Abrams pulled out of that mystery box he likes to talk about.
The retconning of Palpatine also necessitated the inclusion of the films two MacGuffins: the Sith dagger and the Wayfinder GPS system. Again, how the Wayfinder was intact after the destruction of the Endor Death Star absolutely beggars belief. But whatever man. Mystery box or something.
What? How? Why?
Why did it take three films for Kylo Ren to actually seem fearsome and imposing?
Why would he fear the re-emergence of Palpatine? Wouldn’t he be enthusiastic about the return of the most legendary Sith?
Why didn’t Kylo Ren just start blasting the shit out of Rey while he was in the TIE fighter? How did he survive that crash landing?
How the fuck did Palpatine build that fleet of Star Destroyers without conscripting or employing the services of several worlds and interplanetary defense contractors? Or anyone disccovering it?
Why didn’t General Pryde just tilt the Star Destoyer to the side and force the Riders of Endor to just fall off?
If Finn and Jannah broke the psychological conditioning of the First Order, why treat all stormtroopers as murderous goons? Doesn’t this make every stormtrooper a potential new ally?
Why weren’t the Knights of Ren introduced at the beginning of the trilogy so we could actually appreciate Ben Solo’s victory? Why were they presented as super badasses but ultimately killed and wasted like Phasma and Snoke?
How is Luke’s X-Wing still functional after being at the bottom of the ocean after all those years?
Why would you hire Keri Russell and keep her in a helmet for the entire film?
Why would Hux be a double agent for the Resistance just to spite Kylo Ren? Couldn’t he find another way to undermine him that didn’t involve exposing the First Order to their mortal enemies?
Suck on it, Rian Johnson
Thankfully, JJ Abrams did try to walk back some of Rian Johnson’s most egregious errors. While The Last Jedi did irreparable damage to the legacy of Luke Skywalker, JJ Abrams did his best to redeem him. Furthermore, the role of the annoying and pointless PETA activist, Rose Tico, was blessedly diminished. Her affection for Finn was set up to be a meaningful romantic connection, but that thread was jettisoned too. Given the ad hoc nature of the whole thing, it’s par for the course.
Best Jedi EVAR!
Fantasy and sci-fi properties which feature characters with fantastical powers only work when you have rules that govern the acquisition and usage of the powers. The way the Force was introduced in the OT was very effective because it was gradual. Most importantly, it carried dramatic weight because the ability to utilize its power was presented as something that required training and discipline regardless of whether you were on the Dark or Light side. Each film presented new aspects to the Force, but it worked because there was a sense of restraint. All of that restraint has been abandoned in The Rise of Skywalker.
It’s a problem that has plagued Rey since The Force Awakens, and The Rise of Skywalker only doubles down. Rey has been a Mary Sue throughout the trilogy and this film basically made her a Force Jesus. She can do a Force pull on entire ships. She can do Force Skyping and she can transport matter though the Force. She can summon Force lightning. And now, she can do Force healing! Hallelujah!
I was never afraid for Rey. There was never a moment that I was concerned for her welfare. Daisy Ridley does her best with what she’s been given, but the entire character is a giant panderfest. She’s a humorless and wooden caricature of female power. Characters are only interesting if they have real deficits, weaknesses and failures and her yearning to know her past isn’t enough to make her a compelling hero.
I actually didn’t mind the ReyLo moments and I think the whole thing should have been treated as a proper star crossed romance from the start. As in they actually fall in love with one another. The scene on the Endor Death Star wreckage was Rey’s most vulnerable moment and I actually kind of liked her for the first time. What people like Kathleen Kennedy, JJ Abrams and Rian Johnson are too ideologically possessed to recognize is that despite all of Leia’s tough chick qualities, she was also a bit of a raging cunt. This is why Han Solo’s wisecracks were funny. He diffused her imperious bitchiness and he made her more vulnerable by allowing her to be feminine. Feminists love to bitch about the Leia’s metal slave bikini, but that was something that added to her overall appeal. The Disney Lucasfilm cabal has gone so far out of their way to imbue Rey with every conceivable expertise and power that they’ve destroyed whatever natural female charisma she could have had. This is what made the final resolution so unsatisfying given the film’s emphasis on the necessity of friends and meaningful bonds.
The Rise of Skywalker?
This film is called The Rise of Skywalker and yet not a single member of the Skywalker clan is even alive. Rey can just appropriate the name cuz identity is a social construct or something. If Rey is the future of the Jedi, wouldn’t it make sense for her and Ben to raise a family and rebuild the Jedi order now that the Sith have been permanently vanquished and the Republic now bear the burden of governing? Nah! We’re too #WOKE for such sentimentality. A woman don’t need no man, amirite?
We’re supposed to believe that the victory over the First Order and the Sith is complete this time, and the restoration of the Republic will bring about another golden age of peace and security. I guess.
While JJ Abrams did pull off a miraculous feat, everything about this trilogy was so haphazard and random that it’s hard to care. The film is too rushed. The characters spend too much time yelling at each other. The jokes rarely land. The retcons and MacGuffins are dumb.
Yet somehow, I kind of did care. Just a little. The moment between Ben and Han was kind of sweet and heroic. It was nice to see Luke treated with a little respect. The climax felt like he was trying to outdo Avengers: Endgame and LOTR, but I found it somewhat rousing.
It’s not the best possible ending to the Skywalker saga, but I suppose it’s the one we deserve in 2020. Leave it to the Disney Corporation to hand the legacy of the Jedi to a Palpatine and sell it as the resolution to the Skywalker saga.
Now that The Rise of Skywalker is out and a confirmed turd, what will become of Star Wars? Can Lucasfilm right the ship after Kathleen Kennedy and coterie of pop culture arsonists have immolated the lore? Can Star Wars be salvaged? Can Star Wars ever matter again?
Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.
God willing, the rumors are true that Kathleen Kennedy’s ignominious tenure as head of Lucasfilm is coming to an end. Hopefully, we’ll look back on her stewardship as a mercifully brief, but painfully depraved act of vandalism on a beloved pop culture franchise. Maybe Star Wars won’t recover from her reign of terror, but we can always hope for the best and imagine the possibilities.
In a normal world, the failure of the sequel trilogy should prompt an earnest reappraisal of the relevance of the entire Star Wars franchise in the 21st century. At its core, Star Wars celebrates the revolutionary ethos; the scrappy underdogs taking on the mechanistic totalitarian behemoth. In 1977, this mixture of pulp sci-fi, Jungian archetypes, and old school Hollywood swashbuckling felt fresh and innovative. You could even make the case that it had reactionary overtones since the final celebration of A New Hope heralded the restoration of a monarchical aristocracy. Even if Princess Leia ultimately submitted herself to the interplanetary democratic bureaucracy, she was still royalty. Even JJ Abrams affirmed this fact in one of Lor San Tekka’s throwaway lines.
The sequel trilogy tried to present itself as a fresh update by putting a more multicultural, intersectional veneer on Star Wars, but the underlying formula remained the same. Embattled democratic idealists fighting an infinitely resourced technocratic military dictatorship. But what’s so rebellious about pandering to feminists, LGBTQ ideologues, and vegans or giving lip service to other hollow progressive pieties? Nothing.
Is this pop space opera formula even relevant anymore if you’re looking to revive Star Wars for a new generation?
It could be.
If the Disney Corporation had any real courage or was really interested making Star Wars relevant while repurposing the basic formula, they would have to completely realign the struggle between the Rebellion and the Empire. What gets easily forgotten is that the Rebels simply want to reclaim the seat of power of the interplanetary democratic imperium. They’re not trying to dismantle the Galactic Senate. Their ambitions are no different than the Empire in terms of acquiring power. You’re left to assume that they’ll just be more humane cuz womyn and multiculturalism and shit.
A more courageous 21st century Star Wars would focus on the #Brexiteers of the New Republic; planets who are sick of a bloated and decadent bureaucracy of indifferent elites on Coruscant. It would focus on societies who don’t want the crushing conformity and ineptitude of a multiplanetary super state. Since Disney is a propaganda arm of the globalist power structure, they’ll never do that. If anything, they’ll continue to offer up cartoonish strawmen of secessionists and Nazis as the sole embodiments of pure evil.
Should Disney just break the universe down into its constituent parts and focus on small scale projects like The Mandalorian?
Maybe. The Mandalorian seems to be drawing enthusiastic praise from the fans. Perhaps Star Wars makes more sense as a crime/Western or as a gritty remix of The Dirty Dozen a la Rogue One. It invites questions about whether or not these reinventions can even be called Star Wars, but people just want something that’s good even if it bears no resemblance to the OT. If Lucasfilm can just write a decent story and create memorable characters, the fans would be lining up to hand over their cash.
What’s obvious to anyone who isn’t already ideologically aligned with the Disney Corporation is that they are the Empire. Does anyone really believe that the military-industrial corporate powers behind a multibillion dollar global conglomerate like the Disney Corporation represent any kind of real world revolutionary underdog? Mass produced revolutionary chic is the ethos and the product of the global corporate democratic elite. #Rebellion is the establishment. Subsequently, they’re ideologically cornered. The safe bet is that we’ll continue to watch all their storytelling choices get funneled into this narrow cul de sac. Any other narrative choices are either too risky or just too far off the ideological reservation for the Disney Corporation.
Despite the romantic lip service to democracy, the Star Wars franchise is actually a subtle indictment of democracy. The prequel series traces the decline of the Old Republic while the subsequent chapters portray two generations of revolution. Not exactly a glowing endorsement of democracy. The series constantly glorifies rebellion as the highest virtue, but portrays the ability to govern and lead as a recipe for dictatorship. The Empire are clearly more accomplished at marshalling resources and maintaining order, but the means by which they achieve it is either through violence, fear, brainwashing or overwhelming military might.
A more honest and mature Star Wars would portray pro-Empire worlds who were beneficiaries of the military-industrial contracts and largesse. To amass that much military might purely through coercion absolutely strains credibility. Comfort, leisure, and entertainment coupled with order, safety and stability are far more effective means of population control than guns, prisons and superweapons ever will be. The perennial portrait of murderous Imperial monsters who just want to annihilate every world in the galaxy just doesn’t add up. They need resources, labor, and a tax base. They won’t have anything to govern if they just vaporize every planet in the imperium. It’s not exactly the mythic dichotomy portrayed in the franchise, but it would be a fresh update.
A more honest and mature Star Wars would also portray the Rebels for what they likely really are in the real world: controlled opposition; a subversive element which provides a pretext for consolidating more power. The Rebels would either be demagogues marshalling public sentiment, terror cells, or fifth column elements attempting to destabilize planets unsympathetic to the Empire. No one in the New Republic really wants a Holdo leading military fleets. In contrast to their real world progressive counterparts, the Rebels clearly do not repudiate firearm ownership, opportunistically glorify military leadership or embrace phony postures of pacifism.
I never thought I’d see the day when the gatekeepers of a major pop culture franchise would use it to telegraph their utter hatred for the mythology and the fans the way Kathleen Kennedy has over this film cycle. As someone who always regarded the very idea of being paid generous sums of cash to tell stories and be creative as the greatest achievement, this strikes me as the height of decadence and entitlement.
I certainly think Star Wars could matter in the 21st century, but I don’t blame anyone for writing it off as a dead mythology at this point. Because of the impact it made on me while I was growing up, it’s hard for me to completely reject it. However, that doesn’t mean I’m signing up for Disney+ just so I can watch The Mandalorian either. Because George Lucas lit my soul on fire back in 1977, part of me will continue to hold out a new hope that someone at Lucasfilm will simply love Star Wars and its fans. I’d like to think there’s room for a big hearted pop culture mythology that actually respects its fans and source material. Despite being the property of the most entitled and compromised people on the planet, I believe Star Wars could reclaim that position again. Help us, Kevin Feige. You’re our only hope.
The Abolition of Man is absolutely essential because it gets to the core of what I feel is the only debate worth having at this stage of history. Lewis is talking about First Principles in the context of classical philosophy. Every claim comes prepackaged with its own ethical, epistemological and metaphysical presuppositions.
Despite his own Christian beliefs, he’s taking an ecumenical approach to time honored wisdom. If you are going to strip away all traditional notions of duty, honor, virtue in favor of a more “natural” approach to Man, then you consign Man’s soul to the meat grinder of the scientific data mill. Thus making subsequent generations slaves to the scientific class who are going to condition the masses to accept whatever definition of “good” is going to be most expedient to the larger goal of consolidating power within the scientific priesthood.
Back in the day, all the cool kids were unanimous in their opposition to puritanical scolds of the time, the PMRC. For those who didn’t live through it or simply don’t recall, the Parents Music Resource Center was a committee comprised predominantly of the wives of Washington elites who were Deeply Troubled by the lack of content warnings on major recordings. In short, they wanted a warning label on pop and rock records which contained racy lyrical content so they could theoretically police their kids’ purchases. Needless to say, the PMRC created a shitstorm of controversy, and the ensuing schism predictably arrayed public sentiment into two camps. The forces of secular liberal rock n’ roll freedom were set against the forces of stodgy, repressive secular conservatism. The PMRC’s crowning achievement was a televised Senate hearing in 1985 which ultimately ushered in the era of the Parental Advisory sticker warning on albums.
Despite the industry concession, the hearing produced three of the most memorable and pugilistic anti-censorship speeches ever delivered by modern musicians. Not the least of which was Frank Zappa’s combative diatribe. Who didn’t relish hearing Frank Zappa dish out such well deserved scorn and contempt on this self-appointed group of busybodies?
The PMRC got their warning sticker, but the entire crusade seemed like a pyrrhic victory. All it did was incentivize rockers to make records that would earn them the sticker. The Parental Advisory became a new badge of honor for the edgy rocker or rapper. What kid didn’t want to buy the album with the Parental Advisory warning? Musicians boasted about its instant appeal. At the end of the day, the PMRC seemed like an orchestrated stunt which ultimately emboldened and sanctified the rebellious rocker who gleefully held his middle finger aloft in permanent defiance of all would-be establishment moral authority. “Fuck off, prudes” was rock n’ roll’s permanent answer to any pleas for restraint from morality cops.
However, I believe the PMRC was a harbinger of a far more pernicious trend that has achieved its ultimate and inevitable conclusion in what has now been deemed Cancel Culture. The abiding lesson that the social engineer class likely recognized (planned?) from this exercise is that top down enforcement of morality doesn’t work. Subsequently, the various gatekeepers of cultural consensus who inhabit the academic, media and entertainment spheres have cleverly smuggled a tightly knit package of woke pieties into the public consciousness through a multigenerational indoctrination campaign that is now reaping its harvest. If you can succeed at encapsulating vast social evils into omnipresent yet infinitely subjective terms like “patriarchy”, “toxic masculinity” or “rape culture”, people won’t just accept censorship. They’ll actively police content for signs of transgression and demand it. It’s the type of Pavlovian style psychological conditioning that Aldous Huxley portrayed in vivid detail in Brave New World.
All of which brings me to John Legend and Kelly Clarkson’s abominable turd of a remake of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”. To anyone who’s attuned to methods of the Missionaries of Wokegnosis, this is a sad inevitability. Any time you see a steady drip of woke thinkpieces in the media or gender studies papers bitching about something being “problematic” on one or more grounds of woke sin, you can predict with absolute and ironclad certainty that this particular piece of pop culture has been slated for demolition.
The ways that this remake is a pointless, hypocritical and destructive affront to a wonderful song are manifold, but the most egregious of which is the sanctimonious aura of moral authority that is implied by its very existence. The entire realm of rock and pop has maintained a posture of unrepentant hedonism and decadence since Elvis gyrated his hips on Ed Sullivan. “Fuck off, prudes” and “Don’t be rapey, you misogynistic bigot” are mutually exclusive positions. You can’t have it both ways, assholes.
Are they taking aim at Cardi b’s “Stripper Hoe” or Ariana Grande’s “Side to Side”? Of course not. Instead, they create a shitty revision of a beloved song just to virtue signal and score a few cheap #MeToo points from blue checkmarks on Twitter. Why? Because it’s easy. They can point the finger at The Past and tear down the achievements of others for failing to pass the fake moral purity test of the hashtag warriors.
The worldview which gave rise to this posture of pious censoriousness is straight out of the Herbert Marcuse School of Repressive Intolerance. It thrives on a presumption of an irreconcilable Left/Right dialectic in which all forms of convention or tradition which can be even loosely attributed to the Judeo-Christian worldview are forms of false consciousness which must be summarily torn down and remade in a progressive mold. Sadly, this is why the Missionaries of Wokegnosis cannot actually create anything of lasting value let alone anything people really want to consume. All they can do is infiltrate the legacy of works created by others and tear them down by imposing their idiotic and misguided ideology. These people simply cannot create original works that stand on their own merits. They can only desecrate the works of minds far superior to their own.
In retrospect, the PMRC seemed far more honorable than the woke revisionists of today because at least they were reasonably consistent about which songs they believed contained morally questionable or reprehensible content.
The same cannot be said about the phony #WOKE posturing of John Legend and Kelly Clarkson in their pointless and wretched revision of “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. In an utterly shameless grab for virtue points from their online echo chamber, the song is nothing but a cavalcade of the same dumb clichés and platitudes that already permeate the culture. It’s bad enough that a company which manufactures shaving products for men has to push this toxic gruel into the public square, but it’s even worse that the simple pleasures that everyone could once enjoy during Christmas have to get a woke makeover.
Emma Watson has said she prefers to call herself "self-partnered" rather than single as she approaches her 30th birthday. https://t.co/5UVDVzahvS
This is ultimately what makes John Legend and Kelly Clarkson’s transformation into the Donnie and Marie of Cancel Culture just another contemptible manifestation of America’s descent into Clown World. The most decadent and compromised people on earth are dispensing moral lectures by ruining Christmas songs. Men and women can’t be flirtatious and fall in love anymore. Courtship and chivalry don’t exist. Subsequently, the ultimate virtue is for the man to treat women like radioactive material while encouraging her to #shoutyourabortion and be a “self-partnered” wine aunt. The sheer cynicism and hubris is what makes this truly detestable. It is designed to be the turd in the Christmas punchbowl. They knew it would spark a backlash and they’ll respond with some other predictably idiotic cliche about how they’re “just trying to start a conversation” or “raise awareness”. We’re not buying it, assholes. Do us all a favor and cancel your shitty and unnecessary remake.