Category Archives: film

Atomic Blonde (2017)

It belongs to the current New Wave of Hollywood Wokegnosis, but it’s better than I expected. This is clearly Charlize Theron’s bid for the female equivalent of a 007 or John Wick franchise. To her credit, she carries off the role of MI6 superspy, Lorraine Broughton, fairly convincingly. Part of me was just happy that the film and character was based on an original property and wasn’t just another tiresome gender swap from an existing franchise.

Atomic Blonde is a Cold War espionage thriller which centers around a list of double agents which has fallen into the wrong hands. The events of the plot are set against the rising tide of democratic populism which culminated in the collapse of the Berlin Wall and Communism 1.0. Since espionage thrillers exist to propagandize clandestine services, it raises some interesting questions about the degree to which the entire Cold War was being stage managed by intelligence agencies. James McAvoy is a double agent named Percival who is also a black marketeer. He is the one who provides all of the Western consumer decadence to the cultural vacuum of East Berlin. From jeans to booze to porn, Percival helped stoke the appetite for Western capitalism and pop culture. Naturally, the film places your sympathies solidly with the burgeoning underground punk culture who are just trying to get some kicks but keep getting terrorized by Stasi and KGB thugs.

There are also several very obvious product placements throughout the film. Given the film’s tacit emphasis on the influence of consumer culture in hastening the collapse of communism, I think that these are more than advertisements. I suggest they reveal the role that these shadow elites played in moving geopolitical power blocs.

Take the nine times Stolichnaya is featured prominently. Yes, Lorraine looks very cool when she’s drinking vodka on the rocks, but why Stoli? Perhaps because the Pepsi Corporation was able to enter the Russian market in exchange for vodka and several naval military vessels. Considering the film’s anti-Russian tone, it could be an additional subtle form of mockery.

Then there are the deeper cultural references. The cutthroat moral nihilism of the film makes the inclusion of Machiavelli’s Prince an obvious choice. A prominent fight scene takes place in a theater playing Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker. Since Stalker reads (to me) as an indictment of communism, it’s very possible that David Leitch was reaching for some kind of arch metacommentary by using it as a backdrop for a fight scene. However, I believe that the inclusion of the film all by itself suggests the depth of the role that it, and consumer culture in general, had in turning sentiment against communism.

It’s surely a subject that’s been broached by many others, but the idea of a woman who is a cold blooded killer and can dispatch men bigger and stronger than her requires a greater suspension of disbelief than most other films with male leads. It seems a little too tailor made for wokescolds in the press to regurgitate the standard idiocy about “manbabies who can’t stand #STRONG womyn”. I don’t want to get too pedantic when I’m watching movies, but when every role that was intended for men gets a gender swap, it gets a little stupid.

Furthermore, we’re expected to believe that a woman with highly specialized combat skills was doing elite espionage and black operations in Berlin in the late 80’s and 90’s. Given that approximately .00002% of the current female population are seeking assignments in elite military units in 2019, the starting point is a bit of a reach. Again, I’m not saying that I’m expecting pure realism when I watch a spy thriller, but you shouldn’t have to leap this high just to buy into the initial premise.

There’s also an unfortunate humorlessness to Lorraine. Part of 007’s appeal was his charm and dry one liners. And he smiled, too. Of course, Mx. Theron can’t be bothered to enact that kind of emotional labor for us entitled dudebros, but there’s something just perverse about casting one of Hollywood’s most attractive women in roles where she exhibits no feminine charm. The lesbian makeout scene doesn’t make up the deficit either.

Even the fight scenes create a psychic dissonance that seems calculated to fuel feminist griping over “toxic masculinity”. Every normal man wouldn’t think of physically assaulting a woman. It goes completely against everything decent you’ve ever been taught. Here, you’re seeing men who are fighting Lorraine to the death. At one point in time, men fell in love with actresses in films. Now, men seem relegated to seeing themselves portrayed as dolts and villains while simultaneously watching the most beautiful actresses portrayed as potential deadly adversaries who also happen to be lesbians. Hooray for #EQUALITY.

It’s also kind of funny how schizophrenic Hollywood is in its portraits of communism. If you’re watching Trumbo or Reds, communism is a brave and principled set of ideals. If you’re watching Atomic Blonde or the latest season of Stranger Things, they’re diabolical jackbooted thugs. As someone who grew up during the 80’s, I can firmly attest to the overwhelming prevalence of Cold War hysteria. However, the fever pitch of Russophobia that has permeated every corner of the mediasphere since 2016 feels just a tad forced.

David Leitch manages to imbue the whole affair with enough style and storytelling panache to remain entertaining. The jams are pretty righteous too. In fact, I’m convinced that the inclusion of “The Politics of Dancing” by 80s one-hit synth poppers, Re-Flex, tells us everything we need to know about the role of intelligence operatives in waging psychological warfare and toppling regimes without ever firing a bullet. Despite the film’s final twist which would lead you to believe that it was Lorraine’s cunning badassery that made dupes out of the dirty commies, I suggest that Re-Flex really delivered the overriding message of the film.
We got the message
I heard it on the airwaves
The politicians
Are now DJs

Advertisements

Echo in the Canyon (2018)

(aka Establishment Gen X Aristocrat Canonizes the Boomer Would-be Revolutionaries For Other Aging Boomers)

There’s one scene in Andrew Slater’s love letter to the seminal Laurel Canyon musicians that sums up the entire film. In one of many interview segments led by Jakob Dylan, Graham Nash gets all misty eyed as he looks back on those heady days of creative ferment and unbridled hedonism. “I still believe music can change the world,” he says just barely holding back the tears. Just then, it cuts to Jakob Dylan as he let’s Nash’s words hang in the air. He stares off into the distance, but to his credit, his expression reveals nothing. Maybe he’s taking in the full weight of Nash’s sentiment and genuinely feels a sense of humility. Or maybe he’s silently scoffing at Nash’s audacity for uttering such a pitifully idiotic and painfully maudlin platitude that no one really buys. Maybe he knows that Nash is just regurgitating a mythology that needs to be perpetually reinforced through books, awards shows and rockumentaries. Maybe it’s something in between.

Much like its recent companion, Rolling Thunder Revue, Echo in the Canyon has the distinct whiff of the establishment patting itself on the back. These were musicians who presented themselves as rule breaking revolutionaries, yet the film wants you see them as the torchbearers of the rock “tradition”. Herein lies the great conundrum that the Flower Power Generation cannot reconcile. As anyone who’s read David McGowan’s excellent and far superior survey of the Canyon scene knows, these people were already children of the establishment. They made great music, but they were also trafficking a lot of social degeneracy. The film only scratches the surface of the extent of the hedonism these people were importing into the culture.

I’m sure it felt really transgressive to be for tuning in, turning on and dropping out back then. But this was the generation that turned out a generation of latchkey kids. This is the generation that ushered in higher divorce and suicide rates and enshrined abortion as an article of faith. This is the generation that got hooked on cocaine in the 80s and gave rise to innumerable cults and self-help gurus. This is the generation that colonized Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and the Democratic Party.

As expected, there is no mention of the dark underbelly of the Canyon scene. They completely sidestep the body count and the mysterious deaths that amassed around these people. They completely ignore Charles Manson’s proximity to the Beach Boys and the Mamas and the Papas. There’s no discussion of the various mob, military and CIA connections behind the clubs and the record industry. This may explain why the scene in which Beck, Regina Spektor and Dylan attempt to philosophize over the broader cultural impact of these bands feels forced, artificial and utterly laughable.

They talk about the drugs and the sex, but you know they’ve completely sanitized it. Hearing Michelle Phillips talk about her affair with Denny Doherty isn’t titillating or cute. It’s pathetic and contemptible because it radiated out into the culture and wrought tragic results. Where were the uncensored interviews with Carnie and Wendy Wilson and Chynna Phillips to give their unfiltered perspective on what it was like to grow up with these paragons of parental excellence? These people knew exactly what they were doing, yet we’re expected to treat them like royalty.

Right.

Go fuck yourselves, Boomers.

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

This is it, folks. After 22 films in 11 years, this phase of the MCU has come to an end. As far as big budget superhero franchises go, Endgame gives the audience the most satisfying conclusion for which a fan could hope in 2019. In contrast to the haphazard agenda heavy abortions of the Star Wars universe under Kathleen Kennedy’s stewardship, the MCU was conceived to hang together as a cohesive whole from its inception. At minimum, Kevin Feige and company deserve credit for shepherding a 22 film series through one continuous storyline which resolves with a real sense of closure. Endgame wraps up several character arcs for many of the key Avengers while setting the stage for the next generation of MCU heroes. As one would expect, it’s not without flaws nor is it devoid of progressive messaging we’ve come to expect from every big ticket franchise. The main difference between the MCU and its Disney companion franchise is that you at least get the impression that Kevin Feige’s crew still likes the characters and the fans. For now. With the introduction of the thoroughly detestable Brie Larson as the ostensible leader of the Avengers going forward, I am certainly not optimistic that this trend will continue. If the blatant pandering of Black Panther and Captain Marvel are any indication of the future of Marvel, then it is indeed bleak. Given the early signals from Feige, I’m expecting the MCU to crater just as spectacularly as the vile garbage heap known as The Last Jedi.

Endgame picks up where Infinity War leaves off. Thanos succeeded in depopulating half the universe. The remaining Avengers are left to face their defeat and find a way to be normal now that their comrades and loved ones have been vaporized. Tony and Pepper finally settled down and had a kid. Clint Barton was also enjoying being a family man before Thanos zapped his family out of existence and forced him to turn to vigilantism. Black Widow has basically become a shift supervisor at the Avengers help desk. The Cap tries to make a career transition to grief counselor. In a futile attempt to score points with the SJWs, he offers comfort to a gay dude at a session. Being the ungrateful, miserable shitbags they are, the Cap gets no credit for being an empathetic ally.

Scott Lang comes back from the quantum realm with a wild idea. He thinks they can hack time travel, get the Infinity Stones before Thanos, and bring back everyone who was wasted by the snap. Cap and Black Widow are sold, but they just don’t have the scientific chops. Bruce Banner tries, but he’s out of his depth. They’re forced to make an appeal to the best scientific mind in the erstwhile Avengers organization: Tony Stark. Tony has an adorable daughter, and is enjoying the simple life that was unavailable to him as a full time Iron Man. Not only does he see major problems in hacking time, he doesn’t want to give up his hard won domestic happiness. But Tony being Tony, he simply can’t let it go. So the Avengers plot one final gambit for all the marbles. Get the band back together one last time, hack time, get the Infinity Stones before Thanos, and bring back everyone else. No problem, man! These are the mothafuckin’ Avengers after all!

The Goodbyes

As expected, we say farewell to many of our beloved Avengers. Some farewells are more satisfying than others. I’ll discuss the resolutions of the three central Avengers from worst to best.

Thor

Frigga: Everyone fails at who they’re supposed to be, Thor. The measure of a person, of a hero, is how well they succeed at being who they are.

The closure of Thor’s story is by far the most undignified and insulting to this former God of Thunder. Thor was the most regal, masculine and distinctly Nordic character in the franchise. Subsequently, we see the pathological anti-white, anti-male, anti-tradition agenda on full display. When Rocket and Banner seek out Thor to enlist him for the time heist, they discover he’s become a reclusive, overweight drunk in New Asgard. Besides being racked with guilt over his inability to vanquish Thanos the first time, he’s also struggling with grief and PTSD over the loss of his entire family and homeland. In contrast to the arbitrary decision to turn Luke Skywalker into an emotionally defeated hermit, Thor’s situation actually makes sense given all that has happened. Thor has been through some serious shit. However, this doesn’t justify the absolutely wretched resolution of his story.

During the time heist, Thor is briefly reunited with his doomed mother. She correctly surmises that he’s the future Thor and that he’s crushed by sorrow and a misplaced sense of failure and guilt. She offers the kind of consolation only a mother could give, but instead of encouraging him to shake it off and get his ass in gear, she absolves him of any responsibility to his familial legacy. Just chillax with Peter Quill and Rocket, son. It’s all good.

So what does he do? He hands over the throne of New Asgard to fucking Valkyrie! That’s right. The son of Odin, the dude who was once in love with Jane Foster, decides to forego any responsibility to the survivors of Asgard or his heritage and just go kick it with the Guardians of the Galaxy. He doesn’t want to have kids or preserve the cultural legacy of Asgard for posterity. Come on, Marvel! Adding to the blatantly anti-European sentiment of Thor: Ragnarok, Civil War and Age of Ultron, the conclusion to Thor’s story in Endgame is the MCU’s final insult to European traditionalism. Never mind that Valkyrie was canonically portrayed as a rather voluptuous Norse goddess who was romantically involved with Thor. Nope. New Asgard is woke and multicultural now. Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie is going to “make some changes around here”. #TheFutureIsFemale, you white supremacist, Asgardian misogynists!

Utterly reprehensible.

Steve Rogers

Steve Rogers: Avengers! Assemble.

With all due respect to pre-Gadot Wonder Woman and pre-Snyder Superman, Captain America is arguably the biggest patriot of all superheroes. He is Captain America, after all. Despite the MCU’s post-national, globalist agenda, they managed to treat the Cap fairly respectfully and give him a decent resolution. They were able to cheat along the way, but Chris Evans and the Marvel team made me believe in the MCU Captain America. Of course, they were able to pull this off pretty effortlessly in The First Avenger because it was set in WW2. HYDRA was the secret military-intelligence wing of the Nazi Party, and Red Skull was even more diabolical than Adolf Hitler. Since everyone already hates Nazis, Steve Rogers’ yearning to join the Army and fight for America and SHIELD made sense even in Obama’s America in 2011.

Fast forward to 2014’s Winter Soldier, the Cap has been unfrozen after 74 years and is still trying to get his bearings in the modern world. He didn’t have to take sides over Vietnam, Watergate, the JFK assassination or the Civil Rights movement. He didn’t have the opportunity to formulate an opinion on Roe v. Wade, The Great Society, The Pentagon Papers, the Church Committee hearings, the Kosovo War, the 2008 market crash, the Iraq War or the PATRIOT Act. Nor was he aware that SHIELD had absconded with the Tesseract or that they secretly conscripted HYDRA scientists. He just tries to get back into action by doing what he does best. Serve. The problem is that SHIELD is a multinational operation now. The threats are not nation states. They’re intergalactic. Even worse, they’re coming from HYDRA double agents who’ve infiltrated SHIELD. Despite the multinational nature of SHIELD, he still believes that it can be restored to its proper status. The only moral imperative was rooting out the HYDRA subversives. Cap’s instincts were correct and he gives a great speech, but no direct appeals to American patriotism are necessary.

In Civil War, the Cap is forced to reckon with the fact that the Avengers can’t be lawless vigilantes who are accountable to no one. They must subordinate themselves to oversight. Marvel was once again able to completely sidestep the Cap’s loyalty to America as defined place with specific customs, traditions and laws. They simply portrayed him as a generic individualist dissident who was justifiably skeptical of World Security Council bureaucracy. Cap becomes an outlaw to the organization who commissioned the super soldier program that made him in the first place. It’s appropriate that the Cap would do what he did in Civil War, but they jettisoned his patriotism again in the process.

By the time we get to Infinity War, the Cap is sporting a Ted Kaczynski beard and his formerly red, white and blue uniform is more befitting of someone in Antifa. Because of his falling out with Tony, he no longer possesses his iconic shield. In Endgame, Tony and Steve enjoy a hard won restoration of their friendship and alliance as Avengers. When Tony pulls the shield out of his trunk, and gives it to Steve Rogers, it at least feels like Captain America has been made symbolically whole again.

In the final act, Steve Rogers time travels backwards to return Thor’s hammer and the Infinity Stones to their original timelines. Upon his return to the present, we discover that he has pulled a Dave Bowman and comes back an old man. We learn that he chose to live his life in the past with his true love, Peggy Carter. All by itself, it’s a sweet resolution for Steve Rogers. But Marvel being the postmodern relativists and social engineers that they are couldn’t leave it there. Steve bestows his iconic shield to Sam Wilson and thus presumably passing the mantle of Captain America along with it.

On the surface, it seems appropriate and earned given that Sam has been steadfast in his loyalty to the Cap. But the whole reason fans bond with fantasy characters is their uniqueness and specificity. A great character is someone you feel like you know. Steve Rogers went through a unique journey to become Captain America. The super soldier serum simply allowed him to exhibit strength that was a match for the strength of his patriotism and sense of duty. If an iconic character like Captain America is just a software app that can be run on any meatsack operating system, why put any effort into crafting any character? Steve Rogers was Captain America. Sam Wilson is Falcon. But none of that matters now. We’re in the Age of the Final Revolution and the very notions of nationhood, manhood and gender are on trial in the public square. Certainly, the idea of a superhero with a fixed identity is as much an interchangeable part as the protective case for your smartphone. Does this mean Sam will undergo the same super soldier treatment that gave Rogers his heightened abilities? Or is he just going to continue to be Falcon but with Captain America’s vibranium shield?

On an even deeper level, what will Captain America even mean going forward? Unfortunately, Sam Wilson tipped the MCU’s hand.

Sam Wilson: Only thing bumming me out is the fact that I have to live in a world without Captain America.

Despite Anthony Mackie’s considerable appeal, this move is clearly more calculated pandering. If this is a passing of the torch, expect Captain America to be a cinematic leader of the #RESISTANCE from this point forward. Marvel has attempted numerous character reboots in the comics, and fans have always reacted negatively. You can’t just take a character like Captain America, Thor or Iron Man and make him a black dude or a woman just so you can score points with the SJWs. None of these failures stops them though. They are more invested in the cultural engineering than great storytelling at this point. And that’s too bad. It puts a slightly bitter aftertaste to what felt like a well earned happy ending.

Tony Stark

Tony Stark: It’s not about how much we lost. It’s about how much we have left. We’re the Avengers. We gotta finish this. You trust me?

Steve Rogers: I do.

I complain so bitterly about the MCU’s missteps because I genuinely believe that what they get right almost negates everything they bungle. Almost. The premise with which you are presented in the Avengers franchise is yet another set of archetypal misfits, outcasts, and alphas who have to learn to rise above their own limitations and petty grievances in order to work together as a team. Of all the Avengers, the person most hobbled by narcissism and grievance is also its most brilliant scientific mind.

Tony Stark.

When we see Tony finally fulfill the dream of fatherhood he shared with Pepper in Infinity War, it already feels like a happy ending. He traversed a long personal distance from the self-involved playboy we met in the first Iron Man to the devoted father we see in Endgame, and it feels like a truly heroic growth arc. The scenes with Tony and his daughter are among the sweetest moments ever captured in the MCU. Despite all the destruction porn and CGI whizbang, this is the stuff that gives the MCU a human soul. Being a leader of the earth’s mightiest heroes still doesn’t compare to the simple pleasures of being a dad.

Tony gets an even bigger emotional payoff in Endgame. Aside from his newfound fatherhood and his reconciliation with the Cap, he has a reunion with his own father during his detour into a 1970 SHIELD facility to acquire Pym Particles and the Tesseract. As he leaves the facility, he encounters Howard Stark who is anticipating his own birth. They share a brief but awkwardly touching scene in which Tony is able to express the gratitude he was never able to give while he was alive. Again, this is the stuff that gives the MCU real emotional weight, and dare I say it, a smidgen of dramatic maturity.

When Tony joins the Avengers in pulling off the time heist, the stakes are even higher because he has something to lose he never had before. We’re rooting for him like never before. The cruel joke is of course that our tech savvy savior is a proxy for the military-industrial complex. This is the guy who unwittingly unleashed Ultron on the world. This is the guy who builds military hardware, bombs, and AI powered armored suits. How can you make that character palatable? By casting the most charismatic working actor who goes through an unprecedented eight film arc and delivers all the most smartass lines, that’s how.

Tony Stark: I saw this coming a few years back, I had a vision, but I didn’t want to believe it. Now it’s true. What we needed was a suit of armor around the world! Remember that? Whether it impacted our precious freedoms or not, that’s what we needed!

Tony is a sort of military-industrial transhuman Jesus. He seeks the same thing Thanos did: ultimate power. A device which can snuff out half of the universe with a finger snap. We don’t know how the Infinity Gauntlet can filter out its targets, but we just accept that Tony will succeed in vaporizing only Thanos and his minions. His final sacrifice ends up making the resurrection of the previously fallen Avengers a triumphant denouement. It’s quite a feat that Marvel succeeded in placing your sympathies with a weapons manufacturer who acquires the ultimate weapon, but that’s essentially what Robert Downey Jr. and Marvel have achieved here. When he’s drawing his last breath, Pepper informs him the she and their daughter will be okay. That’s great, Marvel. Hooray for Pepper. Not only can she wear the Iron Man suit and run Stark Industries, but she can raise her daughter without a father, too. Yay, feminism.

The #SCIENCE

Tony Stark: Quantum fluctuation messes with the Planck’s scale, which then triggers the Doidge proposition. Can we agree on that? In layman’s terms, it means, you are not coming home.

As I’ve written previously, I don’t go into any sci-fi film expecting pure scientific realism. That’s especially true of the MCU. I’m fine with Infinity Stones, magical hammers, and talking raccoons who pilot spaceships. However, when a film spends 5 or more seconds trying to explain its wildest speculations like the way they did in Interstellar, The Martian or Endgame, you can bet your bottom dollar they’re attempting drop some metaphysics or reach for the furthest limits of established scientific thought. In other words, they’re trying to directly influence your perception of reality itself. Time travel is nothing new in science fiction. Endgame even makes some clever meta references to other time travel films. But what are the metaphysical presumptions behind all this?

  1. The deepest mysteries of the universe are physical. In order to access the quantum realm, they need Pym Particles. Essentially, matter will allow our heroes to access immaterial dimensions of time and move backwards and forwards. Similar to Interstellar and 2001, Endgame posits that metaphysical concepts like time, love and intelligence are locked inside the material substance of the observed universe. It’s a twist on the alchemist’s quest for the philosopher’s stone.
  2. Time is merely an algorithm to be hacked. The Avengers didn’t really have to face defeat or failure. They didn’t really have to own the consequences of their decisions. Some timelines can be rewritten, but most are to be left alone. It symbolizes a scientistic resurrection myth. Subsequently, concepts that were once the exclusive province of religious faith can be substituted with a belief in #SCIENCE.

But it’s just a Marvel movie, dude! Yes. That’s precisely the point. It’s a Marvel movie that happens to be the second largest grossing film of all time. These things are never made without an underlying cultural programming agenda. There are aspects of the MCU that are already a reality. AI, robotics, drones, mass surveillance and all manners of smart tech are already a reality. Even the idea of a mind controlled super soldier is closer to reality than you might think. The MCU combines the outrageously fantastical with the real world in ways that most sci-fi films only attempt. When Tony Stark injects subcutaneous nanotechnology for the purpose of summoning his suit more easily, it’s because they want the idea of tech implants to seem sexy and cool. After all, if TONY STARK uses nanotech implants, don’t you? I mean, come on! Captain America was using facial recognition technology to search for Thanos! Why are you getting so spooked by airline kiosks that use it, bro? Stop being so PARANOID! You must listen to Alex Jones or something.

Steve Rogers: We’ve been hunting Thanos for three weeks now – through face scans and satellites, so far we’ve got nothing. Tony, you fought him…

Tony Stark: What are you talking about? I didn’t fight him. No, he wiped my face with a planet while the wizard gave away the store. That’s what happened, there’s no fight…

I also have a hunch that Hollywood is trying to manufacture a resolution between quantum mechanics and relativity through movies. In Interstellar, Cooper time travels by passing through a black hole. In Endgame, they’re using Pym Particles in a device built by the Avengers. In one film, you’re seeing a hypothetical object with zero volume and infinite gravity. In another, you’re seeing an imaginary substance being used to power a machine that can do something that only exists in sci-fi films. But Tony sure sounded like he knew what he was talking about, didn’t he?

Globalism Über Alles

Thanos: I thought by eliminating half of life, the other half would thrive, but you have shown me… that’s impossible. As long as there are those that remember what was, there will always be those, that are unable to accept what can be. They will resist. I will shred this universe down to it’s last atom and then, with the stones you’ve collected for me, create a new one. It is not what is lost but only what it is been given… a grateful universe.

This quote represents the underlying sentiment animating Endgame and the entire MCU. It shouldn’t be a mystery that the MCU is one giant hymn to globalism. Mass destruction and depopulation has been recurring theme. We saw it in Winter Soldier, Age of Ultron, Ragnarok and Infinity War.

Closely resembling Erik Killmonger’s monologue in Black Panther, this quote will be another interesting litmus test. How many fans are going to find this sentiment repellent? He sounds like a full fledged member of the #RESISTANCE to me.

Besides, how would Tony’s plan be an improvement? He said he wanted a suit of armor around the planet. Freedoms be damned. Don’t think he’s the only one in SHIELD who feels that way. Pick your globalist poison, proles. Mass depopulation or technocratic superstate panopticon. How about both? Heads, we win. Tails, you lose.

Captain Marvel, the WTF and Other Cringe

Bruce Banner: If we do this, how do we know it’s going to end any differently than it did before?

Carol Danvers: Because before, you didn’t have me.

James Rhodes: Hey, new girl? Everybody in this room is about that superhero life. And, if you don’t mind my asking, where the hell have you been all this time?

Carol Danvers: There are a lot of other planets in the universe, and, unfortunately, they didn’t have you guys.

Kevin Feige, thank you very much. I hope you’re enjoying this moment because your decision to bring fucking Brie Larson into the next phase of the MCU is your first major Rian Johnson moment. I’m confident it won’t be your last either.

Like many others, I saw the 11th hour inclusion of Captain Marvel (aka Captain RBF) after the cliffhanger of Infinity War as an ill omen. No one really wants or gives a shit about a jerry rigged sop to the SJWs whose undergone a gender swap and at least nine comic book reboots. This is Marvel desperately grasping for a competitor to Wonder Woman that they simply don’t have. Even worse, they cast SJW supreme, Brie Larson, to play her. The good news is that she doesn’t fuck anything up. The bad news is that even for the short time she’s there, the cringe is palpable. She even sports the Hillary Clintonesque haircut in one scene.

Naturally, Endgame genuflects to the Church of Feminism in numerous ways throughout the film. At this point, it has become its own cliché despite the pretense of “smashing stereotypes”. It’s merely matters of degree. Even Black Widow’s sacrifice for Clint Barton has a slightly unpleasant SJW aftertaste. Aside from the abominable decision to hand New Asgard over to Valkyrie, there is one major, utterly cringeworthy sop to the SJWs in the final battle. Look, I got a kick out of Eowyn dispatching the Nazgûl in Return of the King, too. Not only is this a retread of an almost identical scene in Infinity War, you just know the Russo brothers are pandering directly to the writers of The Mary Sue and Teen Vogue when they do this stuff. Writers who are simply going to bitch about how it wasn’t intersectional enough anyway.

While we’re on the subject, Captain Marvel can bring down Thanos’ ship single handedly, but she needs the Avengers sisterhood to cross the battlefield? And they all happened to be congregated there at that moment? This is Admiral Holdo grade shit, dudes. She’s been doing the work of the entire Avengers crew on other planets, but she’s incapable of defeating Thanos on her own? Captain Marvel added nothing to the film, and her presence in the final battle carried no dramatic weight because she simply hasn’t gone through the same journey the rest of the Avengers have. This is storytelling 101. It’s something Kevin Feige and company only selectively grasp, but they have an agenda that trumps common sense.

The decision to turn Hulk into a CGI-enhanced analogue of Mark Ruffalo’s real world soy latte beta persona was also a bit of a disappointment. This is a superhero whose superpower is going on Gamma radiation roid rampages. He got his ass handed to him by Thanos and his moment of redemption is putting on the Infinity Gauntlet and snapping everyone back? Whatever.

And why the fuck was Captain America able to wield Thor’s hammer?! It’s cool, but come on, dudes. Did I miss something? I know this is Endgame and everything, but this is like Rey kicking Kylo Ren’s ass with the lightsaber in the first encounter. I can buy Pepper wearing the Iron Man suit because they at least made the effort of setting the precedent in Iron Man 3. In Age of Ultron, it seemed pretty clear that no one could wield the mjolnir except Thor and Vision.

Whither MCU?

Where do Feige and company go from here? Nowhere good from my vantage point. I expect everything that’s wrong with this phase of the MCU will be amplified. Every mistake they’ve made with comics will be transferred over to the films with no lessons learned and no meaningful concessions to fans.

Brie Larson has already signed on for seven fucking films! If that alone doesn’t chill your blood, then perhaps preachy, forced identity politics are your cup of tea. Kevin Feige and the Disney Corporation will enjoy taking your money.

Endgame was as satisfying a conclusion to this phase of the MCU as I could have hoped. The actors and the writers succeeded in making me believe that they actually cared about these characters and fans slightly more than political correctness. Sadly, that’s the benchmark for success in this Aeon of #SocialJustice. Given the weight of the mandates imposed by the woke intelligentsia at Disney, it’s as as good as it can be. What could it have been if the writers weren’t hobbled by PC orthodoxy and actually were hired for their passion for the material and characters? Ironically, those speculations are now the province of real fantasy. Such is life in clown world in 2019.

How Network Foretold the Age of Fake News

For better or worse, we now live in a 24/7 news cycle. More importantly, the information you consume says everything about your moral fiber according to the woke intelligentsia. When the news that long awaited Mueller report was finally complete and submitted to the DOJ, you could predict how the findings would be received simply based on which side of the Trump ideological border wall you’ve located yourself. Even if you’re not full on MAGA, there is a significant contingent of independents, libertarians, classical liberals, dissident rightists, and even a couple of lone progressives who hold a skeptical view of the news media. Like clockwork, William Barr’s release of Mueller’s statement was perceived through completely different lenses by these two factions. For anyone in the media skeptic contingent, there was vindication. Of course Russiagate was a hoax. Of course it was initiated by the Obama administration and carried out by a cabal of deep state partisans intent on undermining Trump’s presidency. Of course the media were packed with neocons, DNC shills, and deep state assets who were far more invested in an ideological agenda than journalism. Anyone not gripped by Trump Derangement Syndrome could recognize this.

For everyone else, it was merely more evidence that the conspiracy to undermine #OurDemocracy was deeper than anyone could imagine. Maybe the Russians even got to Mueller himself! What should have been a moment of self-reflection and contrition became an opportunity to double down. There has always been an ideological divide, but it appears that it is more pronounced than it has been in recent years. Perhaps more importantly, the media have been unmasked as the partisan activists they are. The degree to which they actively foment this division is now glaringly obvious. To be sure, there are numerous examples of yellow journalism that predate the Trump administration, but what’s different now is that the once vaunted “fact checkers” are being fact checked in real time. The “fake news” meme that originated in Hillary Clinton’s campaign as a weapon against Trump has been hurled back in their faces. And nothing is more beautiful than dishing back the scorn that is so routinely heaped upon the average Americans whom the media elites hold in such abject disdain.

The funny part is that Hollywood has exposed the media aristocracy as the mendacious grifters they are on numerous occasions. Films function on multiple levels and there are a handful of films which pull back the curtain and reveal the machinery of power in all of its depravity. Sidney Lumet’s scorching satire of television news media, Network, is such a film. However, Network goes a step further. It is properly seen as a piece of predictive programming or revelation of the method. With the possible exception of its pitch black ending, every aspect of the film has played out in the real world in ways that match or surpass its wildest moments.

Released in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate, Network captures the television news establishment at a crossroads. In William Holden’s aging news executive, Max Schumacher, we have an archetype of dying media integrity. Max is old school. He became president of the news division in a world where the idea of an independent, objective media free from the corrupting influence of the ratings rat race and advertising dollars was sacrosanct. The news division was a loss leader on the corporate balance sheet. News was a sober affair untainted by cheap sensationalism. But Max’s moral compass withers when tempted by the sexual charms of vapid ladder climber Diana Christensen and the opportunity to usher Howard Beale into the wide world of political commentary. Max’s affair with Diana is portrayed as consensual, but the recent exposes of Matt Lauer and Les Moonves suggest that the real world of network television is a little more predatory than Lumet and company represented. Today, media executives like CNN’S Jeff Zucker make no bones about their muckraking agenda nor do they hide their attempts to silence independent voices who have an opposing editorial POV.

In Faye Dunaway’s Diana Christensen, we have a feminist power fantasy, an emotionally stunted sociopath imprisoned by her pursuit of success, and an architect of the reality TV/social media celebrity. Not only does Diana champion Howard Beale’s transformation into a television prophet, she engineers the celebrity of a group of Marxist revolutionaries. When Diana sees footage of the Ecumenical Liberation Army, she sees a ratings bonanza. Diana’s legacy is felt in every corner of the mediasphere. Simply smooth out the Marxist militancy, add lipstick, Louboutins and a middle class Latina, and you’ve got AOC. Just look at the money and fanfare she’s gotten from the Hollywood establishment and one can reasonably conclude that Lumet was revealing the extent to which the Leftist “revolution” is a completely manufactured farce. In short, Diana Christensen would be the one who green lights Jussie Smollett’s “interview” with Robin Roberts.

Howard Beale unwittingly begins his career as a commentator simply for deviating from the antiseptic “reporting” he was required to do. Beale was conceived as a Cronkite-esque anchorman who imbues the broadcast with gravitas. Nowadays, Beale’s analogue is a robotic stuffed suit like ABC’s David Muir. A braindead automaton who is trained to read a teleprompter with the requisite dramatic inflections in his voice in order to convey an impression of Serious Reporting. In Beale, we also see the origins of the blurred lines between editorial and journalism. It’s not that Beale was dishonest, it’s that he gave a voice to disaffected Americans who knew they were being plowed under by the system. He simply put all of the impotent rage, frustration and sadness over the state of the world on loudspeakers.

Seen from a progressive perspective, Beale is nothing more than a proto Alex Jones or Sean Hannity. A more honest appraisal of Beale’s legacy would also include Bill Maher, Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert, Cenk Uygur and even Rachel Maddow. As much as CNN and MSNBC like to tout their fearless pursuit of #FACTS, the truth is that everyone filters reality through a set of moral and emotional receptors. Journalism is not just a clinical recitation of facts. Facts all by themselves don’t tell a story. Every journalist worth his salt is attempting to insert his investigations into a larger narrative mosaic. The types of questions you ask or don’t ask, the manner in which facts are framed or omitted, and the extent to which weaponized language is used all contribute to the audience’s ability to process the information. The story that’s being told emerges from a set of preconceived moral and ideological presumptions. And ethics can be bought and sold. UBS didn’t care what Beale said when they saw the ratings. They only cared when he encouraged his audience to thwart the deal between the parent company and the Saudis.

The true masterstroke of Network is the scene when Beale is called on to the carpet by CEO Arthur Jensen. After Beale’s “Mad as hell” diatribe, Jensen’s monologue is a close second. Chayefsky and Lumet pull back the curtain on the full agenda behind the entire mass media complex: global domination. It’s about total pacification and technocratic servitude. Jensen informs Beale that he hasn’t just scotched a business deal. He’s “meddled with the primal forces of nature”. Even after Jensen lays down the law, Beale continues to drop truth bombs.

Howard Beale: Right now, there is a whole, an entire generation that never knew anything that didn’t come out of this tube. This tube is the gospel, the ultimate revelation; this tube can make or break presidents, popes, prime ministers; this tube is the most awesome goddamn propaganda force in the whole godless world, and woe is us if it ever falls into the hands of the wrong people, and that’s why woe is us that Edward George Ruddy died. Because this company is now in the hands of CCA, the Communications Corporation of America; there’s a new chairman of the board, a man called Frank Hackett, sitting in Mr. Ruddy’s office on the twentieth floor. And when the 12th largest company in the world controls the most awesome goddamn propaganda force in the whole godless world, who knows what shit will be peddled for truth on this network?

But it’s just a movie, right?

Nope. Fast forward to the present day.

In the wake of the most exhaustive federal investigation of a POTUS in modern history, half of America still thinks Trump is guilty of colluding with Russians. Motherfucking half!
Bill Maher says he knows Trump is guilty because…wait for it…..he has a television!

Howard Beale was right.

Network may be regarded as a satire, but both Sidney Lumet and Paddy Chayefsky were deadly serious. Isn’t it ironic that we have to look to entertainment for truth and news for comedy?

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.

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

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.

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.

Why Escape From New York Matters

I had two cinematic heroes growing up: Luke Skywalker and Snake Plissken. I admired Luke for his wide eyed idealism and unvarnished earnestness. Luke believed in the Rebellion and he wanted to uphold the sacred honor of the old Jedi code by following in the footsteps of his father’s lost legacy. Believe it or not, I admired Snake for similar reasons. For those who’ve seen Escape From New York, this statement may seem like a reach, but I saw Snake as an older and more cynical version of Luke. I was older when I saw Escape From New York, and Snake’s slow burn disdain resonated with my evolving worldview the same way Luke’s farm boy enthusiasm had a few years before. Underneath that hardboiled tough guy veneer and venomous cynicism, what I saw was a man whose heart had been broken by the system. His posture of defiance and contempt was merely his way of hardening himself to the dissolution and corruption of a system he’d given his life to defend and uphold. There was no virtue in defending the system, so fuck it. Sabotage the whole thing by pulling a heist on the institution which allowed the whole wretched military-industrial technocratic prison complex to continue. Rob the Federal Reserve!

Yeah! Fuck you, America! This anarchic antihero is a bit of a cliché nowadays, but when this film was released, it felt pretty fresh and genuinely transgressive.

Snake Plissken: The name’s Plissken!

Escape From New York is a longtime personal favorite and, in my opinion, one of the greatest movies ever. I’m both amazed and gratified by how durable the editorial remains.

It is a quintessentially postmodern film in that it’s a pastiche of numerous styles. It is generally regarded as dystopian science fiction, yet it transcends this categorization. It is a dystopian science fiction story, but it’s also a post-apocalyptic Spaghetti Western, a prison break movie, and a low tech espionage thriller all at once. Carpenter uses these templates of broken reality to magnify and intensify unpleasant truths about the world of the present. As well as to project some predictive social degeneracy.

For example:

  1. The police state is indistinguishable from the military. There was a small bubble of outrage over the news that the domestic police inherited the weapons and vehicles leftover from overseas operations, but like every other outrage du jour, that dissipated pretty quickly. A militarized police force is a reality of life in America.
  2. The police kill with impunity. Politicians opportunistically exploit occasions when police officers use deadly force. They’ll talk about holding cops accountable by insisting on body cameras or they’ll selectively prosecute unnecessary applications of lethal force in order to curry favor with voters, but the truth is that this is the power the police hold.
  3. The president is a narcissistic figurehead who is relying on a pre-recorded speech on which world peace presumably depends. Up until the election of Trump, the role of the POTUS was to sign legislation, trade deals, treaties and executive orders that expanded the global imperium. Contemporary progressive orthodoxy requires that you accord absolute deference to global alliances, neoconservative warmongers, and former intelligence personnel over any quaint notions of “national sovereignty”. Most importantly, it required that the POTUS sustain any overseas military intervention that advanced the cause of “democracy” regardless of the cost in public opinion or loss of blood and treasure. As long as he fulfilled that role, he was assured a free ride in the media. In other words, just read what’s on the teleprompter. Or play the cassette tape. Carpenter essentially got this right.
  4. The hero is ex-military and is the person best suited to infiltrate a prison and mete out the brutality necessary to fulfill the rescue. This is also spot on. With manhood being vilified as a pathology by the APA and men being emasculated by the culture, it’s easy to imagine a completely bifurcated society of military personnel and hardened criminals as the only ones suitable for combat.
  5. The cops have all the best weapons. Everyone assumes automatically that Snake’s possession of firearms means that he’s working for the government. It’s a world where gun control has been taken to its fullest conclusion. There’d surely be a black market, but even if there was, the cops would still have all the best firearms.
  6. Snake is carrying out the rescue mission not voluntarily, but because his life is being threatened. In this world, there are no ethics, higher ideals, or honor that remains. Just a world of brute force, armed subjugation and barbarism. The hierarchy of violent goons in the prison is a mirror image of the hierarchy of violent goons guarding the prison.
  7. Manhattan island is surrounded by a containment wall. Suck on it, progressives. The effectiveness of a wall should be obvious, but clearly, the quest for political sabotage overrides common sense. Yes, walls can be about keeping people in just as much as it can be about keeping people out, but the larger point is that they prevent egress in either direction.
  8. The underground denizens have resorted to cannibalism. This is understandable in a prison city with rationed food supplies, but just go peruse the Vice archives and take a gander at all the articles extolling the hot, new, edgy and widely misunderstood trend that’s sweeping the nation. Cannibalism.
  9. The terrorist is a white female from a communist revolutionary group. Antifa are using light explosives, bags of human waste and bike locks now, but give them a little time. It also corresponds to the militant revolutionary posturing we’ve seen from the past couple Womyn’s Marches. This was a pretty early example of a terrorist hijacking a plane and flying it into a skyscraper too.
  10. Snake’s glider landing on the WTC and Airforce One’s collision bore a remarkable resemblance to 9/11. Go ahead and call it conspiracy theory. It’s pretty undeniable.
  11. Weaponized medicine. Snake thinks he’s being inoculated, but Hauk’s doctor administers microscopic detonation charges in his arteries. In the sequel, he’s injected with a man made toxin. If you think this is anti-vaxxer paranoia, consider the fact that insects are now being used for biological warfare.

Remind you of anything?

The scene where Bob Hauk and Snake Plissken meet for the first time is one of pinnacles of cinematic badassery. The casting of Lee Van Cleef in the role of Hauk makes this one of the best scenes Sergio Leone never filmed. The fact that Kurt Russell is channeling Eastwood only elevates the performance. Snake Plissken is easily just as memorable as any of Eastwood’s iconic tough guys. When Snake sneers at Hauk’s offer of amnesty, it reads as pure contempt and distrust on one level. On another, it reads like a man who’s been burned by appeals to democracy and nation one too many times.

Snake Plissken: I don’t give a fuck about your war… or your president.

Most importantly, by the film’s conclusion, Snake looks for a sign that his sacrifice mattered. When the president offers anything he’d like, he asks only for a minute of his time. He asks the president how he feels about all the individuals who gave their lives to rescue his. Pleasance sputters some half-hearted bullshit about how the “nation appreciates their sacrifice”. Rebellious antiheroes who defy authority are a dime a dozen these days, but Snake’s final response to the president is a piece of cinematic cosmic justice that simply cannot be topped.

Perhaps what’s most chilling about Escape From New York is that Carpenter may be suggesting that the dystopian prison may already be here. We may already be slaves to a corporate technocratic global imperium that isn’t even remotely interested in the promises of “human rights” and “freedom” its political class promotes.

Maybe the force fed left-right paradigm in combination with an increasingly globalized economy is designed to produce dislocation, instability and unrest. And the global elite are just waiting for the pot to boil over in order to administer the ultimate crackdown. If today’s visions of cinematic dystopia tell us anything, it’s that the Hollywood elite want you to enjoy depravity and debasement. Films and shows like The Purge and Black Mirror revel in them. As if the unraveling of civility is something they want to hasten.

Escape From New York was projecting a future a mere 16 years from the time of its release. Even if the future Carpenter projected didn’t look exactly the way he portrayed it, he was still telling us the future dystopia was the world of the present.

Advertisements