Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Bourne Bad Guys

The "bad guys" in the Bourne franchise pretty much do what Obama has now made blase', when it used to be considered downright criminal if his predecessors did the same things. In that sense, the Bourne movies are out of date, out of touch with the times. Killing American citizens without trial, mass spying, black ops, assasination, regime change...these are programs in the Bourne movies that the antagonists -- the bad guys, the CIA characters Conklin, Abbott, Vosen, Dewey -- attempt time and again to kill our main character over. They'll kill swaths of Bourne's allies over who threaten to leak the programs. But they usually get arrested in the end, they get their comeuppance, when the docs are leaked to the press. Yes, I guess these are just movies, because when Obama kills people and spies on everyone, he or his admin doesn't get arrested. No ones cares. The next Bourne movie should have the president and the CIA as the protagonists, presented as "the good guys". And, I'm totally being sarcastic, btw. Because what motivates the "fictional" CIA characters to do what they secretly do, is to keep America "safe," that leaks of their programs "endangered lives." Yet, this couldn't be further from the truth. No evidence supports this rhetoric. It just exposes what they shouldn't be doing in the first place. If they're not doing anything wrong, why do they worry? Wanton destruction "Team America" style, that does more harm than good, is their policy. And, you could expect mafia-style hits, or career damaging hits, of any leakers of secret programs, instead of praise for keeping America accountable. The heroes know this. Bourne finds allies in Nicky, Landy, and in the new one, Lee, in a sorta gray area, but I won't give away the ending. Bourne fights for his freedom, liberty, and American moral values, instead of the cycle of killing, as he says, "I'm trying to find another way".

Monday, May 9, 2016

Captain Libertarian

     So, I haven't read too much of the Marvel comicbooks, but am a fan of most of the MCU movies. I thought Captain America: The Winter Soldier was quite possibly the best movie of that year. The anticipation for Captain America Civil War was high.

     It seems CACV had a foreign release a few weeks earlier than the US release. Not sure if that's normal; especially a movie about Captain AMERICA to not release first in AMERICA. I was kinda pleasantly surprised it was a huge freakin hit all over the world; the hype and buzz was ablaze before it even hit US theaters. So, what is it that resonates with foreign audiences? Well, yeah, it's a great action FX movie, a well-written script and plot (a 90% on the Tomatometer), and I believe the political issues are something the rest of the world are more knowledgeable about than the average American. The movie revolves around the issue of collateral damage from the Avengers fighting evil throughout the years. And, here in the real world, people see the "police of the world" US warring for over decades and decades, sees all the collateral damage it has wrought, and it seems that maybe possibly this movie is a sympathy card or apology card to the world, an acknowledgement on behalf of our controlled biased corporate news media, the deaf and dumb so-called leaders that really don't acknowledge the truth of what their neocon foreign policy does (well, maybe a few politicians do complain), that yes, we understand our (well not our, it's the undemocratic US military/CIA's) actions have consequences. That, since the anti-war liberals have all but disappeared because no one wants to criticize Obama and his kill list, art can be a way the filmmakers can express these issues to possibly trigger a dialog, because there isn't much dialog in mainstream media. Art should reflect the times. At least I hope that's what the screenwriters are saying. That's what I hope the global audiences find so compelling to buy tickets for. Yes, they're buying entertainment, but it's entertainment that means something. By comparison, Batman v Superman -- which had similar collateral damage themes -- was perhaps entertaining or set out to be, but certainly didn't amount to anything in plot or characters. The issues didn't mean anything; it meant jack shit. CACV showed how it's done.

     Here are a few articles about CACV that sort of express some of the sides and issues audiences have pulled from it:
     But some are confusing. One liberal writer calls Cap anti-liberal and libertarian, confuses Cap's libertarianism with anarchy. But others are Bernie supporters, who I'm sure are liberal, who support Cap. So, which is it -- is Cap liberal or anti-liberal? Another article says the writers tested the movie as they were making it, to mold it to get audiences split down the middle between Cap and Iron Man. Then the writers also then pretty much say they are pro-Cap. Others call Iron Man the capitalist, but I think of him really as the war profiteer 1%er establishment (or maybe I'm lumping the Starks together); as in, he sides with government regulation, the establishment. Sigh...What's in labels, anyway...

     Who's side are you on?  I still gotta say, I'd go with my initial reaction after seeing CACV -- I'd side with Cap. He's been called the libertarian, as he stands for non-regulation, but here's why: Cap sticks up for the people, not bureacracy. Liberals for some reason equate libertarians with anarchists, but libertarians do want law and order, want regulation, but it depends what kind of regulation that is and from whom. Stark says he wants regulation in "whatever form that takes, I'm game." Uh, see...that's the rub. Who's regulating the regulators? Because in Winter Soldier, SHIELD was infiltrated by HYDRA. Who's to say the UN wouldn't be, or hasn't been? As Cap says, "it's run by people with agendas and agendas change." And Iron Man trusts his judgement, but he created Ultron, for chrissakes.

     I'm for accountability, but, if you follow politics at all, how many times have we seen the foxes guarding the hen house, with bailouts and revolving doors, or the foxes investigating the foxes and letting white collar and war criminals go with hardly a slap on the wrist. Libertarians believe in state's rights, a country's sovereignty, the separation of powers -- not centralized power, not one fox guarding the foxes. Just because you trust the current benevolent king, the next successor could be an insane inbred. You gave obamadrones a pass, horrible and inaccurate as they were, but do you trust Hillary or Trump with the keys?  A ship is built with compartmentalized sections, for if one section floods, it won't bring down the whole ship. I mean, the metaphors could go on and on, throughout history.

    And honestly, I'm less with Cap's sense of interventionism and patriotism (because today's extremely complicated war of tribes and factions is not the same war as with the truly evil Nazi's), because perhaps it's more that I'm against Iron Man's sense of restriction on civil liberties ( the internment of the Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye and all of Cap's side) and Stark's egotistical trust in his own judgment and centralized power, as explained above. Where is a jury in Stark's world? Also, does it lead to registration of all enhanced individuals, which too often historically leads to harrassment, surveillance, internment, and other restrictions on liberty on all of the same types of people? I mean, we just saw the same issues in Zootopia. Zootopians would've loved this movie. War has turned the population against Jews, Japanese, now Muslims. And everyone that is lumped with them, from Chinese that were mistaken for Japanese, and Sikhs mistaken for Muslims.

     And, my biggest question, who is the next enemy in the UN's view? What would be the next mission for the Avengers? What if it's regime change in another country? Like we've invaded countries that had nothing to do with 9/11, or that had no WMD's. Or what if the targets are political enemies, whistleblowers, one of the Avenger's own -- what if it's something the superheroes don't agree with? Or instead of attacking, what if you're told to ALLY with certain terrorist groups, as the US does when it serves their special interests. Ally with countries with sharia law, like the Saudis, or unreasonables like Israel? Right now in Syria, the CIA is backing one group, the Pentagon backs another group, and they are fighting each other -- how stupid is that. I guess under the Sokovia Accords, the Avengers couldn't disobey the UN, or have much choice in who to fight. They are slaves to the system, they signed their life away with Stark's pen. They'd be beholden to their missions, as Winter Soldiers are to their given missions.

    For Iron Man's reasons, I guess I would agree on the idea of accountability, certainly. He feels guilt, like from Alfre Woodard's character. The movie revolves around all the collateral damage and civilians killed throughout the various Marvel movies that parallels with real life -- i.e. the US's (well, maybe it's the CIA, JSOC, the western world, etc.) horrible actions abroad. Pick anything from the 2% drone bombing accuracy, hospital flattening, wedding parties bombing, etc. It makes Team America's destruction of Paris not really an exaggeration. I mean, this goes way back to Vietnam, with napalm and agent orange. Modern warfare is ridiculous. Well actually, the MCU and the real world are not exactly parallel or comparable -- because in the MCU, it was mostly the bad guys initiating the threats and battles; it was Crossbone's bomb, it was Ultron who levitated Sokovia, Winter Soldier was mind controlled for his missions, it was HYDRA/SHIELD's helicarriers in DC....As opposed to bombs made-in-the USA and dropped by USA vehicles. If we're comparing the Avengers with the US/western world's battle styles, kinda seems to me the US is more at fault for civilian casualities in their battles than the Avengers are for their battles. And ironically, it seems easier to pass the Sokovia Accords than it is to hold the US accountable. But hey, it's a movie.

     Vision brings up that perhaps escalation brought about new enemies, new conflicts, which is also a great theme at the end of Batman Begins when Gordon talks about escalation. So, has the US caused escalation? If the new normal is pre-emptive war abroad, where will this end? Doesn't seem an end in sight. Not to give real terrorism a free pass, but religious extremists have been around for hundreds of years -- why have they escalated now? Because have we? Clearly. We destablized everything from North Africa to the middle east, creating power vacuums, allowing the thugs free reign, and with our fancy weapons and vehicles to boot. That's causality. They fight the US because the US killed their families and flattened their houses. That's causality.

     After he finds that Bucky was framed by Zemo, Iron Man sides with Cap in a way after all and goes secretly against Ross. But then his emotions for revenge flip him again against Bucky for killing his parents. And if emotion and vengence is what rules over judgment, I wouldn't want Iron Man leading the UN's Avengers. When the Black Panther saw that revenge wasn't the answer, it was a glimmer of hope, in my opinion -- war is over, if we want it. I stand with Cap, laying down his shield, effectively handing in his badge like a disillusioned cop, because the system is broken. It was a great end to the movie. What a cliffhanger. What the heck will happen next? What will happen to our country, foreign policy and domestic national security policy? We haven't even begun to have this dialog really.

     In the foreword to the CACV "Art of..." book, the directors write, "His strength and toughness were inspiring, but there was something about his unshakable moral certainty, his overwhelming mix of patriotism and propaganda, that left us wanting a little more complexity and a little more edge....Now we were being given the opportunity to do in a movie what we had dreamt of as fanboys: texturing and even subverting the patriot through a story that led him to question his country and break orders. For us, CACV is the completion of that subversion. The film moves Steve Rogers past the flaws in his country to finally confront the flaws in himself. This is what makes him a true hero in the classical sense. Despite all the greatness he is capable of, he is flawed, and he is human. And this is a Captain America that we can love."

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Libertarian Movies

Always great to see when movies have major themes that reflect our times, as art should reflect and comment on our times. Even moreso, it's the recent big blockbuster movies, and that means they resonate and connect with the majority of the public. Here are some recent ones:

SPOILER warning.

The civilized public fears a certain classification of the public when the cops blame "predators" (lions, tigers, foxes) as inherently vicious, saying it's in their DNA. This could be said about govn't racial profiling muslims, black and brown people, natives, japanese/asians, etc. and the fear spreads in the public. Authorities say they're not racist or ignorant, but they are, and the public knows it.

Bridge of Spies
Even prisoners (of war) deserve due process and civil rights. I was thinking about Guantanamo throughout watching it.
And, as shown in the negotiations, war is always about a show of force, a dick size contest. The US, East Germany, Russia all want to look powerful.

Jurassic World
Vincent D'Onofrio wants to make the raptors a military weapon. Bad guys always seem to want to turn things into a weapon, don't they... Govn't wants to equip and arm "moderate" rebels? Psh, good luck. Look where it's gotten us.

Captain America The Winter Soldier
Redford/Hydra wants to take away freedom for security, calls for pre-emptive attacks, drone bombing, to kill people that a database labels as enemies, without due process. Sounds like obamadrones, and obama's matrix.
One of Captain America's great lines is, "By holding a gun at everyone on Earth and calling it protection."
Captain America is on our side, his friend Bucky is mind-controlled on the other side.

Mad Max: Fury Road
Many great themes here.
Man nuked itself. Wars for oil.
Water controls the people.
The brides want freedom and liberty from patriarchy.

The Lego Movie
Freedom and liberty from the rules and regulations of the father figure.

Star Wars
Rebels against a fascist empire.

The Hunger Games
Rebels against a fascist empire.

about Edward Snowden. Just pointing out that is got the Academy Award. Nuff said.

Dirty Wars
US war crimes.
nominated for Academy Award

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
anti-war themes

Ender's Game
war games. War is all a game.

The World's End
Simon Pegg does a long speech at the end about freedom and liberty.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

My Defense of The Prequels

   This is a collection of my thoughts on The Prequels, of Star Wars. That is to say Episode 1 The Phantom Menace, Episode 2 Attack of the Clones, and Episode 3 Revenge of the Sith. Perhaps I'm the only one in the world who likes them, whatever. I mean, I don't think they're the greatest of the Star Wars films, but I find the major aspects of them (the art, Palpatines' politics, Anakin's journey towards the dark side intertwining with the government's journey toward the dark side) fascinating, moving, entertaining, and fitting, because it is straight from the creator, George Lucas. I think the stories work. I think the art works.
   As of this writing, I've seen the Episode 7 The Force Awakens twice, but I may or may not write about it yet here in this post. But as always and at any rate, SPOILER WARNING.
   The whole of Star Wars has personal meaning to everyone, and it's totally subjective. People may say Star Wars is about this and that, or it SHOULD be about this and that, that the Prequels weren't about this and that. Well so, this is my opinion.
   People say Star Wars is about the hero's journey, about Luke. Well, yes and no. I mean, yeah for ANH, but now it's much bigger than that. The Star Wars series is about the Skywalker family and how they fit with the Republic/Empire. It's both intimate (about family) and big (about society). I think it's kind of that simple. It's how all these things relate, as the Force relates to everything, surrounds, binds the galaxy together. It's operatic, it's mythic. Also, it is melodramatic. It has always been. It's pulp.
  The Galactic Republic, probably most exemplified by the look of Naboo and Coruscant, is SUPPOSED TO BE glossy, grand, not dirty, rich, etc. It's the height of society. I have like 15 "art of" and "making of" Star Wars books I've read cover to cover, and the concept design is thought out and fitting for the SW universe. Naboo is decorative like art nouveau and classic Greco-Roman, as in contrast, the Empire is cold and sterile, like the inside of a computer. After the Senate and Jedis are crushed and the Emperor takes over, the world goes to shit. Infrastructure goes to shit, things become rusty and dirty. After a war, people salvage, people make-do. The Rebel Alliance are scappers, cobbling together old parts to make their vehicles, because they are not the Empire with money. When there is a totalitarian regime, the lower and middle classes are neglected, competition and entrepreneurship is squashed. You just get what the government allows you to have. You barter, salvage, smuggle, run a black market, as Han does.
   Little Anakin used to be a good innocent boy, saying "Yippees" as someone from the '50's might, like Lucas, or someone from a Norman Rockwell painting, as Lucas and Spielberg both have Rockwell collections. And it's so interesting to see this kid become the most evil mofo of the universe, Darth Vader. So, Jake Lloyd wasn't the greatest actor. Neither was Mark Hamill. And certainly many of the Imperial officers in the Classic Trilogy (ANH, ESB, ROTJ). But, Lloyd did have some great moments of anger, at the Jedi Temple, and this was probably key in him getting the part. I think his character attributes were great -- a kid piloting a dangerous pod racer (showing Jedi reflexes), a generous being wanting to help strangers and a kid in love (innocence), and someone who can fix anything mechanical (but can't fix life and death of his loved ones, and also becomes mechanical himself). His life is turned upside down by leaving his mother to go with the Jedi. Perhaps it's one the reasons he hates the Jedi later. They make him lose attachments.
   Hayden Christensen, like Mark Hamill, I think looked older than the age they actually play. From complaining about not getting to go to Tosche Station, or complaining about being held back by Obi-Wan and the Jedis, they are both impetulant brats (like father, like son) that probably should look younger, however the actors probably needed to bridge the span from teen to adult. Christensen's Anakin comes across strong, and creepy, to Padme because the Jedi's don't get out much. They are celibate monks. And he's a teenager with emotional problems, seduced by power. I have more of a problem with Natalie Portman's acting, as she only plays being weirded out, one note, but her character needs to have a glimmer of interest even before her love confession at the top of the Geonosis gladiator arena scene.
   The greatest thing about the Prequels is the political intrigue. It's the aspect most hated by most, but their loss. It's the story that mirrors and entwines the Skywalker's. Senator Palpatine plays both sides (multiple sides) of the trade conflict to start a crisis to create a situation where he could move in as Supreme Chancellor, and then Emperor. Anakin would be Palpatines' muscle in the end. Anakin's drive for power for control stems from the things he couldn't control in life (his mom's plight, vision of Padme's death, how the Jedi's don't really like him). And so, Palpatine's story of the Sith Lord Darth Plagueis and the knowledge to "cheat death" to peak Anakin's interest is probably one of the best scenes in the series. Ian McDiarmid should've gotten some sort of Academy Award. After Anakin becomes Darth Vader and terrorizes the galaxy, HE is the one to kill the Emperor and find redemption. It's an amazing arc.
   Other aspects that I love about the Prequels were the lightsaber fights of Jedi's and Sith in their prime, Darth Maul, the podrace, the Clone Wars, the brotherly feud between Anakin and Obi-Wan also mirroring the Jedi and Sith point of views, how the Clone Army story-wise and visually becomes the Imperial Stormtroopers, the portrayal of democracy dissolving into a dictatorship by imperialism, militarism. If you know anything about history (kings in general, Napolean, Hitler, USA, etc.), it's the history of our world told over again and again. War motivating a fascist security police state. Bureacracy and corruption motivating calls for more executive power. This is both universal, and personal. It's Anakin's story. It's the Galactic Republic/Empire's story. I think it's genius.
   Jar Jar Binks was innocence (and slapstick), but sometimes "too much." But so is C3PO, a character I can't stand. There is "cheese" to be found in the Classic Trilogy -- the "you rebel scrum" lines, Chewie's cowardice of the dianoga, the antics as they all run around the Death Star, the Ewoks hijinks. A lot of it is campy. It's fun. The Battle of Naboo had "accidental" victories because it was still a innocent time. The Clone Wars is where the Civil War starts to get serious. Well, as serious as SW can be. By ROTJ, things got the most dark, more was at stake; it came to a head for the Skywalkers. The series had to have a progression.
   Lucas' world of Star Wars, his visual choices, is a certain aesthetic. His choices are appealing and popular. I don't like Star Trek aliens; I like Star Wars aliens. Many concept artists can present designs in front of Lucas, but he is the one calling the shots. Joe Johnston and Ralph McQuarrie, Doug Chiang, Terryl Whitlach, Iain McCaig, and Ryan Church worked on many other films, but I'm not crazy about any of their other designs, they weren't as memorable as the Star Wars films. Disney had an eye for design and how it appeals to the majority of audiences as well, and had his artists almost make a science out of it, using proportions and style. For the lack of a better word or explanation, it was an aesthetic. The character designs of these greats, Lucas and Disney, sell mechandise. They are appealing to the masses. I can't say any designs of Don Bluth or Dreamworks appeal to me. I don't have a desire to purchase their toys, if they had any.
  I should probably write another separate post of my thoughts on Episode 7 The Force Awakens, which is mostly positive, but briefly my thoughts on the designs were kinda...meh. The orangey-ET Maz was ugly with small eyes and thin lips. The tentacle ball was ugly and stupid, like something from JJ's Star Trek movies. The stormtroopers looked like cheetahs. Kylo Ren was a bit racist, looking like Omar Sharif in Lawrence of Arabia. The Supreme Leader Snoke looked like ass. Captain Phasma belongs with the cylons. However, BB-8's design was genius. Rey's speeder was great simplcity. Jakku the junk planet was awesome.