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Monday, February 20, 2012

Other Stuff

The following is some Gonzo shit from 3 am, written with less than full brain power and editing capabilities. What that means is that after writing something, and staring at it for maybe 10 seconds it is done, written and can not be unwritten. Admittedly it's not quite journalism, more of a personal note on something fairly near and dear to me, and in all likelihood all of you. I'm not sure why I feel obliged to post this, but sometimes you follow what you feel moved to do, by some external, or more likely internal force.

And then there’s home. Think of all the places you ever called home at one point or another, houses you lived in for a day or a month or a year, it doesn’t really matter how long, it only matters how you felt. I lived in a country house until I was about 3, but I don’t really remember it, a flash here, a dash of memory there but it wasn’t quite home. 414 SW Woodlawn was home, it was the place I grew up and figured I’d live until college, but it wasn’t as things so often aren’t. I remember the number, 2345196, because I considered it, and still do my home, even though it isn’t any more.

            Even if I still lay claim to the city as home, because of friends or people who are better referred to as family, that house is no longer my own, it is someone else’s. I saw a car, not mine, not my family’s, not anyone I knew parked in the driveway. Even so, I still call it my house, and it will never cease to be home for me, no matter how many years pass and what else changes, a home is forever. The heart of the matter is the place that feels right. I’ve lived in New Zealand for the past 5 years or so, and I’ve met some great people, I’ve met people who I love dearly, who I will be very sad to leave and who I will stay in contact with for many years to come, but this is not home.

            Part of it is the transitional phase between childhood and adulthood, which just so happened to happen as I moved house and more importantly home, and I felt abandoned by the things I once knew in this strange new place. Another part is subconsciously I tie it to my father’s death, no matter how bat shit insane that may be, because we need something to blame, even if it makes no difference. I could have called it home, could have accepted it as my new place of being, of belonging, but forever I haven’t.

            People complained about my apparent lack of love for the new country, hell I complained about it, I wanted to love it, I should have loved it, I do love it. But it is not home, and in every part of my being I know this. I’ve walked around and admired all the country offers, all the city offers, all the great friends that I have here to experience it with, the near family I’ve made and the people who I would die for, but no matter which way I look at it America is home. I feel sad that this is the case but sometimes there is nothing to change, nothing to accept or to think about because in the gut, or the heart, or any other organ of importance you know something is right.

            I know that life would be easier here, I’ve become so fucking accustomed to life here that changing it will mean changing everything, but I’m already doing that by going off to college alone so it’s not really that much of a change is it? Moving thousands of miles away from home, I wrote from home there but that is not right, from the house where my parent, singular, lives would be more accurate, but we simply things for ease of use. We call hotels home if we stay for more than a day, ask if we can go home as kids when we mean something very different to that safe place where we live, or don’t live in my case.

            It is different though, different from all the others who move around the country, because they’re not seeking home. They’re seeking education, a place to stay, a job, something to keep life going at the current pace, they will make a new home but it’s close enough that nothing changes, there is the need for normality. Something I don’t have. Mom doesn’t understand what is meant by home. She still thinks of 414 as home, probably still thinks of where she grew up as home, still thinks of America as home.

            It is all just so fucked up about moving, why do we do it, and why don’t we do it. I don’t understand, I don’t understand life and death either, but I don’t question them because there is nothing to question, it just is. Maybe it’s that way with home, you can beg and cry and complain and it will never be right because home is somewhere else. Home is where the heart is is bullshit, home is the place you have made to be your home, not anywhere else. You don’t have to have been there, hell you don’t even have to know the place exists, you just have to know the feeling.

            I don’t know how growing up in a screwed up family works, if you don’t consider it home, if you don’t consider the orphanage home, if you don’t consider an adopted parent’s house as your home, but I know that I lived in a nuclear family, and I considered where I lived home, and where I want to live as home. I lived in a typical American family, mom, dad, 2.3 kids, 2 dogs, it was all normal. My dad was kind of old but otherwise it was fine, typical. Then we moved to New Zealand, what the fuck. It doesn’t make any more sense to me than it did the first day I heard about it.

            Half-way across the fucking world, why? I don’t know, and now when I say I’m going to college people ask are your parents going with you? Well fuck you I don’t have parents anymore, I have a mom and sister, a singular unit, and no, no they are not. Why do they assume, I don’t know, do they assume that we all are one unit? A family sticks together no matter what? I don’t want to be here, sometimes all I wish, with all my heart at any one time is to be in the states, to be with friends or family or something, it doesn’t matter I just want to be home. I don’t know where that is right now, but I know it is not here.

            A few days ago I stood marvelling at New Zealand and all its wonder, at all the great things I could do here, at all the great people here, and I caught myself thinking about staying, then I thought about it some more and could not fathom it. I never could have, I also couldn’t have fathomed my parent’s mortality, so that really doesn’t have any effect on what comes to pass. People die all the time, but we don’t acknowledge or care because of the monkey-sphere. Maybe I don’t care about New Zealand because my monkey-sphere was back in the states, that was where I cared, and still do care.

            I should care, I should give a fuck about what happens here, my sister and mom will in all likelihood be living here for at least another 4 years and probably many after, but I don’t know if I can come back, I just don’t acre about the politics here, or the economy, or any of the bullshit that I should care about. I don’t know if I’ll want to come back. In all likelihood I’ll want to see the people, but the idea of going back to New Zealand when I’ve settled in to a new home is well, difficult to grasp.

            I will never understand some things, a great many things actually, but in all the infinite wisdom that I can espouse upon myself and others the thing I will never understand is why, why we moved, why here, why to any number of things. Because it couldn’t have just been the job, it couldn’t just be anything because every decision has ratifications, especially one like this. Everything changed, one way or another. 

            I don’t want to cry about fair and unfair because it doesn’t get anywhere. Life is what it is, and despite the fact that I have spent hours upon hours wondering what would have happened if I hadn’t move here, or if I had gone off to college one year earlier, if my dad was still alive. I wonder these things but they will never come to past, and like the Mirror of Erised it leads to nothing but madness. Wishing for what will and never can come to be, and wondering about things that are simply ineffable, it simply doesn’t help anyone, least of all me.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

White Noise 2: The Light

Now I would normally never watch something like this, even with someone like Nathan Fillion in the lead. It's a sequel to a crappy 2000's horror film, there is no way it can be decent right? What if it was essentially a completely different movie, with some kind of similar supernatural phenomena as the only ties? It basically distances itself as much from the awful original and becomes something definitely above average. With decent leads, a decent script, and a fairly original idea it definitely results in a watchable film, though it is dragged down somewhat by the style of film-making that was so popular in the mid 2000's, which is difficult to describe but is kind of annoying, something about the camera angles or colors or something.

It begins with the murder of the protagonist's wife and son by some guy for seemingly no reason, who then promptly shoots himself in the face. Another thing I like about the film is there is no real big twist or anything like that, Bruce Willis was not dead the whole time or anything, though there is a slow revelation about what exactly is happening. In the end it's not perfectly explained either, no scientific or voodoo explicit discussion, kind of similar to the Exorcist in that way. He sees dead people, and can also see people about to die, which would be an awful super power, there is a comment about it in the film, and it really would suck, knowing all these people are about to die, and being unable to prevent it.

It also has similarities to Dead Like Me, with the reapers. No one can save these people, it is the whole hourglass thing, once the sand runs down your time is up, and extra time does not end well for anyone, often resulting in the deaths of many more. Nathan makes a good tragic hero, in that you know it'll end badly, because there are so many similarities between him and the murderer of his wife and son that even though the film draws the comparison numerous times it is really unnecessary, one of the small problems with the film is that it ditches subtlety fairly early on, though there are still some cool background images of the anti-cross thing.

I can see why people like the film, because the whole idea behind is interesting, if kind of a mash up of the Sixth Sense and Dead Like Me, with some diner scenes that gave me some weird Pulp Fiction vibes, though without Samuel L. Jackson. Now I guess there are a few other minor complaints, like the romance between the two leads up there in the picture seems fairly forced, with her falling head over heels for him upon meeting him, in the position of her as his nurse. Also this thing is classed as a horror because it has a bunch of jump scares, all the same dead people jump out unexpectedly!  A little surprising the first time, though none of the like 10 times afterwards. Decent makeup on the dead guys though, so that looks fairly decent, as does all the CGI and few other practical effects in the film. It still has the weird blue tint that films love so much, but it is easily ignorable.

I enjoyed the film despite the little missteps, definitely very unexpected due to the nature of sequels. I suppose Nathan Fillian is in a lot of these smaller projects, and Joss Whedon's stuff, and he generally does decent work, so maybe it shouldn't be so surprising. The ending worked for what it was, and wasn't even that bitter sweet, even with the main character's death. In summation since this will just be a quickie, the film has good ideas, a good cast, and is in general a shitty horror, but a decent movie otherwise, with reminders of better films but enough good in it to stand on its own.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Nice Colors he said sarcastically;
This is a film that it took me a long while to see because I felt like I had already seen it. Before going into it I knew what it was going to be, a quirky teenage comedy about pregnancy. It had the same kind of charm I guess of Superbad and the like, which is why I didn't feel obliged to see it, because I felt like I already knew everything I wanted to about it, and if I saw it it would be more of the same. I was totally right, despite all the praise heaped upon it it is the same old shit, but for some reason it feels more manufactured than the rest. An analogy will help here, it's a McDonald's burger compared to a Burger King burger. Either way it's unhealthy, and has much less cow than you wish it did, but one feels just a bit less fake than the other. To me Juno is a McDonald's burger.

The problem with the film is nothing so easily notable, but more of a general problem with the tone of the film as well as the dialogue. I don't have the problem many people seem to have with it, whether it is either pro-life or pro-abortion or anything, because it is not either, it's just a tale of one person's pregnancy and how it affected her, and her family's lives. That's the thing it doesn't make any grand statements despite it dealing with some fairly complex and oft debated issues. It takes the route of many teen films and is simply a slice of life, nothing more and nothing less. I also don't think that the reactions are unrealistic or anything like that because people are weird and react differently, and rarely show their true feelings, so the displays in the film are not entirely absent from reality.

The film is not bad, and I like the genre so it's not that it's not my type of film, it is well acted with some good people like Micheal Cera in the only role he ever plays, and Jason Bateman in the role of a jerk, which is something he does fairly well. The problem is again that it is measured quirkiness, and the attempts to recreate actual teenagers are well, not quite perfect. Some of the dialogue in the film just feels off, with stuff like 'honest to blog' I mean what the fuck, no one talks like that, no one. It doesn't have heart, at least not a real one. Maybe it has a heart of gold, a mechanical, artificial, unfeeling heart that is per-constructed for a specific purpose.
The movie could use a little oil.
The film begins with a nice animated sequence of our titular character walking through her daily life, drinking Sunny D. Despite the fact that this is explained as her needing to piss to do a third pregnancy test it is still the first sign that she may be a little bit weird, a little 'quirky', and note I use the word with the utmost derision. The whole archetype just kind of pisses me off because it is so fake and so separated from reality. Weird people are all different, and none of them are like the films make them out to be. At least the animated credits sequence is nice, and we do have a pretty cool scene with Dwight from the office, which is good for a few laughs, because the movie is not a bad comedy, it has decent jokes as well as snark, and some of the supporting actors can really pull it off.

We don't actually see the other lead, or at least billed man, Micheal Cera for quite some time, and I'm going to refer to him by the actor's name, because that is all he plays. He only has maybe 20 minutes of screen time, and that's probably a high estimate, because he is actually not her boyfriend. I did actually like this, that they don't have a permanent relationship and that there is something different than another film of the same time, Knocked Up. So she tells him that she's pregnant and he kind of accepts that she's getting an abortion, than goes off. Little to no real interaction, just kind of plot stuff, and maybe a few jokes.

After maybe another half an hour we get to meet the pair that she is giving her baby to, because she decided that abortion was wrong for her. Not for other people, but for her, which is an important note for anyone who uses this film to support any point regarding abortion. So we meet Jason Bateman, who is obviously not very keen about having a baby, and Juno interacts with him in a really creepy way, because the dude is twice your age, just don't fall for him. They don't end up doing anything, but it's just such a fucked up relationship that you're happy nothing happens. The rest of the movie is Juno experiencing different stages of pregnancy, and the various reactions to it, as well as exploring her relationships with other characters more. Now in the end she does end up with Micheal, when she realizes he is her 'true love' which is kind of cheesy, but I guess some stories do need happy endings.
An example of manufactured quirkiness.
Pregnancy is not really glorified throughout the film, no matter what some critics might think, and Juno is clearly ostracized in her high-school because of her decision to keep it. With visible staring and avoiding her when she's late in the pregnancy. Admittedly her charisma does lend a certain juno se qua to the whole thing, but in the end the act of giving birth is certainly portrayed as a painful experience, with Micheal simply lying by her after it, as a needed loving presence. The movie ends with her relationship with Micheal still very strong, and them having worked through any potential issues that the fact that they had a baby first done away with. I don't know I guess it ends just as it begun, with a chair, so some nice bookends, and just as it came in at a time in a life it leaves at a different time, as the genre so loves to do.

I suppose what surprises me most is not the film but the enormously positive reception it got at the time, with Roger Ebert naming it his top movie of the year ahead of No Country For Old Men. The Academy also gave it one award and it was nominated for several more, though it was never going to win Best Picture. I just find it not quite contrived, but manufactured, which just takes a way a huge amount from it. I think a film that did the same general style well might have been Napoleon Dynamite, which did have that same kind of general weirdness and quirkiness much as I hate that word but it worked somehow, it had more heart. Maybe it was more straight-faced in its presentation, and that was what made it work, but I think that the problem here lies with the director, though the script could use some actual teenage consultants on.

It felt like a film, a well made and acted film, but still a film. A film is supposed to immerse you in a different world, even if it is in the same reality. No Country did this for me with the shots of landscapes, the lingering conversations, and the whole air made me believe in the Texas that was shown, believe that Anton Chigurh was a badass murderer, that he was effectively death incarnate, though he didn't really have any power when the protagonist was killed by some randoms off-screen. On the whole it wasn't heart-felt though some of the performances were. If you want a light teen comedy, go watch Superbad, or one from the 80's, or Dazed and Confused. It's not a bad film, but there are many better ones with the same tone and style.

Monday, February 6, 2012

You Can (Not) Advance

Not the poster for a normal film

In 1997 Hideaki Anno was really depressed, like had serious issues, and he put them all on display in his magnum opus, Neon Genesis Evangelion. The ending, the last two episodes, are considered an enormous fuck you to his fans and deciphering just what was meant by them is a place only the priests of the Great Old Ones go. The movies he released afterwards didn't help a bit, and made a confusing ending into a downer ending, which really doesn't help anything. Then we flash forward ten years, Anno is happily married and through counseling amongst other things has gotten over his depression, and seeks to remake the series that made him so famous, this time without the angst.

This led to the first film, a fairly standard anime remake, featuring mostly the same enemies and situations and characters, albeit with more badass and higher production values. That was You Are (Not) Alone, this is not that film. This is the film that goes batshit insane midway through and gets worse for the rest of the film, and brings about the end of the world only halfway through the quadrilogy. This is the film that brought soundtrack dissonance to a perfect art, even more so than the original series. It is also the film about true love and the destruction that it can bring, and in that sense it is a tragic romance, like Romeo and Juliet, but with giant robots.

The film begins with surprisingly passable English, excluding the voice-work from one of the main characters, which sounds more garbled than a whale song. We see the destruction of the notably absent third angel, essentially giant robots from outer space that seek to annihilate humanity through a variety of means. We are also introduced to the blood knight Mari, who destroys the angel at the cost of her own Eva, which in all likelihood cost billions if not trillions of dollars, real good job. Now there are a lot of Christian references and imagery throughout the film, including the now famous cross explosions, but even with all the discussion of God and what humanity is building, essentially trying to create a new God, it doesn't dwell on these issues with any real depth.
Crosses are still cool right?
There are any number of reasons for this, primarily that no one in the series can really agree on what they're trying to do, given that everyone is trying to run Xanatos Gambits (TvTropes if you don't get the reference) but mostly they seem to fail, because they rely everything going according to plan, and it just never does. There's also the fact that when you make a film like this you really have to concentrate on one major idea or ideal otherwise it tends to get cluttered and confused, and then you get a clusterfuck of philosophy like the ending of the series and no one wants that. So for the film Anno went with the idea of love, one so simple and so complex that it works perfectly for an anime which deconstructs that which it seeks to emulate.

So in the film we have Shinji, our protagonist who's only real goal in life is to actually have his father appreciate him. He has fallen in love with Rei, who is his father's weird daughter/wife/genetic experiment thing and may actually have elements of his mother's soul in her, it's not entirely clear how close the films follow the series. The new German girl introduced as well, Asuka, has a crush that she will never admit on Shinji, and they grow close throughout the film, until he is forced to near fatally wound her, which kind of changes the nature of any relationship. In terms of parental love, well it's essentially non-existent or abusive in Shinji's case. Now all the characters suffer some sort of psychological dysfunction, though none so much as the original, in that they might be able to function in a normal society, instead of going fetal position in the corner at the thought of people.

So love is the thing which causes the end of the world. Quick summation of plot up until the end, there are angels, and this one angel is a bad motherfucker, exploding pretty much all the defenses and waltzing on through to the base of the base, which contains Adam, the basis for all Angels, and if they were to contact in all likelihood it would be the end of the world. First he tanks a huge amount of damage from a 'beast' mode Eva unit 02, which is basically a werewolf form of a giant robot. Which is approximately as terrifying as it sounds. And yet, it doesn't work, it rips and tears and just about dies for it, then Rei runs in with a fucking nuke mine and shoves it in at point blank with an enormous rocket attached.

The Rainbow shield is far too powerful
 So everyone has just about given up hope, with two robots down and the angel heading right towards Armageddon, but then Shinji comes to save the day, not for the world, not for his father, but for Rei. His first action which is truly unique to him is his attempt to save the only person he may have ever loved. In the series he actually had to kill the only person who ever loved him. He does this by breaking through human limitations and basically saying fuck you physics, defying all previous badass attempts by himself and others by shrugging off attacks which had previously lacerated. He then reaches through time and space to retrieve Rei, who had been eaten by the angel previously, finally earning his happy ending.

But I mentioned something about the world ending before didn't I? Yes well it turns out that transcending mortal limits means ascending to godhood, or something very much like that, resulting in an explosion or something that will wipe out all life on earth. Real nice kid, ending the world and all that, but as previously stated he doesn't care what happens, to the world or anybody, he just wants Rei back, which is quite a nice sentiment, but then it leads to the natural logic that the power of love brings about the end of the world, which is a bit of a different matter from some other works, say Harry Potter. So what kind of theme are we going for here Anno? Does true love lead to disaster? You'd think with his wife and kids he'd have something different to say, but with just this film it certainly looks like it.

Then the kicker happens. The only character who ever said I love you to Shinji in the original series descends down from the moon and impales him with some sort of lance, preventing the immediate end of the world, though quite possibly also killing him and Rei. The ending is bittersweet in many ways, and that is in part due to the fact that it is only half-way done, with a third entry likely coming out this year. In the end it is a good entry in a series of films, but as a standalone does not work at all in terms of resolution, and not in the Sopranos way of no resolution.

Gory, but less so than much of the scene.
It is a better ending than traditional Gainax bullshit, but it's still pretty up there in terms of normal endings. As for the rest of the film well, it is incredibly violent, especially when Unit 01 attacks unit 03, there are organs the size of large buildings flying off, not to mention enough gore to cover most of Tokyo, quite literally.It forms a rainbow at one point. The image to the right is just as 01 truly finishes off 03, though not before he takes a huge bite out of the pod that Asuka resides in, seemingly determining her fate. The worst part though is that Shinji has to sit there, unable to control it, unable to stop it, forced to watch as what was once his slowly destroys one of his best friends. 

On the happy scale, the film starts off practically idyllic, with Gendo even agreeing to see his son, Shinji, for dinner. Actively working towards a happy relationship? Impossible! No, there are attempts at friendship, parental relationships, and even love, then they all get squashed in one scene, that one just above there, with the giant robot head that goes boom. It is Evangelion, so a happy ending couldn't really be assumed, but it can be hoped for, and you never know, maybe Shinji will actually find happiness this time, instead of suicidal manic depression resulting in a deep regression into fantasy. 

The end result is a film that is decent watching on its own, with good action scenes, a good budget so quality animation, and semi-likable characters, but without context from the previous film, and even from seeing the original series it really loses something, which is a problem. Another problem is the ending is simply a set-up for a sequel, which just kind of pisses me off, because damn it if you are unsure of when or even if there will be a conclusion don't set up for one. I'd say see it, but preferably get some context first, because the plot will mean little to nothing without it.