Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Book Challenge: Your 10 Favorite

One of the difficulties in determining a good book is the intersection of the literature and the film: I love Harper Lee's book, but I love the film as well, and it's difficult to know if I love the book or the film most, the same with Gone With the Wind (well, actually, I haven't read the book for that one, so that's easy to determine) and then, there are some books that have been adapted so many times, like Tom Sawyer and Alice In Wonderland, it's as if those films erode the quality of the literature. 
Not all of us found the ice bucket challenge appealing to participate in (although it is an infinitely worthy cause and a tremendous boon for the fundraisers!). A new challenge has been making waves, and I post my response to the challenge I received so that you, too, will be challenged and spread the love of your favorite books. It's my understanding it doesn't matter the genre (fiction, non-fiction) but that it is a book, not a poem or novella.
One of the books I have always wanted to read, but couldn't find an edition which translated the Russian narrative and the French dialogues (I believe there is one now, so I will have to make time for it).
Finally, there are too many excellent books to make it upon your official top ten favorite, but just because they are not on your list, doesn't mean they are not excellent examples of writing (such as The Hobbit, and The Lord Of the Rings, Frankenstein and Dracula, or Tom Sawyer and Margins Of PhilosophyAlice In Wonderland, The Good Earth and To Kill A Mockingbird and The Summa Theologica, to name a few of those I couldn't get in) this challenge, rather, is about the books you love, those that have influenced you in some way, those you think about or changed the way you think:
This is the book which I have learned the most from, and which I would probably pull from the shelf as my house was burning down if I could only grab one thing, but it doesn't make the list.
1). The Divine Comedy (complete) Translated by Dorothy L Sayers: no other book has formed my understanding of human relations to the Divine, and the perfection of the Divine the way Dante's three part epic journey depicts the grand scales of justice against the individual virtues and sins of humanity.
2). Moby Dick by Herman Melville: I know I must have read it in high school, but I couldn't remember a thing about it; last summer, I took the hefty volume and was determined to read it; about 300 pages in, I seriously thought about quitting, I was barely half-way through. Having never been defeated by a book before, I resolved to finish, and the last sixty pages were some of the absolute best in the English language, mostly because Melville had the courage to write the first part of the book exactly the way it should have been so the last sixty pages would be able to stand out. It's a favorite now.
This is what I have on my Kindle right now, desperately trying to finish, but it's so tragic and depressing, my soul grows heavy reading the narrative of these people and the time during which they lived. I will finish, it's just taking a very long time. I must say, Harriet Beecher Stowe is a masterful communicator.
3). The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway: the younger we are when we read a book, the more likely it is to make a lasting impression; I think I was a freshman in high school when I started reading Hemingway. This is, by my estimation, his most depressing (many would argue with this) even though I really like A Moveable Feast and feel it's more optimistic, everything about The Sun Also Rises has stayed with me, like the sun burning into the desert sand.
4). One Hundred Years Of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: the book was given to me by my uncle for Christmas one year, and it meant as much for him to give it to me as it did for me to receive it. Marquez was my first introduction to "magical realism," and he opened up an entirely new world for me, especially the one which lead to reading the poet Pablo Neruda and the great Octavio Paz.
Another I haven't read, but need to.
5). The Flounder by Gunter Grass, Translated by Helen Kurt Wolff: Awa and her three breasts. The surreal narrative describing the battle of the sexes has no equal. Also a gift from my uncle, no other work of fiction has been such a catalyst for probing what I believe regarding the interaction between men and women; it's an encounter like no other.
6). Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky: I read this on accident. It was the summer before I went into high school, and I had signed on for my first semester of debate; the resolution for that year was how to decrease the prison population. Erroneously, I had picked up the book thinking it would help me with debate; it didn't help me so much with debate, but it certainly did with life. Countless times, after I had fallen away from Christianity, in a quite moment, Dostoevsky and his faith would tap me on the shoulder and remind me that there was something greater: "If there is no God, than I am God," but that "If" is a greater mountain to scale than Everest.
If you were going to read just one book by the mind who did more to shape the 20th century than any other individual, it should be this one. Freud was attending a conference with a colleague in New York City, and, getting into the elevator at his hotel, he saw the elevator boy put down a book to take them to their floor; Freud was curious as to what the boy was reading and saw it was this book. Freud looked at his colleague and said, "This is the greatest compliment of my life." Taking such difficult subjects and making them accessible for the masses was an incredible achievement and, as you can guess, there isn't a day that goes by during which I fail to employ some of the techniques of interpretation which I first encountered in Freud's work. If you do read it, skip the last part: he was trying to form what would become his theory of the ego, super-ego and id, however, he was fifteen years away from understanding what he wanted to say, and the last part of the book is confusing.
7). Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman: Lightman is both a professor of Physics and Creative Writing at MIT; this book demonstrates why. To some degree, the book was a detriment for me because Lightman's effortless weaving between narrative and physics made me believe that's how Academia was, or at least, should be; I was wrong. I wanted to bring everything I had learned from all my other classes into whatever class I was taking at that time, and professors didn't appreciate it. I still prefer Lightman's way better, and, without a doubt, I am always conjuring to my mind the images of alternate worlds that he was the first to introduce me to.
8). The Diary Of Anne Frank: It's not the brutal world of the Nazis, or the suffering and sacrificing that I remember, it's her hope, and how incorruptible her determination was to believe in the very best of humanity and of the world. She's a martyr for the human condition, and I could never possibly forget all of what she taught me.
It's hard to pick just one work by Dostoevsky, and impossible to pick just one by Dickens, or by Shakespeare, or any myriad of writers in "the canon" of literature; there are common books written by authors no one will remember, but maybe that wrote something at a time that you really needed to read it, and it made a difference in your life. My sister was talking to me about the books she would like to list for this challenge, "But," she said, "I don't want to list Why Men Marry Bitches. I don't want anyone to know I ever read it!" She was going through her divorce and needing some counseling and that book provided what she couldn't get anywhere else. While she isn't proud of having read that book, she wouldn't have survived that time of her life without it, and we all have books like that. It's not that some books are "better" and more "worthy" to be on a list than others, rather, there are books which have a greater propensity to speak to a greater number of people in a deeper way; that doesn't mean you are included in that number, or that books who speak to only a limited few don't have some valuable to say.
9). Beowulf, Translation with commentary by JRR Tolkien: It's the great story of the soul and it's obstacles, it's triumphs and downfalls, which forms the basis of the metaphors for all other stories of the soul's progress. It's fantastic, but incredibly practical, monstrous, but intensely human.
10). Smiley's People by John Le Carre: we all have guilty pleasures. I first came across Le Carre's spy novels when I happened to get a copy of The Russia House that was on sale at a local grocery store. I was getting ready to start my sophomore year, and wanted a book that would be good, but sophisticated, in that, it wasn't a romance novel. I liked the book, but wasn't quite a good enough reader at that stage to pick up on Le Carre's writing skill; I was given Smiley's People, which I read several times, and became an addict after that (if you are familiar with the Gary Oldman film Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, the original book for that film was written by Le Carre, and TTSS is part 1, whereas Smiley's People is part 3 of the story, The Honorable Schoolboy coming before it; so, basically, I read the end first, then went back and read the beginning). It was encouraging, however, to see Le Carre's name at number 22 on the list of 100 Greatest English Writers of All Time! Pretty good for a spy novelist.
At least for me, books often serve as a landmark at a particular point in my life: 5 Faces Of Modernity was the first real theory book I read that provided me with the concept that there was always more to a work of art than what meets the eye. The books authors give us, they give us, it's a gift, and each person receives the same gift differently; there are books I have enjoyed more than others, but I am grateful for every single one that I have read.
There are so many books! If there are kids in your life--especially if they don't read--this might be a great time to introduce them to some of your favorite books. Reflecting on your favorite books helps to reflect on yourself, and how you have become the person you are, and why. If you are in a mind to make your own list, be sure to post it on Facebook, or whatever media you socialize on: you never know who might be inspired to take it up, so it becomes one of their favorites, too.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Friday, September 12, 2014

Penny Dreadful Available On Disc and iTunes

Penny Dreadful, which I am still planning on posting for each episode, will be available on iTunes beginning October for $22.99 for all the seasons; DVD and Blu-Ray will be available beginning October 14 ($31.99 for DVD, $36.99 for Blu-Ray, over 7 hours of episodes). It has been confirmed that the spiritualist seance medium Madame Kali (Helen McCrory) and the aesthete Egyptologist Ferdinand Lyle (Simon Russell Beale) have been promoted to season regulars.
Ferdinand Lyle, the frivolous Egyptologist who aided Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) with the hieroglyphs from the dead vampire's skeleton is the opposite of Murray: Murray is a explorer, specifically of Africa and uncivilized places; Lyle is a collector of things from around of the world of highly civilized places (please recall in Episode 2, Seance, when Dorian Gray details to Vanessa Ives where all the different pieces in the room came from). Love of the Egyptian was a craze during the Victorian era, even mummy dust was sought after to cure headaches and various ills (making it a strange form of cannibalism). Lyle also typifies the Aesthetic movement: in collecting household items from around the world, making everything dramatic, entertaining lavishly, and wearing a rather ridiculous "social mask," Lyle embodies those who, during the Victorian era, cultivated "sensibility," rather than rationality, the star of the Aesthetic Movement being none other than Oscar Wilde, the creator of Dorian Gray, which is interesting because Dorian isn't much of an aesthete: yes, his cologne collection is important to him, yes, he drinks absinthe, he care very much about his clothes and never seems to have anything important to do, but mostly, Dorian seems to be more decadent than anything, and an aesthete only secondarily, which is important and we will examine this further in the posts. 
Season 2 will be released on Showtime sometime in 2015 and has all ready begun filming in Dublin. Also joining the second season is two-time Tony winner, and two-time Grammy winner, Patti LuPone who will portray a shadowy figure from Vanessa Ives' past (Eva Green). Also guest starring is Douglas Hodge, who will be a Scotland Yard investigator following the murders in London,.... I suppose that means the murders Ethan (Josh Hartnett) has committed.
Like all great charlatans, Madame Kali--Kali for the Hindu goddess of Time, Change and Destruction--is merely a stage name for the spiritualist; her real name (in the show) is Evelyn Poole and Sarah Greene, one of the new cast members for Season 2, will be portraying Poole's daughter Hecate, named after the Greek goddess Hecate of the "crossroads" of life. Something that I have liked about the film is that everyone commits sins, and everyone suffers for them, sins have a price to be paid in the film. Introducing a character who invokes "the crossroads," as Hecate does, suggests the next level of the committing sins, namely, repentance. We don't know what's going to happen, however, this is an intriguing addition. Madame Kali's name of "Poole" reminds me of the servant for Dr. Jeckyll in Robert Louis Stevenson's novel, as well as of Grace Poole from Charlotte Bronte's 1847 novel Jane Eyre (the "crazy woman in the attic" that Grace Poole symbolizes has fostered a branch of Feminism after Grace's character, and you can be sure that it is not at all kind to men). "Poole" plays an interesting metaphor in both stories, as in a "pool" of water in which to see one's self, and meditate upon one's actions, but it also suggests "pooling" one's resources to make the most of it. With such a strong name given her, Greene's character will surely add a new dimension to the upcoming season. On an entirely different note, the glass table around which they are gathered will be deeply explored in my upcoming post on the episode. Mirrors, as we know, symbolize meditation, the looking-inward to see ourselves which no one but we can do and which is necessary for spiritual advancement. Even though it's Vanessa who "gives the performance" it's Sir Malcolm who does "the reflecting" and we know he's sorry for how he has behaved because he checks on Vanessa in her room that night and covers her up, a fatherly act of love, so to speak, so he doesn't blame her for the private revelations that were made public that night. Please remember, the name "Vanessa" refers to "literary invention," which she herself is, and it carries true in this scene as well. Madame Kali, or, rather, spiritualists like her, were becoming quite popular, including with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of Sherlock Holmes. While Doyle made Holmes an absolute disbeliever int he occult, Doyle himself was convinced of paranormal events and belonged to some spiritualist groups for most of his life. 
Also joining the cast will be Johnny Beauchamp, whose character is a "mysterious man with a distinct past," and that flavor of that makes me hope we have a Doctor Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, but I somehow doubt it. I was able to watch up to Episode 5 of the 8 episode season, and while I have significant work completed, part of the problem of doing TV shows is that you don't know what details are going to show up to throw a wrench in the reading (for example, in Mina's death and Ethan's exposure as a werewolf, which are the two main concerns I have). Regardless, I am very excited for the second season, and can hardly wait.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Angelina Jolie's Unbroken & the Practice Of Individualism

You have probably seen this image, but might not know who Louis Zamperini is; he is definitely worth knowing. Mr. Zamperini recently passed away at the age of 97, but not before the Coen Brothers and Ms. Jolie was able to turn his miraculous story into a beautiful film so we can all share in his tremendous journey, and what better time than now for that to happen.
It's not that this is the stuff dreams are made of, this is the stuff Americans are made of. In her second directed film, Angelina Jolie used her talents to tell the truly remarkable story of Louis Zamperini, which was adapted by Joel and Ethan Coen (Fargo, Raising Arizona, Inside Llewyn Davis). It's as if this was one more way he could serve his country and fellow American:
There are three examples of individuality that I would like to explore as presented in this brief trailer, but first let's understand why this is an important topic. As I am (FINALLY!!!) nearly done with the post for Guardians Of the Galaxy, one of the themes that film takes up is "false individuality," when Rocket the Raccoon tells Peter Quill, "Ain't no other creature like me, except me," that's not a statement of individuality, that just because there are no other genetically modified raccoons, that means he is an individual. Just because Groot can only say, "I am Groot," doesn't mean that he isn't an individual. Why is this an important topic? Because the expression of individuality is one of the means, the weapons, by which pro-capitalist films like Guardians Of the Galaxy has targeted pro-socialist films.
Louis, in real life, was getting beat-up by kids at school; after his father taught him how to box, Louis got so good at beating up other kids, he started getting in trouble for being a bully, until his brother Peter introduced him to the track team and got Louis to commit to running and training. This is an example of the "light" over taking the "darkness," and how one choice, one decision we make, can change our lives. Arguably, it wouldn't have happened had his brother Peter not stepped in and taken an interest in his brother's life-journey (which happens with siblings). Because Peter built up his brother, and use his own free will to teach Louis how to better use his free will, not only was Louis saved, but everyone that Louis saved was saved by Peter's help. When we choose to use our free will for those who need it the most, we have not only built them up, but built ourselves up as well. 
The first example of individualism the film presents us with is Louis' running. As a metaphor, we can say that, at this time in Louis' life, when he was getting into trouble (he was beating up other kids in school, smoking and drinking) he turns from the darkness in his soul, and begins to "run the good race," as he commended by Saint Paul. Louis was given a gift for running: beating up kids and his other bad habits kept him from being able to run; once he devoted himself to running, he gave up all the other things so he could nurture and develop his talent, which led him to the Olympics, held in Berlin that year.
Louis, at the Berlin Olympics, was introduced to Hitler personally because he had such a fast race. Later during the Olympics, Louis climbed the flagpole and stole Hitler's personal flag. I don't know if that part will be in the movie or not, however, it certainly reveals that Louis was against socialism and what the Nazis were all about, and knowing that the Olympics will be in the film, as attested by the image above, we can be sure that this will be an anti-socialist film.
The second way individuality is expressed and fulfilled, is through Louis' enrollment in the Air Force. When we give ourselves, we fulfill ourselves. Louis enrolling to serve his country and defend freedom during World War II was not just a mass movement of patriotism, it was necessary for his soul's development and the extending of his individuality: as T.S. Eliot said, you never know how tall you are until you wade into the flood. No one in their right mind would get involved in a war, but those who know themselves, those who have confidence in themselves, those who love the world and those in it, those who love themselves the way each person should love themselves, those are the very best people, because they have found their way to the very best in their souls, which we all possess, and because of this inner-journey they have made, they can give it all up for something greater than themselves; but why do it? Because greatness knows no limits, and when a person has started out on that path of greatness, like Louis, Greatness will not let him rest, but keep him going all his days, which leads us to the third testimony of individualism,....
Louis and 2 others from his plane were adrift 47 days before reaching the Marshall Islands where they were taken to the Japanese POW camp; one other American who was with him died after 33 days on the sea. 
Louis finally learned how to forgive his captors.
Having finally come to God, long after the war, when Louis had made so many pleas and prayers to God if God would save him, God saved Louis a second time, this time, God saved Louis' soul from the pit of hating his captors and those who had tormented him during his imprisonment. Why does forgiving a wrong that someone else has committed against us make us individuals? Because it is then that we most closely resemble God. Be like your Father in Heaven, Jesus told us, and how do we, sinful mortals, accomplish that? By forgiving what others have done to us. Because we are created in God's image, when we make an act of love, an act of forgiveness, the image of God more clearly shows within us; when we resemble God, the uniqueness He endowed us with at the moment of our creation shines through with glorious light, and that light overcomes the darkness, in ourselves, and in others.
What does it mean to be "unbroken?" Each of us probably has our own idea, but for me, I think it's not allowing belief in the glory of my soul to be broken by the drudgery of life, the hardships and trials. For someone else, it might be something completely different, their will to live and survive, for example, and we can certainly see that on a political and historical level right now with America: do we have the will to survive, or is Obama "breaking" us, not just financially, but morally and mentally as well, or will we survive in spite of what he throws at us?
Lastly, Louis has shared his story, which isn't to raise himself up, because he has achieved his destiny (he has fulfilled his soul's capacity for virtue and love, so that he can then become an instrument for the good of others) and the last step is to help others achieve their destiny as well, by inspiration and compassion. When someone has been through so much, they don't look down on their neighbors because of what they haven't been through, rather, they look for those that are in need of help, and try to encourage them to "run the good race" and overcome the obstacles holding them back. You cannot give something to someone else unless you have first received it yourself, so the giving of courage and hope to others is the final step of one's own journey, because you can't build up others, unless you have been built up yourself.
So, as pro-socialist films continue to come out, mocking individualism as something that exists only in the clothes we wear or foods we eat, let us remember, socialists don't believe in the existence of the soul, so they can't believe in genuine individuality, or that each of us has a particular and unique destiny which we must use our free will to choose every second of our lives (socialists also don't believe in free will). Likewise, as pro-capitalist films continue to come out, let's remember some of these highlights so we can appreciate--not only that which others have done--but that which we, too, are called upon to accomplish. Unbroken will be released in theaters December 25.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Monsters Dark Continent and Camp X-Ray

About two years ago, Taken 2 (Liam Neeson) had a record opening weekend with $50 million (making back its entire budget in just 3 days) and, given they Benghazi September 11 attacks had just happened that week, it was no surprise that people flocked to see Taken 2; the question is, how coincidental was it that the film was released that week? It's not so much coincidence, in my opinion, as prophecy: art understands what is happening in the world, and seeks to communicate the real nature of events. With Monsters: Dark Continent, I think we are seeing the same thing with the rise of ISIS and the atrocities being committed every single day by anyone ISIS deems as an infidel. The brutality of ISIS exceeds anything I have ever heard of in my life, and these "monsters" are on a rampage with the US and rest of the West in their sites. On the other hand, it's possible the film will be depicting the US as "the monsters," that we are going places we are not wanted and our very existence is despised in the world; there are two moments in the trailer below where this might be indicated. How does this relate to the image above? First of all, the repetition of "Giant Sand Bugs" becomes a form of noise, which we have discussed many times, and we see visual and hear audio examples in the trailer below. The method of repetition is redundancy: redundancy almost becomes a form of violence--remember in The Shining when Jack Nicholson's character writes "All work and no play make Jack a dull boy,"--which is why it's often connected with brainwashing: according to Umberto Eco, ideology is "a form of message transmission whereby a dominant social class emits its message by using signs that exhibit a high degree of redundancy such that only one message is decoded among a selection of competing ones" (Wikipedia, Information Theory; a "sign" is a word, an image, a phrase, etc., something with which a particular meaning is associated). So, what we see above is a sign contained within a sign: the silhouette of the alien is a sign, and the writing inside the silhouette is another sign, suggesting that we will see the same thing within the film: a story within a story, a message, within a message. The nature of "noise" as an artistic device is meant to alert us that there are messages we aren't deciphering: if a TV broadcast keeps cutting out, so you can't catch all the words, that's a form of "noise": if there is background noise or distorted pictures, that is noise; why use that in a high-quality film? It communicates that "there is more to the message than what you are getting," and it begs the audience to "read between the lines" and try to find the pieces that are "missing" intentionally, because they are not missing, they are just hiding.
Remember Gareth Edwards?
You know, the guy who directed the surprise blockbuster of 2014, Godzilla, that Gareth Edwards? Well, before he resurrected Godzilla, he did a film in 2010 called Monsters, about some monsters who are trying to get across the Mexican border and into the US. The sequel to that film (without Edwards) has released their sequel trailer and this looks impressive, in more ways than one. Please, think of films that the following footage reminds you of, where you have seen certain looks or shots before:
I don't know which direction this film is going to take, however, there are a couple of observations we can make. First, What films have we seen that this reminds us of? Maybe The Hurt Locker (that great "war on terror" film), or Tremors, Black Hawk Down, maybe Zero Dark Thirty (the hunt for Osama Bin Laden film), what about Man Of Steel (the way General Zod's message to the world about giving up Superman was full of "noise"?) and even the yet-to-be released Interstellar, with its nostalgic clips of US missions to outer space? We could even throw in Prometheus, because of the way the monsters look and the application of "noise" as an artistic device we can even add the Tom Cruise thriller Edge Of Tomorrow, not just because of the importance of individual members of the military and the similarity with those monsters, but also because their monsters and these monsters are after the same things. So, what's the big deal about thinking of the films a trailer like this invokes?
At least threefold.
First, this is a film about the military fighting giant sand aliens in the Middle East (grin over the silliness, right?), so while it seriously looks serious and dramatic, the film makers know they need some heavy artistry to insure the quality of the film to potential quality viewers; the easiest way to do that is by staging shots that they know their potential audience has seen in other films that made lots of money and got rave reviews. The second reason to employ mimicry of previous successful films in the look and delivery of Monsters: Dark Continent is to insure the audience that the film makers, too, have seen these films, and--in this case--Monsters: Dark Continent is entering into a dialogue with those films, that they share a vocabulary that is not only artistic, but political and ideological as well. Thirdly, a film such as this wants to be impactful and to do that, it has to draw the right audience, so it's trying to identify other films that it identifies with politically--like The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty--which leads us to the next question: what is the film really about?
"You don't get to feel," a character says in the trailer at 1:04 right after another man says, "Don't let your emotions control you." The giant eye of a monster looking into the building where the soldiers are hiding suggests that they are, themselves, the actual monster that is outside and "looking in" on themselves, they are meditating and that's why they say, "It's not the monsters I'm afraid of," suggesting it's themselves or what they are becoming. This is not only a familiar theme in war films--think Apocalypse Now, Platoon or Full Metal Jacket--but also in science fiction, an important aspect of the film I am apt to overlook. In sci-fy, the main characters must discover how they have become "alien" to their self and how to remedy the situation; we could see the same thing with this film. On an entirely different note, the top image comes from Monsters; Dark Continent, while the bottom image comes from Godzilla, the borrowing of staging in Monsters obviously a homage to Gareth Edwards, and a linking of the two films. One of the artistic touches I like in the trailer is the application of the monochromatic, where all the colors are so closely blended together, it's almost as if the scene is in black and white, which is fully intentional: are the issues that will be brought up in the film "black and white," or are they brightly colored? Is the film introducing rational thinking over emotions so it can rebel against logos
Aliens.
Like the word "monster," however, "alien" has a political overtone that must be clarified and we can be sure this film will do it. In Cowboys and Aliens (Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig), as you may recall, there was a little Mexican boy who clearly was not a symbol for the aliens in that film, although "illegal aliens" can be applied to Hispanics illegally crossing the American border; that film was concerned with the Nazi implications of what's happening in the country, along with the slow degrading of the US-British alliance (thanks, Obama) and those two political changes in America is what is alien to the US.
This shot in particular reminds me of Vietnam war movies.
In Monsters: Dark Continent, we have the political term "monster" (which we discussed in our last post on Dracula Untold, and the monsters referring to Stalin, Mao, Augusto Pinochet, Pol Pott, Hitler, etc., or any other revolutionary who wanted to force socialism on people by killing all those who opposed the change), but "aliens"--specifically located in the Middle East--probably refers to Sharia law and ISIS: from the Daily News in the UK (because the American media works for Obama who funds and arms ISIS): "They Started Throwing People In Holes, People Buried Alive" in mass graves, up to 500, not to mention ISIS's practice of raping all virgins so they don't go to heaven, and the slaughtering of all who are not of the same strand of Islam they themselves are (especially Christians). This is alien behavior in the US, plain and simple (the second image after this is very graphic, so please be aware, it's of a female who had acid thrown in her face). 
Monsters: Dark Continent will either make the statement that all the practitioners of Islam are monsters--because even if they aren't throwing acid in people's faces, burying innocent people alive, crucifying people, beheading people, sapping a host country's welfare system, committing pedophilia with little girls and boys, beating members of their family or threatening to blow up the US, or determined to exterminate Israel, the "peaceful" Muslims aren't speaking out against those who are, and are slowly advocating Sharia throughout the US--or the film will uphold that there are "peaceful Muslims" and we should be tolerant. The film at least touches upon this conflict because of the young Middle Eastern girl we see in the trailer (by the way, my best friend for five years, Almas, was Muslim--her father was from Pakistan and her mother from India--and her father beat her regularly, and I mean beat).
She's was getting an education, so a man threw acid in her face.
Now, let's examine another trailer so we can compare the two films. The following is for Camp X-Ray, due out in October, starring Kristen Stewart and Peyman Moaadi, who you might recognize from A Separation, the Iraqi film which was the first from that country to win an Academy Award (given for Best Picture in a Foreign Language). I am not a fan of Kristen Stewart, however, let's see the differences between these two films:
Well, it looks as if the US took a completely innocent man, who was probably profiled, and abducted during his Islamic prayers and kept for 8 years for no reason,... what is happening in this film? The exact opposite of what we hear in the first trailer at about 1:00, "Do not let your emotions control you," is exactly what happens in Camp X-Ray, and the reason why liberals put emphasis on emotions rather than logic: people who rely on their emotions to understand a situation are far easier to control than people who are rational and rely upon critical thinking to understand decision-making (emotions aren't inherently bad, however, they have to be properly disciplined; emotions which are too disciplined might be a part of the theme of Monsters: Dark Continent).
Please note how hats and hair are symbols for our thoughts: the cap pulled down over her eyes suggests she is not being allowed to "see" what is around her ("seeing" is a metaphor for deep thought and meditation, that we are able to "see" beyond mere appearances). Her hair pulled back and tied in a bun suggests that her thoughts are disciplined and the camo gunny hat she wears indicates that she is allowed to only think what the army allows her to think. Her ears, however, seem to be unusually red, meaning they are "burning" because whatever the man in white, behind the bars, is screaming, he's screaming it about her. Maybe he's threatening to dump acid on her face?
The feel and look of Camp X-Ray is probably a direct response to Zero Dark Thirty, a film which started out strong, winning ALL the major critical awards, then there was a turn, like someone made the comment, "Why don't we see Obama in the Situation Room during the take-down of Obama?" and Mrs. Obama giving out the Award for Best Film to Argo surely makes it look suspicious that director Kathryn Bigelow, who was winning right and left, suddenly got left in the dust to Argo who made Jimmy Carter look great (by leaving out Ronald Reagan's role in the events). Anyway, we can see that Camp X-Ray, like Monsters: Dark Continent, has an agenda, and they two films share the same topic of the agenda, but different sides: Camp X-Ray suggests that it's bad to be American, and the Muslims should be allowed to do whatever they want, whereas Monsters suggests what the Muslims are doing are in-humane and this is only spreading and getting more bigger. The dramatic differences between the two films validates the cultural and political dialogue taking place in cinema and the important topics they are taking up.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Dracula Untold & Batman vs Superman Dawn Of Justice

"Every bloodline has a beginning." Well, from the trailers, we can tell that this is a movie about "spilling" blood, as much as "drinking" it, which is what vampires are usually associated with (please note the battlefield and him being surrounded by the dead bodies of warriors he has killed by power, strength, not his fangs, which--again--is what is typical of what we know as a culture about vampires). Typically, we think of "bloodline" as being a family and those related by blood as coming from a common ancestor; with Dracula Untold, however, I think this "bloodline" is a bit more literal, as in, a line made of blood (and, again, judging by the poster, quite a lot of blood), i.e., the blood of his enemies that he spills. A great way to interpret films is to think of films which have elements or aspects that make you think of other films you have seen: for example, his cape turning into bats reminds me of the wicked Queen (Charlize Theron) in Snow White and the Huntsman, when she wraps herself up and she turns into a hundred black birds; the Queen was clearly the villain in that film, whereas Dracula is supposedly the hero of this film. There are three aspects of the film 300 that I am thinking of. First, this poster is the opposite of the last shot of King Leonides (Gerard Butler) when he lies dead amidst all the other fallen warriors, having given and taken blood for the preservation of freedom with his army of 300 Spartans. Dracula in this poster, however, is the only one standing, having taken blood from everyone. Secondly, in the trailer below, at 0:11-0:13, we see Dracula (Luke Evans) climbing a tall crag, just as we saw Leonides do in 300 when he went to see the oracle (you know, the creepy deformed guys who took all the pretty girls for themselves in Sparta?). This is interesting though: Leonides didn't take the advice of that oracle (honor the carna, their sacred festival) but Dracula is going to take the advice of this super-creepy nosferatu guy he talks to, and drink his blood. Third, in the poster below, with Dracula standing on top of the rock crag, that is similar to the 300 poster when the Spartans are pushing the Persians over the cliff and they are falling back into the ravine. Why do this? Obviously, the film makers are wanting to link Leonides of 300 to whoever Dracula is supposed to represent, even though Dracula is an anti-hero (villain) and Leonides is a hero, by all accounts. So this reversing of traditional values, but disguising them as traditional, makes you think of what group in America today? 
I have not been sick. Grandma has not been sick (not sicker than usual, anyway) but I have been completely swamped by work and simply have not had sufficient time to get a post done (Guardians Of the Galaxy is nearly complete, but like about a dozen other posts, not quite). So, all is fine, I am just over-worked. There are two things I would like to briefly discuss in this little post: first, the new trailer for Dracula Untold and, secondly, a quote from Michael Caine a reader emailed me regarding Batman and Superman. First, Dracula:
If you will recall, with Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), the narrator begins the story by telling us that we don't know of the real story of what happened (which is exactly the opposite of what the trailers led us to believe the film would be: it's going to be just like the Disney film Sleeping Beauty, except that it wasn't). There is a problem with this. First, it's a fairy tale, so there is no real story: the fairy tale was written to protect society and the future (the children to whom the fairy tale was being related) from the "monsters" (the evil symbolized within the tale) that would bring ruin to individuals and society as a whole, therefore, everyone and the values which hold people together were invested in these tales. So, there is nothing to be re-written, unless you are changing something from the original, which leads us to a second point.
A further problem with "telling us the real story of what happened," as we will probably see in Dracula Untold, is that an individual (in the case of Maleficent, it was the adult Aurora, who we never even saw, we just heard her voice in the background) claims to have this "secret knowledge" which has eluded everyone else for so long, but they themselves posses and have just now decided to reveal. When a film--or any other genre of art--assumes this position of knowing something the audience doesn't know, and employing that knowledge to introduce an entirely new story in opposite of what the audience "knows to be true," that says a lot regarding how the film makers view themselves against the rest of society, i.e., as superior to everyone else. Granted, every work of art seeks to inform the audience of something, but it's pretty ego-maniacal to say, "The entire population who has read this story doesn't know the real story that I have made up in my imagination, but am now going to use to make you feel dumb." This "secret knowledge" is more revealing than the film makers would like to believe. All of us are attracted to something (beauty, money, art, cars, food, etc.), and we will usually use whatever we ourselves value to lure others, i.e., "bait a hook." The film makers, in using "secret knowledge" to bait their hook for audiences reveals what attracts them, namely, knowing something no one else does, even if it's totally absurd and pointless. Does this sound like liberals to you? On an entirely different note, let's compare Dracula's cape with the cape of two other famous heroes (not anti-heroes, like Dracula): Thor and Leonides. In 300, Leonides earned his red cape because he spilled his blood in the Spartan agoge training school, and vowed to spill his blood to defend his home; Thor, likewise, wears a red cape because he knows he must not only spill the blood of Asgard's enemies--if he has to--but his own blood if necessary (we can easily add Superman into this category). The shoulders symbolize the weight we bear, the burdens and the obligations we have: red symbolizes love and blood. At the start, Dracula, like Thor, Leonides and Superman, wears a red cape; after he turns into a vampire, he wears a black cape, which symbolizes death (of his soul, because he embraced darkness instead of salvation and light). The cape turning into bats in the poster above show how death--in the form of the bats, the opposite of doves, the symbol of the Holy Spirit, Salvation and Light--are going out from him because one act of death begets more and more death, just like him. 
Why would anyone change something from the original unless they had something to gain from it? In Snow White and the Huntsman (Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth) and Mirror, Mirror (Julia Roberts) there is, as apparently with Dracula Untold and Maleficent, an expansion of the world of the fairy tale, which is fine (we shall probably see the same in Kenneth Branaugh's upcoming Cinderella); there is, however, a fine and definite line when "expanding" turns into "rewriting" and in both Dracula Untold and Maleficent, the events bear no resemblance to the original (we can say the same of Frozen, which was based on a fairy tale that bears no resemblance to the original tale), the ending, as we saw in Maleficent--and will probably see in Dracula Untold--bears no resemblance to what we commonly understand as the story we are familiar with, and that introduces an entirely new concept in American cinema: Indoctrination.
One of the prime methods of "dumbing" down America and getting people to side with them on issues is to focus on the "emotional" element, rather than the logical and rational element (hence the introduction of Common Core into the education system). What I think we will see is, just like in Frozen which also emphasized the emotional over the rational, is Dracula making decisions based on how he feels, rather than what he thinks (I mean, who would drink anything that creepy guy gave them? No one, no one in their right mind, but liberals would!). Who on earth would do what this guy told them because of where he lives and how he looks AND, if that wasn't enough, after telling you, "Your salvation is in the darkness," (0:30-0:33 int he trailer) which is exactly where liberals go for their salvation (abortion, homosexuality, denying God, socialism, the destruction of the family and the destruction of gender identity, etc.)? "Salvation" is the opposite of "darkness," but only a liberal would embrace sin and think it virtue. On a different note, Dracula has a young son; we know that children symbolize the future, and males symbolize the economy because men are the active principle whereas women are the passive principle, so Dracula protecting his son is like Obama protecting his "future economy" and the investment he has made in socialism and sharia law whereas Dracula's wife would be a symbol of America that he is fighting to keep (if you believe that Obama honestly won the elections). In other words, Obama has to fully become a tyrant and monster in order to keep the "reforms," "hope" and "change" he has forced upon America, because there is an army coming that is going to try and take that away from him. On an important side note, the nosferatu guy in the trailer that Dracula gets his power from is, according to production notes, based on the Roman Emperor Caligula, who was a tyrant, murderer, madman and sadist that brought ruin and famine to Rome. Caligula, who was assassinated in real life, has turned into a vampire--because that's what leaders who do that kind of thing are, blood-suckers--and Caligula offers vampirism to Dracula. Yea, liberals are so smart.
The purpose of art, as we have explored elsewhere, is to critically depict the faults, flaws and hypocrisy of a society, while simultaneously maintaining and upholding the culture's values and truths (please see the quote from poet William Butler Yeats at the top of this blog). This may seem a contradictory mission, but a work of art cannot criticize about how a society treats the poor if, for example, the society it's criticizing doesn't value the poor and humanity to at least some degree (if a culture believes poor people are "trash," for example, it does no good to criticize their treatment of those they consider to be trash because the poor are not valued anyway; consider, for example, the Untouchables in some countries, no matter what they are says and does, attitudes towards them probably won't change).
What is that on Dracula's armor? A dragon. Why is that important? Consider, if you will, all the dragons we have seen as of late: Maleficent, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Hobbit, 47 Ronin, How To Train your Dragon 2 (which had a gay cartoon character in it) and others, and we know that a dragon is a symbol for Satan, because the dragon is a stylized "serpent," like the one in the Garden of Eden, and dragons are unnatural. Dragons are associated with the enemy, with Satan, because it's the enemy who hates humanity and wants humanity destroyed.
As an example in America, the Richard Gere film Arbitrage targeted the rich because of their shallowness, greed and cheating tendencies; even though I believe the film was meant to be a pro-socialist statement by targeting capitalism, if Americans didn't value sincerity, honesty and integrity, there would be no point in making the film for an audience who lacked the necessary "understanding" to identify with the narrative; likewise with Margin Call--which I loved--but really came out at the forefront of the anti-capitalist wave of films, becomes more of a critique of capitalism rather than an anti-capitalism film (which is probably what was intended) because viewers see the bad things happening, but then want to amend their own behavior to not become that, rather than completing overhauling the system, and that's because our values as individuals (most individuals in the country, but not all) accept honesty and integrity, which leads us to asking about Dracula Untold, who is this "monster" that Vlad (Luke Evans) turns into? Let's watch the first few seconds of the first trailer again, and please listen to the words the boy speaks at the very start:
Sometimes, what the world needs, "is a monster." When you think of who the "monsters" of history are, who do you think of? Adolf Hitler? Joseph Stalin? Che Guevara and Fidel Castro? Mao Zedong? Pol Pott? The human beings who have the greatest crimes against humanity attributed to them, and responsible for the greatest body counts are the monsters of socialism who believed they had to kill and destroy vast numbers of human beings in order to change the world for a better, Marxist world, and who would that typify today? Barack Hussein Obama. So, in other words, like Frozen with Elsa's icy power to freeze everything (freeze trade and commerce) and "coming out" with her terrible powers (like Obama and his pen) Dracula Untold appears to be coaxing Obama, "Kill everyone and call yourself a hero for it."
Yea, I think killing 90% of the world's population qualifies as "monstrous" and this is what the bedrock of Agenda 21 is all about: kill off the population, enslave the remaining people, and let the uber-rich and depraved live like kings. I can't think of a more direct Lex Luthor villain than those in real life. 
Here's an important point that we can see between the two trailers: do Americans typically justify "becoming a monster" to protect our families and take down our enemies, which is the basis of the Dracula Untold narrative? No, we don't. As a culture, that's not what we uphold (more on this just below in the discussion on Batman). What about two films released recently, Pacific Rim and Godzilla, who is the King Of the Monsters? As Pacific Rim touted, to fight monsters, we created monster of our own, and when the monsters get loose in Godzilla, Godzilla instinctively shows up and battles them to the death. The "monsters" in both Pacific Rim and Godzilla (Godzilla himself, not the two monsters he fights) are exactly the same "monster" in both films: individualism, capitalism and democracy at their very best, the three weapons Americans rely upon to defeat socialism in all its guises. So, why can't Dracula be one of the "good monsters?" (like Godzilla and Pacific Rim)? Because turning into a villain to achieve an end isn't the American way; we believe that you have to become a better person to achieve a good end, like, as in, Tony Stark. But this leads us to the second point of this post.
Here is an important question: why are there so many comic book films coming out? Because they are making so much money; why are they making so much money? People are going to see them. Are Americans spending money on comic books films because we like comic book characters? No, because we like leaders and real men and the only place to find them nowadays, where there is a will to truth and justice, in in the fantasy pages of comic books. Americans are starved for justice and truth, and that's the last thing any of our "leaders" in Washington are giving us, so we have to go to the movies to get it. Obama playing golf and always denying his responsibility is the exact opposite of the leadership we see from Captain Kirk, Thor, Iron Man, Superman,... even Godzilla (the trouble showed up and Godzilla was there to kill off the dangers, then he went back home, done!). All these comic book heroes, in other words, are a slap in the face to Obama, and America can't get enough of it.
A reader from Canada sent this quote from Michael Caine to me via email:

"About Superman and Batman: the former is how America views itself, the latter, darker character is how the rest of the world views America."
The Dawn of Justice movie will be a clashing, then integrating of the two identities, making it an extremely cathartic film for people.
There will probably be a moment of identity crisis for the male heroes where Wonder Woman will have the most important role of reminding Superman and Batman of the spirit behind America, that formed America.

I have never thought of Superman and Batman in those terms before. Even if Batman is a "darker" hero than Superman, both heroes rise to the occasions in which they find themselves and accept that they must be converted into better people, better heroes, to overcome their enemies, rather than become monsters.
Man Of Steel. Superman is going towards the light, which literally, gives him strength. As his father tells him (Russell Crowe), the closeness to the sun has made him stronger than if he had stayed on their home planet. This is the opposite of what Dracula is doing (and liberals) in running to the darkness for their salvation.
We see this briefly in Man Of Steel when, before he becomes Superman, Clark (Henry Cavill) gets a beer dumped on him at a truck stop, then the guy goes out to see his semi-truck wrapped around a telephone pole; that's not acceptable behavior for Superman, but he recognizes that within himself and disciplines himself to become better; he's not perfect, but he's getting better, and the better he becomes the greater his powers become as well. We can say the same of Batman (and here, we can only discuss the Batman of Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale since we know nothing of the drastically revised Batman of Dawn Of Justice due out in 2016). Bruce Wayne didn't kill the man who killed his parents, nor did he permit Cat Woman (Anne Hathaway) to kill anyone in The Dark Knight Rises so there wasn't a "blood line" as we will see with Dracula Untold. Again, Dracula presents a highly dramatized different standard of leadership and morality than what Americans are used to, and even though the film looks to have some great special effects, I can't imagine it doing well.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner
P.S.--Again, I apologize for the excessively long delay in-between posts; thank you so much for continuing to check in! This week will still be busy, but I hope to have a bit more time to get things up!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Penny Dreadful Release Dates & The Woman In Black: Angel Of Death

The hit series Penny Dreadful finally has a release date: the series will be available on a 3-disc version via Amazon for $41.38 plus shipping ($46.74 for Blu-ray, plus shipping); shortly before that, it will probably be released on iTunes and you can purchase the episodes individually. For an unspecified limited time, you can download, for freethe Penny Dreadful Multipack Illustrated/Annotated set featuring Wehr-Wolf, Varney the Vampyr, and The Mysteries of London Vol 1. Again, this is a free download for Kindle; if you don't have a Kindle, go to this link to download the free app, then download--literally--hundreds of free classics to read. Most of the books upon which the series has been based, such as the Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar WildeBram Stoker's Dracula and Mary Shelly's Frankenstein can all be downloaded for free (along with lots of others).
Ethan (Josh Hartnett) has been a rather secretive character throughout Season 1, although numerous hints have been dropped. I haven't seen episodes 6-8, where Ethan changes, so I am not quite ready to post my thoughts on the series (this is why doing TV shows is so hard: you are always waiting for the artists' final word on what they want to say about something).  What I am most concerned about, knowing that Ethan is a werewolf and not a priest, is the "exorcism" he "performs" in Episode 6, Possession, on Vanessa (Eva Green). Given that Ethan is a werewolf, he, too, is possessed, and as the Bible tells us in Mark 3:24, "a house divided cannot stand," that is, a demon cannot cast out a demon from another possessed person. This leads us to two possibilities: first, the demon within Ethan is stronger than the demon possessing Vanessa, and that's why Ethan "has authority" over Vanessa's tormentor, and why Ethan can cast it out (i.e., Ethan is essentially possessed by a greater evil than is Vanessa). The other possibility is that, since God is outside of time (and we as mortals, are "inside" or subject to time) God took the prayers He didn't answer for Vanessa in Episode 5, Closer Than Sisters, and answered Ethan's and Vanessa's prayers with Vanessa's Grace from when she said those initial prayers (God exists outside of time, so He can take a prayer that we say in the past, and apply it to the future when He knows we will need that Grace more). One of the most important clues to Ethan being a werewolf comes from Brona when, at the theater, with her heavy accent, she called him "Eat-ing" rather than "Ethan," and Ethan points it out to her (it's easier to read it in the subtitles than listen for it), because Brona understands that Ethan is a man of the appetites and his appetites rule over him. This leads us to Ethan's werewolf teeth: do they remind you of a vampire? This could be a sign that Ethan is a stronger demon than the "Master" vampire that was possessing (or trying to possess) Vanessa: Ethan is both wolf and vampire, the master and the slave, the ruler and the one who can kill a vampire (there have been legends that only werewolves can kill dominant vampires because those vampires are strong enough to rule over the undisciplined werewolf; if the werewolf is desirous enough to break the bond, he can kill the vampire, we saw this in Van Helsing with Hugh Jackman). Another interpretation is that the demon holding possession over Ethan has only a "topical possession," that is, Ethan's soul is battling the beast but Ethan is NOT possessed: he is being allowed to battle this demon so his soul can become stronger; I don't really buy this, though, at least not at this point in the story, because Ethan just doesn't strike me as a strong character; this does, however, highlight for all of us the nature of sin, namely, that whatever our temptations, they are at the door of the soul, and if we don't open the door--regardless of how hard they push to get through--we have protected our soul. The strength, then, comes from recognizing that it's an evil spirit at the door trying to get in, then not letting the evil spirit in; when we sin, this is what we do, we either fail to properly discern, or we fail to stand strong against the temptation. Regarding Ethan, he recognizes his tendency to "wolf out" as we witness when he's with Dorian Gray at the dog vs rat ring: we can say that, in spite of Dorian's offer to become someone else, Dorian has pointed out to Ethan exactly who he is: a raging animal. The question is, then, why does this image appeal to Dorian, and how does Dorian's guess of the number of rats the dog would kill emphasize the Dorian really has an accurate idea of who, and what, Ethan really is? Later, at Dorian's house, when Ethan kisses Dorian and engages him in sex, is this a part of Ethan's appetites, or is this the fulfillment of Dorian's promise to "be someone else?" In having sex with Dorian, in other words, Ethan kind of becomes Dorian and ceases to be Ethan for a bit? Remember, these are both men with serious and mounting sins that are literally destroying their souls and even their temporal identities (Dorian casting all his sins onto the hidden portrait, and Ethan accumulating his sins of the murders within the hidden part of his animal nature). 
It's my understanding the following film is going straight to DVD, regrettable, because the film makers also made The Devil Inside, which I thought was brilliant, but earned a 6% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes,.... either they are wrong, or I am, we both can't be right. Anyway, the film makers have put together this film called Wer and features some of their stylistic signatures:
I think it was last summer, I had gone to the library to look for a book, and I passed the Information Desk; a little, white-haired lady was asking a young man, "What's a zombie?" She lucked out that I refrained from stopping to fully answer her question, because we would have been there awhile. What we can and should do, like her, is ask, "What's a werewolf?" I don't mean the man who turns into a wolf by the light of the full moon, but I do mean, "Why was the werewolf invented?" What cultural and social need does the monster fulfill, to not only enter society, but stay as a main part of the vocabulary of moral diction? A werewolf, simply put, is a man who cannot/will not control his appetites and thereby loses the dignity of his humanity by indulging his need for sex. Heretofore, if there was a female equivalent for a "werewolf," it probably would have been a Bride of Dracula (something like Mina in Penny Dreadful; please see caption notes below for more details).
This is a great scene, actually; why? Talan, the werewolf is "reaching for her," and why does he think he can drag her into his vortex of sexuality? She's wearing a leather jacket, she has a few strands of hair loose and we only see half of her profile. The leather jacket denotes her "animal" tendencies (like Talan's body hair--Talan is the name of the main character, the wolf man--she has part of an animal she is showing/wearing, probably because she herself is sexually active and therefore, just as likely for her sexual passions to get out of hand as Talan's passions). We know that hair symbolizes thoughts, so even though her hair is pulled back--a sign she disciplines herself and she tends to be logical--there are some strands loose, meaning she herself is "loose" about her approach to sexuality. Lastly, we see her in profile, so there is an entire part of her that is "hidden" just as Talan's animal nature appears to be hidden. We don't see Talan's face--his hair covers his face most of the time--and that symbolizes that his thoughts have "erased" his identity--our face is the seat of our identity, so to speak, people identify who we are by our face--so for his hair, i.e., his thoughts, to be covering his face, something about his thoughts tells us that they are destroying who he is. Simply put, even if we never see him commit any kind of an act of impurity or sexuality, he is always thinking about sex--he doesn't discipline his thoughts, which is why his hair hangs down and is so long and greasy--he is constantly thinking about sex that in turn is destroying his humanity and identity because he acts like an animal who only tends to his physical needs, rather than a human with a soul who has spiritual needs.  Another important aspect of the trailer is that they attempt to "diagnose" Talan as having a "condition," and that doesn't work out so well; why is this important? Not everything is the realm of science: just as science tends to reduce us to animals, and everything about us either falls into the normal or abnormal category, according to how it has been observed by scientists, so science thinks it can handle every "condition" by classifying it and monitoring it; some things, however, belong to the realm of the soul and the Church. As I noted above, women generally have not been likened to werewolves because the sexual appetite has always been something men generally have dealt with but women haven't been burdened by; that's changed. Films such as Dark Shadows, The Cabin In the Woods, Underworld: Awakening, and probably several TV programs, have demonstrated how women have started becoming werewolves, too. This is a devastating development and we can blame this, squarely, with the Left because of their preaching of promiscuity, abortion, contraceptives and denigration of marriage. Again, ten years ago, there were no female werewolves, now there are several, and they represent that a change has taken place in society, and not for the better. 
I am rather confident that Wer follows the general theme of the classic An American Werewolf in London: in the trailer, for example, the middle class family on vacation gets attacked by the werewolf. Throughout AAWIL, men and women from all classes were being attacked by the werewolf who refused to to kill his sexual appetites and, therefore, his bad, explicit sexual behavior was having a bad effect on everyone (which is why part of the film takes place in a porn theater, the main character is "living a life of porn"). Wer, likewise, probably depicts the disintegration of various parts of society due to this one man's disintegration into sexual oblivion; the question is, how does the film depict this? On a different note, but maybe not so different, the sequel to The Woman in Black has finally released their first trailer (you might recall another trailer being released last summer, that was perfectly hideous, and taking place in a more modern day sense; that is not what this film is about):
This is something of an important film: The Woman In Black (the first one of 2012) is the highest grossing British horror film in 20 years. The film was so well made, I actually wrote two very different posts on it, from different critical perspectives (please see Queen Victoria, Monkeys and the Catholic Church: The Woman In Black and Naming the Harlot: The Woman In Black for more). The synopsis is that, during World War I, children are sent out from London to the countryside and a group take residence at Eel Marsh House, awakening the Woman In Black who haunts there. Originally, the narrative made Eel Marsh House a temporary hospital for convalescing soldiers injured before they returned home or back to the front. The ominous rocking chair in the trailer is familiar to those of us who have seen the film--I almost screamed in the theater, it scared me so much!--so that it re-appears confirms, I suppose, that this will be the narrative we are familiar with; it will be released in the UK next year.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Saturday, August 16, 2014

UPDATES: STAR WARS VII

Posted via Twitter, the hand that holds the note is NOT the robotic hand of Luke Skywalker, rather, the hand of the villain, who was initially described as being a "Sith Witch" on the net. What's important about this is the symbolic correlation that will be made to Luke's robotic hand, vs the robotic hand of the villain. The hands, especially the right hand, symbolizes our strength, our ability to defend ourselves and what we believe (even if that is believing in something bad). The grand question this image poses is, "Is the hatred and anger of the Sith Inquisitor greater than Luke's love and devotion to freedom and righteousness?" It's possible that Luke will die, we can even say, it's probable: whether he's slain--even by his nephew (more on Adam Driver's character below)--or he willingly sacrifices himself like Obi-Wan in Star Wars, it's likely Luke dies in this film. "Death," however, is different for a Jedi Knight, so even if Luke Skywalker does die, he will be a great hero for it.
This is a huge spoiler alert (well, nothing that probably won't show up in some way in the first or second trailer) but I have warned you: if you want to go into Star Wars VII December 2015 totally tabula rasa, then stop reading, like, now.
This might seem like a petty thing, however, Mark Hamill, portraying Luke Skywalker, has grown quite the beard for his character, and I think we can deduce quite a bit about Luke from this. We must remember: Luke hasn't been seen since Return Of the Jedi, about 30 years ago from the present day the film takes place; what circumstances would permit Leia to not see her twin brother in 30 years? The beard helps to explain: he's been in retreat, as in, a spiritual retreat from the rest of the world. As always, I don't mean to insult any men by this comment: this is art, which is absolute, not your personal style. Facial hair on a man denotes "the wild man" or the "uncivilized man," which has a positive and a negative spin: the civilized men of Rome shaved their faces to show their culture and learning, whereas the barbarians on the frontier retained their facial hair, so on the negative side, a man who has facial hair has given into his appetites and has given himself over to his baser, animal nature; on the positive side, a man with facial hair has "renounced the world" and has turned inwards to overcome all his desires and appetites. Knowing that Luke is a Jedi, the last option is most likely, so Luke grew a beard when he retired from the world at the end of Return Of the Jedi, which he did to become even stronger with the Force. Something happens, though, when you make this spiritual retreat: you become weaker before you become stronger, because without purging yourself of all the appetites and base desires, you can't progress (something that has been a point of contention in Catholic academic circles is whether or not really good people have base desires: it is my personal position that the really good people--like those who become saints--have just as many base desires as the rest of us, they just manage to overcome them, which not only makes them saints because of the strength they have, but because of all the good left within them after the bad has been removed; I imagine it's like that for Jedis, too). So, it's my theory, at this point, that while Luke was off in retreat, meditating and working with the Force, he allowed himself to become weak in his self-purification, and during this weakness, the Sith caught him. Now, the obvious question: Luke was the best Jedi alive, why bother with self-purification? For two reasons: first, because if  you don't keep progressing, then you digress and, secondly, because Luke knew there would always be threats in the universe that he would have to battle, so he was working on becoming stronger so he would be able to meet that challenge; it appears, though, that Luke either underestimated their strength, when the Sith would be strong enough to rise again or how much personal baggage he would have to overcome (I mean, his dad was Darth Vader, when he left his aunt and uncle's house, the storm troopers came and killed them, and he fell in love with his sister).  
The main villain is a Sith Inquisitor.
This is a massive bit of news and, primarily, it means, that director/writer JJ Abrams is going to deliver an incredible film. Why should we all be excited about this? An "Inquisitor" is one who is likened to a thought police, they insure everyone thinks the same thing. One of the places we can look to in order to find Inquisitors is, my home, the Catholic Church, which have the most (in)famous Inquisitions (but have been largely mis-aligned by modern feminists and Wicca members). In some ways, an Inquisitor is good: with large numbers of converts from other religions, the Church wanted to insure they were genuinely converting and not just hiding behind some creeds and prayers, endangering the rest of the populace depending on the Church to teach them solid doctrine. In other ways, Inquisitors are bad, and it really depends on which side of the fence you are on. How we know which side to take is that Luke Skywalker, the great American hero, is the hostage of the Sith Inquisitor in Star Wars VII.
This isn't a great image, but this is supposed to be the Sith Inquisitor, with red eyes, a red lightsaber and some robotic upgrades; he holds the damaged armor of Darth Vader, and it's unclear if this was from the funeral pyre Luke had built or if the Sith recovered it some other way, and what he's doing with it now (someone has suggested that they intend to clone Vader's DNA). Tellingly, there is a huge hole in the head of the mask of Vader, suggesting that, what was in Vader's head--Vader's thoughts and ideas--have been salvaged. Again, as regular readers know, red (like all the colors) has a positive and a negative meaning: red either means we love someone enough to shed our (red) blood for them, or we hate them enough to shed their (red) blood to appease our wrath, so it's easy to figure out why the Sith would have red eyes, they see the object/subject of their anger in all that they see and want to take vengeance on it all.
So, it's not just the body, i.e., the person of Luke Skywalker who is hostage, but everything that Luke Skywalker symbolizes: the good use of the Force, sacrifice, heroism and freedom (remember, he, Leia and Han fought for freedom from the evil empire and Darth Vader)--not only to live as one chooses--but to fulfill and reach your maximum potential as an individual. Knowing this, we can say, definitely, that the Sith Inquisitor is a thought police, and--quite simply--no other movement is more famous for its thought police than socialism and its re-education camps (we have all ready seen them in the re-make of Red Dawn with Chris Hemsworth). Now, let's be fair: I can clearly see some liberal (a socialist in hippie clothes) accusing me of twisting the plot with just these scanty details and forcing it into my own world view. Before 2008, however, were there any "mind police?" Political correctness, yes, but that is the weaponized speech of liberals and socialists, not conservatives and capitalists: did anyone get dragged off to a re-education camp when Reagan was president? Did the federal government force states to implement a "common core" education curriculum advocating that the president is a "messiah?"
No, but socialists have done that.
It's rather difficult to see in this image, but Han appears to be now carrying a second holster, in other words, he carries two guns instead of just one as formerly. It could be that he feels the threats in the universe have doubled, or that he in particular is threatened. It would be possible to deduce that Han is now handicapped, by age and natural digression (whereas Luke had gone on retreat--I am speculating--to advance his spirituality, Han has stayed in the world and become ever a greater part of it) and because Han has "lost his mojo," he now needs two guns instead of one; it would be possible to deduce that, however, I don't think that's accurate (please note, this may not be an actual costume we see Han wearing, but it gives us an idea about his character development heretofore). First, the shirt Han wears sports a high collar: our neck symbolizes that to which we allow ourselves to become yoked, like a leash, good things and bad things. The high collar suggests that Han has been selective in what he allows himself to become attached to (we have to attach ourselves to certain things and people, otherwise we aimlessly drift) without becoming attached to bad things (since his shirt is white, that suggests he is alive in faith and hope).  The long brown trench coat, however, is the most telling piece: brown is the color of earth, so that either means Han has become humble as the earth (we are created from dirt) or he has become as dirty as the earth (filthy); given Han's stature as a criminal and rogue, this isn't inconceivable, however, given that he is working, and it appears to be humble work, especially when he and Leia could have been living it up, the brown coat covering him suggests that he has spent thirty years being humbled by circumstances, which has made him stronger, and details of the next image below confirm this as well.
Another aspect of the plot we know is that one of the children of Han and Leia (presumably the son played by Adam Driver) is going to turn to the Dark Side, which is the event triggering the next installments of Star Wars. There is another plot point that has come to light: when the young heroes who find Luke's robotic hand, Han and Chewie are not in the Millennium Falcon, but in a Super Star Destroyer (whatever that is). The most famous spaceship in the universe, it turns out, is in possession of Oscar Isaac's character (Inside Llewyn Davis which Adam Driver was also in). Why is this important:? For at least two reasons. First, even though he married a princess, Han and Leia are still working-class folk, not relying on her inheritance or royal position (read: entitlement) for their means (which validates the virtue of work); secondly, Han and Leia have probably had some hard financial times, knowing how Han tends to lose the MF when he has money troubles. So, we can say, in other words, that Star Wars VII is going to be an accurate reflection of America today, which is exactly what we would expect.
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It appears that one of the places where Han searches for Luke is cold, like, really cold. Arguably, when they were all hiding out on Hoth (the cold planet in The Empire Strikes Back) it was cold then and Han wasn't much more than a criminal at that point, so what's the issue? The cold can symbolize the meditative state, or an advanced spiritual state (as in the 7th Sphere of Dante's Paradiso in The Divine Comedy where the Contemplatives are (because they have forsaken the physical pleasures in life to take up the pleasures/pursuits of the mind, it's cold to reveal that their bodies are cold [unresponsive] to desires). One of the most important lessons my spiritual director has taught me is that we often have to go down the same path more than once: each time we go down a path, we learn a deeper lesson, we strengthen our inner-eyesight, so we can overcome the lingering faults that we weren't strong enough to overcome earlier; every fault symbolizes a battle, but we have to build up our strength to win each battle. IF Han goes back to Hoth in search of Luke, that will remind us of the first time Han had to go in search of Luke on the frozen planet and Abrams will be intentionally reminding us of that for a specific purpose, so we will be the "implied reader" since we will have remembered it and be thinking of it, if it comes up.