Friday, November 30, 2012

Counter-Insurgency: Red Dawn & the War Against Liberal Indoctrination

Professional critics never cease to amaze me at how unprofessional they are, giving Dan Bradley's Red Dawn a mere 12% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes; 12% is not a grade but a declaration of war and, for Red Dawn, a badge of honor that liberal critics are so united in being against this film. Is it fair of me to accuse all the critics who have panned the film as doing so because they support socialism and are liberal? Yes. The media in America is liberal (and Red Dawn makes the same point) and liberal media outlets hire liberal film reviewers. It's not what they say that shows they are liberal, rather, what they fail to say in their attacks on the film demonstrating the unwarranted attacks against it. If a critic gave the film like a 40% approval rating (which is still an "F" grading,) they would base that on lousy special effects, poor acting, directing, cinematography, or the lack of coherence in the script, etc., yet the typical comments are, "A ridiculous remake; it may be updated but it's not any smarter," because, essentially, that's what liberals think of concepts such as patriotism, duty, sacrifice, courage.
So, can I demonstrate the film is done well?
Of course I can, because it is.
One of the first lessons of film criticism I learned to ask was: "Why is this film being made now?" The first version of Red Dawn from 1984 might have been a response to the media circus of  American school girl Samantha Smith's visit to the USSR: the ten year-old sent a letter to the Soviet leader asking him if there was going to be a nuclear war and he invited her to come visit during which she told Americans the Soviets are just like us and want peace, hence, why Red Dawn of 1984 shows the heroes during school and the end of one education (formal, in-school) and the start of another, hands-on education in warfare (battling a dangerous ideology): high school students aren't as easily duped as a ten-year old. Red Dawn, in 1984, was a war cry to Generation X to learn the lessons of  communism's inherent evils so there would not be a communist take-over in America like what we are seeing today because each generation has to learn its own lessons and make its own decisions. Why did film makers in 1984 know they needed to teach Generation X?  Because the core of communism is that it be spread throughout the whole world, the whole world becomes communist for at least two reasons: one, a socialist state cannot compete with a strong capitalist state and the rich in a capitalist state will know the communist state wants to overthrow them, so the rich will take actions to destroy the communist state (not to mention that citizens under communism will start realizing life is better under communism and start defecting or over-throw the government). So why is it being made today? Liberals will deny that Obama's administration is implementing socialism, however, those of us who voted against him know that at best he's dumb and at worst he's dangerous, and liberals know he's implementing socialism but they think conservatives are dumb enough to be duped. So of the two-fold reason why Red Dawn has been re-made today, the first part is to validate the fears and anxieties of  Americans against communism being brought into this country and encourage us to stay strong in spite of the liberal media lying to us that Obama is not a communist and that we are all alone in our fears. The second reason the film has been made will be discussed below.
For example, in the trailer above, at 0:31 seconds, the camera focuses on a snow globe of the Seattle skyline and the "snow" rises from heavy pounding in the distance (an example of chaos theory); where else have we recently seen snow globes employed? House At the End Of the Street, a decidedly anti-socialist film. At the start of it, we see a house "underwater," referring to home mortgages "underwater" from the economic recession; for Red Dawn, it's the bursting of the American isolated bubble of comfortable capitalist success a prosperous city like Seattle symbolizes (please see Everything Is a Secret: House At the End Of the Street for more). Unlike the 1984 version when the communist invasion starts while the heroes are in class at school, the 2012 version launches the invasion when the heroes are asleep in their homes: symbolically, being so concerned with our own problems (being in the home), we are "asleep" to the external forces invading our basic rights (the communities where we live and realize our inherent civil rights by freedom of movement as well as the private ownership of where we live as opposed to the state ownership of where we live).
Liberals don't like seeing the face of communism presented in Red Dawn because they have convinced themselves that the historical reality of communism--as it existed in the Soviet Union and the Gulag, Vietnam, North Korea, the gross violations of human rights in China--didn't really exist, socialism and communism exist only in their imagination and as they conceive it, not as it has manifested itself throughout history at anyone who believes that Hitler was a socialist is condemned by liberals as being a Nazi; that is why it is so infuriating arguing with liberals because they make it up and change it at will as they go along.
When Matt runs out of the house as the invasion has started, seeing the parachutes and the planes, something strange happens: an explosive is fired from somewhere, hitting a North Korean jet, which blows apart, crashing into the neighbor's house. Where on earth did that missile come from? It didn't. When something inexplicable like this happens, it's because it carries a symbolic message rather than a concrete role within the narrative. Matt's psychological processes have been visualized so we can identify with what he's realizing and how traumatized he is by it. The "missile" (or whatever it is) hitting the North Korean jet is Matt "engaging" with the events of the invasion (symbolized by the jet) and realizing only a small piece of what is happening (the piece of the jet coming apart) and just that much of his ability to mentally process what is happening is destroying him (the house blowing apart). They did a pretty good job on that,...
This is a brief clip after the invasion has started:
I would think liberals would particularly hate this scene, because it visually demonstrates the "impact" we should be seeking out with liberals and the "vehicle" of socialism. The two opposing roads Jed and the North Koreans drive on can be seen as the direct "paths" (the roads) liberals want us to go on instead of the road conservatives want to take; while Matt wants Jed to steer away from the on-coming "crash" Jed is ready to fully "engage" (the impact of the two cars hitting). We saw an impact scene similar to this in The Dark Knight Rises when a bus is used to stop the vehicle carrying the bomb throughout the city; the bus was used because it's part of President Obama's agenda to raise gas prices so high that Americans have to forgo their privately owned vehicles and take public transportation (the bus) so the state has greater control over citizens (and we see the citizens of the city being "bused" on school buses).
Why does Jed have problems getting the truck started?
What's so ironic about this shot is that it provides the second reason why this film is made: no, it's not to see Chris Hemsworth in action, but it does invoke The Expendables 2 wherein Chris' younger brother Liam plays Billy; both Chris' and Liam's characters are Marines who had been on tours during the War on Terror (Billy in Afghanistan and Jed in Iran); whereas Billy chose to leave the army because he couldn't take seeing his buddies die, Jed fights on because of what causes his friends and family to die. In Expendables 2, Barney (Sylvester Stallone) wants to retire because he's getting too old for fighting, he can't because Billy's generation "isn't there" to continue the fight in his place, they are choosing not to fight (basically Generation Y). In Red Dawn, Captain Tanner (Morgan) has come out of retirement to help the Wolverines (Jed's group) but it's Jed leading them. This is where Jed's younger brother, Matt, comes into play and we'll discuss him below, but--like Billy in Expendables 2 and like Jack McClane in the upcoming A Good Day To Die Hard (Bruce Willis), he has to make the choice himself to carry on the fight against communism instead of just giving into it because that is an option the film presents but the kids successfully turn it down.
Jed has a hard time getting the truck to start again because he's driving a DODGE, manufactured by Chrysler, which--to the great dismay of capitalists--accepted public bailout funds from Obama instead of privately managing their bankruptcy which is the usual way such things are handled; of all the vehicles Jed could have been driving, the "vehicle" of the crash symbolizes the 2008-10 auto bailout that conservatives should have been more forceful about in clashing with socialists on what to do. See why liberals would hate this film so much? It's meant to invigorate conservatives against the liberal take-over and that's the last thing liberals want.
Another great visualization the film achieves is when Toni leads North Koreans to where Jed and others are hiding beneath trash and pop up to take out the communists. If you are conservative (and in this day and age, that means anti-communist, even if you are a Democrat who doesn't want socialism) the liberals look at you as being trash and we have all been in arguments and we have all been the unfortunate victims of that infuriating self-proclaimed liberal superiority complex they have; but Red Dawn tells us that we should use it to our advantage and let them believe we are "low" like garbage because that is how we will trap them in their own garbage: the lies, the trillions of dollars in debt, the Benghazi attacks, Fast and Furious, the layoffs getting ready to take place, the failed green energy companies costing tax payers billions of dollars, etc.
Let's discuss some of the other important symbols in the film. Within a short time of the film starting we realize Matt and Jed are orphaned. In art, the mother usually symbolizes the "motherland" and the father symbolizes a culture's tradition or the "founding father." The father of Jed and Matt, of course, is executed by the North Korean, and that's exactly what communism--and President Obama--have done to the Constitution and the intent of all the founders of this country (not just the leaders in Washington), executed it.
There are two other films Red Dawn invokes in dialogue: Savages and Moonlight Kingdom. When Jed and Matt find their father, during the initial invasion, he tells them to go to the cabin (and where else have we seen Chris Hemsworth in a cabin in the woods? The Cabin In the Woods). The group spends most of their time in the woods, but at one point Robert (Josh Hutcherson) has to kill a deer and Jed and Matt trick him into drinking some of the blood; why does this happen? Savages and Moonlight Kingdom have put in their two cents worth in the political debate for a return to a non-economy culture like Native Americans and Polynesians, or the "Mountain Man" tradition. When Jed hands Robert a cup with venison blood to drink, Robert asks if he has to drink the spirit of the deer, or be united to the earth (like Avatar when they have killed something and pray over it) and that joke is a reference to not taking that option of giving up and going to a non-economy based culture, rather, or fighting and taking our country back.
We learn that Jed's and Matt's mom had died "six years ago." What happened, if I right, in 2006 to have "killed" the mother land? On October 9, North Korea performed its first nuclear test and on July 15, Twitter was launched. North Korea developing nuclear capabilities means the entire world was put in jeopardy because of the unstable political situation of North Korea (being realized in Red Dawn which begins with a montage of news reports condemning North Korean aggression). Twitter? How could Twitter e considered as the "death of the motherland?" Youtube (launched in 2005) is mentioned by name in the film (when Robert is going to post the football coach's reaction online) but the birth of Twitter reminds us of the liberal media in general controlling what we know and don't know and when and how we know it in spite of free and open communication social networks like Twitter, which have become completely dominated by liberals. This is blatantly demonstrated in Red Dawn after they finally get the TV on in the cabin then Jed turns it off, realizing the news station is collaborating with the communists. With all this social media, we have the illusion we are free and informed, but are being indoctrinated by liberal politics.
What about Matt?
Jed's younger, reckless brother certainly reminds me of another reckless American: Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) from Battleship, and, if you will recall, Battleship--like Red Dawn--is about war with North Korea. Matt being like a "wild cowboy" and risking others is a sign of immaturity and the consequences of the "me generation," but he outgrows it. This is not only a positive role model for this generation, but encouragement for older generations that the youth will rise up to the occasion and take leadership to take back the country.
One, last, item that liberals really really really hate: where is President Obama during all this?
The film opens with a montage of Obama and Clinton verbally condemning North Korea,... and not doing anything about it. So the film recognizes the real-world president, and then he's not seen ever again and the army doesn't come to help the Wolverines, Marines come out of retirement on their own to help (meaning that the president fails in ordering the military to come to the aid of Americans in distress; as we discussed with Taken 2, the best art is prophetic, and Red Dawn knew that Obama would fail to aid Americans in an invasion just as he failed to aid the Americans in the Benghazi attack). So much for the Commander In Chief. Instead of condemning a fine film, liberals should complain to their president about his terrible policies allowing communism to spread and his despicable public image.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Oscar Short List & Why It's Important

There has been a date change in the Oscar-process which means more members will see fewer films. Members are all ready complaining, but it will probably be in categories such as Short Films, Animated Shorts and Documentaries that procrastinators will skip and just make "an educated guess" in their vote.
It probably sounds like a lot of unimportant hype, and hype there certainly is, however, it cannot be emphasized enough that films winning Oscars--the gold of the movie industry--largely determines what types of films will be made for the next 2-3 years (because of the lag time it takes to make and distribute a film) and, for the winners of the Best Visual Effects category, what those films will look like. Films are nominated for the honor to compete for an Oscar on what's called a "short list" and, just to make the first -cut onto that is an honor, but only the first of many hurdles.
As more contenders are posted, I will post them as well.
The films which have all ready made the short list for Best Visual Effects are:
The Avengers (#1 at the yearly box office)
The Dark Knight Rises (#2 at the yearly box office)
The Amazing Spider Man (#4 at the yearly box office)
Skyfall (#8 and rising at yearly box office)
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
John Carter
The Life of Pi
Prometheus
Snow White and the Huntsman (#13 at yearly box office)
Cloud Atlas
It's unknown if the nominating committee has even seen a completed version of The Hobbit but, in the VFX category, it frequently happens that the biggest yearly grosses at the box office (that other Hollywood gold, money) are nominated for this category and nothing else. Which ironically makes this category even more important because the future blockbusters will want whoever wins in this category to do their film to insure it will be a blockbuster. Nothing succeeds like success. So, from this list of ten nominees, five will be chosen to receive that honor of Oscar Nominee which will be announced January 10 and the Oscars will take place February 24.
Lastly, some of the names being thrown around for Acting nominations include Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games, House At the End of the Street) for her role in Silver Linings Playbook (which has scored big in nominations at the independent awards) and Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables; Daniel Day Lewis for Lincoln, and Denzel Washington for Flight; Ang Lee for The Life Of Pi and Steven Spielberg for Lincoln. Hugh Jackman will probably be nominated for Les Miserables and I think it's possible for Richard Gere to get nominated for Arbitrage and Tom Hanks and Halle Berry for Cloud Atlas. Personally, I expect to see Lawless nominated for at least one category, probably a couple and Benecio Del Toro for Savages. I would love to see Skyfall nominated and win in every category and its success at the box office will only help it, not hinder it from being taken as a serious film. But these are rumors and my own speculation; as actual short lists are made public I will be posting them!
Anne Hathaway plays a worker turned prostitute in Les Miserables.
There is another category which has exploded in recent Oscar competitions: Best Animated Film. Why is this important?Animated films are usually targeted at children. If you have been reading this blog for any time, I hope I have been able to demonstrate how serious animated films are, and film makers know they are serious, because they want to influence children to their own doctrines. Brave, which I thoroughly enjoyed, is a leading contender in this category, as are Wreck It Ralph, Rise Of the Guardians, ParaNorman and Frankenweenie; I am hoping to see Madagascar 3 because it was so strongly pro-capitalist, but I will at least be content with Ice Age 4 not making it into the list.
I am nearly done with my post for Red Dawn and I have become curious to watch Marcus Dunstan's The Collection about a single man who escapes from a serial killer and is then blackmailed to return and attempt a rescue:
Watch lots of films this weekend! I am seeing The Collection, Rise of the Guardians and Lincoln; in the middle of next week, I am watching Killing Them Softly, Flight and The Life Of Pi. If you are interested in seeing The Life Of Pi, you are in for a treat, from what I understand, because the decoding is actually reversed: I see symbols and decode them for you consideration, but The Life Of Pi decodes its own symbols for us. That doesn't mean there is no decoding to do; on the contrary, that kind of self-awareness only means the story has taken extremely great pains to hide what it wants to say because its so controversial, so it only makes decoding more difficult, but also more rewarding!
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Red Dawn & Red Ink

What should the critics who dislike the film be saying? Well, for example, they could say, "That's not a good example of what communism is." Since they fail to defend communism, we can take that it IS a good example of communism. They could say, "Communist governments love the people, and they would never put people in concentration/detention camps." Since the critics fail to say anything about this, we can assume that they know from historical experience that Communist governments do put people in camps and execute those who don't follow their regime. They could say, "President Obama would never permit a foreign government to invade this country and stand by doing nothing," but the critics fail to defend their president, too. So, instead of intellectually taking on a film they have panned, we have to assume they don't like the film for more personal reasons, specifically, the film is telling the truth and they are afraid someone will believe it. I know I do.
"John Milius's 1984 cult classic about American teens battling a Soviet invasion has been reinvented as a Tea Party wet dream that offers a scathing (if completely illogical) indictment of the federal government," wrote a critic from Chicago, and another writes, "More of an overly-fantastical propaganda action film than the serious war drama the original aspired to be," and, lastly, "This is one of those movies that has no reason to exist. It is a remake that no one was asking for..."  Liberal critics have declared war on Dan Bradley's remake of the 1984 Soviet-era Red Dawn: with a mere 12% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the liberal critics employ their most stinging strategy to keep conservatives away from the film: mockery. Let me put it this way, even not liking the film, it should not have, at rock bottom, below a 40% approval rating (I grade the film at 80%, so a "B") so to have a 12% rating is like a badge of honor, that liberals hate this film that much!
This weekend, I will be seeing Lincoln and Rise Of the Guardians. After I get my review of Red Dawn up, there are at least a dozen reader comments/suggestions to which I am responding. Killing Them Softly (Brad Pitt) and Anna Karenina (Jude Law, Kiera Knightley) opens to more theaters this weekend, both of which I predict to be anti-capitalist films (not necessarily pro-socialist, because the Hollywood liberals aren't able to come up with good arguments for socialism, just petty, unimaginative arguments against capitalism). If you're not really doing anything this weekend, I would encourage you to read (or, re-read, as the case may be) J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit (also available on Kindle). If you like good books, this is an excellent story, conceptually and aesthetically; if you are a Christian, Tolkien's journey describes the spiritual life in all its horror and necessity, offering the weary traveler the golden nuggets of wisdom necessary to sustain the soul. In preparation for the disaster I predict Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey to be on its December 14 opening, I will be thoroughly reviewing the book so when we see Jackson's editing for his socialist agenda, we'll know it was intentional.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

ParaNorman: the Theology Of Mediocrity

"You don't become a hero by being normal," the tagline tells us, and for Christians, that's a great message, because we are called to be heroes and from start to finish, ParaNorman shows us a mis-understood outcast patiently accepting all the bullying and verbal reprimanding from his own parents to school peers. Norman's patience is "super natural," that is, it literally rises above nature, and we know that can only happen because of grace which raises our own selves (weighed-down by Original Sin) above the circumstances; being "normal" is being of this world, whereas being Christian is being "Not of this world."Likewise, we can understand how the forest pictured in the poster above also isn't "of this world," because it's not: the forest is the exact opposite of the Garden of Eden, it's the same Dark Woods which Dante traveled through in his Canto I of The Divine Comedy, that is, the Forest of Death wherein all our sins are documented in the wounds they have laid on our souls and only by going through can we successfully complete our journey.
Out on video this week (finally!) is Men In Black III (my review at Men In Black III & the Victory Of the Cold War, and I thoroughly enjoyed it!), Lawless with its stunning, all-star cast (my review Lawless & Brass-Knuckle Tactics, which is an anti-capitalist film, but it is done extremely well), as well as Chris Butler's and Sam Fell's ParaNorman. It's been a long time since we discussed this film, but you may recall that I was not looking forward to it one bit, primarily because of the date the "witch" was hung symbolically linking the witch to the Catholic church (to which I belong). The truth is, like The Woman In Black, it is anti-Catholic in a very subversive way that many Catholics will actually welcome (myself not included); so, the film takes great pains to establish a Catholic presence, only to undermine it by telling Catholics to basically, "Get over it" (please see Naming the Harlot: The Woman In Black).
1712.
It's the tiny detail of the year the Blithe Hollow Witch was hung to death which the entire narrative builds its message; why? During this time in history, there was a bitter struggle between the Catholic Church and groups wanting to reform and break-away from the Church (like Puritans) who, because they protested practices, beliefs or both, were called Protestants (in general). Up until the time Martin Luther broke away from the Catholic Church, all Christians were Catholic, there were no denominations (except the split between Eastern and Western Catholic Churches, but they were still Catholic) unlike today there are Nazarenes, Methodists, Lutherans, Adventists, Non-Denominational, Baptists, Southern Baptists, etc., an entire list; it's imperative that we know this going into the film because Norman's school play is about one of those groups, the Puritans (who wanted to reform Anglicanism, which itself was a reformed Christianity), and how they were the ones who hanged the witch.
What is "genre breaking" for ParaNorman is that it has two supernatural villains (zombies and a witch) both of whom turn out to not be villains after all: the zombies want to help Norman complete the ritual successfully and Agatha was just angry about being mis-understood. ParaNorman intentionally takes great pains to establish a Catholic hero (for the informed viewer, the one who recognizes Catholic elements in the plot), establish a Catholic identity for Agatha and all so it can undermine it. Did film makers intentionally sit down and discuss with one another how to make Catholics feel bad about their faith? No, they didn't have to; sometimes what you do speaks louder than what you say, and that is certainly the case with ParaNorman. Ultimately, the film wants young, energetic and faithful Catholics to abandon the ancient role of the Church and its authority to be just like everyone else, so, in other words, become zombies OR risk being a nasty witch like Agatha. Not much of a choice, is it? Am I being paranoid? Am I finding an attack where there is none? No, trust me, I really wish this film were about something else, and after I initially left the theater, I really thought it was a pro-Catholic film, but I just can't find a way to make the divisive elements fit--especially with Agatha being returned to the grave with no real resolution--to fit a pro-Catholic/Christian reading or a reading about some other topic completely.
So why can Norman "talk to the dead?"
Who else can talk to the dead like him? Catholics. 
Because of the Catholic doctrine of the communion with the saints--that those who have died can hear our prayers and we can ask them to pray for us, and we can pray for them--Catholics "talk to the dead," and that was one of the long-held beliefs in the Catholic Church which certain members decided to "ditch" as they broke away to form their own variations on Christianity (called "denominations" and, yes, the Puritans also abandoned the communion of saints). For example, I can ask my patron saint, Thomas Aquinas, to pray for me for help with a particular prayer request I have. Trust me, I was raised a Protestant, I know you are saying, "But just pray to God directly!" but, I counter, if you could ask Billy Graham to pray for you, would you?  Of course you would, because, as a Protestant, you consider Rev. Graham a holy man and that his prayers (and the prayers of anyone else you could get) would benefit your cause before God. That's the basis of the communion with the saints for Catholics. Don't believe me? If Norman doesn't follow through with the ritual, the Blithe Hollow witch will "raise the dead," and that's a one way of describing the communion of saints, raising the dead to intercede on your behalf before God, but they leave out that last part.
Here is the real deconstructive dilemma of the film's plot: Judge Hopkins, pictures, was one of the Puritan founders of Blithe Hollow who ordered the execution of Agatha because she talked to the dead. Intuitively, we know Judge Hopkins is a "villain" because he's a zombie and villains lack the heroic qualities needed to be a hero. Agatha isn't good because she terrorizes everyone and is depicted as a witch. So, if Norman is going to be like Agatha, he's going to be a witch no one likes (and in one of his visions he has, he is actually being persecuted in Agatha's place); if Norman turns against Agatha like everyone else, he'll be a zombie like Judge Hopkins. At the end, when Courtney discovers that Mitch is gay, that effectively means that the final burial of Agatha (the Catholic Church) makes way for a homosexual lifestyle because you know the Puritans would not have tolerated homosexuality anymore than the Catholic Church does, and that Blithe Hollow has been saved so that Mitch can be gay, suddenly turns our attention from Norman the hero to Mitch who has been lauded as a moron the whole film but because he's gay, he's wonderful and will be the "new hope" that a Blithe Hollow--rid of the Puritans and the Catholic Church--can look forward to.
Between the date of 1712, and the seemingly supernatural ability to "talk to the dead," we have a definite identity for who the Blithe Hollow witch: the Roman Catholic Church. Why? This doesn't have anything to do with the clerical sex abuse cases, the Reformation, the Counter-Reformation, Dogmas or the split in the Church between Catholic and Protestant or anything like that: it's about un-demonizing homosexuality. Because the film creates conflict about what Puritans and Catholics disagree about (the communion of saints) it sweeps under the rug that which they agree about: the un-naturalness of homosexuality. By depicting Protestants as zombies, and Catholics as witches, when Mitch reveals at the end that he's gay, there is no moral authority in the film to standup to him and stop the (ever furthering) spread of homosexuality. Even though Mitch has been a dumb lug throughout the whole film, he's suddenly the hero of the liberal agenda finally revealing itself and what's worse is that children are seeing this!
First, let's begin with a formal analysis of how Norman's face is sculpted: he looks like an early, Byzantine icon (please compare to the one depicted immediately below). His eyebrows are stylized, his large eyes deeply set-in with the sockets almost like face-caves to frame the eyes. His thin nose and tiny nostrils only accentuate his eyes more and his mouth is practically non-existent; what doesn't follow traditional iconography is his large, protruding ears (icons of saints usually don't depict the ears, to show that they have closed themselves off to worldly conversing and converse only with God).  So why does Norman not look "normal?" The saints aren't normal. Norman's eyes communicates how he is wise for his age because he can see what others do not (this is substantiated by his "inner visions" he has of Agatha's trial and what happened to her, he can see beyond the mere surface of things into the deeper reality). Now, what should we immediately be thinking about a shot like this? Norman brushes his teeth, so his appetites are being cleaned (he's purging himself of his own vices) and how does he do it? With a zombie toothbrush. By seeing (with his enlarged eyes) what the zombies of his family do and act like, Norman is able to cleanse himself of any tendencies to act like that himself.
 Zombies, as we have explored in My Favorite Zombie: Night Of the Living Dead and in Being Unto Death: Carnival Of Souls, are the walking dead, or, symbolically, those who are not "alive" to the real purpose of life; a key to understanding zombies, at least traditionally, is that they can't see their reflection, like vampires. Why is this important? Because it means they "can't reflect," or enter into the spiritual life so the most important part of them is dead, their soul. Norman can see them, much like the little boy in The Sixth Sense, because children haven't learned the falsehoods adults become numb to. According to the traditional rules of horror films, the supernatural presented by the film must reflect the natural; in other words, if there are zombies in the supernatural characteristic of the film, that's because the characters are themselves zombies; so, where are they?
Why were saints depicted in icons as they were for so many centuries? They are not physical (biological) portraits of the saints, rather, they are the spiritual portraits of the "athletes of God" as they were called. In this particular version of Mary with the Christ Child, it's a rendering of Mary as the Seat of Wisdom, so in contemplating why Mary is considered so wise, the artist has offered us visual clues to ponder so we can imitate her virtues in our own spiritual journey. First, Mary's features mirror those of the Christ-child perfectly, because all Mary did mirrored what Christ did. The large eyes symbolized inner sight and the ability to see into the hidden nature of the spiritual life (a particularly good gift for us, the viewers to have during ParaNorman because we are asked to have that same inner-sight as Norman the hero and see as he sees; please note that we do not see Mary's or Christ's ears because they have interior listening, i.e., they converse with God). The small mouth indicates several virtues: first, the overcoming of the appetites; the saints were all devoted to fasting so they could discipline the flesh (the high cheek bones making saints look "gaunt" accentuates that they don't have "spare flesh" on their frames from over-eating). Secondly, a fasting from conversation, or disciplining one's self from participating in idle talk so one could be more tuned to the genuine needs of their own soul and others. Likewise, Mary's head-covering, indicating modesty, depicts how the saints keep their own thoughts covered so they can better do the will of God. What's so important about this particular image is that it shows the adult (Mary) becoming like the Child (Christ) because in our sinful society, it's the children who become like the adults.
Alvin the bully is definitely "one of the zombies" because he can't reflect on what he is doing; Courtney, Norman's silly sister, talks so much she doesn't have time to reflect on what she does. Neil? Is he a zombie? Neil wanting to be with Norman is a good sign that he recognizes what is good, but Norman exercises virtue when Alvin bullies him whereas Neil just explains it away instead of exercising virtue (hence, Neil being so overweight is a sign that he doesn't "exercise," like watching his mother's aerobic video, he only watches others instead of doing himself). Just as the townspeople think the zombies are trying to kill them instead of helping them, so we can see that mirroring how the Puritans thought the Catholic Church was trying to kill them instead of helping them; the townspeople wanting to kill the zombies then is poetic justice for what the Puritans did to Agatha. (Consequently, these are all examples of chaos theory, which is good to keep track of).
Agatha, the "Blithe Hollow Witch," who was executed when she was eleven years old for "speaking to the dead." She is a relative of Norman's and he recognizes himself in her (their physical appearance) just as we can see the resemblance between Mary and the Christ Child. What is so significant about Agatha's death is that she was hanged, not burned, which is the method of execution favored. Why? Witches, as "brides of Satan," were usually burned for two reasons: so the real flames on their flesh might prompt a conversion of heart at the thought of the eternal flames of damnation on their souls and to "help" the accused by purging them of earthly sins so they would come before God in their judgment without as many sins upon their soul. Agatha being hanged makes her resemble the Bridegroom, Christ, who was hung upon the Tree of the Cross so that, as the Song of Songs tells us, the Bride (the Church) will  resemble the Bridegroom because she will bear the same sufferings as He. What other important tree is there in the film? The tree where Agatha's mother took her when she was little and told her stories. We will touch more upon the "fairy tales" below, but the "mother" is Mary, the Mother of us all in Faith, and she takes each of us to the Tree of the Cross and tells us the story of Salvation.  
What about Norman's strange uncle, Mr. Prenderghast?
No, he's not a zombie. We can say that he is more spiritually advanced than the others because of his nearly ascetic lifestyle, as well as his life-long devotion to a cause greater than himself (saving the town from "the curse"), however, he has not achieved the level of spiritual advancement Norman has. That he dies before carrying out the ritual for the curse shows that he's "dead in faith" because he only carries out the ritual but is not strong enough to stop Agatha; this is where the film's own logic starts breaking down, but it goes on anyway. So why is Norman so much more advanced than everyone else?
He watches zombie movies.

In religious studies there is what is called Negative Theology, popular among early Franciscans such as St. Bonaventure, it demonstrates what God is by what God is not. Similarly, zombie films can be said to be a type of negative theology in that zombies depict how Christians should not act so they don't turn into zombies, because zombies are the opposite of saints, for example, zombie flesh is usually either green or white. When they are green (like above) it's because they are rotting; saints are often depicted wearing green because green symbolizes new birth and hope. When zombies are shown to be white, it's because a corpse turns white due to the natural decay of death; when a saint is "dead" to the world, they are alive in purity, innocence and faith, which is what white symbolizes. That the Puritans have been turned to zombies illustrates the animosity towards Protestants, and that the Bride of Christ, the Catholic Church, has been turned into the Bride of Satan, a witch, clearly illustrates how perverse ParaNorman is by positing that Mitch and his boyfriend are natural. Again, this is aimed at children.
I hope that--by now--you have seen how films (and art in general) tries to communicate to viewers about politics, morality, the social structure, our inner-life, etc., and like films in general, zombie films specifically seek to reveal how other people drag us down, how others make us inauthentic (we sacrifice being ourselves to be what others expect of us), how others try dominating us to make us like them and our subtle actions and thoughts which aid "zombies" to make us like them, hence, why zombies "eat" brains, they destroy our ability to "think through" what they are trying to do to us and they make us "eat" their lies and falsehoods which slowly poisons us to believing that they really know what is best then we are zombies.
So who is Norman's Grandma in the film? She's probably meant to be a soul in Purgatory. Norman's dad tells Norman that "Grandma's in a better place now," and Norman refutes him, "No, she' s in the living room on the couch."  Protestants believe that, after a person dies, pretty much everyone goes straight to heaven; unless you were like Adolf Hitler, and regardless of how many really bad sins you committed, if you love Jesus in your heart, you get a "Go To Heaven" free card. Catholics, on the other hand, believe that a sin is a sin, a debt against God's love for you, and that debt has to be paid off before you get to go enjoy Heaven; you can start paying off the debt here, but if you die and you have sins for which you have not atoned, that atonement must take place in Purgatory. It seems that Norman asks Grandma why she's still on earth and she says something about not wanting to be with her husband, which is seriously problematic, because the Husband of every soul is its creator, Jesus Christ, so her preferring to remain on earth rather than in heaven with the Bridegroom might itself be her sin because she prefers the imperfect things of earth to the perfect bliss of Heaven.
On one hand, we can say that zombies really do exist, because we can see zombie characteristics amongst those we know in our daily lives; further, zombie films wouldn't still be around after forty years, so audiences do identify with the message of a zombie-horror film. However, we can also say that zombies don't exist as monsters walking around in a daze, they exist only as symbols into which we invest meaning; this makes zombies, like many films, fairy tales and the role of "fairy tales" in ParaNorman is one tricky topic to understand.
The resurgence lately of fairy tales being told in Hollywood (Mirror, Mirror, Snow White and the Huntsman, Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters, Jack the Giant Slayer, etc.) reveals Hollywood's sudden need to teach viewers the lessons which fairy tales typically embody because fairy tales are the vehicles of secular virtues. In this clip, Norman's uncle tells him about locating the book and what he has to do:
When Norman goes into his uncle's house and finds the book he died holding onto to, it can be said that Uncle Prenderghast's sin was that he wouldn't "let go" of the past he claims is coming to haunt Norman. Norman is obviously disappointed that the book is only a book of fairy tales, and that's probably because that's what the film makers see the Bible as being, fairy tales. When Norman meets up with Agatha, he has to talk her into going into her grave and accepting death instead of pretending that she is still alive, and that is clearly a politically charged message to Catholics that we should let the Church die and bury it once and for all (I certainly won't).
If you don't believe the importance of Mitch in the film, please consider that Mitch has "the vehicle" of the film (he's the only one who can drive) and he's the one "driving" throughout the film.
In conclusion, as The Woman In Black offered anti-Catholic rhetoric to Anglicans thinking of "swimming the Tiber" by dredging up old conflicts between the two Churches while ParaNorman offers an anti-Catholic rhetoric to young Catholics to "not be so Catholic" and "lord" it over other Christians or no one will like you. Why would they do this? Because liberals know Catholics will stand against socialism, and eroding Catholics' bond to the Church will make it easier to get lukewarm Catholics to accept homosexuality and socialism (or at least not speak out against it); those who do speak out against it are like that nasty little girl that no one liked, who turned into a terrible witch, and was all alone,... and you don't want to be like that, do you? 
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Expendables 2 & Unlimited Free Will

Is there any other reason to watch Simon West's Expendables 2 than it being out on video this week? It is good enough that it stayed at the top of the box office for at least two weeks, primarily because it's a testament to America as a super-power, a no-apology manifesto about what America has been and (at the time the film came out, pre-election 2012) will continue to be, validating national pride and patriotism which has been not only under attack, but considered to be a vice by the current political administration. To properly contextualize The Expendables 2, let's look at two other films from cinema past before getting into this one.
Why is The Expendables 2 out on video so early? I think it has everything to do with the re-make of Red Dawn opening today. As a political statement about American free will to keep the rogues of the world in order, juxtaposing The Expendables 2 against the invasion of the US by a tiny, but aggressive, North Korea should make viewers consider the implications of the US not only being able to protect itself, but keep the order in the world that desperately wants to become chaos.
In 2004, we got to enjoy The Incredibles, about a family of super-heroes the world no longer wanted, clearly an indictment of American strength (symbolized by Mr. Incredible), American agility to be wherever we needed to be to handle crises (Elastigirl) as well as American weapon technology in stealth (the little girl who can disappear) and the American unlimited free will to act swiftly and be ready for all kinds of global unrest; each member of the family, in other words, makes up a characteristic and feature of the American military while the narrative demonstrates how the post-9/11 world was reacting to America's unnatural strength and military might (the rewarding of mediocrity was a theme of the film we are seeing more and more of today). But the Incredibles were needed; today, however, we could say that Obama has retired them permanently.
Jason Statham as Lee Christmas. Why does he have a cheating woman he can't trust? She symbolizes America "cheating" on the military (which Christmas symbolizes) by going over to the enemy of socialism which so many American soldiers gave their life to fight and defend America against. Her calling him just as they are in a dangerous spot is a "call" of the vocation of America (what we are "called" to do in life through our destiny) that he should be more concerned with her (America) than the international violence about to destroy the world.In the trailer above, we see Christmas dressed as a monk and saying, "I now pronounce you man and knife," then stabbing the proverbial bad guy. Why? Anyone being "wedded" to a cause against the US will meet with the knife... at least, that's how it used to be.
In 2006, we got the rare treat of an actually good Ben Stiller film, Night At the Museum, wherein the inventor who couldn't invent (translate: was having problems competing in a free market economy) was treated to a world view of how "towering" the United States is above all other empires and eras throughout history (Stiller's giant stature compared to the "little Romans" and the "little cowboys," he is the king of the day in the annals of history, i.e., the museum, but the bad guys are threatening to steal that history, just as socialists today are re-writing American history to leave out our achievements, such as Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter and Lawless).
"I'm back!" Why does Trench (Schwarzenegger) say this? To remind us of the famous line uttered by General McArthur during World War II and how, again (you've read this many times this year) America was made into a superpower during World War II and that is now at stake because of Obama and Clinton.  At one scene in the film, there has been a huge gun fight, and The Expendables have killed dozens of men; they think the fight is over then one enemy gunman stumbles out and all of them start firing on him at the same time and none of them stop, just pumping round after round into him. Why? The outnumbering and strength of The Expendables against the lone enemy offers us the visualization once more of America's power and endurance to remain standing and how we outnumber and outgun our enemies, or at least, we did once.
The emphasis on it being "night" at the museum is because night symbolizes the time of darkness (political uncertainty about the future) and going through the "museum" of history helps us remember our own "towering" place in history and the giant accomplishments we have made. If you don't believe me, who is one of the dominant characters of the story? American imperialist president, Teddy Roosevelt, who believed in America's role as a leading, global power. Why bother going into this? To demonstrate the history of this theme and how the attacks against American might and military presence has changed in nearly a decade and the difference in who the attacks are coming from: The Incredibles and Night At the Museum were general statements to the general American public assuring us of our destiny to be great and how ridiculous it would be to turn away from our tasks and duty when the world was clearly in so much danger.
But turning away is exactly what is happening.
It's important to understanding the identity of Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth, which also invokes Pettyfur's character "The Kid" in Magic Mike) that his girlfriend is French; why? Because the French are basically socialists, as Madagascar 3 taught us about their labor laws. Billy symbolizes Generation X and Y, not the Baby Boomers like Stallone and Willis' characters, and the events of the film and his terrible end is a not-so-hidden concern about Generation X & Y not being capable of making the same choices and sacrifices the Boomers did to keep America as a super power.Why does Barney (Stallone) send the girlfriend the money at the end? Call it an ideology joke, that the French are just as interested in money as the US, regardless of their politics.
Enter Expendables 2.
Great film making has the aura of prophecy, and given the 2012 attacks on US embassies and diplomatic missions, and the escalating violence between Israel and Hamas, the military strength being advocated by Expendables 2 is a deliberate undermining of President Obama's and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's foreign policy positions (or, as some of us would say, "lack of position" coining the phrase, "leading from behind"). Where does the narrative's threat come from?
Socialism.
Why does the big "shoot out" take place in an airport? What do you think of when you think of an airport today? Maybe the hassle of traveling, security checks, taking off your shoes and packing everything in 3 oz. bottles? And what do we owe that to? 9/11. The airport reminds us of the freedom and security that has been robbed from us by America's enemies and how The Expendables (the military might and political power they symbolize) are literally fighting to take back for us. The tiny car Church (Willis) and Trench drive ("My shoe is bigger than this car!") shows how ridiculously small and incompetent the "vehicle" of Obama's policy on international affairs is because the foot symbolizes our will power. So a foot bigger than the vehicle means that our will power to act and be a powerful force in international politics (and defense of the homeland) is severely hampered by the "smallness" of Obama's policies. Compare, if you will, the tiny car to the massive, military vehicles in the opening scene as The Expendables force their way into an enemy compound. Those were the days of American military power and might, not America standing by while Seals and citizens are blown to bits in a raging fire because our President sided with the terrorists instead of his own people. 
We will see this again in my post on Arbitrage, but it's the remnants of Russian socialism which is once again threatening world order and stability (we saw this in Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol and Chernobyl Diaries). The nuclear capabilities of Soviet Russia was spurred on by a need to expand communism throughout the world, so whenever those Soviet era nukes appear, it's a reminder about the communist agenda to destroy the US and how that threat is very much alive (in spite of the Soviet Union collapsing instead).
"I needed to adjust for the wind, Sir," once again, you have to put up with me discussing (for the record) which films are based in a world of chaos theory instead of those worlds based on Darwin and evolution. There are plenty examples of chaos theory in the film, but Billy "adjusting for the wind" particularly reminds us of World War II and how chaos theory really came into existence: ballistics. American anti-aircraft gunners weren't hitting any of their German targets and it was Claude Shannon who realized the gunners needed to not only over-shot the target, but adjust for variables such as wind, rain, velocity, etc., which aided America in winning the war because we were able to knock down more German aircraft and prevail. In the film, Billy recounts his lost friends during his tour in Afghanistan and that being the reason for him to want to leave. The personal losses which Barney endures are losses he endures; in other words, The Expendables 2 makes it clear that life is about loss, even deeply personal loss, and while the film paints Billy in the most honorable and admirable of heroics, it also shows us how that isn't enough, there has to be a willingness to take the hard, personal hits and make the sacrifice, because getting our soft spot is exactly what the enemy hopes for.
A minor point, but important to me, is when Barney and Lee are in a foreign bar and the people in there don't like them, so both take out "brass knuckles" and beat everyone up. In Lawless, America's "brass knuckle tactics" for getting things done was highly criticized but The Expendables 2 makes the point clear: if everyone is bent on your destruction, why be nice? Because it's only the ones getting the "brass knuckle treatment" who complain, but they're the ones who want us destroyed (please see Lawless & Brass Knuckle Tactics for more).

Why does Chuck Norris get the "royal treatment" in the film? We're not just dealing with America's past in terms of the military and economy, but America's past in film as well. Hollywood is to America what the Louvre is to France, and the anti-socialist films of Chuck Norris and Hollywood in general is something to remember not only as artistic statements and achievements, but because those films contributed to the American Identity, and to suddenly "go socialist" is anti-American and anti-Hollywood.
The Expendables 2 might seem like a rough and tough action film, and it is, but it's also as much of a political manifesto as the World War II bomber Barney flies. The "old group" reassembling has to re-assemble because the current generation isn't emotionally and psychologically strong enough to complete the task at hand (especially if you believe the liberal media about the young voters being the ones who put Obama back in power, i.e., voted for socialism).  It's definitely a film worth watching and worth enjoying because it looks like American free will is going to become a thing of the past.
Eat Your Art Out & Happy Thanksgiving!
The Fine Art Diner

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Savages & Beautiful Savages: Oliver Stone On Deconstructing Economic Models

The acting is superb.
Out on video this week is Oliver Stone's Savages, and from Blake Lively to Salma Hayek, from Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Travolta, to Taylor Kitsch and Demian Birchir, to Benecio Del Toro (and I will be greatly surprised if Mr. Del Toro is not nominated for his performance) the performances are at the peak of perfection. Savages examines two pot growers Ben (Taylor-Johnson) and Chon (Kitsch) who grow "the best pot in the world" and the process of rival Mexican cartel led by Elena (Hayek) and Lado (Del Toro) taking their business over. While you have read a number of deconstructions I have done on various works of art, Savages stands as Mr. Stone's own deconstruction on both socialism and capitalism and the inherent wrongs within each, and for this reason it's worth considering because it's a pure vehicle of politics against both major economic models dominating the country and, while I disagree with his assessment, he does an admirable job of using visuals to communicate political concepts to his audience.
While the acting is excellent, the film is not for everyone: there is substantial violence, foul language and violent sex scenes (there is not obvious nudity, which I appreciate); Stone utilizes graphic sex scenes convey to his audience how both capitalism and socialism "screw" you over. The poster design pictured here communicates with color the tension Stone wants to make us aware of: please consider the psychological association of the word "savages" with the pastel color palette of the poster. Note the sky blue at the top of the poster, the yellow in the middle (Lively's dress) the green on the right side of the "G"the dominance of lavender in the "E" section and the pink in the "S" section. Are these the colors we associate with savagery? Even the sepia tones and gray in the "A" and "V" sections don't communicate savagery, and that's because Stone wants us (like Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom) to consider the Native American way of life (the way the Native Indians were once described as "savages") as a viable alternative to what we currently have in American society; as mentioned elsewhere, Stone and Anderson fall in with the "mountain man" genre popular in  the early 1970s (Little Big Man, Jeremiah Johnson, A Man Called Horse, etc.) in calling people to revert to a simpler, less violent lifestyle although they themselves don't seem to be taking their own advice.
Ben is the brainy business man who came up with the pure weed while best friend Chon is the brawn who takes care of undesirable customers using his training from the Afghan war whenever possible. O, their shared girl friend is blissfully happy until she's kidnapped by Elena's gang who wants to monopolize all drug production using force, murder and intimidation. This foundation of the story is Stone's understanding of what he wants us to understand about how capitalism and socialism both work. How do we know Stone is deconstructing and not employing another perspective? Word play.
This image captures one of the great theoretical exercises in the film, because when someone wears a mask, Stone is showing us that the actions they are participating in is not a mask but revealing their real self, so the masks Ben and Chon wear are not masks but their real self. Likewise, Elena "masks" her voice with the computer, but she's actually revealing herself because of what she says; Lado "wears a mask" in his pretended loyalty to Elena but is happy to betray her. How does this fit in with Stone's political agenda (and don't come down on Stone for having an agenda, all film makers do, whether they are conscious of it or not, Stone just happens to be more conscious)? In the election year of 2012, film makers have presented capitalists as ruthless, greedy and irresponsible business men, like Chon and Ben, while Obama's socialism has presented itself as wanting to take over everything like Elena's cartel with America (O) caught in the middle. It doesn't matter how the options present them selves, Stone argues, what matters is what they do, and the actions of both capitalists and socialists reveal what each side it truly made of and the American people are the ones who will suffer for it. 
Throughout the film, the word "savages" is used in a variety of ways; when a word or phrase is intentionally set up to mean more than one concept, the word's/phrase's meaning has become destabilized; for example, in The Hurt Locker, we saw how the phrase "War is a drug," can be taken to mean either that war is a drug like crack that gives us a pleasurable high, and that's why we participate in war, or "War is a drug" could invoke medicinal drugs that heal and fighting a war actually helps us to overcome wounds and illness (like the trauma caused by 9/11; please see Whore Houses & Soccer Stars: The Hurt Locker for more). Chon first describes Elena's gang cutting the heads off several people as "savage," then Lado describes Chon's, Ben's and O's threesome as "savage" and finally, O describes their life in the remote island at the end as being beautifully savage. So what does the word "savage" mean and to what does the title Savages refer? Who are the savages and what makes a person a savage? This is one branch of deconstruction and Stone does it to show how, regardless of what the capitalists think of the socialists, and the socialists think of the capitalists, both sides are guilty of crimes; how does he encode this message for us?
Sex and drugs.
When the film opens, O monologues about the beauty of Laguna Beach and how God parked Himself there, but got towed away. What does this mean, and how does it reflect on the film? Stone creates bookends with this concept and where the threesome go at the end of the film (an island like in the Philippines or something) is the opposite end of Laguna Beach, but Stone is saying the "purified version" of  the paradise God created because there is no formalized economic system on the edenic island. While Stone probably isn't a religious man, he is saying that neither side in the economic debate can claim they were because both sides are out for something only for themselves and not for some religious reason.
Chon and Ben are the two faces of capitalism for Stone: Ben, the smart, savvy, educated business man who is kind-hearted and charitable is just as guilty of "screwing over America" as Chon, the war-scarred veteran who can't get his time in Afghanistan out of himself and takes it out on bad business associates. O, in keeping with tradition, symbolizes America (the passive female element of the "motherland") while the active male principle in Chon and Ben symbolize the economy. Not only can we say that Ben and Chon symbolize capitalism because they are business men, but also because of the lavish, materialistic lifestyle they lead.
One of several films being invoked is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (Paul Newman, Robert Redford, 1969), when O compares their threesome to the threesome in that film. Why? Stone wants to take care to link capitalists to criminals who rob for their own good, not some greater good for others, and implicates the middle-class as being accomplices in the act of robbery (as Etta, portrayed by Katherine Ross, participates in their robberies).
How can we say Elena's group symbolizes socialism?
Socialists, of course, would say the cartel doesn't, but the monopolizing and taking over everything for themselves (the way a socialist government owns everything) is the characteristic linking the violent group to socialism as well as the violence used to enforce the take over (Marxism, socialism and communism have tremendous violence in their history). Further, socialism tends to breed paranoia within the government, and the ruthless torturing of Alex (Demian Birchir, A Better Life) is commonly associated with the show-trials of Stalin (The Dark Knight Rises employs show trials as well invoking the past of the French Revolution; for more on show-trials and power, you might be interested in Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punish; it's not without problems, but it is interesting). Lastly, Elena's role as a mother fits in with the socialist mask because a socialist government presents itself as a parent to its people even though, as in the film, it is an unwanted parent (the dead children of Elena, as in The House At the End of the Street, symbolizes the countries in which socialism had taken root and lived briefly, but then died).
By far, the strongest arguments to be made that we can see Elena's group as symbolizing socialism comes in the way O is treated while in captivity. She has to ask for everything and she gets no variety, typical of a centrally planned government that distributes everything and decides what gets made and what doesn't. Stone wants to force this issue to the audience in as strong of terms as possible, and he achieves this with the image above, when O, a pot addict, asks to have some and Lado takes a hit for himself, then gives O her hit by exhaling off her; like people under a socialist government, O won't get anything except "through" the government like the drug first going "through" Lado (likewise, Lado gives O a steak, but he cuts up every single bite and makes her eat it off the fork, another way Stone shows what happens to those who look to the government to provide instead of providing for themselves). Secondly, after O is high and unconscious, Lado "screws her" and records it on his phone, which is how most capitalists see a socialist government treating its people: even if the government gives you what you want, you're going to get screwed for it (like with Obamacare; we've seen another film where drugs have been employed by a socialist state, Dredd; please see 96% Unemployment: Dredd & the Socialist State). What does this scene say about the capitalists, though? O is obviously spoiled and a drug addict. In Savages, drug addiction symbolizes Americans' addiction to material goods and luxury, whereas in Dredd, the people are dependent upon Mama (Lena Heady) for everything.  When Ben and Chon discuss how to get O back and how long it will take them, Chon says that O can't survive being a hostage for a couple of days and it's because she's "soft" and "pampered" (O tells them she's going to make a final "pilgrimage" to the mall; whereas a pilgrimage used to be about going to a sacred place to become spiritually healed and rejuvenated, O going to the mall means it's the luxury life of material goods which has replaced the spiritual element in a consumer-oriented world which capitalism has created. Just as drugs are an artificial means of producing pleasure so materialism is a form of drug addiction because it provides pleasure to the consumer, according to Stone.
O plays an imperative role in the film and to fully understand her, we should start with her name. As stated, "O" stands for Ophelia, the love of William Shakespeare's Hamlet who drowns herself (please see image below; please recall that a character named "O" appears also in Men In Black III, played by Emma Thompson, and another Shakespeare play, MacBeth, is quoted in The Raven). Great works of art invoke other great works of art, and when so doing, the artists desire to draw our attention to that work of art in order to expand commentary on the events being presented. In Hamlet, the kingdom is taken over when the king sleeps and poison is poured into his ear by the king's brother who then takes the crown for himself. For capitalists, we can easily see in this an image of Obama's socialist revolution (since both are economic models, capitalism and socialism could be said to be "brothers") taking over America when we were asleep and the poison poured into our ears was "hope" and "change" leading to the ruin we have now. 
John Everett Millais, Ophelia, 1852, the Tate Gallery, London. Where else have we recently seen this image? Melancholia with Kirsten Dunst (please see Dance Of Death: Art n Melancholia for more). There are lots of ways to portray Ophelia, but both films turn to the act of Ophelia drowning herself. In Savages, we can understand O drowning herself in pleasure (drugs and material goods) and this leads us to answer the question proposition by O at the opening monologue: O says that, just because I am narrating this film doesn't mean I am alive at the end of it (another example of Stone's deconstruction, because the film is not only exhibiting self-awareness that it is a film--breaking down the viewer's willingness to suspend disbelief that they are watching a film and not some reality through vicarious means--but also that we may or may not have a reliable narrator who we can trust to deliver us a truthful message) so, when we see her buying fish at the native market in the end of the story, is O alive? given the word play and utilizing of masks in the film, we have to consider that, although she's physically alive, is she spiritually/metaphysically alive? As she, like Ophelia pictured above, drowned herself in sex and an irresponsible life or has something awakened inside her to take the place of the sex, drugs and materialism? It's debatable, or ambiguous, because there is nothing definite by which to answer the question, which is another characteristic of deconstruction.
Stone's dramatizing of O's character is beneficial for another reason: O both validates and re-enforces the traditional symbolism of a young woman being symbolic of America while an older woman of mature years symbolizes the "motherland." O has both a distant relationship with her mother (consider when she goes to her mom's house and leaves her a note about going to Europe, not very personal, is it?) and a emotionally personal one (she writes her mom a sincere, moving note when she's in captivity); we can take this relationship to be O's mom symbolizing America's history, the distant relationship is the distant past with which she hasn't kept in touch, or "studied history" (and the mom's numerous marriages being different phases the country has gone through); the seemingly small detail of O telling her mom she's going to Europe literally means shes "going European," a foreshadowing technique of her captivity because socialism is more prevalent in European countries than elsewhere. Why does O pour out so much emotion in the letter she writes her mom, once captured?
Ben and Chon with Dennis (John Travolta) an FBI agent who willingly takes money from both sides to protect them then willingly betrays Elena to get a medal. As a symbol of the law (even the government) Stone shows how the government is only self-serving and, literally, in "the back seat" of the events taking place, not actually forming them.
O realizing what has happened to her makes her reach out to her mom, i.e., America (O) realizing it's been taken over by socialism (Elena's cartel) prompts a re-examination of our history and relationship to capitalism (O's mother)and what was intended with the founding of the country (O writing the letter to her mom and telling her she loves her). 
There are several important elements which take place in this scene. First, Elena has invited O to have dinner with her at her table instead of in O's prison eating pizza or steak fed to her by Lado, demonstrating how a socialist government always gives itself the best and only makes a show of being generous to its citizens when it wants something (in this case, Elena's daughter doesn't want to see her and Elena is lonely so she invites O to eat with her; Elena also has kept the best part for herself, not offering better food/shelter to O and this is typical of socialist party leaders who indulge themselves while making the citizens suffer; please consider, for example, George Orwell's Animal Farm). Elena also can't believe how dumb O is and asks if all Americans are like that; why does this happen? Socialists build their philosophy upon everyone (except themselves) being stupid (and I mean stupid) and thereby incapable of making any good decisions for themselves so the government has to decide everything for them. When Elena's and O's conversation turns to Chon and Ben, and the threesome relationship they have, Elena informs O that Ben and Chon are only willing to share her because "they love each other more" than they love her. What does this mean? Capitalists love other business owners more than the country (O as symbolic of America) and what they do they do for themselves, not because they are patriots, but to protect their interests. O's faith that Chon and Ben will save her reflects America's faith that the upper-class, the 1%, will save the country from a future of socialism.
Like so many of the films in the past year, Savages also makes a commentary on whether art is better off under socialism or capitalism, in a very sly way. When Chon and Ben have decided to leave the country for awhile, there is a shot of them in their house and two posters on either side, one The Mummy, with Boris Karloff, and the other The Phantom of the Opera. Like Total Recall which also invokes The Phantom Of the Opera (when they travel to the abandoned New York City and there is a banner on a bus for the story and I believe Expendables 2 also used the same device to site the story; please see Recall/Rekall: Memories Of Dreams & Total Recall) so Savages wants us to consider how money is used in the creation of art. I have not analyzed The Phantom Of the Opera, however, I have examined The Mummy, and since it is a film about the Great Depression and resurrection ( like James Bond's hobby in Skyfall) we can take a guess as to why Stone would include it in his film. The problem is, we don't know what Stone's interpretation of the two films is (whether he likes them, considers them masterpieces or low-budget affairs) so, again, the films are ambiguous but we can comment upon them since they have been included, yet we won't be able to make a stable point about them (please see The Curse and the Mummy for my analysis on this anti-socialist film of the Great Depression).
This might not be the exact version of The Phantom O the Opera Stone places in the film but all the varying stories rely upon the vehicle of money and financial ruin to propel the story through its plot.
 Lastly, with the multiple endings the film presents to us as played out in O's imagination as to whether they die, further destabilizes the narrative. Why would a director do this? How stable are the narratives we receive from our leaders? During this week, hearings are finally taking place on the Attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, and Americans are literally deciding what we are going to believe in what happened and who knew what, when. Both sides of the political culture today engage in destabilizing political discourse by making themselves unreliable narrators in the constant stream of lies we are fed by Washington, so having a unreliable narrator and a story of which we are not quite sure, accurately reflects the state of the union today, which is what great art is supposed to achieve.
Lado, who can be taken as a symbol of those who work for the socialist government, is truly brutal and self-serving, not serving some higher good or ideal, which is what they want us to believe about them.
Savages isn't an easy film to watch: Stone accuses everyone of being a savage (except himself), and viewers usually don't go to a film to be insulted (taught a lesson, sure, but insulted? No) so there is no one for the audience to identify with but this appears to be part of his strategy: "You're not like the savage capitalists, and you're not like the savage socialists, so you should want to be like these peaceful, beauty-loving natives in this island community where everyone is happy." Does it work? You will have to decide but his personal devotion to Buddhism (which Seven Psychopaths invokes) while still choosing to live in Los Angeles--instead of a remote island in paradise, where he can better practice his meditation--makes the film maker look like a hypocrite taking a cheap shot at his fellow countrymen more than anything noble, if that was his intent.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner