Saturday, August 24, 2013

Ben Affleck's Politics Are Not Super-Hero Politics

What was it, like a week ago, that I said--just to remind you that I don't need to be reminded that I said it--that Christopher Nolan is the best film maker in Hollywood, and whatever he is going to do is going to be the very best it can possibly be and there is no finer film maker in Hollywood right now. I stand by that. There was a rumor, which was, the Batman-Superman film was actually going to be a,... gulp,.... Batman against Superman film, super-hero against super-hero. I mean, it's one thing to see Tony Stark fighting Thor, or arguing with Captain America, but we know they are going to overcome their differences and unite together for perfect harmony. In all the anti-Affleck noise, there has been little news or definite development strategies revealed, only that Batman is going to be completely re-worked (I guess from what Nolan-Bale collaboration?). Well, how much re-working can Batman take, and still be Batman? We just saw this with the "updated" The Lone Ranger: can a Lone Ranger really be a hero who considers the Constitution as a vehicle protecting upper-class thieves (please see A Bad Trade: The Lone Ranger & Re-Writing History for more). IF Nolan and director Zach Snyder want to do a Batman vs Superman film, and they want to cast Batman as a bad guy, then Affleck would be a good choice which obviously resonates with people who don't think he should play the super-hero; there are also rumors, however, that Lex Luther (originally portrayed by Gene Hackman) is being cast and will have a part in the film's plot, so how many bad guys will there be? Again, these are rumors, but if the film makers want to halt some of the bad publicity the film is all ready getting, they might try being up-front with us about what they intend to do with a great American hero like Batman, or face an even more disastrous reception than The Lone Ranger.
Ben Affleck is a fine actor. He has achieved the status I wouldn't even grant Steven Spielberg nowadays: a fine director who loves and respects the art of film making. Argo was such a well-crafted film, I would not have been surprised had the Academy nominated Ben for an acting award; I was thoroughly impressed with the technicals and artistry of this exceedingly well-crafted film (please see Fear & Cowardice: Argo for more) and was surprised Ben wasn't nominated in the director's category, either. In short, his understanding of film tools, tricks and the purpose of film as art is only slightly short of Alfred Hitchcock and other such monumental film makers and directors. There are two sides to the Ben Affleck-as-Batman argument: those who think Ben will make a lousy Batman, and those who don't think Ben deserves to play Batman; I belong to the later group.
Ben has dramatically advanced his acting skills and, let's face it, he's a handsome guy: with a great face and dark, masculine features, he might look good in the outfit; I would be perfectly willing to give Ben that fair chance to prove himself if it weren't for his own free will choosing to hate America, Americans, and intentionally try to sabotage our standing in the world. He has his free will to believe what he wants, and the Constitution to protect that free will and his beliefs, but he has not earned the right to portray a great American hero who loves and protects America because of the political statements not-so-thinly encoded in his major achievement, Argo. From that film, we can confidently deduce that Affleck hates America, and from Butter, the last film his wife Jennifer Gardner made, we can deduce they probably hate Americans, too, because what husband in his right mind would let his wife make such a utterly degrading film, mocking such a wide portion of America, if he didn't agree with it? The film was so scandalously full of hate and meanness, I had to stop it after just ten minutes because I couldn't bear to watch anymore. He is free to believe these things and hate America, but he isn't free of the consequences of his choice to hate America, and his ultra-liberal politics will prohibit the audience from suspending disbelief and enter into the world of the super-hero which--at its essence--is a stage deliberately meant to celebrate America as a super-power, not apologize for us. I fully believe in Christopher Nolan, I fully believe in Superman, I fully believe in Batman but I don't believe in Ben Affleck at all. To a large degree, these are my personal opinions, and I want you to be aware that I have my own biases which may conflict with your beliefs, but Ben being cast as Batman has obviously caused an uproar in the film world and it's worth our time to consider why because this is slated to be a massive project, with great expense and hopes for huge profits.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Friday, August 23, 2013

Trailers: Pompeii, Battle Of the Year; NEWS: Pirates Of the Caribbean 5

Yea, so with the news that Ben Affleck is going to be the new Batman in the Batman & Superman film (with Henry Cavill, Man Of Steel), it's just a bad day. Ben has proven himself to be a great director,... of anti-American films. How he could convincingly portray Bruce Wayne, an all-American hero, is beyond me. In Pompeii, the world is ending, and that's a reflection that OUR world is ending (we can't identify with characters unless, on some level, we can identify with their struggle or circumstances) and this is the same plot line we see in the upcoming film Walking With Dinosaurs that film makers will want parents to flock to the theaters to see in December with their kids (I'm obviously in a bad mood today, sorry). I can't imagine this film doing very well, people want to be inspired to stand and fight (that's the American way, isn't it? We don't just roll over and give up, we rise to the challenge) and this film presents us with hopeless odds (come on, we know they all die) kind of like George Clooney's and Sandra Bullock's Gravity where two astronauts are just floating in space.
However, here is some good news; please, just watch this trailer, and be thinking of all the things we have been discussing, and compare it to the trailer for Pompeii above:
Seeing a trailer like this, makes my day!
An American team hasn't won the Battle Of the Year in 15 years, since 1998; who was president in 1998? Bill Clinton. Battle Of the Year is an international competition, the Germans, the French, the Koreans (and we know this is South Korea because North Koreans aren't allowed to leave their homeland or compete), and what we see in the Clinton Administration in 1998 is a president who had to be told by his wife to bomb Iraq for not following the UN disarmament agreements; in Clinton, America lost its international respect, just like losing the trophy for the dance competition.
Why, yes, that IS bad-boy Chris Brown, Rihanna's abusive ex-boyfriend. Remember: America is the land of second chances, and this intentional casting of someone so well known through the social media with a "bad past" emphasizes elements of cultural dialogue we see in films like Fast and Furious 6, Man Of Steel, The Dark Knight Rises, Iron Man 3: a person can always change, and everyone deserves a second chance, as Pike tells Kirk in Star Trek Into Darkness. Now, for the image above: what do we have? The mixing of a basketball court with dancing; but it's not really "mixing," is it? Dancing is an athletic sport, and basketball certainly has a dancing element to it, player trying to grab the ball and block shots, staying close on their opponent. This is adaptation. Just like we see Jackie Robinson adapting his skill-set to play for the Dodgers (instead of playing short stop, he becomes the first baseman) so Coach Blake adapts his skills of being a basketball coach, and the guys adapt their skills of dancing to become athletes. We saw this in The Artist and Moneyball, which adds the element of creativity and objectivity to people's skills and ability to rise to the top of their field.  
So, what do we see in this trailer? Class mobility. The first words of the trailer, "Born On the Streets," and we know, from the interview snippets, these boys come from tough towns where the odds were "not in their favor," (as The Hunger Games: Catching Fire tells us, but Battle Of the Year is telling us differently). Now, however, they are competing on an international stage for international glory for their country, like the Olympics. Secondly, most of these guys are minorities, so we could say the odds are even MORE against them, but they have found a niche were they have been able to "make it" to a place where their individual talents can shine (more on this in a second). Stacy, the choreographer, is female (and the film makes it a point to say that she is the "best" and to make a point that she's not a lesbian, so, in spite of feminism, she has worked her way up to becoming the best in her field). Coach Jason Blake (Josh Holloway) is a down-on-his-luck basketball coach, who is able to use his skills and gifts in a new way, because there is always a place for everyone and everyone has something to contribute all the time.   
There is an "obvious" problem with Jason Blake (Holloway) being a basketball coach, but Dante Graham (Laz Alonso) tells him, "You have heart and that's what I need"; so what does Blake have the guys do? Run laps. What does running laps have to do with having heart? It looks like Blake was sleeping when we see him and Dante talking in the trailer, and we should take that to be perfectly spiritual and symbolic: Blake is in a state of death, and Blake needs someone to give his heart TO in order for him to benefit from his gift of driving others to succeed. How can we say this? Dante. You don't name a character Dante unless you want to invoke the greatest poet and author of The Divine Comedy, a spiritual drama of overcoming one's personal sins to reach a state of perfection. Like Dante being in a state of spiritual death when he meets Virgil in Inferno, Blake (if he was sleeping) is in a state of spiritual death as well, and Dante (in the film) comes to wake up Blake with this challenge of making this good team the best, and that's important because it validates all levels of talent and skill (not just anyone can coach, it's a talent) and it illustrates what's wrong with Rooster (Chris Brown): he LACKS heart. Rooster's hair is bleached blond, and we know that hair reveals to us the kinds of thoughts a character has, so from the trailer, we can guess that, like Blake being in a spiritual state of death, so, too is Rooster (a corpse turns white when it's dead, and his thoughts are dead because he only thinks of himself, he doesn't know how to respect or love himself, hence, he can't respect nor love anyone else), but, by the end of the film, he will have "bleached" himself clean of all his faults and sins (at least enough to attain hero status for the audience). Because Blake wears a black cap so often, we can say he, too, is in a state of death (dead to the world, dead to the spiritual life, we will find out) but having this group to care about will bring out the best in him as he teaches them how to bring out the best in themselves.
This is perhaps the most important point: these guys have a highly specialized skill, street-style dancing; in America, the land of competition, they can take their talent and turn to a multi-million dollar industry to earn a living doing what they love to do and what they are best at doing (part of the American Dream, hence, they are called the Dream Team). These guys have a professional identity they would not have in a socialist society (like North Korea) that would not recognize their talents and give them an outlet for expressing their gifts, hence THEIR VERY IDENTITY: this might shock you, however, I assure you in all honesty, I couldn't even BEGIN to perform one move those guys are doing in this trailer, and that helps to distinguish their individuality from mine (because they most likely could not break down and decode the trailer the way I do, which is my gift and talent) and we know that individuality in socialist societies doesn't exist because it's far harder to control "individuals" rather than sheep that do what they are told because individuals cherish their identity and want to protect it. These are issues we saw in Dredd, with the skateboarders,  (please see 96% Unemployment: Dredd & the Socialist State for more) and even Fast and Furious 6 with Dom's team of street racers going from outlaws to international heroes. Which leads us to our next point,...  
What do we have here? Work. Hard work. As Ashton Kutcher said in his Teen Choice acceptance award speech (I never thought I would be quoting Ashton Kutcher), "Opportunity looks a lot like work" and that's because Americans value work and the reason I am quoting Ashton Kutcher is because he has seen circumstances he disagrees with and he has chosen to make a stand for what he believes and that has brought out the best in him to inspire us and bring out the best in America. Like we see in both Beasts Of the Southern Wild and 42, suffering and hardship is a part of life and it makes us better people for it. Liberals want to make us afraid of suffering--and no one wants to suffer, ever, no one, especially me, but suffering is a part of life (especially for Christians who have Jesus as their model) and good can come from it when we allow ourselves to be cleansed--but to become the best, where is it the guys have to go? A juvenile correction facility. We all have faults, but a hero is the one who overcomes their faults to be perfected and who wins their personal battles so they can win the greater battles, which is just what we see in a hero like Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr). The team going into a correction facility to train and work is a spiritual and psychological validation of the the American tradition of hard work and perseverance paying off, because the path to greatness has to be cleared of the stones of sin and personal flaws before we can advance. But the bigger the stones, the greater the strength required to move them, and the greater the personal victory when they are removed, like for Rooster (Chris Brown) and the intense conversion he will have to endure in order to find victory for himself AND the team. Now, let's consider two aspects of this image above: first, the elaborate tattoo Rooster has across his chest/shoulders. Why? Remember, this film is a work of art, so we are speaking in general, artistic terms here. A tattoo like that denotes a specific experience in the past and the motivation for getting this particular design: the neighborhood he came from, interaction with gangs, prison time he might have served, an image of himself he wants to convey to others (in the film, while the film makers chose this to convey an idea to the audience). What is the tattoo? It's a pattern. On a larger scale, we can say it's "a pattern of his behavior," locked in this character's mind, but is physically manifested for the viewer in the tattoo. In this image of him running, it's like the personal map of his mind and identity through his history and his choice, that he will either become a "pattern of success" or a "pattern of failure" through his decisions (this is verified in the trailer when they are told the place where they are going to be living is a juvenile detention center and one of the guys said, "My mom was right. She always said I would end up in a place like this," so that puts two "mothers" at odds with each other: the biological mother, who saw her son didn't stand a chance to succeed in America, and the "motherland" of America, who sees how much potential this young man has and wants to make him even better). Secondly, the path they are running? Covered with weeds. Why are there weeds? No one has obviously been there to keep them down, and this path resembles a great parable told by Christ of the sower: the sower sows seeds His seeds, but some falls upon rocky soil and is choked by weeds; if the boys don't heed the direction and rules of the Coach, those weeds will choke out the seeds of their talent, because talent has to have the nutrition of discipline and hard work to make it bear fruit, so that path both illustrates for us the difficulties they are facing at this point in the narrative but ALSO that this is a path that hasn't been utilized in quite awhile: it's not a well-worn path, but an over-grown path, a path many haven't taken in quite awhile, like maybe fifteen years (both Pain and Gain and Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters both cite the Clinton Administration as the beginning of our current problems). This isn't just about this group of boys, it's about America re-learning who we are and Battle Of the Year looks like the perfect film to tell us.
Again, we see the emphasis on "team work" rather than the individual. Films such as The Avengers, Expendables II (Expendables III has begun production, by the way), GI Joe Retaliation, Fast and Furious 6, Monsters University, Star Trek Into Darkness, etc., have been drawing our attention to the team effort being required today; why? The individual is strong, like Tony Stark, but the team is stronger, like Tony Stark WITH The Avengers (which is why, in Iron Man 3, Tony builds a TEAM of Iron Men, he has learned how to play with others and that it's best to have others to play with; we can say the same of Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise).  No one can do everything, but together, we can do the impossible. Further, it counters the socialist argument about capitalism being "kill or be killed" (The Hunger Games) because even though there are problems with the team, they come together for themselves and each other.
What does this image tell us? Quite a bit, actually. First, is the guy who has jumped so high; why is that important? He is "reaching the heights of his limits," he is jumping higher than anyone else, and he can do this because of this competition, which has forced him to exceed his limits and bring out the very best in his talents, skill and heart. We have all ready seen this, in both Fast and Furious 6 (there are scenes where, during the fights, and head-butting, the characters are almost flying) but also in Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted and the idea of the "trapeze Americano," the ability of Americans to go higher and do more than anyone else, and that's some of what the "language" of the dance routines will be communicating to us in this narrative. Secondly, the BrAun add in the "background."  BrAun wouldn't be there unless this were a legitimate athletic event from which they stood to have image enhancement for their products and business; what else does this say? Businesses (BrAun) are supporting businesses (the dancers) not government supporting the dancers (as in countries like England where the government supports their Olympic athletes). That is capitalism, not socialism. One last note with this trailer: why is it the Koreans who are No. 1? We deduced it must be South Korea, and the highly capitalist nation America saved from communism during the North Korean War is now our competition, and they are saving us from communism through this "battle" for the trophy and forcing us to fulfill our destinies and rise up instead of rolling over.
We go to see films where people excel at their talents and are at their best because it inspires us to be the best in our field, in our calling in life, at whatever it is we do or dream of doing. It sets a standard of excellence, of dedication, it creates a path of possibility and validates our inner-most hopes of reaching our goals, of making our dreams come true and reminding us of who we are, individually, and culturally. A film like Pompeii may foretell that our days as a country are over, but Battle Of the Year tells us we can always stand and fight, each in our own way, with our own talents, by refusing mediocrity and taking the easy path.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner
Pirates Of the Caribbean 5 has formally received it's title from a Walt Disney ride: Dead Men Tell No Tales. There are 7 Pirates films in all to be made. Dead Men Tell No Tales will have two directors, Norwegians Joachim Ronnig and Espen Sandberg; the script is still in the works by Jeff Nathanson (Catch Me If You Can, The Terminal). It's slated for a 2015 release. Johnny Depp (Jack Sparrow) has hinted at retiring from acting, and it's being speculated that he hopes the Pirates franchise (one of the most lucrative in history) will restore some of his glory before leaving the big screen (The Lone Ranger and Dark Shadows have both fallen far short of box office expectations).

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Mortal Instruments: Awesome!

This is a great scene, because Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower) has an instrument that allows him to see "through" objects to what is taking place on the other side of the object, in this case, a book case. The light is blue; using your "instruments" of intellect and accumulated experience in deciphering, what does that mean and why?
It was even better than I thought it would be! Wow, they should just let me do the video commentary, because every single word uttered in this film is important, nothing is throw-away or unnecessary! Now, I have a totally different concept of what "great films are" then most people (remember, I love Godzilla!) but I was expecting about a "B" film, and I would give it an "A-" the acting was good, the character development was fabulous and, so, too, were the special effects; what was best of the film, however, is the theology: vampires are actually vampires in this film (not glamorized, mis-understood hunks and babes) but those who drink the blood of humans as an act of draining their soul of God's Grace (when we drink the Blood of Jesus, which we are supposed to do; vampires can only drink the blood of people not "protected" by the Blood of God).  Anyway, this is some of the best theology, top to bottom, I have seen in a really, really long time! The demons act just like demons! And SIN IS PUNISHED AS SIN!!! Hooray! This was done very well, and I am guessing, it might even be better than the books! So, I am getting the post up; there will be spoilers (the film opened today, Wednesday, August 21, so see the film before you read my post) but, what should you look for? I'll give you some hints,....
I do want you to know, there are two gay characters in the film: this guy, a warlock (a male witch, a man married to Satan who is given powers because of that) and Alec, one of the Shadowhunters. Wait, if Shadowhunters are good, how can one of them be gay or how can the film be good if it advances homosexuality? The US Bishops have said that, regardless of whether homosexuality is a pre-determined condition or cultural nurturing, those who say they are homosexual are, like hetrosexual singles, to practice chastity and abstinence, not engaging in any sexual activity. Alec doesn't. He gets seriously stung by a demon, and Magnus Bane (above) comes to "heal" him after seeing Alec earlier and saying he was "hot." Alec is left "responding" to Magnus' "healing," but just because Magnus saves Alec's life (for the moment), doesn't mean Alec's soul has been saved. Alec is in a coma, and who else is in a coma? Jocelyn (Lena Headey), Clarey's mom. Jocelyn was taking Clary to Magnus to block her mind so Clarey wouldn't know she is a Shadowhunter; did Jocelyn do the right thing? No. The Shadowhunters have a truce/accord with demons like Magnus, the werewolves and an uneasy truce with  vampires; it's not like in films such as the Underworld series, that demons are being allowed to live, or there is good in the demons, rather both agree not to use their power against the other unless the other steps outside the bounds of the accord. The thing is, just like we hear in the trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, evil can't help but show itself, and in the evil disguised as good of Magnus Bane, both Alec and Jocelyn are in "death-like states" because I am confident the sting (like a scorpion sting) was a foreshadowing of a sexual encounter between Magnus and Alec, and Magnus is the one who will really going to kill Alec (like in a sequel).
Definitely look for ALL references about drinking and eating. It's not JUST about the appetites, as we have been seeing in relationship to capitalism; it's about how we respond/react to reality: in the film, the spiritual plane, we eat truth (because it has to be digested) and we drink the troubles that will make us stronger and purge us of our weaknesses. The second hint: knowledge. Who provides who with knowledge? At what point? At what price? There are three types of knowledge in the film: the knowledge of the spiritual world, the knowledge that comes from memories, and the knowledge that comes from love. How are these forms of knowledge gained/lost? The last hint: how many fairy tale references can you catch? There is a particular one that we will discuss! If you see it, I hope you enjoy it half as much as I did, I was immediately ready to watch it again and catch some of the things I missed the first time (my ONLY complaint of the film is that there are times when I simply could not understand bits of dialogue; I had to do some research to try and find the bits I missed, but that happens in lots of films).
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner
If these Shadowhunters are half angel-half warrior, why do they dress so slutty and Gothic? The Gothic style is an emphasis on death (like their all black clothes) but the Shadowhunters were black because they are "dead to the world," the demons, on the other hand, are dead to the Spirit, and their "slutty" appearance or hood/gangster clothes are meant to attract or lure out the demons--hiding as humans--so they can be destroyed. The black of their clothes then, really means the "death" of the demons because demons can't discern or make any application of wisdom, because wisdom is a holy virtue, a Gift of the Holy Spirit which, demons, obviously lack.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

X-Men Days Of Future Past, The Grandmaster, Closed Circuit

Actually, this is really important. No, it's not some daring act for cool, beautiful actors to appear in their 70s grunge and ugly fashion; it's a direct and combative political statement. Anti-capitalists have been fond of citing events of the 1970s as being the cause of "degenerative capitalism" in America and the reason why we are such thoroughly terrible people today (consider, for example, Dark Shadows, Argo, parts of Cloud Atlas, the upcoming film Rush with Chris Hemsworth, The Conjuring and probably parts of Lee Daniels' The Butler). I can't be definite that X-Men: Days of Future Past will be pro-capitalist, however, given the exceedingly strong pro-capitalist message of The Wolverine, I can't imagine film makers will divert from that path for this film, leading us to an important question: why would the first official image released of the film (some minor, teasing posters have been released, however, this is the first official image of the film released) invoke the 1970s? First, we see three men united, they stand together; secondly, this is--from their awful clothes--obviously some time in the 1970s, and from the title, we know the days of the future are intimately tied to the days of the past, that who we were in the 1970s pre-figured who we are today. Given the outrageous anti-capitalist overtones of American Hustle, we can assume this image was chosen as a direct response against the images in the trailer for American Hustle (trailer below). (It's also highly possible that The Avengers 2: The Age of Ultron will throw us back to the 1970s because Ultron was conceived/born in the late 1960s). Last, but not least, we know the stories Days Of Future Past is based upon come from the magic year: 1981 (Evil Dead, Red Dawn, references by The Amazing Burt Wonderstone, Wreck-It Ralph, The Internship [referencing Flash Dance continually!] and Clark Kent coming to earth in 1981 in Man Of Steel) all remind us of the first year of the Ronald Regan presidency when American capitalism took full force over the economy and rekindled American confidence to really be a super-power.
Patrick Stewart made an awfully big claim that X-Men Days Of Future Past would be as big of a cinematic hit as The Avengers; from what we have seen in the post-credits scene of The Wolverine, and snippets released hither and thither, that the story is going to be loosely based on the concept of an alternate future for the mutants, the idea of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants killing an important senator causing all mutants to be hunted by sentinels (the robotic guards). It appears, further, that not only is the mutant Havoc going to be included in the story, but every mutant that has ever existed (please see the final image on this post for a 1950s sci-fi styled poster featuring Hugh Jackman as The Wolverine). As more information is released, I will be keeping you posted; at this point, X-Men Days Of Future Past has a release date for May 23.
Again, I want to emphasize, I could very well be wrong: films on opposite sides of the debate have employed the same images and language to use against the other side and confuse audiences about who is who. If we look at the poster on the left (and you may click on the image to expand it in another window), the rows and rows and rows and rows of the sentinels (robotic guards) clash with this rather intimate portrait of Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart, James McAvoy). How? The "portrait poster" reveals how everything that has happened to us becomes a part of us, it changes who we are, either through helping us abandon the bad or cling even tighter to the good, but history has shaped us. The sentinels, on the other hand, are not going to be influenced by what happens to them, except as hardware upgrades: robots are robots. We have seen characters like the robots in two other places: Seneg, the androgynous female Israeli soldier in World War Z, and the "peace keeper" guards in The Hunger Games Catching Fire. THGCF wants us to see the peacekeepers as mindless capitalists who protect the upper-class and their wealth while repressing everyone else (like the robot guards in Elysium). In World War Z, Seneg who doesn't even look female most of the time, has no personal identity and no history, the ideal of a good socialist who is a soldier for the state and has completely abandoned their individuality, and that's how I see the robots in the poster on the left. Whereas mutants are intensely individual, no one else has ever been or will be like them (emphasizing our own individuality), and our free will, our free choice to embrace our individuality or abandon it, and the choices we make all throughout our lives will ultimately determine which we decide to choose, but we cannot escape ourselves, and for Christians, this is a blessing, because it helps us draw nearer to Our Father and our destiny created just for us; for those who despise God or don't care, their very individuality becomes a curse, a burden, and they start hating themselves because they reject God living in them and turn away from God even more. This is the reason why socialists embrace the philosophy they embrace, and capitalists tend to embrace the philosophy they embrace.
Here is the trailer for American Hustle (an enormously talented cast included in this film) opening in December; the discussion of the Rembrandt is actaully meant as their commentary on America:
Here is the second trailer (containing more details about the narrative of Bruce Lee's martial arts master, Ip Man); the tagline for this is, "In martial arts, there is no right or wrong, only the last man standing." It's important that this Chinese film takes place between China and Hong Kong because of their different histories (Hong Kong was under British rule for nearly an eternity, and is now considered one of the "most free" markets in the world (free from government regulation, contra China's communist government and centrally dictated market).
I'm confident you recognize the beautiful, talented Ziyi Zhang (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Jet Li's Hero, House Of Daggers) who plays Gong Er in The Grandmaster. Her character challenges Ip Man to regain her family's honor, so she's a character of vengeance (however, she's probably also a character with whom the audience is meant to identify with because she is so famous and easily recognized). Here is the first trailer, with more "visual information" of how the film will communicate to us via body language, speed, color, and directed attention (like when we are having our attention directed on drops of water rather than a human; tradition tells us that an audience would rather be connecting with the humans on screen, however, this film [and there are certainly many, many others that do that as well] doesn't provide us with the option of "human interaction" for various moments, but forces us to consider the water):
How can we not be intrigued by this amazing choreography and filming? The film took ten years to film because of the director's perfectionism (and a couple of other films about the same man were released during this time frame); sadly, the film is being burdened by a reputation of a disjointed story line not making any sense. Because this is a Chinese film, the narrative offered is, quite simply, a version of how the Chinese want to see themselves (the way Tony Stark of Iron Man represents a vision of how Americans want to see themselves). The Grandmaster opens this weekend; it was supposed to open in my theater, however, it is not now, but perhaps it will make its way here; in any case, if you are a fan of films like Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, this will probably make your day. Opening next week is a drama most serious,... 
"They see your every move," is this supposed to remind us of the NSA scandal of the Obama Administration? Well, as we surmised with the immense popularity of Taken 2 (which opened the weekend of the Benghazi attacks and international riots by Muslims against the US) the best art is prophetic, that is, it knows the likely direction events are apt to lead us and gets there before we do so it can immediately offer its wisdom of why and how we got there and what we are supposed to do about it. With Closed Circuit (from the producers of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) the incredible amount of spying being done on citizens (in this case, Britain) still can't stop the terrorists from bombing and killing people (we also get an idea of how "controlled" English society is in Fast and Furious 6 with all the cameras everywhere and no one being able to own a gun except the criminals; yea, the police didn't even have guns).  
Martin (Eric Bana) and Claudia (Rebecca Hall) are ex-lovers who team together on a defense team to protect a terrorist; also starring Jim Broadbent (Dennis in The Iron Lady), Ciaran Hinds (The Debt, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) and Julia Stiles, the film will probably be a fantastic drama opening next weekend with Ethan Hawke's and Selena Gomez's Getaway.
A government working with terrorists, as we saw in Zero Dark Thirty, isn't anything new; however, in the atmosphere of Obama's Fast and Furious guns scandal and evidence of 20,000 US missiles being stolen last year, and Ambassador Chris Stevens being sent to Benghazi as part of an agreement to arm Syrian rebels (the Muslim Brotherhood), a film such as Closed Circuit could do the same as pro-socialist/anti-capitalist films we have been seeing: plant an idea in the mind of the audience that something is plausible so, when it happens (a government attacking its own people) we aren't incredulous to it, but can see a "pattern" of behavior and cover-ups.
Clary (Lily Collins) holds back an army of darkness and death, the ultimate shadows.
Again, this weekend, The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones opens and I'm looking forward to it. I am nearly done with the post for Elysium (I'm sorry, it's just hard writing about a film and focusing on it when you know all the energy went into making the film comes from hatred for you, and you had to pay to see the film) and I will be getting in to see Lee Daniel's The Butler this week; how did it do? It's legitimate to consider it an "indie film" as it doesn't have a major distributor; opening with just under $25 million this weekned, it nearly made back its entire $25 million budget in the opening weekend, so I think it has to be considered a financial success (whereas bigger films with bigger budgets from bigger studios didn't fare as well in their money ratios). Without having seen the film, of course, any or several actors could be up for Oscars so it's probably one to see, eventually. Eat Your Art Out, The Fine Art Diner 
The "spotlight" feature (the light on Wolverine and Shadowcat, and the darkened out edges of the poster to make a spotlight) and stylization reminds me of some of the classic film posters for the science fiction films of the 1950s. Why? Well, the films of the 1950s were largely a self-examination of who we are so we would know who the Soviets and Chinese communists were NOT. Again, this is speculation about the newest X-Men film. What is apparent, however, is that all the mutants are going to be teaming up together to fight this newest threat from Trask Industries. Why? There are times when even enemies must join together to fight an even greater evil, and from the post-credits scene of The Wolverine, that appears to be the case. We can say definitely that the X-men who defended people and fought for good, are now being the enemies and portrayed as bad; where is this happening with society? People like those in the Tea Party being called terrorists by the media and liberal politicians (and we see this exact same thing happen in Red 2 when Bruce Willis' and John Malkovich's characters are trying to save the world but corrupt government officials are trying to save themselves and label the good guys as "homeland terrorists"). Again, I could be wrong, not much information has come out about the film, but please consider this: The Internship (Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson) is almost as pro-capitalist as you can get, and several times in the film (in addition to Flashdance being invoked) the X-Men is watched by the group of interns to inspire them to work together, so I'm not the only one seeing the history/tradition of the film in this light. On another but important note, we have seen the rise of "team films" lately: The Internship (the individuals have to work together as a team), The Avengers (Tony Stark has to learn to play with others), Fast and Furious 6 (Dom's team and Hobbs needing that team), Mike and Sully teaming up with the fraternity in Monsters University, Gru joining the Anti-Villain League in Despicable Me 2, all the Joes working together (with Storm Shadow and Joe) in GI Joe Retaliation, the upcoming Batman and Superman film and, of course, X-Men. We see strong individuals, like Captain America and Wolverine, but they are able to sublimate their egos to join a team; why is this important? Because that's what is called for at this time in history. America has been somewhat of a "lone player" on the international scene for awhile, but it can't be like that anymore: we have to team up, Americans with Americans and on the larger, world stage. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Originality & Authorship: Interstellar & John Carter News

Christopher Nolan, like Alfred Hitchcock, is a master at understanding the mind of the viewer: he knows what we know, because he knows that we have seen the same movies he has seen, and he knows that we have certain ideas that come into our head when we see actors on screen portraying characters, i.e., he knows that we are aware of the world outside of the world the film tries to create. For example, in his film Torn Curtain with Julie Andrews and Paul Newman, Hitchcock knew the audience had seen films with Newman playing an American anti-hero, so when the question of his character's defection to the Soviet Union comes up, we more readily believe Micheal (Newman) has switched sides because we saw him do things like that in Hud; when Michael's girlfriend/secretary, played by Julie Andrews joins him in defection, we are stunned because we had just seen Andrews running away from socialists in The Sound Of Music, so the emotional impact is even more devastating and confusing because Hitchcock knew that the audience has an entire psychology wrapped up in going to see films, and he was able to tap into that when casting his actors to play certain characters; why is that important? Nolan taps into that world in a way most other film makers don't bother with, thereby increasing the dialogue Nolan has with his audience, and--quite frankly--deepening our bond with him and his films because we more quickly bond with someone when we have "spoken with them" rather than them speaking "at" us. Casey Affleck is in this film; what do you think of when you think of him? Certain films he has been in, OR is he still the little brother of Ben, who can't quite seem to break loose and come into his own? While Affleck is a good actor, there are a host of other actors Nolan could have cast, so when we see someone like Casey Affleck on a Nolan screen, we have to ask, "What does Nolan want us to be thinking when we see this?" Likewise, when we see Anne Hatheway's character, will Nolan want us to be thinking of her work as Cat Girl, or her Oscar winning role in Les Miserables? When Michael Caine comes on, will we instinctively think of Alfred the butler from Batman?
  If I had to name the top movie-maker in Hollywood today--producers, directors, actors, writers, anyone in the film making industry being eligible--I wouldn't even need one second to put Mr. Christopher Nolan (Memento, Inception, the Batman Trilogy, Man Of Steel) at the top, with only the entire Marvel department behind him. Nolan isn't just a man who makes things happen in a big way, he decides how everything is going to start happening and focuses on the audience, rather than the box office, suits or actors. If Nolan has made a decision, in other words, it's a decision that will be felt around Hollywood. In this very brief clip, Erin does a far better, and brief, job of summarizing the technicalities of Nolan's newest film, Interstellar, than my verbose self would, so please take just a moment:
When we hear of a new film being released, one of the first questions we should ask ourselves is, "What does this plot, narrative or story remind me of that has all ready been done? It reminds me of Ridley Scott's Prometheus, which I very much enjoyed in spite of some of the plot lines which created problems for others (please see The Great Betrayal: Prometheus & Death Of the Father for more). We haven't touched on this in awhile, so now is a good time to examine issues of that curse of the art world, the audience's concept of "originality." Without a doubt, when a new trailer comes on TV, someone says, "Why don't they do something original? Why are they just re-hashing the same old films?" There are two concepts contained in this statement: one, that such a thing as "originality" exists, and two that the viewer of the trailer recognizes features of this "new story" being advertised and can link it up to other stories they have seen. Because of the second concept, the first one doesn't exist; there is never ANY ORIGINALITY ANYWHERE, it has never existed at any time, place or in any medium, only the second concept exists. 
Is anyone else shocked to see this? I actually like John Carter, there were a number of levels--especially the political--that I thought the film did a great job on, so I made two posts on it. What everyone is apt to remember most upon hearing of this sequel being made is not the story like of John Carter, rather, the news stories of it bombing so bad at the box office. A sequel happens to be a great side note for our discussion on originality, because most people will hear "sequel" and instantly think, "They must not be able to come up with anything new, so (again) they are re-hashing what they have all ready done." Not true, my friend, not true at all. We have all ready seen the kind of man John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) is: we know what motivates him, what drives him, his faults as a character, his love, his fear, etc., so none of that CAN BE "re-hashed," the material for the next story is going to be going down into the "soul of the character," deeper and more meaningful decisions will have to be made and more serious consequences lived with as a result. In other words, instead of "spreading out" in a first film with plot and action diluting the character's identity with issues and virtues/sins, the sequel necessarily has to move inward, deeper into the characters because the more decisions and adventures they face, the more their behavior becomes a pattern, a code of social norms, of what is and is not acceptable in society to do/be. THAT becomes a moral stance by virtue of the same decisions being repeated over and over, for example, John Carter NOT seizing power to become a dictator, so it is re-enforced in the minds of Americans that anyone who makes a false show to gobble up power for themselves, is evil. Another example: Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) of the Pirates of the Caribbean. Whereas the first four installments demonstrated a "change of soul and conversion" Jack was going through (having experienced hell as being his very self) in the latest adventure, there is a new writer, who may take Jack into the throws of socialism rather than the sanctity of heaven (as Jack tells the missionary/preacher in the last film, I want to be with the goodie-goodies, and am willing to believe whatever I must to end up in the right place. Well, that's what's called "imperfect contrition," but it is still a level of contrition; the new writer probably won't have something like contrition enter into his plot line at all. So, there is a challenging level of "newness" with a sequel--who is this character imitating?--but the sequel, like the first story in the series, is only reflecting a larger truth all ready contained somewhere in reality, and the artists who best accomplish the accurate reflection of reality that we the audience recognize, is the artist that we label "original," perhaps because the art reflects what we consider the "origin" of art to be. 
When someone recognizes elements of a new film reflecting elements they have seen previously in other films, that is an act of "criticism," like what we do here, however, most people, in applying a template of the traditional narrative forms to a new film, and not seeing what they consider new in the story, assume it's a bad thing; by now, with all the references with painstakingly try to re-construct with films we discuss, I hope we see all art as really being a dialogue taking place: a dialogue involving the issues of the day and the stages of identity and development being revealed in culture and society, a re-evaluation of the norms, a conflict of those supporting the norms, but a dialogue, a debate, not a brand new, shining, fresh,. newborn creation every time. That just doesn't exist; why? All art reflects reality, and God is the Author of Reality, so everything is a reflection of God's Work.
The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones, opening next weekend, the last "summer movie" of 2013 (300: Rise Of An Empire was supposed to open next week but got moved to March 2014 for more time to re-film some of the key scenes). I haven't read the books, but I have been rather protective of this film, having read a comment left by someone on the YouTube page where I saw the trailer: "There isn't anything new or original in this film, just the same old one person chosen to save humanity, thanks, but I'll pass." Another angle on what I say below about a set number of tools, is the importance of which tools are being selected: the choice of tool regarding a person's destiny and free will is perhaps the most difficult tool for an artist to employ in this day and age because so many fail to see God anywhere at all in anything, and it's through destiny and free will (the freedom to choose the higher virtues rather than be enslaved by the appetites of worldly pleasures and pursuits) which best reflect God to us. This distinction between freedom of our will and slavery to our appetites is manifested by the idea within this film of a "shadow hunter," a half-human, half angel being, like what we see in Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Sea Of Monsters, with the demi-gods, half god, half human. The reason such a story line is so important to audiences right now, that this tool of free will and destiny is recurring again and again, is because,. as Milton wrote in Paradise Lost of Adam, "We are sufficient to stand, but free to fall," and films like The Mortal Instruments and Percy Jackson want to inspire us to be strong enough to stand, like our fore fathers, whereas films like The Conjuring and Elysium want to mis-lead us into falling while making us think we are really standing. When we have a "chosen" story like this, it's not--in this case--Clary (Lily Collins) who is chosen, it's YOU, in the audience, watching the film; YOU ARE CHOSEN, because you have a destiny that is solely yours, you have an identity solely yours and you have your own free will to do as you please. IF these things weren't somehow acknowledged by you, on one level or another, you wouldn't watch this film (or films like it, like Man Of Steel: that's not Clark Kent's power we see, it's your power and if you couldn't buy into the power of your free will you wouldn't watch it because you couldn't identify with it). When we see a trailer, and we go through this mystical process of deciding whether or not " it looks good" and we are going to see the film at some point in time, these issues of free will and slavery to the appetites is part of what goes through our head in working out that equation of whether, literally IT IS GOOD, i.e., it stands for virtues and "good things" you believe in or it stands for vice and bad things you don't believe in. The more aware we all become about the presence of our destiny and the power of our free will, the better choices we make and the better people we become; when we become who we have been destined to become, society becomes better. On the other hand, we have the freedom to give power and control over to our appetites, like the demons represented in The Mortal Instruments, and that abandoning of our duty, gifts and free will causes the spread of those vices throughout society. That's why art and our deepest engagement with it is imperative. 
You are, as always, invited to disagree with me; I am Christian, so for me, nothing can/does exist apart from God Who is the Creator of all things. When an artist (in any medium, painting, music, poetry, etc.) sets down to tell society what the artist wants society to know (even in the abstract language of music) about itself, the artist stands at a table, and there are a certain number of tools the artist can choose to utilize in telling that story (think of a carpenter working on a job, and he has wrenches, saws, hammers, screws, etc., from which to choose how to build another table). The tools never change, they always remain the same, but some artists, once in a while, will take a common tool used so many times in the past, and realize--what many would describe as a a "different way" of using that tool than it has been used before, and call it "new" and original. Is that new? No, it's ancient, because "seeing" is part of wisdom, and wisdom is the gift of prophecy, seeing how everything has happened before and will happen again in the future, is part of a larger, macro-event, or made up of smaller micro-events: the sublime ability to see something isn't new, it's just the sublime ability to see something--or a part of that something--more clearly than others have seen it before, yet, even as some new aspect comes into clearer, sharper focus for society, as they are led by the artists to share the "sight," an older vision fades away in its time and is forgotten, so we only have what is before us as our understandings of the same thing changes and we think it's new, but it's not. Is that as clear as mud?
Some works of art, on the other hand, make it a virtue to never see anything in a clearer, deeper light, rather preferring to see things exactly the same forever and ever because that's how they want to see it. Lee Daniel's The Butler opens this weekend; Jane Fonda portraying Nancy Reagan? Are they insane? Robin Williams portraying Dwight Eisenhower? Oprah Winfrey's slam against the Fox News Network, and those who watch Fox, almost guarantees a poor-turn-out for the film.
Let's say there is a mirror and "culture" is a face; the face looks in the mirror but can only see a small portion of the face at any time, never seeing the whole face at once. The mirror is God, because our whole purpose in life, as individuals and as humanity, is to see God our Father as He is (which won't be achieved until we reach Heaven). Trying to see God, however, not only allows us to see His Hand moving to bring about events in culture and history, but we see Him in His Glory within us, within our very self. That's the purpose and drive and meaning of art, and artists--and there are plenty of them--not trying to convey these concepts to the audience and humanity pursue trivial matters not worthy of their gifts given to them by God to see God. Again, you are more than welcome to disagree with me--the purpose of this post has been to make you reflect on how you interact with art, and why are is important in your life, why you engage with it and how you engage it--but please, do, think upon these issues now and in the future as you continue watching films and television shows, because there is a battle for your mind, as they saying goes, and you don't want a thief coming in and stealing what you didn't realize you had.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Monday, August 12, 2013

Maleficent Starring Angelina Jolie

While this is an intriguing poster, it's not the poster employed by Walt Disney Studios to promote its big 2014 release, Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie, the image directly below is. There is, however, an interesting feature I would like to discuss with this image: the background. The parchment-like background invokes parchment, an old form of paper upon which documents were written; why take this approach with a poster? For at least two reasons: first, it invokes the old fairy tale, the original narrative from the Grimm Brothers as the recorded it from oral history but, secondly an more importantly, it makes us question what is an old, important document for us as Americans? The Constitution. I haven't gotten my analysis on World War Z up yet, because I just can't believe that evil of a film was made, but therein--even in the trailer--we see the Constitution clearly for a brief moment (and that's all we see of it in the film, as well) and then we never see it again; it's not that it has been put in "safe keeping," rather, it's been taken away, because--according to the film, it's not needed anymore. Looking at the synopsis of Maleficent (included below) we can all ready surmise that it will be a pro-socialist film, with Maleficent symbolizing people like myself who believe in the Constitution and America as a super-power: the world is far better off in chaos, these films want us to believe, but having seen several films all ready, such as Mirror, Mirror, Snow White and the Huntsman and Oz the Great and Powerful, as well as The Hobbit, we can see how Maleficent will be fitting within a larger context and the issues it wants to tackle in the dialogue it will establish.
(This article has been updated with the latest trailer and discussion for Angelina Jolie's Maleficent at this link. The article at this link is the very best I have written on all aspects of Maleficent so far thus). Elysium came out on top this weekend with $30 million, a bit less than anticipated, and what is being called as "Jennifer Aniston's 'pot comedy' We're the Millers" came in second with $26 million. Why is this important? Again, it determines what actors are going to have work in the upcoming year, and what kinds of projects they will pick to work on. What I am TRULY upset about is how Elysium is being hailed as a great film (it still only has a D rating on Rotten Tomatoes) and how well it did this weekend, when it didn't do as well as Pacific Rim and had two major stars in it (Foster and Damon). Perfect example, my friends, of Hollywood liberal critics' bias. Something important happened this weekend we need to discuss,...  
Is it just me or does this look pretty,.... awful? No, it's not just me, it definitely looks awful. Why is it important how it looks? For two reasons: first, it demonstrates how, not only Maleficent, but Sleeping Beauty as well (we really shouldn't include that here, because it's being directed by Kenneth Branaugh who gave us the first, spectacular Thor, so if anyone will do a magnificent job, he will) and other Disney films, will be treated and, secondly, it gives us an idea of how the new Maleficent has been "resurrected" and how she will be portrayed. I mean, I think she looks like a vampire, which is what socialists have been labeling capitalists, like myself, and the synopsis we have been provided certainly seems to point in the direction of an anti-capitalist film. There are some more images of her, featured below. At the D23 convention this weekend, Ms. Jolie told about how her make-up was so good, it even scared the kids,... or maybe it was just that her make-up was so bad, the socialist mediocrity curse is what scared the kids,... Three of her own children are in the film, Vivienne, Pax and Zahara. As of yet, there is no date for the release of the first, official trailer, however, I will post it as soon as it becomes available; my guess is it will be attached to another big Disney film, such as Thor the Dark World, opening in November.
Every other year, Disney holds a fan convention where it announces future films and is supposed to give fans teasers available to no one else (footage of Maleficent was shown, however, I haven't been able to find any of it posted online): some of Disney's announcements and teasers came in the form of their highly touted film Maleficent starring Angelina Jolie (who, by no coincidence I am sure, was recently announced as Hollywood's highest paid actress,...). Although no footage as of yet is available, we do have some images (almost like they are confused about which way to go) and the synopsis of the film which appears to be definitively pro-socialist.
This poster is obviously a bit more "glamorous" but it's not the poster being used as the film's image poster (the one above is), rather, it's just concept art (and doesn't really fit in as well with what appears to be Maleficent actual appearance in the film, image below). In this poster, she appears more "serpentine" than vampiric, as the one above. The green skin, like Theodora (Mila Kunis) in Oz the Great and Powerful, is meant to convey the sense of the opposite of hope, that something is rotted and decayed. Her darker green eyebrows (you can click on the image and a larger version will open so you can get a better look at it) frames the blue eyes, so she's not only rotten herself (her green skin) but she sees everything as being rotten (the eyebrows frame our eyes and reveal how we frame the world). Why are the eyes in blue? Blue either denotes wisdom or depression, because the path of wisdom is often a path of sad experiences. In Maleficent's case, there might be some wisdom--like, for the film makers, her seeing the "wisdom" that Obama is really a better option for America than her old ways--but mostly it will be depression and her own inner-sadness driving her. Her big lips highlight her "appetites" and the pink color chosen--they almost look chapped, don't they?--either denotes femininity or love that has not been perfected (pink is diluted red, or red that hasn't "matured" like an early love that hasn't yet proven itself through deeds). On the left side of her face there appears to be a scar, and it might be, but it's probably "smoke" or "stench" rising up to wrap her, like the "smoke" or vapors around her neck. My first thought is it reminds me of the Angel Of Death from Cecil B. DeMille's Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston, when the Angel--as a green vapor--comes down from heaven, winding its way through the Egyptian streets and homes, killing all the first-borns. In the poster, it's probably just meant to invoke the presence of her "rotten magic" to get rid of the invading king. Not wanting to join forces with the invading king is probably why the film makers have retained the iconic widow's peak head-dress of Maleficent from the original animated film: Maleficent's country has died (according to the synopsis) leaving her a widow, and she doesn't want to accept the new king, hence, she wants to remain, symbolically, unwed, by not uniting herself to the new world order. An important note about the film, it was originally slated to open July 2, 2014, scheduled to be a huge, 3D blockbuster (the film's budget is $200 million); now, it's been moved to the more "modest" opening date of March, along with Hercules 3D and 300: Rise Of An Empire. The suits at Disney must not think the film turned out very well, and it's highly probable that their epic fail in The Lone Ranger has them moving the film to more secure footing. I PROMISE, in January, we will thoroughly examine the original Sleeping Beauty story, the fairy tale and the Walt Disney version (because that's what most of us are going to be mentally comparing the film to in our minds, and that's some serious baggage for film makers to deal with in a new adaptation). Originally, in the Disney animated version, we can say that Aurora, the princess, pricking her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel, symbolizes the loss of her virginity; why? She wants to marry the young man she met in the woods, not the prince she has been destined for, so what is it likely she did as an act of revolt? Slept with the man she wanted to be with, not the man chosen for her, and the spinning wheel has long been a symbol of fate and destiny, while the pointed spindle is a phallic symbol, with the pricking of her finger, and the resulting blood, easily being the breaking of the hymen resulting in the loss of virginity. This symbol interpretation has ENORMOUS consequences because of when the film was made, at the end of World War II when, like Aurora, the US had to face which path it would take: remain in the backwoods of a country mired by the Great Depression and just be "another country," or accept our destiny and our place as a super power in the world (Aurora being a princess, not just a maiden in the forest). Again, there is a ton to discuss, but just as Sleeping Beauty was used at the end of World War II to decide where we as a nation would go, so it's being used now with the Obama Administration in deciding if we are going to retract into the woods and become, as Obama as said he hopes we will, a country on the same level as everyone else, or if we will revolt against him, undo what he has done and become a super-power again.
The official synopsis: "A beautiful, pure-hearted young woman, Maleficent has an idyllic life growing up in a peaceable forest kingdom, until one day when an invading army threatens the harmony of the land. Maleficent rises to be the land's fiercest protector, but she ultimately suffers a ruthless betrayal an act that begins to turn her pure heart to stone. Bent on revenge, Maleficent faces an epic battle with the invading king's successor and, as a result, places a curse upon his newborn infant Aurora. As the child grows, Maleficent realizes that Aurora holds the key to peace in the kingdom and perhaps to Maleficent true happiness as well." So, how can we say Maleficent is going to be pro-socialist? By the films we have all ready seen: Mirror, Mirror, Snow White and the Huntsman, Oz the Great and Powerful. 
On the left is a very bad poster--Maleficent looks cross-eyed (click on image to view a larger version)--with the dragon Cynder who must be making an appearance in the film; in the center is Smaug, the dragon Bilbo Baggins must battle in the December release The Hobbit: the Desolation Of Smaug and, on the right, the tail of the giant lizard Godzilla, opening sometime next year. What do they all have in common? Dragons/lizards; why is that important? The tagline for Maleficent is, "Evil has a beginning," and for Christians, like myself and who are the majority of readers here, that beginning is literally THE BEGINNING, when Satan revolted against God, was cast out of Heaven and banished to hell and who took revenge on God by going into the Garden of Eden and leading Adam and Eve to sin. We can see this idea being retained in Maleficent through her iconic horns, like those of a goat, one of the traditional symbols of the devil, as is a dragon/lizard. Because Satan took the form of a serpent--a reptile--in the Garden of Eden, reptiles often convey Satan's presence, especially dragons, because dragons are "unnatural" beings, like Satan--it is natural to love God because He is our Father and Creator; not loving God is unnatural. In The Hobbit: the Desolation Of Smaug, Bilbo has to overcome the dragon Smaug to win the treasure (in the central image, a tiny Bilbo is in the center-right of the image, along with all the gold, much like what we saw in the treasure room of Oz the Great and Powerful and Oscar having to defeat the witches, who are always brides of Satan). It's unclear in Maleficentt if she turns herself into the dragon or the dragon is one of her servants, however, has Maleficent becomes more evil, she looses her own identity to be absolved by the Satanic images in the film. Why is this important? The foundational beliefs of Christianity has been turned against Christians, to make us look like we are the devil for not embracing the changes Obama has brought to this country, the same as we see in The Conjuring, and anyone wanting a house becoming demonically possessed (please see The Devil's Hour: The Conjuring & Demonic Possessions for more). On the other side of the debate, we can see how both Smaug and Godzilla invaded a country and caused mass destruction and ruin, and in both cases, Obama--who has ruined this country according to many, like myself--can be likened to Smaug and Godzilla, taking the exact opposite approach (which has been typical of films as of the last two years, two films utilizing the exact same image to convey utterly opposite ideas).
The invaders would be allegorical to the Obama Administration (and it's interesting to note that the invading king's successor is a bastard, a half-human and half-fairy, I will let you make that connection yourself), those socialists who have come to this country and have given "change" just like what was promised, just not what was expected. Maleficent, then, would be just like the zombies in World War Z: people who are trying to defend the Constitution, fighting for the way of life we have always known and cherished in our idyllic, peaceful kingdom. The "ruthless betrayal" people like myself have come to suffer is that betrayal of our Constitutional rights and limitations of government power, turning our hearts to stone as Obama takes more and more power, and less and less responsibility for corruption in his administration. The child Aurora, symbolically the fruit of Obama's administration and his legacy, is supposed to be the key to peace in the US and our own happiness, I guess.  
An image of Ms. Jolie as Maleficent on the set during filming. It appears this is some kind of battle scene and there are numerous cows appearing with her. What has been verified as a false script was leaked online, however, there are a few more details we can pinpoint. Queen Ulla, portrayed by Miranda Richardson, is a fairy queen and the aunt to Maleficent but the aunt and niece apparently don't get along. Sam Riley portrays Diaval, a raven who changes into human form to serve Maleficent. In the image above, Maleficent wears a very non-glamorous brown robe, highlighted with yellow trim; where else have we seen someone magical wearing brown? Radagast the Brown from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Brown, the color of earth, denotes either humility--because, like St. Francis, we know we are but dust and to dust we shall return, so we don't become proud and arrogant--or filth, like, as in, human waste, because a person has "sullied themselves" with bad behavior. We have no idea what is going on in this image, but the yellow trim provides an intriguing clue: yellow, the color of gold, either denotes royalty--because only royalty can afford gold and it's the gift most often given to them, or a person has become so good, their soul has been refined like gold, so they are "royal" amongst common people--or cowardice (a yellow stripe) because royalty is supposed to be brave and go first in battle, if they aren't doing that, it's a sign of cowardice. We know from the synopsis that Maleficent fights bravely for her kingdom, so we can surmise (though I could very possibly be wrong) that this moment in the film conveys to us a time when Maleficent is still "good" and hasn't yet made her turn to evil.
In Mirror, Mirror, Snow White and the Huntsman and Oz the Great and Powerful, we saw rulers who had unjustly usurped the throne and brought ruin to the once-prosper kingdoms as they reach for more and more power, causing everyone to suffer for their greedy agendas, just like we see in Obama (please see The Peacock vs the Swan: Mirror, MirrorThree Drops Of Blood: Snow White and the Huntsman and Ghosts, Evil Spirits & the Undead: Oz the Great and Powerful for more). This theme will be continued in both The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug and Godzilla when the Satan figures of Smaug and the giant lizard Godzilla will also bring ruin to what was once prosperous. Keeping track of which films take which sides, and advance which points of the socialist-capitalist debate ("socialism" and "capitalism" were the two most searched words on the Internet, if you will recall) isn't a boring hobby or snobbish past-time, rather, IT'S HISTORY IN THE MAKING, the tidal waves of culture creating, destroying and re-creating itself are all being documented in our art as we speak, and the success or failure of these films reveals the real success or failure of Obama's "Hope" and "Change" administration and exposes what people really think, and the direction our culture is really taking, for better or for worse.
Robert Stromberg directs Maleficent. He has twice won Oscars for his work in production design and he was the designer for Oz the Great and Powerful, so we shouldn't be surprised at the similarities we see between these two title banners; however similar their appearance is, the meaning is utterly different in both. In Oz the Great and Powerful, the dominant green color--invoking the Emerald City--is meant as a sign of hope, because Oscar wants to become a great man and his trip to Oz is his chance to do that; as he learns, however, you can't become a great man without first becoming a "good man," and while Oscar hopes to get gold for himself, he must first become gold, i.e., the good man who has been refined by the fire of tribulation and has embraced goodness and virtue rather than worldliness and greed. In Maleficent, the green denotes the "rottenness" of Maleficent, that she has abandoned hope and some evil has taken hold of her heart to make her side with evil, which is the cause of the metal (bronze?) in the lettering of the title, that she has become hard, rather than refined and made better. The columns in the structure in the background of the title banner probably invoke how, instead of being a "pillar" of the community, she is trying to tear down the community by tearing down those who are the "new pillars" of the "new community." The makers of Maleficent seem to be making a big deal about making the villain Maleficent a hero (ultimately with her conversion to accepting the new world order which Aurora will symbolize) but we will see the same process--but in a different direction--with Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in Thor the Dark World. While Loki isn't the main hero of the film, he is loved by the audience who roots for him to turn from his own hardened and bitter heart (he feels betrayed by being adopted and not ruling Asgard) to accepting the love of his brother Thor (Chris Hemsworth). This is the film which Maleficent will most likely parallel in narrative and structure, but that's just a guess.
I will, as always, keep posting news, images and trailers as soon as they become available!
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner
Another poster for the film.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Planes & Percy Jackson Sea Of Monsters

There isn't a post-credits scene, but there is an "announcement" at the very end of the credits that Dusty Crophopper will be returning in Planes Fire and Rescue, and by the end of this film, you're happy to hear that. Dusty isn't perfect, and he certainly has his flaws, however, the film does everything perfectly! I hope by now, dear reader, the importance of animated films and the message they convey to kids is upper-most in all our thoughts and, I have to say--along with Despicable Me 2 and Monsters University--I can't think of a better pro-America film to show your kids full of the virtues of hard-work, going after your dream and letting yourself be inspired by the greatness of others. There's quite a bit beneath the surface of this simple film, so I hope it does well! The hype in this weekend's box office is a "battle of the budgets," with Planes being made for a mere $50 million (pretty cheap for an animated film--but I can't say it shows up in the production work, a good, high-quality film like what you would expect) whereas Elysiumcost $115 million. It's expected that Planes and Elysium will be in a close-call for first and second place in box office turnout this weekend, opening around the $30 million mark for both films. Again, why is this important? It helps determine what kinds of films will be made. With animated films getting so much money--again, many families assume that because a film is animated, it's going to contain family values, and while there might not be foul language and sex in the film, that doesn't mean there won't be political messages and liberal values--the chances of a studio deciding to back an animated film over a science fiction film greatly increases because that's how capitalism works. On the other hand, if Elysium has a huge haul, it could guarantee contracts for Matt Damon and he could have a greater influence in his liberal films being made. 
Yesterday was a great day! I saw two wonderful films and could not have been happier with either one! Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Sea Of Monsters was a good film, great philosophy of identity going into the plot development and, compared to Percy Jackson and the Olympians: the Lightening Thief (which I would grade at a B or B- level, the directing wasn't good enough for the script, so the kids' acting suffered) I would give Sea Of Monsters a B or a B+; most of all, however, this was a fun fun fun 3D film to watch! It's terrible when you pay the extra for the 3D and the film doesn't give you the 3D effects, but Sea Of Monsters certainly does, so that was enjoyable. I saw Planes only in 2D (the show times were strange for yesterday) but the theater was packed, so, if you are going to see it today, consider getting those tickets before you go or risk a sold-out film. I didn't see Elysium (it's harder to concentrate on getting a post done when I have seen too many movies at once) but I will see it probably tomorrow afternoon. Let's get caught up on a few film news tidbits,... 
Really, I am truly impressed with some of the aspects of this screenplay; now, you know I hark on details most people never even notice, however, Grover (Brandon T Jackson) telling Percy he needs to make sure his health insurance is paid up before they embark on their quest, reflects the reality of the Obamacare debates waging in the country; don't buy it? Tyson (Douglas Smith) sees the Capitol building in Washington DC and thinks it's Olympus and starts praying to Zeus to help them on their quest; Grover then drives the point home by saying the gods of Olympus are like politicians in that they only care about themselves. We who gather here in this little corner of cyber-space not need validation for our efforts to interpret and understand the values and morals that go into creating art, but it's nice when they throw us a bone supporting that their story is a metaphor for the larger issues taking place in society today. Stanley Tucci's character, Mr. D, didn't pan out the way I thought he would (it was because of the way the trailer was constructed, but that happens, no big deal) but he is a fascinating character. Having been punished by Zeus, the god of wine and revelry can't drink any wine: whenever he pours a glass the wine turns into water. He then says, the Christians have a God who can do this trick in reverse; now that's a God! Brilliant. That is one LOADED statement and we will explore that in the upcoming post I am working on now.
Bruce Willis will not be returning for Expendables 3: there has been a pay dispute, but Mel Gibson and Anotonio Banderas have confirmed they are villains in the film that will also feature Wesley Snipes. There is a sequel set for Now You See Me (Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo) set for 2014 (I haven't gotten that post up yet, but I thoroughly enjoyed the film [I read the synopsis before going in so I knew what was going to happen] and getting that post up ASAP is a priority). Two Paranormal Activity films are slated for release in 2014 and, while a Batman and Superman film has been confirmed, (Henry Cavill returning as Clark Kent) who will play Batman has not been confirmed. I am currently working on Percy Jackson and Planes!
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner