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).