Friday, February 28, 2014

Bond 24 To Begin Production In October

Just between me and you, IMHO, Skyfall was the film of the year. I would have given it a grand sweep at the Oscars. It was the film of the year. It's not just that it's the best Bond film ever--in terms of utilizing the greatest number of resources at its deposal, and undermining its target with the greatest ammunition--but also that it all came together so well and so effortlessly. So, news has finally surfaced about the next film, and I am most grateful for it,...
Filming is scheduled to begin on the twenty-fourth Bond film--title has not yet been disclosed--in October, with a US release date of November 6, 2015. In fact, that's really the only thing that has been disclosed: we don't even know who the villain will be. It is obvious that both Daniel Craig and Ralph Fiennes will be returning in their respective roles, and it's assumed that Ben Whishaw will return as the quartermaster "Q" and Naomie Harris will continue playing Eve Moneypenny. Skyfall's director Sam Mendes (who has vowed he wouldn't do another Bond film) is returning--Christopher Nolan had been offered the job but turned it down for upcoming work at Warner Brothers--so Mendes was offered an obscene amount of money (good, he deserves it) and stayed as director; likewise, John Logan is the screenwriter once again (good, he's fabulous!).
So far so good.
Now, the speculation begins,...
I don't know as much as I should about the Bond Canon--but I do know there is an "official" Canon and an "unofficial" canon--and inhabiting part of the blurred regions was a villain by the name of Ernst Stavro Blofeld who was the leader of the evil organization SPECTRE; the villain appeared in books, but due to various copyright laws--someone else actually created Blofeld, from what I understand--he hasn't met Bond on the big screen. Settlements and agreements have been reached with the proper parties, it has been reported, so the road is paved for SPECTRE to be incorporated into the silver screen Bond legacy. That doesn't mean that's what is going to happen, but it could; something else might be brewing with Bond 24, but as soon as some casting news has been released, we will have a better idea.
I did see Son Of God this evening, and it was quite moving. I am getting that post up right now (I needed to check out one more thing on Thor the Dark World before getting that post up; sorry!). If you have been thinking of going to see Son Of God this weekend, by all means go, especially if you are going to boycott Ellen DeGeneres at the Oscars because that is certainly what I am doing.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Fast & Furious 7: Production Update

THIS just in,...
One of the most anticipated films of 2015 is the delayed Fast and Furious 7 which, we are now learning, was only about half-way through production at the time of Paul Walker's death in November (rumors stated they had nearly finished production), and Walker still had numerous scenes left to film.
It has been released today that production will finally move forward: as previously noted, Walker's character, Brian, will be in the film and retired (as opposed to being killed); the studio has the upmost respect for Walker, his character and fans, and they plan on giving him a worthy farewell. The footage Walker has filmed will be used, but--at this time--no further details have been released, and it's possible details won't be released until after the film is released to avoid any possibility of negative publicity around such a sensitive and difficult issue.
Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) in extended footage off the Blu-Ray for Fast & Furious 6. It has been disclosed that Fast & Furious 7 opens with the funeral of Hans who was killed in the post-credits scene of Fast and Furious 6. Dom and the crew stand around Hans' grave and vow vengeance, learning that Hobbs himself is somehow tied up and probably won't be able to help them.
It had been rumored that Walker's brother Cody would step in for Paul's last scenes, but apparently the studios have opted out of that. Shooting is to resume in Atlanta on April 1. With production lasting 6-8 weeks, that should provide director James Wan (The Conjuring) about a year to get the film ready for opening during the summer of 2015 (F & F 7 was originally slated for July 11, 2014).
At this point in time, the story line that has been released follows the post-credits scene of Hans' death in Tokyo. Ian Shaw (Jason Statham) seeks revenge for his brother's Owen's death (Luke Evans, Fast & Furious 6). Dom and the crew had returned to the US and living "normal" lives, when they attend Hans' funeral and realize what is happening. At the same time, a "bombshell" (as it has been described) about Hobbs (Johnson) is dropped, and Dom vows revenge for Hans' death, as well as realizing they have to take out Shaw before Shaw takes them out.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner
Hobbs (Johnson) and Dom (Vin Diesel) in a clip from F & F 7.
 

The Avengers 2: Age Of Ultron NEWS

This just in,...
The second film from Marvel Studios in The Avengers line-up, The Age Of Ultron, has gone into production, with filming starting in Johannesburg, South Africa. Marvel is airing a promotional special on Prime Time on Tuesday, March 18, on ABC, called Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe (8/7 c). The special will start with Iron Man, and go forward with the scenes from all the Marvel films and feature exclusive interviews with the stars and film makers. Additionally, the show will have footage from Captain America: the Winter Soldier, and The Age of Ultron due out next summer. Due to computer problems, I am so sorry, I haven't been able to get the Thor post up, but trying to get it done, there is just so much in that film!
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ghostbusters 3, Godzilla #2, & X-Men Trailer

As you probably know, Harold Ramis of Ghostbusters fame passed away on February 24. Ramis had penned the first two Ghostbusters films, and at least contributed to the third screenplay that was finally greenlighted by fellow-comedian Bill Murray and was set to begin production some time this year. It was not disclosed, prior to Ramis' death, how big a role--if at all--he was going to have in the film, but some details have been released today. Ghostbusters 3 is supposed to be about a new generation of Ghostbusters, with the original cast mentoring in the background (basically, "cameo" status). According to reports, Ramis will be very missed, but his sad passing will not have an impact on the film.
Rest in peace.
In other news, this brief "teaser" (I don't think 0:05 qualifies as teaser status) depicting head shots of the mutants of X-Men Days Of Future Past, set for release on May 23, is meant to alert us to a new trailer about to be released,... well,... no news on what lucky film will have the new trailer attached to it, although it could be 300: Rise Of An Empire or, they might even wait until the April 4 release of Captain America: the Winter Soldier:
There are a lot of incredible films about to come out, including the Son Of God film, being released this weekend. According to Fox panelists who have viewed the film, it's incredible and has the power to truly rejuvenate one's faith (I will be seeing it this weekend). Also opening this weekend is the newest from Liam Neeson, Non-Stop, about a sheriff on boar an airplane who is framed for causing murders:
It's my humble opinion, that Neeson's character symbolizes the Tea Party, because who else has been "policing" and trying to save the "ship of state" (the United States government) and then been framed to make it look like they are the killers even though they are trying to help? There is really only one trailer released, so I could be wrong about what the whole film has in store, but I am interested in it. Also opening this weekend is the Russian film Stalingrad. Anyone who knows anything about World War II knows that this was probably,.... the most,.... intense,... long-suffering,.... horrific,.... "war within a war" between the invading Germans and the Russian people of Stalingrad defending their city:
There were times, the fighting was so intense between Germans and Russians, that battles were fought over rooms in a single building. Of course, these are communist Russians fighting socialist Germans, so which side do we identify with (again, this is a Russian film; why would Russia make this? To remind themselves of who they are and where they came from)?
3 top-notch actors being considered for the role of the prime villain in Star Wars VII, Michael Fassbender (left), Adam Driver (middle) and Hugo Weaving (right), but it's Driver who has landed the coveted role (you might remember him as Al Cody from Inside Llewlyn Davis and the song Please, Mr. Kennedy). This is significant because Driver is the only cast member who has been absolutely tied to the project. Yes, Princess Leia and Luke and Hans are, but it's not definite how big of roles they will actually have, although director JJ Abrams has said he wants to give the original cast a proper farewell before letting the younger generation take center stage in Star Wars 8 & 9 (Star Wars VII will reportedly pick up were Return Of the Jedi left off). It's expected that more cast members will be announced in the next month.
Now, opening next weekend (March 7) is 300: Rise Of An Empire, which, as you know, I am anticipating to ridiculous degrees, so much so, that I have will a whole post just on what has been released; why? Well, I have discovered a rather interesting character in the line-up, and want to research him a bit more before writing about it, but it could add a remarkable degree of depth to the film. Prior to that, I hope to touch on the original 300 at least a bit, because we all know, just by looking at the new one, it's going to be referencing what happened with Leonides and we will have to refer back to 300 anyway.
Son Of God is quite likely to get hit with liberal criticisms, and we just need to keep in mind that these probably aren't criticisms of the film, rather, Christianity in general. The film has been picking up greater tracking increasing the likelihood of a comfortable box office opening weekend.  
Also coming out the weekend of March 7 is Wes Anderson's newest, The Grand Budapest Hotel. I am quite confident the film will be pro-socialist (since Ralph Fiennes plays a businessman, the owner of the Hotel) :
Now, Captain America: the Winter Soldier is going to be so big, I can't even stand it. Truly, that movie is going to be so phenomenal, I can't contain myself (Marvel's other film, Thor the Dark World is so amazing, I keep writing and writing on it because there is so much to cover I can't even begin to exhaust it).  I will dedicate an entire post to Captain America before the April 4 opening, however, this is the second trailer (which debuted during the Super Bowl); this trailer is loaded, so there is a ton to decode and explore, so just be thinking about it:
Late last week, this TV spot was released, potentially revealing what critics have been describing as a "massive spoiler," and that is, the question of whether or not Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) dies in this film when Captain says, "Fury's last words to me were don't trust anyone":
It is possible that Fury dies, however, I have a gut feeling, it could be a "fake death," rather like what we see with Loki in Thor the Dark World, that Fury realizes he has to excuse himself from events because he's making bad decisions that only the pure, righteous heart of Steve Rogers can make for the greatest possible good, then Fury comes back towards the end of the film. That's my guess,... and I'm probably wrong.
Yesterday, I posted on Godzilla, which included a trailer with just the voice of actor (I erroneously called him the director, so sorry) and today, the entire trailer has been released. What an interesting venue of publicity, really, that worked quite well for them, because all the film world was a-buzz, so we might see this technique employed again. 
What happened in 1954? To begin with, the very first EVER Godzilla film opens in Tokyo of that year. This is also the year that McCarthyism begins with the "hunt for Communists" throughout Hollywood, government and the military; by the end of the year, the Senate voted to condemn McCarthy for his "witch hunts." The Godzilla we see in the trailers is the biggest Godzilla ever, just over 100 stories tall, yet the film makers have gone to great lengths to tie-in the "new" monster with the original Godzilla (like the Japanese characters on the posters) and there are at least two reasons: first, to appease the fans who offer us the perfect example of the "implied viewers," those who have a working knowledge of the Godzilla genre and will be able to catch the references to past Godzilla films and lore.
Secondly, the original Godzilla was created to give a tangible representation to the horror of the US destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the unprecedented use of atomic bombs that destroyed the entire areas where they were dropped. We could say, then, that Godzilla is the greatest monster ever created (his nickname is "King of the Monsters") because he symbolizes the greatest acts of destruction that have ever occurred in history. Given that, we have to ask ourselves, what great act of destruction is happening in America to warrant the "resurrection" of the King of the Monsters? Who in America could be compared to Godzilla regarding the amount of destruction, chaos and fear they are spreading?
Art has purpose.   
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Godzilla & the Stone Age

I am nearly done with my post on Thor the Dark World, which comes out today. If you have been to the theater at all the last month or so, there is a good chance you have caught the newest remake of Godzilla. We've discussed the film briefly, specifically, how the original Godzilla symbolizes for the Japanese the horror of what the US had done in destroying Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the atomic bomb (most people in film admit this) and the Godzilla monster, then, was a catharsis for what they had undergone; a chance takes place, however, (which most film critics would not admit to) and that is, a point comes for the Japanese people when other monsters they are facing are worse than Godzilla and they have to call upon Godzilla to help them, in other words, the monsters of socialism and communism, to which their Asian neighbors were falling (Vietnam, North Korea, and of course, China and the Soviet Union) were being warded off from Japan by the very monster who brought ruin to Japan to begin with: the United States. SO, seeing that Godzilla has been remade, and is attacking America, we have to ask: Who does Godzilla symbolize today?
My initial reaction is, Obama. Who else is going all around the country, terrorizing people by taking their rights away with his executive orders, destroying health insurance and destroying America? I had second thoughts about this thesis, however, when I really thought about seeing Godzilla in San Francisco (which I am going to assume Godzilla starts out at, on his "tour" of America); why? Well, San Francisco is well-known as the gay capital of the world, and it makes more political sense to see conservatives and Christians--who would want to block "gay marriage"--as being the "monster" tearing up San Fran (my great-grand uncle is a Methodist minister who volunteers for Planned Parenthood, and claims that the greatest obstacle in America right now are Republicans, the Tea Party and dumb Christians, yea, that's my uncle who claims to be a minister). Again, there are a lot of liberal films coming out, so we could see Godzilla as representing someone like myself who does want to destroy liberalism as a monster. On the other hand, this tongue-in-cheek trailer (it is official) was released today:
The year 1998 was mentioned; there were significant earthquakes and tsunamises that year, but something else significant happened, and it was only the second time in US history that it occurred: then-President Bill Clinton was indicted on 4 counts of impeachment. Why should we care about that? One of the last things director Cranston says is, "back to the Stone Age." I have been screaming, like a lunatic, that the Progressives in this country are really "digressives" and those are the ones who want to send us back to the Stone Age (Moonrise Kingdom, Savages, The Lone Ranger, Jack the Giant Slayer, Gravity, Pompeii and probably Noah will, all qualify as films supporting the destruction of technology in favor of the environment and a "better" society, but where there is technology, there is a market for that technology, so, do away with technology, and you do away with a major driving force of the market, not to mention, people who do not have technology are far easier to control than people who do have tech available to them).
In this poster, we can see how the destruction the monster has caused IS the monster's very identity: given that Obama hasn't "built" anything or done anything of positive value in America, is this a portrait of him, known only for what he has destroyed in the country, like health insurance and the economy? It's still too early to say, this film could praise him and destroy someone like myself, so we will have to pay attention to the details.
So, going back to 1998, the point would be that Clinton's impeachment wasn't an isolated event, and his "relations" with that woman, Monica Lewinsky, were not "natural," but also his lying was not natural, rather, it's all part of a plan liberals have had to destroy America. Actually, as you can probably guess, I would buy that. One certainly can't negotiate away the closeness between the Obamas and Clintons, and that Bill Clinton is thought of as a "rock star" by Democrats, who are so impoverished in terms of leadership, that only someone who has been impeached is eligible to "lead them."  Here is the same clip but only with Cranston talking and it's much clearer:
There is a ton more to discuss on this, and we will, but I did want to get a post up and let you know I am nearly done with Thor, so we will revisit Godzilla very soon! Eat Your Art Out, The Fine Art Diner

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Legend Of Hercules vs Pompeii: Pure Art vs Indoctrination

Neither Pompeii nor The Legend Of Hercules are very good films, however, their shared plot lines, and where those plot lines vary, reveal a great deal about the film makers behind them, offering the perfect platform for talking about the films without having to really talk about their weak points. Both films, for example, take place in ancient times (remember, dear reader, history films are never ever never ever NEVER about history, they are ALWAYS about the here and the now, always); both films have male heroes who are strong and fight in arenas like gladiators. Both male heroes see threats to not being with the woman they love, which they must overcome. Both heroes are enslaved and both heroes face the wrath of a tyrant against them, and both heroes had their mothers die at the hand of that tyrant. In both films, the woman is kept from the man she loves for political reasons. In both films, the heroes have gods on their side. Now, the two, primary differences between Pompeii--making it a socialist film--and The Legend Of Hercules--aiding in it being pro-capitalist--is that Hercules finds happiness and success at the end, whereas in Pompeii, there is no chance of happiness. If the film makers of Pompeii had wanted to provide a happy ending, it would have been possible, however, they intentionally chose an ending where everyone dies. On the other hand, it looks like The Legend Of Hercules has a sad ending, the princess stabbing herself so she can't be used against Hercules, but she recovers, they are married and have children, and live a long, prosperous life, so in blatant denial of the odds, The Legend Of Hercules provides a happy ending because it knows that a glimmer of hope is essential to the human condition, regardless of how hopeless circumstances appear to be. Another important similarity is that both films have treason against the crown as a theme (which we also see in Star Trek Into Darkness [Cap. Kirk having to decide if the Admiral is lying or telling the truth], 47 Ronin [when the Ronin band together to overthrow the lord who overthrew their lord] and Thor the Dark World [when Thor has to go against Odin and leave Asgard to try and kill Malkith]). In Pompeii, Milo commits treason by defiling the Eagle Standard and refusing to follow the "rules" of the arena; in The Legend Of Hercules, Hercules and those who have been abused by the tyrant rise up against the tyrant to reclaim their homeland and establish justice and prosperity for all (sound familiar?). Pompeii, then, calls for treason via revolution against the state, whereas The Legend Of Hercules calls for treason against the state that has failed to follow the laws of the state. 
This is an issue we absolutely must discuss.
When I, or anyone, applauds or condemns a film for being "socialist" or "capitalist," depending upon our respective positions, we base our reaction upon how the film measures against our beliefs. What is the difference between the beliefs of the liberals and beliefs of those generally considered conservative (myself included)? Liberals would say films that are capitalist are propaganda, but I would say films that are liberal are indoctrination; what does that mean? "Indoctrination" and "propaganda" are both political terms (which usually have negative connotations in America, but aren't meant to); is "pure art," free of political presence, possiblePompeii, just released this weekend, is obviously pro-socialist, but it bears striking plot similarities to The Legend Of Hercules which came out about a month ago, and is pro-capitalist. By comparing these two films, I hope to distinguish what the two positions are--indoctrination & propaganda, against the traditional role of art or "pure art" (and trust me, that phrase "pure art" has huge problems with it, but we'll just bracket those for the time being). Here is the trailer for Pompeii:
When the trailer was first released, I thought this was going to be a pro-socialist and it didn't disappoint, it was pro-socialist. Here is the trailer for The Legend Of Hercules:
The cast in The Legend Of Hercules sincerely tried to make it a good film, the script was bad and the directing was worse; regarding the special effects, half of them were mind-blowing (like the fight scenes in water) whereas other effect scenes were like they forgot the effects altogether (when Hercules is fighting the "lion," they forgot to exchange the stuffed toy for a CGI version). Regardless, how Hercules handles himself in the arena demonstrates that he understands competition and capitalism and how it can work to his advantage even though he occupies the state of a slave. Milo (Kit Harrington) in Pompeii occupies a one-dimensional world in which everything works for the upper-class and nothing works for the under-classes. A similarity between the two films (as noted above in the caption beneath the poster) is that both heroes, Milo and Hercules, call upon the gods for help: Hercules calls upon his father Zeus for help in defeating the tyrant, whereas Milo tells Corvus (Keifer Sutherland) that his gods are going to take vengeance on Corvus on Milo's behalf; who is Milo's gods? The erupting volcano, Vesuvius, in other words, the environment. The erupting volcano was probably a result of global warming,... even back then.
Need I say more?
A picture of the arena from The Legend Of Hercules, but it's very similar to the one used in Pompeii, as well as the "arenas" in The Hunger Games, Monsters University and 42 (the Jackie Robinson story, as the baseball field becomes an arena in which he's not only playing baseball, but fighting racism [real racism] as well). In art, such as films, there is a moral dimension to "the arena," as it takes on dimensions of the soul. For example, in The Legend Of Hercules, Hercules (a demi-god) isn't fighting humans who don't have a chance against him, rather, he's fighting his very own human self and trying to overcome it so the divine element in him will be stronger (we also see this in Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters and, to some degree, in The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones). Why is this important? It's not important, it's imperative! You can only advance in the spiritual life if you are overcoming your weakness (sins), and you are only fulfilling your destiny if you are advancing spiritually, because if you haven't advanced and gained the virtues you need to meet the trials on your life's journey, you will fail those trials. Milo, of Pompeii, does not have a destiny, the film makes this clear: what keeps Milo going is his desire for revenge (and we see this in Loki of Thor the Dark World because he tells Thor, "Trust my rage," and Loki's refusal to take responsibility for his own actions leads him to revenge against Odin and Thor, and "revolution" in that he takes the throne of Asgard for himself, usurping it from both Odin and Thor). This is why Milo is such an incomplete character: he has an incomplete life, and the film makers seem determined not to give him one.
Those aren't the real issues in this post, but they will come up again (for example, in Noah when the massive flood destroys the world and even Maleficent--remember, she summons an army of creatures created from the earth, so we will have to deal with that in one way or another). Now, we have to be perfectly honest: what I describe as indoctrination in socialist films, they describe as "pure art," and when they call my films supporting Christianity and capitalism propaganda, I call them "pure art." How, if at all, can we distinguish what is occurring in this not-so-clear dialogue (and there are plenty who would say it can't be decided, art will always serve someone's agenda)? Let's look to an artist, the poet, William Butler Yeats.
Jared Harris portrays Severus, Cassia's father, and potential business partner of the new emperor Titus. Pompeii is a holiday town and Severus has plans to build a new amphitheater just for chariot races, and rebuild the whole town. Senator Corvus, responsible for the massacre of Milo's tribe in Northern Britannia when they revolted against the northern Roman trade routes, appears in Pompeii as the Emperor's representative. Corvus informs Severus that the Emperor isn't interested in investing in Pompeii, but Corvus himself is; it's revealed the next day that Corvus will invest in the new buildings if Severus agrees to let his daughter Cassia marry Corvus which she doesn't want to do because she's fallen in love with the slave-gladiator Milo. This is just one ugly portrait of business in the film, there is all the "business" transactions that take place regarding the slaves/gladiators, including the male slaves being brought out to be essentially "prostituted" for rich women during a party, as well as the standard payments of humans as slaves and property. Now, do you recall, prior to, say, 2011, many films focusing on "slavery?" There's been Django Unchained, Lincoln, 12 Years a Slave, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, Pompeii and The Legend Of Hercules, that I can name off the top of my head (it's probable that that work of pornography, 50 Shades of Gray, will somehow be linked into this, since that guy is a business owner and, thereby, he owns everyone, and no one has any power to say no to him; not that I have any plans of watching that whatsoever). Why, under the Obama administration, would "slavery" become such an important theme? Capitalists and socialists have different takes on it: to capitalists, if there is a centralized government, you are controlled by the Party (the socialists, the inner-Party running everything) and to socialists, if you work for someone who owns a business, than you are their slave and they rule over you. Each side presents arguments attempting to draw Americans to their side and persuade audiences of the "true" definition of freedom. Pompeii makes the argument that Severus, pictured above, is a slave to the Senator Corvus, because Corvus will invest in the new plans for Pompeii's development, Severus has to agree to give Cassia to Corvus in marriage, in other words, people with money are terrorists because they can control everyone, just like all the women in America who, over the last 50 years, have been enslaved in loveless marriages because men like Donald Trump, the Koch brothers, Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, etc., forced their fathers to give up their daughters or else risk losing their jobs... think of all those poor women.
The motto of this blog, since the first week I started, has been adapted from the Irish poet who wrote, "Supreme art is a traditional statement of certain heroic and religious truth, passed on from age to age, modified by individual genius, but never abandoned." A socialist would argue that they disagree with this argument, and of course they would, because socialism insists that all art is merely one more resource at the government's disposal to control people and their thoughts. A socialist would not argue with this. I don't think many conservatives would argue with Yeats' statement--maybe offer a few suggestions--but it would be a fair starting ground at least. So, what is Yeats saying?
This is a fascinating crossroads for the two films (please click on the image to enlarge it). In the upper-left corner is Hercules, calling upon his father Zeus to help him overcome the tyrant; in the lower-left corner is a typical representation of Zeus that we see in Pompeii at the gates of the harbor several times throughout the film; in the upper-right hand corner is Mount Vesuvius exploding that Milo tells Senator Corvus is his god. In the lower right corner is Senator Corvus preparing to kill Milo. Hercules, in The Legend Of Hercules, is reluctant to call upon Zeus to help him because he doesn't really believe that Zeus is his father because Hercules is actually very humble and close to people, it's hard for him to reconcile that he is a demi-god (we see this in Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters also). Hercules does call upon his father and Zeus responds by giving his son the weapon of lightening that helps Hercules overcome the tyrant. In Pompeii, however, they do something radically different. The show a similar representation of Zeus (Jupiter in the Roman myths) and, at one point, Senator Corvus tells the crowd, when there has been a loud rumble from Vesuvius, that the "god Vulcan" wants Milo to go to Rome and be a gladiator there (this is the only time a god is mentioned by name, intentionally). Again, a bit later, as Vesuvius erupts and Milo has fought Corvus in hand-to-hand combat, but hasn't killed him, Milo tells Corvus that "My gods are coming for you," implying the lava, rock and ash are going to kill Corvus and it does. "Named gods," like Zeus and Vulcan, are part of the "establishment," whereas the raw power of nature that doesn't have a name, is the "god" of those who want to overthrow society and go back to a totally "natural state" of existence giving the environment priority over humans (again, this is probably what we will see in Noah, who, at the end of the film, wants to let humanity die out completely). Those who call themselves political "Progressives" would better describe themselves as "digressives" because they want to undo all the technological progress that has been and go back to living in a state that is barely human (films such as The Lone Ranger--when Tonto walks into the wilderness at the very end--Gravity, when she lands on earth and walks into a Chinese village that obviously doesn't even have a telephone in it and Jack the Giant Slayer that takes place during the medieval period, all want a "digressive agenda" to do-away with technological progress because where there is technology, there is innovation and that means a market for technology and socialists abhor that). When Vesuvius destroys everything, just like the flood will in Noah, that's the happy ending for the film makers because they despise humanity and don't want people to exist (trust me, horses get treated far better in Pompeii than humans). "Un-naming gods," then, is wiping clean the slate of human history so humans can be wiped out of history and we turn into just one more extinct species. Why do "Progressives" want this? Because it's an act of rebellion against God, who made mankind master over creation; that doesn't mean we don't have obligations to be good stewards over the environment, but nature was created for man, not man for nature. By un-doing mankind, "Progressives" want to deny God's role in Creation and His Plan for salvation. 
Art is the vehicle of truth (which is reality), so the purpose of art is not only to convey truth to its audience, but also the forms of the highest truths, society's ideal of heroism and religious observation (dependent upon which society in which the art originates). Again, to socialists, art and artists are the servants of the State--just like everyone and everything else--so the purpose of art is to glorify the state and, lest you doubt me, we just saw this in The Monuments Men: Hitler is gathering art to be in his State Museum to glorify his Thousand Year Reich, the Soviets are "trophy hunting" the art and the "monuments men" (Clooney, Damon, etc.) are using the art in the film to try and distinguish their brand of socialism from the Nazis' and Soviets' brand of socialism/communism, so to socialists, all art ultimately glorifies the state and exists only as a material artifact, not something upon which the audience is to ponder and engage (for example, in The Monuments Men, the film makers only see Michelangelo's Madonna is only a piece of marble, not a springboard for theology), and certainly art is not meant to be interpreted (as we do here at this blog) because that would be a form of freedom the State prohibits: the State tells you what to think, which brings us back to Yeats (please see Uncle Sam's Buying: The Monuments Men for more).
A fight scene from each film and, in both scenes, water is involved. In The Legend Of Hercules (in the left), the water is in the pit in which Hercules fights; in Pompeii (right) it's raining as Milo steps into the arena. Water, traditionally, and like most symbols, has a positive and negative symbolic presence: the positive symbol of water is that the character is being "born anew" (like when a mother's water breaks and the baby is about to be born, and the Christian Sacrament of Baptism) and is now a stronger, more virtuous person; the negative symbolic presence of water was that pertaining to sex (besides murder, adultery is the ultimate sin because it is so pleasurable, it deepens sin's hold on you, tying you to the world so your soul is enslaved to sin and not free to exercise virtue). Hercules, in drowning the man he fights in the pit, drowns part of himself just as the Biblical Moses buried the Egyptian in the sand after killing him, because Moses had to metaphorically kill the "Egyptian" part of himself so he could become the prophet of God he was destined to become (especially the part of Hercules that just wants to be with the woman he loves; Hercules is coming closer to understanding that he has a greater, more important role to play in the world, and being "reborn" in this scene is necessary for him to understand why he was born to begin with: to free his people). A socialist would look at this scene and describe it as barbaric because someone dies; again, socialists don't have the conceptual framework nor the vocabulary to accept "metaphor" and the workings of the soul because they believe humans are animals and we do not have a soul; we are controlled by appetites, not ideals, aspirations or moral teachings as most conservatives believe. The comparative scene from Pompeii, however, breaks the rules. Since Milo is a nature worshipper, the rain symbolizes nature's presence and approval of Milo,....? There's nothing in Milo to be cleansed--he never experiences any kind of a conversion the way Hercules does, or heroes in art in general--he remains the same throughout because the film makers see him in his oppressed state as a hero (more on this below), i.e., because Milo is enslaved (by the state) he is a hero, whereas Hercules is enslaved spiritually (he is enslaved but that's not the real enslavement that is of concern in the film, that's just the metaphor for his spiritual enslavement) because of faults and sins in his soul, and he must overcome that spiritual enslavement within in order to find freedom in society; this kind of scheme never enters the mind of a socialist, which is why they don't see problems with promiscuous sexuality, abortions, legalized drugs, people forsaking marriage, etc.: discipline is meant to build up the soul and build up the person in wisdom to use their free will, again, towards fulfilling their destiny; socialists see these sinful "behaviors" as only expressions of the animal appetites that are perfectly legitimate and stigmatized by religious institutions that want to control people.
For Yeats, and myself, art is meant to be engaged and expand our freedom, not limit it. Herein lies the most basic and radical difference between socialism and Christianity: socialists do not believe in the soul, God or any higher being; in believing in the soul and the soul's development (that the soul is damaged by sin but built up by virtue and love), Christian stories and the symbols within those stories communicate far more to us than they do to socialists because socialists only believe in the body and material existence (anything you can shake a stick at). For example, in the arena scenes in The Legend Of Hercules, a Christian intuitively understands that Hercules isn't killing other people in this story, Hercules is destroying his own inner-weakness, his faults and sins which pretend to be a part of Hercules, but is really a "false" version of Hercules, thereby building up the moral strength of Hercules and his courage of virtue, because if Hercules doesn't undertake these battles to better himself, he will end up becoming like the tyrant who killed his mother. Why can't a socialist understand what I am talking about?
Suffering.
Americans are used to happy endings, where all the issues have been resolved (okay, sometimes there are issues not resolved because of "sequels," but the pressing issues have been resolved) and there is a reward for the hero as a result of his labors, in other words, the trials and tribulations the hero has undergone and completed were not in vain, there was purpose to it and s/he can look forward to enjoying their rewards in a world that is now a better place; that's the American Way. That's not what happens in Pompeii. Milo and Cassia are on horseback, trying to make it to the hills, and Milo stops the horse and dismounts, telling Cassia she has to go on, the horse isn't strong enough to carry them both; so she dismounts and argues with him, sending the horse off. Okay, practically speaking, they should have just kept riding for the sake of a fighting chance; spiritually speaking, they give up because, in the socialist world view, there is no such thing as hope: it's better to just lay down and die then even try to go on living. THAT attitude is counter-intuitive, even contrary to nature, even by Pompeii's own standards because Cassia's horse, when the earth is about to cave in around him, does what he needs to do to escape and preserve its life, even animals have the survival instinct which the two "heroes" of this film have abandoned for themselves, whereas Milo and Cassia just give in and accept the fate nature has decreed for them (to be swept up by lava) because the volcano/nature is their god to decide their fate, they do not control nature, nature controls them. Why have an ending like this? Brainwashing. We haven't really discussed brainwashing, but it certainly belongs in this discussion. Brainwashing is undertaken to achieve an alternate way of thinking from what one would think otherwise. For example, my mom is a fan of the Netflix series House Of Cards and was anxious to watch all of the new season; she got to the third to the last episode (something like that, the episode directed by Jodi Foster) and there was a scene with a gay kiss (Foster herself is gay); my mom was irked but went ahead and finished the show; in the next episode, I believe directed by Robin Wright, there was a scene of gay sex and my mother turned the series off and won't watch it again. What this demonstrates is that the homosexual community is winning. The gay kiss, which my mother would never have tolerated two years ago, she endured because she has seen it so many times--she claims--she has built up an indifference to it, but that's not what has happened: she has been acclimated to seeing it as "natural," even if she disagrees with it (the dominant reason I don't watch television). Granted, she still turned off the TV when the gay sex scene came up, but brainwashing doesn't have to be successful every time, it just has to be constant, so that one gets so used to seeing something, you finally cross a line into accepting it (like all the lawless actions taken by the Obama Administration, we can't count how many times he has broken the laws). The same method is being employed by socialist films like Pompeii: get people used to nature worshipping, get people used to being told they are just animals, get people used to there not being any hope, get people used to stories where the rich are evil and the slaves rise up against them (Django Unchained): pound it into their brains, because there are more weak people than strong people and the weak will accept it and those are the only ones socialists want to survive anyway, because they are the easiest to control. The opposite of brainwashing is "inspiring," because a film such as Hercules is meant to inspire us to be strong and overcome our weakness, not accept what is less within ourselves, but to set goals and achieve them, to hope for something better and work for it. Socialists absolutely hate that.
No one wants to suffer--except those who are truly blessed and destined to become saints--and I especially don't like suffering at all, however, I understand that, in the economy of salvation, suffering is necessary to purge ourselves of all our faults and shortcomings, helping to strengthen our free will so we use it according to the absolute greatest good for ourselves and society. This is language that is utterly foreign to a socialist: free will? Soul? Suffering? Suffering, to a socialist, is a result of class inequality, intentionally inflicted upon people of lower social standing by those of higher social standing and people are absolutely incapable of taking care of themselves. Free will is an illusion because all of your will is controlled and determined by your necessity to survive or advertising telling you what to think and feel. Socialist, then, like Pompeii, will demonstrate how life is futile and suffering comes from those who have placed their self above you through social standing and financial resources. The only good that comes out of suffering is one, revolution, and two, revenge. How do you like that for a definition of "life?"
There are two gross inconsistencies in Pompeii: the first is, Milo (who shows no kind of religious devotion at all during the film except when he describes the lava as "my gods,") tells fellow slave-gladiator Atticus that he will see him again (implying in the afterlife because they are going to die). This is irreconcilable to worshipping nature as "god" because there is nothing immortal or divine in nature to bequeath a soul (by its very definition immortal) to humans that can "go on" after death, death is what happens in nature, not the afterlife, so Pompeii wants to believe in an afterlife, but by its own lack of a theological structure, it can't support it (we don't gain immortality from lava or rain or soil, only a Divine Creator). The second inconsistency comes from the government. Socialists believe that individuals are corrupted by power and money--and Senator Corvus certainly is--but that, magically, the government is all good and wise and fair and equal when it comes to the equal distribution of wealth and resources in a socialist state: in other words, the very instrument used to oppress people in the socialist view point (the government) is turned into a vehicle of benevolence for the people is was oppressing into slavery a moment ago (again, we see this in Loki in Thor the Dark World, when he tells Odin that he went to earth to rule as a "benevolent god" after he killed more than 80 people and led the invasion destroying New York City, Loki suggests that he would have just "magically" turned into a wise and generous ruler over earthlings). Now, IF A SOCIALIST WERE RESPONDING TO THIS CHARGE, they would say, this is unfair, these people in government are corrupted by money and power, so they don't count, good virtuous ("virtuous" by Marxist standards) leaders would be found to control the government, and Pompeii never intended to convey that Corvus is an example of good government; I respond, however, that they can't demonstrate one example of a fair and trustworthy government, either a socialist or capitalist government that isn't self-serving rather than citizen-serving, and the corruption we see now in the socialist-Muslim messiah of Barack Hussein Obama is a smidgen of the corruption that is really taking place and just a taste of what is to come; at that point, I would, of course, be called a racist. The problem is, socialists want to believe, and have you believe, that people like Milo (the slaves, poor and oppressed) are the ones who should be put in control of government, and because they are good, they will do good. As I stated earlier, Milo is at best a two-dimensional character, and this translates to how socialists see their own dream being carried out in reality: the people they believe would do good, don't exist. "Well I will lead the government!" the socialist responds, "I'm an excellent, virtuous person!" but, in reality, this is a person who has no accountability to anyone and has abandoned moral instruction and teaching as being a means of being controlled by religious institutions or inherent power structures in society. Socialists believe in their two-dimensional messiahs because they themselves never undergo conversions in reality, they expect the world to change instead of changing themselves, so they don't see how inherently bad they are as human beings, preferring to see everyone else as problematic instead. 
"Art" inspires us to be better, "propaganda" and "indoctrination" seeks to convince us about something other than what we all ready believe (if we believed it all ready, we wouldn't need to be convinced of it). Art, is for me, a means to become a better person, propaganda is for someone else to dominate me. In conclusion, there is no real conclusion to this debate, I have barely skimmed the surface. But I believe that you and I both have the choice to decide if our lives are going to be defined by the exercising of "heroic virtue" or by revenge and revolt? Is it more noble to believe that we are nothing but animals, so we should live like animals, i.e., according to our appetites, or is it more noble to believe that we are noble, and should strive for the very highest expressions of nobility every moment? I chose to be inspired by the heroic actions of others, rather than settle into my imperfections and blame others for them or depend upon the state to "care and provide" for me as the state sees fit. For as often as I fall short of my intentions, I have made my choice, and continue to make it on a moment-by-moment basis, and, in choosing the harder path to follow, that--in and of itself--debunks the socialists myths of what it means to be human.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Paul Walker's Last Film: Brick Mansions

This is the trailer for Paul Walker's last completed film (Fast & Furious 7 was not completed at the time of his death) and Brick Mansions, coming out April 25 (which is a remake of a French film), looks pretty awesome:
There is a lot to discuss with this trailer, however, I just wanted to let you know my post on Pompeii will be done within an hour,... or so. Really, I've been working on it all night and you will understand why when I get it up. In the meantime, many Oscar nominee films are available to watch on Amazon Instant Video, including 12 Years a Slave, Dallas Buyers Club, Nebraska, Gravity, Blue Jasmine, Captain Phillips, Before Midnight, The Croods, Despicable Me 2 and a number of other films.
Almost done!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Please, Mr. Kennedy: Deconstructing Inside Llwelyn Davis

All of us know how incredibly behind I am on posts; I am taking precious time to draw your attention to the Coen Brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis; why? Because being "inside" Llewyn Davis is actually being "inside" the life of a socialist (Davis attempts to rejoin the Merchant Marines towards the end of the film but can't, not because he's a communist, as he states, but because of the ridiculous red tape imposed by the union). The Coen Brothers are remarkably talented, and this latest film provides opportunities to discuss their film on a number of levels and a variety of creative ways; it's also one of a very few anti-socialist films being released (another example would be The Book Thief). How do we know the film is pro-capitalist? Mozart.
This post, as always, contains spoilers, but I don't think your experience of the film will actually be ruined with this spoiler. In the trailer above, Jean (Carey Mulligan) tells Llewyn that everything is going to keep happening to him because he wants it to,... towards the end of the film, you realize, everything is starting over and going to happen again. Why? We will spend the post discussing this through various levels of text the Coens present to us. One of the popular approaches critics use to discuss films is called the auteur approach: it's French (meaning "author") and based on a particular director imparting their vision to the film they are creating: for example, you "know" an Alfred Hitchcock film when you see it, there are techniques he employs that no one else does (well, "did") and you know the feel of his films, like Steven Spielberg (before 2008) or David Lean, Fellini, Wes Anderson, etc. The Coens, because of the body of work they have built, and because they have a specific "style," could be approached from the angle of "What makes a Coen Brothers' film a Coen Brothers' film?" and you could analyze and compare all of them. We're not going to do that, however, the various characteristics of Inside Llewyn Davis we will be discussing can be applied to their other films as well (especially how they use music to create a sub-text of commentary).  
Davis sings folk songs, so, as he himself says, "They are never new, but they never get old," and he didn't write any of them. We have visited the "politics of music" in a film from last year, The House At the End of the Street (Jennifer Lawrence, Elisabeth Shue). Lawrence's character is a budding musician using the latest technology and entering music competitions, whereas the socialist symbol of the film is still stuck listening to music on cassette tapes from the early 1990s (please see Everything Is a Secret: House At-the End Of the Street fore more). In what is basically the next point in the story, Davis wakes up in an apartment (the viewer isn't sure where) and Davis listens to Mozart; why is this important?
Because F. Murray Abraham is in the film.
I think this is from the opening scene. Llewyn sings at The Gaslight Café which was a historical location for poets and singers; case in point: towards the end, when Llewyn exits to go see "his friend" outside, the not-famous Bob Dylan has got on stage to start his act. Davis complains throughout the film about how the Gaslight is a dead end and worthless, however, the Coen Brothers wanted to emphasize that many famous artists got started there and Davis' inability to launch a career was not due to a lack of opportunity, rather, a lack of talent (we will substantiate this further a bit later). Why bother to do this? Most of us in the audience probably don't have much of an ear for music--okay, at least I don't--so the film makers take pains to illustrates that those who have an ear for music, and who have the respect of their peers, don't see much talent "inside Llewyn Davis," which is probably where the name comes from: by the end of the film, you realize there is nothing good inside Llewyn Davis, just someone who thinks he is better than everyone else, and that lack of innate goodness bears the equivalent fruit (fruit that's not so good, mediocrity). Davis' condescending attitude towards Troy (who tells Davis that Grossman has signed him to his label and is a very good man) is later heightened in how Roland Turner treats Davis (the film makers have to treat Davis carefully so the audience will keep "identifying" with him throughout the film, but Roland Turner gives us the concentrated dose of Davis' unlikeability which Davis himself hints at when he meets Troy and Davis tells him that Jean never ever said anything nice about Davis to anyone.
In 1984, Amadeus, starring Abraham, was released to great critical acclaim and introduced a new generation to the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It can be argued that bringing this into Inside Llewyn Davis, based on Abraham being in the film, is unfounded, however, we hear Lacrimosa in the first few minutes of the film, Mozart's piece featured in Amadeus and an intimate scene between Mozart and Salieri, and, we can further argue that Grossman listening to Davis' playing music is meant to invoke Abraham's role as Salieri (this was all done in Last Action Hero, when Abraham was marked by the little kid, "He killed Mozart!"). So, what's the point? Llewyn Davis, who fancies himself a professional musician, is not Mozart, but he wants to be treated like he is. Davis has not received any payment for his latest album (because they are not selling), and he seeks a new agent in Bud Grossman (F. Murray Abraham) and Davis has traveled all the way from New York City to Chicago to try and pick up a new agent. In the trailer at the top, the scene takes place from 1:36 to the end; Davis plays The Death Of Queen Jane, and the song is in this video (just the song):
You have to admit, at 1:49 in the trailer at the top, Grossman is sitting in an odd position: across from another man with his legs spread wide apart; why? Grossman is an agent that only makes money by selling new albums and talent, so it's imperative for him to be signing new talent; the genitals are the area from whence new life springs, so we could say that Grossman sitting with his legs apart towards Davis reveals that Grossman is, literally, in the position to bring forth new life in the form of a huge career opportunity for Davis. When Davis finishes playing The Death of Queen Jane, Grossman says, "I don't see any money in this," and says that Davis isn't a good solo act, but immediately offers him a job with a trio he's putting together. Davis has been broke the entire film and doesn't have any options left for a career in music; most of us would humble ourselves and take the job and be grateful, but Davis refuses and leaves. Why has this scene happened, and what does it mean for Davis to respond the way he does?
Why does the cat (Ulysses) escape? The window is open, sure, but that's not why the cat escapes, that's how. The cat escapes because Davis has to ask Troy's name again; not caring about who he is introduced to, and being a snob (or maybe he does remember and he doesn't want to look like he remembers) Llwelyn Davis does in this scene what he does throughout the whole film: he makes a bad decision. Yes, forgetting the name of someone (and this is art so it's an absolute, not our day-to-day lives) is forgetting that person, and there is a regrettable stream of such situations in Llewlyn's life. The cat, then, escapes because that part of Llwelyn that could have been great and heroic like Ulysses, also escapes, and it's the little things in life that add up to the big ones. Davis could have been great, but in all the little things in his life that he has messed up, he has also messed up becoming what he was meant to become. That the cat escapes through the window, and finds his way back home through a window (on the fire escape) testifies to the "deeper" meaning of the scene: windows symbolize reflection; as Davis "reflects" the cat escapes because Llewlyn has lost within himself whatever the viewer decides the cat symbolizes.  
Davis wants all or nothing: he wants to be famous, not sharing in the glory with others, which leads us to Roland Turner (John Goodman) and his sidekick Johnny Five; what's their purpose? They re-iterate the thesis above, that some people think they are better than others, and Roland offers an extreme example of being better than everyone, which is why he is "crippled," he can't value anyone but himself. His heroine addiction symbolizes how he gets high from "injecting" himself with compliments and self-importance.  Davis' desire for "all or nothing" can be seen in another character tied to the theory of infant death: Loki from Thor the Dark World. Davis has two abortions tied to his character--the one that didn't happen, and the one Jean is supposed to get--and Odin (Anthony Hopkins) tells Loki he would have died as an infant if Odin hadn't saved him. Like Davis, Loki wants to rule others he feels he is superior to (Davis thinks he's superior to Troy, to the Gorfeins [he yells at the wife at dinner during the song], to the poor woman on stage he heckles and her husband beats him up, to Al Cody, and probably even to his dead partner Mike, not to mention his father and sister). Is there a segment in our society today who thinks they are superior to everyone else and wants to rule over all those they treat with contempt?
John Goodman plays Roland Turner, the highly condescending "backseat driver" who we the audience are supposed to "turn-over" and see as an extension of Llewyn Davis, i.e., Davis "turning" into "Turner" if Davis doesn't convert. Is that the "soul" purpose of Roland Turner? I don't think so. As we will see with the cat, the name "Roland" is ambiguous but full of meaning, just like the name of "Llewyn." Roland is not a typical name, so it possibly refers to French philosopher Roland Barthes, who didn't like the idea of the auteur theory, rather preferred what he called "the Author and the scriptor": the lone author slaving over a work isn't realistic because of all the influences we come into contact and are then incorporated into our lives and work; so rather than an author, Barthes proposed instead the "scriptor" who comes up with a work based on several other works encountered; this, along with other theories of Barthes', could refer to the Coens. On the other hand, it's highly possible that the character of Roland Turner actually refers to the Song Of Roland, a medieval French text about the soldier Roland who became overwhelmed by enemy forces and was too proud to call for help. Do we see that in Davis? For example, does he ever ask for help getting through the suicide of his partner Mike? He refuses the coat he original agent offers to give Davis, and we see how many times Davis was in need of a good winter coat. Does Davis ever ask for help thinking through his ex-girlfriend's non-abortion (his child he didn't know he has?)? Granted, we see Davis crashing on the couches of many, but does Llewyn Davis ever ask for help from anyone? To de-stabilize the name of Roland even more, we can observe that the name "Roland" sounds like the word "rollin" because Davis rolls from place to place without ever staying in one locale. What's the purpose of exploring all these different meanings? We'll touch on that below in discussion on the cat.
Bashing Llewyn's lack of talent might be a little harsh of me, so let us consider one further example: Llewyn's dad. The first we hear that Llewyn's dad is still alive is when he mentions to his sister that he doesn't want to end up "just existing" like their father. Given Davis' ties to abortion, his rejection of the dignity of the elderly is completely in-line with his liberal views. A liberal would probably argue, but his father defecates all over himself, I wouldn't want to live like that, so Llewyn is right; what happened before Mr. Davis defecated over himself though? His son sang a song, and we all know how parents tend to take excessive pride in their children, but even Mr. Davis knows his son is "crap."
We will get to the cat in a moment, however, let's know talk about what "Llewyn" means, after all, Roland brings it up and it's a detail worthy of investigation. In Welsh, "Llewyn" means "lion-like." As far as I can remember, there is no lion, only the domesticated cat that belongs to the Gorfeins (Davis holds in this image and looks pretty upset). Davis is destined to become a lion, but right now, he's at the level of a house cat, and even that he loses. Why? Because of the bad moral decisions he makes constantly, like sleeping with a married woman (Jean), not valuing life--either of the child he has in Akron, the possible child he might have with Jean, or his aged father--not having a strong work ethic (turning down the job Grossman offers him), not bearing with people (Mrs. Gorfein when she starts singing with him), etc. Instead of growing into a lion, Llewlyn Davis shrinks smaller than a house cat, because compared to Llwelyn, the cat is a lion and he's a mouse. 
Now, let's move onto what, for many, is the obvious highlight of the film: the song Please, Mr. Kennedy (it was not written for the film, nor by Justin Timberlake, who portrays Jim, but by Mickey Wood, who wrote it, about not being sent to the war in Vietnam, NOT about being sent into outer space. In this scene, Davis, out of money and needing to pay for Jean's abortion, gets a message that Jim needs a backup guitarist to record his new song, which Davis is happy to oblige, so they practice the song (the third guy is Al Cody who plays a small part in the film). Like all music in films by the Coen Brothers, this song speaks volumes:
We could spend a lot of time analyzing in great detail, but let's just take some of the "surface" features. First, what role does Al Cody play in this song? We could say that he acts as a "sub-text," emphasizing certain parts of the song with his back-up vocal, even creating a marginal text leading us to ask, "Why would the Coen Brothers focus on going into outer space instead of the Vietnam War?" We should all ready know the answer to that. Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, is an anti-space travel film, the whole purpose of the movie is to get back to the "safety" of earth (please see Gravity: Buddha & Da Vinci for more). In undermining the winning stroke of the Cold War when America won the space race, Gravity centers itself against films such as Men In Black 3, Star Trek Into Darkness and the upcoming Interstellar (Christopher Nolan). Even though Kennedy was a Democrat, the film makers illustrate how "turn-coat" (pun on Roland Turner's name) the liberals are (like Timberlake) who don't want America to succeed and be a world power, rather, want America to be weak and socialist. Again, before they start recording, and Davis leans over and asks, "Who wrote this?" Davis exhibits his self-proclaimed superiority (the film acknowledges that the song is a big hit, unlike any of Davis' work).
In the "Cat Trailer," just below, at 0:34, we see Jean talking about Llewyn sleeping on the floor with the cat while handing him a note that says, "IM PREGNANT." Later, Jean and Llewyn have a talk: it's possible the baby is Jim's, but Jean has no way of knowing, so she wants Llewyn to pay for the abortion. Llewyn doesn't have the money, so he was going to borrow it from Jim, who says he is happy to lend money to Llweyn (not realizing what it is for) but has to let Jean know, so Llweyn says never mind; then, Llewyn gets a call from Jim that there is this gig. Given how Jean writes the note, "IM" with no apostrophe between the "I" and the "M," we might deduce that she knows the baby is Jim's, but her and Jim want an abortion, but decide to have Llewyn pay for it since, as it is discovered, he knows an abortionist because of setting up an abortion for a past girlfriend. It's possible, though not necessarily certain, that Jim gives the Please, Mr. Kennedy gig so that Llewyn has money to pay for his wife's abortion. This seems to be easily supported when Pappi--the owner of The Gaslight--discloses that he, too, has slept with Jean, so no telling how many affairs she has had but Jim probably has some idea and doesn't want the kid, either.
Let's discuss the cat.
We don't get the name of the cat until near the end of the film, when it's revealed the cat is named "Ulysses." There are, like the name "Roland," at least three potential references for what we are meant to understand by "Ulysses." Please watch this short trailer which highlights some of the scenes the cat is in:
Most viewers will think of the Trojan War and the Greek war hero Odysseus (Ulysses was his Roman name) and, like Odysseus, the cat in the film certainly has a journey getting back home like Ulysses. There is a second possibility: Ulysses the novel by James Joyce. Someone could say, but Joyce's novel is based upon the original myth, so they are basically the same thing; however, the "madness" and the underlying orderliness of the madness makes Joyce's novel perhaps an even better reference point for the Coen Brothers themselves inserting "enigmas" into the film (such as the ambiguous animal Davis hits with the car). There is a third possibility as well: Ulysses S. Grant, the Civil War general and 18th president of the US. Why would he be possible? Think of how divided America is today over the communism in the White House, and how divided we were during the Civil War. Now on to the next big question the film presents us,....
Llewlyn sees this poster after being informed that Ulysses made it home on his own; the problem is, the film takes place in 1961 and The Incredible Journey wasn't released until November 20, 1963, two days after the assassination of President John F Kennedy, whom the film discusses in the song, Please, Mr. Kennedy. Such a "historical blunder" is certainly no blunder, but an intentional commentary; how? Well, it's ambiguous, it rather depends upon what you think the rest of the film means, but one possible reading is that, if Kennedy had not have died while in office, perhaps the Democratic party would have turned out to be very different from the American Communist Party we have today.
As Davis drives, past Ohio, the car hits an animal as he doses off to sleep and he awakes with a jolt; when he gets out, he sees some smallish animal, but can't make out what it is. What animals does Llewyn Davis hit with the car? It's ambiguous. Ambiguity is a technical, artistic tool, and this is a perfect example of how well it can be employed. It has been suggested that Davis hits--or at least thinks he hits--the cat he left in the back seat of the car with Roland Turner (and this scene has ties to Roland, like when Roland Turner overdoses and passes out, Davis nearly "passes out" into sleep when driving back through Ohio). The point of ambiguity is to put more of the audience into the scene than the characters. For example, depending on how well you have been watching the film, you know that's not really the Gorfeins' cat, it's female that looks like a male; there is also the point that Davis seems to take better care of the cat than his own family members and friends. On the other hand, it could be a completely wild animal, we don't know, but we do know--and this reveals a lot about me, which is what the scene is meant to do--before it happens, Davis has driven past Akron, OH, where his old girlfriend went to have Davis' baby that he had paid for her to abort but she didn't. Driving, Davis debated getting off the exit to Akron, but he doesn't, he let's it pass him by, and maybe a part of Davis was that animal that got hit and will probably die, just like Davis.
It truly adds a depressing note, that the cat is capable of finding his way back home, but Llewlyn isn't, Llewlyn can't seem to find his way anywhere. What about Mike, the partner who committed suicide? We know his name is Mike, short for Michael, which means, "Who compares to God?" Further, we know Mike jumped off the George Washington Bridge, not--as Roland Turner points out--the Brooklyn Bridge, which is where people go to jump to their death, but the George Washington Bridge. When Davis goes to stay at the house of Al Cody--the third guy in the Please, Mr. Kennedy song--there is a picture of the Brooklyn Bridge over the couch where Davis sleeps that night (but, like Davis, hauling around a box of his albums that haven't sold, Davis finds a box of unsold Al Cody records under the end table). At this point in the film, we don't know that Mike jumped off a bridge, but the photograph suggests one of three possibilities: first, since Davis sleeps underneath the picture, Davis' own fate will be to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge; two, since Cody has it hanging up in his apartment, and isn't succeeding either, Cody might jump from the bridge, or, thirdly, both of them will end up jumping off the bridge (at different times, not together). But if Mike was Davis' partner, he was--artistically speaking--half of Llwelyn Davis, just as Roland Turner is a part of Llwelyn Davis, and the cat, and the two little aborted children, and the poor old, silent father in the nursing home, etc., so we could say that Mike symbolizes Davis' religion--"Who compares to God?"--and Davis' sense of patriotism (the George Washington bridge and the Founding Fathers, as opposed to the communists Davis claims he is). In this case, artistically speaking still, it's not so much that Mike threw himself over the bridge, as Llewlyn Davis threw Mike--and all he symbolizes--over the bridge, thinking he could do better without him, then realizing he was wrong.
There is another, ambiguous aspect to the film, at both the start and end: who is the "friend" in the alleyway? We see the "friend" two times: first, at the start of the film. Given that he is all blacked out, and has such a deep voice, he almost seems a "satanic" figure. By the end of the film, however, when we see the reason why the "friend" has beat up Davis (because his wife had tried to perform at The Gaslight the night before and Davis heckled her terribly) we realize, yea, this guy is beating Davis to a pulp, but Davis deserves it so this guy is his friend. Rather like conservatives, who seem satanic to the liberals--if the liberals believed in satan--a service is truly being done in not allowing someone to be so anti-social and disrespectful of people. Davis, who obviously has not respect for women (not that any of them have given him a reason to) will hopefully not make the mistake again and will be humbled by the beating.
Carey Mulligan portrays Jean, who is actually an interesting character. When she, Troy and Jim sing 500 Miles, the camera frames her in such a way as to present her "angelically," with her very attractive face and a kind of innocence about her, even as you are discovering what a little whore she is, and that's the intention: depicting her as an angel who should be an angel but isn't because she behaves so immorally,... like a feminist (promiscuous sex, abortions, a foul mouth). Just as Llewlyn is called to "be a lion" but doesn't even measure out as a house cat, so Jean is called to be an angel but hardly even passes for a human being with as hard-hearted as she is. To validate this point, Jean and Davis have coffee in a café to set up the abortion and Jean is going off on what a lousy person Davis is, who will keep making the same mistakes over and over because he wants the same things to keep happening to him. Davis thinks he sees the Gorfeins' cat out the window and runs after the cat, picking it up and taking it inside with him; we later discover that this isn't the Gorfeins' cat because it doesn't have Ulysses' scrotum. In other words, the moment Jean tells Davis what a generally lousy person he is (as she's the one getting ready to kill a baby inside of her, and is so promiscuous she doesn't even know whose baby it is) Davis mistakes a female cat for a male cat, or, Davis' own sexual/masculine identity has been perverted, not only because he doesn't stand up to Jean, but because he has "lost his own scrotum" in not caring about his offspring Jean is supposedly carrying.
As usual, we have barely scraped the surface of the film, but I hope this at least gives you some ideas as to how complex the Coen Brothers' latest film is. To close, this is the last number performed in the film, Fare Thee Well, which was the best song Mike and Llewlyn performed, and Llewlyn hadn't performed it since Mike's death, but was able to this night, and is definitely his best performance; in performing the song, it's almost like, instead of "fare thee well," Llewlyn Davis is saying, "welcome back home," and let's try not to let this happen again:
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner
P.S.--Here is the original Please, Mr. Kennedy, by Mickey Wood, which was actually about not wanting to be sent to the Vietnam War; it's an interesting song, especially given how it was changed up for the film: