Tuesday, July 28, 2015

13 Hours: the Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi (Film)

I didn't even know this was being talked about being made, but Michael Bay has finished work on a true story account of the Benghazi killings based on a non-fiction book of the same name. Does this look good?
This looks amazing.
Zero Dark Thirty?
Sure, there is (artistic) noise added to this. With the subtitles we see in the beginning, like at 0:08, when the words blip out for a second and become distorted, that is noise, an artistic device that needs to be interpreted. Why? Noise indicates that there is something you are not hearing/seeing. Consider when your screen gets all pixeled-out, and blurry, the "noise" of the pixels and blur, things that don't make any sense, are covering up the real images that do make sense and that you do want to see. When we first see the line of text that says, "To protect CIA outposts and personnel in unstable regions," we think we can believe what we are seeing, because that is all there is to be seen; when it blips out, we know there is interference.
Why is interference important?
"Interference" means that something is distorting the information (the signal conveying your YouTube video or Netflix streaming, whatever you ware watching) and that interference, the source and it's motivation--whether or not it's intentional---itself becomes a source of information. For example, is there "political interference" in us knowing fully what happened that night a US Ambassador and others were killed? I don't know about you, but I didn't know there were elite soldiers there are Benghazi that night; I knew there were Navy Seals, and some of them died, defying commands to stand down (rather like police officers being told to stand down in Ferguson and Baltimore and let rioters loot) but I didn't know there were these elite soldiers there; does it make a difference? Yes, that these brave men were an additional resource to save those who died, and yet they were not allowed to help them, is not just murderous, it's treasonous.
I just saw The Vatican Tapes, an exorcism thriller, that I thoroughly enjoyed; it was done very well. This weekend is the opening of Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. I don't want to give anything away, however, I am betting that Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) is a villain in disguise. Her last name, which has been heavily protected, has been revealed has being "Faust," which indicates that, like the mythical character selling his soul to the devil for earthly pleasures, she has too. I was guessing this, based on her wardrobe (lots of black, and then rotten green) but I will be the first person to admit I am wrong if I am.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Thursday, July 23, 2015

James Bond 2015: First "Official" Spectre Trailer

The saddest news EVER: Sam Mendes, who directed Skyfall and is helming Spectre, has said he will not be returning for the next Bond film. I AM SO SAD.
No, no, those weren't trailers, those were teasers: THIS is the first Spectre official trailer, and I am in love:
How would you feel, dear reader, if you met someone and they told you, "It was me, the author of all your pain," the death of your parents at the age of 12 (or thereabouts), the author of the death of the woman you loved (Vespers), the author of the death of M (Judy Dench),... how would that make you feel that there had been someone following you around inflicting pain and death on all you loved and cared for? In Christianity, we say "loved." That, dear reader, is the role of the devil, to "destroy" us over and over, until God is pleased that we have been perfected. I don't think, however, even with the numerous Catholic symbols included in the film (such as the Catholic funeral taking place in Rome, or the celebration of the Day Of the Dead in Mexico City) that God and the devil is what is meant here,...
When M (Ralph Fiennes) asks Bond what he was doing in Mexico City, and he responds, taking an overdue holiday, that "holiday" is, literally, the "day of the dead." In Skyfall, Bond told M that he had been "enjoying death," so that, when Madeline Swann (Lea Seydoux) asks Bond about being hunted and getting lonely, and he replies he never thinks about it, it's practically true, because if he's not "in the game" and catching crooks, he's dead. We saw this in Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes A Game Of Shadows, when Holmes is only alive when he's on the hunt and solving a case. Now, on a different note, Monica Belluci's character and Seydoux's character are two totally different women: the woman of light (Seydoux) and darkness (Belluci) based on their hair, eyes and skin tones. This is a typical device within the Bond canon, so we can expect that in these two women as well. By the way, at 2:14, that is Andrew Scott who portrays Moriarty in Sherlock (Cumberbatch and Freeman). 
It's not a coincidence that major films right now are all circling around international organizations spreading crime and sophisticated mayhem: the Marvel franchises (The Avengers 2, Ant-Man and Captain America 2 with HYDRA), The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Mission Impossible 5 with The Syndicate, just to name a few in addition to Spectre. Whether you believe there is some international organization attempting a new world order or not, a faction of Hollywood certainly does. This is where un-originality is more important than originality, because in tracing the patterns, and following the links (just like Bond in realizing that all the people that have been mentioned have him in common in the trailer above) so we are seeing the patterns that reveal the larger context of dialogue taking place publicly between films that, otherwise, would not seem related.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Friday, July 17, 2015

Ant-Man: 2 Reasons To Go and See It

"Margins" is a literary device, as well as a political term. The film artfully weaves a new margin in the Marvel universe, comparing Tony Stark's research (Robert Downey Jr.) to Hank Pym's work (Micheal Douglas) and bringing out the comparison between the two. In the image above, when Scott still learns how to use the suit and utilize the ants as allies, he's been literally going "underground" (also a political term, think of the resistance movements doing World War II) because that puts him at the, literally, "grass roots" level (also a political term).  Ant-Man is definitely a part of the Marvel universe, but Scott is his own type of hero, with his own personality and that will impact the events of Captain America 3 in a huge way.
Marvel's newest installment in the cinematic universe is Ant-Man, and permit me to say: it lives up to the audience expectations of super-hero entertainment in every way. There are two reasons to go and see it for yourself: first, if you don't, you won't have any idea of what is going on in Captain America 3: Civil War. There are 2 mid-credit scenes, so tell anyone you know going to see it, because most of the audience walked out after the first one was over, and in one of them, Captain America (Chris Evans) appears with Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and another character who will have a huge impact on the Marvel universe.  The second reason to go see Ant-Man is because it's an excellent film, full of humor and courage, but also great narrative strategies, like "margins." Ant-Man doesn't just provide great entertainment, it continues the long, detailed public accusation against socialists and their "mental instability."
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Saturday, July 11, 2015

King Bob: Minions & Stealing To Fill the Void

Who are the Minions? They are us. We are all Minions, and some are just bigger Minions than others. There is a scene in the film where Keven, Stuart and Bob are watching The Dating Game, and the female contestant has to choose between three human male Kevin, Bob and Stuarts, and right before she chooses one, the cable goes out and there is static (another get example of how noise is used in the film) and, in playing with the antenna, Stuart picks up the Villain Network Channel and they find out about Villain-Con. These three human "mirrors" of the Minion characters validate how we are to understand them, as mirrors of ourselves, but what are we to understand about them? They are simple, but happy; they are silly, but united; they work hard and are loyal, they like to have a good time, but they are not greedy. Why is it important to establish these characteristics? Because the Liberal Left would have us believing something far different.  I would like to point out, and I readily confess, this may be a stretch, that Kevin the Minion is a reference to the highly-troubled teenager in We Need To Talk About Kevin with Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller. Why would a Minion be compared to someone so brutal and heartless? To show that most people aren't brutal and heartless.
It's a deceptively simple--even silly--story line, and yet, while it's been marketed to children because of it's make-believe characters and it's animated, the adults in the audience are the intended audience; how can I say that? How many kids know who Napoleon Bonaparte is? Or would recognize the iconic photograph of the Beatles Abbey Road album cover just by the feet of the band members? How many kids know the legend of the Sword In the Stone? How many kids would recognize Andy Warhol's painting of the Tomato Soup can? These are just a couple of the adult-themed nuggets placed in the Minions film for the adults in the audience and, when we put them together, they spell an impressive political agenda for everyone to note. Let's begin with the most sophisticated artistic device used: noise.
The very opening animation, showing the beginning stages of life, may look to passive viewers like "social Darwinism," however, it's not: it's chaos theory. How can we say that? Darwin postulated that the species best suited to survival did survive and evolved into ever greater examples of their respective race; chaos theory, on the other hand, deduces from an abundance of historical and archaeological artifacts that the strongest and best adapted didn't always survive, and that's what we see happening in this opening sequence: these tiny Minions follow the biggest fish in the ocean, and each time, that biggest fish would look like it would be best suited for survival, but it doesn't; the Minions, on the other hand, shouldn't have lasted a day, but they do and they prosper. So, why is it a big deal that they are positing chaos theory rather than Darwinism? "Social Darwinism" is often used by the Left to describe American capitalism because they want to spread the belief that only enormous corporations like Coke and Pepsi survive the grueling challenges of a free market economy (which isn't so free in America nowadays). Chaos theory, unlike Darwinism, allows for there to be a God, whereas Darwinism attributes all life to the mechanisms of nature (and no one has a soul).  By beginning the story with a rather scientifically subversive statement (most scientists still ignorantly cling to Darwinism and its off-shoots in spite of the archaeological record not supporting it), which also subverts the atheism of socialist thought, the film makers, like those of The Penguins Of Madagascar, take a clear stand which they consistently uphold for the entire film.
We can't understand what the minions say, only an occasional word will be recognizable, such as "Bob!" but for the most part, all we hear is noise. Noise, as an artistic device, acts to encode a message beneath the noise. Why? Just as humor usually takes a controversial or disagreeable topic, and encodes it in a contradiction or mirrors the actions of a person or group in a different light, so noise will distort something to the point that we are actually receiving more information than if there were no noise at all.
For example,...
These images aren't in the film, but they were released in addition to the other film stills; why? For at least two reasons. First, to demonstrate that those great artists humanity holds in such reverence are Minions just like the rest of us, and there isn't anything any more special about Vincent Van Gogh or Salvador Dali than you and me, they just acted upon their talent and underwent the suffering that came with their free wills so they could produce great art. Secondly, in demonstrating that they know what great art is, the makers of Minions challenge us to claim that their film isn't art; it is art. Imitation doesn't make great art--Minion Monroe will never be the same as Andy Warhol's Marilyn Monroe (bottom right corner)--but Minions are a unique creation all of their own, just like each of these works were in their own time, and in making the case for their film to be art, it also demands engagement with it, and a serious dialogue with the noise they have intentionally introduced to encode a politically explosive thesis. 
When the film first opens, the Minions are the ones singing the Universal Pictures theme song; we also saw this in Pitch Perfect 2 with the A Capella judges singing the theme song as the intro to the film.We're often told, especially if you listen to the commentary tracks on the film discs, that the views of the commentary in no way express the views of the studio; with the Minions singing the Universal theme song, however, they are making the point that they, the Minions, are UNIVERSAL, and not just the studio. Even though their message may be garbled in noise, the opening mimicry of the theme song suggests, we know what we are saying, and we want you to hear it, if you care to listen. So, what are they saying? We don't find out until the post-credits scene.
This is New York in 1968, and my father has said a number of times that those years were so violent, they thought the world was going to end. What is wrong about this image is that Bob holds a "hippie" sign, done in the aesthetic of the "flower power children," but he wears the work overalls they have just put on as their official uniforms. How does this contrast? This is one of the great signs of serious art in the film, that it sees the overwhelming hypocrisy of the hippies wanting "freedom" and liberation for everyone, the watered-down ideas of socialism, but condemning the "working-class" (which the overalls identify the Minions as, rather than the political class or 1%, etc) which the hippies claim to support, but reserve their strongest bile for. 
Like Ted 2, the post-credits scene, at the very, very end of the film (and there is quite a bit of additional animation thrown in at the end of the film) solidifies the entire message of the film; how? The Minions "sing" (again, we can't understand them, but we know the tune) Revolution by The Beatles which they recorded in 1968, the year of the events depicted in the film. At the time, Revolution was a rather middle-of-the-road political statement for The Beatles, suggesting that, violent revolution wasn't a good idea and they didn't want any part in it; it acts as a warning song to the New Left (which became the Democratic Party Left in the US) about how to NOT cause a revolution. How does this song fit in with the film?
Enter Scarlet Overkill.
On two different occasions, Scarlet has to pull up her dress to keep it from falling down; why does she do this? It symbolizes that, in the male-dominated field of crime, Scarlet has a difficult time holding onto her femininity (her breasts) and she is at risk for becoming a man. Recall, at both Villain-Con and her "coronation" the man with the mustache dressed like Scarlet who yells, "I love you, Scarlet!" he is at risk for losing his masculinity, as Scarlet is for losing her femininity. What about Scarlet's husband Herb? When he's in the torture chamber, and wearing the mask, Kevin calls him "Herb!" recognizing him, and Herb denies it, and says that his name is actually, "Blurb." At the end of this scene, he takes off the mask, says he doesn't even know anyone named Blurp, and leaves. The mask Herb wears is another form of "encoding," so what does the torture scene symbolize? Who is it that isn't being hurt by the torment being hurled at them, in spite of the nastiness of those trying to take over the world hurling it at them? Conservatives. In spite of the degrading and disgusting means the Left continues to use against Conservatives, just like the Minions, we come out unscathed. 
Scarlet's plan is to get new henchmen (who turn out to be the Minions who are looking for a new boss), have them steal the Queen of England's Crown Jewels and be made Queen herself. Over-throwing the monarchy is definitely a revolution, and through various means, it happens, Scarlet Overkill is going to be crowned queen; one news broadcaster states what a catastrophe it is that Scarlet Overkill is going to be crowned queen (which itself is an example of noise, because he says "If I weren't polite I would tell you exactly what I think," and then he leans in and tells the viewers the horror that is going to happen, then he leans back and goes on as if he didn't say anything at all).
How does it happen?
Changing the law.
Why introduce the legend of the Sword In the Stone, and why have it be Bob who pulls it out? When we think of Excalibur, we probably think of those who would be purest of heart and intent, those who would be loving and kind, those who wouldn't show any greed but exercise wisdom. Bob fits all those descriptions, since he volunteered to set out on the journey with Kevin to save his tribe and no one else would. We also see that those are the same qualities that make Bob a bad king. He's terrible, in fact. The ideal king wouldn't be someone who would be king in an ideal world, but--like Elizabeth herself--is a realist in a real world. 
Why would anyone want to change the law? Well, they would if the law prohibited them from doing something that was going to be bad for everyone else; in this case, Scarlet is going to be made queen, not to uphold the laws of the land, but to do away with laws for herself and villain friends, so, this is a perfect example of why the law cannot be changed or suspended. Are there examples of the law being changed today?
Elizabeth comes out of this looking really good. When she is replaced because Bob has pulled Excalibur from the stone, she simply hands him the crown and doesn't make any fuss over it at all. When Kevin ends up at the pub where she is drinking everyone under the table and telling jokes, she refers to Kevin as one of those who "stole" the monarchy from me. This is a different kind of stealing than what Scarlet does, because Scarlet steals just to steal, but Elizabeth recognizes that the Minions aren't legitimate rulers, even if they did pull the Sword, and her country doesn't have a legitimate ruler, rather like America today. In the pub scene, the Queen tells this joke: "Why did the Queen go to the dentist? To get her teeth crowned." This little joke introduces word-play which can be both noise or humor. In the scene above,w hen Stuart tries stealing her crown, Elizabeth says, "Gentlemen do not steal ladies' crowns," and I think we can take that to be a sexual innuendo, that women are crowned with virginity (remember, this time period was one that saw the rise of ultra-feminism, discussed below) and a gentleman doesn't take that crown from her unless they are wed. Even though Elizabeth is female, and one of few crowned Queens in English history (as they have preferred the male line) she isn't a symbol of feminism, like Margaret Thatcher, rather, she's antithetical to feminism because of her strong sense of femininity and strength she draws upon from herself and character, rather than demanding political equality just to demand equality. 
Thomas Aquinas wrote that there are two parts to any law: first, it must be passed through legal means (that is, the recognized law-making body of a government must be the one passing it, and not under threat or bribery, etc.) and, secondly, in order for that law to be a real law, it must be enforced. When people riot, for example, in cities like Ferguson or Baltimore, and police are given the order not to arrest anyone, that is changing the law and making it acceptable to riot and destroy property because the law isn't being enforced. When a person withholds information about having broken laws, like Lois Lerner, and they are free to go rather than being prosecuted for their crimes and covering up other crimes, that is a changing of the law; when a Secretary of State is guilty of not keeping up security standards at a US Embassy, and Americans die, and that Secretary of State is not prosecuted, that is changing the law because anyone and everyone who commits such a crime is guilty and punishable. It's a crime, therefore, to change or suspend laws because it undermines the entire foundation upon which government is built.
There are two types of hunger: there is the hunger of the body for food, and there is the hunger of the soul for fulfillment. Everyone faces the hunger of the body and the hunger of the soul, but the later is done in different ways and to different degrees. The Minions, and their fascination with "Banana!" throughout the film is a reflection of the hunger of the body: they just want to support themselves and keep from starvation. Scarlet Overkill, on the other hand, is fascinated with the never-ending gnawing pain of her ego, and that is how most villains are: they need their egos satisfied, whether Scarlet Overkill or Lex Luthor, they want everyone else miserable so they can be happy,... at least for a moment. 
After being crowned king for pulling out the Sword In the Stone, King Bob then changes the law and names Scarlet Queen. Now, the question is, "Why does Scarlet Overkill want to be Queen Of England so badly?" Because she is filling the void. When she first takes the Minions to her mansion, they pass through a room with gold and priceless art, and she says that these are a few of the things she has stolen to "fill the void," and then she goes onto charge the Minions with stealing the Crown. What happens when Scarlet prepares for her coronation is even more interesting,....
This is maybe the most important scene of the film, because it properly identifies Scarlet's motivation for what she is doing: self-hatred. She wants the crown so everyone will love her, but the problem is, Scarlet hates everyone that she thinks she wants to love her. That's not an equation for happiness, and it never is, and yet, that is the greatest illusion that people fall into. 
The film makers have gone to great lengths to incorporate elements into the narrative that were actually happening in the violent, turbulent year of 1968, one of those being  the protesting of the Miss America competition by the New York Radical Women group (not to be confused with the New York Radical Feminists or Radical Women, which were two separate groups). Now, when we first meet Scarlet at Villain-Con, she talks about how "they" (whoever that is) said a "woman could never become a super-villain," and so this makes Scarlet a bit of a feminist symbol, to say the least, since she is "seeking equality" with her male counterparts in her chosen career field. As Scarlet prepares for her coronation, guess what she is wearing? Just guess,....
A corset.
The corset scene with Herb helping Scarlet get the tiny waist she wants is, undoubtedly, a reference to Scarlet O'Hara in Gone With The Wind. Even though Scarlet Overkill puts on an air of being "liberated" and free, wanting a small waist at her coronation betrays her vanity. Likewise, we rather get the idea that Herb, filling in for Hattie McDaniels' Mamie, is Scarlet's slave rather than her husband as he has taken the place of the "corset string puller." The name, "Scarlet," comes from the color red, which symbolizes blood: either we love someone enough to spill our (red) blood for them and their welfare, or we hate them enough to spill their (red) blood to appease our wrath and anger; Scarlet "Over-kill" doesn't hesitate to destroy the Minions once she has what she wants. The importance of this is, it demonstrates that, far from seeking social justice or economical equality or civil rights and liberties, the Left is really a group of mentally dysfunctional people trying to inflict change on the world so they themselves don't have to change, rather, they can remain anti-social, self-hating brats and burden us all with their unsavory presence. 
A corset is perhaps the ultimate evil for feminists because, to them, it's women slavishly trying to make themselves appealing to men, whom feminists hate. Scarlet has her husband, Herb, pulling the strings, tighter and tighter because, "Must,... have,... tiny,.... waist!" the moment of her coronation is a revenge, a payback to all of those who said she could never do it and wasn't good enough, and this is really the point of the film: people trying to topple the institutions that have come to exist in order to protect society and the general population, don't want revolution for the good of anyone else, just to momentarily fill the never-ending void with what looks like "love" but, because they don't love themselves, they can never understand expressions of love from others and so won't accept it, which is the very sad lot of being criminally insane. Am I right about this?
If Scarlet's name references the 1929 film Gone With the Wind, there might be another reference to another 1929 film and that is The Wizard Of Oz. Towards the end, when Queen Elizabeth is giving gifts, it's rather like the Wizard in Oz giving gifts to Tin Man, Scarecrow and Lion; at the start of the film, Kevin, Stuart and Bob setting out on their journey to save their tribe is very much like that of the trip down the Yellow Brick Road. There is an important trait about Bob (left): he's a mutant. With one green eye and one brown eye, anyone who has seen X-Men: First Class knows that is the result of a mutated gene. Kevin is going on this journey because he is a leader; Stuart is going on the journey because he's the dreamer (wanting to be a rock star musician) and Bob is going on the journey because he wants to preserve his singularity, his uniqueness and individuality. Note, please, the red and white knapsack Bob holds over his shoulder; the red is his willingness to die trying to save his tribe and the white is the color of the faith he has that, even though he's scared of setting out on this journey, he believes good will come of it and so he goes.  
Kevin is the exact opposite of Scarlet, because what he is doing, he is doing for the good of his people, his tribe, and trying to save them. Kevin, we can say, is motivated by an abundance of love (for the other Minions) and Scarlet is motivated by a lack of love, for herself and everyone else. Why does she want the Crown of England? "Then I'll be a princess and everyone loves a princess!" Contrasted with The Beatles' Revolution (as a song of noise, rather than lyrical) and the events set in 1968, Minions could not be making a more direct political statement regarding the shallowness of the Liberal Left today and the real reason for them pushing revolution: like Scarlet Overkill, they want to get revenge on everyone they have harbored a grudge since their childhood; in other words, the Liberals never grew up. At the end of the day, Minions want someone they can serve and love, be loyal to and take care of; liberals want to be served and they want to rule just to rule. If you don't believe me, listen to Revolution.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner
This is interesting: please read the very top credit line: "Sandra Bullock is Scarlet Overkill." Well, she isn't Scarlet Overkill, she portrays Scarlet Overkill, so saying "She is Scarlet Overkill" suggests that, indeed, Scarlet is modeled on Sandra Bullock. Why would they do this? Bullock starred in Gravity and Heat, both radically pro-socialist films so tying the character and actress together works to instill in the mind of the audience what Scarlet is like beyond the Minions because we know what Bullock herself has done (this is an example of Reader Response theory).