The Hunger Games: a Libertarian Dead Teenager Movie.

I’ve always enjoyed watching teenagers die. Even when I was a teenager, back in the early Pleistocene, I couldn’t get enough adolescent annihilation. Now that I am a certified, some would say certifiable, drooling old fart boomer I enjoy it even more. Youthful folly: it’s riveting entertainment for the elderly. Given my macabre inclinations I looked forward to the Hunger Games with the same — oh my god, lol, like enthusiasm — of a screeching teenage girl which, oddly, is the movie’s target demographic. Well did the Hunger Games disappoint and, more importantly, is it worth ten bucks? In two words: no and yes.

The world of the Hunger Games is your typical progressive green fascist paradise. The sort of place our global warming alarmists, whale saving eco-warriors, Volt driving poseurs, anti-capitalist philosophers and leader venerating loons would like to live. Panem, the principal nation-state depicted in the Hunger Games, is split into two familiar classes: the haves and the have-nots. The haves live in a gleaming special Capitol city and the have-nots grunge away their pointless little people lives in twelve impoverished out-lying districts. Naked force keeps everything in a nice green line. Sure the people in the Capitol while away their carefree days in an endless who can dress like the gayest circus clown contest while the peons in the outer districts fantasize about bread but sacrifices must be made to manage our carbon footprint.

To break the oppressive tedium of face painting, hair dressing and color coordination every year the rulers of Panem select twenty-four lucky teenage Tributes from the twelve out-lying districts and make them fight to the death in Panem’s version of ultimate survivor: The Hunger Games. There’s some background filler about how the games are a punishment and reminder of a long ago civil war that went badly for the out-lying districts. The games, as one smarmy TV announcer played by Stanley Tucci said, “bring us together.” Yeah, there’s nothing like raw fear and continual humiliation to bring a people together.

Face paint and swashbuckling hot heroine, (played by Jennifer Lawrence), aside the world of the Hunger Games is the most credible Sci-Fi dystopia to emerge in years. The laws of physics hold in this movie! There’s no flying faster than the speed of light, no summoning of magical or supernatural forces and no hinging entire pocahantian plot lines on imaginary Unobtainium. Nothing depicted in the Hunger Games is, as far as we know, impossible. We could build Panem today with off-the-shelf technology. It’s probably lost of the popcorn crowd but the world’s physical plausibility is a powerful frame for the story because this shit has already happened. The mayhem of Hunger Games is no worse than what transpired for centuries in Roman amphitheatres, Aztec ball courts or medieval jousting tournaments. Humans can be gamed to death for the filmiest of reasons. This is the real horror of the film; it’s not much a stretch from where we’ve been, to where we are, to what we might become.

I do not fear imaginary monsters; there are plenty of real ones to worry about and the real Hunger Game monsters are with us now. Our biggest monster is our naïve belief that we’ve put all this aside: that no modern democratic state could degenerate into a tidy Panemian tyranny, that liberty and freedom, once achieved, is eternal. I’m not so sanguine; we’re a lot closer to a Panem than you might think. If you handed out firearms to the contestants of your average reality TV show we’d be there: minus the green high-speed maglev trains of course. (Don’t worry there’s a stimulus boondoggle for the maglev trains.) Ask yourself, if we armed the Kardashians and made them fight to death on TV how many would care, how many would be relieved, how many Vegas bets would be made? I suspect most would dress up in their gayest apparel and party like Panemians celebrating another dead teenager.

New Conan not as Philosophical as Old Conan

Bad news philosophers, our preeminent social critic, our font of wisdom, our modern Socrates has succumbed to the malignant Hollywood poisons of reality TV, celebrity whoring, financial ennui and hopeless incompetent governance. Given the forces arrayed against our philosopher king only Vegas bookies on crack would favor his chances. I knew all this when I sat down to view the latest Conan the Barbarian movie but I let hope trump reason — sound familiar. If I wasn’t a mainly-manly-man I would cry for no longer will we ponder religious dissertations like:

“Crom! I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you, will remember if we were good men or bad. Why we fought, or why we died. All that matters is that today, two stood against many. That’s what’s important! Valor pleases you, Crom; so grant me this one request. Grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, then to hell with you!

Or learn about what’s good in life:

My friends that golden Apollonic age is past! Now we must content ourselves with eat, pray, love travesties like:

“I live, I love, I slay, I am content.”

When did Conan the Barbarian decide to come out?

Cowboys and Aliens and Obama

Cowboys and Aliens

I give this better odds than “quantitative easing!”

Cowboys and Aliens had me at the title! Throwing Indiana Jones, James Bond and House’s 13,  (Olivia Wilde – the thinking man’s smoking hot babe), into the mix merely turned a ridiculous premise into a cosmically absurd proposition. How could I resist?

There’s no point issuing spoiler alerts, like a fine Obama speech, this schizophrenic masterpiece cannot be spoiled.

Yes I hear your little people objections, but bear with me. If we throw fun under the bus then CB is the cinematic equivalent of a typical Obama speech.

Oliva Wilde

I gave up a season of House for this turkey!

Let’s review the evidence:

  1. CB mashes together tired old western and science-fiction clichés without the slightest regard for antiquated notions like coherence and plausibility.
  2. Obama (OB) mashes together tired old political clichés without the slightest regard for antiquated notions like effectiveness and reality.
  3. CB conjures up big nasty bug-like aliens that literally blind the people with science so they can harvest their precious bodily fluids.
  4. OB conjures up big nasty Tea Party Republicans that blind the people with arithmetic so they can balance the budget.
  5. CB rails against the gold standard. See the movie
  6. OB rails against the gold standard. See the Federal Reserve.
  7. CB is confused.
  8. OB ditto.
Harrison Ford

Jesus what a freak show. Hey it could be worse. I could be Obama’s press secretary.

Analogies are never perfect and eventually the CB = OB symmetry breaks down.  In CB it all works out!  After dispatching the aliens the good guys are better off. When we finally dispatch Obama I doubt any of us will be better off.

A Black Swan Song

There’s a lot to like in The Black Swan.  To begin, you simply cannot beat the soundtrack!  Tchaikovsky delivers a bit stream worthy of high quality digital cinema sound systems. Natalie Portman gives the best performance of her career — now I see what the young Darth Vader and that creepy V guy saw in her! And, to cap it off, The Black Swan elegantly solves the “ballet guy problem.”  Real guys don’t do, watch, or appreciate ballet but throw in some hot lesbian ballerina on ballerina action and suddenly you’re up for a skinny dip in Swan Lake just to cool down.

I was expecting a euroweenie art film but the Swan exceeded my expectations by being — what’s that word — entertaining.  I particularly enjoyed being fooled until last scene.  There is nothing I hate more than figuring out what’s going on in a movie.  I demand that lovely confused state of mind before all is revealed. And for the denouement, I expect coherence and logic.  I was not disappointed. The Black Swan is a film ballet, NASCAR and psych patients can all enjoy for roughly the same reasons: enthusiastically endorsed.

Binge Pretend Boink

Eat Pray Love

Eat Pray Love

The best line in Eat Pray Love comes early on.  When Liz Gilbert’s, (Julia Roberts), marriage is falling apart she gets down on her knees and gives prayer a try.  Now Liz, a successful author and full-fledged member of the secular  New York literati, realizes this is a bit phony so she considers starting her prayer with,  “Hello God, I’m a big fan of your work.”  I’m a big fan of Julia Robert’s work but Eat Pray Love makes impossible chick flick demands.

The modern chick flick is a difficult genre.  A good chick flick:

  1. Caters to women without alienating men.
  2. Treats important but not serious themes.
  3. Is funny in a harmless inoffensive way.
  4. Offers up current female fantasies of the ideal man.
  5. Pushes soft feminist politics.
  6. Goes easy on the ball crushing man hatred.

Eat Pray Love methodically tackles all these points; the film is earnest to a fault!  Yet two hours after seeing it you are left with Julia Robert’s wonderful smile and a nagging sense that hubris laden narcissists have picked your pockets — again! In this way Eat Pray Love is the perfect Obama era chick flick.  Not recommended for people with something better to do!

The 20 seconds that ruined Inception

Inception Token

Last week I saw Inception with my daughter.  I was seriously considering giving this flick a miss after reading Michelle Malkin’s rant about its empty-headed actors.  Nothing ruins a movie faster than an actor going off-script!  Actors are given scripts written by others for very good reasons.  Most of them have stunted childlike minds that rarely emit ideas worth considering.  I have no patience for such nonsense and I certainly won’t pay for it. Lucky for Inception its Cineplex competitors were defining a new standard of airbending suckitude — move over Plan 9 there’s a new fetid pant load in town.

Spoiler Alert

To my relief the juvenile politics of Inception’s actors did not manifest in the movie.  Inception is a fine film but it threw away its slim chance at greatness in the last twenty seconds.  At this point I must issue an all points spoiler alert.  Do not read  beyond this paragraph if you want to preserve your faint chance of being surprised.

Inception is all about recursive nature of reality and dreams.  What is a dream and what is reality?  How does dream time relate to real-time?  Does such a question even make sense? Are we in a dream?  What happens if we dream in a dream?  The movie tackles these themes with technical gusto. The special effects are so special you forget about being impressed and just enjoy the story.  On this account Inception succeeds were Avatar sounded some sour notes.  You cannot fault this movie on technical grounds.  Nor can you fault it on cheesy subject matter.  How many Hollywood blockbusters deal with the nature of reality?

To avoid getting lost in dreams the Inception dreamers carried a personal test token. The test token is a small object that behaves one way in dream worlds and another way in reality. And, this is crucial to Inception’s plot, only one dreamer should know the token’s trick. DiCaprio’s character used the spinning top shown above.  As some readers have pointed out the spinning top is DiCaprio’s wife’s token but he knows that in dreams the top never stops spinning while in the real world it tips over. By spinning the top he can distinguish dreams from reality.

In the last twenty seconds of Inception DiCaprio’s character returns home and starts the top spinning on a table.  Throughout the film he has been trying to catch glimpses of his children’s faces.  In his dreams their faces are always turned away.  Finally, they turn their heads and he sees their faces.  Then the camera cuts to the spinning token. It’s still spinning but it’s wobbling and starting to fall.

The film ends before the token falls. I’m guessing the director just couldn’t stomach the focus group happy ending and spared us the indignity of watching the top fall.  Despite the residual uncertainty, maybe it doesn’t fall and this isn’t reality but another dream, the implication is clear enough we are safe and sound and back in the real world.   A better ending would have been no top wobbling and no child faces. Then everything would have been marvelously ambiguous and unclear.  Never pander to the audience art is to delicate for that!