Archives for posts with tag: affirmative action

gut poster

Gut is a study of two friends, nondescript Tom (Jason Vail) and nerdy Dan (Nicholas Wilder), who have known each other from adolescence and now work together in stultifying office jobs.  Tom has graduated to conventional domesticity, with an attractive wife (Sarah Schoofs) and child, while Dan appears to be charmingly stuck in goofy immaturity, more interested in consuming horror movies and junk food than in making anything identifiably adult out of his life.  When Tom develops an enigmatic case of ennui that threatens to drive a further wedge between the two men, who have clearly lost a previous closeness, Dan makes the seemingly harmless but actually momentous suggestion that Tom should visit his home to watch an unusual DVD he has received in the mail.

Is the content of the disc, with what appears to be footage of an actual murder, real or merely a simulated snuff film?  Whatever its source, the (disturbingly graphic) imagery haunts and fascinates Tom, who has nightmares and is uncomfortable with what he and Dan have discovered, both on the internet and in themselves as more films arrive in the mail.  The stakes and danger, furthermore, are more than simply psychological when it becomes apparent that the party responsible for the snuff DVDs is active where they live.  Gut is not torture porn itself, but ponders the genre’s sources and ramifications; squeamish viewers are, however, advised to approach Gut with extreme caution.

Gut demonstrates an intimate knowledge of cubicle-bound despair and succeeds in giving the horror genre its Office Space, with perhaps a bitter tincture of In the Company of Men.  As is true of the music for the latter, Chvad SB’s minimalist score for Gut, which builds from subtle, bare, and repetitive to unnervingly abrasive as the film progresses, forms a compelling and integral component of Gut‘s personality and is indispensible to its storytelling.  The story told, tastefully if tenebrously lensed, is not an uplifting one, and if Gut can be called a horror film, it is, like last year’s Sinister, something of an odd, self-loathing example, with horror and porn the gateway drugs that lead to other, darker preoccupations and initiations.

Gut earns 4.5 stars and is highly recommended, with Nicholas Wilder one of the year’s most interesting faces and “Elias” a definite directorial talent to watch.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that this film is:

3. Un-p.c./state-skeptical.  Dan claims his regular mail carrier has been replaced by a mentally retarded man – affirmative action gone postal and run utterly amuck!

2. Family/marriage-ambivalent.  With emotional and genetic investment in humanity comes not just affection, but responsibility, insecurity, boredom, and, for men, diminished home entertainment sovereignty.

1. Effectively anti-feminist.  Tom and especially Dan are representative of the catastrophe wrought in American society by women’s liberation.  Dan personifies the national epidemic of unmanned men more interested in pop culture distraction, nostalgia, and mischievous male camaraderie than in honest work or mature relationships with women.  He finds, therefore, a less grim sociological cousin in Ed, Nick Frost’s character in Shaun of the Dead.

Dan dwells on the drawbacks of Tom’s family life and calls him a “pussy-whipped motherfucker”.  Lending potential credence to this assessment and to his characterization of Tom’s balls as AWOL is a scene of an inwardly smoldering Tom doing the woman’s work of washing dishes.  Tom approvingly describes his wife as “old-fashioned”; but later, when he becomes rough with her, she straddles and slaps him until he relents and apologizes to her, indicating that their relationship is not as “old-fashioned” as he has perhaps convinced himself.  Earlier, he is irritated when his wife takes the sexual initiative.  “So, what, I’m supposed to flip whenever you want me to?” he objects.  Television, as in Poltergeist, serves as an occasional babysitter.

Torture porn appears to be Dan’s principal sexual outlet.  The snuff films that captivate him are meaningfully misogynistic, with women’s bellies – the center of traditional womanhood in its reproductive capacity – targeted for mutilation and vivisection.  Motherhood is incompatible with women’s chosen roles as professionals and/or shamelessly pierced and tattooed fornicators.  Although a friendly waitress, Sally (Angie Bullaro), obviously likes him, a brief exchange with a chilly coworker suggests how women are probably more likely to respond to Dan.  The typical unavailability of the women he desires has fostered in him a deep resentment that sublimates as horror fandom but finds a more direct expression in his enjoyment of torture porn and snuff films.

dredd-poster

After the nuclear holocaust, the ruins of America’s eastern seaboard are united under police state rule as Mega City One, a sprawling urban squalor infested with crime, with “only one thing fighting for order in the chaos: judges.”  One such judge is Dredd (Karl Urban), a man whose passionate dedication to law enforcement is so profound that his mouth is permanently frozen into a psychotic pout as he zooms around the city righteously blasting tattooed dopeheads.

In Dredd, the titular hero has an especially rough day on the job when, along with rookie partner Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), he finds himself locked into a ghetto megastructure (the overgrown futuristic equivalent of a housing project) and pitted against its masters, drug queenpin Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) and her minions.  The resulting adventure approximates The Running Man meets Escape from New York meets Assault on Precinct 13, with police woefully outnumbered against frightening futuristic odds.

With its charismatically grim avenger and pulsing electronic music, Dredd makes for a fairly slick glorification of authoritarian skull-cracking and high-tech fascism.  There remains in the public’s imagination a fascination and a seduction in quasi-vigilante cops after the Dirty Harry mold; Dredd, likewise, in its more macho moments, almost succeeds in lulling its audience into idiotic obedience in slavishly licking the iron heel.

An irony of Dredd‘s dangerous indulgence toward the police state, however, is its desire to depict iron-fisted government brutality as the solution to social problems which, though the script seems oblivious of the fact, are actually caused by the policies of precisely that glorious fascistic leviathan.  Manufacture and sale of drugs appear to be the major generators of wealth for the ghetto dwellers; but the state, through its prohibition of the people’s livelihoods and pastimes, has only succeeded in creating hellholes of systemic violence in which only the most vicious criminals and corrupt police are allowed to profit and thrive.  The exorbitant level of unemployment indicates that Mega City One’s Hall of Justice is probably doing its enlightened utmost to strangle other potentially productive areas of commerce, as well.

Dredd‘s budgetary constrictions rarely interfere with its considerable entertainment value.  The action scenes are adequate, the pace is consistently brisk, and the evocation of a grimy, dystopian future is sordidly picturesque and amusing if also somewhat half-baked.  Urban is quite watchable in the lead and Dredd lays a workable foundation for a potentially fun series of films down the road.

4 of 5 possible stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Dredd is:

7. Antiwar.  Nuclear conflict has destroyed most of America.

6. Pro-miscegenation.  It’s the progressive future, so it’s casual.

5. Torture-friendly.  Psychic interrogation may be more efficient, but an old-fashioned beating is also acceptable.

4. Multiculturalist.  The Chief Judge (Rakie Ayola) is black, as are representative medical professionals.  As in 80s vigilante films, street gangs, or at least the Ma-Ma Clan, are a multiracial affair (but one gang, the “Red Dragons”, is all Asian, apparently, and another group identified as “the Judged” is represented by a brown face).  In progressive acknowledgment of multiple intelligences, affirmative action is in effect in Hall of Justice human resources decisions.  Anderson, who has failed her qualification examination by a margin of three points, is given a chance because she is psychic.

3. Feminist/pro-castration.  Tough-as-nails Ma-Ma, formerly exploited by an abusive pimp, “feminized the guy with her teeth”, took over his business, and built a successful drug empire.  Humor is more than once milked from the idea of damaged or destroyed male sexual organs.  A thug is doomed from the moment he taunts Anderson, “Got any last words, bitch?”

2. Anti-drug.  Slow-mo, the illegal drug of choice in the futuristic ghetto, creates an experience of reality that moves at 1% normal speed.  It is evil for postponing the user’s inevitable progress into the glorious future.  Thus, conservatism or resistance to change is reimagined in Dredd as a narcotic addiction and an obstacle to big government new world order progressivism.

1. Statist/fascist.  Society, breaking under its own weight, needs to be protected from itself.  Search warrants, Miranda rights, habeas corpus, right to trial, and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment are annoyances that have, conveniently for the state, been discarded in Mega City One.  Statism gives itself the ultimate pat on the back with Anderson, the psychic judge who proves that the benevolently omniscient and omnipresent state, like Santa Claus before it, knows who is naughty and who is nice.  Gun control, too, receives an endorsement when, as with Bond in Skyfall, Dredd is shown at a disadvantage against lawbreakers’ superguns with high ammunition capacity and rapid fire action.  Citizens live in fear of “the gun, [and] the gang” (presumably with reference to the private and not the public varieties).

With a reach that far exceeds its grasp, this science fiction cheapie from Andrew Bellware suffers from grandiose ambitions notwithstanding its frequent mocking self-aware campiness.  Android Insurrection opens with an informational spiel about the wonders of robotic labor-saving devices which have supposedly ended war and other human struggles, but then follows this with a matter-of-fact but ominous litany of caveats about robotics safety that sound like the scary side effects at the end of a prescription drug commercial.  Set in the twenty-third century, after North America has been reduced to desert and artificial intelligence has turned against humanity, the plot concerns a mission to retrieve a set of pretty, pink-haired androids from an underground research facility guarded by spider-like killer robots.

Based on an “original” story by Nat Cassidy, Android Insurrection bears obvious resemblances at various moments to such films as The Terminator, Alien, Hardware, Crash and Burn, and even Star Wars with the inclusion of light-sabers.  These comparisons, alas, do Android Insurrection no favors and only serve to highlight its pitiful poverty by contrast.  The effects, while often better than amateurish, seldom interact convincingly with the living performers and thus minimize the intended impact of the action sequences.

Momentary suspense is accomplished with the suggestion that one character on the team of robot-fighters may be a robot herself; no serious attempt is made to capitalize on this potential interest-hook, however, and the remainder of the story meanders with little sense of purpose or worthwhile stakes for the viewer.  The acting, too, is inconsistent, and occasionally detracts from what might have been a more seriously committed and convincing film instead of a video document of paradoxically over-ambitious Generation X underachievement.

2 of 5 possible stars.  ICA’s advice: see Cherry 2000 again instead.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Android Insurrection is:

5. Antiwar.  Nuclear weapons appear to have lain waste to the planet.

4. Feminist/pro-slut.  Approximating slasher “final girl” structure, Android Insurrection provides one noteworthy survivor in Foxwell (Virginia Logan), a tough, nosering-sporting, midriff-bearing Generation-X chick who wields a phallic EMP grenade with panache.

3. Racist!  Fulfilling wacko survivalist and paintballer fantasies of a vanilla dawn, Android Insurrection, contrary to evident demographic trends of today, depicts a future America populated almost entirely by young, attractive, gun-toting white people, with only one light-skinned Hispanic cutie (Juanita Arias) to complement the otherwise pure, creamy uniformity of the gene pool.  A Hitler-mustached, German-accented nerd named Bellware (after the director, but played by David Ian Lee) gives the combat team its orders.  Undesirables, we can only assume, have been eradicated through a perfection of the AIDS virus or some other nefarious eugenics coup.  Android fifth-columnist agents among the city-dwelling humans (see no. 2), meanwhile, are to be granted “special protections” – clearly an insensitive reference to the necessary progress of affirmative action in the present “post-racial” age.

2. NWO-alarmist.  The most interesting portion of the film may be the epilogue in which an artificial intelligence informs citizens that it is now in control and that, moving among them, undetected, are sleeper agents, secret robots, who could even be their friends and family members, and who at the proper time will move to implement the policies of the new order.  Among the robot commandments are that humans of “subnormal” and “supernormal” capacity are, Procrustes-wise, to be sent to a state facility “for modification”.

1. Neo-Luddite.  Technology is evil.  Your toaster hates you and will destroy you if you allow it.

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