Archives for posts with tag: immigration-ambivalent

It Comes at Night

A plague has decimated the United States, plunging the population into anarchy and reducing living standards to the bare rudiments. Rather than offering a panoramic view of the cataclysm, however, It Comes at Night opts instead to tell this story on an intimate level, with a minimal cast, and through the interactions of two families trying to survive in a forested wilderness.

Joel Edgerton lives in a remote house with wife Carmen Ejogo and son Kelvin Harrison. The death early on of the mother’s father, played by David Pendleton, serves as a reminder of the family’s continued vulnerability to the mysterious pestilence even in their isolation and haunts the remainder of the film.

New tensions are introduced when another family, headed by Christopher Abbott, enters their lives. Edgerton never completely trusts Abbott’s motivations, and lonely and sensitive Harrison finds himself drawn to Abbott’s attractive wife, portrayed by Riley Keough.

Highly effective moments of paranoia reminiscent of John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing enhance this morose and often oppressive horror drama, tipping this review in favor of a recommendation. 4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that It Comes at Night is:

3. Anti-gun, with firearms contributing to a tragic denouement instead of successful home defense.

2. Pro-miscegenation, with Edgerton married to a black woman and helping to raise her black son (it is never clear whether Harrison is supposed to be Edgerton’s biological or adopted son, but he looks too dark-skinned to be the former). The film includes a dream-turned-nightmare fantasy scene in which Keough grotesquely straddles and smooches the congoid boy before spewing black plague-slime into his face. Perhaps inadvertently, the scene conveys the temptation to miscegenation as well as the sense that there is something wrong and unnatural about it.

1.Borders-ambiguous. Writer-director Trey Shults has said that It Comes at Night is fundamentally about “fear of the unknown”; and one expression of this in the film is instability created by the unexpected presence of an outsider. Viewed microcosmically, It Comes at Night can be interpreted as an allegory about the immigration debate and the popular call for a wall and strong protectionist measures. Christopher Abbott, who plays the stranger, has some Italian ancestry, but could easily read visually as a mestizo. His character enters the lives of Edgerton and his family when he breaks into their home hoping to find supplies – he is, in other words, illegal and undocumented – but is allowed to move into the house with his wife and child after winning Edgerton’s trust with successful food-for-water barter. His presence, tolerated on pretexts of mutual economic benefit and universal compassion, also represents a threat to Edgerton’s family’s domestic security, however; and, just as Mexicans entering the United States have brought with them illnesses such as highly virulent strains of tuberculosis, Abbott and his family carry with them the risk of plague contagion. Perhaps endorsing this reading is Shults’s description of the climactic sequence as a “Mexican standoff” and his confession during his commentary on the film that, “I was reading books on genocide and thinking about, like, us as humans, you know, and how long we’ve been on this planet and that […] ingrained in us is tribe mentality, you know, and, like, basically, these two families are these two tribes.” The inability of the two men to maintain a peaceful collaboration is treated as a tragedy, but one that could have been avoided if their paths had never crossed – if, for example, Edgerton’s home security precautions had been more thoroughgoing and Abbott had never been able to break into his home in the first place.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

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Hood

A cheapo ghetto reimagining of the legend of Robin Hood, Hood stars bullnecked mulatto football prince Matt Singletary – an actor with all the charisma of a dead crack baby – as an “army hero” who, after fighting the Taliban (i.e., guarding the CIA’s heroin crop) in Afghanistan, comes back home to Chicago to find that his old neighborhood is being tyrannized by the Latin Kings. Determined to make a difference in “the community”, Hood becomes a hoodie-cloaked superhero of sorts, venturing out at night to rip off drug dealers and redistribute their ill-gotten gains to the needy. Assisting him in his low-intensity, action-deprived crusade are Father Tuck (Malik Yoba) and Juanito (Richard Esteras), with corrupt Chicago law enforcement taking the place of the Sheriff of Nottingham. Darren Jones is fun as an oily politician, and one wishes that Thea Camara had been given more screen time as the big and spirited Mrs. Fitzwalter; otherwise, not much to recommend this one.

2 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Hood is:

8. Anti-drug. Hard drugs empower evil. Hood does, however, enjoy a beer.

7. Anti-police. The Latin Kings have infiltrated Chicago’s police, and even the honest few are lazy, muffin-gobbling slobs.

6. State-skeptical. Cynical politicians are in league with criminals. “The worse a neighborhood gets, the more funding it gets,” an alderman rationalizes.

5. Pro-military. The Army appears as the ideal venue for multicultural empowerment. Blacks on the battlefield get to be called “sir”, mouth off to white superiors, and demonstrate their superhuman heroism by doing 187s on America’s enemies. Hilariously, Hood’s pathetic EBT-budgeted version of a Taliban fighter is just some bespectacled Jewish-looking guy in a caftan.

4. Immigration-ambivalent. Hood indicates that “new immigrants” (i.e., illegals) are a prime source of recruits for the Latin Kings because “most don’t speak English” and need a place to stay. Despite the national blight this obviously represents, the film appears to want to depict them as exploited victims.

3. Multiculturalist. So as not to create the impression of racial tension between blacks and mestizos, the Latin Kings are shown to have congoid subordinates while Hood receives the support of his Hispanic neighbors. A community center allows the races to come together in fellowship. Hood volunteers there and teaches tai chi to a vibrant set of youngsters.

2. Christian. Hood, his family, and friends are Christians, and Father Tuck keeps it real on the liberation theology tip. He acknowledges sin in the Church, however, when (after mistaking Hood for a pedophile) he says, “Unlike some priests, I don’t take too kindly to strangers putting their hands on little boys.” Hood’s soundtrack even features a little Christian rap, and the film ends with a Mother Teresa quotation.

1. Marxist. Hood and his band of merry diversityites rob not only Latin Kings, but honest businessmen as well. Troubled by the phenomenon of ghetto “food deserts” and apparently oblivious to the fact that these result from black consumer and criminal behavior, Hood and his gang commit a series of food truck heists, threatening “1 truck per week till you open stores in these neighborhoods.” Robbing trucks. Yep, that ought to spur investment in “the community” . . .

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

yourenextposter

Inexplicably neglected since 2011, with no wide release until now, You’re Next is not only one of the finest film surprises of 2013, but one of the greatest slasher movies ever made. Affectionately versed in its 80s genre heritage, Adam Wingard’s film is a combination slasher and downbeat, darkly comedic family melodrama, almost as if Noah Baumbach had decided to direct a horror movie.

Middle-aged couple Paul (Rob Moran) and Aubrey (Barbara Crampton) are celebrating their wedding anniversary, for which occasion their grown children and their significant others are gathering for a celebration at their country house. Before very long, old sibling rivalries and resentments resurface, both to the family’s chagrin and the audience’s delight; but the funny display of dysfunction at dinner is disrupted when an arrow flies through a window, lodging itself in one guest’s head, and the group realizes that the house is being attacked by an unknown entity or entities. What follows is a Straw Dogs-style siege, a tour de force of storytelling, creative suspense, and invested work from an excellent cast led by Sharni Vinson as Australian heroine Erin.

You’re Next has clearly been crafted with love by people devoted to the genre, and nearly everything in the film is perfect. From delicious moments of tension to elegant use of slow motion, unexpected bits of humor, the obligatory final girl structure, and the reverent casting of genre favorite Barbara Crampton as Aubrey, this is a film by and for those who appreciate the 80s horror inheritance. The experience is further intensified by a supremely effective soundtrack of gothic noise and energizing and inhuman electronica courtesy of scorers Mads Heldtberg, Jasper Justice Lee, and Kyle McKinnon. Director Wingard and writer Simon Barrett are also collaborators on The Guest, a film presently in production, so one can only hope for more morbid magic from that one whenever it gets its release.

5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that You’re Next is a horror which, in the grand old slasher tradition, has a pronounced sense of morality, and also indicates that it is:

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

11. Anti-drug. Vicodin abuse is a sure invitation to victimhood in a slasher film.

10. Anti-police. A police officer, arriving on the scene of the horror too late, gets the wrong idea of the situation in the house and makes what the audience can only view as a fatally tragic error.

9. Anti-miscegenation and anti-Arab. One of the young women is involved with a quiet (or is that aloof? – and presumably somewhat pretentious) “underground” documentary filmmaker named Tariq (Ti West), whose name (“to reek”) suggests offending armpits. These miscegenators are among the first to die. It is worthy of note, however, that this minor character seems to have been designed so as to contradict stereotypical depictions of Arabs (cf. no. 7).

8. Anti-Christian. Paul and Aubrey’s faith is formal and superficial and not shared by the younger set, who give evidence of their contempt as prayer is said at dinner.

7. Immigration-ambivalent. Erin, of tough, self-reliant Australian stock, is the sort of immigrant that the country arguably needs. Tariq’s death is undignified and will not be mourned by the audience (cf. no. 9).

6. Anti-state. The resourceful Erin, the audience learns, was raised by an extremist survivalist father in the Australian outback. Though she is somewhat embarrassed by her past, her father’s doomsday scenario teachings definitely come in handy (see also nos. 3 and 10).

5. Anti-slut. In the film’s opening scene, a couple has what is obviously loveless sex. The shameless woman then gets up and goes to a window without even bothering to cover up her semi-nudity. Naturally, this wanton specimen is the first to die. Goth girl Zee (Wendy Glenn) is a far worse degenerate and demands to have sex next to her boyfriend’s mother’s corpse.

4. Anti-weenie. Generation X/Y men are worthless and incapable of defending themselves.  Drake (Joe Swanberg) is a spoiled brat and philistine, and one senses that devious brothers Felix (Nicholas Tucci) and Crispian (AJ Bowen), apart from being motivated by the fortune they stand to gain (see no. 2), are haunted by a sense of having been insufficiently nurtured as children. Both devoid of anything resembling a work ethic, neither man has the taste for doing his own dirty work. Crispian is a struggling writer who fails to meet with his father’s approval and has probably grown a beard partly to cover up his pudgy features, but also so as to seem to be more of a man, which may also explain his lame tattoo (cf. no. 1). The relativistic hypocrisy of the neutered liberal American male is also spotlighted when Crispian, after having his family slaughtered, actually claims to be a pacifist. (For more on Generation X/Y, see Creep Van)

3. Antiwar. Just as, in the years during and after the Vietnam war, movies exploited the phenomenon of psychologically scarred and dehumanized veterans taking the terror of foreign conflict back to the streets of America in Motor Psycho, Forced Entry, Rolling Thunder, First Blood, Combat Shock, and others in this vein, a wave of films including recent entries Savages, Jack Reacher, and You’re Next has emerged to continue this simultaneously salacious and critical tradition. In You’re Next, a team of coldblooded mercenaries, probably veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan, have been hired to exterminate most of the family for the father’s fortune. Mild-mannered “fascist” Paul, who acquired his wealth as a public relations shill for a defense contractor, has surely guaranteed for himself a painful demise in the unforgiving moral universe of You’re Next.

2. Anti-family/anti-marriage. A wedding anniversary is the occasion of a massacre. Parents Paul and Aubrey are self-absorbed, faintly distant, and perhaps inconsistently affectionate with their children. Felix, along with girlfriend Zee and brother Crispian, plot murder against their parents and brother Drake. The man murdered in the film’s opening scene has, it is later revealed, left his wife for a college girl.

1. Feminist. Erin is forced to lead the home defense and proves to be quite the adept at forging makeshift MacGyver-style weaponry. Of interest is that she uses kitchen wares, the trappings of traditional woman’s work, for violent self-assertion (cf. Vile). Also interesting, though, is that Erin makes a kitchen blunder that might, were she not the final girl, actually have cost her her life. Imagining she has flung boiling water on adversary Felix, she forgets that she earlier turned off the heat. “The water’s not even hot, you dumb bitch,” Felix tells her. Erin, however, quickly recovers and handily dispatches this sexist swine (with his insensitive expectation that women ought to know how to cook) with a triumph of poetic justice, taking advantage of a blender’s exposed mechanism to give him a gruesome homemade lobotomy. Zee, in a parallel characterization, is more ambitiously wicked and assertive in her villainy than wimpy co-conspirator Felix.

The zombie apocalypse genre has come a long way culturally since its invention by George Romero with Night of the Living Dead. That prestigious leading man Brad Pitt now stars in a $190,000,000 zombie movie from Paramount says quite enough about how firmly the ravenous hordes of corpses have ensconced themselves as a mainstream phenomenon. World War Z, the resulting film, happily rises above its origins in a pop horror fad and delivers the goods both in terms of suspense and as grist for speculative consideration, with director Marc Forster rising to the occasion and producer Pitt’s extracurricular interest in international philanthropy only slightly marring an otherwise exciting and rewarding adventure. Imagine, in short, 28 Weeks Later, but with more faith in human nature and hope for species survival.  4.5 stars. Recommended, but not for the faint of heart.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that World War Z is:

10. Moderately pro-castration.  United Nations errand boy Gerry Lane (Pitt) is an exemplar of the sensitive man, a homemaker who cooks breakfast for his wife and daughters. Thankfully, Lane mans up fast when the action necessitates.

9. Anti-police. One officer rudely knocks the driver’s side mirror off Lane’s vehicle, and another is seen participating in the looting of a store, taking no interest in the violence happening around him.

8. Progressive/pro-philanthropy. “Movement is life,” Lane advises in Spanish in the context of trying to convince a Hispanic family to leave the precarious safety of their apartment. Lane resolves the global crisis in Taoist fashion when he discovers that humanity’s hope lies in the emulation of its weakest elements. “Help each other,” Pitt says at the end over images of unfortunate Third Worlders in a moment that would make Bono misty-eyed with pride.

7. Feminist. Tough Israeli soldier Segen (Daniella Kertesz) with her buzz cut and resourcefulness represents the unsexed woman warrior ideal.

6. Pro-family. Lane cares deeply for his wife and daughters and agrees to come out of retirement only with the intention of protecting them.

5. Multiculturalist. World War Z goes out of its way to depict compassionate people of different races showing consideration for each other (cf. nos. 3 and 4).

4. Zionist. The special historical experience of the Jews as a persecuted people has spurred them to a greater level of preparedness than other nations; their protective wall was thus completed just before the zombie apocalypse went global. Look to the Magic Kingdom for guidance, the film seems to say (cf. nos. 3 and 5).

3. Immigration-ambivalent and anti-Arab. World War Z sends some mixed and confusing signals here. Israel, even after the zombie outbreak, continues to allow controlled Palestinian immigration on the principle that every human allowed to come under their protection is one potential zombie less to fight in the future. “It’s too late for me to build a wall,” Lane reflects in reference to America’s situation (zombie or Mexican?) when he witnesses the initial success of the Israeli security system. Unfortunately, the immigrant infiltration proves subversive when the obnoxious wailing of Palestinian refugees on a microphone drives the zombies outside into such a frenzy that they pile on top of each other to scale the wall like an angry ant swarm. Arabs, serving an inadvertent Trojan horse function, are thus equated with the mindless zombies (cf. nos. 4 and 5).

2. Statist/pro-NWO. The valiant internationalists of the United Nations and the World Health Organization are Earth’s only hope.

1. Green. A lame opening credits montage suggests that climate change is responsible for the rabies-like plague ravaging the planet.

[UPDATE (11/18/13): Richard B. Spencer of the National Policy Institute offers his insights into World War Z in an engaging and articulate YouTube talk here.]

Michael Bay is a filmmaker famous for his slick style-over-substance approach to the medium, and in Pain and Gain, a vibrant, blackly humorous meditation on the American dream by way of an injection of style steroids gouged straight into the audience’s eyeballs, the Bay formula pays entertainment dividends.  Mark Wahlberg plays Danny Lugo, an ambitious bodybuilder with an unhealthy fixation on self-improvement.  He claims to approve of the meritocracy that has made America great, but unfortunately finds exemplars of Americanism in figures like Michael Corleone and Tony Montana.  Consequently, he sees crime and not legitimate business success as the most promising road to riches, and recruits fellow bodybuilders Paul (Dwayne Johnson) and Adrian (Anthony Mackie) to kidnap oily Schlotzky’s proprietor Victor Kershaw (Monk‘s Tony Shalhoub) in the hope of getting him to sign over to them his home and all of his possessions.

Mark Wahlberg is intense as musclebound loser Danny Lugo, and Dwayne Johnson, who demonstrated a knack for comedy even as a professional wrestler, here delivers a hilarious performance to rival Arnold Schwarzenegger’s versatility as an action hero equally adept at goofiness.  As with much of Tarantino’s work, Bay’s film constantly runs the dangerous risk of glorifying or trivializing its subject matter by making its criminals such funny and charismatic characters.  The misadventures of Wahlberg and company are so exciting, fun, and involving that someone could almost forget that these likable bunglers, for all their charm, are really just murderers and thieves.  In the end, however, those who do wrong are punished in this grotesque and shockingly true crime story based on events that occurred in Miami in the mid-90s.  The use of period-faithful tunes from C+C Music Factory, Bon Jovi, and Coolio give an added nostalgic kick to this punchy, pleasantly gross, and perfectly edited dark comedy.

4.5 of 5 stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Pain and Gain is:

11. Anti-gay.  Paul, seeing a warehouse full of gay sex toys, expresses discomfort with “homo stuff”.  He deals viciously with a gay come-on (see no. 4).  Danny makes a pejorative reference to “pickle-licking”.

10. Arguably anti-Semitic.  The oily, irascible Kershaw’s Star of David pendant hangs conspicuously as he prattles and makes a sleazy annoyance of himself at the gym.

9. Gun-ambivalent.  Men with criminal records have no difficulty buying weapons from an effeminate and masochistic gun dealer (and Stryper fan) who enjoys being stunned with a taser.  A Confederate flag hanging in his store is probably intended for this film’s purposes to associate gun ownership not with liberty, but with racism.  A woman attempts unsuccessfully to defend herself in her home with a gun.

8. Obesity-ambivalent.  As in Pitch Perfect, Rebel Wilson plays the shameless tubby sexpot.  Other tubs of lard are featured in the film strictly for gross-out humor and audience derision, however.

7. Misogynistic.  Apart from one character, women are in the main represented in Pain and Gain as sluts and slobs.

6. State-skeptical.  Miami police are at first uninterested in investigating Kershaw’s story of how he was kidnapped and dispossessed, citing his Colombian origins as cause for skepticism.  They later admit their mistake.

5. Anti-drug.  Steroids render Adrian impotent.  Paul blows his cut of the loot on cocaine and starts to lose what limited wits he has.

4. Anti-Christian.  Paul’s religious beliefs, which vie with his cocaine problem for possession of his soul, make him susceptible to manipulation.  His professions of Christian devotion constantly clash with his criminal projects and outbursts of violent temper.  Furthermore, the judgmental attitude he derives from his faith finds expression in his belief that he might cure Kershaw of his Judaism.  A homosexual Catholic priest compliments Paul’s physique and tries to put the moves on him.

3. Pro-slut/pro-miscegenation/anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn).  Adrian, a black man, marries Robin (Wilson), a fat white woman, who recounts at their wedding how her racist grandfather had warned her against black men.  (Ironically, the grandfather’s advice proves to have been valid at least in Adrian’s case.)  Nasty interracial dancing disgraces the screen.  Kershaw, half Colombian and half Jewish, likes Cuban women.

2. Immigration-ambivalent.  Victor Kershaw is the old type of coarse but fiercely entrepreneurial immigrant who through his own talent and efforts has become wealthy.  Two Slav women are depicted as oversexed ditzes.  The fact that one of these entered the country illegally through Mexico highlights America’s border insecurity.

1. Capitalist.  The unsung protagonist of Pain and Gain is Kershaw, the self-made man who, while less handsome and likable than his victimizers, is in the right in seeking lawful revenge against Lugo and his collaborators.  Lugo believes in the American dream and understands that meritocracy plays a role in this; but like others who would redistribute wealth, he is motivated by envy and spite.  This derives from his mistaken notion that all people are equal at birth, the implication of which belief for his type of mentality is that unequal distribution of wealth must be some kind of injustice if two people’s apparently equal origins and efforts result in inconveniently unequal outcomes.  Ed Harris represents the private sector positively as a private investigator who comes to Kershaw’s aid when police fail to act on his client’s allegations.

[UPDATE (8/14/13): A Christian YouTuber offers his disapproving observations on Pain and Gain‘s detrimental cultural significance here.]

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