Archives for posts with tag: satire

under

A reader suggested that I review this oddity, so it’s with a tinge of sadness that I report that I don’t like it very much. This hodgepodge of conspiracy theories, urban legends, magical realism, cult consumerism, and synchronicity is essentially a hipster version of The X-Files with a self-consciously quirky and ironic millennial spin. Ne’er-do-well protagonist Sam (Andrew Garfield) becomes obsessed with secret messages in popular culture after reading a cheesy zine called Under the Silver Lake. Strange occurrences start to haunt the befuddled hero as he combs Los Angeles hunting for clues, seeking the ultimate profundity of it all, and also tries to track down elusive inamorata Sarah (Riley Keough), who is apparently supposed to be some kind of fascinating woman of mystery but just seems like a dumb and gross pothead to me. Amplifying my annoyance with this movie is that, at 139 minutes, it’s so goddamned long and just keeps getting less and less interesting as it progresses. Maybe it’s only that I’ve become a middle-aged fogey, but fuck this movie, altogether a disappointing non-delivery on the promise of writer-director David Robert Mitchell’s previous effort, the superior horror outing It Follows (2014).

3 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Under the Silver Lake is:

Pro-drug. Sam and Sarah bond over weed and a movie after a meet-cute occasioned by dog poop.

Anti-Alt-Media. As much as Under the Silver Lake might like to market itself as an homage to conspiracy lore and to find an audience among extremely online devotees of hidden history and various autistica, the filmmakers’ condescension is plainly in evidence. The characterization of the pop music industry as an establishment contrivance, of course, has some validity; but, mixed as it is with whimsy about underground tunnels decorated with Egyptian ephemera and guarded by hobo initiates, the brief whiff of truth here and there in this movie is most often overpowered by the stench of bullshit. Sam – whom production designer Michael Perry describes in the DVD extras as a “conspiracy nut” – is a kidult who still plays video games and seems incapable of managing his life. Unconcerned that his rent and car payments are overdue, he instead spends his money in a bookstore or a bar or orders a pizza, the responsibilities of life apparently being beneath him. This representative conspiracy researcher is also a dope smoker for whom, in Perry’s words, “everything’s connected. So we have the Kennedy assassination, World War II, aliens” – dissident investigation of political murders or the facts of the Second World War apparently being on par status-wise with UFOlogy. The writer behind the Under the Silver Lake zine, once Sam meets him, is a bugman whose home is filled with toys, comic books, and pornography – the preoccupations of an arrested development. Even when Sam’s investigations seem to validate his suspicion that surface reality conceals a world of secret meaning, his adventures can still be interpreted as a mere satirization of what goes on inside the heads of alternative media consumers. Under the Silver Lake is not an endorsement of the work of David McGowan, for example, but a cinematic snicker at the suckers who read him. Smug liberal consumers of corporate media will be able to view this film in the comfort of bias confirmation, their point of view personified in the screenplay by Sam’s friend played by Topher Grace. “I used to think that I was gonna be someone that, like, people cared about,” Sam complains. “Maybe do something important” – which his skeptical friend diagnoses as “narcissism and entitlement” – the qualities that presumably motivate rabbit-hole explorers and dissident researchers in the opinion of David Robert Mitchell. Sam’s friend, giving voice to the TV believers, internet conspiracy pooh-poohers, and pop psychologists in the audience, dismisses Sam’s feelings of being followed as “the modern persecution complex. Who needs witches and werewolves anymore, right? Now we have computers. I swear to God, at the very least, the entire population is suffering from mild paranoia. See, our little monkey brains, they’re not comfortable knowing that they’re all interlinked and routed together now in some kind of all-knowing, alien mind hive, and that shit is a straight-up cesspool for delusion, for fear …” In another scene – one that contributes nothing obvious to the advancement of the story – Sam catches some youngsters vandalizing cars and brutally beats them; and I can’t help but wonder if this moment, like the ones I recently spotlighted in Drunk Parents and The Prodigy, speaks to a tribal industry’s anger and anxiety about trollish young white men in the era of the Alt-Right and Trump.

Nihilistic and anti-human. One of the most off-putting things about Under the Silver Lake is that its characters are so unlikably casual and desensitized. Sam absently screws some floozie, for instance, as they watch a news broadcast, and he later turns an old man’s face into a crater, smashing his head repeatedly with a guitar – all of which the filmmakers thought I needed to see in graphic detail for some reason or other – I suppose because they think it’s funny. The casualness with which Sam and the women in his life approach their sexual relationships – the screenplay seems a bit confused as to whether the character is cool or a loser – makes his infatuation with Sarah a bit of an arbitrary head-scratcher given that there’s nothing particularly intriguing about her apart from her looks; and nightmare visions of Sarah and other women barking like dogs serve to reinforce an impression of general contempt for the trainable human animal. The revelation, too, that popular culture emanates not so much from the brilliance of revolutionary artists as from a hidden establishment with ulterior motives, contributes to a feeling of futility and despair as opposed to wonderment. Give up. You can’t win!

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

us

Jordan Peele’s follow-up to the 2017 horror hit Get Out, this surprisingly effective allegorical genre entry stars Lupita Nyong’o as a woman whose family vacation to Santa Cruz brings her into confrontation with a childhood trauma with ramifications for all of humanity. This is a difficult film to describe without giving away too much of the plot, but it revolves around the protagonist’s anxiety regarding the existence of a “shadow” or doppelganger and her experience of a series of evilly portending coincidences. Peele has a genuine knack for suspense, and the film has humorous moments, as well, thanks largely to the presence of Winston Duke, who appears as the hapless family patriarch.

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Us is:

Drug-ambivalent. The family bonds over a dope-referencing rap tune, even as the father warns his children not to use drugs.

Conspiracist. The movie opens with an intriguing blurb about networks of ominous tunnels running underneath the expanse of the US, and the mystery at the heart of the story is revealed to have something to do with a mind control experiment gone awry. Early on, in something of a foreshadowing, the protagonist’s daughter (Shahadi Wright Joseph) poses: “Did you know that there’s fluoride in the water that the government uses to control our minds?” Of course, all of this could also be read as a satire of online conspiracy theories; but the movie on the whole seems to discourage the viewer from being dismissive of the existence of the otherworldly and outrageous.

Feminist. “You don’t get to make the decisions anymore,” Nyong’o informs her husband. Later, she is shown literally occupying the driver’s seat of their car and taking the initiative in confronting the “shadows”.

Anti-white. Though racial tensions are not the focus or principal subtextual relevance, scenes of interracial violence carry an undeniably racial charge, with audiences probably intended to feel a special satisfaction at the sight of a sassy black girl disposing of feral white girl doppelgangers. Likewise, the moment when a feral black girl doppelganger falls upon a grouchy white guy is probably supposed to convey a sense of justice or racial revenge. In one scene, white actor Tim Heidecker wears a shirt that says “Fragile”, which presumably is intended to endorse the concept of “white fragility”.

Egalitarian and globalist. In its revelation that, living undetected in tunnels under the United States is an underclass of uneducated, underprivileged, dysfunctional, and disgruntled doubles corresponding to more prosperous counterparts on the surface, Us invites interpretation as an expression of proletarian or lumpenproletarian angst and resentment toward upper-middle-class and wealthy Americans. In making the “shadows” physically identical to their class enemies and demonstrating that a specimen of the former set is able to pass as a member of the latter, Us plays with the theme of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper. Environment, Peele suggests, is the difference between success and squalor, so that compassion for one’s less fortunate fellows is in order if cataclysmic retaliation is to be averted. The ambiguous “us” of the title lends itself to different interpretations, one of which is that it refers to blacks specifically and arguably the discomfort of the “talented tenth” with their own teeming and rather frighteningly criminal coethnics. The protagonist and her family, who enjoy an upper-middle-class lifestyle on par with that of successful whites, are horrified when they are confronted with their own “shadows” – violent, primitive versions of themselves in convict-style red jumpsuits. It is a “there, but for the grace of God, go I” moment, but also an indication of elitist disgust at the cultural gulf that the protagonists perceive between themselves and their social inferiors. The revelation that the protagonist herself, however, is actually the “shadow” and that her savage assailant is the one who was born topside indicates that this condescension is misplaced, undermining the “Us vs. Them” dichotomy implied by the title. Beyond this, Peele also mentions in one of the DVD extras that he believes the people of the United States as a whole to be the beneficiaries of a “collective privilege”, the solution presumably entailing some form of global reparations.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of the book Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

Circle

Feminist diversity cheerleader and global elitist Emma Watson stars in the near-future technological cautionary tale The Circle as Mae Holland, who goes to work for a Google- or Facebook- or Microsoft-like tech giant headed by the deceptively down-to-earth Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) and finds it an altogether more sinister affair than the mere professional advancement she had expected. The film is more satire than suspense, its nightmare scenario of a progressive social media company assuming the de facto function of government being too close to today’s reality to do much to shock the audience. Watson is, as always, pleasantly watchable, and colorful little character parts are nicely drawn by the supporting cast, which includes Karen Gillan, Bill Paxton, Glenne Headly, and an understated Patton Oswalt.

Three out of five stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Circle is:

3. AltMedia-skeptical. After a character dies onscreen, an anonymous social media poster claims that the death was faked – a critique of the trend for alienated and insular internet-dwellers to assume the use of crisis actors in any significant event.

2. Luddite! People behave better when they are being watched, the Circle determines, and “Secrets are lies” becomes its mantra. In addition to its Orwellian scenario, the movie is critical of people’s reliance on social media for interacting with their fellow humans. In one scene, Mae suggests to her old friend Mercer (Ellar Coltrane) that he should text her later to arrange a time when they can meet. He points out that they could just do that now, while they are face to face, which puzzles her. “I’ve never been touched by someone who loves me,” an anonymous commenter confesses, illuminating the alienation and cost in terms of real-life social capital that the internet represents for some users. A social media clusterfuck later leads to one character’s demise. Qualifying the criticism, however, director James Ponsoldt claims in one of the Blu-ray features that the megacorporation at least “means well”.

1.Anti-White. Mae (of course!) finds herself drawn to a hyper-intelligent black computer genius named Ty Lafitte (John Boyega), who (of course!) is the actual inventor of the innovation that has made the Circle so powerful. Perhaps unintentionally, however, the filmmakers’ attempt to create a seamlessly multiracial milieu contributes to the movie’s sense of claustrophobia and paranoia, with annoyingly intrusive Circle zealots Smith Cho and Amir Talai being noteworthy in this regard. In addition, there appears to be a reference to much of the anti-white power elite’s antinatalism when one character observes that, “No one at the Circle has kids.”

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

 

 

 

 

 

Rippedpublicans: Where the Action Is!

 Randbo

Rand Paul is

PAUL RANDBO

“Do we get to wonk this time?”

“You don’t seem to want to accept the fact you’re dealing with an expert in political warfare, with a man who’s the best, with guns, with knives, with his bare hands. A man who’s been trained to ignore polls, ignore weather, to live off the land, to eat things that would make a Democrat puke.” – Campaign Manager Col. Trautman

 

Scarf Face

Chris Christie is

SCARF FACE

“You wanna fuck with me? Okay. You wanna play rough? Okay. Say hello to my little fork!”

“What makes you so much better than me? What do you do? Kill people? Shut down bridges? Real contribution to human history, Christie! What makes you think you can be a president? You don’t even know how to be a good governor!” – Mrs. Scarf Face, Elvira Hancock

 

The Tedinator

Ted Cruz is

THE TEDINATOR

“I’ll roll back.”

“All right, listen. The Tedinator’s an infiltration unit: part man, part machine. Underneath, it’s a hyper-alloy combat chassis, microprocessor-controlled. Fully armored; very tough. But outside, it’s living human tissue: flesh, skin, hair, blood – grown for the cyborgs.” – Future Pundit Kyle Reese

Maximum Overdrive (1986) ****  Maximum Overdrive is a unique movie in that it was not only written but actually directed by author Stephen King; and, while it may have met with a less than glowing reception from critics and is not the best of the many films of the 1980s to have been inspired by the author’s work, subsequent viewings of Maximum Overdrive can reveal much more to appreciate and consider than might at first be obvious in its tale of a hostile planetary takeover by cars, trucks, radios, and other previously harmless electronic wares.

Even on the first viewing, Maximum Overdrive is a fun, somewhat silly and random speculative adventure, and perhaps a broad satire of man’s fear of technology as a potential Frankenstein’s monster that might turn against him; but further reflection concedes that King is up to more than one might at first imagine. To wit, the whole film can be seen as a commentary on the military-industrial complex and how it and war are driven and validated by America’s consumerism and debilitating reliance on labor-saving devices.

In one scene, a shady-looking young black man (Breaking Bad‘s Giancarlo Esposito) appears to be seduced and hypnotized by an arcade game that flashes a series of abstract symbols at him: a star, zig-zags (like the stripes on an officer’s sleeve), and a plus sign (cross), indicating how religion and the media dupe young men into mindless stupors to make them subservient to the state and recruit them for the respectable but deceptive video game violence of military service. Christianity receives abuse throughout Maximum Overdrive, particularly through the person of a tawdry, cartoonishly hypocritical Bible salesman (Christopher Murney).

A little military wagon with a mounted machine gun appears as the director of the trucks at one point and leads them in the siege of the filling station, Gas World, a sequence that may seem somewhat dull or inconsequential on the first viewing, but which takes on greater significance as it becomes apparent that this, the need for fuel to power the trucks that deliver our consumer goods, is too often what drives the lust for conquest on this planet.  A blurb at the end credits aliens for the events of the film; but substitute the Bilderberg Group for the aliens and the story of their plot to exterminate the population of Earth with their commandeered “broom” of man’s own technological creation is straight out of Alex Jones’s worst nightmare.

Maximum Overdrive does have its failings.  After a wildly entertaining first forty or forty-five minutes, full of distinctive action set pieces, disgusting humor, and sight gags, the film slumps into a decrescendo and slows as the ensemble cast, headed by young Emilio Estevez (between That Was Then . . . This Is Now and Wisdom) and his tough romantic interest Laura Harrington, take refuge in Gas World’s diner, the Dixie Boy, where they will stay for the remainder of the story.  Enlivening the proceedings throughout, however, are a soundtrack of appropriately electric AC/DC tunes and a colorful set of character actors in the supporting roles.  Apart from the aforementioned Murney, Pat Hingle is nicely slimy as crooked, self-satisfied Dixie Boy proprietor Bubba Hendershot; and Yeardley Smith (the voice of Lisa Simpson) and John Short provide even greater comic relief as hick newlyweds Connie and Curtis.

The climactic action sequences, when these finally come, fall short of fulfilling the stunt-packed promise of the zany exposition, a few huge explosions notwithstanding, so that Maximum Overdrive is ultimately a flawed near-classic but still recommendable for watching and occasional rewatching.  Stephen King is commended by Ideological Content Analysis with a respectable 4 out of 5 stars.

In the future, fast food companies, faced with flagging sales, seek to reestablish their market hegemony through parasitic mind control.  Their ploy works so well in the experimental market of Russia that the nation’s ideal of beauty itself has been manipulated, so that obese replaces svelte as the desired body type.  Only one man, Misha (Ed Stoppard), has the visualized insight to unravel the aggressive marketing’s workings.  He can actually see the balloonlike monkeys riding everybody’s backs, including those of his wife and son.  The phantom swells like a cartoonish erection until the host has satisfied its demand by visiting the fast food restaurant associated with it, resulting in a population of zombie-like junk food addicts.  Misha, a visionary marked from childhood for a special destiny, devotes his life to destroying the fast food market by fighting branding with branding of his own.

Branded clearly sees itself as being somehow highly original in its exposure of how the public’s tastes and perceptions are largely dictated from sinister corporate boardrooms.  Had the films The Stuff, They Live, Happy Hour, and Wag the Dog never been made, Branded might claim some slim excuse to exist.  Coming when it does, however, Branded only pats itself on the back for restating with the addition of computer-generated monsters and even less convincing profundity what every intelligent person in the audience already knows.  What might have worked as a twenty-minute satirical short film ends up overstaying its welcome by about eighty minutes, with the vague emotional flatness of Misha’s character and his relationship with wife Leelee Sobieski hardly helping to humanize what amounts to a wearying feature-length joke.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Branded is:

6. Anti-police.  Officers beat Misha unnecessarily as they arrest him.

5. Anti-Christian.  Misha, in a scene played for humor, turns to God only after being tortured by a debt collector.

4. Anti-family, with no positive examples.

3. Statist.  Misha ludicrously expects his government to outlaw all advertising – and it does!  That Branded sees government as an antidote to brainwashing or as somehow removed from the world of marketing is indicative of its simplistic naievety.  Freedom of expression in this film is transformed into something predatory that must be stamped out to preserve human dignity.

2. Anti-obesity.  Branded purports to reveal a nightmarish future world in which most people are fat, neglecting to notice that this is the society in which viewers already live.

1. Anti-corporatism (i.e., pro-yawn).  Rather than providing you with products you actually want, McDonald’s et al, Branded would have you believe, have been brainwashing you all these years.

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