Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Secret Sun Movie Minute

Well, the muses still haven't struck me to write a big workup on
District Nine, even though we've all seen it by now. I loved it, thought it was magnificent entertainment, but also spent a lot of time wondering how much of it was a commentary on post-Apartheid South Africa, what with the AIDS metaphor and the controversy over the government's heavy-handed treatment of economic migrants. Not being overly familiar with the country or its troubles, I felt like I was just there for the cool robot fight.

As many commenters have noted, there was the Black Oil riff borrowed from The X-Files, but it gleefully ripped off any number of movies and whatnot, so the more the merrier. But I was more interested in the whole theme of the Other and becoming the Other and all of that, which is one of the reasons I did that monster post on Invasion, a movie which apparently no one who reads this blog has seen. But take my word for it- watch that frickin' movie. The worst that can happen is that you'll be hypnotized by Rebecca Gayheart's lips .

So, in short District Nine was great entertainment, probably more salient for South Africans, but an interesting entry in the ongoing alien movie meme, which to tell the truth is already starting to wear out its welcome with me.

Well, at least until The Fourth Kind comes out. They played the trailer for it at D9, but I was thinking it looks like it would play a lot better on the small screen. Seeing lumberjacks get all freaked out with no obvious stimulus looks a bit silly in a theatre. But it planted the 3:33 meme in my head, thanks for nothing. I went to sleep with my Ipod on last night and woke up as "Home" by David Sylvian was playing and I had one of those unconscious revelations about life and the ultimate meaning of everything and I looked at the clock and it was 3:33 AM, which it seems to be a lot lately. And of course, my grand revelation evaporated as soon as I woke up.

The good thing about my job is that I can kind of half-watch movies while I work. My wife had rented 17 Again, which I thought I'd take a crack at and see if there were any semiotic goodies on hand. There may have been a million, but I couldn't make it past the 15-minute mark. I will say that with all of the money Hollywood wrings out of geeks, it should probably be a little less mocking of them. But then again, the teenaged girls 17 Again was made for think sci-fi fans are all icky closet cases, so maybe it's just good market research.

But I did do a bit of musing on people as archetypes, inspired by Leslie Mann. Doesn't it seem like you've known her all your life? Same with the entire cast of The 40 Year-Old Virgin, come to think of it. Go re-read my monster post on it.

I rented Race to Witch Mountain, but haven't really got the chance to pore over it frame by frame like a mental patient. I half-watched half of it, and I gotta say it played better on the big screen. And of course, there's the ridiculing of UFO "buffs" while presenting aliens as a self-evident reality. That's getting pretty tired. More self-loathing, maybe?

What else- GI Joe? Haven't seen it. Might rent it, might not. 9? The missus is interested- me, I can RedBox it. Men Who Stare at Goats? Awesome, but I'll probably rent it. Or maybe not- I need to get out of the house more often.

Then of course there's the ridiculous Pythonesque farce called the Obama Administration and the so-called "health care debate," but my suspension of disbelief has its limits. If I want to watch a stupid cartoon, I'll put on American Dad.


  1. I see you have your sense of humor with you tonight. You're a good writer man.

  2. Hi Chris
    Re: the trailer
    I think it's quite interesting that such a 'fringe' concept as CIA black ops would be the makings of what looks to be a fairly large budget production with an A-list cast.
    Looks like another move to put these things into the 'so absurd it's funny' basket, while at the same time quite nicely disclosing a healthy dose of truth.

  3. David D is bang on target with his view of MWSTAG. I read the book and found it did a masterful job of glossing over certain well-known events and technologies. We get lashings of sick humour to distract us, with a kind of "we don't know what the hell we're doing" spin on it. All the people interviewed come across as lone nutjobs, rather than being embedded deeply in these institutions. The fact that it is being made into a movie confirms all my suspicions. These people know exactly what they are doing. Pure disinfo spun through a lens of real research, very "crafty".

  4. don't watch gi joe whatever you do. it's truly awful. the sight of sienna miller in a tight fitting leather cat suit doesn't save it.

  5. Hi Chris,

    You wrote: "Then of course there's the ridiculous Pythonesque farce called the Obama Administration and the so-called "health care debate," but my suspension of disbelief has its limits. If I want to watch a stupid cartoon, I'll put on American Dad."

    I'm thinking that maybe the Obama administration political health reform farce may not be as cartoon-ish as they wish us to think.

    There was an interesting discussion in semantics with some of my friends the other day. "Health Care Reform," as a term, means the reform of health care. But medical health care has always been the same: if you have a certain disease there is a prescribed "care" or way to treat it.

    Now health care "cost" reform is a completely different story implying reforming the way insurance companies, hospitals and doctors bill and get paid for their services.

    So my question is what is this administration really trying to reform? It puts those "death panels" in a different light.

    Also, Chris, I've noticed that the ruse of health care has carefully concealed America's military escalation in Afghanistan. The Obama administration is rabid with more funding for fighting in our favorite ATT lands.

    One talking head noted that if Americans really knew how important this fighting in Afghanistan was, they'd gladly consent to more funding for Afghanistan. In fact, American disapproval of the war in Afghanistan is 51%.

    Also, of note, White House Press Secretary Gibbs made a huge slip that right-wingers didn't let go unnoticed. He used the Bush term: "War on Terror". In fact he used "our war on terror."

    Anathema! Unless, of course, this administration is continuing the work of the Bush administration in that special land.

    And battles everywhere, Chris! All three major networks referred to the California fires as a battlefield or as battles, the battle with heal care and Jordin Spark's new album Battlefield is rising with the teen set as she tours with the Jonas Brothers.

    How do you keep it all from making your head explode, Chris!?

    Thanks, SoapFan.

  6. Speaking of goats, a new commercial from Canadian telecommunications company Telus features baby goats jumping around, with the slogan "Get a Jump on Life." Also note that "The Future is Friendly."

    Also from Canada, the former Attorney General of Ontario has been arrested for an altercation involving his vehicle and the death of a cyclist. A story about it on the CBC Website includes both of the major magic numbers discussed here.


  7. Great read for my morning as I can half peruse thought provoking commentary while at work myself.

    This struck a cord with me: "But I was more interested in the whole theme of the Other and becoming the Other..."

    I've briefly touched on this concept when I wrote about the film Nightbreed a few months back.

    This theme has always been prevalent in our culture and more conspicuous recently with Obama representing the United States. His implementation of "health care policies" and crazy accusations of a distaste for "white culture" and Hitler-like practices.

    Beneath the surface, the people who are on the death panel bandwagon are suffering from that anxiety of becoming the Other, something they've never experienced and IMO, will never. And only a reality because Obama for all intents and purposes is a symbol. And not one once thought of when considering America's leaders.

    How many times have we heard that America is "changing" and the desire for the restoration of the America that once was?

    It's the Other transcending that status. And if that Other hurdles that racial caste, where does that leave the non-Other?

    D9 did a great job of capturing one protagonist experiencing that same transformation. A leader in a position of power and force into public enemy number one, to be destroyed, no longer relevent... For one character to experience both sides so fervently is that anxiety running rampant.

    I didn't know what to think of D9 after I first viewed the film but jumping on the perspective of examining the narrative of the Other got my creative juices flowing.

    Thank you so much for sharing, Chris!

  8. OK, I'm still busy as hell but I'm sitting here agog at how a little throwaway post can inspire such awesome comments. Not that the comments are almost always interesting, but let me just weigh in quickly here on some of the salient points raised...

    MH- Cheers- I guess all of the Kevin Smith stuff I've been listening to is rubbing off on me.

    David D- Yes! Great point. That's why this movie is a must-see for careful viewers.

    BL- Again, right on. They buried the RV program under an avalanche of disinfo, even dragging out the skeptic shills to muddy the waters. I've seen the real data on the program straight from the source on RV, which was totally glossed over by the bashers. It will be interesting to see what comes out of this.

    Anony- Good advice. Cheers.

    Soapie- Exactly- that's what my "suspension of disbelief" remark was about. Somehow this guy could come from nowhere, raise a billion dollars, defeat Hillary Clinton and McCain and then -right on cue- the entire resistance to the Bush agenda is dissipated and the Teabaggers are up in arms (literally) and the war machine marches on and the banks loot the Treasury. This is exactly Clinton's first term all over again- watch the GOP retake Congress and watch Obama then become a "statesman" since he "can't control the domestic agenda" anymore. In this case, Marx was wrong- history is repeating but both times it's a farce.

    Jason- Cheers for the tips- that second story is creepy.

    Ashlee- You're spot on. Teabaggers are born hysterics but also are people whose lives are governed by symbols. Amazingly, most of them seem to think a President actually makes decisions. And they've bought into the propaganda that he's the second coming of Robert Mugabe and not merely the scion of the CIA's outreach programs in the 60s.

    Geek culture (which has its own issues, believe me) is by definition an outgroup, but with the whole idea of a mainstream culture eroding every day it's interesting to see geek fodder like D9 fearlessly take on these kinds of issues which liberal culture seems too skittish to deal with. This ties into what I was talking about on Occult of Personality- when you create that distance with sci-fi and fantasy, it liberates you to go places others wouldn't dare in a real world context.

  9. Hi Ashlee,

    I enjoyed your comments and also just this morning my brother and I were discussing the concept of the "other." We were discussing the Georgia mobile home murders actually. The "other" came up when my brother, a youth psychologist; mentioned a deterioration he and his colleagues are seeing in young people. We spoke of the vampire, werewolf and alternative reality junk young people are hooked on these part of the "other" issue as well.

    He had an interesting perspective though. He sees an assault on the ego, superego and even the very id of many young people through commercialism, movies, video games and the like. According to him, "something" is breaking through all the barriers and layers of mental protection that took evolution thousands of years to coat the mind with.

    So, in agreement with you on the concept of "other," I believe that a mental assault is taking place and that it's getting more and more difficult to fight off the attack especially if the attack is not only through media but one to our very DNA.

    Concerning the "death panels," of course, much of it is an exaggeration and could, as you note, be considered a kind of "other" phenomenon. The health reform resolution is online and much of the information is easliy accessible and not usually too exaggerated because its available for anyone.

    But the reality is that health care reform is removing much of the care for the elderly. Medicare and Medicaid will be stripped of funding. All of Medicare is for the elderly and disabled. Contrary to popular belief 80% of Medicaid payments goes to health care for the elderly in nursing homes and associated care. So cutting both of those programs leave care for the elderly gone. Approval for some procedures would have to be given priority considering age, cost of the procedure and benefit to the patient and the system. Some elderly would be directed to alternative care which would include end of life counseling by a panel of so-called qualified individuals. So, in that sense, a "panel" would help elderly and terminal patients make death determining decisions.

    The health reform plan, IMO, favors immigrant medical coverage, young people and healthy individuals.Under this plan, one will have to diligently maintain their health and hope for no catastrophic illness. I seriously really see a sort of "Soylent Green" social health hierarchy...of course without the food issue!

  10. Oy- I mean the comments are almost always interesting, but got tripped up on the double negative- or lack thereof.

    Soapie- I have to admit that the waters have been so muddied I can't keep up with the issue, other than to agree it's probably a cover for the Afghan War thing. This is just a summer rerun of the Clinton debacle, though I forget exactly what that was a distraction from. NAFTA? GATT? Maybe.

  11. Soapfan ,

    you couldn't be more disingenuos and misleading about the proposed reforms. There is nothing being stripped from Medicare and Medicaid. A Republican boondoggle that proposed more cost -efficient care than medicare is being stopped because it didn't work, those patients will be transferred back to Medicare and Medicaid. Some cost-savings are hoped for, but nothing proposes anything close to a death panel. The panel outlined was a Republican proposal until recently and is intended to foster "best practices" from well-qualified Groups like the Mayo Clinic, or the Cleveland clinic. I'm a fan of this blog, and empathize with Chris's dissappointment in the Obama presidency, but even here unverified "rumors" about a relatively boring reform proposal are over the top.

  12. Not on my part, Anony. I have no clue what the proposals are since I have no faith that any meaningful reform will ever be accomplished. I really try to stay out of politics here since A. at heart I'm a conspiracist who believes that decisions are already made by think tanks and Corporate oligarchs before they ever reach Congress and B. arguing abut politics often separates people who would otherwise have everything else in common.

  13. Chris,

    Apparently, politics is everywhere and causes emotional responses.

    I sincerely hope that no one makes any political or personal decision based on my opinions.

    I try to follow your very reasonable request for on-topic comments and my above comment was an answer to someone else's thoughts on the fear of "the other."

    I very much enjoy reading your blog and commenting here! Thanks for all you do!

  14. Great post and comments. Its sums up alot of my own opinions lately. just tired of the BS EVERYWHERE! But its a great teacher if you look for the leaky parts.

    On health care, like someone else mentioned before: this is more about consolidating corporate power through a system of so called "care" and less about actually helping people be healthy. To even UNDERSTAND THE CONCEPT of HEALTH people have to set aside politics and superficial information, and go into the deep stuff of the human condition.

    Reform? Not for a while yet, if the aging id of the boomer generation continues its zombie crawl, over top a human pathway.


    Alien abduction thriller set in remote Alaska town

    NOME, Alaska (AP) — Universal Pictures has said it will release an alien abduction film this fall that plays off of decades of unexplained disappearances and deaths in this old Gold Rush town along the Bering Sea.

    The Fourth Kind is being marketed as a "dramatization" of real events — based on footage from a psychologist who stumbled upon "the most disturbing evidence of alien abduction ever documented" while interviewing traumatized people in Nome, a western Alaska town of 3,500.

    But even if the movie is fiction, the vanishings are real.

    After years of rumors that Nome had become a dangerous place for travelers from Inupiat and Siberian Yupik villages, local officials in 2005 released a list of the city's disappearances and deaths dating back to the 1960s.

    The FBI decided to review two dozen cases, eventually determining that excessive alcohol consumption and the winter climate were a common link. Unlike other commercial hubs in rural Alaska, Nome is a "wet" city, with bars and liquor stores.

    Some of the dead were killed by exposure or from falling off a jetty into the frigid Snake River, authorities said at the time.

    Savoonga resident Delbert Pungowiyi, however, suspects racially motivated, serial killings are to blame in at least some of the deaths, including that of his uncle, who flew to Nome in 1998 to buy a snowmachine and never came home.

    As for the new movie?

    "Oh my God, that is ridiculous," he said.

    An NBC Universal spokesman had no comment in an e-mail on whether the thriller's purported actual events is really just a hoax.

    Dallas Massie, a retired state trooper who has been filling in as Nome police chief, said police are still looking for leads in Nome's most recent major missing-persons case, which dates to October 2004.

    Within reason, he added.

    "I have yet to hear anybody with the theory that aliens are taking folks out of the region," Massie said.

  16. SoapFan,

    Thanks for the response. One of the easiest explanations for the vampire, werewolf sensation within a younger audience is their point of reference in identification with the characters. It seems to me every youth generation grabs on to an escapist/alienated (self or otherwise) ideal that vampires, werewolves and the like personify. The romanticization of living forever and the bleakness of that existence deeply moody and hormonal teenagers experience.

    The more mediated our culture becomes, the more isolated people feel. Connection is found in these products to make them feel like they're a part of something so yes it is most certainly an assault on them, inside and out. Even more so since humans are by nature social creatures.

    Basically, a desire to be the Other and/or feeling like they are the Other, and anxiety over that feeling of the Other because all young folks ever want to do is "fit in."

    I hope I hit all the points...

  17. "It's the Other transcending that status. And if that Other hurdles that racial caste, where does that leave the non-Other?"

    Provocative, Ashlee.

    I volunteer with a group of mostly retired white women who are (or whose husbands are) mostly conservative. Last year's election rocked their worlds. Conversation around the lunch table a year ago was fearful and at times, by only one or two of us, unkind.

    By January, the ladies were openly praising Obama's good looks and charm, openly predicting better days ahead and making lists of black men they admired. It was as if they saw that there was nothing to be afraid of.

    So in this case, when my group faced the Other's transcendence of racial hurdles, nobody was left out.

  18. Speaking of abductions:

  19. lynnertic, nice story
    Even if Obama happened to be put in place as a ploy to regain people's trust etc (after the bush /cheney fiasco) there will always be that uncontrollable raising of awareness amongst everyone, which means that even in the midst of deception we are still managing to evolve our way out of it all...
    It's like everything has a double edge - the part that harms and the part that makes us ask why and lifts our awareness.
    I think that is ultimately why the good will always overcome the evil - it's universe lore.

  20. Chris---
    I don't understand what you meant when you said 'doesn't it feel like we've known Leslie Mann all our lives.' I feel like that was an important comment. What did you mean?

  21. I've seen the movie Invasion 3 times, but I'm also 56 years old.

  22. It is interesting to me that Obama is painted as a racist by "mass media" even when they are saying he's not a racist is putting him at the other end of the ostrich feather. Remote viewers might be interested in this link.

  23. District 9 = Quatermass + Alien Nation x CGI eye-smudge, to the power of geopolitical pretensions.

    New blockbuster formula - irresponsibly toss around uncomfortable 'issues', hoping that critics will find 'relevance' in all the slam bang gibberish (see also Dark Knight, 300, Watchmen, Cloverfield, War of The Worlds etc. etc.). I'm sure Avatar will do the same...