Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Blade Runner 2049: Less Human Than Human

Originally published here at AltRight.com.



After much anticipation and technical difficulties on the part of my local projectionist, I finally managed to view Blade Runner 2049 opening night. As most critics are saying, it is a particularly excellent film and will undoubtedly receive many accolades during Oscar season.
The film includes stunning cinematography (every frame is a well blocked and composed moving painting), set design (in particular the Wallace office, which shares a striking resemblance to the angular modernist Casa Malaparte of Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt), and intricate crime mystery plotting (which, do not worry, I will not spoil here). To avoid parroting the well-deserved praise from virtually every other critic writing about this film, I will instead delve into a larger subliminal criticism.
In his review of the film, Trevor Lynch aptly notes “the script lacks the poetry and mythic dimension of the original.” I would go further. The entire film lacks it.
Even the cinematography of the original, with its persistent use of fog and distorted artificial lighting, lends itself toward the unconscious weightiness of Jungian archetypal psychology- with Roy embodying the devil, hero, child, trickster, and perhaps even god all wrapped into one.
In this film, our replicants are either Kill Bill-styled action she-men or emotionally and clinically dispassionate robots. They are shallow. They often come across as less human than human, unlike the supermen of the first. In fact, all characters in this film are emotional dwarfs to their counterparts of the original film. M. Emmet Walsh’s sleazy and pushy Harry Bryant is far more memorable and enjoyable than Robin Wright slugging straight whiskey in a forced attempt to look like a battle-hardened police lieutenant from a hard-boiled novel. Harrison Ford, per usual these days, is reaching an age of unsightliness to watch.
Structurally the plot of the sequel lacks the pyramidal pacing of the original. In Blade Runner we witness Roy rise from the gutters of the decadent multicultural slums of 2019’s Los Angeles, and through his own superior cunning (both in the game of chess as well as brutish trickery), manages to meet his maker Tyrell, both physically and through proving his competitive intellectualism. Having killed his creator (accompanied by a soft, but haunting, Gregorian chant) Roy, like Milton’s Lucifer, descends back into the urban hell to tragically embrace with all his life the death that awaits him.
Without even saying it, we can sense a certain grandeur – a grandeur lacking in this new film, which, although beautiful in its own right, displays the world of its story in harder literalism, with a more substantive use of harsher, as well as natural, lighting. This is fine and beautiful, but less romantic than the original.
To illustrate, let us contrast the opening eyeshot of the original and new films respectively.
In the original, we not only look at an eye but into it. We see the beautifully hellish industrial cityscape of the Blade Runner world, but also a representation of the soul- whether human or replicant we do not know nor does it seem to matter. The soul, like the city, being both painful and beautiful. Tragic, but Nietzschean. Inward and outward. In the new film, however, the shot is certainly beautiful, but ultimately empty and two dimensional. It’s just an eye.
I don’t doubt attentive audience members, after multiple viewings, will find deeper and more fruitful themes in this new film than I have after one viewing from the masterful Denis Villeneuve, director of popular films like prisoners, Sicario, and Arrival, however I believe these themes will lend themselves to the penchant for realism most 21st century films have than the mythic larger-than-life transcendentalism of the original film.
All criticisms aside, however, this is likely one of three best films this year (the other two being Baby Driver and Dunkirk). If you haven’t already, I suggest going out to see it on the big screen.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Avoiding the Inevitable Trash Bin of History and a Bonfire for Our Vanities (Tangential Thoughts)

As I scroll through my Facebook news feed, Twitter, YouTube subscriptions, and my many unmanageable number of servers on Discord I am astonished, or maybe not so astonished, to discover how alike we all really are. "We" as people, or at least the people I know, and "alike" with respect to our vain attempts to be the most popular, revered, talked about, and above all "liked" (both in terms of interpersonal perception and upvotes) for being memetically unoriginal.

Everyone tries to be noticed by the seniority above them (whether it be a response by the person(s) of fame to our comments on their video, or seeing our friend request accepted by someone "famous" so we can tell all our friends ".... yeah..... I know that guy. We're friends [on Facebook].). Of course little do you recognize that no, they do not notice "you". They noticed a clever little line of text of some faceless no-name wrote- a line of text they may like for now, but will forget as soon as they scroll to the next bit that makes them mentally chuckle for a split second).

Getting the right photograph that you waited and spent your life to get- the one you can't wait to upload to Facebook to rub into your "friends'" (friends of course only in the social media sense of the word. Most of these people, if you are like me, you will awkwardly walk past in the real world- knowing their name and recognizing their face but instinctively knowing you really have nothing friendly to say to them and wonder if they even recognize or have anything friendly to think or say about you.). Or maybe it's not only friends you are trying to impress, but, yet again, those in seniority whom this time  you actually have the chance to meet and benefit from as they may be your future employer or reference to your future employer (however, note that this person, like you, is too preoccupied with their own public image (How else did they get where they're at?) that they haven't the slightest amount of brain power or time left to appreciate the perfection of your latest profile picture. So they scroll, look, and scroll to the next tab their high time preference brain- thanks to hours an hours of high speed internet usage- allows them to devote an equally minuscule amount of time to.).

While I'm on the topic, consider the phenomenon of the autograph, or as I like to call it, the marker scribble. Why do you (I'd say we, but I can proudly say I do not succumb to this farm animal-like behavior) wait in 2 hour lines just to meet some famous guy who does not and will not know you and get him to draw on some expensive paraphernalia you will, from that moment forth, spend too much of your limited time on Earth keeping after (making sure not a speck of dust contaminates or smears your precious conversation starter piece)? I have some possible diagnoses, but I will leave them unwritten for now.

No matter who you are you will never be liked enough. So you have 50 million subscribers? That is 0.7 percent of the world population. 99.3 percent of the world doesn't even know who you are. By the time you die not only will your audience grow up and likely forget you, each subsequent child born every passing second will grow up watching and reading (assuming hieroglyphics don't supersede alphabetical language by then in the reincarnated combination of emojis and memes) their respective contemporary entertainer. You will forever be relegated to the proverbial trash bin of history (except in the unlikely case of enduring nostalgic value you may have for a brief period of time 10 years after your death).

All ambitious men, all men, desperately desire to be remembered well after their deaths, however all too many will be forgotten well before. Fewer will be remembered and recalled by the immediate trailing generation. Fewer still will be worth writing as a few footnotes in some history books. Even fewer will earn a 60 Minutes television special in the wake of their death.

The truly great men of history-- the Napoleons, Shakespeares, and Caesars-- were likely ordained by the almighty and may, I'm afraid, themselves be forgotten when and if human kind fades or explodes into oblivion.

If you want your name to truly endure my suggestion is become a vehement anti-Semite with a military industrial complex at your disposal, get in a war, lose, and let the Jews lie about how you came this close to wiping them off the face of the Earth. Maybe then you will be immortalized for all time.