Category: Reviews

The Anti-PC Message of Cobra Kai

  I may be prone to hyperbole, but in this case, I may be understating my position. Cobra Kai is one of the most entertaining sequels I have seen and certainly the best thing on YouTube.  This could be nostalgia speaking since I came of age in the 1980s and Karate Kid was certainly a formative movie of my teen years. This show does things that I thought could not be done in this day and age and it certainly goes places I did not think the left-leaning proclivities of YouTube would allow.  The show is positively anti-PC so much so that it staggers the imagination. Now don’t get me wrong, there are some scenes that hint that next season the new Karate Kid (Xolo Maridueña) and the other Cobra Kai students will use their new foundself-confidencee for evil. What do you expect. These kids have been bullied by PC culture and told they can’t fight back against their oppressors all their lives. They say this over and over again to Sensei Lawrence as he berates them for being pussies.
This is where the show shines. The character of Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) doesn’t care or even know about the changes to the world since 1984. It is a running joke throughout the show that he has bascally withdrawn from the world since he lost to Daniel. He was just going through the motions without really being awake all that time. For instance, he doesn’t know what Facebook is. This gives us a character who we can relate to our younger more innocent selves. Johnny doesn’t have thirty years of progressive political correctness weighing him down. When the nerds and losers from the High School join his dojo he treats them the way that kids were treated in 1984. He berates them for being soft, he makes fun of their deformities of self and character.  Sensei Lawrence is not giving out trophies for self esteem…he is telling these kids about the real world and in the real world they either win or they are losers. There are no safe spaces. If you have a problem you have to overcome that problem. If you have a deformity you fix it or get people to see you in a different way. Flip the script. You are responsible for yourself. This is the most powerful message of this show and it is a message kids today need. This is what elevates Cobra Kai to the next level. A positive, dare I say it, anti-progressive message shines out of all this.

There are other things in this show that set it apart from almost anything else out there and I urge anyone reading this to take the time and watch this. You won’t regret it.

Movie Review: Marjorie Prime

A most welcome trend of late has been the rise of the “art-house” science fiction film, and although such movies have been with us for a long time (nearly every French New Wave director made at least one science fiction film), the success of Shane Carruth’s Primer in 2004 has really spurred their production ever since. Typically, such movies are independently-made, often from outside the United States, and are aimed specifically at a usually older film-going demographic that prefers movies that take their time to reveal themselves and do so mostly through dialogue instead of action. Marjorie Prime is one of the best recent movies of this type, ably demonstrating the ability of genre cinema to craft stories as sophisticated and character-driven as its written equivalent. Continue reading “Movie Review: Marjorie Prime”

An analysis of “At the End of the Mechanical Age” by Donald Barthelme

An analysis of “At the End of the Mechanical Age” by Donald Barthelme

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The story is at its heart a lament for the end of the mechanical age and a critical examination of the superficiality and commercialism that typified that period of history. The story is broken into four parts the first two each contain a separate song. The first song is sung by the protagonist and the second by his companion Mrs. Davis. The second two parts concern the marriage of the protagonist (Tom) and his companion and the last part their eventual divorce. The characters both celebrate the passing of the age but at the same time fear the unknown age coming. Mrs. Davis states that, “I feel in my bones that it will be an age inimical to personal well-being and comfort” (Barthelme).

It is important to note that God makes several appearances throughout the story. Fist he is a meter reader who checks on how much electrify is being used then again he appears to enjoy the destruction he is causing in the wake of a global flood. The story can be seen as an elaborate lament of the death of spirituality. Electricity has been discovered to be spiritual Grace. Man has rendered through science the control over the spiritual. The fact that God is destroying the world once again by flooding it could represent the falseness of God’s promise to man.  These religious metaphors continue into the songs. Our protagonist sings a song about Ralph. Ralph is a beautiful character perfect yet tragically flawed. He is most certainly the embodiment of the Anti-Christ the perfect salesman. He is even described as having hoofed feet and he is “coming” for us all.

Mrs. Davis’ song is no less religious in nature. She sings about a character named Maude. Maude is certainly a stand in for the biblical character of Eve. She is described as being under a church dome and yearning the first “yearn”. Obviously this is an allusion to the temptation of Eve by Lucifer in the Garden of Eden. Maude also named all the tools in the world while I could probably make a sexual reference here it certainly seems she was around at the beginning if she was the one who had the job of naming things much as God gave Adam the job of naming the animals. In the end they both decide they must move on into the new age even if it will be uncomfortable. This seems to place the story into the context of Adam and Eve. Here are two characters who are forced out of their comfortable existence into one of uncertainty and possible strife.

In the second half of the story God is now seen as hiding. First behind a tree (the Tree of Knowledge perhaps) then behind a table (shades of the last supper).  God is more separate from Tom and Mrs. Davis further from them than he had been in the first two sections of the story. Tom tries to speak with God and his thoughts are very prayer like, but God disappears and Tom assumes it is to read the meters again. Here again is an absent God who does not hear our prayers. The story ends with the divorce of Tom and Mrs. Davis. They have a child and then go their own way each following Ralph (commercialism) or Maude (knowledge) but not God. God is manning the generators and ensuring light and grace at the end of the age.

The story illustrates the death of religion in the mechanical age and the rise of commercialism and scientific progress. Man follows that which is rational to him and wrestles the irrational such as the supernatural into rational concepts. Even though we do these things we still seem to need to see the world in terms of irrational belief. The marriage is certainly a study in irrationality. The rules make little sense but we engage in marriage because we still have a sense of magic and spirituality that even the mechanical age has not taken from us.
 

 

Barthelme, Donald. Sixty Stories. New York: Putnam, 1981. Print.

Movie Review: Arrival

Movie Review: Arrival

 

WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD

There’s a point early on in Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival  where a team of scientists and soldiers, entering the alien vessel for the first time, hike through a tunnel until they reach  the seeming end of it. One character tosses a Glo-Stick up in the air….and it continues to fall upwards. It is at this point that we realize we have entered, to quote Walter Pidgeon’s Professor Morbius in Forbidden Planet (like Amy Adam’s character, a professor of languages ), a completely new set of scientific values. Villeneuve’s film may seem on the surface to be just another alien-first-contact movie but it’s actually something much more interesting and unique. It’s a true rarity, a film adaptation of a quite recent, highly-acclaimed science fiction short story that manages to do its source material justice. Continue reading “Movie Review: Arrival”

Movie Review: THE CONGRESS

Movie Review: THE CONGRESS

At one point early in THE CONGRESS, the agent (Harvey Kietel) for the lead character tells a studio head “No science fiction films. They’re all stupid and my client doesn’t do stupid stuff.” We laugh knowingly because at its very best, science fiction is the most intelligent and provocative of genres, and THE CONGRESS is a noble attempt to make a science fiction film that appeals to art-house audiences, something that has become more popular as of late (see also UPSTREAM COLOR and I ORIGINS). There are, in fact, two potentially very good science fiction films lying at its heart, but it seems torn over deciding which one it should be. Continue reading “Movie Review: THE CONGRESS”

Movie Review: Zombeavers

Movie Review: Zombeavers

ZOMBEAVERS follows a direct line of descent from such 1950s films as THE KILLER SHREWS and ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES, although I doubt that the makers of this movie have seen them unless they are also fans of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000. Instead, it’s more likely that they were inspired by the tributes to such films made by those who grew up with them, such as Ron Underwood’s TREMORS, Fred Dekker’s NIGHT OF THE CREEPS and especially, Joe Dante’s oeuvre, Continue reading “Movie Review: Zombeavers”

I LOATHED LUCY

I LOATHED LUCY

Quick, what does this remind you of? Lucy is a naïve American college student living in Hong Kong, emotionally fragile and seemingly none too bright, who has made the wrong sort of boyfriend, the sort who “innocently” asks you to deliver a briefcase to some fellows who “just happen” to be some big-time Asian drug dealers. And they don’t just take the briefcase, no siree, Continue reading “I LOATHED LUCY”

Dissecting Divergent

Dissecting Divergent

 

Entertaining yet not quite fulfilling, intelligent but underdeveloped, and having provoked an extremely broad range of critical reaction without any clear consensus, Divergent certainly lives up to its title in terms of both its internal contradictions and audience reception. It’s enjoyable enough to merit a viewing and it provides an intriguing fictional society and setting that feels genuinely lived-in. Additionally, the social factions that form the crux of the story’s plot and themes are quite interesting in the way they represent contemporary social and ideological divisions as well as moral virtues. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the individual characters in the film, however likeable some of the actors playing them are, and the movie leaves too many questions about its themes and setting frustratingly unanswered. Continue reading “Dissecting Divergent”

Movie Review: Science At Work

Movie Review: Science At Work

The late, great Frederick Pohl opened Chasing Science, his wonderful memoir of scientific tourism, with an account of his visits to America’s national laboratories. Although the majority work under heavy security there is one lab, as Pohl notes, that always welcomes visitors with open arms: Fermilab in DuPage County, Illinois. It is there that the Top Quark was discovered, solidifying the Standard Model and establishing it firmly as the touchstone of modern physics, and it remained the country’s leading particle physics facility until the recent shutdown of the Tevatron accelerator. Even so, it remains a major research center as well as a popular tourist attraction in the greater Chicago area, and the recent documentary Science at Work provides a virtual tour of the lab for those of us who have wanted to but never had a chance to pay a visit. Continue reading “Movie Review: Science At Work”

Movie Review: Mood Indigo

Movie Review: Mood Indigo

Some movies bend the rules or try to break them. This movie stretches them, squeezes them, then shapes them until it has formed its own set of narrative and visual rules. It is a film that could only be made in France, and even then, only by Michel Gondry. Of course it has cinematic antecedents of its own, almost all Gallic in origin as well; it feels at times that we are watching a three-way collaboration between the great talents of Jean Cocteau, Rene Clair and Jacques Tati. All the same, it belongs to that unique cinematic niche Gondry occupies, one that fellow countryman Jean-Paul Jeunet, frequent collaborator Charlie Kaufman and fellow acclaimed music video director and Kaufman cohort Spike Jonze inhabit as well, a distinctively modern cinema of the surreal. Continue reading “Movie Review: Mood Indigo”