Monthly Archives: April 2014

How/Why “Transcendence” is a good film

“…of course there are people who say that progress is dangerous…” IRON MAN 3

I put a truncated version of this on Forbes.com…I don’t like that I had to leave out things like Kata Mara’s awesome role as head of RIFT (her story about the monkey was quite compelling) …there’s some spoilers in here but I tried to keep it subtle…

 

SIDE A: AGREE “TRANSCENDENCE” COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER


[1] The “be scared of technology” theme is a personal favorite of mine and The Lawnmower Man was one of the most exciting movies I snuck into back when I was however old I was when it was in the theatre. All that I have to say about the connection to the Stephen King short story is that there is none except for the “Birdbath.” SO. “Transcendence” picks up where Lawnmower Man – should have mentioned that was also an underrated movie – left off but it didn’t stick with how society would react to such an advance in technology except for the heavy handed dialogue, “people won’t understand at first; they’ll be afraid”…which wasn’t bad, just executed with some “mmmm” obviousness. I don’t think it was Depp’s performance that hurt this movie.


[2] I didn’t like that it took so long to get Johnny Depp ‘digitalized’…the love story and friendships (ties to ‘being human’) could have been laid out faster

[3] I feel like Rebecca Hall was the real star of this movie and didn’t get enough credit, enough praise and the cut that showed in the theatre – hoping for an extended unrated cut on blu-ray – definitely didn’t have room for her to really flex her ability as an actor, even though she was onscreen a lot. I’ve seen her in a few films and I know she has an edge; one that is a perfect blade for this film but she was kinda reduced to an obvious ‘anchor’ for Depp (an overly-over-the-top half of the love story) but I must say that the scene where Paul Bettany finds their bodies was a bad ass poignant moment…definitely felt the throat tighten up a bit. Probably the most “Pfister-via-Nolan” image from the whole movie


[4] Pfister was Director of Photography for Christopher Nolan’s films, making them visual feasts (that tilting hallway fight with Joseph Gordon-Levitt from Inception; Heath Ledger taking of his mask in the opening sequence of The Dark Knight…) that left me wanting more. If what I’ve read is accurate, a big part of Nolan’s style is that he supervises all the footage that gets used – Pfister may have shot the stuff but Nolan was supervising. And that worked out Awesome. But here, I was disappointed with the lack of ‘whoa…!’ visuals…however, Pfister was no doubt occupied with handling all other duties that come with being a director – yet, this point does bother me


[5] Whoever said that “there are no original stories left” – well, that may or may not be true but a lot of my favorite movies found a cool way of mixing and matching story threads and characters I was familiar with in a way that was Cool. All the familiar elements were exactly that in this film.

[6] I would have absolutely injected more large-scale military action: if Depp has access/control over anything connected to a network? I would have used drones, tanks, satellites…RIFT would have been tracked and destroyed, behavior patterns would have been predicted and countered…

That being said…

SIDE B: “TRANSCENDENCE” WAS REALLY GOOD


[1] RIFT – anti-science-flat-earthers (perhaps modeled after the Right-To-Lifers who murdered Dr. Gunn)


[2] Showing the promise of advances in technology – especially Nanotechnology – and then flipping it with the ‘network’ aspect


[3] That moment where the repaired Martin first speaks as Depp…goosebumps and tightening of the jaw


[4] Cillian Murphy has been integral to several of my favorite films – “Sunshine” “Tron: Legacy” “The Dark Knight trilogy”…same goes here, he was great


[5] Morgan Freeman has a dignified air of his own and it was well placed and of the quality I have come to expect from him in this film


[6] Paul Bettany was great


[7] Rebecca Hall…she was razor sharp – one moment I will always remember is when she reads the note from Morgan Freeman’s character


[8] Kata Mara KATE MARA!!! Forget the question of “is she an antagonist or protagonist?”…she has a cause that she has total faith in and she is set in it. She and Depp are the same thing, just the opposite sides of each other. Her scene with Paul Bettany, about the monkey’s brain (nod to the Monkey’s Paw…?) was awesome. I hope to see more of her around. Also, I like her with blonde hair. (I don’t count American Horror Story; she’s better than that)

[9] Paul Bettany’s character arc


[10] The initial attacks against Castor’s ‘hive-nest’ even though they were predictably futile – they served their purpose well, delivering the promise of some large scale action sequences


[11] So much detail: Depp’s simulation of the sounds of knife and fork on plate, that Turing nod at the hotel, the love-is-blinding aspect of Hall’s character, “PINN”…that was almost as funny as the character named RAM in the original Tron


[12] Great attention to the differences and similarities of human and machine…a nearly invisible reminder of so many tech-quotes: () “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” () “The best way to predict the future is to create it”


[13] Wraparound to Hall’s idealized concept of technology being used to improve life as we know it; in Iron Man 3, she had a great moment when she talked with Gweneth Paltrow about Wernher von Braun’s rocket (“the rocket performed perfectly – it just landed on the wrong planet.”…would probably be appropriate to mention Einstein and Oppenheimer here as well

Three last thoughts:

-1- Endlessly amusing that Bettany voices Tony Stark’s AI, JARVIS…and if Age of Ultron plays out the way I think it will – well, it’s official that Bettany is not just doing voice work for Avengers 2, right?

-2- I have spoken with at least eight or nine people today who said they would wait until Transcendence is on blu-ray to check it out. I am not a film reviewer/critic but it’s difficult to put into words how much I wish this movie got more attention – and more Positive Attention

-3- Whether the opening weekend box office numbers are a reflection of poor marketing or the public’s fear of Artificial Intelligence and/or Nanotechnology, I believe this is a damn important film for people to see. I once said that when it comes time to educate kids about doing drugs, make them watch “Requiem for a Dream” … this is like that, only not nearly as grim and the point is awareness of tech

Do yourself – and potentially, all of us – a favor and See This Film.Image

The End of the World

I don‟t really want the world to burn or for a pandemic to decimate the population. One may not come to this conclusion if they‟d read most of my screenplays, short stories, poetry and all that but I assure you, the fact that some kind of apocalypse dropkicks the world after setting it on fire is a complete coincidence. I like the end of the world as a primary ingredient to building the worlds in which I set many of my stories because everything Matters More.

With so many people gone and – presumably – everyone having lost people they love, all actions would, in theory, be more carefully considered. This doesn‟t mean I think people will just start getting along after the apocalypse (if you‟ve read my work, you probably picked up on that) but what I love most about these shadowy levels of skyscrapers with no windows – places where no elevator can go and no doors get you to the stairs – is that when something good happens (and it always does eventually, if only in effect of the factoid that nothing lasts forever) it affects a change. The flickers of happiness may amount to little more than precisely that by the time our hapless antagonists and protagonists reach the end of the 3rd act but all of them, even the faintest and briefest of them have Changed Things.

In my feature screenplay for “Romeo & Juliet‟ the Capulets are vampires because I wanted to amplify Juliet‟s longing and her rage at being told to marry the cousin of Escalus. The rest of the backstory that I wrote also served to amplify the events of the story but it was All written so that the events of the tale we all know would not have to be changed drastically. Yeah, time of day is different and I won‟t get into how I transplanted Shakespeare‟s dialogue into a near-future (all of Juliet‟s „where art thou Romeo‟ remains intact word for word) but it‟s as much out of respect as it is bittersweet memories of teen-angst-infatuation-primal-blinding-lust that I keep the story so tight to the original, I‟ve just added vampires, machine guns, explosions, lots of knives…and beneath all that lies the firm belief that the right one IS out there for everyone. (except me, of course)

In my screenplay “Lit” the main character‟s depression nearly keeps him in on Friday night but a coincidence lands him a party where he meets a girl; a girl who has a lighter which was stolen from him a week ago. This leads to the discovery he‟s at the wrong party and then things get rolling, but the point is, Gavin has no doubt whatsoever that nothing outside is going to alleviate the pain he feels. And it really doesn‟t seem like it will, as details are revealed throughout Act I but when his stolen lighter shows up… To close, here are some not-so-happy-quotes which – for me – start narratives on a path where something akin to happiness is inevitable…if only for a few moments. It may just be all the “preservatives‟ I’ve invested in but the truth of all things horrible: ALL of it has a flip side. A few quotes of shadow that lead to some form of salvation (in my opinion are:

[] “I’m nobody! Who are you?”Emily Dickinson

[] “Love is poison. A sweet poison, yes, but it will kill you all the same.”Cersei Lannister (George R. R. Martin)

[] “All we ever see of stars are their old photographs.”Dr. Manhattan (Alan Moore)

[] “Everyone in life is going to hurt you; you just have to figure out which people are worth the pain.”Erica Baican

[] 1“True love is like ghosts, which everybody talks about and few have seen.”La Rochefoucauld

[] “Gravity cannot be held responsible for people falling in love.”Einstein

[] “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.”William Gibson

[] “You used to be the victim, now you’re not the only one.”Elvis Costello

The end of the world is the beginning of the next. Nothing lasts forever but the misery which comprises so much of everyday life is included. Happiness comes and goes but so does despair. The feeling that the integrity of one’s soul is cracked so that all happiness just seeps out … it isn’t permanent. Nothing is. 

It’s just a matter of holding on long enough to see it – to experience it – for yourself.

Life is full of pain but as Faith No More said, “droplets of ‘yes and no; in an ocean of maybe,,,”

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Uncharacteristic (again)

It’s been long enough that I know it would be unacceptable (unproductive, as well) if I were – so maybe it isn’t unpredictable that I’m not pissed about what happened. But I was surprised when I laughed about it. 

Short version: she was here, I played guitar, she sang – the song was “High and Dry” by Radiohead – the chorus goes, “Don’t leave me high – don’t leave me dry” but that’s what happened. And I don’t listen to that song anymore. That memory does not hurt – generally, the fact she said goodbye (many many weekends later) doesn’t either – but what does hurt (very much a lot) is remembering not the way she phrased what she said but where she was when she said it. Maybe seven feet away from me but when you’ve been that close, seven feet is pretty much seven million miles.

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Codex 3Johnlee (Property of 3JV Productions, LTD © 2010)

Property of 3JV Productions, LTD © 2010

So it’s like this: everything I know about math and physics and all that is as follows: everything is made up of ones and zeroes. And they get rearranged when you say things in a certain way. One of the five basic principle movements of “How to Curse Like Johnlee” is replacing the one and zero with Shit and Fuck. Given that the world is pretty much dependent on computers which talk to each other in a language of very fast ones and zeroes and how crazy complex the world is, hey, look, all this complexity is an extension of Shit and Fuck.

The first step is: “Fruit Equals You’re a Motherfucker” simplified into “Fruit Equals Motherfucker”… that initial thought evolved into “Everything Equals Fucked” (or Fuck Squared) which was amusing to me because quantifying the/a fuck and assigning a set value to it? And this includes the factoring in of the possibility of a future state of “Fucking”

A few years later, I have copyrighted the theory and a series of t-shirts as well as a primer. The t-shirts also delve into madness; applying this special logic to emotions. Trying to find a pattern or at least, something that has a similar shape. I have cleverly disguised these bits of sheer sanity as phrases that don’t directly involve words like Shit and Fuck which some find offensive; just like science is offended by certain aspects of religion and vice versa.

But, who can argue with the truth of, “Death is an immunological response to life” or “The human brain is complex. MOTHERFUCKER.” I had a malarky of whimsy with, “Love is like electricity; I like it until I have direct contact with it.”

This is merely the tip of the tip of the iceberg, as I am well aware I am posting this online and through a series of MANY ‘shitfuckfucker’ it will be further evidenced by a link on one of my Facebook pages. There are several keys which are Not Included here. I just wanted to put it out there because I recently began reading about Stephen Wolfram and his book, “A New Kind of Science” has some eerie parallels to what I’ve been thinking about. They’re not related except in their effect: seeing reality in a different manner of seeing…seeing seeing as a different kind of sense.

One of the interviews about this work (which was recorded sometime during the past year) may go online soon.

Here’s a last freebie for you: “Set the Shit on Fuck” (root of “…Fuck like a Motherfucker Goddamnit…”) “Fruit = Motherfucker; because it can, does and therefore, will. QED.” The full-length theorem will be published within the next year or so. I sincerely hope you all will be part of the 3JV.

 

Thank You.

 

Property of 3JV Productions, LTD © 2010

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Giant squid are not your friends. That’s important, too.