Posts Tagged ‘moral message’

Severance (Smith, 2006. UK)


Severance- headless suit***Minor Spoilers****

Standard splatterstock and largely predictable but with a few proper laughs. It’s almost a corporate Battle Royale, except the initial corporate downsizing storyline was written out and transplanted with a bizarre Revenge of the Hungarian War Criminals backstory. Which is apparently a comment on corporate responsibility and the culpability of the Western Arms Trade. Personally I think it’s just an excuse to kill off suits in varied and increasingly gory fashion while That Twat Danny Dyer blunders about making ‘comic’ lewd comments in his ludicrous mockney drawl. What Laura Harris Laura Harris stares pensively from windowcould possibly see in him is unfathomable. The male directors’ Wish Fulfilment Rule again. You know the one where no matter how old/aesthetically repellent/ socially incompetent you may be, the beautiful, intelligent and well-adjusted woman will fall for you, just because you’re the main character. Just like in life. Harris is a likeable actress and usually worth a watch, however her purpose here appears to be chiefly to act as an object of lust for the various derisible or simple two dimensional male characters. (more…)

Advertisements

Here it is folks. I haven’t even read back what I’ve written, but this is the first Liveblogging attempt. It’s pretty long, so I’m going to trial using  exerpts intead of full posts on the home page. Hope you enjoy!

********Warning Full SPOILERS*********

Sugarhouse (Love, 2007. UK)

00:00:20

A not quite middle aged white man traverses real London, beyond the City and the tourists, and though he is almost certainly a native, he seems uncomfortable out here, maybe in the heart of the city, perhaps as far afield as Zone 3. The graffiti tag stylising of the opening credits set the genre quite distinctly. British, urban, almost certainly gritty, dealing with class and poverty. Your standard inner-city drama/thriller I’d say. Oh, and Gollum’s in it as someone called ‘Hoodwink’ who I’ll bet is a kingpin drug dealer or gang lord type. Three to One.

Just in case we hadn’t noticed this man’s out-of-placeness, the handheld DV flags it up for us. His eyes light on a series of grotesques and caricatures as his unease becomes ours. Directed by Gary Love. He is accosted in a market café by Ashley Walters out of So Solid who earned his stripes and showed his chops in Bullet Boy. Here he seems to be playing some demented delinquent version of himself again. Less world weary than his lead role in that film.

As the altercation ends we see our man did intend to meet this capering rood boy Caliban, so what is he up to? He’s clearly involved in something over his head, that much is clear from the office attire and the way he gazes up at the high rise tower block they come to. A visually striking crane shot presents the block as something more than poorly-planned social housing for a moment, it is Hockney or one of those great American print artists. Then we snap down to ground level and it’s just somewhere you hope you won’t have to live. Or visit. (more…)

WATERSHIP DOWN  (Martin Rosen, 1978. UK)

 Typically and perhaps misguidedly promoted as a children’s film, presumably because it’s an animation featuring rabbits; but that is where the Disney similarity ends. There is real darkness in this film, beyond the ‘mild peril’ of Pixar or the sad -but-not-shocking demise of Bambi’s ever-cited mother. You don’t even need to scratch the surface to reveal a seething pit of misogyny and deeply troubling gender politics. Arguably this is typical of the late seventies moral backlash against sixties’ liberation, (although that was more of an American trait) but no matter what the rationale, if we are going to  sit children in front of these films, we need to question the messages we are exposing them to.

That said, Watership Down is known as a seminal film for a reason. The animation is idiosyncratic and distinctively stylised, with emphasis on pictorial representations of the declining British countryside. There is unapologetic moralising which is clearly lacking in some of the more lightweight animations produced subsequently, though the conservationist point is slegdehammered in towards the end. This is definitely an instance where I’d advise watching with children on first viewing as, violence and atypical quantities of gore aside, there’s certainly plenty of content they may not understand. Fiver’s fits and visions can be frightening and the totalitarianism the pilgrim rabbits encounter could well be bewildering to children raised in liberal democracies (such as they may be).

So, while accessible to children, this is a film I’d strongly recommend to adults. I didn’t see Watership Down till I was in my twenties, though most of my peers had encountered it in childhood and I still took a lot from it. For older viewers there is far more to be read in terms of allegory and criticisms of political regimes and rampant ‘progress’ (in this case industrialisation.)

Some of the soapboxing may be a little hard to swallow and the inherent attitude to women is troubling, but overall this is a strong film and a welcome variation to the sanitised dross often delivered under the rubric of ‘family movie’.

Jurassic Park: Unabashed Propaganda

(Spielberg, 1993. US)

***FULL SPOILERS***

 

You may be forgiven for incredulity, but there is a powerful irony at play in the inherent messages and values of Jurassic Park. Bear with me, I’ll prove it.

Let’s start with the figurative. Dinosaurs are, of course, a well-exercised and widely accepted metaphor for the past, for obsoletion, for the blundering remnants of bygone times and values. Now hold that thought.

 

Okay, to the meat of the issue. What, precisely, was this groundbreaking, blockbusting CGI and animatronic tubthumper trying to say?

 

We begin with a child-hating curmudgeon palaeontologist fellow (Dr. Alan Grant), his conscience: the blonde haired, blue eyed botanist assistant (read: latent love-interest), and the all-American moppet grandchildren of park creator and billionaire bampot John Hammond. That’s our core cast. Surrounding them, amongst others we have the brooding and cynical serial divorcee mathematician and chaos theorist Dr. Ian Malcolm; Genarro, the token Soulless Lawyer who is endowed with all the character depth of Random Totty or Gay Best Friend; Nedry, the weaselly, thieving double agent and two named but expendable park employees.

 

These predictable and reliable stock characters duly carry out their duty thus:

 

In the beginning, Man was proud and arrogant and thought himself God. But he was Dickie Attenborough so he can be excused for the mistake. He is joined by a host of generics on his island of atrocity against nature. The woman out of the David Lynch films shows how compassionate and nurturing she is by forgoing the safari trail of godless wonder, in order to assist the vets with a sick triceratops. The remaining assortment of obvious victims and potential survivors continue upon their merry way. Almost immediately technology, on which the entire enterprise is woefully over reliant, fails them spectacularly. This is due in part to sabotage by the weaselly double agent. It’s okay though; he’s killed horribly- blinded by a venom-spitting dilophosaurus. How apt. Cos he couldn’t see the error of his ways. Couldn’t see…Moving on.

 

The Soulless Lawyer promptly abandons the children to a T-Rex attack in order to save himself and is duly despatched by the aforementioned beast. Sitting on an outdoor toilet, to the great amusement of my six year old classmates at the time of release. Oh the indignity. Master Chaos is gravely wounded in punishment for his serial defilement of the sanctity of marriage. He, however, heroically redeems himself by luring the T-Rex away from the hapless moppets and is thereby permitted to live. For the time being at least.

 

Meanwhile, back on the farm, Granddad God meets up with Mother Earth and they set out in a Jeep to rescue everyone. When they get there though, everyone has inconsiderately left. Eventually they find Master Chaos and bring him back to base. Oh, the island is being lashed by a fierce tropical storm too. This is in no way to be interpreted as a manifestation of the wrath of an omnipotent Judaeo-Christian deity. So the bone collector and the moppets are forced, by some convolution or other, to spend the night together up a big tree, where he (reluctantly) watches over them in a Protector fashion. They are awoken by gentle, giant, herbivore brontosauruses, which is nice. He then tells moppets Precocious and Pantwetter all about Brontos and encourages them not to be afraid of the creatures. This is carried out in a Nurturer type way. All of the above lead to inadvertent ‘bonding’ and other such Hollywoodisms.

 

As they wend their merry way back to ’safety’, Mother Earth and The Expendables are heading through ‘Raptor’ (which is Yankspeak for velociraptor) territory in order to restore power to the base, re-electrify the fences, seal the doors and generally restore man-made order to this inexplicable resurgence of animal anarchy. Daddy Bear and the cubs are going cross country, Pantwetter is up a fence. In painful slowmotion all the fences in the park are reactivated. His comes on and the current throws him to the ground several metres away. It’s okay, he’s fine. Doctor Grant comes over all concerned and comforts him. Aaw. Sadly, yet heroically, The Expendables sacrifice their lives for the preservation of the Main Characters.

 

 Eventually Daddy Bear, Mother Earth and the moppets are thrown together in the control room where they overcome peril through teamwork. Pantwetter is no help whatsoever, but they let him off.  Then Granddad God and Master Chaos rock up in a Jeep, Dickie having presumably patched old Jeff up en route. They drive to the waiting chopper and everyone lives happily ever after. Warms your cockles does it not?

 

So what have we learned?  The child-hating alpha male is forced to dredge up his repressed paternal instincts and protect his involuntarily adopted brood. He also notices that a very good woman, who happens to be rather younger and more attractive than he is, loves him, possibly against her better judgement. So he sensibly opts to love her back. As a result of this they all manage to survive a seemingly insurmountable threat against harsh odds. Hurrah for the nuclear family! It can bring civilisation out of the prehistoric [That would be those metaphor-riddled dinosaurs] and save society from its bleak, permissive future [reckless cloning practice*]. Those who threatened the stability or completeness of the unit, those who did not prioritise family values, were swept aside by the double edged sword that is the cruel indifference of nature and man’s undoing by his own design.

 

Therein lies the aforementioned irony. While dinosaurs are traditionally a metaphor for the past [Still holding that thought? You’ll need it now], for archaic values, their creation here- through genetic tomfoolery- means they actually represent perversion of nature and that traditionalism of which Republicans are so fond. Their existence is therefore anathema to good Americanism and the destruction they wreak, the threat they pose to Daddy and the moppets, an indictment of contemporary attempts to reimagine the family. It is only by uniting as a monogamous, heterosexual nuclear unit that our heroes are permitted to survive**. Learn this lesson heathens, learn it well!

*I’ll admit that is a weeny bit tenuous, but go with it, I do make good on the point I’m labouring towards- honest!
** What happens to their actual parents is anyone’s guess.