Scanlyze

The Online Journal of Insight, Satire, Desire, Wit and Observation

Peculiar Movies I Like

Peculiar strange movies which I like.

Dusk til Dawn.
A family road film turns into Pulp Fiction which then becomes a vampire/zombie bloodbath. And there’s Salma Hayak.

The American Astronaut.
One part Luis Bruñel’s Un Chien Andalou, one part David Lynch’s Eraserhead, one part John Carpenter’s Dark Star, three parts punk-shockabilly music video, one part Devo show, one part Busby Berkeley extravaganza, one part John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath plus liberal doses of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon.

Dark Star.
Space garbagemen lose an epistemological argument with one of their nuclear bombs. This does not end well for them.

Queen of Outer Space.
Zsa-Zsa Gabor is that.

The Thing from Outer Space.
James Arness is the homicidal shape-shifting super-carrot. Rawr!

Moral is: if discovering alien spaceship buried in ice, do not drop thermite bombs on it to see what will happen. They will be pissed, and hungry.

Robot Monster
There’s this robot monster, only it looks like a man in a gorilla suit, except its head is an old fashioned diving bell… and well it goes downhill from there. There is a girl, and screaming of sorts. Aaah!

They Live
Roddy Piper is in it. You know the wrestler. And he discovers some glasses that shows him the whole world is an illusion being projected by aliens. And he and his friend fight about whether the friend should look through the glasses. And they fight. And fight. And fight some more. And there is stuff about a girl and she throws him out the window, and more droll set pieces… sort of falls apart at the end but who cares at that point.

Schlock
There’s this Bigfoot, and he plays boogie-woogie piano with the blind man when nobody is around to see. That’s about all I remember. Something about 2001 is in there also.

Alien v Predator
So there’s the most estrogen-powered series ever, Alien/s etc. with Ripley tearing up the penis-headed monster thing which likes to burst through your chest, and then there is Predator, the most testosterone-powered movie evah, with Arnie, Carl Weathers, Jessie Ventura etc fighting the vagina-headed monster Predator.

So at the nadir of the cycle of cheaper and cheaper remakes, somehow a sticky peak nadir as it were was reached with Alien v Predator combining the two franchises. It’s game over, man!

Ghost in the Shell Innocence
This isn’t good badness, it is good goodness but very high on the scale of weirdness. The only odd thing is it falls into the uncanny valley at times by combining cel animation, digital rotoscoping and cgi. But the Locus Solis scene is one of the trippiest ever.

Copyright © 2016 Henry Edward Hardy

1 November, 2016 Posted by | movies, scanlyze, science fiction | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Does politics belong in the classroom?

Prof. Stanley Fish has been discussing on his nytimes blog whether or how freely political opinions should be expressed by a teacher in the college or university classroom.

His initial blog entry is, Yet Once More: Political Correctness on Campus and the followup to which I have responded is, George W. Bush and Melville’s Ahab: Discuss!

Fish’s first post was a long response to Evan Coyne Maloney’s Indoctrinate U.

The basic thrust of Fish’s post seems to be that,

Academics often bridle at the picture of their activities presented by Maloney and other conservative critics, and accuse them of grossly caricaturing and exaggerating what goes on in the classroom. Maybe so, but so long as there are those who confuse advocacy with teaching, and so long as faculty colleagues and university administrators look the other way, the academy invites the criticism it receives in this documentary. In 1915, the American Association of University Professors warned that if we didn’t clean up our own shop, external constituencies, with motives more political than educational, would step in and do it for us. Now they’re doing it in the movies and it’s our own fault.

Yet Once More: Political Correctness on Campus

My response follows:

I would not entirely agree with the thesis that politics has no place in the Academy.

As teachers, can we not state that, for instance, “Torture is antithetical to every basic principle of the American democratic system”? Or contrariwise, “Corporal punishment has been a feature of the American system of justice since its inception, and even killing a prisoner who has been condemned to death after due process is held to be judicially and legally acceptable under federal and most state jurisdictions today”?

Can we not say, “The evidence for global warming is regarded as conclusive by an overwhelming international consensus of scientists” as well as, “Solar incident radiation is the principle contributing factor to global warming in accordance with Boltzmann’s Law and the primary factor mediating this is the albedo of the earth, and any radiative forcing from CO2 in the atmosphere is negligible by comparison”?

Is it not precisely so that such opinions can be voiced without fear of retribution that we have tenured positions in the academic structure? If one prevailing political, scientific, or social view is defined culturally as “objective” and no other views are permitted to be advanced or advocated by a teacher in a classroom setting, then where is the great “marketplace of ideas” of which the classroom is a preeminent exemplar? As the Supreme Court held in Keyishian v. Board of Regents, (385 U.S. 589, 605-606 [1967], supreme.justia.com/us/385/589/case.html ):

‘Our Nation is deeply committed to safeguarding academic freedom, which is of transcendent value to all of us and not merely to the teachers concerned. That freedom is therefore a special concern of the First Amendment, which does not tolerate laws that cast a pall of orthodoxy over the classroom. “The vigilant protection of constitutional freedoms is nowhere more vital than in the community of American schools.” Shelton v. Tucker, supra, at 487. The classroom is peculiarly the “marketplace of ideas.” The Nation’s future depends upon leaders trained through wide exposure to that robust exchange of ideas which discovers truth “out of a multitude of tongues, [rather] than through any kind of authoritative selection.”‘

Thank you for your interesting post and enjoyable and weighty blog, Prof. Fish.

See also: The Universities Under Attack …

I would further note that after 1915 the political “cleaning up” of leftist radicals such as Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman took the unpleasant form of the Palmer Raids in 1919, indeed an interesting and fraught comparison to draw with our present political situation.

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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23 October, 2007 Posted by | 1915, 1919, 1967, Alexander Berkman, anarchism, anarchy, censorship, classroom, education, Emma Goldman, Evan Coyne Maloney, free market of ideas, freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, Indoctrinate U, Keyishian v. Board of Regents, law, marketplace of ideas, movie, movies, New York Times, objectivity, Palmer Raids, political correctness, politics, radicals, repression, Shelton v. Tucker, Stanley Fish | 2 Comments

Spartacus Reigns Supreme

Spartacus Reigns Supreme

by Henry Edward Hardy

Spartacus (1960) is one of director Stanley Kubrick’s best films. Starring a buff Kirk Douglas and darkly handsome Lawrence Olivier, this panoramic spectacular tells the fictionalized story of the Third Servile War of 73-71 BC, the last of the great slave revolts against the Roman Republic.

Douglas plays Spartacus, the leader of the slave rebellion, as a rather simple man who through ability and circumstance comes within a hairsbreadth of overthrowing the Roman slave system. There is a sweet love-story of his romance and marriage to Varinia as played by Jean Simmons, which contrasts to his rise from gladiator slave to a military leader who shattered legions.

It is not clear from the historical records of the real Spartacus that he had the ambition to overthrow slavery as a system, nor the Roman state. He may simply have wished to leave Italy with his followers in order to escape slavery and return to his home. However, in the movie there is a strong political subtext.

The script was written by Dalton Trumbo. Trumbo was a well-known author and Hollywood scriptwriter who was a member of the Communist Party USA. He had refused to give evidence against others to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1947. In consequence, Trumbo had been blacklisted and unable to publish work under his own name for 13 years until Kubrick and Douglas, who produced the film, allowed him to put his name on Spartacus.

Trumbo’s Spartacus is a humanitarian, a revolutionary, and a communist who keeps the loot in a common treasury for all. The script, based on Howard Fast’s novel is scintillating, and contains veiled allusions and subtle dialog. Particularly risque and adroitly handled is the seduction scene between Crassus (Olivier) and the young Antoninus (Tony Curtis). Crassus discusses eating oysters or eating snails as a metaphor for sexual preference, indicating that it is merely a matter of taste, not of morality.

Spartacus makes great use of the wide screen. The composition of many of the shots is remarkable, and utterly brutalized by pan-and-scan versions. For instance, in an early scene at the gladiator school, the action takes place in the middle of the screen in the pit below, while from either side of the frame the sybaritic Roman elite look on and discusses the life and death struggles below in a cold and repellent, narcissistic manner.

Spartacus is a challenge to the mind, an inspiration to the spirit, a treat for the eye and a tug on the heartstrings. By all means see this great classic on the wide screen when you can.

A version of this review was published by Current.

Spartacus (1960) (IMDB)
Spartacus (wikipedia)
Spartacus (film) (wikipedia)
Spartacus (Rotten Tomatoes)

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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9 October, 2007 Posted by | 1960, blacklisting, communism, Dalton Trumbo, House Un-American Activities Committee, Howard Fast, HUAC, Jean Simmons, Kirk Douglas, Lawrence Olivier, media, movie, movies, politics, rebellion, review, revolt, revolution, Roman Empire, Rome, scanlyze, slavery, Spartacus, Stanley Kubrick, Third Servile War, Tony curtis | Leave a comment

‘Children of Men’ is a Thoughtful, Provocative Science Fiction Drama

‘Children of Men’ is a Thoughtful, Provocative Science Fiction Drama

Children of Men
Universal Studios, 2007 (Widescreen Edition)

by Henry Edward Hardy

Children of Men is a brutal and provocative vision of modern society stressed beyond its breaking point. It is 2027, and no children have been born for 18 years. Theo Faron (Clive Owen) is a civil servant and former radical now working for the totalitarian civil administration in Britain. Theo is played with shell-shocked stupor by Owen. Theo fails to react visibly as a nearby shop blows up and a woman runs out screaming, holding the remains of her arm in her remaining hand. Owen’s best friend is broadly portrayed by Michael Caine, who channels John Lennon in his character of aging hippie “Jasper”.

Theo’s life of quiet desperation is shattered when his ex-wife-turned revolutionary, Julian (played by Julianne Moore), has him kidnapped and bribes him to assist in smuggling a young woman out of the country. Britain stands alone as much of the world descends into terrorism and anarchy–but it is a future Britain with much in common with dystopian novels such as George Orwell’s 1984.

Children of Men has much of the immediacy of a hand-held camera or a first-person view. A six minute sequence, apparently filmed continuously, represents the harshest and most realistic-appearing combat footage in cinema since Saving Private Ryan. The computer effects are undetectable; everything looks harshly, painfully real.

Children of Men is full of eclectic references, from Pink Floyd’s Animals to Banksey to Picasso to The Godfather to TS Elliot. When Theo and his companions enter a immigrant detention facility, one man in a metal cage stands in the Christ-like pose of the hooded man from the infamous Abu Ghraib photos. They are inducted to the detention facility through a metal series of aisles like a cattle corral over which hangs a sign reading “Homeland Security”.

Children of Men can be viewed as a futuristic road movie, a dystopian science fiction parable, or as a harsh and stinging attack on the repressive anti-terrorist and anti-immigrant policies of today. It is refreshing to see an action scene in which the hero or anti-hero doesn’t pick up a gun or use violence to resolve the situation. Director Alfonso Cuarón has produced a cataclysmic tour-de-force worthy of consideration and repeated viewing.

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

A version of this review was previously published by Current.

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5 September, 2007 Posted by | 1984, Alfonso Cuarón, Britain, Children of Men, Clive Owen, dictatorship, dystopia, George Orwell, immigration, Julianne Moore, media, Michael Caine, movie, movies, Orwell, repression, review, scanlyze, science fiction, terrorism, UK, video | 4 Comments

Everything is Not Going to be OK: Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly

Everything is Not Going to be OK:
A Scanner Darkly

by Henry Edward Hardy

Richard Linklater’s film, A Scanner Darkly (2006) explores the boundaries of consciousness and identity. Based on the book by Phillip K. Dick, it revolves around the character of Agent Fred, who has been assigned to infiltrate a California commune in order to discover the ultimate origin and means of production of a new powerful psychoactive drug, “Substance D”.

—Note: spoilers follow—

Substance D produces hallucinations and dissociation between the two hemispheres of the brain. As in the book, The Erasers by Alain Robbe-Grillet, the officer turns out to be tracking himself. Agent Fred ends up investigating his alter ego, Substance D dealer Bob.

Phillip Dick was a methamphetamine user and suffered from visions and visitations as he describes in the afterward of the book. He was also a prophet and a very fine writer. His works have been made into some notable science fiction movies such as Blade Runner, Total Recall and Minority Report. Dick, like novelist John Brunner were social critics and visionaries who in the 1970s foresaw a 2000s with a “war on drugs” in which the government suppressive apparatus and the drug kingpins are ultimately one and the same.

The film is live action heavily overlaid with computer graphics. The result is beautiful, but also psychotic and disturbing. Linklater uses a “digital Rotoscoping” process invented by MIT Media Lab guru Bob Sabiston, and earlier used by Linklater in his 2001 film, Waking Life. Produced by Stephen Soderbergh and George Clooney, A Scanner Darkly is a subversive canvass for provocative, and one might say paranoid, ideas and images.

The phrase, “a scanner darkly” is a reference to 1 Corinthians 13:12, For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. A common enough conceit, and one which features in many other “through the looking glass” tales, notably the manga Ghost in the Shell. But an interesting taking off point for a further exploration of consciousness, and the social construction (or destruction) of reality.

A Scanner Darkly (IMDB)
A Scanner Darkly (wikipedia)
A Scanner Darkly (Rotten Tomatoes)

A version of this article appeared previously in Current Magazine and on Electric Current.

Copyright © 2006-2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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28 February, 2007 Posted by | A Scanner Darkly, Bob Sabiston, book, books, drugs, George Clooney, media, MIT Media lab, movies, paranoia, Phillip K. Dick, review, Richard Linklater, Rotoscope, Stephen Soderbergh, Substance D, video | 1 Comment