Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Rules of the Game (Revolution Spoilers)

So, all electricity and technology on Earth has stopped working. The question we’re supposed to be asking is, “Why (or how) did this happen?” And, to some extent, that is the question I’m asking. But there are more troubling questions that need to be answered well in advance of even beginning to discuss that one.

In fiction of all sorts, the story has the ability and opportunity to set up the rules of its universe. Maybe there are people with super powers running around. Maybe we’re on a different planet, or an alternate version of Earth set a hundred years in the past. Virtually anything is okay. There can be a story told in any sort of universe with any set of rules. But once rules are set up, they have to make sense internally. A story has to set up its rules, and then it has to follow them.

This is my major problem, so far, with Revolution. I don’t care what happened, why it happened, how it happened, or who did it. At least not yet. Having watched the pilot episode, the only questions I really care about having answered are “Okay. So what are the rules in this universe, now?”
What does it mean for everything to stop working? Not, “what does it mean to society for all of the technology to suddenly stop?” While that is a good question, it is one the show does attempt to discuss. And it’s even less basic than the question I’m asking. I want to know, literally, what does that mean? What are you even saying?

We see cell phones go dark, car engines shut off, car lights turn off, planes fall from the sky. We pan out to a shot of the planet from space and we see the lights in all of North and South America systematically extinguish from space. So, exactly what is it that’s not working now?

We flash forward 15 years, and we see that the planet is a wreck. But we still don’t know what it means for all technology to have stopped working. The closest we get to an explanation is when Aaron exclaims to a group of kids that “Physics went insane. The world went insane. And nobody knows why.” 

Okay, so physics went insane. That’s a start. What does that mean? Well, we know that devices powered by batteries (phones) stopped working. Maybe silicon chips stopped working? That’s stupid, but I could go with it if that’s the universe that was set up. But also, cars stopped working. Car engines. Every car engine. Car engines don’t have any of the same physical properties of things like phones. Phones, generally, don’t have moving parts. But a car engine is a machine. It’s a combustion engine. It turns gasoline fuel into energy, and uses that energy to move all the moving parts and keep the engine going, which turns the wheels and makes the car go. So, combustion doesn’t work anymore? 

Well, no. Can’t be combustion. Because, for one thing, people are still making fires. For another, guns still work. 

I need a definition here of what things aren’t working. How complex does a machine have to be for it to be considered technology and thus no longer work? A car engine can’t combust fuel and power itself anymore, but you can build what looked to me to be a pretty complicated moonshine still? What about a vehicle that runs on a complicated set of gears, but is powered by a handcrank? Has physics gone so crazy that a machine like that wouldn’t work? But a crossbow does? WHAT ARE THE RULES?!

In the end, Revolution posits some fairly complex plot related questions. Who, what, why, and how did this happen in the first place? What is it that Ben knew and put on his little USB drive? Who are these people running around with magic USB drives? Lots of interesting plot related questions. But before I can focus on those questions, I need to understand the rules of the universe. And I just don’t trust JJ Abrams to ever explain them to me, beyond an oblique reference to “physics going insane.”
20 Reasons to love Beasts of a Southern Wild

1) The performance of the actress playing Hushpuppy is legendary.  If she doesn’t win an Oscar then it is an insult to everyone who has ever won one.

2) Instead of having subplots it has subtexts and they are awesome.

3) This movie managed to interweave images of prehistoric animals without being pretentious or boring about it.  I am looking at you Tree of Life.

4) The celebration at the start of the movie looks like more fun than everything I’ve done with my family combined.

5) We get a look into a world that is completely alien to our own.  This world is presented to us without judgment one way or another.  We see the good as well as the bad and the movie lets everything speak for itself on its own terms.

6) The coolest way to crack an egg ever.  Now that is a magic trick.

7) Lighting the stove!

8) The story of how Hushpuppy was conceived.  That was just fantastic.

9) The startling complexity of the relationship between Hushpuppy and her father.

10) Breaking out of the shelter.

11) That guy who was always dressed to the 9’s and never looked hot.  I am the white version of that guy.

12) The school teacher.  I loved her character, her lessions, and how she was kind of the communities voice of reason.  She was so strong and yet so sweet.

13) That whole scene in the bar that the boat captain brought them to where everyone was slow dancing and there were chrismas lights everywhere.

14) Solving the levee problem with a stuffed alligator and some dynamite, like real life role players.

15) The way the people of the bathtub could take care of themselves and each other.  That’s more than I can say for myself.  There is a tv show coming out on NBC where all the power dies and everyone freaks out.  The people of the Bathtub?  Well heck they wouldn’t even notice now would they. 

16) Her scream.

17) The moment where she meets the giant prehistoric pig beasts and they bow before her for she no longer is afraid of the,

18) I am not sure why that boat captain didn’t seem to be to bothered  by the fact that he just picked up 4 children swimming out on float but I’m glad he was around.

19) This movie answers the question I’ve always had.  What if Tideland was good?

20) It isn’t a movie about pain, being poor, despair, sickness, or hopelessness and yet all these things are contained within it.   This is a movie about overcoming whatever is thrown at you, living on your own terms, and celebrating every chance you can get.  It is the anti misery porn and it is spectacular that it managed to seem so honest.

Monday, September 17, 2012

20 Reasons to Love MoonRise Kingdom (All of the Spoilers)

1) Oh man, the look on Bill Murray’s face when he gets to the camp site and he lifts up the tent is priceless.

2) The movie is difficult to predict.  At several points throughout the movie I didn’t really have an idea of how it was going to proceed.  Most movies you got a pretty good idea how it was going to end and what’s going to happen.  This movie didn’t really have any sort of recognizable structure, in a good way.

3) The rise of the lefty scissors.  Being left handed myself I totally understand everything that happened with those scissors.

4) The “What kind of bird are you scene”.  That scene was spammed in the trailer so you’d think it would loose its punch.  Well it didn’t.

5) The movie was surprisingly dark.  I LOVE DARKNESS!

6) The eulogy given to the dog right after it died.  It was pitch perfect.

7) The series of shots that showed the girl with the binoculars.  One it established her as an outsider observer that goes unobserved herself.  Two those scene do lots of other work like establishing the relationship between Bruce Willas and the girl’s mother.  Very effective use of time.

8) The soundtrack.  Wes Anderson soundtracks are always a things to behold and this movie is no exception.  We actually all stayed and listened to the song in the credit sequence just because it was interesting.

9) He smokes a pipe!

10) Exasperation is a tough emotion to get.  It needs to be established and built up to in order to be effective.  However, when Bruce Willis shouts, “No god damnit” at the end of the movie right before two kids jump, well man nails that perfectly.

11) That is one fantastic tree house.

12) Pen pals are best pals.  Again the trailer kinda rode one of their letter exchanges into the ground but it is only half the story and it is awesome in context.

13) How the little girl reads out loud first to just the main boy then to everyone.  The time they show her reading adventure stories out loud to both the boy and all of his scouts it gave off a very strong Peter Pan and Wendy vibe.  That whole moment was struck with such innocence and while their mission at the time was serious this moment of levity fit so perfectly into the movie.  It is the moment where the outcasts go from being outcasts to the center, where acceptance is truly found for the first time.

14) Learning to French kiss.

15) When Bill Murray and his wife are lying in the darkness talking about their roles as parents.  When they admit that they aren’t enough it is fitting, tragic, and honest.

16) The showdown between Bruce Willis and social services.  That was classic.

17) “I might wet the bed later.  I just thought you should know”

18) The sea of puppy dog eyes during the marriage scene when everyone wanted to have the couple get the nickles.

19) Getting struck by the lightning.  Even though I saw it coming 75 miles off it was awesome.

20) The moment when Norton was apologizing to the boy about not knowing he was an orphan.  Norton’s character was so genuine but boyish in his innocents.  He did an excellent job in this particular scene showing just how out of his depth he was when it came to dealing with the boy while at the same time showing his absolute honesty in wanting to help and be there