Archive for January, 2010

The Book of Eli

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Post-apocalyptic movies are all about how far after the apocalypse you set your story.  Thirty years after “the war tore a hole in the sky”, we’ve got Book of Eli; in Mad Max terms, that puts it into the Beyond Thunderdome epoch, where basically everybody’s on foot and only a few rich fucks have any gasoline left at all.  But whereas Mad Max was over the top and in-your-face, Book of Eli is stripped down to the bare essentials.  The opening sequence is wordless, chilling, gorgeous.  The cinematography is astounding, and the ambient soundtrack pays dividends soundtracks don’t usually pay, at least in this type of movie.  Screenwriter Gary Whitta refers to the movie as his “post-apocalyptic samurai western”; it was his decision to have virtually nothing happen in the first ten minutes, a dynamic which would have derailed a lesser film, while only serving to elevate this one.  Particularly interesting is Whitta’s take on not spelling everything out:

I didn’t want the movie to open up on a nuclear explosion and a text saying,”in the year 2020.” That’s just so lazy and I kind of felt like it would be more interesting rather than laying it all out at the beginning of the film to just spread it out. To have audiences be intrigued by what happened to the world and give them clues to figure it out. This is not a movie that spells everything out and gives all the answers, this gives them a lot of pointers and clues for them to figure it out.

As you might have heard, there is a major twist at the end, and that’s why you shouldn’t talk to anyone about this movie, but instead should get out there and see it.  I won’t say anything more about that, but as to what we learn earlier in the story:  it seems that every review online is talking about how the book that Eli is carrying is a Bible, so I don’t have a problem mentioning that here.  There’s an interesting interview over at io9 with the Hughes Brothers (who directed) where they seem to have trouble defending why it was a Bible, as opposed to (say) a manual on water irrigation—their answers veer toward the patronizing, though even if they weren’t just having a bad day, they wouldn’t be the first artists to not need to consciously engage with the deeper implications of their material in order to create successfully.  But as the evilicious Gary Oldman explains halfway through the movie:  “this isn’t a book . . .it’s a weapon, aimed at the hearts and minds of the weak and desperate. ” In Eli, there’s plenty of both.

Secret Autumn Rain websites revealed!

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Well, the cat’s out of the bag now, per my post in Jeff Vandermeer’s Booklife yesterday, which revealed the existence of sites like this one.  Tune in before they cart the whole thing off to Area 51 for further tests.

Predictions for 2010

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

Happy new year, folks. When the ball dropped, I was way off the grid: standing in the middle of a field in the foothills of the Appalachians, listening to shotgun blasts echo across the valleys as the locals celebrated the new decade and I mulled over what its first year might have in store.

Most of my predictions are fairly pessimistic.  I can’t help that.  Anyone who’s not pessimistic right now about the short to middle term is deluding themselves; indeed, I think that Barbara Ehrenreich is correct that the cult of positive thinking is a large part of the reason we’re in this mess in the first place.

Anyway, let’s get this show on the road:

#1. All talk of an economic recovery falls by the wayside. Obama’s decision to prop the economy up rather than try to reform it has merely replaced a housing bubble with a government bailout bubble.  The unemployment figures alone should tell us that the stock market rally is for rich suckers getting played by those who are even richer.  But once it becomes clear that the mammoth expansion of debt has only worsened the underlying fundamentals, we will officially enter the land of Terra Incognita, whereupon all bets are off.  Except for one certainty amidst all else, namely a . . .

#2: Massive GOP mid-term victory .  Economic turmoil breeds political unrest, and the GOP’s strategy of relentless obstructionism has been smart (if utterly cynical) politics, leaving them poised to take the blame game to a new level.  The Right shows no more understanding than the Left as to why we’re really in this mess, but the public is even more clueless, meaning the GOP will probably seize majorities in both houses.  Ironically, this might end up being Obama’s salvation in 2012, the same way the Republican victory in 1994 set Clinton up so beautifully to kick their asses two years later.  Of course, there’s another intangible here, to wit:

#3.  Someone takes a shot at Obama.  There was a time we weren’t supposed to talk about this kind of possibility, but I have no problem doing so, given that those who would be celebrating an assassination are already talking so loudly themselves.  Egged on by the rage of talk radio, the degree of hatred for Obama in the Red States has gone off the charts, and we have to be mentally prepared for at least one major incident. I’ll go out on a limb even further here and say that the shooter will probably fail, since he is likely to be a methhead amateur, and the Secret Service is primed like never before.  The real question is whether an attempt to kill the U.S. president will finally inject some sanity into the rhetoric that’s out there.  Somehow, I doubt it.

#4: Afghanistan’s quagmire becomes even more so.  While I agree with George Will that we should get the hell out of Afghanistan and concentrate on fighting this war with Predator UAVs and proxies, I thought the Obama/Gates strategy had merit, in that the real objective was clearly to try to bag Bin Laden and what’s left of the Al-Qaeda leadership.  But the just-occurred suicide bombing of a CIA base (the bait for which may have been info on the Bearded One’s location) leaves me fearing the worst:  that our intelligence operations are in a state of total shambles, unable to follow even the most basic precautions in fighting a secret war.  The closer we get to the Afghan-Pakistan border, the closer we get to the big leagues—and unless we up our game quick, we won’t have much left of one.  Meanwhile, while we’re busy over there, we can expect to see more fun closer to home:

#5:  Additional Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Soil.  We’ve had a long run of good fortune in the aftermath of 9-11, but the recent close shave in Detroit is a sure sign that Al Qaeda is embarking on a new campaign, most of it emanating from the hellhole that is Yemen.  Whatever hits us next is likely to come from there.  Which in turns will mean that:

#5:  Yemen A Close Contender for the Next Big U.S. Intervention.  As Major Don Vandergriff points out, this would be utter folly, as it would overextend us still further and leave us no closer to the formulation of a true grand strategy to prosecute the so-called long war.  Because what passes for a strategy right now is a clusterfuck, driven by domestic politics and the need to look tough for the home-front; particularly now that a Democrat’s in charge, that dynamic will continue to intensify.

#6:  Iran Another Contestant in the Baiting-Uncle-Sam Sweepstakes.  There’s a sense in which this should be #1 for the entire list, as the Iranian situation is moving toward a flashpoint within the next few weeks, especially since Israel has hinted rather broadly that it might intervene unilaterally to prevent Iran from crossing the next threshold of nuclear technology.  And the domestic unrest now gripping Tehran is only serving to back the regime still further into a corner.  Particularly problematic here is that a desperate clerical leadership still has the capability to do some serious damage, be it in Iraq, the Gulf, or the global economy beyond.  And if they play their cards right, they just might end up winning this round; 1979 is a potent reminder that an Iranian regime in the throes of internal unrest can still make the U.S. look very, very stupid on the world stage.

#7:  And Let’s Not Forget Mexico. While we’ve been embroiled in the rest of the world, we’ve scarcely noticed that the streets of northern Mexico are now run by the Zetas, the elite military force that was trained by the U.S. and has since gone over to the cartels.  But we’re about to wake up to this fact, particularly since the violence has been spilling north into the border states (did you know Phoenix is now the kidnapping capital of the U.S.?)  All of which will provide some red meat to the anti-immigration lobby, but is unlikely to result in any truly coherent policy.  And let’s not even talk about drug legalization. . . at least not until the baby boomers have died off.

#8:  Dollar Somehow Avoids Catastrophe.  Unless there’s a major course correction (hahaahaha), the spiraling U.S. debt spells doom for the U.S. dollar, but I suspect the real reckoning will come a few more years into the decade, rather than right now, in part because the question still remains as to what the hell the dollar will collapse against.  In the meantime, look for some considerable greenback volatility.

And just in case you think it’s all downers at Chez Williams. .  .

#9:  Lady Gaga hailed in all quarters as the New Madonna.  She shows a career/market savviness that Britney Spears et. al. can only dream of, and the quality of her songs justify all hype.   This woman’s in it for the long haul, and if she’s going to continue weighing in on current events/politics, she may yet take her stardom to a level that even Madonna never reached.

#10:  Ajax and Captain Zoom Hailed As Feline Gods.   Let’s just say good looks will take you a long way round here.