6.24.2015

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

The Doof Warrior

What's not to like about Mad Max: Fury Road? From scene one--a tight closeup on a two-headed lizard--to the show's redemptive final act (ascension of the victorious women juxtaposed with the cascading streams of precious, liberated water) there is a visual consistency and narrative urgency that never lets up. I literally squirmed in my seat in spots while watching this well-received masterwork (it's been hovering between 8.5 and 9.2 on IMDB since its release). 

Tom Hardy barely speaks in his turn as Max, but that's okay. His actions and expressions say as much as we need to know about him. He's tough, singularly driven, compassionate (in spots), creative, and pure. This guy makes a hell of a blood bag, folks. He's also nigh impossible to kill.

Charlize Theron gives a spell-binding performance as Imperator Furiosa. I forgot she could be this good, and that's a shame, because when given a good vehicle she is the best there is. She plays a feminist with one arm--a rebel with the combination of skill and morality that this war-torn hell needs to lift itself up out of the debris of the apocalypse.

Oh, and then there's that. George Miller killed it here. This landscape, from those creepy crows on stilts to the dunes outside the former green place to Immortan Joe's skull castle, is amazing. I don't know where they get the extras, but these poor folks look so emaciated and ravaged by the end times that it makes the audience uncomfortable. Give Miller credit. He wanted to make a two-hour car chase, and he did that. But he gave it a true heart and soul. It's so much more than a mere "Mad Max" film. There's beauty in the staging as well; take a look at that night scene if you need evidence. I like the authentic '80s corn (that clinking "Fury Road" in the opening credits) in comparison with the modern use of filters and effects. 

Immortan Joe is creepy. That doof warrior is creepy. The fall-out boys are creepy. Rictus Erectus is creepy. Anybody who goes to war with his own rock band is awesome. Hell, the whole damned thing is creepy, and awesome, and delightfully so. 

I'd like to see it again real soon...

This is a solid 'A' film and the best thing I've seen since last year's Interstellar.



6.17.2015

The Visit (2015)



So looking forward to this one. Seems like a great example of the uncanny in film...

6.04.2015

It Takes A Village...

No matter how many times you go through a manuscript, there is likely a number of errors that will escape your critical eye. Man, I've worked with some great editors over the years, and I'm always stunned when they return a story and there are mistakes that stick out like a vestigial tail when you get a second set of eyes on the work.
Building a book is not a solitary venture, that's for sure. Thank your local copy editor...

6.03.2015

Making Progress in a Post-9/11 Surveillance State

Politicians of all persuasions--including Ron Wyden, Mitch McConnell, and Rand Paul--compromised on the American Freedom Act, a bill that President Obama signed that is designed to limit the widespread, suspicionless surveillance of American citizens. The legislation leaves in place some NSA provisions for spying (lets hope that the abuse of stipulative labeling is minimal here) on suspected "lone-wolf" terrorists and those that frequently dispose of cheap cellular phones.

But all in all, the legislation draws some pretty clear lines between what the government can collect and warehouse in terms of the telephone conversations of average American citizens. It would now take a court order to access the private telephone conversations that are no longer be curated by the NSA. Instead, these conversations are held by private vendors, creating another barrier that acts as a protection of privacy.

While the Electronic Frontier Foundation applauded the legislation, they do lament that it could have gone further to protect the civil liberties of American citizens. ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer called this a milestone victory, and noted that this legislation does, in some ways, exonerate Edward Snowden as a whistleblower and patriot.

I've been waiting for this for years, and I think that it signals a significant healing in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and an important restoration of privacy protections to the U.S. people. I don't think that we can allow President Obama to take the credit on this one. It took democrats, republicans, and libertarians alike--along with the sustained and meticulous pressure of groups like the ACLU and EFF--to make this happen. And in what is surely one of the largest personal sacrifices in matters of recent public controversy, we can't overlook the actions of Edward Snowden in exposing these data-collection practices. I hope the American Freedom Act signals the beginning of the creation of a pathway home for him.


Uncovering Original Ideas

There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope....