Saturday, November 8, 2014

Hollywood: Snowshoes vs. Hockey Sticks

My last few columns about Hollywood, such as, “The Death of Adult Movies” and “Hollywood: Sharia-Compliant,” tackled the politically correct mindset that has produced movies not targeted to adults but to undeveloped and/or brainwashed minds (many of them adult), or are bloviating leftist propaganda vehicles in the “entertainment” media. This is particularly true when it comes to the subjects of Islam (never deprecate Islam, or show a Muslim in a bad light), capitalism (capitalists are snarky bad guys who smoke and leer at photogenic women), and environmentalist propaganda and how to dramatize the effects of “global warming” or nuclear war or man as an unnatural and destructive occupant of earth.

What are reviewed this turn around the block are some post-apocalyptic stories.

There is only one non-apocalyptic movie discussed here, Radio Free Albemuth, and I include it because it is too bizarre to pass up. The others are very post-apocalyptic, with a vengeance. Oddly, only one conforms to the “man-caused global warming” party line, Terra Nova. The others beat their CGI-mesmerized audiences over the head, not with hockey sticks, but with snowshoes.

Someone might object: But we already know that Hollywood is in the Left’s pocket, and has been for decades. Why beat a dead horse?

Well, the horse isn’t quite dead; it can still bite if you look too closely in its mouth. You have no idea of the sheer volume of rubbish that’s produced by the Left and finds its way to Netflix or Amazon Video from mainstream television and the theater chains without a peep of publicity, or any ballyhoo or promotional push in the New York Times or Washington Post, Variety, or Hollywood Reporter.

Take a look at the volume produced just by the Weinstein brothers, Bob and Harvey. They’ve got their own production empire through The Weinstein Company. They’ve produced, financed, or had some key association with literally hundreds of films.

First up for a post-apocalyptic examination is The 100 (season one aired in 2014, a second season is scheduled for 2015) in which one hundred teenagers, in the 24th century, are sent back to earth in a lander to determine whether or not the planet is habitable after a nuclear war about a hundred years earlier. They’re dispatched from “The Ark,” a gigantic space station orbiting the earth. Until now, the Ark has sustained thousands of inhabitants. The pettiest of crimes earns an adult a “float,” that is, being vacuum-sucked into space without a suit. Juvenile offenders are simply locked up. But, the Ark’s life-support systems are failing. So, off go the kids.

Now, the Ark as depicted in the TV series, looks pretty sophisticated, certainly more roomy, habitable and comfortable than the current International Space Station. It features artificial gravity and so no one floats from point to point. And there’s technology at work in it that beats what exists now. And you’d have thought that by simply infrared-imaging the earth’s surface, the adults could have determined the livability of earth without having to send the kids to the surface (the kids land in a forest rich in flora and fauna). But, no mention is made of that option at all. Not resorting to the infrared stratagem gives the writers and producers and directors a chance to throw the kids into a maelstrom of adventures, from battling “grounders,” the bow-and-arrow and battle axe armed primitive descendents of survivors of the war, running from lethal sulfuric fogs which don’t seem to affect the flora and fauna, surviving an attack by what looks like a puma, marveling over iridescent butterflies, chewing on hallucinatory berries, and forming testosterone-driven liaisons. And the kids handle all these matters as you would expect teenagers to handle them.

Meanwhile, back on the Ark, there’s a power struggle going on about whether or not to “float” two or three hundred adults who are eating up resources. After some agonizing about it, they are first herded into a chamber and suffocated via engineered oxygen-deprivation, then “discharged” into space. Also, someone shoots the “president” or chancellor of the Ark, a black fellow named Thelonious Jaha. That melodrama alternates with what’s going on with the kids down below. Details of either venue are formulaic, mundane, and predictable.

At the end of the series, after some brainier kids (or pseudo-adults) hard-wire the damaged lander to give an overflow army of Orcs from The Lord of the Rings an incinerating blast from the lander’s thrusters, the kids are all gassed and in comes an what looks like a CDC SWAT team. The kids wake up in some very clean and habitable hospital rooms. Stay tuned for Season Two. If you wish.

Next up is a Canadian entry from 2013, The Colony. This is a twofer. An Ice Age has followed the global warming because the global warming control machinery broke down. IMDB writes: “In the future, after global warming, Earth is covered by ice and snow in an Ice Age. The survivors live in facilities underground named Colonies.” I’m not sure Al Gore would approve of that. Colony 7 also has the practice of ridding itself of undesirables who show signs of the common cold by banishing them to freeze to death in the snowy wastes.  If they somehow survive and stumble back to bang on the door to be let back in, they get shot.

Again, the premise and plot of this film could not be to Al Gore’s liking. He’d have probably preferred a film in which all the characters walked about in their skivvies, sweating buckets, and being eaten alive by vengeful polar bears.

Colony 7 gets a distress signal from Colony 5, just down the glacier from it. A team plods through the wastes to investigate. And here comes a “three-fer.” The place is swarming with…cannibals. Real flesh-eating cannibals. Apparently some virus is to blame. The team beats back the army of cannibals and retreats. The cannibals, presumably having reached the end of their food chain, follow. They invade Colony 7. Two or three survivors escape and make their way through the wastes to find a place their satellite photos show has thawed.

Terra Nova was an American a TV series which debuted and died in 2011. True to form, the series opens in 2149 Chicago, when over-population and air pollution have caused global warming. People have to wear oxygen masks when going outside. Fresh fruit is as dear as diamonds. Political pull and connections get one a residence in a fresh-air bubble part of town. But, scientists have discovered a way to send people back 85 million years to the Cretaceous period – or at least to a parallel earth’s Cretaceous period – to begin anew. Of course, the government controls the “pilgrimages” to Terra Nova and selects who goes back and who stays to enjoy the food rationing and population control laws and the yellowish air.  The series focuses on the adventures and misadventures of the Shannon family, which include encounters with dinosaurs and renegade “sixers.”  

However, there’s no going back to “old” Chicago. It’s a one-way trip because the “temporal rift” in time to the parallel universe won’t permit a return to 2149.

But then the Phoenix Group – a cabal of nasty, smirking capitalists, wouldn’t you know it? – discovers a way to send people and things back to 2149. They invade Terra Nova with a private army, intent on strip-mining the whole planet and sending the ore and other commodities “back to the future.” The Terra Novans fight back and manage to destroy the machine that makes time travel possible. The Terra Novan “campsite” depends on “imports” from the future. Housing is up to date, plastic and other artificial materials are abundant, as are iPods and the like, the place is protected by some mean-looking armored vehicles and advanced weaponry, and there’s even a kind of farmers’ market where the inhabitants bartered goods. But, the destruction of the time rift machine in the last episode ended all that. Now the inhabitants must really, really rough it.

Fox cancelled the second season because of cost overruns producing the first season. It wasn’t willing to risk more overruns on a series that garnered only a so-so audience and mixed critical acclaim.

Finally, there’s Snowpiercer, a 2013 South Korean science fiction film that focuses on a train. In this one, an experiment decades earlier to control global warming failed and precipitated a new ice age, that is, a non-stop precipitation of snow. The last of humanity boards a mile-long train which somehow traverses the whole globe at near Mach speed, powered by a perpetual motion engine. Passengers eventually form social “classes”:  the really, really smart people occupy the front cars and live in luxury. The “lower” classes occupy the end of the train and live in unrelieved poverty, subsisting on what look like black “power bars” made of reprocessed maggots.  

Naturally, there are “class” conflicts. The film is about a revolution of the tail-end passengers to take control of the engine. They accomplish that after fights with the elite’s guards, but manage to destroy the train when explosions trigger avalanches along the train’s tracks. The train is lovingly buffeted by the avalanches, is derailed, and falls apart. Nobody but a woman and a child survive. They leave the ruins of the train and see a polar bear on a distant hill.

The polar bear stares back at the figures, probably thinking,”Lunch time.” Al Gore has his moment.

Actors John Hurt and Ed Harris have pivotal roles in the story. They must have been hard up to sign onto this disaster.

On to the non-apocalypse film. The wackiest movie I encountered this time around was Radio Free Albemuth, a 2014 science fiction film set in an alternate but contemporary America. It contains science fiction elements that are increasingly overlaid by mystical ones. I watched the whole thing, and still, at the end, wasn’t quite sure what the message was, although it had something to do with an alien interference in human history, over thousands of years. This interference is enabled by an alien satellite that looks like a blue Rubik’s Cube orbiting the earth. It shoots blue rays at specific human targets, and lays “silver eggs” of pacifism  in the minds of Christ, Confucius, Moses and other religious or messianic figures, to preach peace and brotherly love and revolution against authoritarian regimes. Some entity called “Valis” acts as a proxy God or deity directing man’s destiny. Shades of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The America depicted in the film – and in the 1985 Philip K. Dick science fiction/alternate history novel – is recognizable, except that there’s a fascist President, Fremont (played by Scott Wilson, who played pacifist/vegetarian Hershel Greene in the zombie series “The Walking Dead” until he was beheaded in Season Four) who may or may not be a Communist in thrall to the mysterious Valis. He’s in his fifth consecutive term of office. He’s busy exposing a post-Soviet Union conspiracy to destroy democracy by an outfit called “Aramchek,” while it is suggested that he is an Aramchek agent himself dispensing disinformation during his regular addresses to the nation.

Philip Dick, who also published alternative history fiction, was a troubled writer and much of his writing reflects his mental problems. He harbored a Gnostic version of Christian altruism.

In the film (and novel) Dick poses a conspiracy theory which is countered by another conspiracy theory, and then by a counter-counter-conspiracy theory, much of it appearing in the psychedelic dreams of an impressionable record store clerk, Nick Brady,  who later becomes a record company executive, on the direction of Valis. Brady, the protagonist (so-called, because he’s taking directions from Valis), becomes a Christ-like figure who in the end sacrifices himself to the fascist authorities in order to release a song performed by a third-rate rock group. The lyrics contain a subliminal call to arms to the “next generation” to overthrow President Fremont.

Albemuth is a kind of “rapture” story which however leaves virtually everyone “behind.” It left me behind. I had to resort to reading Wikipedia’s two synopses of the novel and the film to grasp the story’s sequence of events and its “message.”

Watching the film left me as woozy as the plot itself. The only thing I could credit all the films with is their passable CGI effects. But, as I’ve noted in past columns, CGI does not a story make. You may as well have loaded a theater stage with all the props for a production of Henry V and have the cast appear in street clothes mumbling their lines from play scripts.

And now that I’ve got all that off my chest, I can turn back to remarking on the absurdist dramas playing out in real life. Those have to do with Mohammad’s Islamic scimitars and Obama’s campaign to destroy America.

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