Friday, December 14, 2012

I am dumbstruck. Today's events have left me harrowed. I'm caught somewhere between the numb sense of inevitability I felt upon first hearing the tragic news and the tears that well up each time someone mentions the Christmas presents that will go unclaimed after today. On the one hand I want to fight back against all the multitude of factors that led to the day's events, but on the other I feel paralyzed by the sheer magnitude of what has happened in Connecticut.

It's simply too much for me to put into words that feel appropriate right now. Even these ones feel contrived and insensitive as it is. But it also feels wrong to let this pass without a word for the futre.

David Frum's excellent piece on The Daily Beast says what I think needs to be said about as succinctly as possible:
A permissive gun regime is not the only reason that the United States suffers so many atrocities like the one in Connecticut. An inadequate mental health system is surely at least as important a part of the answer, as are half a dozen other factors arising from some of the deepest wellsprings of American culture.
Nor can anybody promise that more rational gun laws would prevent each and every mass murder in this country. Gun killings do occur even in countries that restrict guns with maximum severity.
But we can say that if the United States worked harder to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, there would be many, many fewer atrocities like the one in Connecticut.
And I'll say: I'll accept no lectures about "sensitivity" on days of tragedy like today from people who work the other 364 days of the year against any attempt to prevent such tragedies.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Rob Ford Granted Stay of Decision

In a completely unsurprising turn of events, Rob Ford was granted a stay of last week's decision removing him from office. This doesn't mean much besides the fact that all the talk of "Goodbye Rob Ford!" was premature at the very least. It also means that the appeal, which sounds like it'll be heard in January, will be very interesting indeed. I still think Ford's best shot is to challenge Justice Hackland's assessment of his section 4(k) defence under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, but we'll see what happens. I would have bet on Ford winning at trial, but after how things went down at trial... It's hard to say how this will turn out.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

RIP Dave Brubeck

Jazz legend Dave Brubeck died of heart failure this morning. He was just one day shy of his 92nd birthday. Brubeck leaves behind an incredible legacy including some of the most influential music of the 20th century. The thoughts of this blogger are with Brubeck's family and friends.

Take a few minutes to check out Brubeck's incredible "Take-Five" below.

Repost: Why are women scared to call themselves feminists?

Salon recently ran an article asking "Why are women scared to call themselves feminists?" If you'd asked me a few years ago whether I thought "Why are women afraid to identify as feminists?" was an important conversation to have, I would have called you crazy. Completely immersed in university culture, most of the people I associated with were openly (and actively) feminists. It got to the point where I mentally resituated feminism to the default politics I assumed in people. After all, who doesn't believe in female equality? If someone legitimately didn't then I would find that surprising and repugnant, and that became something I actively did not expect in people.

But things don't stay the way they are in undergrad. A few years out, I've had more conversations than I care to recall that pretty much go something like this:
Them: "No, I'm not a feminist."
Me: "Oh? Why not? Do you believe in gender equality?"
Them: "Yes, of cours, but feminism just... I don't know, it just seems like something for lesbians."
Me: ...

Yep. I shit you not, that's a conversation I've been a part of. More than once. I'm now at the point where, upon seeing Salon's headline pop up on my newsfeed, I immediately thought, "That is a damn good message that more people should be exposed to!" Hence this repost.

It's not that people don't believe in equality for women, generally I've found that most people still believe in that (or at least claim to). What I've found startling in recent years is the sheer number of people I've met, men and women alike, who claim not to be feminists as though that identifier is a dirty word. I've had numerous conversations with people who actively don't want to be associated with feminism because they see it as some sort of radical ideology. Sure, there are radical feminists, just like there are radical anythings. Radical liberals, radical atheists, radical [insert noun]. That doesn't mean that the underlying assumption of feminism is inherently associated with such radicalism. More than that, I still believe it should be shocking for someone in this day and age to say they are not a feminist given that doing so equates to not believing in gender equality. Is that really a message that is still mainstream acceptable in any way?

I think the major issue is that people don't understand the difference between feminism and the abstract notion of radical politics, and that's a very serious problem. I'm certain there are very good arguments that such misunderstandings are the result of misogynist attempts to undermine the goals of feminism, and while I don't think it's my place to make those arguments, I will say that if people (women or men) in positions of power continue to say that they are not feminists then that is straight up evidence of and a victory for the patriarchy. It literally means you don't believe in gender equality, and when people say it what I think they're actually trying to convey is that they want to be successful so they don't want to be associated with a political ideology that has been cast as radical and therefore repugnant. Is gender equality a radical notion? That's for you to decide, me I'm a feminist so I'll let you guess what I think.

I'll leave you with what I think is the best paragraph from the article, it really hits the nail on the head:
Let me just point out that if you believe in the strength of women, Ms. Perry, or their equality, Ms. Mayer, you’re soaking in feminism. If you’re like Ms. Bruni-Sarkozy and want to explain that “I imagine I am if feminism means claiming one’s freedom. But I am not if it means being committed in an active way to the fight that some women are still leading today I admire their bravery a lot, but I have chosen to commit myself elsewhere,” you should know that “the fight” is just being an autonomous person in the world. And if you’re like Ms. Fenton and think feminism means being treated like “anyone else,” remember that there aren’t a whole lot of “anyone else” options out there. You’re basically admitting that masculinity is the norm and that all we can do is aspire toward some kind of equitable footing in a man’s world. This sounds like a job for … feminism!
- - -
'Reposts' are inspired by other articles or blog posts around the Internet. They are used here with accreditation as the basis for short bursts of Max's interests.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Margaret Atwood Talks Modernity and Zombies

The title says it all. Care of The Hour's YouTube channel. This is just plain awesome. The english-lit-major and zombie-genre-loving parts of me are squealing with collective delight. Squee-ing, even. It's a good day.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Reality Check: The Darker Sides of Skyfall

Spoiler Warning: This post contains significant spoilers for Skyfall. Please do yourself a favour and see the movie before you read any further to avoid being spoiled.

It's been a little while since my glowing review of Skyfall and I've had a bit more time to ruminate on the film. I stand by my claims that it's among the best Bond movies ever made as well as one of the best films of 2012. In fact I'd go so far as to say it's the most beautifully shot film of 2012 and worthy of praise on "Best Cinematography" lists for years to come. Roger Deakins truly outdid himself with Skyfall and movie lovers would do well to see it strictly for the camera work in the third act, with the rest of the legitimately awesome aspects of the film serving as mere silver-lining.

However, all that said, I do want to add to my review by recognizing some of Skyfall's flaws. None of these were issues that escaped me when I wrote my review, but in trying to avoid spoilers I necessarily had to eschew delving into many of them. Also I wanted that piece to convey my overall sense of satisfaction with the film, and nitpicking it to death wouldn't have helped me do so. Finally, the most damning critique I'm going to level against Skyfall was something that simply took some gestation time to really come together. It began with a sense of unease as the final scene of the film played out, and has evolved to a serious concern that exists at odds with my overall affection for the film.

I'm going to start with my more mundane criticisms of Skyfall, as I feel there are a lot of problems with the movie that don't really detract from what it's trying to do. For one thing the third act -- which I have repeatedly praised -- feels more than a little out of place. It completely disrupts the flow of the movie and more or less shelves a good proportion of the plot, never to be heard from again. What happened with the chaos Javier Bardem had unleashed on western covert operatives, and specifically the British government? Are we to believe that his plan included letting MI6 capture all of his actual computer records/servers such that he had no additional copies of the list of undercover agent identities? All of that is secondary to Skyfall's focus on thematic structure, but the fact that the film left those holes open speaks ill of its script. It feels like the movie expects us to forgive it for this, either because it's a James Bond movie or because the third act so effectively forefronts the themes as plot, and while all that's true it still feels like the whole thing could have been tightened up a bit.

Specifically focusing on the third act, it more than just disrupts the plot, rather it's a whole other freakin' movie. Where everything before they head to Scotland is distinctly Bond, the sequence at Skyfall feels like the bastard child of Home Alone and the last scene in Unforgiven played in reverse. It's just plain weird to try to watch James Bond make lightbulb-bombs and load shotgun shells into the floorboards, but that doesn't mean it isn't awesome all the while. I absolutely loved the whole sequence; one friend put it perfectly when they said "This is what happens when you let Sam Mendes make a Bond movie," and it's true that everything in Scotland feel like something straight out of Road to Perdition. It's awesome but it felt distinctly out of place in the context of everything that precedes it. Obviously I wasn't bothered, but I think it's a legitimate concern to wish they had tightened up the script to feel more cohesive and consistent. Again this is an issue with Skyfall's script as opposed to its execution, and I feel like the way the whole movie played out on screen more than made up for such deficiencies.

On the other side of that spectrum we have Albert Finney's character, who stands out like a sore thumb in terms of Skyfall's execution. If that old scotsman wasn't meant to be played by Sean Connery then I have no business writing film criticism. Even during my first viewing I could just feel that the character was a stand-in for Connery as the physical embodiment of the old Bond, and that idea is frankly awesome. If the casting had worked out it would have made the whole Skyfall sequence feel so perfect and thematically in tune, although I think they did a damn good job of it despite the obvious lack of the original James Bond. Part of me did wish they'd found a way to handle it better though, at the very least to make up for the casting failure. I never, never want to see Roger Moore again (on film or otherwise) but even he could have made the character work better. As it was Finney was totally competent but uncomfortably out of place in a role that he was clearly not meant to play.

Moving away from criticisms of the third act, I've heard a lot of comparisons between Skyfall and the Dark Knight. I can see why people would compare the two as the plot similarities are undeniable. Bardem's villain also has extremely similar objectives, and on a superficial level he even has a twisted Joker-smile of sorts. In fact I was almost taken out of the movie when I realized that the big twist in Bardem's plan was exactly the same as Joker's in The Dark Knight. It's a testament to Skyfall's overall quality that this aping of The Dark Knight's plot didn't completely derail the movie; between Bardem's cool creepiness, the third act standoff, all the Bond franchise flourishes, as well as Deakins' aforementioned superb cinematography, Skyfall manages to carve out its own identity and even surpasses The Dark Knight in certain ways. Both are great movies, but the similarities are hard to ignore and do take away from Skyfall a bit.

*Sigh* And now it's time to get to my real problem with Skyfall, the big misogynist elephant in the corner that has slowly been sapping my enthusiasm about the latest Bond movie. I felt it in the theatre as I watched Bond walk through the leather door and up to the desk of a male M, the first time I'd seen such a sight in a new Bond movie. At the time I just shrugged it off, but upon further reflection and after a number of discussions with friends I feel it's impossible to ignore the sense that Skyfall feels like a major step backwards in terms of its sexual politics, even for a Bond movie. But lets work through that statement by inspecting each of the three main female characters in the movie: Sévérine, Eve, and Judi Dench's M.

First off, lets address the seriously problematic character of Sévérine. You probably know her better as "that hot asian chick Bond bangs," since she's barely given anything resembling a character before being carelessly executed without even a moment of reflection. In fact, shy of her physical characteristics, the closest thing we get to a characterization of her is that she's afraid and a (possibly former) sex slave. I don't know if the filmmakers threw in that last reference to make us sympathize with her or to hint at their ultimate treatment of the character, but pretty much her only roles in the film are to movie the plot forward and get naked. It can't be stressed enough that Bond's ultra-creepy sneak-up-on-her-in-the-shower-for-surprise-sex move is not acceptable, and is hopefully among the traditional vestiges of the past that are thematically shrugged-off over the course of Skyfall. The problem is that there's nothing to justify such a reading within the film, and in fact it seems like the opposite is true. Bond's "return-to-form" moment comes after Bardem executes Sévérine, a move which poises her as an object.tool of his evolution/development at the script level. There is a potential argument that Bond couldn't express remorse while under fire, and that in fact his transformation back into a competent agent comes as a result of Sévérine's death impacting him severely and thereby telegraphing his need to "be Bond" again. However I don't think there's much justification for this in Skyfall, and on the contrary it does seem like the movie uses her as a traditional Bond girl/narrative device/sex slave. So that sucks, to start with.

Now lets consider Naomie Harris' "Eve," AKA Moneypenny. I love Harris in everything she does, and I both saw the Moneypenny reveal coming a mile away and loved the fact that they chose such a competent actor for the role. But that said, the mind reels at the sexual political implications of her turn from field agent to secretary. As Eve she initially seemed like a wonderful breath of a fresh air, a female agent at Bond's level who's totally fucking awesome to boot. But then her character is systematically undermined as an incompetent weakling over the course of the film, well-intentioned but better off as eye-candy behind a desk. The film went out of its way to make a callback to Casino Royale with the "don't touch your ear" show of incompetence, and the only purpose of this in Skyfall is to demonstrate how bad Eve is at being a field agent compared to Bond. On top of that there's the whole "she accidentally shoots England's best secret agent" thing. Clearly the filmmakers did not want us to have a lot of faith in her competence, for the exact purpose of making it seem rationale and acceptable that she doesn't want to be a field agent anymore. Of course that makes "common" sense, some people (i.e. women) just aren't suited for it, right James? I suppose all of this could be seen as conjecture, a feminist-oriented over reading of a Bond film to try to find a sexist undertone that isn't really there. Only they follow up that development with the reveal that she's taking a desk job as M's secretary. For fucking real? They literally chain her to a traditional gender role in a movie that's explicitly about updating the past to make it suited for and relevant in the present day. As I said, the mind reels at the implications, and it's a serious knock against the movie that it re-institutes the traditional gender dynamics that the Bond franchise has long been (rightly) critiqued for.

And that's without even beginning to touch upon the whole M thing.

I'll start by saying that Judi Dench is in characteristically badass form in Skyfall. There's nothing wrong with her or her character in any way that I've noticed/care to consider, and my only regret it that she's exited the franchise. Partly that's because I'm going to miss her as she's an absolute pleasure to watch onscreen, but it's also because I'm not totally comfortable with going back to a male M. As I mentioned in my initial review, Goldeneye was my introduction to the Bond franchise and so my knowledge of earlier Bond films/tropes has come via films that have always seemed (to me) like relics of the past. This includes the positively rampant misogyny of earlier Bond films, and part and parcel with that trend was the institutional structure of MI6 with Moneypenny as the sole female and secretary for Bernard Lee's male M [Aside: implicit in this entire argument is the fact that I don't believe for a second the contemporary Bond films have completely shed their misogynist roots. Also, I would love to see a Bond film that passed the Bechdel test, and if I've somehow missed that one already exists please let me know].

Skyfall presents the first time I've seen a male M in a new movie, and from that perspective the sight of Bond walking through the leather door into Ralph Fiennes' office felt like a step back into the literal and figurative past. I was (and continued to be) extremely conflicted about it: on the one hand I ate up the way the franchise's classic elements were re-instituted in Skyfall's final scene, bringing back the classic Bond in a viscerally satisfying way; on the other hand it felt like those elements brought back the old, unpleasant gender dynamic implications they always had. I'm not sure if this was more a result of how the movie brought back Moneypenny and a male M as much as it might be inherent in those concepts, but either way the end of Skyfall felt both like a return to form and a regression to problematic politics. I'll be curious to see how future Bond movies handle the reintroduced elements, as I could easily see Moneypenny being used less as a mere secretary and more as a sort of body guard, but that doesn't take away from the reduction of her role to one distinctively less than Bond and M as the more important men of MI6. As compared to Judi Dench's positively badass introduction in Goldeneye, which felt every bit like a defiant rejection of what had come before (particularly the "your predecessor kept some Cognac" exchange), Skyfall feels like reestablishment of the old guard. Finnes character and performance don't themselves do anything to add to this, but the cumulative impact of him replacing Dench after she's killed off, in addition to how Skyfall puts Moneypenny in the corner behind the desk, makes the film seem like a major step backwards in how the franchise treats women. It's even more surprising that Skyfall does this so potently given that it's a Bond movie, a designation that on its face seems synonymous with patriarchal gender hierarchies on film.

In updating the franchise for the modern day, Skyfall somehow manages to make it seem more out of place than ever in terms of its sexual politics. That's a notably unfortunate achievement that shouldn't be ignored in the face of how successful Skyfall nevertheless is as a film.

Anyway, that's my two cents on the problems with the film. I maintain that it's an incredible movie that stands among the best of 2012, and more than that one of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen. Period. I just wish it had done all that while maintaining a tighter script and (more fundamentally) without appearing to reinstitute the traditional gender dynamics that the Bond series seemed to have grown beyond (or at least partially ameliorated) during what we can unfortunately now refer to in the past tense as "the Dench years." Hopefully the next one will be able to at least match Skyfall and also gain back some ground on the progressive gender portrayal spectrum. All we know for sure is that "James Bond will return."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Facebook Law

College Humour has put together an amusing video explaining why all those "For the Record: I hereby declare..." Facebook statuses you've likely been seeing on your newsfeed. I was a particular fan of the inclusion of the Rome Statute, which (as my International Law class recently learned) gives the International Criminal Court jurisdiction over war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity, and aggression. Whoever originally wrote the block of text that's being passed around willy-nilly clearly had a good sense of humour.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Few Quick Thoughts on the Rob Ford Thing

Note: If you're not invested in the local politics of Toronto, Ontario (it's in Canada) then you can probably tune out now.

Those of you still reading will have no doubt heard by now that Mayor Robert Ford was removed from office this morning for contravening the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act [aside: today is probably the most traffic Ontario's e-laws website has ever gotten]. Justice Charles Hackland suspended the verdict for two weeks in recognition of the major administrative changes the decision necessitates for the City of Toronto. However, the plain truth of the matter is that "the seat of the respondent, Robert Ford, on the Toronto City Council, [is] vacant" (paragraph 61 of the decision, available here).

This is a pretty surprising decision. As numerous outlets discussed this morning, Justice Hackland didn't have a lot of options in terms of his decision. Add to that the fact that Ford painted himself into a corner at trial by "pleading incompetence" (in the words of Matt Gurney), and the inadvertence / good faith error in judgment option was pretty much (though admittedly not entirely) off the table. However, what we ultimately got still seemed like the least likely of the choices open to Hackland.

Reading through the decision, the finding that Ford's actions constituted a conflict seems pretty solid. It's boring and technical and dense, but that's the nature of the administrative law territory that we're in with a municipal conflict of interest question. So if he contravened the Act then the only outs for Ford are via inadvertence, a good faith error in judgement, or the amount involved being "remote or insignificant in nature." As the decision and Gurney's "pleads incompetence" piece above demonstrate, the inadvertence defence is definitely inapplicable here and the good faith error route seems unlikely too.

So that leaves the section 4(k) defence that the amount was insignificant, and at only $3150 that seems like a pretty reasonable assessment (when you consider the Mayor's salary). Dealt with in just four short paragraphs (41 - 44), Hackland's finding that the amount was significant to the Mayor seems like the one major blindsport in the decision. The finding is based on Fords comments to City Council, which immediately places it on shaky ground. From a statutory interpretation perspective, there's absolutely no analysis of what could "reasonably be regarded as likely to influence" Mayor Ford, which should be the driving force in any determination of whether the saving provision applies. Additionally, putting the focus on Ford's comments directs the focus away from the pecuniary nature of "the interest" and into the distinctly political territory of what Rob Ford actually values. Granted, what I've just cursorily written is an off-the-cuff and suspect legal-ish analysis, but at the end of the day Hackland's decision on Ford's section 4(k) defence is minimal at best. It presents the most obviously viable option for Ford's inevitable appeal, and that's really what I wanted to get to in all this...

Mayor Ford is going to appeal Hackland's decision, which will almost certainly be stayed pending the outcome of that appeal. I'd be shocked if anything different happened (even moreso than if the appellate court ultimately upheld Hackland's verdict). has a pretty good run down on the possible paths this whole thing could take in the coming days, but I think they overestimate the likelihood of Ford not getting a stay of the decision pending appeal. As acknowledged in the decision at paragraphs 46 and 47, the Act has been criticized as "Byzantine" in how the only order available in the case of a conflict is the "sledgehammer" remedy of removal from office (the aforementioned saving exceptions notwithstanding). It would be exceedingly unusual if Ford's inevitable motion for a stay was rejected. Whether or not he can get it in the fourteen days available, that's a bit of a murky question. But if he can get it in front of a court fast enough then he's almost guaranteed a stay, and that means the whole "Ford's out!" reaction that's been sweeping social networks is likely getting ahead of itself.

Again I'd also be surprised if the decision wasn't ultimately overturned on appeal. The analysis of Ford's section 4(k) defence seems pretty suspect, and I wouldn't expect it to hold up to scrutiny. But then I was also betting that Hackland wouldn't oust Ford in the first place, so what do I know? This morning's verdict came as a surprise, time will tell if more are to follow.

In any case, let's also take a moment to reflect on the ramifications of this decision. Regardless of your feelings about Mayor Ford (I'm a cyclist so you should be able to guess mine), it doesn't exactly feel vindicative to have him removed from office on a technicality. That's not to take away anything from the finding of a conflict, on the contrary I think it's well founded. But the fact that it's sufficient to remove him from office may lean in favour of arguments against the structure of the Act, and the nature of the City of Toronto institution. The decision will most certainly be used in this manner (regardless of its validity), with Ford's next platform inevitably sounding something like "Detangle the mess of rules," or "Straighten out the sticklers to get things done," or "[Insert witty 'Gravy Train' reference here]." Even if Ford is ultimately removed, this method of doing so gives him or his successor that convenient pariah platform to run on, just as he did (successfully) last time. Claim all the rule of law moral high ground you want, at the end of the day this way of getting him out of office will only widen the divide between his supporters and his opposition in a way that a democratic ousting by voters never would.

So Ford has received a pretty severe slap on the wrist. Was it deserved? Yes and no, and we'll see what an appellate court does with that. Will it matter? Maybe, but hopefully only in a positive sense of making accountability and professionalism important qualities in City of Toronto politics. Hopefully not by giving Ford a new platform or exacerbating the political disenfranchisement he was able to ride in on in the first place. Time will tell.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Skyfall: Goldeneye Redux

I'm going to start this review off by dating myself in saying that my first experience of the James Bond franchise was Martin Campbell's 1995 classic Goldeneye. As the first Bond film after the fall of the USSR, Goldeneye was explicitly about whether or not the Cold War era icon could exist in a post-Soviet world. It was a brilliantly layered piece of meta-cinema that enamoured me with both the Bond franchise and film generally. It's no surprise then that I so thoroughly enjoyed Skyfall, as in many ways it's as near a remake of Goldeneye as we're likely to see on screen.

Skyfall is once again a meta-narrative about James Bond's continued relevance in the modern world. Just as Campbell's Goldeneye did in 1995, Skyfall reiterates that Bond may be an old hand but he's definitely not ready to be retired. Curiously, the 2006 reboot of the Bond franchise, Casino Royale, was also a movie that reasserted the franchise's ability to entertain after The Bourne Identity shook up the spy genre in 2002. That makes (count em) three Bond movies in the last two decades that are broadly about the concept of whether or not James Bond is still a fertile source of storytelling. I'd also go so far as to say that the three films in question are not only the best the franchise has had to offer since the fall of the Berlin wall, but moreover among the best Bond movies ever made. Maybe it says something about the Bond franchise that its best contemporary work is repeatedly its continued assertion of its own relevance. But whatever the answer to that question, it does nothing to detract from the quality of Skyfall.

Whereas Goldeneye examined whether or not Bond could exist after the Cold War (answer: yes) and Casino Royale asked whether Bond could keep up with Jason Bourne (answer: also yes), Skyfall explores whether or not Bond today is -- or can be -- the same old Bond he's always been. 50 years on and the spy who loved me is getting a bit introspective, go figure. In any case, the answer is most definitively yes, as Skyfall explicitly asserts that 007 has still got it, is still needed, and is more like his old self than ever. In some ways this movie bring the franchise full circle since the Casino Royale reboot, and while I could explain or substantiate that claim to do so would be spoiling much of the fun that Skyfall has in store. The film is littered with both commentary on and vestiges of Bond's old fashioned ways, and that's a huge part of its meta-cinematic appeal. The best description I've heard of Skyfall was Drew McWeeny saying it's a fitting tribute to where the franchise has come from, and also a sign of where and how it will move forward. It's cryptic, it's accurate, and fans should see the movie to understand what it means.

If I have one complaint of Skyfall it's that it frankly wasn't very clever. For a film so littered with meta-cinematic references, nods to a rich franchise history, and a villain that explicitly calls for intelligence over brutish violence, Skyfall is fairly predictable and by the book. Maybe that's because of its role as the series' 50th anniversary and semi-reboot (although it'd be more accurate to call it a re-grounding), but I never found myself surprised by the movie. It's very traditional in how its three acts function and are clearly delineated, and just about every standout object or quip has an obvious Chekhovian callback in store. The result is that nothing in Skyfall is surprising, but likewise nothing feels unnatural or forced. Predictable though it may be, the film is expertly crafted in terms of its tight script and effective (and appropriately cheeky) handling of 50 years worth of franchise lore. Given what it's trying to do I suppose it makes sense that Skyfall doesn't so much try to reinvent the wheel as much as reintroduce and refine it. Shocking twists or not, the movie is extremely effective in what it sets out to do, and though you'll see the end setup coming a mile away you'll enjoy the journey there all the same.

It also can't be said strongly enough that Skyfall is a stunningly beautiful film. I saw it on a regular sized screen and as I write this sentence I'm kicking myself for not making the effort to see it in IMAX. Shot in digital by Roger Deakins, Skyfall is the obvious choice for the Best Cinematography Oscar. I was constantly reminded of Conrad L. Hall's legendary work on Road to Perdition, and the obvious takeaway is that director Sam Mendes has both an incredible aesthetic sensibility and a great working relationship with his directors of photography. Numerous shots straight up took my breath away -- particularly those in the third act -- and they stand out as strong arguments in favour of digital film as a medium. I've never seen a traditionally shot film capture shadows, fog, and refracted light the way they are in Skyfall, and in that sense it's a defiant statement about the unique potentials of modern filmmaking. The superb cinematography reflects the film's themes and narrative exploration of contemporary refinements on traditional concepts, and the interplay and coherency of these various aspects of Skyfall are what make it among the best Bond films ever made.

Just as Goldeneye did after the Cold War ended, Skyfall reinvigorates the classic Bond formula and shows that 50 years on the old dog still has a few tricks up his sleeve. The film is a reverent ode to franchise canon that makes the whole shtick feel as fresh and relevant as it ever has. Beyond that though, Skyfall is a fun, exciting, breathtakingly beautiful movie that stands out as one of the best films of 2012. Don’t miss it, and if at all possible make sure to see it in IMAX.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Matty Powell: Kiss the City

My friend Matty Powell released a new album called Kiss The City this past weekend. It's still very much tied to the folk-music tradition like his previous work, but shows Matty expanding his sound with higher production and more varied supporting instruments. However he stays true to his strengths, letting his voice and acoustic guitar shine through as the central unifying forces on the album.

The new approach serves Matty well on many of the songs, giving them a texture and depth that elevates them from campfire singalongs to true pop tracks. Nowhere is this more noticeable than on "Freja," which has been expanded from a cute acoustic ditty to a fully fleshed out ode from a loving father. Likewise, "Toronto" is given mesmerizing new life via a full accompaniment that brings out the song's bittersweet sense of nostalgia. The searing lead guitars on songs like "Yellowquill" and "Smoke Rings" make them sound like something by Greg Keelor. Meanwhile, the supporting instruments help Matty come out as a joyous musical preacher on the patently silly "A to Z of Apple Trees."

However, at times it unfortunately seems like the production is outside Matty's comfort zone. The background synths added to "Any Other Way" make the song sound unsure of its own direction. There's also a tinny sound to much of the album that detracts from its acoustic roots. Matty also stumbles at the songwriting level in a few places, such as with the over-rhyming in "Beatrice" or the awkward spanish verse in "The Creek."

However, one thing that can be said of every song on Kiss The City is that Matty's catchy chord structures and earnest vocals give them undeniable heart. Even when the production gets away from him or the lyrics don't totally work, there's a strength and conviction to Matty's delivery that makes his work endearing. This is a big part of the reason he's a great folk artist, and some of the album's best tracks succeed in capturing this raw essence: songs like "This Cigarette" and (albeit to a lesser extent) "Beatrice" display an unabashed singer-songwriter who's completely without pretension.

Kiss The City shows an artist in transition, playing with new and bigger sounds to move from being a troubadour to a multifaceted pop-folk act. Sometimes he falters but never seriously, and all throughout he retains the earnestness and talent that made his earlier work so affective. It's certainly more evolution than revolution (both in terms of Matty's style and generally speaking), but Kiss The City is a worthwhile addition to the pop folk canon and to Matty's discography. I for one am excited to see what he does next, and to see him live (again).

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Big Picture: Skin Deeper & Race in Cloud Atlas

Ok so I know I shared MovieBob's The Big Picture pretty recently but his latest video is particularly good and deserves some more attention. This week MovieBob has tackled the critiques against Cloud Atlas for its use of white actors in non-white roles, specifically to depict Asian characters. Bob's defence of the film is elegant and, while slightly spoilerish, deserves to be seen regardless of whether or not you've seen the movie. This is a really tricky subject and I think Bob does a good job at showing why the "racebending" in Cloud Atlas is actually a good thing because of how it lets the movie effectively convey its anti-prejudicial message. It's a delicate balance and a tough sell, but Bob makes a compelling argument in Cloud Atlas' favour that I think everyone would benefit from hearing. Obviously it's a political message that is intended to have meaning beyond the film, and by proxy this video is a political statement in that it explicates and endorses that message. Give it a watch and sound off in the comments on your thoughts about the "yellowface" in Cloud Atlas.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ben Franklin Was a Dirty Dude

The recent release of Assassin's Creed 3 has allowed the less historically inclined to enjoy some of the more offbeat moments of America's past, including the eccentricities of Ben "Founding Father" Franklin. Kotaku has put together a video showing off Franklin's rant about why men should take older women as mistresses, and it should not be missed. None of this should be surprising if you've looked into Franklin's history before, but the accurate depiction in a blockbuster video game is likely to surprise a lot of gamers. Check it out below:

I'll have much more to say about Assassin's Creed 3 soon so check back if you're curious about the game.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Reposts: Destructoid's Top 10 Castlevania Songs

I'm a big fan of classic video game music. It's engaging, energetic, and my history of playing games has conditioned me to feel active and want to accomplish things when I hear it. When I go running I use a mix of 8 and 16-bit era tracks as I find they provide a great impetus to keep going and push yourself harder than you would otherwise. Now Destructoid has put together a list of their all time top 10 songs from the Castlevania series (which is deservedly renowned for its music, among other things), and the list has inspired this post in more ways than one (geddit?).

Their number two pick, "Bloody Tears" from Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest, is my personal favourite. I particularly like the 16-bit remix of the track using instruments from the Mega Man X2 soundtrack, embedded below. The enhanced sound quality of the 16-bit era really brings out the best parts of the song and ups the foreboding quality by highlighting the pipe organ opening. In putting this post together I also stumbled across another great remix of "Bloody Tears" using the instruments from Sonic 3. It takes a few more liberties as a remix by adding a electric guitar-style melody at various points throughout the track, and the addition gives the song a new, '80s hair metal-esque twist.

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'Reposts' are inspired by other articles or blog posts around the Internet. They are used here with accreditation as the basis for short bursts of Max's interests.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Honest Trailers: Prometheus

My hate-on for Prometheus continues with this hilarious Honest Trailer from Screen Junkies. It's not new or anything but it's making me laugh this morning so I figured why not share? Also it's nice to finally be able to laugh about how bad Prometheus was instead of being sent into an angry hate-spiral. Maybe someday I'll be able to watch it again without experiencing the cinephile equivalent of a post-traumatic acid flashback. Not that I'm eager to test the waters, mind you. Anyway, enough stalling/passive-aggressive griping, enjoy the video below:

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


A ways back I posted about The Vandertramps, a "band" I'd been listening to and enjoying for its early-90s-indie-rock-throwback kinda sound. To be honest The Vandertramps were just a multi-instrumental buddy of mine from high school who put together some really awesome tracks (almost) entirely on his own. I still find myself listening to the EP he put out back in 2009 more often than I'd ever admit to him, but unfortunately he's been busy and hasn't had nearly enough time for music over the last few years.

Now though he's back in the form of an album/band (?) titled Deliluh, and it's available online here. I've just started listening to it myself but so far I love what I'm hearing. It's got the same indie-rock foundation but with a bit more country behind it. Give a listen to "The Things We Need" in this player below, and if you like what you hear then check out the rest of the album over at the bandcamp page. His last set of tracks still isn't stale either so give that another listen if you're so inclined.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Russians Make Quitting Smoking Easy in 4 Minute Video

I found the video below on reddit thanks to user spif. In it a Russian YouTube user does an experiment to see just how much tar comes out of cigarettes when we smoke them, and the results are quite jarring. Nothing in the video is likely to be "news" to you in this day and age, but the shock of seeing the raw tar at the end is extremely effective. If you've ever wanted to quit smoking then this video presents a good visual incentive to do so immediately:

Monday, October 22, 2012



After months of silence and an embittered post about the quality of summer movies in 2012, along came Looper to answer all my cinephile woes. One disappointing film after the next had me positively exhausted with film criticism, but Rian Johnson's latest has me back on the wagon. Looper isn't perfect, but it's an original, intelligent, and engaging science-fiction/time travel movie that's also accessible and affective (which is more than I can say for some other flicks in the genre).

I liked Looper a lot, that's the short version of this review. What follows will be a more in-depth discussion that will include spoilers. Steer clear if you haven't seen Looper yet, as there are some legitimate surprises in store for you.


Ok, let's just get the big negative elephant in the corner out of the way: the time-travel mechanics of Looper only kinda sorta work at best. This movie is not a scientific examination of multiple timelines (ala Primer) or conversely a postulation on cyclical inevitability (ala 12 Monkeys). Rather, Looper is an adventure film about agency that uses the concept of time-travel to underpin its thematic structure. This is never so clear as in the film two weakest moments, namely the cheeky, fourth-wall-cracking "I don't want to talk about time travel" diner conversation, and the sepia-toned "I saw how it would happen" montage during the climax. These moments demonstrate that Looper puts its heart before its brain and desperately wants the audience to follow suit. Unfortunately in doing so they lead the viewer by the hand to the "point" of the film, and are the most inelegant moments in Rian Johnson's career to date.

Nevertheless, Looper is an incredible and worthwhile experience. It melds aspects of the Terminator franchise (only in reverse) with Akira of all things, and kept me guessing for most of the movie. Although it might be intellectually-light on time-travel as a whole, that torture sequence is burned in my memory as one of the most original and visceral takes on the concept that I've ever seen. It showed us everything but all the while adhered to the old horror-film adage that the scariest monster is the one we don't see.

Additionally, the film's defiant moral ambiguity in refusing to have a real villain is a convention-busting turn that we don't see very often. I know, I know, Bruce Willis kills children in cold blood, but the fact that he and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are the same character complicates the matter. We literally can't just write-off Willis as the bad guy because he's the same character as Levitt. The character is a profoundly selfish one but that's not the same thing as being evil. By all traditional measures Willis is actually better than Levitt: he's reformed from the murder business, off the drugs, and has suffered a sympathetically tragic loss. We can't entirely root for one over the other because they both frustrate our moral instincts and yet are fundamentally two sides of the same coin. That's part of what makes Levitt's choice at the end so effective, both for the character and as a sci-fi conceit.

The definition of sci-fi is a contentious subject, but I subscribe to the idea that the genre presents strange worlds to encourage reflection on our own. The ways in which sci-fi settings differ from reality are precisely what create this interrogative reflex, as their strangeness forces us to consider the ways the real world is different and (more importantly) why. In the case of Looper, the qualities that set its world apart let us consider the meaning of choice and repercussions (apt for a time-travel movie).

Besides the time-travel and telekinetic powers that distinguish Looper's future from our own world, the movie's setting is generally familiar. Those two elements allow us to examine two characters in unusual ways: one at two separate points in his life, both as a youth trying to make his own way and as an old man who's lost everything; the other character is the boy with an incredible gift who doesn't yet have enough control of his life to determine what he'll become. Over the course of the film we're made increasingly aware of the pain and violence that both characters inflict on others as a result of their selfish choices. Ultimately we discover that each character's actions are precisely what inspire the other to lash out against them in an endlessly repeating pattern of revenge (in theory it's a two-timeline tiered cycle of violence, but again don't worry about the mechanics too much). The sci-fi aspects of the movie are what let us see the whole self-replicating "loop" (ugh) of selfishly-motivated choices and their repercussions. When Levitt joins us in seeing these puppet-strings he does the only thing that's needed to stop the cycle: he makes an unselfish choice.

Looper's central focus is understanding the consequences of our actions, and the time travel and telekinetic powers are simply the tools Rian Johnson uses to explore that concept. The moral ambiguity serves the same purpose as the sci-fi elements in that these narrative qualities flesh out the nature of each character's decisions. In the end there's no villain or hero, just people making choices that spiral out of their control into a self-perpetuating cycle. The fantastical differences between our world and Looper's are what allow Levitt to share the audience's perspective, to see the big picture and the role(s) he can play in it. Conceptual mechanics and plot holes aside, it's the stuff of classic sci-fi by my definition.

I had tons of nitpicky problems with Looper, ranging from the mundane (JGL's makeup may have been well done but damn was it ever distracting) to the fundamental (if they didn't make loopers close their own contracts then this whole mess could have been avoided). Overall though the film was greater than the sum of its parts, as the plot (holes and all) served to reemphasize the narrative's central theme. Looper is a fantastic sci-fi movie that showed me things I'd never seen before via a unique perspective. I definitely recommend it to anyone who likes sci-fi or any of the talented people involved with the film.


Side note: If you're intrigued by my brief discussion of the definition of sci-fi, then I highly recommend you check out the works of Darko Suvin and Adam Roberts. My own take draws very heavily from Suvin's ideas of cognitive estrangement. They're both very interesting and definitely worth a read if you're so inclined.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Orca and Ripoff Flicks

I've acknowledged The Big Picture as one of my favourite web series before, and its best moments often come in October when "MovieBob" does an annual feature called "Schlocktober." For a full month Bob gives us episodes on "obscure and/or bizarre horror and monster movies," basically ensuring that Christmas comes an extra four times a year for horror/monster movie nerds. This year Bob has decided to feature Orca as one of his movie picks, and the results are fantastic. Give the episode a watch below (major spoilers for Orca):

This video brings up a long-time curiosity of mine: movies that were green-lit strictly to feed off the popularity of blockbuster hits. One of my all time favourite films, Ridley Scott's 1979 masterpiece Alien, is perhaps the best example of this phenomenon. Dan O'Bannon's script was approved for production largely by virtue of the fact that Star Wars was an unprecedented hit in 1977, leading movie execs to say "People love space!" and fast track potential contenders for said space-fans' money. But the story of Alien is a serious diamond in the rough type scenario, as more often than not these "ripoff flicks" end up as poor shadows of the films that inspired them. Just watch Moonraker and you'll see what I mean.

As Bob indicates in the video, the release of Jaws had a similar effect to that of Star Wars, and Orca was one of many attempts to steal Steven Spielberg's crown as the king of underwater horror (to date none have succeeded, IMHO). Another illustrious contender was Joe Dante's Piranha, a parody of the many Jaws imitations. It is notable both for being "the best of the Jaws ripoffs" in Spielberg's own estimation (source: Wikipedia), and because James Cameron made his directorial debut with the sequel, Piranha II: The Spawning. Also the hilarious 2010 remake, Piranha 3D, featured a 3D underwater nude ballet sequence that might be most exploitative thing ever filmed.

The ripoff flicks phenomenon has intrigued me for years because when things go right (see: all of the aforementioned examples besides Moonraker) it's the perfect confluence of the financial and artistic motivations behind filmmaking. Granted, things tend to go wrong more often than not (see: Moonraker), but the best examples make all of the worst movies worth it (others might not agree with me). Hell, the superhero film genre is itself an example of this phenomenon, and I'd watch Catwoman a hundred times if that's what it took to get The Dark Knight. I might revisit this subject in more depth in a future post, but for now it's enough to say that ripoff flicks present a more nuanced picture of the business side of filmmaking.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Human Sexuality in Under Four Minutes

Hank from VlogBrothers has put together a fantastic and concise video explaining the surprisingly complex subject of human sexuality. This is my first experience of VlogBrothers but it certainly won't be my last: this kind of clear and engaging discussion of difficult topics is the stuff that Internet legend is made of. It's a quick and worthwhile watch so without further ado I invite you to get to it below:

(Big thanks to Chelsey for the heads up)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Max Rambles and the Films of Summer 2012

Ok, so it's been a while since I've posted anything here. I mean, to be honest this year has generally been pretty quiet, but since April I've only posted five times. That's probably the sparsest period I've had since I started this blog (in 2008!) and I want to take a moment to address it. A lot of that has to do with the fact that I was crazy busy this summer, but a lot of it also has to do with a combination of reader feedback and the movies that came out this summer.

First and foremost, let's be frank about the fact that this is predominantly a movie blog. It started as a space for me to review movies, and although I've definitely branched out the common thread that has kept me writing has always been film criticism. This is clear from the fact that all five of my posts this summer were about movies (two about Prometheus, two about Cabin In the Woods, and one about The Avengers). I started writing here as a way to continue to critically engage with film after I finished my undergrad, and that continues to be the primary motivation for my "rambles."

Over the years I've taken a lot of flack for being overly negative. I've mentioned this before and my defence has always been "I'm critical because I love film and I expect a lot from it." I stand by that statement, but there's also another facet to why I'm critical so much more often than I'm reverent. The fact is that when you watch a lot of media you begin to be more critical with what you're watching because, frankly, if something's not good there are better things you can be doing with your time. There's so much good film and television out there that it's frustrating to waste time with bad stuff. That's not to say that I subsist on a purely high-brow movie diet, far from it! But competent construction and some sort of value are qualities that I do look for and hope to find in everything I watch, from comfort TV to film fest fare.

Which brings me to the summer of 2012. This was a summer that I went into with a lot of excitement. I mean, just look at the roster of movies that came out: The Avengers, Prometheus, The Dark Knight Rises, Brave. That list includes a new Pixar film, Ridley Scott's return to science fiction and the Alien-mythos, and Christopher Nolan's (supposedly) final Batman movie, who wouldn't be excited by that line-up? And yet for all the potential, the summer proved to be a bit of a bust. Prometheus was deeply disappointing for a litany of reasons that I've just barely touched upon in my two blog posts on the movie. Brave was one of the reviewed Pixar movies of all time, second only to obvious cash-grab Cars 2. The Dark Knight was so shockingly mediocre that I've had a hard time expressing my feelings about it in writing (although I did make an attempt elsewhere).  The Avengers was the sole bright point in the summer and not only did it come right at the beginning, it was also a mess of a film in its own right. Hell, it was the epitome of a bottom-line minded, studio construction that was coherent in spite of itself, thanks only to the saving grace that is Joss Whedon. That is what we have to look back on as the high watermark for the summer of 2012.

So as you can tell, I don't have a lot of good things to say about the movies that came out this summer. On top of being just ridiculously busy this summer, my general dissatisfaction with the films I saw wasn't exactly inspiring from a writing perspective. Not only was it difficult to imagine picking up a pen (so to speak) to crucify movies that I had been so excited to see, I also wasn't exactly eager to use my spare time to be publicly negative. It's exhausting to be so consistently negative about something you love, and this summer just plain did me in with its general unremarkableness (and that's being a bit generous, IMHO).

The word on the Internet is that the art house scene was full of great stuff this summer, and I fully intended to see what I missed throughout the fall. Hopefully I'll find more gems like Martha Marcy May Marlene, Incendies, or Cabin in the Woods (which admittedly wasn't an art house movie by any stretch but was 100% awesome). Those are just a few examples of the types of movies that started this whole project and keep me going through the long, dreary hours of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,  Young Adult (too awful to warrant a post, trust me), and Prometheus (yes, I did just equate Ridley Scott's latest flick with Transformers, deal with it). I also have high hopes for at least a few movies coming out this fall, namely Looper, The Master, and Django Unchained.

I don't go looking for bad movies, or for flaws in decent ones, I've just seen enough to know that films can and should be better than they often are. Hopefully my ramblings here convey my sentiments on the potential (realized or not) of the films I review, as opposed to a general sense of dissatisfaction about the medium. That would be the complete opposite of my intent with this whole project.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

More Grumblings About Prometheus

Red Letter Media has released their own unique take on Prometheus, and it's appropriately just a series of questions that point out the logical flaws in the film. It takes them four minutes. Yep.

Even after all those (extremely valid) questions, there are still yet more logical problems that I wish had been addressed. Like, why did they never mention the whole squid-alien-baby thing again after the sequence except in an off-hand line in which Michael Fassbender mocks Noomi Rapace for still being alive. That really bugged me. A simple "Holy shit! That was a really horrible thing that just happened to me! Maybe the most horrible thing that's ever happened to anyone ever!" would have sufficed. One line of dialogue, that's all I ask...

Topless Robot has posted a fantastic two-part FAQ in which Rob Bricken struggles through the mess of a plot, and then tries to sort through the meaning of it all. It's a great read if you've got some time, I thoroughly recommend it.

Last but not least, I want to share a fictional text message thread between Noomi Rapace and one of the Engineers. It's worth a read in addition to all of the stuff above, if only for what has to be my favourite dig on modern cinema this year: "All will be revealed in James Cameron's PROMETHEUSES"

Monday, June 11, 2012

Reviews I Wish I Had Written: Adam Quigley's Hit Piece on Prometheus

Adam Quigley over at /Film has written a great review of Prometheus. You should avoid it like the plague if you have yet to see the film, but it says just about everything I felt coming out of Ridley Scott's latest... thing... 

I don't completely agree with Adam's read of the "big reveal" at the end of the movie, nor did I feel that the android David was the most interesting character in the film, but that said his overall take on the movie is 1:1 with my sentiments. As such, I'm ripping a few of his larger and more on-point quotes to help give my take on Prometheus. Spoilers and unbridled negativity abound from here on out.
Prometheus may seem like more sophisticated fare, with a promise of greater significance deeply entrenched in the oft-mentioned subject matter (i.e., uncovering the origin of human life), but the movie utterly fails at tying its ideas and its monstrous happenings together. Despite feigning interest in probing life’s most pertinent mysteries, the film has nothing to say. It asks — literally asks, aloud — weighty questions without any interest in exploring the answers. The film expects you to do the heavy lifting, as though it should be rewarded for even daring to ask the questions to begin with. 
Oh, what, you have a problem with the lack of meaningful plot resolution? You’ve completely missed the point! It’s about the desire to find answers, not the answers themselves! Why try to satisfy you with answers when life doesn’t have any satisfying answers to give? Check mate, motherfuckers!
Is this seriously the point of Prometheus? We’ve waited this long to have our questions about the Alien mythology answered, only to be told that expecting satisfying answers to those questions is actually reflective of the folly of mankind? That’s it? 
How profound. Nevermind that I only sought the answers to those questions to begin with because Ridley Scott chose to make a movie that asks those questions.
This might be the thing that bugged me the most about Prometheus: the movie pretends to ask big philosophical questions about life and creation and faith, etc. ad naseum, but then says literally nothing substantive about anything. Seriously, there's a line right at the end of the movie where David asks Noomi Rapace basically "Why do you want to know the answer to [insert big question here]?" and her response is, verbatim, "I can understand because I'm human but you can't because you're a robot."

For fucking real?!

The movie's big point is that we should be curious about the big questions or else we're just robots, and that's ostensibly bad now? Never mind that this message is thematically and literally incoherent since the entire movie has poised David as the most "human" character of the bunch in terms of his (flirtatiously hinted at) desires to be loved/accepted/not treated like part of the decore. He has one of Prometheus' rare great moment earlier in the film when he confronts a human scientist who's frustrated about not being able to meet and speak with his creator (it makes sense in context). When the man tells David that humanity made androids "Because we could," David retorts by asking "Can you imagine how disappointing it would be for you to hear the same answer from your creators?” It's a moment of sheer brilliance and seems to point towards a thematic structure that interrogates both the reasons for human existence and our vain desires for lofty rationales BUT NOPE. We get nothing of the sort and none of that matters by the movie's end! Instead the big conclusion is that it's bad and inhuman that David doesn't have a higher level dissatisfaction with unanswered questions about existence, which is ironically my major takeaway from Prometheus!

But I digress. My apologies, Prometheus is an all-over-the-place kind of affair and so I'm sure this review must read that way too. Back to Adam:
Stripped from its Alien roots, Prometheus barely has a story to call its own. A lot happens in it, but the events play out with so little thought or urgency that almost nothing seems to happen at all. By the time it hits its third act, the film has completely devolved into generic sci-fi drivel, rushing through each incongrous payoff without bothering to properly root them in any sort of intellectually or emotionally substantiated context. Scene after scene, the film subjects its expert team of stock horror dummies to inactivity and death, completely devaluing the inherent thoughtfulness of the themes at hand, and in doing so removing any trace of intelligent design in a story that’s all about tracing back the roots of intelligent design. But then, maybe that irony is not lost on the writers, who treat the film’s actual gods like dummies, too.
And finally, the don't-call-it-a-money-shot summation:
To call Prometheus inconsequential would be a severe understatement. This movie is a trifling blip of narrative disarray, so lacking in anything resembling an intelligible throughline or purpose that I can’t help but wonder why there was any incentive to tell this story at all. Prometheus isn’t just bad; it actively detracts from the very mythology it’s trying to enhance, reducing the Alien legacy to little more than an accidental byproduct of a mind-numbingly stupid expedition.
Yep. That's pretty much the gist of it. When asked what I thought of the movie, I've summed up my thoughts as "What the fuck did I just watch?" and "I'm frustrated." Because really that's how Prometheus left me: frustrated that a movie with so much going for it (strong cast, strong crew, strong franchise roots, a legitimately interesting premise) does so little and purports to say so much. It's thematically scattered, it's plot is nigh incoherent, it expressly refuses to address its most interesting facets, and worst of all it has a self-righteous attitude about the whole thing. It's very tone poises Prometheus as a critic-proof endeavour along the lines of Tree of Life, though even mentioning the two films in the same breath has me mentally gagging. 

People often ask me why I'm so down on so many movies here on this blog, and I think it's a fair question. I'm critical of movies because I love them, and I expect a lot from them. I don't want everything to be high art, but when I sit down to give a film a few hours of my life I expect more than just a way to pass the time. I expect it to give me something interesting, something thoughtful, something that knows what it wants to do/say and does so competently.

I expected Prometheus to do what every piece of its advertising promised it would: tell me an interesting, intelligent, high-brow sci-fi horror story about the origins of mankind and somehow tie it into the Alien franchise. The movie we got wasn't intelligent or high-brow, and I'd barely call it interesting. The first words that come to mind are "stupefying," "infuriating," "insulting" (although that might be the Alien fanboy in me lashing out), and above all else "frustrating." After all the hype, all the "it shares some DNA with Alien" nonsense, all the spoiler-filled trailers and incredible viral marketing, and all the sublime mystique that fans have enjoyed since 1979, Prometheus is mess of a film that's less than the sum of its parts.

I expected more. Silly me.