Archive for August, 2009

District 9

District 9 is an Ugly Marvel
Science Fiction of the Now


District 9 is not a pretty movie. It doesn’t look pretty. Its message isn’t pretty. It hurts the eyes to watch. In fact, District 9 is an outright ugly movie, but it is an ugly that is perfectly crafted and takes ugly to the heights of a new aesthetic. The screen is full of unflinchingly realistic ugly slums, banal ugly interiors of institutionalized spaces, and ugly people whose entire lives and bodies have been corrupted by the ugly greedy powers that dominate everything in the landscape.

Set in Johannesburg, South Africa, the movie centers on a camp of stranded space aliens who have been contained within a hideous filthy militarized slum and are in the process of being relocated to a concentration camp in the desert. Through its narrative, District 9 overtly exposes South Africa’s egregious practice of apartheid, a system of segregation that was the government-sanctioned practice of legal racism. It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out this connection and to understand the film in relation to its historic and geographic specificity. Certainly, apartheid and all systems of racism need to be addressed. But what makes this movie most interesting is how it uses the real life practice of apartheid as a jumping point to expose a whole global system of exploitation, discrimination, and economic cannibalism. District 9 doesn’t take on these big issues with bombastic Hollywood gloss and spectacle, but rather through a beautifully ugly hybrid of film genres – sci-fi, body horror, toxic accident, war and action films – to show how in a world where the toxins of global capital are so fluid, everything is corrupt, nothing is in its natural state, and toxic hybrids have become the new norm.

District 9
District 9 – Sci Fi Action with brains and soul.

by Bill Martell
Sex in a Submarine / Script Secrets

It’s a foreign film, so it’s cultural.

So, here we are at the end of summer… and not a great summer. Though there have been some gems like HURT LOCKER and HANGOVER, most of the films have been big really stupid popcorn flicks. Last summer we have IRON MAN and DARK KNIGHT, two films that worked as popcorn *and* were good films that actually explored characters and issues. Movies that were both kinds of good. This year it seems like no one was trying to make movies that were “popcorn plus”, instead we’ve had good popcorn like STAR TREK and bad popcorn like… well, too many to name them all. What happened? Has the slump in DVD sales made the studios stop thinking about tomorrow? And aftermarkets? Hey, no one’s buying DVDs anyway, so why make a film that is good enough that people will want to own it and see it again and again? Let’s just make completely disposable summer popcorn flicks that people forget as soon as they’ve seen them? (Hmm, maybe that’s the marketing plan – if the film is really forgettable consumers will have to see the film again on DVD?) The problem with making completely disposable summer films is that they cost so damned much. There was a time when a movie could live just on cinema box office receipts, but with summer popcorn films costing as much as $250 million, many of these films *need* the DVD money to make a profit for the studio. The thing I do not understand – it costs the same to make a big popcorn movie with a brain as it does to make a big stupid popcorn movie – so why not make the version that I want to buy on DVD and see again, rather than the version that makes me want to go home right after the movie and pop in IRON MAN or BATMAN BEGINS into the DVD player to wash away any memory of that crappy film I just paid $11.50 to see?

So, here comes this $30 million sci-fi film from South Africa with no one in it you’ve ever heard of (Shia LaBouf isn’t in a single frame of this film, thankfully) and it opens at #1 in the USA on opening weekend and ends up #2 in its second weekend… and I suspect this will be one of those word-of-mouth films that hang around for a while. Oh, and I already want to buy the DVD because I not only want to see the behind the scenes making of stuff, I want to see the movie again.

Coming Soon

From / youtube

‘CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY’ – In Theaters October 2nd

“It’s a crime story. But it’s also a war story about class warfare. And a vampire movie, with the upper 1 percent feeding off the rest of us. And, of course, it’s also a love story. Only it’s about an abusive relationship.



From the film’s Press Release:

a film by Virna Molina and Ernesto Ardito

“The film looks at the life of a group of workers, men and women,
inhabitants of the Argentinean Patagonia. These workers start a fight to stop the deaths and accidents that happen in the factory where they work. They live complex and dangerous conflicts and they are taking more and more commitment, something many of them had never imagined could happen. These strong episodes are affecting their perception of the reality, of the world. No one now can see himself or herself like the human he or she used to be. Something broke, something has changed and can not return to the original place. In a poor country looted by its own governments and businessmen, the workers of Zanon Ceramic take the factory in their own hands when the owner closes it. They start to produce ceramics again, but without bosses.

Outstanding sci-fi film, go see it (in theaters now).

The best sci-fi has something to say and uses elaborate worlds to say it. District 9 excels because it has something to say, and the story is solid.

Tortured Logic: A project of the ACLU

Tortured Logic: A Project of the ACLU

This short film features Oliver Stone and other celebrities weighing in on the Bush administration’s “torture memos.” This is an action alert of the American Civil Liberties Union, and a web page makes sending a message to Attorney General Eric Holder easy and convenient.

These memos were written by Bush white house lawyers, particularly John Yoo and David Addngton. They display a clear intent to break the law and an insane attempt to redefine torture as non-torture. These are grave crimes and must be addressed by the current president and his Attorney General, or else the rule of law can simply not continue.

People who are tortured will give “testimony” to anything their torturers demand of them. This is incompatible with a free and democratic society, and is expressly forbidden right in the US Constitution (“cruel and unusual punishment”).


Seeing Brüno Twice
Guilty Laughter in the Dark


Believe it or not, I have seen Brüno twice at the movie theater since it opened two weeks ago. I went the first time not really knowing what to expect because I had never seen a Sacha Baron Cohen movie before. I knew it would be funny. I knew it would be outrageous. I knew it would push buttons. I was pretty sure I would get some good laughs out of it (even if they were politically incorrect laughs), but I really wanted to see it because I wanted to see what all the controversy was about. I’ll be honest with you. I laughed my ass off both times I saw the movie, but I also will concede that my laughter was not without a minor dose of guilt lurking over my shoulder from all those people who see Brüno as cinematic gay bashing. Every time I laughed at, say, Brüno getting his anus bleached or swapping his iPod for a black baby, I had to ask myself, “Am I wrong for finding this funny?” In fact, that needling voice of controversy even led me to believe that I wasn’t enjoying the movie as much as I was. By the end of the movie, I had proclaimed that there were even too many ass jokes for me in the movie (and that’s saying something because I love a good ass joke.) By the time I finished watching 81 minutes of Sacha Baron Cohen bending over or baring his butt thong or squirting a fire extinguisher up his pygmy flight attendant boyfriend’s arse, I thought that even I had my fill of butt jokes. When the movie closed with its uplifting celebratory gay-positive song performed by the likes of Snoop Dog, Sting, Bono, Elton John and Brüno, I was reluctant to embrace Brüno, and my response to the movie remained tepid. I wasn’t sure what my stand on it was. Did I like it? Did I not like it?