Posts Tagged ‘class conflict’

Borgman – my review

Posted: January 16, 2015 in -
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J. Giambrone

This film will prompt about four exclamations of “What the fuck?”This is a deviant work, and one that I’m still trying to process. It’s a small Dutch indie, with a bourgeois veneer. But it’s also a twisted tale that seems to merge class conflict with some kind of unexplained demonology. A harsh dichotomy separates the rich family from the servant class invaders who infiltrate and take control of their minds.

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The film seems to point to a revolutionary mindset, but the story comes at it from left field. Also there are children involved, completely vulnerable. The parents and the children are divided. An uncomfortable obliviousness overtakes the family, and it leaves them helpless. At the center is the mother, who is captivated by Borgman.


By indulging her lust, she puts them all at risk. But since there is a magical element, it seems that she has no free will…

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Woody Allen does what he does, and I’m sort of cautious as to what to say about it.  I’ll need to watch the trailer and see what points are revealed before proceeding.


Okay, it’s all in there.  There’s a great riches to rags fall from ostentatious obscene wealth kind of through line that is pretty satisfying.  It’s easy to hate on Jasmine, the spoiled, stuck-up amoral trophy wife.  How many Jasmines don’t get the big wakeup call and continue on in their unearned lavish excess?  There’s something cathartic about this karmic kind of justice.


And yet, she’s not the perpetrator.  She was along for the ride, herself duped by the life.  In terms of culpability Hitler’s girlfriend isn’t some pure nun, but she didn’t give the orders, right?

In some ways this Wolf of Wall Street styled thread sticks as part of the current zeitgeist.  Jordan Belfort is now Alec Baldwin, and he’s a piece of work.  All the male characters distinguish themselves, usually in opposition to Jasmine.  A lot of heated, intense drama erupts when Jasmine is forced to come live with her lower class estranged sister — whom her former husband robbed of her life savings.

Woody intertwines the lives such that we have all sorts of unresolved tensions to play out, money, theft, the treatment of others, attitudes, class bias that sort of thing.  It’s all top notch stuff, and I’m liking the current Woody better than the old school silly Woody.

Many have suggested Cate Blanchett for the best actress Oscar, and I’m not sure as yet.  I’ll have to see all the other performances first.  She does an adequate job, but the role is annoying.  Constantly she babbles snips of her lost life on the shiny mountain.  This is an okay approach, but having to endure it takes its toll on the viewer. Because it’s not funny, although some situations are.  It’s a serious breakdown, and we can either feel sympathetic for Jasmine or gloat on her misfortunes … or both.



Duck, You Sucker_Poster

Or, A Fistful of Dynamite.


by Steven Jonas

According to Wikipedia:

“Elysium or the Elysian Fields is a conception of the afterlife that evolved over time and was maintained by certain Greek religious and philosophical sects and cults. Initially separate from the realm of Hades, admission was initially reserved for mortals related to the gods and other heroes. Later, it expanded to include those chosen by the gods, the righteous, and the heroic, where they would remain after death, to live a blessed and happy life, and indulging in whatever employment they had enjoyed in life.”

In his movie “Elysium,” set in 2154, writer director Neil Blomkamp has a rather different view of the place. It is not reserved for the dead, but for the very much alive super/super/ultra-rich (read: ruling class) who have apparently survived the dead-zone for everyone else that their policies have created on Earth. And as is well-known by now to most readers of these pages, they have retreated to a vast satellite world that, even though they are hardly dead, they have for some reason named “Elysium.”

Perhaps it is because even now, there are members of the present ruling class, not only in the U.S. but around the world from here to China, to Russia, to the oil Kingdoms, to certain European and South American enclaves, who think of themselves as truly above everyone else. They are in their own minds god-like perhaps, and certainly totally entitled to their riches, even if in the process of gaining them they are dooming the rest of mankind to the kind of existence that Blomkamp portrays in his movie.

That is, one could imagine the Kochs, for example, or certain Saudi princes, or certain Russian oligarchs, or certain Chinese’s “princelings” (that is descendants of founding members of the Chinese Communist Party — who would be rolling over in their graves if they knew what had become of their children and grandchildren), thinking of themselves in the category of the “righteous and the heroic,” entitled to the life they have developed for themselves 140 years from now on their space-island. (Yes, entitled, there’s that word again. Well you have heard of “entitlements,” haven’t you? Indeed this, not pre-paid pension benefits like Social Security, is its real meaning: what the ruling class think they are entitled to, come what may for everyone else.) Indeed, Elysium does seem to be international, for English is not the only language spoken there; French, the international language of the 19th century, is also.

Elysium” is a movie that says many things to us, not, perhaps, all of them intended to be said by Mr. Blomkamp. Let me get my criticisms out of the way first. First, without giving it away, the movie has a happy, or at least apparently happy, ending. One must presume that this is one of Mr. Blomkamp’s bows to Hollywood, necessary to get made what is a very expensive, VERY high-tech movie (with marvelous special effects, which I happen to love). But the ending is jarring, to say the least, and very unrealistic. It’s sort of like the ending of Roland Emmerich’s (otherwise) masterpiece “The Day After Tomorrow” in which millions of Nord Americanos, fleeing a new ice age (which indeed could be a short-term consequence of global warming, as is explained in that movie) are welcomed with open arms south of the border. Oh yeah!

Second, in “Elysium” there is some confusion about what the real issue is between the masses trapped on the ravaged Earth and their rulers on Elysium: the total misery and oppression of the masses that has been created by those rulers on Earth out of which there seems to be no way, or the question of illegal emigration to the satellite and how that is managed. Blomkamp seems to be trying to deal with both issues side-by-side. For me this led to some confusion about what the movie is really about. Third, there is no history: how did this all come to be, in the 140-or-so years from now until then? We know already what capitalism and its evil twin global warming are leading to: the arrival of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Famine, Flood, Plague, and War. But for the reality of the movie to have been achieved, how did the masses become so totally oppressed and repressed, how did the ruling class manage to get away with it, apparently unscathed, and how did even they manage to accumulate the capital for what would be a very expensive enterprise: Elysium itself?

However, there are many excellent features of the movie, and I don’t have space to deal with them all here. First of all, one doesn’t have to imagine 2154 to see what life is like for many millions of humans, right now. For the future slum of Los Angeles in the movie was actually set in one of the present slums of Mexico City. The reality of health care faced by the masses is brilliantly portrayed by an emergency room scene likely not that different from those in many poor countries right now, and by the fact that cures for all sorts of ailments are readily available (in the movie provided by a magic, 22nd century fix-whatever-it-is-that-ails-you machine), but only on Elysium. Which is how many people around the world must now feel about the lack of available medical care, and in the U.S., where modern medical care miracles are widely distributed, for those who can afford them. But if in the U.S. you don’t have health insurance, fuhgeddaboudit.

The cops are vicious, violent, automatons (not that all present cops are, but there are plenty like them). Max’s “parole officer” is a sappy automaton, in function probably much like certain members of that profession in real life, now. “Homeland Security” is ever-present (as it is becoming more so, now). The “Defense Secretary,” Delacourt, played by Jodie Foster, is a vicious, scheming Dick Cheney-like character for whom “defense” is primarily against all the people left behind on Earth. She can see events on Earth that might present some kind of threat to her realm, in real time (and the NSA is already checking out the technology available to her). And she uses working class traitors to help her keep the working class oppressed. Then there is workplace reality faced by the movie’s hero, Max, brilliantly played by Matt Damon. You see it all: speed-up, unions long gone, no occupational health and safety regulations, minimal pay for dangerous work, the foreman clearly acting as an intermediate oppressor, the boss of it seated in a sealed container overseeing the shop floor, but not wanting to even smell it, much less descend onto it. And so on and so forth.

Blomkamp does present a vision of what Earth could look like in the future, and not necessarily 140 years in the future, with global warming already wreaking havoc and capitalism becoming ever more ferociously profit-centered. What we need next is how this all is going to be prevented. Since that is going to take leading parties and the next generation of socialist revolutions around the world, don’t expect to find that story in a Hollywood movie.
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS, is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at the School of Medicine, Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books on health policy, health and wellness, and sports and regular exercise.



Vision vs. reality?

Amazing that Obama gets a spot of uplifting blather in the trailer, when he was ultimately responsible for beating them down and dragging them off to jail across this nation.


My take on the Occupy Movement and its meaning (or lack thereof):

2013 Unoccupied



Revolution Goes Global

by Joe Giambrone

Elysium Unspoiled

A desolate third world wasteland.  A gated, auspicious, white people paradise.  Slave sweatshop.  Tea and martinis.  Not all that implausible, but Elysium represents the ultimate gated community, while the third world has become the entire earth.

This fundamental class distinction leads to inevitable class conflict in Neil Blomkamp’s follow up to District 9, a similarly weighty sci-fi film.  Both films take on issues of global significance, particularly immigration, apartheid and capitalist exploitation of the underclass.  Blomkamp strikes a blow for the rest of humanity, and Elysium is a very good film, bordering on greatness.  For an action sci-fi thriller, it delivers the battles, the archetypes and the desperation of the world.  I heartily recommend seeing it.

Elysium With Spoilers



Verdict: Looking forward to the sequel.

The Purge is a bold, in your face idea, which may have been better executed.  That’s the consensus I’ve seen, and I agree.  The film is a mixture of a dystopian society and a home invasion siege in the vein of Straw Dogs (1971).  The premise involves a one night only lawless rampage each year where all the rules are thrown out, and crime is legal.  This purging night is supposed to provide for a more peaceful, orderly year in-between – and it works.

As I recall, the tactics and battles of Straw Dogs were better staged.  The Purge has a number of frustrating tactical moves by various parties, which detracts from the story.  Another issue is the weak characterization of the villains.  Only one of the invaders has any personality or even dialogue, and even he doesn’t appear on-screen enough.  The bad guys are hollow props, not particularly interesting, and their plans aren’t sophisticated enough to be very engaging.  They are also mindlessly fearless, rather zombie-like in that regard.  These antagonists could definitely have used some more work.


However, the filmmakers are trying a bold and perhaps satirical approach to bloodlust, and particularly American bloodlust.  An alternative America with New Founding Fathers and new rituals appears and reappears.  This facet of the story world has expansive potential in future versions.  A nationwide all-encompassing event allows anyone to purge of one’s enemies, be they personal, racial or class-based.

The class-based nature of the purge opens up all sorts of interesting possibilities, some of which are included here.  The problem, though, is that it is quite obvious what will happen by the end.  It’s telegraphed too obviously.

As for the bloodlust, I think the plot is impactful enough.  What’s more this is state sanctioned violence, permitted by law, thus enabling otherwise normal people to cast off their humanity by an arbitrary decree.  The ease with which characters can become brutal sadistic animals does resonate, as we know it isn’t all that difficult.  The Millgram and Stanford prison guard experiments proved that.  Perhaps some will make the connection between state permitted violence in the movies and apply it to real life.