Monday, December 28, 2015

The Force Awakens

This post has some mild spoilers and catches on one of my primary complaints with the film: that it's a rehash of the first Star Wars, only not quite as good.  The spoiler fight for this movie has been so successful in part because about five minutes in, even obtuse movie watchers like me have the whole movie pretty well figured out.  Announcing that people shouldn't relate spoilers for Force Awakens would be like Warner Brothers announcing that spoilers should not be divulged for a Road Runner cartoon.
A TIE fighter-Millennium Falcon battle on a sand planet?!?  Mind: blown. 
There were some story and sci-fi quirks that I got hung up on as well (which is saying something considering the Star Wars reputation for ignoring both), but my big hang up was with the bad guys themselves.  Through the first two movies it was enough to know Empire: Bad, Rebels: Good.  Even by Jedi though this was starting to wear thin and into the newer Lucas trilogy one gets the impression that this whole galactic imbroglio is just some Skywalker intra/inter clan warfare writ large and Awakens does the franchise no favors by failing to resolve the whole good versus evil issue.

It would be rather easy to craft a narrative around a society's never ending struggle to balance freedom (rebels) and security (empire).  However this narrative falls apart since the Empire doesn't seem to have a desire to rule over anyone: they're all about blowing up planets and building more crap with which to blow up planets.  If they wanted to rule over the galaxy it would be simple enough to use .00001% of the budget from one of their many Deathstar fiascos to buy off every politician in every governing body in the Galaxy (the Saudis have been doing it here for decades so that's proof positive that it works).

Barring that, the only thing that seems to hold up is the Japanese anime view of the darkside consisting of evildoers whose only goal is to accelerate entropy or to embody entropy itself.  The only problem with this (and you may have noticed this), anime is not very popular with general audiences because this tact is stupid.  Bad guys who want to destroy the planet/galaxy/universe in order to "end suffering" or "eliminate the plague that is life" are not bad guys anyone outside of Japan can find any relation to.  

This anime character wonders why his dreams can never come true.  Methinks that it might have something to do with, you know, trying to destroy the whole planet that everyone is living on.  Maybe he should start small, with a lego village or something.

Even for the worst of the 20th century's tyrants they had a goal that they were trying to achieve.  It's only when the bad guy has a goal that there can be an "anti-goal", some motivation that drives the good guys and helps you sympathize with them.  There was one point in Awakens when I thought that the whole Republic/Rebel/New Order bit was going to come into focus: the rebels, abandoned by those that they fought so hard to free, are left to try and mop up the remnants of a technologically superior Empire with a mix of old war era equipment, older personnel, and reformed clones.  This would have been intriguing and would have given the audience something (anything) to relate to.  No dice though, that window closed in a matter of seconds and my brief look into a movie that could have been was gone.

Three sandmiches: two for production values and one for one last race around the old track.

Extra Credit...

  • Black people came to the showing I was at and made a point to cheer on Black Jedi Dude.  It's a shame because this character had the most complex possibilities but was pressed into a two dimensional form; good enough for some I suppose...
  • Some back and forth between friends about how Star Wars became a series of films even though it's plain to see that it was never meant to be.  I thought this contrasted interestingly with Star Trek which could make a movie about the main characters (or even different characters in the same universe) playing poker all day and it would raise nary an eyebrow; at least if it was done properly (it certainly wouldn't be the worst Star Trek film).
  • Hollywood has sadly gotten rather adept at crafting films like this that have no good or evil.  Liberalism would dictate that the bad guys are the freedom loving guys while the good guys are puritanical tyrants that want to force the galaxy to pay for midnight basketball on planet Brotha 9.  Well that doesn't work, even for sympathizers, and the opposite would mean introspection of the horror of one's ideals to make an epic empty movie about nothing.  In the end this may have less to do with the Star Wars universe than the idiots tasked with creating the films. 
  • There was a couple in the theater that stayed until the end of the credits.  I was hanging around out of site by the door waiting for Mrs. Sandmich when I heard the guy say "they nailed it".  I wanted to ask him, "Nailed what?  The intro text?".  Maybe this movie wasn't made for me.  It did remind a bit of the Harry Potter films where if you aren't enjoying it in the first few minutes then you're watching the wrong movie.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Trump Conspiracy

Is Trump a closeted bag man for the Dems?  Are candidates like Lindsey Graham not a closeted bag man for the Dems?  Too many moving pieces right now methinks.  Some thoughts:
  • The GOP has become the party of Bush/Dem-lite. Witness the chest beating, self righteous outrage over Trumps reasonable proposal that immigration from Muslim nations be suspended until the Feds know what they're doing (which to be fair will be never, thus the source of the outrage).  Only Ted Cruz, from what I read briefly, made a reasoned rebuttal, but the rest of the GOP is indistinguishable from the wackos on the left.
  • There's stuff like this inferring that the GOP elite want to force a brokered convention (very difficult with their current rules) which leads one to believe that money men behind the GOP who care about one thing, slave labor rates and how to get more of them, are determined to force the car off the cliff if they aren't allowed to drive.  The big disappointment for me from the primary candidates was Scott Walker whose normally tough nosed approach and good governance could have easily stolen Trumps thunder but for the fact that he was forced to tow a very unpopular immigration line so that he could get national level funding.
  • One of the writers at Instapundit is very hard on Trump and believes him to be an absolute phony who doesn't actually stand for what he says and is lying through his teeth for some sort of ulterior motive (The "Hillary for prez" idea being one of them).  The comments, in turn, are just as hard on him.  It seems to me that Trump could have found an easier path to accomplish such a byzantine plan.  Backing this up is that I've seen comments that state that Trump's blowhard persona says makes sense if you've ever read his book (which I have not).  You can already see him dragging the entire immigration argument to the conservative right (though events have certainly helped him out); not exactly the result a secret far left candidate would be gunning for.
  • The left is a basket case.  Far lefties love Bernie while the more "level headed" realize how bad off they are.  They're running interference in trying to bring down Trump (and to a lesser extent Ted Cruz) while desperately trying to pump up farther left Republican candidates like Rubio and Kasich.  I think the Trump noise is even louder in this echo chamber; if the Dems had a strong candidate they would probably just ignore the GOP field entirely knowing that the electoral college math favors them.  As it is though they have to bring the full weight of their media and institutional might to bear on every perceived GOP snafu.  This has turned out to be a double edged sword though since they have repeatedly ended up broadcasting Trump saying what everyone else was thinking (I stole that bit from Dilbert man Scott Adams, who is not a Trump fan).
  • The Republican Congress has proven worthless.  Many GOPers (to an extent myself included) think that the current post-Gingrich paradigm needs to be blown up.  The results of such an event are probably overrated, but at the very least, if a candidate was elected President who was unpopular with his own party in Congress that would force a return to some balance of power instead of unelected executive bureaucrats basically running the country.
  • Again I think the closest equivalent to Trump is Italy's Silvio Berlusconi.  The fact that such an amoral sleazebag could be such an improvement over your regular run-of-the-mill Italian politician tells you everything that you need to know about the state of our political elites today.  People like Ed Driscoll and Scott Adams may think the absolute worst of Trump, but even if what everything they say is true (which I don't think that it is) they need to accept the fact that he would still not be the worst candidate on the stage.
Here's the rub with the current GOP nomination rules: in most (all?) states, the winning candidate gets all the delegate votes, thus it's theoretically possible for a candidate to win more than they lose, even win substantially more votes than they lose, but still lose big in the delegate count (and obviously, vice versa).  This was originally engineered to keep Ron Paul delegates out of the convention, but what if, say, Trump manages to pull the stunt of losing the vote, but winning the delegates (by scooping up non-majority wins in places like New York, California, Florida, and Ohio)?  And the opposite could also happen, or any other manner of combinations.  Again, the GOP has brought this on itself in a number of ways.  In this light, and with all the information that we have, I'm given to think that Trump's threat of an independent run has more to do with trying to keep the GOP honest (good luck) than some conspiracy in him trying to make sure that they lose.