I love the note at the bottom: May Fortune Smile On You. Hear! Hear!
I was interviewed by Delaware Online for an article about zombies. Check it out:
It’s a scary, uncertain world: Ebola, ISIS, road rage and home invasions. No wonder we find comfort in zombies, ghosts and creatures of the night.
Zombies represent “the downfall of civilization,” said Brendan Riley, an associate professor of English at Columbia College of Chicago, who teaches an intensive, three-week winter session course that covers the evolution of zombies in film. “We see society falling apart … I find that pretty chilling.”
Yet zombie fear is fleeting. We know – or are pretty sure – the nondead aren’t real. The same isn’t true for ghosts. (link)
I notice the reporter (who was very nice) had to paraphrase me a lot. I need to remember to speak in short, pithy phrases.
Last week, after watching Cabin Fever, I started to think about this particular subgenre, and wondered how it would be to watch some of these films side by side. I discovered that four of them have very similar run-times, check it:
The Evil Dead, 1981, 85 min
Cabin Fever, 2002, 92 min
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, 89 min
The Cabin in the Woods, 95 min
How would these movies be if next to one another? What would they look like if they played at the same time? This got me to thinking about the subgenre in a larger way, and I discovered that the Internet doesn’t do a very good job of defining or refining it. I suspect there is some scholarship that does — something I haven’t looked into yet — but I thought I’d start by making a list of the movies I know fit the genre, and ones I think border it but would be excluded. (Note, I have not seen all the movies mentioned here, so corrections/opinions welcome; I’ve designated movies I haven’t seen with an asterisk.).
Here’s JFK in his office on Halloween, 1963. At first I just included this image because I enjoyed it. But then it occurred to me to wonder what else happened around that time:
- That day JFK signed into law the Community Mental Health Act, meant to restructure the way we mentally ill patients.
- JFK met with J. Edgar Hoover for the last time.
And outside the White House:
- Ed Sullivan saw the Beatles and their fans at London airport
- A propane explosion at a Holiday on Ice festival in Indiana killed 74 people.
Just over three weeks later, Kennedy would be assassinated.
Trigger Warning: this post discusses sexual assault and harassment.
Spoiler Alert: this post discusses plot points in Deadgirl in detail.
This is not a review of Deadgirl. For that, you can see this post. Instead, this post reflects on some resonances I see between the ideas at work in the film and recent flare-ups of misogyny we’ve seen in the last few months, particularly with regard to #GamerGate.
First, I’ll lay out a few scene descriptions. These are awful, but without them it’s hard to make the leap to the next argument.
1. Upon finding a tied-up zombie girl (without significant decay, so looking more like a drugged girl than a corpse; I use the term ‘girl’ here because that’s what the boys call her–it’s unclear how old she’s supposed to be, but I would suggest late teens to mid twenties), a group of boys argue about what to do with her. The first encounter ends with Rickie objecting to JT’s intended rape of the girl, but leaving the JT to it rather than objecting more forcefully. At this point, Rickie believes the girl is alive (not a zombie).
2. Over the course of the film, three more boys will find the zombie girl and of the five, only Rickie refrains from raping her. The last two boys do so specifically because they’re prodded into it. The group clearly operates on a mix of bravado, machismo, untethered morality, and peer pressure. They’re also significantly guided by a strong-willed sociopath who quickly leads them into the most depraved acts.
3. Late in the film, two of the boys decide the zombie girl has become too decayed to continue raping, and they decide to kidnap another woman and turn her into a zombie girl. At this point, clear lines have been drawn between the ‘good’ characters and the ‘evil’ ones, but the sliding scale of that morality is slippery and fungible in the film. Of particular note to the discussion here is JT’s final speech to Rickie, suggesting that they were destined for a life of poverty and denial from the women they want, and suggesting that taking what they want is the only way to proceed.
At the heart of the new misogyny, particularly the MRA and PUA communities, lies an assumption of entitlement. It’s a suggestion that men have a right to women who will sleep with them, and that feminism is a plot to deny men that basic right. At its heart, it’s a philosophy that imagines women not as individuals with equal rights, but as objects that exist to serve men. When a toxic community–like PUAs–foster these ideas for one another, they drive one another ever further into that mentality. The boys in the film go from tentatively touching the bound zombie girl to desiring another and planning to kidnap a woman to make her into one. It feels intensely similar to the ‘techniques’ shared by Pick-Up Artists who believe sexual relations to be a game, and who cultivate a disregard for womens’ humanity as a basic part of their rhetoric.
Indeed, consent stands as the unspoken issue in the film. The seemingly-drugged state of the zombie girl gives JT the opportunity to rape her, and their discovery that she is, in fact, dead gives them the excuse to keep doing so. But aside from Rickie, the characters seem to attach no interest at all in whether what they’re doing is wrong. In fact, the girl’s nudity implies, to these boys, consent. By the end of the film, this sense of entitlement has grown such that they’re willing to kidnap women to get what they want.
The film also raises a point that resonates with the argument made by anti-porn and anti-media-violence advocates — that familiarity with a trope decreases sensitivity against it. In other words, treating women as objects regularly conditions us to treat women as objects. In his essay from Zombies, Vampires, and Philosophy, “Zombie Gladiators,” Dale Jacquette argues that even in a world of zombies, it would not be in our best interest to kill zombies for sport or entertainment. Because zombies resemble humans, the regular exposure to their brutalization would inure us to the brutalization of other humans who aren’t zombies. We see this theme throughout zombie cinema — people who spend a lot of time killing zombies become more willing to kill regular people who get in their way. (The Walking Dead turns significantly on this idea.) Deadgirl suggests that the misogynistic and exploitative relationship the boys have with the deadgirl taints their ability to relate to all people, making them cavalier about life and willing to, as I mentioned above, kidnap another woman to get a new “deadgirl.”
As I watched the movie and saw the way the sociopathic leader could taunt and cajole his followers into acts of incredible depravity, I couldn’t help but think of the slavering attack hounds of #GamerGate who pile abuse and hatred on women in gaming. Like the boys in deadgirl with the zombie, #GamerGaters have stopped seeing their critics as human beings, they’ve lost control of their moral compass, and they’re reveling in the debauchery they’ve wrought. Like Rickie, they’ve failed to sever ties with the awful human beings they’re associated with, and they continue to try and salvage the situation.
The real question is what to make of the people who still imagine #GamerGate can productively be about anything else. When I read the continued defense from #GamerGaters of the movement, claiming to decry the behavior of their colleagues, I can’t help but think of the final sequence in the movie:
After JT stabs Joann, Rickie tries to drag her to safety. He holds her, telling her he loves her. Joann coughs blood in his face and groans “Grow up.”
Trigger warning: this post explores issues of sexual assault.
Deadgirl is one of the most disturbing movies I’ve ever seen. I knew, from what little I’d read, that it would be hard to watch, but the film’s surprisingly believable dive into the torments of unbalanced teenage boys cuts to the core. It’s awful, and stunning. I want to wash my brain out with soap.
The film revolves around two teenage boys (Rickie and JT) who find a zombie girl tied up in a secret room in the back of an abandoned asylum. Their struggle about what to do with her (including using her as a sex toy) becomes the center of the movie. The main moral force–and the central viewpoint–in the film, Rickie, wavers in his willingness to keep the dead girl secret when she seems to be looking at him, sometimes expressing distress, but then devolving to the growling animal state of the conventional movie zombie. Add to this the growing problems that come from hanging out with zombies and you have a compelling film. A few thoughts:
- The early sequences of the film involve the struggle among the friends to decide what to do. At play are the bonds of lifelong friendship and the peer pressure of teen groups against the meagre moral compass of one of the characters. The story complicates quickly as they discover the girl is, in fact, a zombie and thus less human in the eyes of some of the boys. The early sequences feel like they are about frat-house rape, in which the victim has been drugged and the boys cheer one and egg one another on.
- As the film progresses, it shifts into a fiasco movie, with the boys finding themselves in more and more trouble as the secret horror they’re trying to keep becomes harder and harder to contain. This results in some lighter scenes in between the extremely dark sequences that make up the bulk of the film.
- We also come to the horror trope of the mildly-villainous person who goes mad with power as the story goes along. JT’s descent into madness works very well, and reminds me of 2006’s Slither, which revolves around Grant’s increasing mania (though to be fair, JT is just an amoral bastard rather than being controlled by an alien slug like Grant).
- The cinematography is this film is particularly well done. Harris Charalambous composes shots that walk the border between voyeuristic and creepy (though lean toward creepy), giving the audience Rickie’s perspective (the curious teenager who hesitates) rather than JT’s (the more willing to break taboos). As the film progresses, the girl becomes less sexualized and more brutalized, even as the boys around her are becoming degraded and debauched by their continued association with the zombie. Few movies have used visual metaphor to represent moral taint so effectively.
- Last, the film effectively explores issues of entitlement and detachment that sit at the root of the modern misogyny. The attitudes expressed by the boys in the film sound all too familiar for people paying attention to the rampant rise of public sexism and harassment culture, particularly among young men and boys. (I will explore these more thoroughly in a later post.)
There are a few movies that ponder what obligation we have to zombies as beings. Day of the Dead tackles the idea of zombie-as-person in the Bub storyline, and the extras on Dawn of the Dead include a sequence with a bunch of frat guys trying to rape a zombie (it doesn’t end well for them). Romero’s films regularly feature stomach-churning sequences in which humans descend into depravity by torturing zombies for amusement — hanging the zombies up for target practice, etc. Dead Alive also approaches the question of the zombie-kept-alive from a different angle, the one of filial obligation. But as far as I know, this is one of the only films that wonders about zombies as sex slaves (setting aside porn or soft-porn movies, of which a brief google search suggests there might be many; I did not click any links from that search, so I leave that to one of you, intrepid readers).
- RT @SuperheroReport: RT if you'd watch a 'BLACK WIDOW' movie. @marvel @Disney http://t.co/xXb22IbqRt 06:55:00, 2014-10-19
- @briancroxall what is that? Looks awesome. in reply to briancroxall 06:56:49, 2014-10-19
- Tweets from 2014-10-12 to 2014-10-18 http://t.co/S0tn3jZddq 10:01:24, 2014-10-19
- Finally got around to watching the #ZombiesofMoraTau. Hilarious and terrible and amazing so far. 21:36:35, 2014-10-19
- "They're dead, I tell you. They have no morality, no free will. They will kill anyone who comes for those diamonds." #ZombiesofMoraTau 21:41:28, 2014-10-19
- Underwater zombie fight! Lucio Fulci eat your heart out. #ZombiesofMoraTau 22:02:30, 2014-10-19
- Husband angrily chases wife through the house, stopping in a room with "doc," who doesn't comment about the spouse abuse. #ZombiesofMoraTau 22:07:48, 2014-10-19
- Zombies rising up from their coffins look like extras from an episode of DRAGNET. #ZombiesofMoraTau 22:10:51, 2014-10-19
- Saving the world from a #Pandemic this evening with Finn. @Zmangames_ http://t.co/CaPPqdPfXT 19:21:56, 2014-10-20
- So many zombie stories happen in worlds with no zombie movies it makes me wonder if making lots of them has inoculated our universe. (1/2) 05:50:32, 2014-10-21
- @MiraGrant is right: likelihood of a disastrous worldwide zombie outbreak has been significantly reduced by #GeorgeRomero and his ilk. (2/2) 05:52:35, 2014-10-21
- My 2007 review of THE MONSTER SQUAD. I don't recall seeing this, but apparently I thought it was a #Goonies ripoff. http://t.co/QAueaCOMZk 06:39:43, 2014-10-21
- Via @pzmyers – #NatGeo Real life animals that succomb to zombie parasites. Yikes. http://t.co/QhDzmKELZx 08:17:49, 2014-10-21
- Sappy vs. Humor/horror – Simon Birch and Frankenweenie http://t.co/xYrm1h7cLY 11:30:23, 2014-10-21
- For the first time, #TheKing wins and becomes the #KingOfTokyo. http://t.co/i7oCycLaod 19:10:18, 2014-10-21
- Afraid I would once again forget our tablet charger at my office, Finn wrote this note and slipped it into my bag. http://t.co/jnycM6jKlG 12:18:56, 2014-10-22
- Cabin Fever is not a zombie movie, but it feels like one http://t.co/5aRIyryDxp 11:30:12, 2014-10-23
- Rural fear viewing party: put CABIN IN THE WOODS, EVIL DEAD, CABIN FEVER, and TUCKER AND DALE VS EVIL on four screens simultaneously. 15:59:18, 2014-10-23
- THIS THIS THIS. http://t.co/3A9NVidag5 16:08:15, 2014-10-23
- Checked running times: CiTW – 95 min, TaDVE – 89 min, CF – 92 min, ED 85 min. This could totally work. 16:10:25, 2014-10-23
- CCing yourself on all your replies makes it feel like you're not making inbox progress, as your replies boost the unread email count. 11:21:10, 2014-10-24
- Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End – a zombie novel you've read before http://t.co/DBhWAvtQUQ 11:31:12, 2014-10-24
- RT @forestparkreads: We'll see you bright and early tomorrow morning! Don't miss us at the 3rd annual casket races. Our theme this… http:… 18:45:38, 2014-10-24
- RT @ColumbiaChi: We'll also be making stops in Indy and Peoria this weekend. Come on out! http://t.co/YiGj8PhPB8 We want to answer your adm… 18:47:40, 2014-10-24
- Movies you missed me not missing – one sentence reviews (part 3) http://t.co/pa6gmLAY4q 11:30:56, 2014-10-25
- "@michaelianblack: Old guys w/ ponytails > those w/ crew cuts" Do old guys w/ mullets make an Immovable Mass / Irresistible Force situation? 20:46:40, 2014-10-25
- RT @anildash: So many of you have told me you don't support doxxing & it's about ethics in journalism. Prove it. @PlayDangerously stalked m… 21:03:56, 2014-10-25
- RT @anildash: Alright, #GamerGate, let's do this. Your leader @PlayDangerously posted my address *last year*. Denounce his doxxing. Tell hi… 21:03:58, 2014-10-25
During my hiatus from blogging, I saw a bunch of movies. And I didn’t review or mention them here. I know, you’re crushed. So here I continue a series of one sentence reviews of most of the movies I watched between 2 December 2013 and 5 September 2014.
- X-Men: Days of Future Past – A pleasant and fun addition to the X-Men series, as long as you don’t think about how the stupid time-travel tale works.
- How to Train Your Dragon 2 – A well-meaning addition to the franchise that was, to my mind, too “talky.” It’s supposed to be about dragons, not feelings.
- Snowpiercer – A pleasant and fun scifi action film with an Asian feel (the axe fight felt like The Raid or similar films), as long as you don’t think about how the stupid train is supposed to work.
- The Nut Job – Squirrels on a caper: about what you’d expect.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier – The best of the Marvel superhero movies thus far, with solid character development and a real plot.
- Guardians of the Galaxy – A great team up action scifi movie directed by James Gunn, the genius behind Slither.
Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End
by Manel Loureiro
When the zombie disease spreads throughout the world, a lawyer in Spain finds himself trapped in his home, with just a cat and his blog (later, his journal) to keep him company. As society falls apart, our protagonist learns to deal with the dead, working his way across the zombie-infested landscape, looking for a place to hide from the plague. Written in an epistolary style, Loureiro’s zombie novel is a decent addition to the genre, but it has very little new to offer. A few thoughts:
- Loureiro’s zombies follow the same rules as Max Brooks’ zombies, and this could very well be subtitled “a novel of World War Z.”
- Unlike most zombie novels, the narrator never really gets very good at killing zombies. He makes it sound very difficult, and dangerous every time. The only effective tool he has is his spear gun, and he keeps having to leave the spears for fear of infection or lack of time to retrieve them.
- The zombies in the novel are a weird mix of overwhelming and stupid. I like his assertion that they can sense life, more than just see or smell it (though before we really get into that part of it, we’ve finished the novel).
- One lesson we might learn from this is the way governments would likely exacerbate a zombie outbreak by refusing to share key information about what they are and how to stop them. One imagines that had the first government to encounter the outbreak properly shared the techniques for dealing with it, there would have been no novel to write.
- Of course, Mira Grant’s FEED imagines that many people in our world would be saved because we’ve seen zombie movies and would know what to do. Loureiro fails to address this question, putting Apocalypse Z in a nearby alternate universe where no zombie movies exist.
Overall, Loureiro’s Apocalypse Z is an amusing tale, but one wholly within its genre, bending few rules and breaking none. If you haven’t read very many zombie novels, it might feel like a fresh story, but for the more experienced reader, you should give it a miss.
I knew the early Eli Roth movie Cabin Fever is not a zombie movie before I watched it, but it comes up in the recommendations and mentions of such films that I thought it would be a nice change of pace. The story tells the tale of five college students who travel to a cabin in the woods and … mayhem and madness breaks out. Only instead of it being because of a zombie outbreak or a spare copy of the Necronomicon, this one happens because of a flesh-eating virus that makes people a little manic and a lot infectious.
A few thoughts about the film (somewhat spoilery):
- The beginning of the film is too knowing, quite aware that it’s playing into the usual genre but at the same time not twisting it enough. Watch this film next to Cabin in the Woods to see how pastiche/bricolage can effectively become satire. This movie is too close to the genre to work well as commentary on it. This reification of the genre expands in its characters, a cartoonish set of characters that model quite overtly the five archetypes in Whedon’s film.
- Where we see a change is in the way the characters themselves behave. Early on, we think maybe the kids going to the cabin are enjoyable avatars for ourselves. Not so — very quickly they become the worst, abandoning one another, stealing and lying and generally dropping all their humanity at the first sign of trouble. But this makes their eventual demise in the second half more enjoyable. We don’t want to see them punished for sex or partying, but for being awful people.
- The ending which sets up the sequels nicely. I will certainly watch at least the first, as these are likely to be enjoyably stupid as well.
- Not surprisingly, the movie consistently reinforces the urban/rural divide, marking the rural as a dangerous place where urban folk had best not go. On the other hand, the city folk seem deserving of all the ire heaped on them, and the clever reversal of the old shopkeeper’s racism works as a good overturning of the original split.
- Last, while the movie fits many of the tropes of the horror genre, it’s just as much as fiasco movie (like Blood Simple or Fargo), with the flesh-eating virus destroying people just as effectively as greed does.
Better than I thought it would be, but not really a horror movie, nor a zombie movie. But it feels like part of a conversation about them.
Simon Birch and Frankenweenie
Every now and again, I page through the upcoming movies on the channels we get to see what might be worth recording for a casual future viewing. This net caught both films reviewed here today. Frankenweenie expands Tim Burton’s famous early film (which Disney did not like, at the time) about a boy who brings his dog back from the dead. It’s a low dramatic arc with high drama and a good story. It’s also full of truly funny animation. Simon Birch is a famously maligned tear-jerker from the late 90s that adapts one of my favorite novels (A Prayer for Owen Meany) by cutting it in half and distilling out the complexity with sap.
A few thoughts on these tales:
- We have, in these two films, a clash of worldviews. Neither stories want us to accept death as a random shitty fact of life, but rather to understand it in the larger context as either something God wants or science will help us overcome.
- Both tales cut significant lessons from their source texts. Frankenweenie dodges the problem of scientific ethics by infusing love as one of the ingredients. Victor’s experiment worked because he loved his dog, whereas the monsters created by the other experimenters were not loved in the same way. Shelley’s horror at the dangers of science go missing from the tale. Simon Birch dodges the complexity of its title character by making him a saintly martyr, confident in his life because God has a plan for him. Irving’s novel gives its title character much more complexity, makes him a regular person with all sorts of faults.Both films stand on a scaffold of old tropes, as well.
- Simon Birch uses so many tear-jerker cliches, you’ll want your bingo card out. We have the heroic disadvantaged person, a romantic/ expressionist world where God shines His love down via swirling leaves (hence making October the holiest month), stereotypical bullies, tweenage boy resentful of his mother’s suitor, lingering by gravestones, and the dramatic sacrifice that Makes It All Worth It. Frankenweenie uses old tropes in a winking way, rewarding fans of old Universal horror films with character names, set pieces, plot points, and other references. My favorite, a dramatic chase that leads to a flaming windmill.
- I love the casts of both films. Frankenweenie employs to great effect the voices of Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau, and Winona Ryder. Meanwhile, Simon Birch surrounds the eponymous protagonist with Joseph Mazello (the boy from Jurassic Park), Ashley Judd, Oliver Platt, Jan Hooks, David Strathairn, and Dana Ivey as grand mother (a character actress you’d recognize as “offended upper-class lady” from all sorts of movies).
Frankenweenie is worth a watch, a cute evocation of old movies that has both cleverness and heart. Simon Birch has solid Oliver Platt time, which is always a good thing, but is otherwise just the schmaltzy tale you probably thought it was. Go read A Prayer for Owen Meany instead. It’s probably more schmaltzy than I remember, but it’s also certainly better than the film.
Cockneys vs. Zombies is a solidly enjoyable zombie comedy, which great production values, a funny scenario, and a bit of pathos. The film follows two storylines during a zombie outbreak in East London — a group of old-age pensioners trying to survive as their caregivers and the people in streets around them all succumb to the zombie outbreak and a pair of misfit bank robbers who happen to rob a bank at the exact moment the zombie outbreak begins. It’s a silly movie in the vein of Shaun of the Dead, but without quite as much pathos. In fact, it would be easy to imagine this as part of the same world — except that the zombie outbreak comes from a sealed plague pit rather than from outer space.
A few thoughts:
- As far as the genre goes, the film doesn’t add much to it. The undead in this film come from the comedy zombie well — hilariously slow, only kinda dangerous when it fits the narrative that they need to be. The outbreak progresses far too fast given their ineptness, but otherwise this is exactly what you’d expect from a zombie comedy.
- But the film itself does a few things really well. First, it offers a bunch of nice set-pieces, places for the characters to go and quarrel and for the story to evolve. And following two sets of survivors gives the variety that some zombie films fail to provide. Second, the filmmakers use Family Guy style flashbacks, showing us moments from the characters’ back stories as cut-away scenes. Very funny and well done.
- The film makes great use of its environment as well. The East End is a famously working-class area of the city, always under pressure from gentrification and class issues. The underlying storyline is pretty sad, if you think about it. The two main characters take up bank robbery so they’d have enough money to save their grand-dad’s old-folks home from developers.
- The soundtrack is pretty great, with a closing credits song that’s an instant earworm (or really annoying, depending on your taste).
- Cockneys vs. Zombies plays on the inherently funny cinematic vision of elderly people doing things we normally reserve for younger folk. Particularly satisfying is the sequence with character actor Richard Briers shooting an Uzi from his walker, and every sequence involving Alan Ford (“Brick Top” from Snatch). That said, both RED and Kung-Fu Hustle tell this joke better.
The film does have several great conceits, which I’ll detail below the picture, so if you don’t want to read them, you can stop now. It’s a fine B movie, and worth a watch if you’re a zombie fan.
Ashley Thomas as Mental Mickey, the crazy guy with a bunch of guns.
Moments to watch for (Spoilers):
- We see some football hooligan zombies who haven’t lost their taste for a rumble.
- Richard Briers shows up as Hamish, a walker-bound pensioner who sleeps through the first round of the zombie attack, and then has a tense race with some zombies.
- Another of the great characters is Eric, a pensioner whose rhyming slang has gotten way out of control, with five or six or more steps to transform his phrases into common English. It’s funny as long as you don’t recognize it as a sign of dementia.
- Perhaps the best zombie moment is when the bank robbers try to kill the now-zombified crazy thug — played with great joie de vivre by Ashley Thomas — only to remember that he has a metal plate in his head from his military service.
- Tweets from 2014-10-05 to 2014-10-11 http://t.co/N3n5w9fspn 10:00:18, 2014-10-12
- Thanks for your restraint, Stan Lee http://t.co/sFRq87agvU 11:34:26, 2014-10-12
- A few more SPOILERY thoughts on [REC]3 http://t.co/nVaumqlQas 11:34:29, 2014-10-13
- A few thoughts on Android: Netrunner (part 1) http://t.co/DHSBw6bjng 11:32:47, 2014-10-14
- MT "@Jessifer: … How about advocate willing to fight tooth and nail for the right of students to be teachers?" Not quite as rhymey. 16:11:14, 2014-10-14
- RT @margaretalmon: “@Ri_Science: Wise words from the humble Ada Lovelace to celebrate #ALD14 with @FindingAda http://t.co/Q9d6e5s2D1” #find… 16:12:07, 2014-10-14
- "@pbooth81: What a pleasant surprise, to bump into @digital_sextant and family at amelias tonight!" Agreed! 22:03:22, 2014-10-14
- Watching #CockneysVsZombies on recommendation from @ScottKenemore. It's great! 22:07:09, 2014-10-14
- #TheMindyProject "Did you guys know the blift is broken?" Funniest sitcom line in a decade. 22:40:22, 2014-10-14
- Tingle Bells http://t.co/oc8ER7MB7u 11:31:46, 2014-10-15
- 3 anecdotes that shape my thoughts on #GamerGate – Boy Scouts, a Cat in the Trash, and a Clockwork Orange http://t.co/yg7vnEWV97 13:08:24, 2014-10-15
- #ForgottenGem Just found a line in something I wrote comparing Jessica Fletcher to Batman in order to make a point about the movie HACKERS. 12:05:30, 2014-10-16
- Overheard as Jenny talks to one of her online students: "Is that a bird? … Ah, okay." #onlineteaching 15:34:23, 2014-10-16
- RT @geniesaurus: 'The track listing from a happy Decemberists album' http://t.co/l5IB8IpJT6 17:32:00, 2014-10-16
- RT @Matt_Caz: #Gamergate Trolls Aren't Ethics Crusaders; They're a Hate Group http://t.co/ap9cFVQ9Pv 17:49:19, 2014-10-16
- RT @CarolineLucas: Pls RT if you agree that @TheGreenParty should appear in the TV election debates https://t.co/kh0AkdlAC7 #TVdebates http… 17:53:18, 2014-10-16
- RT @adamkotsko: The only way academics can demonstrate their deep scholarship is by writing in a way that requires almost no work or attent… 17:55:21, 2014-10-16
- RT @femfreq: Irresponsibly dangerous for USU/police to say online threats are "the norm” and "not real” because I haven’t yet been physical… 17:55:42, 2014-10-16
- RT @femfreq: Remember Elliot Rodger used the internet to make threats ahead of his misogynist rampage. Schools must always take online thre… 17:55:44, 2014-10-16
- "@KelliMarshall: #TeamFitz" #TeamHuck 05:50:53, 2014-10-17
- This. (thanks @pharyngula) @JosephScrimshaw explains why #SocialJusticeWarrior isn't an insult. http://t.co/fHVBtt2Vg1 07:33:34, 2014-10-17
- The Death Star Contractor problem and Agents of SHIELD http://t.co/xcueBszVMC 11:30:38, 2014-10-17
- An awesome late night game of #TheAgents @SaarShai http://t.co/MuDTKzjLry 23:37:49, 2014-10-17
- Movies you missed me not missing – one sentence reviews (part 2) http://t.co/f95qIhbuUu 11:31:46, 2014-10-18
During my hiatus from blogging, I saw a bunch of movies. And I didn’t review or mention them here. I know, you’re crushed. So here I continue a series of one or two sentence reviews of most of the movies I watched between 2 December 2013 and 5 September 2014.
- Rio 2 – Amusing but pretty mediocre. Happily, it continues the attempted redemption of the nerd via bird fables.
- Cloud Atlas – Good storytelling that, like the book, feels connected for a purpose that does not reveal itself.
- Room 237 – Amusing demonstration of the dangers of close reading. Will likely motivate you to re-view The Shining.
- The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – Amusing but pretty mediocre. Happily, it continues the attempted redemption of the nerd via superhero fables.
- Machete – About what you’d expect, in a great way.
- Planes: Fire and Rescue – Amusing but pretty mediocre. This tale describes the plight of the aging athlete through the lens of talking planes and cars.
Watching episode 203 of Agents of SHIELD (the one with the ice guy), I couldn’t help but remember this scene from Clerks:
Because this is one of the first episodes where we see very much inside Hydra, it’s the first where we realize just how much Hydra matches SHIELD. Like SHIELD, Hydra has secret facilities and awesome technology; like SHIELD, Hydra has world-class scientists and files on everything; and like SHIELD, Hydra has amazing brand management. It’s always struck me just how much care the SHIELD graphics and art design departments take to brand everything SHIELD. But this makes sense, in some ways. The FBI has all sorts of FBI-branded stuff, doesn’t it?
But check this out:
Here we see a Hydra agent being scoped out by a SHIELD sniper. Right there on her back is a Hydra logo. We also saw the Hydra logo any number of times in the facility we got to see this episode. The attention to bureaucratic detail is amazing. Of course, it’s easy to paint a logo on a wall. But getting an embroidered jacket? I love the idea that Hydra not only tasked someone with getting standard jackets for their military operations, but also that they had to get those jackets embroidered. Without uniform jackets, it’s hard to tell who’s a henchman and who isn’t. Additionally, consider that for most of Hydra’s existence, its nature was so secret that these jackets would have been a dangerous liability. That means these were made since the events of Captain America: Winter Soldier, roughly six months ago. It just seems like a funny thing to have to spend their time on.
Of course, this is the reality of any massive human organization — a certain amount of energy will need to be spent on the overhead of keeping it running smoothly. Which is where Agents of SHIELD makes an interesting link back to real life. Here’s an piece from NPR:
The Internet is abuzz with the news of a scathing employee performance review given to an associate of al-Qaida’s North African branch. The employee in question, a man by the name of Mokhtar Belmokhtar, is criticized for neglecting his expense reports, blowing off meetings and wasting his employer’s money, among other complaints.
The juxtaposition is both absurd and macabre: murderous terrorist network as Office Space. It just seems so unlikely that individuals who claim responsibility for taking hundreds of lives also engage in the sort of passive-aggressive bureaucratic sniping we associate with innocuous office jobs.
“Who knew that being an international terrorist was less like James Bond and more like Dilbert?” asked a commenter on Reddit. (link)
We see similar reports now about ISIS and its effective propaganda wing, which is run with a net savvy that you know some Fortune 500 companies are studying. So the idea of a bureaucracy building up around a massive undertaking seems inevitable. And thus, it’s not only conceivable that Hydra would have embroidered jackets, it’s almost inevitable. I do wish they’d used the last sequence to show the man who led this mission sitting in front of his computer, filling out a form to explain the agents and equipment lost on the mission, grumbling about his TPS reports.