Monday, February 26, 2007

Zombie Movie -or- Not

Probably the best kind of argument you can engage someone in, regarding the merits of a work of, let's call it, art, is one where the arguers are in total agreement as to the basic net sum of positive and negative attributes and qualities within said work. In this case, all there is to argue about is precisely where these positive and negative characteristics lie, and what their nature is. The other kind of argument, where the participants fundamentally disagree as to this value of this net sum, is interesting at times, but leads to hurt feelings and, often, to insensitive and, at worst, frighteningly racist comments that leave everyone with a bitter taste in their mouth the following morning.

But Children of Men is a great film, and so say all of us, so this is not an issue. It turns out that in this particular conversation the article of contention is exactly what sort of movie this movie is. Obvious: a movie in which Clive Owen totally acts like Clive Owen, a movie in which Michael Cain acts pretty much totally unlike Michael Cain (I imagine), a movie with an ending I couldn't possibly give away, though I might, albeit inadvertantly, over the course of the next few minutes. Not so obvious is the question of genre.

Future Distopia, ok, but that doesn't narrow things down that much does it. Seeing as you have your sci-fi distopias such as Blade Runner or 90% of good animated Japanese film, you have your action adventure distopias such as Escape From New York, you have your horror distopias such as, well I suppose this is arguable, but, Hostel, the term "Future Distopia" doesn't really connote a genre so much. And, fine ok, you can say, "hey sci-fi's no damn genre, you fucking twat!" and you'd be right, but let that one slide will you Christ. So, you say Future Distopia and you're back at square one.

Which leads me to my assertion here - Children of Men is a Zombie Film.

Y) No zombies!
M) Shut it! 28 Days Later didn't have any zombies in it either, and it is most definitely still a zombie film.

Y) There aren't even any monsters, undead, nothing supernatural!
M) You and your meaningless lines of demarcation between the natural and supernatural! And you call yourselves Christians!

The first prerequisite of the Zombie Film is not the zombie. It is the group of people hunted by a large group of flat, mechanical characters who are out for blood. And Children of Men totally has this. Maybe this necessitates taking a leap of logic, identifying Kee's baby with brains, but it's really not all that far of a leap is it: both are basically conceptual ideas which, on the whole don't really come too much to bear on the actual thrust of the film. As much as the infertility issue does form the backbone of Children of Men's plot, this is just a neat gimmick really, or, a really neat gimmick, compared with the largely unexplained and unimportant zombifying diseases of other classic Zombie Films. Infertility is the "hell is full" or the "Rage" of Children of Men. There's no explanation, and it's only because of the plausibility of such an occurance in this film that the viewer doesn't feel that one is necessary. You might complain that Dawn of the Dead lacks explanation for its basic premise, zombie apocalypse, but it really doesn't have anything to do with the movie, it's just that it necessitates a bit more effort to suspend disbelief for some people.

So what I'm saying, if you follow, is that infertility in this film is a zombifying disease like any other. It makes people blow things up, it makes the world go totally mad, and it basically spells doom for the entire human race. Communication fails and the world becomes compartmentalized. The viewer learns nothing of the specific state of affiars outside of London, gleaning details about England's general situation as the movie progresses, never hearing anything specific about the rest of the world. Romero's isolated farm house is Cuarón's London.

People become zombies as the impcact of global infertility begins to take hold of their fragile conciousnesses. Poverty and famine combined with existential desperation create the beings Cuarón depicts as attacking the main characters' van on a country road with sticks and flaming wreckage. There is no mistaking the imagery of this scene. Cuarón knew he was making a Zombie Film and depicted the desperate exiles as zombies.

Children of Men has all the rest, too. Dissent within the non-zombie faction, the final descent from the safety of the castle into the chaos of the zombie ruled outside world, fart jokes, the list goes on. In my mind there hasn't been a better Zombie Film perhaps since the genre was invented. And why because Children of Men takes the tropes of the Zombie Film, which blatantly gesture towards the collapse of society, fear of unexplainable forces at work in the modern world and their side effects, the increase of compartmentalized living situations, basically the modern human fucking con-dition, and feed them to you in a form you can trust. Disbelief is suspended in a realistic way. Though there is no accounting for the world of Children of Men or the causes behind the creation of such a world, the situation is understandable despite this lack of explication. By removing the zombie, in as much as the zombie is supernatural, religious or unbelievable, from the Zombie Film Children of Men may finally get across the points that no one wanted to have to look for behind the gruesome visceral entertainment value of Zombie Films for so long.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Battle for the Throne -or- Bad Chocolate Factory LoveSounds

The battle, my friends, is being fought as we speak! As we sleep! As we while away the hours with the tiddlywinks of our generation (wii tennis.......

One of these days the war will be over, the dust will clear, and the world will have chosen the successor to the throne: and o a glorious day it will be I know. Michael Jackson has been dead for years as a human being, even as a public figure, as he lives now in Bahrain as a stuffed poodle thing propped in a corner to be bashed by 6 year olds at a Mexican style birthday party. Bahrain is tantamount to death and Michael Jackson is dead. I didn't want to believe it, even when certain people tried to foist "You Rock My World" on me as a posthumous reverse guilty pleasure "diamond in the rough" deep cut of sorts, I kind of believed it; at least I wanted to. But death in Bahrain is like the coffee at a coffee shop on a cold ass day when all you want is a chair and a space heater, and the king of pop is dead.

Who do we crown, then? Blanket? Do you want Barabbas?

As I see it we have a few pretenders to the crown at the moment. Decry the state of the industry as much as you want. Of course the bastards are putting nose to iceberg with the saintly slowness befitting such a noble crew of cowards and assholes, but that doesn't mean that we don't need a king, and that one won't be crowned wether they want it or not.

In figuring this all out though, the easiest thing to forget is that the key to MJ's kingly status was the fact that everyone, everywhere, loved the man. He was the same in Chicago, San Diego, St. Petersburg, and Dubai. When he dies, the world will have either forgotten about him, or they will weep blood as they did when his hair turned into flames during the Pepsi-Coke wars of the 80's (remember those? no? check this shit out then). This sort of international presence is years off to be conservative. But, Mitt Romney be damned, it doesn't hurt to start picking the winners early.

In one corner we have the great white hype, the only former member of N'sync about which not a whole lot more needs to be said. He's got all of the surface, all of the sheen, the correct holes to be filled and plugged by his producers and songwriters, and such fine stubble that most of his fans probably don't even know it's there. The wannabe, the groveling disciple behind the curtain, the friend of Ashton Kutcher.

Fuck people have been talking about that for years, ever since they realized how good at dancing he was. The parallels are obvious, but are Asian kids, are African kids, gonna idolize him? No, he's from the South, he's too obviously trying to transcend his race, and he's too stupid, something Michael never was, even if he was so totally engrossed in his own personal childhood that he seemed dangerously close to going over the edge. Bottom line is he wants it too much, and the record companies want it too much for him.

Rob Kelly is an entirely different story, and he's the one I'd pick to win. Ignoring, of course, his age, which at this point pretty much disqualifies him unless his next album totally turns the world on its ear and bankrupts the industry with promotional dollars. I mean, he can't dance, he probably won't ever win the hearts of little kids with the whole water drop aesthetic, but he's the authentic real deal out of the midwest, he's got the blend of street cred and upper class befuddled awe, and he's amazing.

Ok fine, he's not the next Michael Jackson, and to say so is close to ridiculous. But god damn the man is star like you don't believe! In a world where personality is all that matters, the guy gets rainbow gold cup every time on 150 cc. A savant is never gonna grab the masses like someone such as Timberlake will, but he's already changed how people listen to "R&B" music. We have the Are to blame for Akon, but let's not hold that against him. Personally, I say we give R. Kelly the crown right now and let the R make it rain over us measly peons. Let's let the R do that for us. (mmmmm!)

Labels: , ,

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Hot 97. Last Bastion of Love -or- Get That Paper

O! Very fond memories have I of driving around suburban, and sometimes urban, Detroit with my friends in, usually, a black Pontiac Trans-Am, listening to music of various styles and qualities. 101.9 FM WDET, the NPR affiliate in Detroit, had a show on Saturday nights which we would often listen to because, obviously, that was where the scene was on Saturday nights. The DJ in charge of this show played contemporary Carribean music ranging from dancehall, to the strange soca tunes of bands like Burning Flames, to stuff that, looking back on it, was probably just really weird dub.

We had our minds blown. Nothing in our lives had prepared us for this music, which we referred to as techno reggae.

What we were after at the time, more than anything else, was disorientation. Of course, we weren't really agressive about seeking it out - LSD was out of the question and it was too much work to try and get into dance clubs which, in Detroit, all carded. So we started to listen to hip hop, noisy rock and electronic music. But, as weird as Aphex Twin can be, and as foreign as the likes of "B.O.B." can be for white suburban kids (or it least it could back then - suburban white kids right now probably identify with hip hop more than they do with the Barenaked Ladies: scary) techno reggae was the real outer space music. And thus we ate it up.

Later, I of course turned to other disorienting musics, but gradually began to lose the sense of wonder that had so transfixed me when listening to DET. Enter Hot 97. "Oh," you say. "Just another hip hop station." Well maybe I'm out of touch, but what I've been hearing, granted, only periodically, on this station has confused me in particular ways, has tickled parts of my aesthetic conciousness rarely touched since the days of techno reggae.

My impression from listening to Hot 97 has been that when a DJ is really spinning, really in the zone, when a show is hitting it's hardest, there are multiple people talking, there are sound effects, there is often a beat or a hook, looped beyond recognition, which is cut out of and into at random, there are sampled quotes from various sources, shout-outs, and this constitutes the radio experience. The idea of the song is destroyed and replaced with sonic thing. No song, no commercials, no moments at which the DJ is holding court. Options, for the DJ, become myriad, and decisions become confused and confusing.

Obviously the nature of disorientation is slightly different from that which I felt when listening to techno reggae. This disorientation stems from a lack of context not for the music itself, which is easily recognizable as a hip hop beat - at worst, pedestrian - but from a lack of context for the entire enterprise. The goal, it seems is the party. But even in this context, why the explosions, gun shots, substandard hooks that loop for 10 mins +?

It's hard to be shocked by music anymore, but, I guess what I'm trying to say is, Hot 97 has reminded me that there are ways that music can be listened to that are still very much not anything my mind has previously had anything to do with. More than anything I've heard in a long time, this can sound like noise. And that's a challenge I gladly accept.

Labels: , ,