Friday, October 02, 2015

Happy Anniversary, Leo McCarey!

Happy Anniversary, Leo McCarey! Born Thomas Leo McCarey (3 October 1896, Los Angeles, USA - 5 July 1969, Santa Monica), he was one of the most influential screwball film directors, involved in nearly 200 movies, the most well known today being Duck Soup, Make Way for Tomorrow, The Awful Truth, Going My Way and An Affair To Remember. French director Jean Renoir once said that no other Hollywood director understood people better than Leo McCarey. He is among an elite group of eight directors who have won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay (Orig/Adapted). The others are Billy Wilder, Francis Ford Coppola, James L. Brooks, Peter Jackson, Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, and Alejandro González Iñárritu.

McCarey directed 6 different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Ralph Bellamy, Irene Dunne, Maria Ouspenskaya , Bing Crosby, Barry Fitzgerald and Ingrid Bergman. Crosby and Fitzgerald won for their performances in "Going My Way" (1944). Orson Welles said of the film "Make Way for Tomorrow" (1937) that "It would make a stone cry", and rhapsodized about his enthusiasm for the film in his series of interviews with Peter Bogdanovich, "This Is Orson Welles". In Newsweek Magazine, Errol Morris named "Make Way for Tomorrow" (1937) his number one most important film, stating "The most depressing movie ever made, providing reassurance that everything will definitely end badly."

Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers cope with love, laughter, and war-themed Nazi intrigue in this comedy/mystery directed with panache by Leo McCarey, Once Upon a Honeymoon. An American burlesque girl intent on social climbing unknowingly marries a Nazi in the guise of an Austrian Baron. When an American radio reporter tracks the couple down to investigate, she inadvertently falls in love with the reporter instead.

Ginger Rogers demonstrates satin double-breasted jumpsuit (Once Upon a Honeymoon, 1942)

Like all McCarey heroes, Lucy believes, as in the song from Love Affair, that “wishing can make it so,” which goes to the heartbeat of Western civilization. Insistently, she makes the best of the hand she is dealt. In contrast to the usherette in the theater earlier, who complained that the guy in the film playing there was a “rat,” Lucy admires the way “the girl believed . . . no matter how black things looked.” Indeed, when Lucy admonishes Rhoda—“When you're seventy . . . about the only fun you have left is pretending that there ain't any facts to face"—we pity her, but what we take for weakness turns out to be strength. In attending to Bark, Lucy makes their last hours joyful and full when they could have been unrelieved agony. Source:

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Noir & the American Dream's Dark Side, Mr. Robot Season 2 Heads-Up

In the 1950 film noirs, all the women who had been strong powerful individuals before the war, or during the war, like Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, and Barbara Stanwyck, were now suddenly playing victims - females terrified by a mere phone call. The message being: stay in line, or you might be brought in for questioning. At worst, you could be investigated and interrogated on television for un-American activities, or at best, judged by your neighbor.

The fictional noir characters on screen weren't participating in this societal model in any way, shape or form. Whether they were the criminals, or the private dicks chasing them, or the showgirls, or the molls, or the mysterious widows, they were all refusing to play house. Many people who should have only chased criminals and chorines might have been happy with only that. Some should have only hung at the racetrack and had dinner with friends. Or others should have spent time mostly talking on the telephone, dancing, and doing their nails.

The pressure was so great to live in a perfect 1950s television family that, by 1958, Americans finally believed they had the dream overall in the nation and film noir became far less popular as a form of relief from conformity. That was until 1963 when Kennedy was assassinated, which showed there was a very healthy dose of the darkness still out there after all. The shock of Kennedy's death blew the fantasy of how family life will protect you, and the nation, all to hell.

Film noir characters are primarily emotion driven. Auteur Stanley Kubrick said only two emotions drive them: desire and threat. I would add adrenaline. Noir characters get bored easily. Adrenaline is a physical addiction and not necessarily a desire. But as long as those in the burbs question their static lifestyles, and they wonder internally if the sacrifices they make for that peace are worth it, or worse, suspect they have given up their coolness for stability, there will always be noirs to serve the explorations of their own natures. Source:

Film Noir and the American Dream — The Dark Side of Enlightenment: A.M. Karimi has suggested that noir protagonists “are the negation of the American Dream.” These toughened protagonists, adrift in a world they do not fully understand, remain constrained by their circumstances and “dark” pasts even as they seek the transcendent status promised by the American Dream. Yet by the Archimedean logic of enlightenment, toughness is also a self-defeating strategy, blocking one from further enlightenment in a cycle that may be conceptualized as “the eternal return of the same,” where toughness must be constantly performed, a self-imposed boundary only transcended at the price of a loss of identity status — the noir protagonist is frequently a traveler on the byway of urban technological culture.

And unlike, for example, screwball comedies such as The Lady Eve (Sturges, 1941) or Ball of Fire (Hawks, 1941), where movement up the social ladder equates to personal success, if a noir character moves from low to high cultural status, he or she often remains unchanged, discovering that life at the top is as rotten as it is at the bottom. In a world where life at the top is no better than below, and where upward mobility offers little chance of cosmopolitan enlightenment, the progress myth appears dethroned. As discussed by Leo Marx (in The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America), Jefferson linked the purifying qualities of the American natural landscape to the “naturally” superior character of American citizenship.

Nevertheless, films such as Detour, Gun Crazy and The Killing still convey something of the polyvalent contexts within which character and environment intersect, anticipating Michel de Certeau’s observation that “each individual is a locus in which an incoherent and often contradictory plurality of relational determinations interact.”

Several noirs also imply that “natural” beauty is a power flowing from good luck — hence the “beautiful” Lauras, Johnnys and Gildas escape the body bag. It follows that, within the misogynist logic of The Big Heat, the errant Debbie Marsh, also denoted as beautiful, must be disfigured so that she then can be killed.

The post-war period witnesses the emergence of an economic model connecting identity with consumption. The act of consumption increasingly is linked to the production of one’s individual identity as a shiny commodity without a past. The past, whether tainted by fated indiscretion or polished by nostalgia, occupies a less and less central role in the new consumer economy than in an earlier pre-war economy predicated on an understanding of personal identity as productive, responsible, and continuous in time.

An identity too firmly linked to a past becomes superfluous, and films such as Double Indemnity, Laura, and Sorry, Wrong Number, with their fatalistic emphasis on past mistakes coupled to a fascination with the complexities of characters’ motivation, are on the pivot point marking this shift. These characters “strike a pose.” Yet the resulting performances are less about the existential ideal that “what I am is for me to decide” than they are commodity-identities revealing that the absurd price of toughness is loss of intimacy.

If noir toughness depicts a Hollywood recognition of an individual’s relative powerlessness, they frequently are depicted as seeing themselves as rotten or losers or both. The protagonists are often out of step with the values of postwar mass culture, and at their best a number of these films question the socio-political contexts within which individual political realization is unequally organized. This remains a critical intervention largely absent in current Hollywood film. —"Multicultural Film: Essays" (2006) by Ken Hillis

Mr. Robot stars Rami Malek, Christian Slater and Portia Doubleday will be appearing at the 2015 New York Comic Con in a press panel on 9 October 2015. Maybe the fans will get more clarity on the season 2 storyline, maybe the network will release a teaser?

Sam Esmail shed some light on what fans can expect from Mr Robot in season 2: "I wanted the story of Mr. Robot to be Elliot actually accomplishing his goal, setting the world into chaos. What would happen to society if something like this occurred where, basically, if the consumer debt industry were to be erased? To me, that canvas was something I was interested in exploring so, for me, that's what that last scene sets up. We're about to watch Rome burn. That's the world Elliot's going to enter next season," he said. Source:

"Angela's character arc is really fascinating because she's the path of the American dream. She is the sort of person that has the mentality of, if you work hard enough, you'll get the big job offers, you'll get the big job promotions, and you'll work your way up the ladder. If you want to affect change, you do it within the system because the system allows for that, allows the younger generation to come in and influence society, and the point is to have a bottom-up strategy of having change come from the younger generation. That, to me, is a very interesting parallel to have running through the series in contrast with Elliot, who's very much trying to affect change from outside the system." Source:

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Noir and Technology: Fight Club, Mr. Robot, Metaphor of Sadness

“Noir is almost always about paranoia, eavesdropping, being spied on, loners and how do you catch them,” film noir expert, Dr. Foster Hirsch of Brooklyn College, tells The Creators Project. “What changes is, of course, state of the art. Technology is so different now than it was in the immediate post-war period. We’re more sophisticated. And I think what that does is it creates a greater sense of solitude and privacy and that is a breeding ground for pathological noir characters.”

The ubiquity of cell phone cameras and the nonchalance of modern day surveillance allow us to live out the narrative that classical noirs of the 40s and 50s foreshadowed. Today we’re living in the most epic of noir films, where modern technologies allow every person to record and be recorded, where surveillance is an afterthought, and no one seems to mind. Classic noirs from the Red Scare illustrate this permeable sense of unease. But now, according to Dr. Hirsch, “Everyone is under surveillance and you don’t suspect the communists as in the past, it can be anyone. [There is] no privacy. People are afraid of identity theft, computers are vulnerable.” Therefore everyone is vulnerable. When Ebert wrote that article 20 years ago, only 9% of Americans used computers daily, today only 15% don’t.

“Technology and noir have a long history together,” Hirsch continues. “Technology changes, but it doesn’t change the narrative patterns of the noir genre.” In fact, it heightens them. We’ve known for years now that technology has the potential to isolate, and that isolation breeds all those nasty inner demons that are generally checked by adequate and healthy socialization in childhood and adolescence. But did we ever consider that we are the personified products of a neo-noir lifestyle? John Donne’s famous poem, "No Man is an Island," now seems eerily prescient and a creed to revisit.

According to Ebert, “Noir thrives on pessimism and fear—and on guilt, the feeling that we have ourselves to blame for our troubles.” The 21st century existence is one shaped by Snowden, Salgado, and widespread personal surveillance. One that feels inherently frenetic, highlighted by loss (of nature, privacy) and one that, were Ebert to have reassessed the noir genre before his death in 2013, plays perfectly into his hand. Source:

In Fight Club (1999), you have Edward Norton’s Narrator; in Mr. Robot, you have Rami Malek’s Elliot. They’re not so different: both want a different world, one free of the tyranny of giant corporations, but neither are sure how to go about changing it. They each live largely solitary existences, have damaged love interests, and keep charismatic revolutionaries as mentor-companions. They also share one other key trait: undiagnosed schizophrenia.

Mr. Robot took the template for Fight Club and did it better. Flagrant misogyny isn’t the only issue of Fight Club’s that Mr. Robot corrects in its version of the story. Where Mr. Robot has affection for its characters, Fight Club has little to none. Where Mr. Robot attempts to give the audience some understanding of social anxiety and mental illness, Fight Club uses it as a narrative device and—after the reveal—mines the Narrator’s schizophrenia for comedy.

I’ll go further and argue that Mr. Robot’s phenomenal Rami Malek makes for a more interesting lead than Fight Club’s Edward Norton, an actor likened to Robert De Niro despite never giving a performance to warrant such a comparison; that Mr. Robot makes violence appear abhorrent, whereas Fight Club appears to relish in it. Fight Club is a solipsistic, middle-aged male fantasy, where Mr. Robot is a more welcoming, earnest plea with the world to wake up and save itself. Mr. Robot’s premiere season in isolation remains Fight Club’s better, a more compassionate, genuine, open call-to-arms. It’s Fight Club 2.0, a 2015 upgrade for a new generation; it’s David Fincher’s alleged classic taken, improved upon, and perfected. Source:

Mr Robot has much that is stunning. Cinematographer Tod Campbell composes his shots with rigorous beauty, conveying Elliot’s isolation and paranoia with expanses of negative space washed in limpid blues and greys, pushing Malek’s body to one side like an afterthought. His other favourite shot is a close-up on Malek’s wonderfully expressive face. The Trent Reznor-ish musical score and the sound design that pushes Elliot’s rambling inner monologue to the fore are both superb. Best of all is Malek’s twitchy, intensely sympathetic performance as a damaged genius trying and failing to connect. Source:

Imagine a fast-moving computer game set in the black-and-white environment of a 1940s detective movie and you'll begin to get some idea of the mixed metaphors that fill the air in K.W. Jeter's difficult but ultimately rewarding futuristic thriller. Jeter, who also writes a series of novels based on the popular Blade Runner film about apocalyptic Los Angeles, centers Noir in that same city, now a dark jewel of the dominant Pacific Rim. A detective named McNihil has had his eyes surgically altered so that everything looks like an early Bogart movie to him. "Gray newspapers with significant headlines--'Dewey Defeats Truman,' 'Pearl Harbor Bombed'--moldered in the gutters, or were nudged along the broken sidewalks by the same night wind that cut through McNihil's jacket," Jeter writes about the scene of a plane crash where the detective has been summoned by a corporate villain. Aided by a young woman called November, whose fingertips are alive with lethal magnetic currents, McNihil brings his--and Jeter's--unique noir vision to bear on a world that for all its weirdness is the ultimately believable extension of our present-day nightmares. Dick Adler Source:

The living woman’s name was November. Not the name her mother had given her, but the one she’d given herself and that her friends, when she’d still had a pack to run with, had endorsed as fitting. Snow touched her brow, whiter than the yellow-tinged bone beneath the dead woman’s parchment skin. Ice walked through the ventricles of her heart and down her pale arms, not as an indication of cruelty —for she wasn’t cruel, even when her living came at the price of others’ breath —but as the metaphor of sadness. When she had nothing better to do — when she was far enough ahead in her accounts that she didn’t have to worry about her own death, at least for a little while— she could ride down to the bottom of the Gloss, to the Pacific Rim’s southern crossing, where the trains worked their way across ice floes and polar fields, past the great sliding glaciers and over the storm-lashed seas. November felt sorry for the man —his name was McNihil— in her usual, nonempathic way. An intellectual process, like watching one ice floe grind implacably against another, the white fields cracking and splintering as though alive but not sentient. To be fatal and noncaring at the same time; it just worked that way. The ice surged and hammered against itself. —"Noir" (1999) by K.W. Jeter

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Schizophrenic Process: World War II, Mr. Robot, The Heart Goes Last, Tillflyktens Hus

Rami Malek with his "Mr. Robot" co-star Portia Doubleday at PEOPLE's 'Ones To Watch' Event on September 16, 2015 in West Hollywood

Portia Doubleday as the Surrogate Date Isabella in Her (2013) directed by Spike Jonze

Their first night in Consilience, Stan watches uneasily as Charmaine goes into raptures over the dishwasher, “cooing over as if it’s a kitten”. But he adjusts quickly, rock music forgotten as Doris Day sings “Paper Doll” over the headphones. When The Heart Goes Last opens, Stan, is reeling. Nevertheless, he keeps his wits as life in Consilience goes haywire, largely by recalling his love for Charmaine. Despite her desperate longing for safety and stability, for immaculate sheets and scented fabric softener, she falls into a crazed affair with the alternate Max. The novel’s characters are drawn in shades of gray; only Ed is a wholly nasty piece of work, his income strategies nastier. He’s got a lucrative line in Possibilibots, high-end, custom made robotic sex dolls. Charmaine may love Stan, but like so many Atwood heroines before her, survival predominates. True love ultimately endures in The Heart Goes Last, but so do the real terrors present in Atwood novels, all too often manifesting in ours. Source:

Rami Malek as Merriell 'Snafu' Shelton in The Pacific (2010). If Band of Brothers’ soldiers were fighting the last kind of war (World War II), in many ways The Pacific’s are going to fight the next one. They land on their first beach in a flotilla of armored ships, and we, like them, are dreading the kind of D-Day firefight we saw in Band of Brothers, and before that in Saving Private Ryan. Instead of tank columns and shelled European cities, they find oppressive heat, disease and an enemy using guerilla tactics, suicide missions and sometimes civilians. There are poisoned wells and bugs in the rice (“Think of it as meat”). It’s part Vietnam, part Iraq, part horror movie. Source:

Regarding the incidence of new cases of schizophrenia, no published studies were apparently carried out in Germany prior to World War II. The first postwar study was done in Mannheim in 1965, 20 years after the last patients had been sterilized or killed. Heinz Häfner and Helga Reimann at the University of Heidelberg identified all new cases of schizophrenia reported during the year among the city's 330 000 inhabitants. They reported an incidence rate of 53.6 per 100 000, which the authors noted was “more than twice as high as the mean of 21.8 per 100 000 calculated in 1965 by Dunham from different studies and two to three times as high as the rates of 23.8 or 15.8 respectively, … for the U.S.A. and England and Wales in 1969.” The German rate, they added, was comparable to the “rate of 52 per 100 000 given by Walsh for Dublin in 1969.” The sterilization and murder of hundreds of thousands of patients with schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders in Nazi Germany between 1934 and 1945 was the greatest criminal act in the history of psychiatry, based upon a mistaken belief that schizophrenia was a simple Mendelian inherited disease. Current research suggests that the cause of schizophrenia involves dozens, and perhaps hundreds, of genes and includes common variants such as single nucleotide polymorphisms. The cause of the high schizophrenia incidence rates in postwar Germany is thus not apparent and is an appropriate subject for additional research. Source:

Elliot is one of the more complex characters to grace primetime during this golden age. He views himself as a kind of vigilante superhero, yet his actions – regardless of their intent – often cause extreme distress for others. He wants to be in control, yet he is addicted to morphine and Suboxone. And he suffers from various mental illnesses, rendering him unreliable to both the audience and himself.

-Popular Science: There have been studies that link people will mental illnesses to alcohol or drug abuse. Were you cognizant of this when you were creating Elliot?

-Sam Esmail: Yes, absolutely. Mental illness is such a sensitive topic in general, but they tend to try and manage their emotional distress through either self medication, closing people off, or creating a persona to sort of hide it. I found, because I actually suffered from social anxiety as well as compulsive disorder, that the biggest thing is hiding it. I did have friends who have suffered from schizophrenia and mild dissociative identity disorder, as well as more extreme cases of social anxiety disorder. Source:


As early as in her debut children’s book, De vita björnarna, (1969; The White Bears), Åsa Nelvin (1951–1981) depicts the conflict between the self and the world that will underpin her entire body of works. ‘N’ wants to be a third thing, neither man nor woman, but a ‘She/I’ or “the princess without blood or weakness” who meets the world as a new person. This gender-transgressing person can only gain new content if we imagine something that does not exist yet. To get there, ‘N’ must undergo a painful transformation, during which her personality traits and gender characteristics are shed and destroyed.

The road to the loss of identity in Tillflyktens Hus is a passage through hell, and in the blurb, the author calls it a schizophrenic process. When ‘N’ has hatefully settled with the traditional female roles, there remains a step into the darkest corners of the self. ‘N’ escapes to a boarded-up house that takes on several meanings: the house is the self, it is the body, and it can also be a hospital for the mentally ill. By the end of the book, ‘N’ decides to survive. What may be happening is an opening towards something unknown, which might be the utopian potential of a dissolved identity: the third gender, or the new human. The motto of the book is Simone de Beauvoir’s “Real sexual maturity only comes to the woman who accepts being flesh for better for worse.” But the novel transcends the motto, and must be read ironically. Source:

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Happy Anniversary, Lauren Bacall! Bogart's Baby

Happy Anniversary, Lauren Bacall!

“There is no way Bogie and I could be in the same room without reaching for one another and it just wasn’t physical. Physical was very strong but it was everything — heads, hearts, bodies, everything going at the same time,” Bacall wrote. The secret of their happiness is something that they shared both on screen and off: “Chemistry — you can’t beat chemistry,” Bacall told People in 2007. Even their kid agreed! “Everyone could see their love right there on celluloid,” Stephen Bogart wrote of his parents’ scenes in To Have and Have Not. “He was the great love of her life, and she his.”

In her memoir, Bacall candidly recounted what went down when “Bogie had to see his Baby… what it felt like to be so wanted, so adored! No one had ever felt like that about me,” she wrote. “It was all so dramatic, too. Always in the wee small hours when it seemed to Bogie and me that the world was ours — that we were the world. At those times we were.”

And it perhaps went deeper than that for this actress with admitted daddy issues: “Bogie was kind of my father. He showed me the way,” Bacall told Vanity Fair in 2011. “I knew everybody because I was married to Bogie, and that 25-year difference was the most fantastic thing for me to have in my life,” she added.

The pair’s fame transcended mere movie stardom; in their own way, they also came to represent changing post-war gender roles. According to A.M. Sperber and Eric Lax’s 1997 biography of the actor, “Bogart was, by the early 1940s, one of the top movie stars in the world and also a timely symbol of post–Pearl Harbor America: Tough but compassionate, skeptical yet idealistic, betrayed yet ready to believe again…”

Bacall, meanwhile, embodied the strong, independent modern American woman — one audiences had rarely witnessed on the silver screen. Her essence is summed up in Joseph McBride’s book, Hawks on Hawks, in which the legendary director Howard Hawks wonders aloud: “Do you suppose we could make a girl who is insolent, as insolent as Bogart, who insults people, who grins when she does it, and people like it?” The answer proved to be a resounding yes, with success at the box office and public adoration alike.

And so Hawks instructed the Bronx teenager — born Betty Joan Perske — “to sass men,” according to The New Yorker’s Richard Brody. “Bacall, at 19, was already fast and knowing. When her character calls out Bogart’s lines a step ahead of him, it doesn’t seem scripted,” noted Brody.

“The only cause my husband Humphrey Bogart ever gave me to be jealous was not of a woman but of a boat — a racing yacht called the Santana,” joked Bacall in her memoir. Their jet-setting romance — and Bogart’s Oscar-winning career — took them all over the world: Palm Springs, where they crashed at Frank Sinatra’s house, Venice, Rome, even the Congo, where Bogie filmed The African Queen. “The movie won him an Academy Award, and that night we were so happy,” Bacall recalled. “Bogie had his yacht, me, success, our son... and now our second child was on the way.”

None other than John Huston read the eulogy at Bogart’s funeral. “Bogie was lucky at love and he was lucky at dice,” said the veteran director. “He got all that he asked for from life, and more. We have no reason to feel any sorrow for him — only for ourselves, for having lost him.”

But ultimately, Bacall maintained an attitude of gratitude until the end. “He taught me his philosophy of life,” she wrote. “He taught me the rules of the Hollywood game. He taught me the usage and abusage of actors, called stars by the press, which couldn’t have cared less what happened to any of us…. We were expendable — he taught me that, too. He taught me about standards and the price one must pay to keep those standards high.”

Bacall said she was partly inspired to write her memoirs because she hoped Bogart would be remembered as a man with “so many, many layers that, as well as I knew him, I’m sure I never uncovered them all.” Even now, a year after Bacall’s death at age 89, more than a half-century after Bogart’s, we have only begun to grasp the complexity of her own inimitable and unforgettable character, not to mention her legendary love story. Source:

Bogart once wrote, “Each of my wives has been an actress. Betty’s a good one as well as a good-looking one. I guess it would be plain hell to marry a bad actress. I never could have stood that. Of course, when an actor marries an actress, their differences usually develop into something more intense than they started out to be. You find you are playing a dramatic scene. And some of the arguments I’ve had in my time in married life have gone on long after either of us remembered what the tiff was about. I guess we were each thoroughly enjoying a leading role.”

The relationship progressed in platonic fashion until one day about three weeks into the shooting of To Have and Have Not, Bogie came by Bacall’s dressing room to say goodnight. “He was standing behind me,” Bacall said. “We were joking, the way we always did. Then suddenly he leaned over and he placed his hand under my chin. He lifted my face toward his and he kissed me. It was very romantic, very sweet really, and [Bogie was] quite shy about the whole thing. Then he took an old matchbook out of his pocket and asked me to write my phone number on it.”

In 1953 Bogart did an interview for the London Daily Mirror and he talked about “four real hot babes that stand way out in my twenty-five years of movie making.” The four were Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, and, of course, Lauren Bacall: "Lauren Bacall, well sure, she’s Mrs. Bogart. But she doesn’t figure in my favorite foursome just because of that. She’s a big beautiful baby who’s going to make a big name for herself in the business. She’s bright, brainy and popular with women as well as men. Look at that face of hers. There you’ve got the map of Middle Europe slung across those high cheekbones and wide green eyes. As an actress she hasn’t got a lot of experience. It’s going to take a long time to get it. But Baby is going to get there. As a woman she holds all the cards. She’s beautiful, a good mother, a good wife, and knows how to run a home. She’s a honey blonde and in her high heels she comes up to the top wrinkle in my forehead. She’s got a model’s figure, square shoulders, and a kid’s waist. Met her in the film To Have and Have Not then afterward we made The Big Sleep. After that film I said, ‘That’s my baby,’ and I’ve called her Baby ever since.”

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Postmodern dystopian bleakness: "Mr Robot" and "High-Rise" (Technology as Ultimate Destroyer)

Almost all the scenes are dark — certainly all the scenes in Elliot’s apartment are — and feel gloomy in that familiar way. The brightest sources of light we can see are computer screens and Malek’s eyes, usually reflected in some kind of screen. It’s that same eerie, sleep-wrecking glow you get from checking your phone or laptop in bed. The most horrifying stuff isn’t what we can see. It almost doesn’t matter who is knocking on Elliot’s door at the end of the episode. The real violence in Mr. Robot isn’t what happens to other people, outside, on-screen. The real violence is internal, personal. It’s hallucinations clashing with reality; competing moralities waging war within. It’s not what’s out there. It’s all in your head. Source:

In an interview with Variety, Christian Slater reveals, "After reading episode 9, contemplating my future and wondering what was going to become of Mr. Robot and what his future would be, I felt those feelings of fear and panic - and I realized there was one person I could call to get these answers. And that's Sam Esmail. I asked him what the future of Mr. Robot is. And he shared that Mr. Robot is to Elliot what the Hulk is to Bruce Banner. So whenever Elliot is feeling backed into a corner, overwhelmed, scared, unable to take certain actions, Mr. Robot will step in and pull the trigger."

Slater adds if Mr. Robot knows where Tyrell Wellick (Martin Wallström) is , "I know that Mr. Robot knows and he's going to keep it locked in a vault until he feels Elliot is capable and ready to handle what that answer is." Source:

It's based on a cult favorite dystopian novel, directed by a daring indie director, and features one of cinema's most exciting new stars. So it's not surprising that "High-Rise" has become one of the most anticipated titles of this year's Toronto International Film Festival.

"Ballard used to say he wasn't writing about who we are, but about who we might become... his books are like a roadside warning on a highway, as if to say: 'Caution: bends ahead.'" -Tom Hiddleston

Hiddleston plays Dr. Robert Laing, who is looking for anonymity among the thousands of residents in a 40-story apartment complex. Instead, he finds chaos, madness and violence escalating all around him as the building descends into tribal factions. With a cast that also includes Jeremy Irons, Luke Evans, Sienna Miller and Elisabeth Moss, the film is a disturbing microcosmic allegory that examines the perils of both joining in and shutting oneself off, a savage attack on consumerism, complacency and lifestyle obsession.

Few authors are so distinctive as to become a word all their own, and yet the term "Ballardian" has come to officially define a postmodern dystopian bleakness. After the long wait, Thomas said, "I think J.G. Ballard would be delighted with this adaptation." Source:

Technology as the Ultimate Destroyer - Amazon Review of "High-Rise" by Jeffrey Leach: "J.G. Ballard's 1975 novel High-Rise contains all of the qualities we have come to expect from this author: alarming psychological insights, a study of the profoundly disturbing connections between technology and the human condition, and an intriguing plot masterfully executed. Ballard, who wrote the tremendously troubling Crash, really knows how to dig deep into our troubling times in order to expose our tentative grasp of modernity. What starts out as a book about living in a technological marvel quickly morphs into a study of how technology can cause human beings to regress back into primitivism. Ballard shows in detail how the residents of the apartments sink back into the morass, passing through a classical Marxist structure of bourgeoisie-proletariat, moving on to a clan/tribal system, to a system of stark individuality. In short, Ballard tries to equate our striving towards individuality through technology with how we started out in our evolution as hunter-gatherers, as individuals seeking individual gains. The promise that technology will liberate the individual is not the highest form of evolution, argues Ballard, but is actually a return to the lowest forms of human expression." Source: