Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Mr Robot, Fight Club, Donnie Darko, Lou Reed & Nico, Portia Doubleday: Confussion & Beauty

Happy 46th birthday, Christian Slater!

Happy 46th birthday, Edward Norton!

Mr. Robot Is Fight Club’s Spiritual Successor: Just as Rebel Without A Cause couldn’t have predicted Taxi Driver’s post-Vietnam disillusionment, and Taxi Driver in turn couldn’t have foreseen the ad-led consumerism that Palahniuk savaged in his debut novel, Fight Club had little notion that the world was just years away from a tech revolution that would endow corporations and governments with levels of intrusive power that make its diatribes against IKEA seem quaint by comparison. Front and centre is the series’ voiceover by lead Elliot (Rami Malek), which captures the same sense of paranoia and sardonicism as Edward Norton’s fast-talking Fight Club narration. Source:

Rami Malek as Elliot Alderson and Christian Slater as Mr. Robot in "Mr. Robot" (2015)

With his raised black hoodie, vacant good looks, withdrawn demeanour and counselling sessions, Mr Robot’s lead Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) even channels the hero of another turn-of-the-last-century cult favourite: Donnie Darko. Moving even further down the timeline, casting Christian Slater as a co-lead almost certainly knowingly takes the influences back to 1990’s Pump Up The Volume and 1988’s Heathers, and Slater’s anarchic, criminal mischief-makers characters, Hard Harry and J.D. Source:

Donnie stands out as an anomaly. His parents pay for him to see an expensive psychotherapist, Dr Thurman (Katharine Ross), who prescribes him various pills with exotic-sounding names, but still Donnie doesn't quite fit in. From beginning to end, Donnie Darko straddles the line between the dreamlike and everyday, between the glossy, rose-tinted memory of what the 80s were like and the sharper-edged reality. Donnie's school is introduced in a delirious sweep of the camera and slow-motion shots cut to Head Over Heels by Tears For Fears.

Indeed, the sci-fi fable Kelly weaves around the central character could easily be read as a symbol of Donnie's troubled perception of the world around him. Frank could represent the area of Donnie's psyche that both disturbs and fascinates - a small but naggingly persistent part of an otherwise intelligent and likeable young man. Kelly isn't afraid to tell a story that goes against the grain of Robert McKee-type storytelling. He's since cited Terry Gilliam and David Lynch as being among his favourite directors, and there's more than a hint of their surrealist attitude in Donnie Darko. To regard Donnie Darko as a puzzle to be solved is to miss the powerful humanity in its drama. Source:

After discovering that Slater’s character is actually his father, Elliot (Rami Malek) will confront him about not revealing this to him earlier. The promo video of the next episode shows Elliot coming to terms with the fact that the leader of the hacker group FSociety is his father. Slater’s character, however, is more focused on Evil Corp and their plan. He asks Elliot to “stick to the plan” and ensure that the hacking of the company goes smoothly. The Chinese Hacker White Rose had revealed the flaws in FSociety’s plan and had set a deadline for the hackers to remove a “honeypot” from an Evil Corp server. Source:

Chuck Palahniuk (author of the "Fight Club" novel) explained: "Really, what I was writing was just The Great Gatsby updated a little. It was 'apostolic' fiction - where a surviving apostle tells the story of his hero. There are two men and a woman. And one man, the hero, is shot to death."

"I wanted to write the great American novel, but I also loved rock & roll," Reed told an interviewer in 1987. "I just wanted to cram everything into a record that these people had ignored... I wanted to write rock & roll that you could listen to as you got older, that wouldn't lose anything, that would be timeless, in the subject matter and the literacy of the lyrics."  A collegiate creative writing student who played covers in bar bands and briefly held a job writing pop song knockoffs in the Brill Building era, Reed drew inspiration both from literature (Sacher-Masoch's Venus in Furs, William Burroughs' Naked Lunch) and his own life — the fellow Warhol collaborators that informed quintessential Reed character studies like "Candy Says" and "Walk on the Wild Side." Besides writing about the psychology of polymorphous sexuality and drug users, he penned some of the most beautiful love songs in history ("Pale Blue Eyes," "I'll Be Your Mirror"). Reed was also a sound scientist who, with the Velvet Underground and after, advanced what was possible with simple chords and electric guitars. Source:

"No Money Down" is a song written by Lou Reed, released as a single in 1986 and originally featured on Mistrial. The 1986 music video (directed by Godley and Creme) is a simple animatronic version of Reed singing along to the music. During the final verse, gloved human hands violently tear away at rubber and plastic parts of the robot, revealing wires and parts.

“White Light/White Heat” (1968): The title track to the band’s brain-busting freakout of a second album, “White Light/White Heat” sets the template for the ensuing 40 minutes of guitar-driven panic that would change the face of rock and roll forever, even if it took rock and roll another decade or so to figure it out. A hugely catchy song overdriven by heavily distorted guitars and a pounding boogie piano, Reed sings about various states of severe mental confusion in a bemused monotone, adding yet another layer of cognitive dissonance to the entire affair. Source:

Lou Reed & Nico during the recording of The Velvet Underground's Banana Album (1966)

Portia Doubleday plays Angela Moss in "Mr. Robot" (2015)

Portia Doubleday (here in a photoshoot for Foam magazine) reminds me slightly of Nico and Amanda Seyfried.

Nico (born Christa Päffgen) in the 1960s.

Nico with Lou Reed in Los Angeles, 1967.

Portia Doubleday and Rami Malek in the pilot episode of "Mr. Robot"

"I don't have a sense of time. Time is timeless to me." Nico

"I've always had a more spatial mind, mathematical, than literal." Portia Doubleday

Nerdist: There is always going to be something great about vigilante justice and the hacking does just that, but what Angela’s doing, going after Evil Corp, is perhaps the more logical path.

Portia Doubleday: One of my favorite moments from the show is the scene between Angela and Terry Colby when he completely devalues her and she comes back with the response of, basically, “You can go through with not taking this deal but inevitably you won’t have what you want most, which is respect and power.” Because that’s what she can identify with—and inevitably that changes his mind. Those two characters are very analogous though, which is interesting because he’s monstrous. In the next scene when she talks about her mother’s death, though, he has a moment of reflection and is humanized—[which is] interesting because we’re humanizing evil.

Portia Doubleday: “I don’t want to know what happens,” but I can’t help but think about it. And your guess is as good as mine: I don’t know what’s going to come out of Sam’s head. I was just going to text Sam today and say, “I have a couple hypothesis and theories about what he’s going to do, but I have no idea. No idea. The show is so unpredictable but it always lands, and it’s not that far-fetched, which makes it even more tantalizing.”  Source:

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Rami Malek "Far Gone" video (Mr. Robot)

Rami Malek, wow'd us in HBO's The Pacific. We got the blue-eyed babe to reveal his top unexpected turn-ons. Posing Post-Shower: "I love when a woman comes out of the shower and wraps a towel around her hair in front of me. It's sexy and dramatic." Sparkling Debate: "I am looking for the type of person who will challenge me in conversation, who will defend her values." Laughing Your Butt Off: "If she is graceful and elegant in so many ways, it's a turn on if she has a quirk like a laugh that makes everyone stop in their tracks and wonder who she is." Sleeping Like A Baby: "You get to see this peaceful, unguarded side. There are no walls." Going For It: "The type of woman I want on my arm is spontaneous." Getting Sweaty: "After a run, when her clothes are sticking to her skin.... wow." -Cosmopolitan magazine, Interview to Rami Malek (June 2011)

The show with its off-kilter hero and anti-establishment monologues has drawn comparisons to Fight Club. There are still some people who wonder if Christian Slater’s Mr. Robot character is completely made up. Is that something you play with or have people grabbed the wrong end of the stick in terms of what kind of show this is?

I think it’s easy to question . . . you’re talking about a guy who, from the beginning of the series, explains that he’s creating an imaginary person in his head and everyone watching is a part of that. I think the more we get to know Elliot the more you’ll realize what exactly his reality is and I think he’ll also come to realize what his reality is. And as vague as that sounds, I think these questions are going to keep coming up well beyond this first season. I don't want people to think, What if the whole thing is just in his imagination? I know we do take some creative liberties but I promise that this is not all for naught.

I think that’s what’s so captivating about him is he’s very human. In his attempt to be superhuman you realize just how flawed he is and how relatable he is. Source:

Rami Malek "Far Gone" video. Soundtrack "One of these days" (One of these days Ain't it peculiar Gonna look for me And baby I'll be gone You gonna call my name And I'll be far gone) by The Velvet Underground, "The Joke Explained" (I never held your gaze I never know my place I stare at the eyes staring at my face It always ends in a tie There is no knitting the divide I cry at the joke explained Ah but if I had known I would have never believed It's a staring contest, In a hall of mirrors I sweat tears but I don't ever cry I cry at the joke explained) by Wilco and "The tale of the horny frog" (Because I love you, what kind of hell do I put myself through? He hopped on down the road There is no pain this way to the truth Pleasures so painful, it seems the joy is in the pursuit He hopped on down the road Knowing he finally found some truth) by The Flaming Lips.

Rami Malek attending SAG Foundation Actors Center's "Conversations" screening of "Mr. Robot" on August 11, 2015 in L.A.

Monday, August 10, 2015

‘Mr. Robot': Natural Born Hacker

Mr. Robot (the edgy TV show which has just been renewed for a second season by USA network) is the story of a computer genius, Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) who works in AllSafe, a cybersecurity firm that lends their services protecting big companies, among them E Corp (Elliot calls it Evil Corporation). Although his best childhood friend works as his supervisor (Angela, played by the beautiful Portia Doubleday), he feels remote towards most people and is incredibly insecure regarding human interaction. Surrounded by technical jargon as Gnome Dell, Tor network and rootkits, Elliot leads a double life as a vigilante hacker by night (i.e. exposing pedophile rings) and conspirator by association of the radical group FSociety.

A pivotal moment in his life is meeting the FSociety's mysterious boss, only identified by the logo Mr. Robot (Christian Slater), who progressively brings to light Elliot's painful memories about the shady circumstances of his father's death. Elliot materializes his drug-induced neurosis after his pilgrimage to Coney Island, where the FSociety's headquarters operate, turning his paranoia into something more threatening and politicized. He's highly suspicious of everybody's motivations and profoundly disenfranchised from the world, which he sees plagued with false heroes and social media anesthesia manifested in blind submission to corporations in return for ego satisfaction.

“Sometimes I dream about saving the world, saving everyone from the invisible hand,” Elliot fantasized during the pilot episode while mentally invoking a full-fledged debt-laden collapse in a near future, "but I can't stop it. I'm not that special. I'm just anonymous." Krista (Gloria Reuben) plays Elliot's loyal psychotherapist and when she asks why society disappoints him so much, his reply results in one of the most memorable monologues of this year:

"Is it that we collectively thought Steve Jobs was a great man, even when we knew he made billions off the backs of children? Or maybe it's that it feels like all our heroes are counterfeit. The world itself's just one big hoax. Spamming each other with our commentary bullshit masquerading as insight.  I'm not saying anything new, we all know why we do this. Not because Hunger Games books makes us happy, but because we want to be sedated. Because it's painful not to pretend, because we're cowards." In the episode 7, Elliot offers Krista another awkward revelation: "I don't just hack you, Krista, I hack everyone. My friends. Co-workers. But I've helped a lot of people. I want a way out of loneliness, just like you."

An uncertain cross between Edward Norton's The Narrator in Fight Club and a more cynical Donnie Darko, Elliot seems desperately lost in his search for cracking the establishment's encrypted code. Back to the Future II is his favorite flick, where Marty McFly time traveled from the 1980s to October 2015. The irony here being our real 2015 a lot more somber than the tech-friendly utopia Zemeckis's characters visited.

An ambiguous villain, E Corp's sociopathic Technology Officer Tyrell Wellick (played eerily by Martin Wallström), considers himself not so different of Elliot, since both are "perfectionists."

Mr. Robot's Season 1 is, according to its creator Sam Esmail, basically exposition: "It was just the setup for the real story which really begins next season, which would have been Act 2 of our film."

It's testimony to Rami Malek's talent —acclaimed previously for his role of Snafu in HBO's The Pacific— that he seems to be "old-school" concerning his computer skills, and despite his vision of Internet technology as "scary," he effortlessly sells Elliot's robotic enunciation and languid demeanour —opposite to his effusive charm— even in the most harrowing scenes. That tension between Malek's suggestive presence and Elliot's spaced-out look is undeniably the greatest asset of the show.

"From Elliot's perspective, everything is real," says Rami Malek. And the difference with Fight Club is that in Fincher's film things didn't feel so real for the viewer, since the lead character was meant to give voice to an everyman who made symbolic use of "I am Jack's..." as self-concept. Although several reviewers have noted the parallel function between Fight Club's Tyler Durden and Slater's enigmatic character named Mr. Robot, it's clear Durden represented an Übermensch figure, whereas Mr. Robot is more of a fatherly type. Actually, an unreliable narrator is not so rare in disturbed personality-themed films like Somewhere in the NightTaxi Driver, Blade Runner, Brazil, Total RecallDonnie Darko, Memento, Shutter IslandInception, etc.

In my view, it's not as important to reify Mr. Robot's alter ego as is to understand that its central plot is about an alienated geek who suffers from antisocial tendencies and a dissociative identity disorder.

In his head, Elliot Alderson has muted into a holy saviour and anticapitalist warrior, projecting his decadent victimism onto the virtual denizens, whilst obsessing over hacking and sex trysts. In Jean-Paul Sartre's L'Imaginaire (1940), we learn "the tragic character of obsession comes from the fact that the mind forces itself to reproduce the object it fears." Elliot has possibly PTSD added to his psychological malfunction, due to his traumatic family life, worsened by a mother who mistreated him. Having betrayed a promise he made to his dying father, the sense of guilt frequently torments him. To numb what is known in PTSD terminology as "the fear network" and the reactivation of the reminders of his trauma, he has been using morphine for a long time.

"If the last to know he’s an addict is the addict, then maybe the last to know when a man means what he says is the man himself," Philip K. Dick wrote in A Scanner Darkly: "Strange how paranoia can link up with reality now and then." When Elliot's core beliefs were disrupted in his infancy, his sense of safety, esteem, trust and intimacy entered a process of disintegration that continues latent underneath his hardened apathy. His transient derealization and hallucinations were more visible and their effects more toxic in the episode 4 Daemons.

Sliding by surreal dream vignettes throughout his withdrawal session, Elliot meets Angela who persuades him to confront his Demon: "Daemons. They don't stop working. They are always active. They seduce. They manipulate. They own us. And even though you're with me, even though I created you, it makes no difference."

The Western democracy appears weakened by internal crisis, the masses drowning in debt, so Elliot begins slowly to accept a revolution as inevitable. So far, the adrenaline rush provoked by FSociety's anarchist plans has proven too powerful to ignore. Elliot was a victim of an uncaring mother, but, unlike Fight Club's anti-feminist paranoia, in Mr. Robot, one of the most interesting and tenacious characters is Angela Moss, whose mother was another victim of E Corp. Portia Doubleday's portrait is captivating as Elliot's sentimental refuge and realistic heroine. "She cares about him deeply and loves him deeply," admits Doubleday.

Neuroscience pioneer Franz-Joseph Gall's motto was "Nothing but God and Brain," following Spinoza's theory of the spiritual mind being as real as the brain's circuitry, both "part of the intrinsic intellect of God." The dystopian landscape expands now into one of the last frontiers, our personal yet overexposed cyberspots, threatening to shut down our digital hubs by filtering a virus so malign that we never could guess if it comes from the controlling corporation or if it has been created by natural born hackers. Article first published as ‘Mr. Robot': Natural Born Hacker on Blogcritics.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Rami Malek "You don't need to be more than yourself" video

Rami Malek video: featuring stills and candids, soundtrack: "You don't need to be more than yourself" by Elliott Murphy.

"Mr. Robot" is centered on hacker Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek), whose morphine-monotone describes to us in somber detail why he spends much of his life stealing people’s information and planting bugs in their machines. He often seems like a hopeless character, but nonetheless one who wields a lot of power. While he legitimizes his illegal activity with his own somewhat tired moral compass – hacking a drug dealing rapist and having him arrested – it’s not enough compensation to provide him with any kind of emotional stability or even ephemeral happiness.

The perils of hacking, especially when it involves social justice, is one of the fundamental aspects of the show. Hacking is portrayed as being a very lonely, slightly demented, and never truly fulfilling vocation – the more he knows, the heavier the burden. In some respects Alderson is suffering for our sins. He’s a martyr in the age of computer technology. In one scene he admits, “I’m good at reading people; my secret, I look for the worst in them.” And he finds it, in ample measures. When he’s not involved in hacker vigilantism, he’s working at his desk, a job he doesn’t enjoy, as an engineer for a cyber-security firm called Allsafe.

One of Alderson’s inner monologues should resonate with anyone who’s read Palahniuk: "The world itself is just one big hoax. Spamming each other with our commentary bullshit masquerading as insight. Our social media faking us into intimacy, or is that we voted for this? Not with our rigged elections, but with our things, our property, our money. I’m not saying anything new, we all know why we do this. Not because Hunger games books makes us happy, but because we want to be sedated. Because it’s painful not to pretend, because we’re cowards. Fuck Society." Source:

Monday, August 03, 2015

Rami Malek in Mr. Robot (Sad & Beautiful video)

“What I do have? Clinical depression, social anxiety, a day job, a night job, confusing relationships, others depending on me, taking down the largest corporation in the world, and I chose it all,” Elliot says, speaking to the audience (or someone inside his head) in one of the character’s now-familiar voiceovers. In the fourth of 10 episodes this season, an audacious plan of Elliot’s puts members of the hacker collective F Society on a road trip to sabotage a data storage compound in upstate New York. A hallucinatory detox dream ensues, featuring images of a key, Elliot strapping on a mask, and recurring questions about who his “monster” is.

-A big question that we as viewers have is how much of this world is real, and how much is in Elliot’s head?

-The question gets asked in the dream: What is your monster? And that’s something I kept asking myself while working on Elliot. Once I started asking that question, everything in the dream made a little more sense to me. The show approaches these grand themes about the constructs of who we are as individuals and what we coalesce to be as a society. What we’re doing to either alleviate this stagnant, corrupt world we live in. The short answer is, working on this dream sequence allowed me to do some examination of who I am and what my monsters are, and that’s going to let people reflect in a way that’s not always offered by television. Source:

A video featuring photos and stills of Rami Malek, mostly in Mr. Robot, also some scenes from the pilot episode and the episode 6 "Brave Traveler." Soundtrack "The Joke Explained" by Wilco and "Sad & Beautiful World" by Sparklehorse.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Happy Anniversary, Myrna Loy!

Happy Anniversary, Myrna Loy!

Myrna Adele Williams (Myrna Loy) was born on August 2, 1905 in Radersburg, Montana, USA. She was labeled "Queen of Hollywood" and "The Perfect Wife" in the 1930s and 1940s. Myrna Loy became a big star during the Golden Age, being one of the most popular box-office stars. According to a list published in the TLA Video & DVD Guide of 2005, Myrna was the #1 female star of the 20th century in estimated movie tickets sales. The rest of the top ten actresses in ticket sales after Myrna Loy were: Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Barbara Stanwyck, Claudette Colbert, Judy Garland, Joan Crawford, Elizabeth Taylor, Ginger Rogers, and Katharine Hepburn.  Myrna Loy died on December 14, 1993 in New York City.

From the beginning, Myrna Loy’s screen image conjured mystery, a sense of something withheld. “Who is she?” was a question posed in the first fan magazine article published about her in 1925.

This first ever biography of the wry and sophisticated actress best known for her role as Nora Charles, wife to dapper detective William Powell in The Thin Man, offers an unprecedented picture of her life and an extraordinary movie career that spanned six decades. Opening with Loy’s rough-and-tumble upbringing in Montana, the book takes us to Los Angeles in the 1920s, where Loy’s striking looks caught the eye of Valentino, through the silent and early sound era to her films of the thirties, when Loy became a top box office draw, and to her robust post–World War II career. Throughout, Emily W. Leider illuminates the actress’s friendships with luminaries such as Cary Grant, Clark Gable, and Joan Crawford and her collaborations with the likes of John Barrymore, David O. Selznick, Sam Goldwyn, and William Wyler, among many others. This highly engaging biography offers a fascinating slice of studio era history and gives us the first full picture of a very private woman who has often been overlooked despite her tremendous star power. Source:

“Myrna Loy and William Powell are the ham and eggs, the peaches and cream, the salt and pepper of the movies,” an MGM scribe commented as their fourth of six Thin Man films was being released. “They go together naturally as night and day.” The screen marriage of this matched pair of lithe bodies and insouciant spirits outlasted any of Myrna’s offscreen couplings and for their fans has never lost its luster.

Powell and Loy made fourteen films together between 1934 (the year they first worked together, in Manhattan Melodrama, and also the year of The Thin Man) and 1947. Their connubial bliss seemed so perfect that fans found it hard to believe that in real life they were never married to one another. During their heyday Loy regularly received fan mail seeking marital advice because of the obvious happiness of her union with Powell. When the couple came to San Francisco to make After the Thin Man in the mid-1930s, the St. Francis Hotel management, unaware that Jean Harlow, also in San Francisco, was Powell’s main squeeze at the time, booked Loy and Powell into its honeymoon suite.

Nick and Nora show their affection via mutual ribbing.“Nicky, I love you because you know such lovely people,” says Nora as one thug after another joins their party. When Nora asks him if he goes for a particular type of girl, Nicks answers,“Only you, darling—lanky brunettes with wicked jaws.” Nick and Nora rarely speak a straight line, so much do they love verbal and physical pokes in the ribs. But in the privacy of their hotel bedroom they never seem to have sex; they just dodge bullets, converse, re-cover from hangovers, and now and then try to catch forty winks.

Loy’s talent for partnership allowed her to draw on one side of herself when she faced Powell, another side with Gable. She excelled at picking up and answering cues, falling into step, “listening” with her entire body. "Manhattan Melodrama" (1934) was the first film William Powell co-starred with Myrna Loy. Powell had shared the screen with several actresses—he was too much the gentleman to name names—who didn’t connect with him, actresses who, he said, “seemed to be separated from me by a plate glass window”. With Myrna there was instant connection, no plate glass. From their initial scene together, Powell would remember, “a curious thing passed between us, a feeling of rhythm, complete understanding, an instinct for how one could bring out the best in the other.” —"Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood" (2011) by Emily W. Leider