The dog without an owner as an allegory for a Ronin (masterless Samurai) is a cute find, and while arguably the best looking of Wes Anderson’s films yet, the choice to have the Japanese characters speak unsubtitled Japanese, but have both the dogs and the Americans speak perfect English is peculiar.

It should’ve either been a Charlie Brown type of thing, where you could only understand the dogs and all humans speak unintelligible gibberish, or they should’ve just done everyone in English, even the Japanese characters. That would’ve been fine. No one complains that Beauty and the Beast isn’t in French. The way it’s done now Anderson & Co. write themselves into the corner where they’re forced to create American human characters to make the story work, because the Japanese can’t give any expositional dialogue, and in doing so they make all the Japanese characters semi-idiots, since the dogs (English) and the americans (English) are destined to do all the heavy lifting in the story. It seems insensitive, because you keep wondering ‘Wait, am I supposed to laugh at them?’. I don’t think that’s the intent at all, but the fact that you’re not sure is curious. I don’t really feel like laughing at an entire culture.

For a love letter to Japan and Japanese Cinema, it also feels a little easy, as all the Japanese culture portrayed in the movie is just the greatest hits of Japanese culture as chosen by white people (they use actual music from Seven Samurai) and it never delves any deeper than that.

Wes Anderson has never been a filmmaker with nuanced portrayals of foreign cultures, and his movies rarely pass the Bechdel test, but in the current climate, he could’ve done better. His films might be set in a world locked in some gorgeously preserved bygone era, Anderson as a filmmaker should keep up with the times.

I’ve never even read the book. I know people who have, they liked it, and it’s apparently a ton of fun. I’ve seen some people put it down online as being a badly written list of ’80s stuff its writer Ernest Cline likes, catering just to nerds in a self-esteem short supply who need the obscure-knowledge parts of their ego’s stroked. Perhaps, but I know of at least one person who isn’t that trivia-ish and who thought it was a thrilling book, so I guess it’s pretty well written too. I’m not gonna discuss the book though, I’m gonna discuss the movie.

From frame one of the first teaser trailer, blaring Rush’s Tom Sawyer (apparently and unsurprisingly one of the writer’s fav songs) in the background and throwing vehicles from other movies into our eyeballs at 24fps, it was clear: Warner Brothers spared no expense (Hey! I made a reference!) and pulled out all the stops on their licensing budget. Even though they couldn’t get parties like Disney to join up (Han Solo’s belt is all we get to see of the world’s most important pop-culture franchise) there’s still more geekery crammed into Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One than there’s probably ever been in a movie. Every frame is like a full season of Stranger Things. And I’ll be honest. I love that stuff. I love the obvious in yo’ face references like the The Shining sequence (showing that in the right hands, a parody movie is actually not a bad idea at all) and the exo-armour from Mobile Suit Gundam showing up to serve some ass kickery in the final battle, I love the hard to find stuff like the Excalibur poster on Halliday’s bedroom wall and the mention of Gary Gygax’ name as a game location, I love the homages like using the same types of guns as they use in Inception when they do the simulation-within-a-simulation sequence. But I don’t really go to the movies to see bits and pieces of other movies. That’s what Youtube is for. (I guess? What is Youtube for actually?) I don’t watch Stranger Things because there’s a synthesizer in the soundtrack and they dress up as Ghostbusters. I go to the movies to see a story that I like. That entertains me, makes me think, and moves me emotionally. Preferably as many of those three as possible within a single project. Stranger Things has got the first and third one down, and Ready Player One (thank God, ’cause I’ve been defending it on twitter before it came out) isn’t just entertaining. It’s a legitimate entry into the pantheon of Spielberg’s sci-fi masterpieces.

The Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack and the omnipresence of Stranger Things further enforced what we all already realised. We’re living in an age of nostalgia. There’s a third fucking Expendables. Generation Y, the Millennials, or whatever we’re supposed to be called, as well as the final bunch of those Gen X kids, grew up behind a cartoon spewing TV set, and were the first to grow up with the internet. Before grown-ups could figure out what this internet was to be used for, we spent the ’90s and early Naughties filling her up with fan sites, top lists, and came together on forums to discuss whether or not Ghân-buri-Ghân would show up in Return of the King. He didn’t. Now we’re old enough to be a major force in what drives the world’s economy, and what do we buy? Backpacks shaped like PlayStation 1’s, Yoda shaped Christmas tree ornaments (real glass), and a Raspberry Pi that lets us give getting through that Terminator 2 video game another shot. Nostalgia’s become an industry that can rival any other, and with the dominance of Kevin Feige’s crew at the box office it seems clear that yes, the nerds have won.

So what have we won? As the Babyboomers use their dotage to sell the last of the Earth’s natural resources to whoever drills up the most oil, we find ourselves in rental houses, searching for jobs, and not really making a dent in the world even when we try to. (Don’t @ me with exceptions, I’m painting with a broad-ass brush here. OF COURSE there are exceptions.) Growing up has let us down big-time, and now we’re barely thirty and already filled with more nostalgia than most of the grey-haired population of the world. We’re not happy here and we want to leave. ENTER STAGE LEFT: POP CULTURE.

Escapism is turning into the doom of our age. As we’re unequipped to deal with actual problems, we hide away in safe places like Nakatomi Plaza, the world of Warcraft and the Forest of Fangorn, and the longer we stay there, the longer we’re happy, but the less equipped we become to succeed in anything when we finally go back outside and breathe in the smog of a world in decline. Even socio-political matters have become the stuff pop-culture is made of: Jon Stewart is as much a portrait to be printed on a hoodie as Robocop is. Click here to see Trudeau’s Star Wars socks. We’re living in a world where Trump is compared to Jabba, not the other way around. Fantasy is the measure by which we value reality. But that’s a bar reality will never reach. I’m a filmmaker by profession, which basically means I’ve managed to make a living out of not making a real living. Escapism is where all my talents lie. Boy am I a millennial. And boy are there a lot of would be artists in my generation. If the Pixar protagonist can do it, so can we, right? ‘Anyone can cook’, right? And would I be happy making popculture for the popcorn popping screenagers of the world for the rest of my life? Damn straight I would. Halliday, the big friendly giant of the world of Ready Player One (Remember Ready Player One? It’s a movie. This article is about it), is clearly one of my contemporaries. Unfit for real life, he hid away in comic books and walkthrough vids, and found a following in the one place where he never had to lead.

Ready Player One is a fun ride, sure, maybe the fun ride, but there’s a bleak goddamn dystopian vision at the core of it. Nostalgia is pure love, but it’s also somewhat of a cultural rot, an Alzheimer’s of humanity, where it’s becoming harder and harder to keep up with whatever the world’s turning into now, and we keep dredging up something we goddamn loved in ’86. (It’s Aliens. I was talking about Aliens. God, I love that movie.) If we follow whatever’s happening with the Oculus Rift and stuff like that to their eventual outcome I’m sure we’ll end up with Oasis-ish technology in the future, but Ready Player One doesn’t even have to play the ‘look at what could become’ card. Ready Player One is now. Netflix is the Oasis. Marvel vs. DC is the Oasis. Fuckin’ facebook’s the Oasis. But facebook’s also IOI. Google is IOI. There’s Oasisses (what’s the plural of Oasis?) and IOI’s everywhere. And we’re letting it happen ’cause the alternative is worse. We keep chompin’ down on the whopper, cause the effort of being a vegan is just too much of a hassle (it is) and there’s like just too much stuff goin’ on in my life to deal with all of that right now, you guys! So we keep eating and eating, and now we’re just eating because we’re eating. The screen is a drug administered through the retina.

Once we’re addicted, the actual love starts to wane. Was it just a crush? We’re now defending the original Total Recall because, well, because. It’s just the best, it just is, I’m telling you. And the new one is the absolute worst ever and it isn’t even a movie! Childhood raped everything raped. We’re becoming more and more narrow minded. In need of a cigarette. Now. No, I’m not addicted. It’s just that one you can have after dinner, you know, to wash the dirty taste of food off your tongue. That sound’s like an addiction to me. Because what if you have to let go? What if Luke becomes old, makes mistakes and hides on an Island? What if Total Recall wasn’t really all that great? What if you just loved it for its silliness? What of your heroes now? What if women want a piece of the action? Pop has become toxic. You’ve been hiding away from life by investing in the fandom, and now the fandom is falling apart at the seams. Are you watching Blade Runner: The Final Cut because you love it or because you’re supposed to? Because knowing Rutger Hauer’s soliloquy by heart earns you a place in the club house so you won’t have to deal with the fact that if those fucking taxes don’t go up, we’re all going down with them. I bet you weren’t even alive when Blade Runner came out. I sure as hell wasn’t. Have we artificially created nostalgia as a defence mechanism? Have I really been watching all those ’80s movies since I was 7? I doubt my mom let me put on The Thing as a kid now that I think about it. I wonder how many of the Oasis’ top avatars in Ready Player One actually like The Shining. I wonder how many never read the book. Why are they obsessed with the ’80s in the first place? They were born in like 2029. Do they just watch it because Halliday loved it? Is it status, a badge? And don’t you dare dissin’ the Kubrick, man. He’s the best. Did you know he shot Barry Lyndon all with available light? Well he did! Let me tell you how!

On first glance Ready Player One might feel like a big-ass thing of candy floss. Where you ask the guy in the booth for the Extra Large, ’cause the eyes are always hungrier than what the stomach can, well, stomach, and once you’re about a third of the way into it you just want to die. It looks like too much of a good thing. The Oasis looks like fun, the characters look like fun, the action looks like fun. Hey, it’s fucking Chucky! Even the ‘dystopian’ real world is too much fun. They’re still handsome action heroes fighting an evil empire in a resistance. Even the real world is a Spielberg movie. But then that’s the point, isn’t it? The dystopia of Ready Player One isn’t The Stacks, it’s the Oasis that’s the dystopia. Pop culture is the world that’s been pulled over our eyes to blind you from the truth. “What truth?” That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison, for your mind. Pre-order the blu-ray now on Amazon.com. Do you want fries with that?

I went to The Last Jedi opening night and I really liked it, but thought it was very weird, a little uneven in tone, and that it possibly had a little too many twists. But I knew Rian Johnson as a filmmaker, having been a huge fan ever since Brick came out (which you should see, it’s a goddamn masterpiece), so I expected that there’d be more too it. I went on the twitter and was overwhelmed with people who hated it. Some dickwad even yelled #RianRapedUs. An actual person. Possibly with a job and kids and the right to vote. A man felt like he was raped by a movie. Can you even imagine? I hope not, because if you can you’re probably gonna leave some nasty comment. Humans really suck, don’t they?

But as the day progressed I started finding more and more positive reactions. People who loved it, people who thought it was the best. I found some in depth articles really diving into the thematics of the thing, and as I thought about the movie more and more I started to peel away the layers, the Porg jokes (#teamporg btw) and the story as it is presented to the audience on the surface level of the movie, looking at what was underneath, and the thing just became better and better and better.

Quick sidebar here: Did you remember Shrek looking that bad? It’s like a cutscene from a video game version of Shrek. It’s insane. Anyway. Where was I? Oh yeah, The Last Jedi. SPOILERS from here on in.

The way I see it The Last Jedi is about unforeseeable consequences. That’s the theme of this particular chapter in the Star Wars saga. A sentence that is repeated during the film is about ‘the spark that will light the fire’. The butterfly effect (not the Ashton Kutcher joint, but the actual effect). Everything you do has a billion results. One of them might be what you were hoping to achieve, but it might just as well not be. Failure is a natural part of life. It’s how we grow and learn. That’s even stated pretty literally by Yoda in his great little scene. But there’s more to an action than what you hope to archieve. That’s the butterfly effect.

Whew, that was a weird movie.

Rey’s main objective in The Last Jedi is to defeat Kylo Ren, preferably by turning him back towards the light side of the force. This fails. She doesn’t beat him in a fight, she doesn’t turn him. But there’s a TON of unforeseeable consequence to her actions. She pulls Luke back into the force, she defeats supreme leader snoke, she becomes a Jedi and even ends up igniting a spark (Luke’s stand-off with the empire on Crait) that will light the fire (all the little boys and girls on every planet inspired by this heroic tale) that will burn the First Order down.

Finn tries to save Rey (‘Cuz they in love, and don’t even try to tell me otherwise) but the unforeseeable consequence of that failed little plan is that he meets up with Rose, together they try to find another way to save the entire Rebellion (not just Rey) by finding a codebreaker, the unforeseeable consequence of which is that they end up freeing a bunch of tortured dog-horses, ripping a bunch of rich assholes a new one by destroying a casino and show a bunch of slave kids that there is a different life out there, a life free from the whips of Snoke’s nazi-bitches. They end up igniting a spark (their daring adventures on Canto Bight) that will light the fire (those same kids who will become rebels when the chance is there) that will burn the First Order down.

As Luke descents further into his fear of the dark side, Yoda turns up in all his muppety greatness and tells him that failing is fine. In fact, most of the characters in this movie fail in what they were originally trying to do, except for maybe Benicio Del Toro and Rose’s sister on the bomber in the opening battle. But I doubt Benicio’s character even had a plan to fail, he just went with the flow of it, and Paige Tico might have destroyed the Dreadnought, but seeing as she died, it didn’t really go as she thought it would. All of this is, I think, where most of the hate towards the movie came from. Not one of the main characters succeeds in anything they try to do in this movie. This is quite possibly the most depressing blockbuster ever made if you look at it that way. The only real fun is derrived from the Porgs, who are also the only characters in the movie who never try to do anything. They are literally without goals of motivations. Which is why the can’t fail. I don’t think haters realise that this is what’s going on, that this is why they dislike it, but subconciously that’s why they’re unfulfilled, because they came to see the classic hero’s journey, the three acts and the triumph at the end. But, as Poe learns throughout the film: It’s not about what you tried to do at all, it’s about what your actions end up accomplishing. That’s what’s important. It’s not about flyboys. It’s about the future of a galaxy. The lesson to take away from all of this madness is to be mindful, not just of your goals, but of every unforeseeable consequence the pursuit of those goals might have. Even throwaway jokes like the rock Rey chops off crushing through the little wheelbarrow seems like it’s about nothing, but that too is unforeseeable consequence, and ends up being a small step in teaching Rey to be mindful as she should be. Is it time to dive into the Force now? I think it is.

The force is what connects everything, the force is what binds the universe together, and the force is the only way to understand those consequences, those unforeseeable reactions to every action. This is what Luke learns in the movie, and why he decides to stand up to Kylo Ren all on his own.

I’m gonna do a short Force sidebar here, because I feel like a lot of people maybe misinterpret the force. Anakin was prophecised to bring balance to the force, and a lot of people think that the balance means equal amounts of light side and dark side. And this is not wrong, but it is also not the entirety of it. In Rey’s meditation on Ahch-to she sees the peace that belongs to the light side of the force, and the chaos that belongs to the dark side, and the balance between it all. But for things to be in balance, shouldn’t they be in peace? Yes they should. There are two balances at work here. The balance between all things, the force itself, destruction, creation, light, dark, fear and love (Note to self: I need to watch Donnie Darko again). But there is another balance, which is the light side of the force. The light side is the balancing side, it represents peace, it constantly tries to balance everything out, to create a calm, an equilibrium. The dark side represents chaos, it is the un-balancing force. Life isn’t in perfect balance and peace all the time, it in a balance between balance and unbalance. I know I’m sounding like a late sixties George Harrison now, but stay with me. A lot of people ask “But how can Anakin bring balance if he destroys the Sith, shouldn’t he destroy all but two Jedi to bring balance? Then you have two sith and two Jedi. Ergo: Balance.” Some will even go as far as saying that’s exactly what he did do. He killed all the Jedi except for Obi and Yoda, so you have two Sith and two Jedi. But that’s not the balance that was prophecised. The balance that was prophecised was that of the light side. The balancing side. It was to bring an end to the power of the dark side which caused too much chaos, unbalancing the galaxy from its equilibrium between peace and chaos. And that doesn’t happen until the end of Return of the Jedi, when little Ani Hulk Hogans the shit out of Palpatine and throws him down a shaft before dying himself. That’s the end of the Sith, the end of the tumor that made the dark side grow larger than it should.

Now that there are no more Sith, the dark side and the light side are in balance again. But why don’t a bunch of Jedi make the light side too strong? Because that’s not what the light side does. The light side is a wall, the dark side a battering ram. If the battering ram is too strong, the wall falls. If the wall is too strong, nothing happens, the battering ram can keep on battering. That’s the balance of the force.

Now what Luke had learned during his exile was that the powers of the Jedi and the Sith weren’t the only forces at work. The Sith are just a random religion with a strong connection to the dark side and the Jedi are just a random religion with a strong connection to the light side. But these were just cults. That kid on Canto Bight wasn’t a Jedi. Maz Kanata wasn’t a Jedi. In fact, the Jedi kind of failed in what they were trying to do. They became too organised. A bureaucratic mess. They were so arrogant and wrapped up in themselves they couldn’t even see the sith cancer grow right in front of them. Luke is afraid when Rey drifts towards the dark when they’re meditating. Afraid that Rey will be tempted, lured in by the ways of the Sith. But the dark side is not the Sith, and even still, Rey has no interest in power, Rey has no fear of being left alone, she’s been left alone her whole life, if the whole galaxy falls apart and only she is left she’ll find a way to make it work, that’s how she’s always done it. The dark side cannot lure her in ’cause it holds nothing of interest for her. That’s why she’s our hero.

Wrapping everything up, Luke sacrifices his exile and chooses to become the hero he feels he isn’t (due to some small failures in his otherwise heroic life) just so he can become that spark the rebellion needs so much, Poe sacrifices his heroism to be able to fight another day in the fire that Luke’s spark has lit, Rey goes through the same thing as Luke and sacrifices her exile on Jakku, the possible return of her parents to become the centrepiece of that fire, and Finn sacrifices himself and his personal goals of not having to fight to become the rebel hero that will help that fire grow. They all sacrificed what they thought they had to be doing for the benefit of the entire galaxy, and those lessons could have only be learned from the unforeseeable consequences that came from their failed actions. Yoda says that failure is important for growth, and the unforeseeable consequences are unforeseeable, they could not have been known.

This is why The Last Jedi deserves a second look, this is why it defies all expectations. The Force Awakens was such an easy watch, like a soft rug that you could sit on to enjoy yourself and feel comfortable with all the characters. It is precisely that rug that The Last Jedi needed to be able to pull it out from under you. This is what a sequel should be. These two movies make each other better.

You know what the difference is between a person who is aware of the consequences of their actions and a person who isn’t? It’s the difference between an adult and a child. In the hands of Rian Johnson, the Star Wars franchise has literally grown up.

So some cool men have been looking at the trailer for my movie Molly and were apparently super threatened by it? How in the Good Lord’s sweet name is the patriarchy to survive now that there’s a little tiny indie movie out there with a female lead!? THINK OF THE CHILDREN.

At least Sci-clops likes it.

5. High Fidelity

Am I the biggest John Cusack fan? No. Am I a fan? Not particularly. But I never dislike him. At any rate, this film kicks ass. Mostly because the main character is a compulsive list-maker (Coincidence? I THINK NOT!)

In this scene Cusack is trying to hide from his ex girlfriend by jumping into some bushes and landing in the mud. Classic comedy. I couldn’t find a picture of him in the mud, so I added one of him in the rain, but since mud is 50% water, I guess I’m halfway there and that should be good enough for all of us. Moving on…

 

4. Apocalypse Now

I’ve heard say that Apocalypse Now should feature in every movie top-list ever. But I’ve heard say the same about Citizen Kane and I couldn’t think of any excuse to put that movie in here, due to a disappointing lack of mud, so I guess the people who do the saying which I will then hear, are often full of shit. Apocalypse now however, does have a place in this list, and I bring up the image above as exhibit number one. Apocalypse Now is of course among the greatest movies ever made, and scores arguably just above Britney Spears’ Crossroads.

Query: Is Platoon a prequel?

 

3. Predator

I ain’t got time to write a bit on Predator in a way that references its many awesome oneliners.

 

2. Jurassic Park

The four commandments of great filmmaking:

  • Night
  • Rain
  • Dinosaurs
  • Jeff Goldblum (not pictured)

 

1. Seven Samurai

I couldn’t find a color image from Seven Samurai, presumably because the world was still in black and white in 1954, but this film is arguably the mother, father, grandpa, ancestor and second cousin thrice removed of any modern action movie. This bitch got everything: Epic battles, drama, comedy, characters, cinematography to make you give up filmmaking yourself, everything needed to keep you locked to the screen for it’s relatively long running time of 18 weeks. My Gosh, that’s almost as long as that sentence was!

I should admit that, most of the time, I can barely work up the interest to keep up to date with what my closest friends are doing, especially on social media. I mostly just read up on Marvel movie rumours and whatever’s going on with Henry Cavill’s moustache today. Answer: A lot.

And why would I care about what my friends’ friends’ friends’ friends’ page like is up to? Because on Facebook, that’s really all I get to see. ‘Did you know so and so’s sister twice removed just befriended Random McJoe?’ No I didn’t because I’m aware of the existence of neither of those people. Zuckerberg made the right move buying Whatsapp and Instagram, because at least they’re the ones that are actually stuff your friends are doing, instead of just some company trying to get you to buy, in my case, a Star Wars sweater.

And even Insta’s getting worse. You know when you’re browsing Instagram Stories (which is already Instagram’s most annoying feature because it’s just a collection of every picture too fuckin’ ugly to save for longer than a day) and suddenly an ad pops up just as if the corporation is one of your buds, hoping you buy another fuckin Star Wars sweater and and you just close the app. You don’t wait it out to see the other stories by your actual ‘friends’, assuming they are friends. Who stays to watch the ad all the way through?

Nobody.

Who the fuck wants to put in a lot of effort for social media. Social media was invented for one reason, which is to make it easier to look cool. Nobody wants to work hard to seem cool. If it was worth the effort people wouldn’t use social media in the first place. They’d do it in real life. But do you know how hard it is to look cool in real life? Superhard. In real life you need to look good every second from every angle to be cool. On social media it’s just one picture, one funny comment.

That’s it though, innit? That’s why social media exists: So you can seem kinda cool for a tenth of the effort from the comfort of your own home for the measly cost of a polyester Star Wars sweater.