Sunday, October 23, 2011

Review of "Womb"

"Fuck that movie." -Sid

Womb is aggressively bad. It appears to have been made by hipsters, for hipsters, with the sole goal in mind of being spectacularly boring. Its lone virtue is the beautiful high-definition camera, which is used to good effect in most of the shots. Beyond that, however, Womb is just terrible.

The movie is a character drama that focuses on the lives of Rebecca and Tommy, in both of his incarnations, but by the end you really know very little about their characters. Rebecca is simply emotionless, staring blankly at her fellow actors for most of the movie, and Tommy isn't much better. It's impossible to relate to them.

Director Benedek Fliegauf's cardinal sin is prolonging shots far, far longer than they need to last, particularly shots of Rebecca staring at Tommy (or anything, really). They're consistently 30 to 40 seconds long and nothing happens in them but the actor staring vacantly, or yet another shot of the house Tommy and Rebecca live in. These aren't a momentary artistic diversion, either; they occur frequently throughout the movie. There's just so much wasted time that could've been used for dialogue, of which Womb has very little. Also, there's virtually no music and no background noise in these shots, so they're just downright boring. If you've seen the cover art with Rebecca staring at something off-camera, you've seen probably a solid 15 minutes of the movie.

I suppose Womb's persistent tendency to convey surpassing awkwardness is a point in its favor. However, there's really no scene in the entire film that isn't skin-crawlingly awkward in some way (Rebecca's staring and the long shots convey this well). It's an awkward subject anyway; I mean, the world's biggest Oedipal complex in Smith combines with the world's most obsessive person in Rebecca. I've seen reviews arguing that it's heartfelt and adorable because of the length Rebecca goes to regain her lost love; I vehemently disagree. Because of Rebecca's lack of character, the act of cloning and raising Tommy comes across as simply creepy rather than something she's doing out of love. (Tangent: I also see Rebecca as one of the most thoroughly selfish characters in cinema, but that's another story. Her selfishness is her defining trait.)

Also, Fliegauf's directing contains perhaps the most heavy-handed use of symbolism I have ever seen. The only thing he doesn't do to get his points across is putting them in a subtitle at the bottom of the screen. Example: Tommy is conflicted about whether he should be with Monica or Rebecca. We know this because there's a shot of both their bedroom doors, which are right next to each other. Both doors are open and both women are lying disconsolately on their respective beds, and Tommy walks between them, then leaves. This takes about a minute and really doesn't deserve 10 seconds.

So, that is Womb. If I've left anything out, it's that the dialogue could probably have been written in about two or three hours by a writer who wasn't concentrating very hard. There's nothing striking, witty, clever or even memorable about any of the lines. Most often the lines aren't even there, replaced by vacant silence where human interaction is supposed to be, and also where people could've justified their actions. Why did Tommy-2 bury the dinosaur? Why did Tommy-1 randomly strip down and jump into the ocean? Why did Rebecca take a solid 12 seconds to seductively eat a banana? How did Tommy-1 become, of all things, a cockroach breeder? These answers just aren't there. Arguably, it's for the viewer to answer these questions, but for me it just felt like apathetic storytelling. On a scale from "I utterly wasted my time" to "You must spend every waking moment of your life seeing this movie", Womb is pretty close to touching the bottom. Don't go here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cops Killing Animals: Zanesville Tranquilizer Controversy

The big Ohio story over the last few days involved an exotic animal owner who opened the cages of his private menagerie and then shot himself. The escaped animals included lions, tigers and bears (of course), wolves, baboons and monkeys. All were hunted down and shot. This has sparked some minor controversy about whether the animals should've been tranquilized instead, an argument which ignores both the facts of the escape and the practicalities of doing so.

First of all, police officers are not equipped with tranquilizer guns as part of normal procedure. The deputies that responded to a call of escaped wild animals carried assault rifles, as well they should have. There was no time to get the required equipment together, and waiting around to do so would've raised the possibility of an escaped animal injuring or killing someone in the meantime. This is plain and obvious.

Secondly, it took until Wednesday night to deploy experts with tranquilizer guns (the animals were turned loose on Tuesday). Should the police have simply let the animals run free in the meantime? Of course not. This is, again, obvious.

Thirdly, note the word 'experts' in the paragraph above. It's not simply a matter of handing guns to cops, once you get the guns, and telling them to tranquilize all the animals they find. The user of a tranquilizer gun basically needs to be part anesthesiologist, according to this site. You have to calculate the dosage based on approximate body weight, species and the concentration of the drugs you're using, which is an inexact process. And since (as a now-armed cop) you don't know exactly what animal you're likely to encounter, and thus what dart you'll need, there's a major risk to the cop AND to the animal. Shoot a dose intended for an elephant into a monkey, it probably dies anyway. Shoot the monkey's dose into the elephant, you just make it mad. And expecting somebody who's not trained with that piece of equipment to get it right, under pressure, for every animal is an unacceptable and unreasonable demand. I'm not saying I like the idea of exterminating the animals, but killing them on sight was by far the best way to ensure that nobody got hurt (and indeed, nobody got hurt with the exception of the owner, who apparently committed suicide).

The Curse of the China Doll

A little-noticed fluff piece on today revealed that Sean Payton, head coach of the New Orleans Saints, apparently has a habit of giving his injured players china dolls. If that's the case, I think that would have a seriously negative effect on injured players. 

From the player's perspective in the NFL, the front office is always trying to replace you. There is tremendous pressure on every player but the superstars, all the time, to stay on the field and make plays. This leads to players concealing or downplaying injuries in an effort to look good, which leads to their quality of play declining and can often lead to them getting cut. If the coach is actively mocking players with injuries and accusing them of being fragile, as the china doll gift suggests, that puts even more pressure on those players and can hurt their careers. It also leads to a poor outcome for the football team, if the player never lives up to his talent level because of injuries that never got a chance to heal. 

Jack Bechta of the National Football Post says it much more eloquently than I do, but our point is the same: this is a really bad thing for injured players.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

To Those Who Burned the Mosque in Tuba-Zangariya...

You are disgusting. You are foul. You are vile and contemptible and ugly. 

There can be no excuses made for the crime of setting afire a holy place. Mosque, synagogue, church, temple, I do not care. That is beneath any decency, beneath any right, beneath all attempts at temporizing and half-hearted justifications. 

That is wrong.

Don't ever fucking do that. EVER


one pissed-off Jew. 

Many Links!

A great profile of Eric Cantor,

An article about forgiving consumer debt,

The majority letter to President Obama on the cement bill:

A column on stateless income:

Another profile from New York Magazine on the guy who wrote Moneyball and The Blind Side,

Politico Primary:

Steve Jobs
A journalist remembers Jobs:

Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford commencement speech, full text,

Also, nuclear:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Doctor Who, Contd:

Some quick thoughts that I've had in a Word document for a few weeks now. I'll post a Top 10 Who episodes of the new series list, seasons 1-6, when I get around to it; however, failing that at present, here's just a few things. SPOILERS BEWARE.

-Steven Moffat really likes presenting his characters with two choices, both of which are ultimately false (See: "Amy's Choice", "The Almost People" (in the case of Jenny), and arguably "The Girl Who Waited"; Rory has to choose one or the other Amy, but it turns out the choice was made for him anyway.

-He's also run the scenario twice where the Doctor brings two opposing groups to the negotiating table, ready to talk peace, only to have an unexpected murder spoil everything and nearly provoke a war. ("The Hungry Earth"/"In Cold Blood", "The Rebel Flesh"/"The Almost People".)

-Moffat and Davies have each run a scenario with galactic policeman trying to capture an escaped intergalactic criminal, who are willing to sacrifice human life to capture that criminal (or are indifferent to it). ("Smith and Jones", "The Eleventh Hour")

-Turning ordinary objects/situations into something science-magical/frightening. ("Gridlock" and "The Idiot's Lantern", not to mention the TARDIS itself.)