Sunday, November 23, 2014

Compare and Contrast- Hunger Games Mockingjay VS Radio Free Albemuth

So, let me say at the outset that I'm not suggesting you see either movie. They're both fatally flawed, but I saw both, this weekend, and there was an element that I saw to compare and contrast, so I'm talking about that. There might be spoilers, but I don't care, because you don't need to see either movie.
So, yes, I saw the giant blockbuster. I could blame my wife- I really would not have seen it, if not for the fact that she is a sucker for, and avid consumer of YA faction. She's even trying to write one of her own. But, that's not the whole truth- I've refused some films because they're too cheesey for me, but I saw this one. Mostly because I'm a fan of the "Wow" factor- you know, big booms, sweeping  camera moves, and the like.
But, a theme ran through this film that really, really bothered me. At the most positive spin I could put on it- I'd call it cynical Vanguardism , but, much, much more likely it's the sheer contempt for people displayed- The majority of the plot revolves around convincing the protagonist to use her celebrity to manipulate the masses into war. You read that correctly, and that's about as even-handed as I can put it. It was about manipulating a celebrity, but using carrots of friendship, and patriotism, and even "love" into delivering a message that is automatically assumed to move the drone-like masses into suicidal acts of rebellion.
First of all- how utterly pompous! I do not see anyone lining up to become soldiers because they saw Expendables 45 in the theater last week. I don't think there's even a single member of ISIS who became such because they heard Daniel Sunjata thought that 9/11 was an "inside job". People kill or die for causes because they believe in the cause, not the people espousing the cause. Only in Hollywood does the logic of "We're such big stars, everyone hangs their lives on us" have any credence whatsoever.
But, secondly, assuming it to even be mildly plausible is a massive insult to humanity. They literally have our star go to a hospital, which is then magically targeted for annihilation by the bad guys, and when the star notices- that becomes the advert for our star that inspires millions to literally hurl their bodies at armed opponents. Later, she sings a little ditty halfway under her breath- that has nothing to do with any cause- and the next scene is people mindlessly chanting that same song while they gleefully turn themselves into suicide bombers! The best defense I've heard for it centers on an argument for mass ignorance. I think it can be summed up with a strongly held belief by the film-makers that people are idiots.
Sincerely, I thought that Jennifer Lawrence was mildly talented, with an engaging personality before I saw that crap. Now, I want to see Anonymous data-mine her into a slobbering mess. I do not care that she's female, or anything about her as a person, because the message of the movie is that she is an Icon, whom we love more than our own lives- and I want her to see on a really visceral level what that means- that she should be torn down. I don't care how much money she would owe for breaking contract on this, she should have walked away. The only person who seems to understand what a mockery of the human spirit this film is, would be Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who delivers all of his lines like they're cruel jokes upon himself.
On the other hand Radio Free Albemuth is a stripped-down indie-film re-telling of Philip K Dick's VALIS trilogy. If you've ever read it, you know that the central premise is that ultimately, people will overcome fascism, tyranny and evil through sheer force of inherent godly, goodness, in all of us. Unfortunately, Dick was an experimental Science-Fiction author, and so he undercuts this message by interjecting himself into the books, and making himself, literally, an unreliable narrator. It was a bold move, and completely unfilmable- so what you're left with is a pastiche of a few rabble-rousing dystopian fictions ( a lot of 1984, a little of Pynchon, some C.S. Lewis) with heavy transcendental religious overtones as opposed to the mystic, gnostic sentiment that Dick intended. Again, the question of educating the masses through mass media is in play- but the idea here is in subliminal messages- it's not counting on "star power"- the idea is far more democratic- that if you introduce a concept in a digestible format ( in this case, a pop song) people will incorporate that idea into their own action. Nowhere is it more explicit than at the end of the movie, when the protagonist hears the song that caused his own imprisonment being played by some teens on a boom box, and it dawns on him that the liberation was never intended for him, it was for the "kids"- and that his cabal was only one of many, and so, where his failed, another succeeded in getting the idea out. It was still a crapty movie, but I can live with that message a whole lot easier- that it's not about your personal freedom, and that your actions might very well be redundant and absurd, but that the important part is that freedom exists.