Monday, January 31, 2011

Goldfinger's Launching of the Bond Series

Goldfinger could easily be described as the Bond film that launched the series into full swing, and most would say it's the quintessential Bond film that set the precedent for Bond films from that point on.  Most people will agree that the "Bond formula" all started here.  Dr. No and From Russia With Love were hits, but Goldfinger was a smash hit.

I think it's important to note, and I comment on this because I've read a lot of misconceptions in movie reviews and such regarding the film, this was not the first Bond film to feature Desmond Llewelyn as Q.  He appeared in From Russia With Love; this was the first film, however, to establish him as a recurring character… a character that would later become an essential Bond character and an iconic legend.  Nor is this the first film to feature "Bond, James Bond" as a catchphrase, as we saw this, for certain, in Dr. No.  However, it is the first film where we hear that other iconic line for the first time, "shaken, not stirred."  He said a similar variation in Dr. No, but not "shaken, not stirred" exactly.  Muahahahahahahahahah.      

I also think this is the first film where we see Bond's character emerge as suave and sophisticated, which is less in-tune with Flemming's writing, but more in-tune with the precedent that captures the series (until the "bronze" Daniel Craig era).  Flemming's writing was better represented by Goldfinger's predec-essors, which were much darker, more serious motion pictures (without the tongue-in-cheek humor).

Like its predecessors, this film was extremely risque for 1964.  We see, like in the other prior films, sexual scenes, constant innuendo and references, implications of lesbianism (which we also saw in From Russia With Love), brief nudity in the credits, etc…  Not to mention Honor Blackman's character "Pussy Galore."

Speaking of Pussy Galore, this is the first real film where we get Bond "hooking up with every attractive woman within a 45 mile radius," which becomes yet another staple to the series.
I also think this is the first Bond film to have a real hatchet man.  Oddjob establishes this precedent with perfection.  And he's probably the greatest hatchet man in the Bond series next to Jaws (who's in The Spy Who Loved Me, and Moonraker).  We see that classic structure that sets up a pre-climactic confrontation between Bond and the hatchet man, which is usually a more physical confrontation, before Bond takes down the main mastermind villain (in this case Goldfinger).  This is also the first Bond film that makes real use of, and puts emphasis on, the high-tech gadgetry provided by Q.  Q actually gets some screen time in this one, and we get our first peep into his laboratory.  We saw that briefcase in From Russia With Love, which Bond used to get the best of Robert Shaw's character, but in Goldfinger we see a homing/tracking device, the snorkel suit, and best of all, the Aston Martin with an ejector seat, bulletproof windows, missiles (I think), smoke, etc… the first real Bond mobile.

There's also the fantastic, and somewhat unbelievable, plot line.  This is used off and on throughout the series, mostly for a lot of later Bond films (especially during the Brosnan era).  I like the over-the-top far-fetched plots, personally; I think they make for a more enjoyable film.  These "realistic" plot lines we're getting with the Daniel Craig films are boring boring boring.  Nobody wants a Bond plot to be centered around an evil villain's mastermind plan to make 60% of Bolivia's water cost more (should he get his way).  Only James Bond - the secret agent who foiled a plot to destroy London with nuclear missiles - can make water more affordable for Bolivians (Maddox reference).  Yeah… I don't watch Bond movies for "realism."  Give me a plot about a gold dealer trying to detonate a nuclear device in the U.S. gold supply vaults at Fort Knox so the gold will be radioactive for 58 years, thus making his own gold collection skyrocket in value. 

Yes, this film is the "gold" standard for Bond films.           


Sunday, January 30, 2011

MRI of a Dying Man

This is an MRI of somebody dying. The brain releases thousands of endorphins when you die, what some people refer to as “the light." 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

An Introspective Sound: Alcest

Ecailles de Lune (Part I)

We have our classic black metal bands.  These are the Celtic Frost's and Hellhammer's and Bathory's of the world.  Then we have our next wave of black metal, which has a slightly wider variance in sound.  These would be our Immortal's and Satyricon's and Emperor's (and the newest, Triptykon, which was one of the most pleasant surprises of 2010), so on and so on.  

Then there's… Alcest.  

Let me start by saying the production value is ace.  And this is what we would expect from Markus Stock (the brain behind Empyrium, The Vision Bleak, and Autumnblaze).  

With Écailles de Lune, this band has taken black metal in its own direction, and the results have been nothing short of fantastic.  It would probably be unfair to call them a black metal band, just because black metal is only one of many incorporations they throw into their sound.  It's extremely shoegazish.  You'll find few blastbeats, and absolutely no pounding "D" chords played over and over (retreat!, Whitechapel fans, retreat!).  Rather, most of the album is gentle and mellow, and creates an ethereal sense of beauty in an extremely emotional way.  This is where the post-rock influence finds its way in.  Black metal is a genre that, to a large extent, seems to quickly be becoming stale… still producing great music, just not much in the way of innovation.  Clean vocals of this sort are uncharted grounds for this genre. The vocals on the opening track engulf the song with a wave of sentimentality and serenity.  And they compliment the guitars beautifully, creating truly stirring music with a painstakingly transparent emotional core.   

There are few metal records that evoke so much emotion in the listener (or at least that's the case with me), hence why I usually turn to post-rock for feeling, whether it be depression, inspiration, tranquility, or whatever else.  But this record absolutely does.  This music brings me to a state of introversion.  I've never heard music so beautiful and dreamlike, yet so longing with lingering undertones of lonesomeness and pain.  The lingering follows the album throughout, appearing and reappearing, right to the very end with Sur L'Ocean Couleur de Fer, which is one of the most dreamlike songs I've ever heard.  This is the song I would expect to hear when voyaging to a different realm.  I can almost see the valor behind the clouds…

The slow gentle echoing guitars and the harmonious vocal pattern draw a beautiful romantic ambiance; it's the perfect album closer.  But it still has that strange sense of depression and anguish, like it's trying to seek out the beauty, but just can't get past the heartache… a theme I thought lasted throughout. 

The blackest part of the album was Écailles de Lune (Part II) and Percées de Lumiére, where we heard a lot of that 90's shoegaze meet Agalloch-type intensity and black metal vocals. Percées de Lumiére, especially, ads a lot of diversity to this record.  Neige displays his fantastic shrill screams, which are extremely impressive because I've never actually been convinced he's a black metal vocalist, so I'm not quite sure how he pulls it off.  The drums aren't too technical, but they're interesting, and they mesh well with the bass. There are some great uptempo rifts.  This song invoked a nice feeling of nostalgia, in a way that's not quite so "down" in mood, but still incredibly heartfelt.  

Abysses is definitely the weakest track on the record, but it serves as a nice interlude between the first three tracks and Solar Song and Sur L'Ocean de Fer.  

Sur L'Ocean Couleur de Fer

There have been a lot of comparisons made between Alcest and Agalloch, maybe because they're both on Profound Lore, or maybe because most see them as similar artists, but whatever the reason(s), these are two of the greatest current artists producing music.  Écailles de Lune got #2 on my top albums of 2010 list behind Agalloch's.  Both are blackened post-metal.  Both can be folksy.  Alcest delves more into the shoegaze area than Agalloch.  Agalloch delves more into doom.  But they are similar, and I think comparing them is justifiable.  While I feel Agalloch creates better song structure, greater depth, and slightly more instrumental efficiency, Alcest creates in an area where Agalloch lacks (slightly): atmosphere and emotion.  I definitely get emotional responses from Agalloch's music, but not quite in the sense, or to the extent, I do from Alcest's.  And I think that rolls back around to atmospherics.

Écailles de Lune: 9.4/10 

A special thanks to the Metal Archives and the Mayhem Boards. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Human Centipede: Review

After engaging in online debate over this film, and after writing about it a few months ago, I thought I'd address it more fluently. If you haven't seen it, I'm not going to explain the plot... 

While generic in nature and structure, I do think the real question, "whether or not it's a good movie," is at least arguable, in a sense that it isn't seen as arguable to a lot of people.  At the very least, it should provoke much more thought than it conventionally has, and regardless of whether or not it's a "good movie," it's a damn interesting movie.  There seem to be some weighty concepts at play, buried behind a shock premise.  For one, this film is obviously centered around the works of Bataille.   I picked up on a lot of socialistic and animalistic concepts. For example, the head of the Centipede, the Japanese character, couldn't stand the thought of being animalized, thus the ultimate reason for his committing suicide. This obviously relates back to Bataille and the philosophical stance upon which the movie was based, or at the very least inspired. That is, humans are ultimately animalistic in nature, yet we attempt at all costs to deny it.  Bataille believed we spend our whole lives in aguish because if it. The Japanese character has no desire to exist as an animal, and even expresses his opposition to the idea, yet he regresses to an animalistic state when he attempts to bite out the doctor's throat near the end of the film.  When he realizes he's become what he never wanted to be, he slits his own throat rather than continue to endure the existence lying before him.  The self loathing the Japanese character feels towards himself is greater than any animosity he feels towards his captor.  And his self loathing isn't just because of what he's become; it's because of the misery and depravity and self-centerdeness he's known throughout the course of his life.  Ultimately, I think he views the centipede as his punishment, which would explain why he called the doctor "god."  

This brings me to the point of "why did the Japanese character kill himself?  Why didn't he continue to attack the doctor with the scalpel?"  Other than relating back to the retribution concept, I think the Japanese character thought, in a sense perhaps, it would be more painful for the doctor to watch his creation kill itself than killing the doctor directly.  We mustn't forget that though sick, the doctor risks everything to conduct this experiment. The reasons are never fully divulged, and this concept is never really explored, but through implication it seems clear to the audience that the doctor feels the need to transcend his own anguish, and in the process seek spirituality and become closer to the divine.  Whether the doctor understands this on a conscious level, or simply feels it, isn't particularly important. What is important is the idea that he would jeopardize his life, livelihood, freedom, and career reputation as the leading surgeon of his field to achieve this creation. Once again, this refers back to Bataille, and recalls the esoteric society which he helped found during the surrealist movement: the Acephale. The society's symbol was a headless man who represented the group's opposition to a "closed and stifling social existence," which could be viewed as transcendentalism:

The point is, the doctor sacrificed ultimately his life to create the centipede. Perhaps the Japanese character, through killing himself in front of the doctor, viewed this action as the ultimate way of crushing everything the doctor had risked so much for.

It's also worth noting that the doctor begins his experiments with animals, then moves to humans, acting as a mirror between Bataille's ideas about man and man's animal nature. 

There's also a theme of individuality, selfhood, and social interdependence. We see this in the fate that befalls the middle piece of the centipede...  complete surrendering of individuality and selfhood embodies the fate of the middle piece. The head and the tail are dead, and she is forced to acknowledge she is no longer an individual at all. She's part of an organism - a dead organism - and her fate seems painful and clear.  We also see this theme in the inability for any communication to take place between the head of the centipede and the doctor due to the language gap.  

doctor: German  Japanese Character: Japanese  Lindsay and Jenny: American

Despite its uniqueness, the film is full of cliches.  It has the mad doctor who preforms horrific experiments in his secret underground lab.  Two unintelligent American girls' car breaks down on a deserted street winding through the middle of the woods late at night. They don't have a signal on their cell phone, so they do what any logical person would do: begin wondering aimlessly through the woods until they come to a house.  Of course they enter the house, despite its owner being creepy enough to warrant any sane person's immediate departure (or more accurately, "running like hell to get the fuck out of there"). They accept drinks, which are drugged.  Yes... cliche.  But these contrivances are mostly found in the opening sequence of the film, which is deceptive because the rest is far more compelling.

As soon as they enter the doctor's house, the doctor takes advantage of the language barrier to humiliate and objectify them (without them knowing it).  This immediately foreshadows the dehumanization that's later to come.  

I think the cliche of the two American girls "randomly and spontaneously" showing up on the doctor's front porch, after being previously alluded to the doctor's plan to create the centipede (when we saw him looking at the photo of the dogs), played into the concept of the doctor being "brought" to do this, perhaps as part of his quest to seek the divine.  It's analogous, much in the same way, to John Doe being "called," in his mind by god, to carry out his series of seven in Se7en.  These girls just showed up.  Perhaps this was a sign to the doctor that his experiment was supposed to go forth.      

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A New Tone

According to Robert Anton Wilson, consciousness is information received and decoded by a structure. In prescientific human beings, the structure is the nervous system as defined and limited by its imprints. Intelligence is information received, decoded, and transmitted by a structure. Operationally, we cannot say an entity is "intelligent" until it transmits information received. Imprints are electrochemically bonded neural circuits defining and limiting the capacity to receive, decode, and transmit information. There are at least eight imprint circuits in the human, of which only four are normally used. Reality is the gestalt which a given nervous system integrates out of information received. Each "reality" is relative, being defined and limited by the imprint circuits of the receiving nervous system.

We are educationally conditioned to perceive our reality.  
In the image above, I see the colors "blue," "pink," "tan," "brown," and "gold;"  
this probably wouldn't be the case for a tribe in India.  

Brainwashing is the forcible reimprinting of a nervous system to eliminate old "realities" and imprint a new "reality."  

Stupidity is a contagious sociosemantic disturbance which afflicts us all.  Stupidity murders genuises, burns books, slaughters populations, and blocks progress.  There is nothing rationally desirable that cannot be achieved if rationality itself increases. Neurochemistry means the human nervous system studying and improving itself: intelligence, studying, and improving intelligence. Rationality, like reality, is perceived.  What's rational to one person isn't rational to another.  But that doesn't make it less rational to seek rationality, in accordance to the individual's perception of what is rational.        

23 Months Later

People are always saying that change is a good thing. But all they're really saying is that something you didn't want to happen at all... has happened.

It's hard to believe I'm the author of these below posts.  But at the same time, I vividly remember writing these things, and I vividly remember this stage of my life... probably because it hasn't been all that long ago. 

I might get back in the habit of posting should I find the time and desire.  All I really feel like doing right now is laying in bed with my eyes closed, and maybe listening to some Alcest.