Leviathan – the movie that makes you realize your life ain’t so bad

Movies can do many things to improve your quality of life. They can make you smile, entertain the hell out of you, make you laugh, scare you of the dark in a good way, and so on. They can also make you realize your life just ain’t that bad. Thus when you wake up in the morning after viewing such a movie you’re like, oh, well, at least I’m not those people.

This is Leviathan. It’s essentially an ancient tale. The weak have their land stolen by the powerful. And things go from there. It just happens to fascinate me because the tale is Russian, and is one of the better Russian movies of the post-Soviet realm. Please be sure to enjoy this kind of thing while you can. For one of two things will likely occur in the near future:

– Filmmaker Andrey Zvyagintsev will eventually give up his independent streak and be coopted (he’ll sell out) by the totalitarian state (for whatever reason) and become a tool of the system like other noted formerly awesome filmmakers such as Nikita Mikhalkov or Zhang Yimou.

or

– Vlad and his buddies will simply ban such films from being made.

whale skeleton.jpg

know what you are getting yourself into when the film’s money shot is a distraught child sitting next to a whale skeleton

Leviathan is set in modern Russia’s north. Not Siberia, but rather the Kola Peninsula. Specifically Murmansk Oblast, home to reindeer, discarded nuclear submarine hulks, fish processing infrastructure, and lots of other cold things. It’s a place that all things being equal, human beings probably have no business living there.

The first few minutes of the movie are nothing but nature shots as Zvyagintsev makes damn sure you realize this place is the end of the planet. Not a word of dialogue occurs until about five or ten minutes in as you the viewer are acclimated to a wasteland of concrete, rock, and snow. This tone remains throughout the entire film.

The protagonist is Kolya, a middle aged car mechanic, drunk, husband, hothead, father, and part time firearms enthusiast who is having his fairly decent sized home unjustly expropriated by the state for a fraction of its total value. He enlists the help of his friend and/or brother who’s a lawyer from Moscow. Also within the mix are Kolya’s second wife and son. Crucially, his son is by his first wife.

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As you can imagine in this kind of movie, everything goes swell. The local mayor is a paragon of decency, the courts do their job well, the cops can be counted upon to keep law and order justly, folks drink only in moderation, the local economy is humming along with glorious abandon, kids get along well with their parents and are otherwise well adjusted, and so on.

Bizarrely this wire brush beating of a flick was actually 1/3 funded by the Russian State, who apparently didn’t bother to read or approve the script. I’m rather shocked they let the film stand as is. I think the reasons are thus:

– Vlad is only pictured in the movie once, as a nondescript portrait in the local mayor’s office. He is otherwise not mentioned or discussed.

– Since all of the film’s arch-villains are all local politicians and authorities, it fits perfectly with the authoritarian propaganda narrative. As in, if folks view the Russian state as predatory and corrupt, it’s because the local authorities are to blame, not national level leadership. After all, it’s your local traffic cop bribing you on a Wednesday afternoon, not the Minister of Forestry. If only Vlad knew the truth, he’d clean up that local filth.

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fuck all four of these parasites

So Zvyagintsev got away with it, somehow. The result is a darkly haunting movie that deals with living under a predatory state that sees its citizens as nothing more than cash machines. But Zvyagintsev takes the story to another level by incorporating the deep flaws of average human beings that struggle because they’ve had all the powers of man and nature pinning their necks against bare rock for almost all their lives.

It this weird, twisted, screwed up world where lunatics are being voted into office by those who rightly feel the modern world has left them behind, it’s worth exploring a character study on how human beings who would otherwise be normal, can be turned into puddles of despair by their surroundings and the events that shape their lives. That is, no matter how squared away your life currently is, if you lived there too, maybe you’d be just like them. It’s a very cynical thought, but worth exploring.

kola.jpg

not the place to live

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on Russians, sharks, bears, swimming, and who to trust

You, the average normal human, require a new hammer. You use it to fix up your house, apartment, hovel, or yurt. You have several options to choose from. But recommendations tell you that you can have the hammer made by a partially competent American maker at a reasonable price, or the cheap one made by a former KGB assassin. Which do you choose?

Well, I suppose if you lived in Russia you would pick the KGB guy. Or be made to pick the KGB guy. But if you’re not Russian why would you, or anybody else, choose the KGB guy? This question has always been on my brain as folks and organizations have chosen Kaspersky Labs to handle their internet security to the tune of half-a-billion active users.

I mean I somewhat get it, Norton, McAfee, and the many other generic Western firms are only above average at best. But what do you expect when the Internets sandbox is an inherently flawed security nightmare. That doesn’t mean you go running for help with Ivan, aka the guys who are directly responsible for much of the security nightmare. Unless you desire to make the counterargument that because Kaspersky is KGB, that it’s good business to ask the devil to guard your church because he knows how to mix it up, barstool style. But I don’t buy that argument. Eventually the devil will rob you and use your pilfered cash to buy cinnamon whiskey, his drink of choice.

Kaspersky is somehow considered respectable, which further proves the marketing goons of the planet can put a shine on anything and twist people’s brains with glorious abandon. Kaspersky advertises on NPR! So he must be legit, right? And since the beginning Kaspersky has tried to always prove they have an independent hand. Their claim is that Russian they are, doesn’t mean you can’t trust them. They’re separate and distinct from the functioning arms of the Russian state, honest. Eh, if they say so.

As far as my take, I think this Washington Post article sums it up pretty nicely. In particular:

“James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said ‘it’s difficult, if not impossible’ for a company like Kaspersky to be headquartered in Moscow ‘if you don’t cooperate with the government and the intelligence services.’”

Yeah, no kidding. So if you or your business has put your trust in Kaspersky, well, you deserve what you get.

Hey speaking of failed trust, apparently a whole bunch of people actually thought Discovery Channel was going to get Michael Phelps to race a shark. Instead they just computer simulated it and Phelps lost. Because Phelps is a human, as in, a creature not meant to inherently swim in the water. Kind of like how a shark is. But I digress.

Did folks actually think they’d put Phelps in the water alongside a shark and race them in lanes? Do folks understand that humans can’t order sharks around like that? Gee I sure hope so. How did people logistically think this would occur? Why are they angry with Discovery Channel? How did they trust that this would actually happen?

The only thing I can think of is they’d capture the shark and chain it up like some kind of angry Star Wars arena beast. They’d have him in a lane in the ocean contained by two sheets of transparent aluminum. And Phelps would be on the other side. Then they’d fire the gun and release the shark. Only, but what if the shark didn’t swim forward and instead tried to turn around and attack the folks behind him? As in, the folks who’d just chained him up. Or what if the shark swam for a bit and then stopped? Or what if the shark busted through the transparent aluminum and swallowed Michael Phelps whole in an orgy of chum related violence? Or what if we get Kaspersky to race a 700 pound grizzly bear? Maybe his KGB training, Russian bear familiarity, and Vlad inspired judo can save him? But I doubt it.

Who not to trust? Well for starters Russians who say they’re here to help. And folks who claim a human can race a shark. Along with all other kinds of lunacy that just don’t seem to make sense. Kind of like most of the nonsense written on this degenerate blog.

You could adopt the tact of: trust no one. But instead, just use your common sense. We’ve all got it. It’s pretty neat. Go with that.

fun time

four creatures enter; one creature leaves

Putin is not Putin

I get the idea that 73% of the planet now believes Vlad is about seven feet tall, wears a pristine three piece suit, while dual wielding a pair of machine pistols, followed by a troupe of supermodels, and leaves all his enemies dead in his wake.

Yeah, I’m pretty sure none of this is true.  In any aspect, this guy just gets too much credit.  There’s Putin the idea, and Putin the man.  Putin the idea does not actually exist.  The man himself is basically just a gangster dictator.  Putin is not Putin.

Russia is powerful, it influences events worldwide and especially in it’s own backyard.  It has nuclear weapons, and a whole bunch of oil and gas.  But Russia is ultimately a troubled mess.  The economy is in the tank, demographic decline means by 2075 there will be like four Russians left, and generally speaking there’s nobody to carry on the party after Putin goes.

So when folks make Putin or Russia out to be this goliath, it’s not healthy.  It gives credence to a situation that’s not there.  Oh, Russia influenced the United States election?  I’m sure they did.  Did this single act cause Trump to win?  No.  And in any case, is everybody so blind to history?  Soviet Russia has influenced every U.S. election since 1917.  Please kindly go read history.

But when it’s made out that Putin alone has influenced the election, or even changed the outcome?  I’m sorry, but all that does is feed an image that doesn’t reflect reality.  Russia or Putin just simply isn’t that powerful.

You know once upon a time, the idea was that the United States shrugged off the rounding error threats from lesser nations led by gangsters.  But I guess, in today’s social media driven world, that we have to respond with hashtag anger to every petty little slight.  In 1984 or 1996, we’d have just shrugged at this.

Vlad gives up washing dishes with detergent; uses scotch instead

Once upon a time a former leader of the Soviet Union could bang a shoe and threaten death to all and everybody would believe (falsely, in retrospect) that he meant every word. But now, Russia’s all powerful state is reduced to attacking the free world by, uh, banning dish detergent. Uh…? [cue tumbleweed]

Seriously, this is a thing. Oh no, Vlad. Not our detergent. You inhumane bastard! Shall we surrender the Arc de Triomphe to you now or next week?

Granted, Russia can still actually bring death to all via an accidental nuclear launch or unleashing Vlad’s-Trained-Crane-Assault-Brigade (VTCAB); but seeing as how neither of those options is productive (the cranes stole Vlad’s coke), I guess he’s got nothing left but to reach for the bottom of the base of the barrel.

But even Vlad’s got limits. He can ban detergent and cheese, but he’ll be damned if he’s going to do without scotch and his X-Box. So I guess he’ll wash his dishes with half a bottle of scotch. And then drink the other half while playing X-Box surrounded by his five supermodel-former-figure-skater girlfriends. What a horrible life Vlad must have; who’d want to live like that? [blankly stares around cubicle for a moment]

Anyways, what I find most delicious about the BBC article is the social media trolling of this stupidity by ordinary-average-Russians. This one’s my favorite:

 

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“Psst, kid. Do you want a bit of washing powder?”

Bravo.

 

“I’ve spotted Merkel; she’s next to the bath soap aisle. Fire, my pretties! Fire! VTCAB! ATTACK!”

I know where Vlad was!

I don’t know where Vlad was. Nobody does. Even Vlad doesn’t know. For all he knows, he might have accidentally stepped into a lunar-time-warp while blitzed on looted Ukrainian potato vodka. Hey kids, don’t judge, the sweet elixir is just too tasty to pass up when you’re effectively washing it down with the tears of an entire nation.

– He spent a week reliving his good ole Dresden days by strangling four dudes and a squirrel in Bucharest; squirrel’s family now vows ancient-blood-oath revenge

– Dude went away for the weekend with his girl and simply lost track of time; wouldn’t you? seriously, search Alina Kabayeva

– The army tried to mount a coup but upon breaking down the Kremlin door, they discovered Vlad holding an active candlelit roundtable with Satan, Hitler’s ghost, George Clooney, and Jamie Dimon; at which point they meekly retreated from the room

– He spent a week coked out of his mind; fucking off; because what’s the world going to do while he’s gone? after all, he’s driving the runaway train

– Recovery from crane flying midair collision; you should see the crane; seriously, search Putin crane

– Zombie attack! zombies! Vlad! help! [Vlad bursts from dark woods wearing three-piece tuxedo; dual wielding a pair of double-barreled shotguns]

– Dude disappeared for a week on purpose; just to fuck with everybody; because he can; and then to see everybody’s reactions; and alter his diabolical plans accordingly

vladimir_next

“I’m the hardest working man you know.”