failed train becomes graffiti

Near my place is a light commuter rail train bridge overpass under construction.  Construction’s been on hold for over a year because (shocker) the project is over budget and the government is fighting with various private companies over who pays the bill.  My bet is it takes five more years to finish this thing.  It’ll be a decade behind schedule and probably a few billion over budget.  Which seems to be how America builds things nowadays.

Anyways, since this very new and expensive bridge is essentially abandoned, people get to have a field day except for the nearby construction storage site.  That site is safe is because it’s surrounded by cameras and barbed wire.  But the bridge itself is essentially open, if you’re daring or dumb enough to climb out on the steel edges of the supporting beams.  The beams are about a person’s width wide, without a railing, and a drop of at least a 100 feet or so.  In other words, you can walk out there, but if you fall you’re done.

And wouldn’t you know it several crazy folks have done so, to spray paint graffiti on the side of the bridge.  The first guy did this months and months ago.  It was a crude word that was incomprehensible, I guess it was his art name?  I have no idea, I’m not exactly up on the graffiti scene / lingo.  This morning another artist / goon (depends on your viewpoint) put his or her tag on the bridge side next to the old word.  The new stuff was super elaborate.  It must have taken hours to spray that on there.

I draw the following conclusions:

1) Whoever did this had the mental fortitude / courage / guts of a person who in caveman times would have killed all his rivals and made ten surrounding villages his bitch.  It takes balls to stand out there with inches between life and death for hours, and to somehow spray a well composed coherent concept.

2) Like a lot of places in America, the crime rate in my local area has soared lately.  We had a carjacking the other day which is extremely rare.  This weekend the cops were back, just down the block from me.  Yesterday I had to shoo my dog along during the walk because she wanted to play with a man who made no attempt whatsoever to conceal he was dealing hard drugs.  Spray paint a bridge illegally?  No worries, the cops are nowhere to be found (for many, many reasons which we won’t get into today).

3) Despite his nighttime tactics, I’m sure the artist / goon (depends on your viewpoint) would have been visible to at least a few pedestrians and those driving in cars.  So either these folks just let him do it and didn’t care, or they called the cops and the cops didn’t show (see above).  But I guess if folks saw this and didn’t care, I’m okay with that.  Somebody spray painted a bridge, so what?  If government can’t be bothered to not completely & totally waste taxpayer money for a decade on a failed transit project why not let some dude have at it?

4) Will the most incompetent of governments take the time to paint over or remove the graffiti?  Well, like I said the one guy has had his stuff up there for months, so my guess is no.  At least not until construction resumes on the project, if it ever does.  So these dudes have their stuff just hanging out there on this steel bridge forever.

5) If I had spray painting skills, and the guts to do this, I’d spray paint the most random shit up there.  Something that would cause people near constant question marks in their heads for years.  I’d have like a woolly mammoth playing cards with a penguin, a Cossack, an elderly Incan lady, and a half full glass of water, all of them sitting on a table made of ice, next to a campfire fueled by discarded Chinese newspapers, whilst on the Moon.  It’d be great!  Losers would be searching for the deeper meaning of it for years, when there would none whatsoever.

Mad Max: Fury Road – remember movies?

So the debate is whether movie theaters are bound for the crypt because covid walked in and spoiled the popcorn machine. To me, whether theaters are doomed has been in my brain for years and had nothing to do with the virus messing with the screen focus.

The problem with theaters is the ability to put out quality movies that people actually want to see. Box office receipts have been decent for years, but not at the level you’d expect for an industry that should be growing in proportion to the population.

I attribute this to a movie studio model that chases big blockbusters with about 95% of their energy, and maybe leaves a little 5% left over to take some chances. For the most part, there’s not room for the spark hit or decent medium budget flick anymore.

Plus, all the big blockbusters for about a decade have been superhero slop. Hey if this is your thing? Okay, I get it, sort of. But it’s not mine. I haven’t seen a superhero movie in, since, uh, um?

I think they have an eighth actor to play Batman now. It’s John Wayne’s ghost! They dug up his mortal remains, cloned him, trained him to talk in an even more guttural voice, and he’ll endlessly punch faceless bad guys to no purpose for a run time of 2 hours and 43 minutes. This movie will make $1.3B.

Then there’s the darker side of the Hollywood equation, the dominance of China. China is now the world’s largest box office and it won’t be close. They don’t even have Netflix to compete with theaters. Mulan is out this week on China’s screens and America’s small squares. It will make $1.3B.

Never mind the script was run past the Chinese Communist Party censors or that that lead actress thinks pro democracy protestors are losers. These are minor considerations when you’re trying to make money in China. Just ask the NBA.

But if you’re like me and you want quality, open thought, risk taking, and generally not seeing movies that feel like they emerged from a vending machine? Well, you need to get rid of superheros, and China’s deep Hollywood influence.

Well kids, that ain’t happening. And so to me, covid aside, this a business model set up for failure. They’re just begging Netflix or Amazon to eat them up. Movie theaters will be where you go see classic movies back when they made movies that were actually good. Or theme park rides like in Universal Studios, or 4D experiences, or Big Brother mind control centers, or whatever.

Meanwhile, if you want to watch real movies, you’ll have to stream or buy blu ray versions of old films from back when they made actual movies. And there’s no better example of that in Mad Max: Fury Road. Which is all of five years old at this point, but feels like it was made a century ago.

a perfectly normal way for your protagonist to start the movie’s action

This will be a short review because I consider it boring to write a seventeen page piece on just how awesome every part of this movie is. The problem is that it lost money, and so Hollywood’s never going to take such a risk again.

Let’s face it, Max is in the promos with this weird face mask on, Charlize is bald and looks angry, there’s a dude with a guitar that shoots fire. I think mainstream audiences saw the trailer for this movie and immediately checked out.

It’s their loss because they missed one of the best action movies in history. A movie that also had heart, characters you cared about, and didn’t beat you over the head with some kind of overtly cultural/political message.

This all comes from the mind of George Miller who’s an elderly crazy man only famous for Max movies, and other massive cult hits like Babe and Happy Feet. This movie is worthy of an insane asylum, but to me that’s a positive when ever superhero movie is written by twelve suits in a boardroom.

this is not a computer generated scene

1) Hardy is awesome as Max, says about twelve words in the whole movie, but is such a talented actor that he does the rest through facial expressions alone

2) Theron is the real star / hero of the movie and that’s the point, I don’t usually like her as an actor but in this role she’s perfect and it’s her performance that grounds / drives this movie

3) Miller gives you a story you instantly care about (unless you’re psychotic), a brave woman is attempting to rescue of a gaggle of pregnant women from an extremely evil dude = sold

4) The plot starts five minutes in, the film doesn’t mess around with your mind or time, it gets right into it, and you’re hooked

5) The film has some of the most mind bending, realistic, and baffling action ever put on screen, even when I rewatch this movie I still find myself gripping the couch arm

6) Sure they used some visual effects, but much of this movie was shot on site using practical effects, which is why it looks so awesome and probably also why it was so expensive to make and thus part of the reason it lost money

7) All the craziness in play is such a positive to me, Max is strapped to a car for the first action scene as a literal blood bank, the second action scene he’s still chained to a lunatic, all the different looks for the weapons and vehicles, the guitar that shoots fire, a religion that worships an altar of steering wheels, all positives for me

8) Max and Furiosa each undergo their own stories of redemption, pain, and ultimately end the movie once again giving a shit about people and things, all accomplished without overly dwelling on it or portraying either of them as enraged, miserable lunatics

9) The action, I mean, damn, some call it the best action movie of all time and they might damn well be right

this movie is actually hers and not Max’s and it works perfectly

I could go on and on. This movie’s not for everybody, but it sure works for me. And I wish it worked for a lot more people too. I hope it’s done a lot more on budget with streaming and blu ray so the studios will take more risks like this.

But I doubt it. Remember movies? Here’s one of them. Enjoy it. There won’t be too many new ones coming out like it ever again.

The National Gallery of Art – you’re not welcome

Sometimes the safest way to get through the day is to never get excited about anything. That way if things tank, you can just shrug and go get a beer. Instead, I got somewhat excited, things tanked, and it sort of robbed me of part of my brain for the rest of the day.

Those unfortunate to be long time readers of this blog will remember I occasionally go to galleries, dig Japan, and like weird art. I thought this was encapsulated in a visit to the National Gallery of Art which I walked to after being in DC for work.

They had a visiting exhibition on Japanese art and animals. What could go wrong?

The exhibit appeared to be underwhelming, and lacking structure, so I was having a hard time getting sucked in. But, this was because I spent the entire time looking over my shoulder to see whether a security guard was going to yell at me again.

I’ve probably been to a dozen galleries across the globe and never had to talk to a security guard, let alone interact negatively with one. It happened to me at The National Gallery of Art, four times, in less than an hour. Whether they were unhappy with the way I was carrying my backpack, or how close I was standing to an exhibit, or so on, they were in your face. They even got directly into the face of some poor old guy who was clearly hard of hearing.

Here is how a normal human interaction should work:

“Excuse me Sir, we would ask you stand back from the exhibit. You’re a bit too close. Thanks so much.”

This is how The National Gallery of Art thinks human interactions should work:


I literally walked out. I said something unfortunate to the fourth guard, waved him off, and stormed out. I’ve never done this before. I was in the place for less than an hour. What a shame.

Turns out my experience is not rare. So now I’ll turn it over to some additional online reviews for folks who didn’t appreciate a Stasi like experience while looking at art, some of these are just heinous:

Lived in Paris where I had the very best art available. This is the best American art displayed I have seen by far. One complaint: I have a service dog and the staff who watch over the art in each of the rooms containing art were always anticipating my service dog was going to do something wrong (which never happens….ever) and they were anxious to catch it in the act. It was hard to relax and enjoy the art when someone is doing that to you in every room you enter over and over and over for hours.

Wow my son is 12 and I’ve raised him correctly, I dont need you following you telling me to not let him touch.

there are scumbag security officers working there. i was not warned in advance about closing time i didnt gave time to gather stuff. they got physically aggressive with me when it was closing at five pm. i am deaf and schizophrenic. i was trying to draw in peace in their galleries. i recommend to avoid the area. dangerous staff and guards. even the info desk lady scowled at me for being evidently deaf. avoid this hellhole.

The place is jammed with sweaty rude security guards that looked at me as if I had no business there and followed me around as if I was in a department store about to steal something. If I had blue eyes and blonde hair I’m certain I would have had a different experience. If you are of color go with someone or be prepared to be uncomfortable . I’m so disappointed because I love art and had planned to visit often but the security staff is extremely unprofessional and ruined the atmosphere for me to fully enjoy the art. Also no curator at any of the popular exhibits I visited. I expected more from the nations capital😶😢😒

How can you get kids interested in art if they are not welcome at all! I went to visit with my 3 kids (10, 7 and 5). We live in the area but I was waiting for the right time to go as I was hoping to get them interested in art at a young age. Unfortunately my experience was really bad. The museum is great as it hosts great works of art, however almost every person I interacted was either a snob (very common on people interested in art for some reason) or plain rude. As soon as we entered the very first room, my 7 year old got to about 2 feet from a painting pointing at something he liked. My wife quickly stopped him and started explaining that he needed to stay away from the art. Even though she stopped him in time and we clearly had the kids under control, a security guard came and started scolding my son. My son got really scared, sat on a sofa and started sobbing silently, since he wanted to cover his face he put his legs on the sofa to cover his face with his knees. The guard came to him again and told him he needed to take his shoes off the (very cheap and plastic) sofa. I told the guard he was overreacting since he was just a kid and then he started with his typical speech of “you cannot tell me how to do my work” and actually asked us to leave the room. We did not leave the museum but you can imagine the kids have no interest on ever going to that museum again, and neither do I. I have great respect for the Smithsonian as an institution and love all other museums, however I was deeply sadden with the experience. I really cannot imagine how art can be promoted to kids if they are not welcome at all.

National Gallery Of Art Smithsonian 1

fuck this place

we take the time to learn about a topic on which we knew nothing

I like to consider myself a fairly well read dude.  But every once and a while I come across something insane, and yet I know nothing about it.

In this case it had to do with a big celebrity event.  This explains my ignorance.  Because I care not about celebrities or their lives.

But still, for whatever reason (I’m in idiot) I had to break this down in my mind.  Please bear with us as we discuss this most inconsequential of topics.

Every year a bunch of very, very rich people go to an annual fundraising event called the Met Gala.  It’s a charity (cue laugh track) event at the Met.  It supposedly benefits the Met’s Costume Institute, a subsection of the Met that does clothing exhibits.

According to the BBC, this event “is considered the highlight of New York’s social calendar”.  And they have themes, I guess.

This year’s theme was “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, which showcases how Catholicism has influenced fashion throughout history.”  Uh, okay.

So as best as I can figure, celebrities are probably 98% atheist.  But for whatever reason all these people are going to dress up in a religious style.  Sort of.

As an example, here is a picture of Rihanna dressed up like a pope.


Here is a picture of Katy Perry with angel wings.

katy perry.jpg

Do you get it?  You see, the pope and angel inspiration are like religious things.  So that’s why they did that.

Here is Olivia Munn (who to me will only ever been known as Aaron Rogers destructive girlfriend) with supposed chain mail on her scalp.  As in, The Crusades.  DO YOU GET IT?


Here’s Tommy “The Ventilator” Brady doing his best impression of being a Redanian mage from The Witcher 3.


Here is a picture of Ordinary Average Gentleman Stan Winslow, he repairs cars for his neighbors and coaches his kid’s soccer team.


So all these folks show up.  They get their picture taken.  Then they go in and eat, gossip, do the rich person socialite thing, and they move on.  Some amount of money goes to the Met to continue operations.  Rinse and repeat annually.

So based on my meticulous research, I have some conclusions and some recommendations to improve the event for next year.


a) It’s almost like the theme is irrelevant and a bunch of fashion folks just use it as an excuse to come up with wacky costume designs.  If the theme was say, whales, Katy Perry would have had a big whale fin on her back.  DO YOU GET IT?

b) The rich and powerful and celebrity are happy to absorb any excuse to dress up, get their picture taken, feel important, talk to people like them, and so on.  The most comical idea is this is somehow a charity event.  I doubt the Met is hard up for cash.

c) I mean, it’s not like all these people are going to say go with the Catholic theme and raise money for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in the City of New York, a Catholic charity that helps New York City’s criminally destitute to eat, have a roof over their heads, etc, etc.

d) The fact that this event was international front page news is yet another mark that our culture is bound for the crypt and/or justification for an alien race to conquer us to save us from ourselves.


1) Return next year to the Catholic theme.

2) Demand accurate costumes to reflect the true history of Catholicism.

3) 100% of the proceeds go directly to Society of St. Vincent de Paul in the City of New York.

4) Cameras are not allowed.

5) The rich will be made to sit on wooden benches and eat sludge ala a Catholic monastery Circa 1284.

6) Monks will chant Bible verses focusing on the parts where that weird Dude helps the poor and describes how the meek will inherit everything.

7) Rihanna will dress in authentic full 8th Century papal garb, and be subjected to the full breadth of assassination attempts, Roman intrigue, obscure Holy Roman Empire politics, and baffling disagreements over minor esoteric spiritual interpretations.

8) Katy Perry will dress as a true avenging angel of the Lord God.  From her chain belt will hang on a meat hook the severed head of Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi, former Overlord and Servant of Satan.

9) Olivia Munn will dress as a Knight of Jerusalem and be forced to engage in actual live battle axe fights with the current girlfriend of one Aaron Rogers for the honor of her knight’s house.

10) Tommy will dress as an alter boy.  His wife has to wear the most basic of black shirt and slacks priest garb.

11) The Clooneys have to sit barefoot outside the door and beg for money to buy an Indulgence as a forgiveness for their sin of being born.

12) Please, help me.  No really, please help me.  They made me do this post.  I didn’t want to.  Why on earth did I have to write this?  I don’t know why I did this.  I don’t know where they put the key.  I can’t get out of here.  I threw out all the phone books so they couldn’t keep using them.  And more just appeared the next day.  Where the HELL do you even get a phone book nowadays!


we reaffirm our commitment to “giving it a hard time just for the sake of it”

The goons of humanity who try and remote control other people’s lives are shockingly transparent. So when the Communist Party backed a movie they placed supreme faith in, gee, who would have figured they’d lose their minds when it turned out to be the terrible, mindless, bad action flick everybody expected?

Beyond my original thoughts on all this, I’ll simply put down the international failure of this movie to two concepts:

1) Zhang got himself trapped (as many a good filmmaker has) by the power of special effects. Since computers allow him to do anything he wants, he lets his mind go insane. Simple decent scenes become a mesh of digital action nonsense so disconnected from reality that the audience can’t connect with the movie. It’s like watching a bad video game or seizure inducing Japanese anime. You don’t feel anything. See the Star Wars prequels or the Transformers films for similar forays into the awfulness.

2) Despite (1), a whole bunch of movies succeed in this format and make a ton of money, see Fast & Furious. I think the Red goons wanted The Great Wall to make an insane amount of money. If it did, it would have been a critical first step of an organic Chinese blockbuster. The problem is nobody cared. Folks probably saw the terrible trailers for this movie and were like, “eh, whatever”.

The movie debuts in America tomorrow. So I guess we’re about to find out just how dumb the American theatergoer is. If this movie makes $300M in the States, I’m moving to the Moon. But the Chinese theatergoer already figured this out, and they weren’t happy.

But hey, even though the movie sucks, it’s not the movie’s fault. But rather you, the viewer, who is wrong. Per The Economist, Xinhua (the Party mouthpiece) called the film “innovative” and accused online detractors of “giving it a hard time just for the sake of it”.

I’ll wear that appellation with pride. As I hope every Chinese citizen who rightly criticized this movie online will. We can’t let the goons control human lives. To the point that the bad, is made to be good. Just because they say so.

The question again, is can you make good art, a good movie when the Party is pulling the creative levers? I don’t think so. Zhang used to make great movies, when he was a rebel and against the Party. Now he’s a team player and the art is over.

I hope he learns from this, dumps the handlers, and goes back to making great films.

The Great Wall

Human actor plays medieval part in movie about aliens who got to Earth on an asteroid and attack once every 60 years. Eh, wait, what? Well, what could go wrong?

Bond villains and my lack of art skill

Both my Brothers have music and/or art skills.  When I was a kid I played the piano, about average I’d say.  I gave that up as I grew older but recently I’ve been trying to get back into it with very mixed success.  It just doesn’t come naturally to me.  My older dog will come lay with me as I play and even he’s not impressed, and he thinks I walk on water.

I think it’s the same way with art.  I remember really wanting to draw well when I was a kid.  But I couldn’t.  I used have those coloring books where you could trace out a drawing that wasn’t your own.  So it looked like you could draw real well when you actually couldn’t.

I distinctly remember as a little one drawing this cool car at school and it looked really nice.  So this girl walks up and is very impressed with my art skills.  But I had to show her the trace book and admit it wasn’t my talent.  She was not impressed and walked away.  I guess I blew that one.  She probably grew up to be a supermodel.  I should have lied to her.

Anyways, I bring this up because this morning I got it in my head to write about how Mark Zuckerberg is a future Bond villain.  And I had this idea to paste Zuckerberg’s machine-engineered-cosmetic-skull atop a Bond villain frame I found online.  After about ten minutes of struggling to make this happen, I gave up and remembered that I have no art skills.  But hell, even The Onion guys struggle to make their composite shots look clean sometimes.

But hey, it didn’t actually matter because somebody online already did for me!


Must be just pure chance that somebody else already thought of this one?

Either I have already said it on this blog, or maybe it was in person to folks, that I genuinely would be uncomfortable sharing a room alone with Zuckerberg.  I don’t sit in coffee shops.  I get my black coffee and go.  But let’s say I was alone in one early with just one employee there.  And I’m drinking my coffee and reading my paper.  Zuckerberg comes in and orders an $11 fancy cup.  He then sits down and starts playing with some kind of square screen.  Then the employee excuses himself to go to the bathroom.  So Zuckerberg and I are in there alone.  At that point, I’d have to get up.  I’d be out the door so fast.

I use this dude’s product every day.  So he puts out a quality app, that is also kind of invasive and creepy at times.  Anybody else get slightly weirded out when Facebook does that Good Morning greeting now?  Or how about when it offers to make you and your co-workers friends simply because it knows you both logged on from work via a similar IP source address?

Beyond the making of a decent product though, Zuckerberg is just a creepy guy.  Just watch the way he talks to people or does interviews.  It’s just uncomfortable to observe, but he has more power and money than Buddha so he gets away with it.

In about 30 years he’ll be a Bond villain for sure.  He’ll have kidnapped ten little urchins off the street in an attempt to harvest their power so he can live forever.  Or he creates Facebook X, his plot to use all the Like data he’s acquired over the decades to build a Moon Base (because why not).

He already has some of the tendencies required to lose his morality on the road to evil villain status.  Here’s a shot of him jogging in Tiananmen Square to suck up to the Commies.  Note the pack of cigarettes in the background that he had to smoke in the process.


All in the vain hope that China might open its doors to Facebook so it can effectively compete for the honor of getting its clock cleaned by a more successful organic Chinese option.  Anybody ever hear of Uber China?  It’s in the library logged in the Sports Authority section.

If you follow the plot of Bond movies, Zuckerberg has to be old to play the villain right.  He’s 32 today.  So give him three decades and he’s 62.  Bond is let’s say 30 when he’s in his prime.  Which means that the future Bond who will battle Zuckerberg in the duel of the fates could be born about today.  Did you have a kid recently?  Your child could be that Bond.

So when your child drops Zuckerberg off the penthouse level of a 340 story office block or blows him out into space, you’ll know you’ve contributed your necessary offering to the betterment of all mankind.  After all, Bond wouldn’t be Bond without a good villain.  A bad guy worthy of an epic bad guy death.  So maybe it’s all for a purpose.  Zuckerberg’s just walking his appropriate path toward the airlock.  Cool, walk on dude.


“For you see, Mr Bond, the newest version will display ads [dramatic pauses] 23 percent better on mobile devices.  Ahahahahaha!”  [Bond pounds fist into palm]

Matt Damon and Zhang Yimou whitewash their souls

Dark days are ahead for China. There be monsters north of the wall. Winter’s probably already here, or something like that. Everybody’s scared, the army’s not ready, disaster looms. But don’t worry, Matt Damon will show up to save everybody.



Remember when this guy wasn’t an action movie star?


Except it’s a big trick. For the monster is not some type of mythical creature that eats life. Instead, it’s the devil incarnate of bad action movies. This hideous demon spawn was born from an unhuman blending of the reproductive organs of Michael Bay’s Transformers and Zach Snyder’s Superman. China doesn’t stand a chance, even with Damon’s purchased-sculpted-boxer-physique.


great wall movie.jpg

Just take a gander at the stereotypical bad action flick awfulness that awaits the poor Chinese theater audience.


The Great Wall is China’s most expensive movie production ever. It cost $160M in pure gold pressed latinum and is a massive gamble by both Hollywood and the Chinese film industry. Legendary Entertainment does the production as the now full-fledged member of China’s business community since they (sold out to) were bought out by Wanda Group.

Bankrolled by Wanda Group’s overlord, Asia’s richest man, and expert 1930’s style tap dancer Wang Jianlin, this flick’s meant to serve as a key mark on what Wang and many, many Hollywood suits hope will be a very long and lucrative alliance. If it’s not already, China will soon be the world’s largest film market. And you’d better believe Hollywood wants in on all that luscious cash.

This forthcoming epic masterpiece will hit theaters in China this December followed by a February 2017 debut in the States. This is a bit strange, as February is usually second only to January as a dumping ground for garbage films. Maybe they’re hoping a sparse market will help the film perform better? Maybe they’re hoping they can rope in the Valentine’s Day audience as 11th Century Chinese warriors are viciously beheaded by evil monsters?



Eh, I’m pretty sure The Mongols. Why do I need to pay $13 to see a movie when I already know the answer to the poster’s wise quest question?


Anyways, in our current modern media culture, we can’t have anything without a race based controversy. And boy does The Great Wall sure have one in the entirely accurate accusation that they whitewashed the cast by adding Damon when an otherwise all Chinese cast would have made a lot more sense.

They claim Damon plays a mercenary or something. Maybe he’s there to assassinate Jason Bourne? It would have to be something specific like that. Because from what I know about the Song Dynasty, I’m pretty sure the Chinese army didn’t lack for limitless raw manpower. So there’s nothing that would require them to hire to creepy white guy from Medieval France who’s on the lam for stealing Her Ladyship’s already stolen virtue.

Whatever. This aspect of the flick doesn’t really interest me. Damon’s presence is really rather simple. Wang and his minions want to make cash worldwide. In order to do that you need a global star. Damon is a global star. There’s not a single Chinese actor that comes even close to his worldwide appeal. That’s why he’s there. There isn’t much else to it. Money!

Except to perhaps ask the question: Why isn’t there a Chinese actor as world famous as Damon? Ah, yes, now we get to the parts I actually care about. First off, let’s take a look at the director in the brilliant Zhang Yimou. I really like Zhang, the dude’s made some incredible movies and knows his craft well. In particular, To Live and Hero are quality movies. To Live even approaches the realm of masterpiece in my mind. But that was then and this is now.

Then, Zhang got himself banned from filmmaking by the Communist goons because To Live did such a great job tearing down the hypocrisy of said dictatorial state. Now, Zhang is their errand boy. So he thus produces flicks of questionable messaging and quality such as The Flowers of War, which also had a conspicuous hunk-white-dude lead in Christian Bale.

Now Zhang is working for Wang. And before he made billions in real estate, Wang was a regimental commander in the PLA. He’s also a mint condition delegate to the rubber stamp National People’s Congress. In other words, Wang’s the consummate Communist team player. Which helps to explain why Wanda Group is so successful given his connections. Although Wang is probably also a genius, so that helps too.

But if you were Zhang and you once made movies of conscience, perhaps you’d hesitate before getting into business with a guy like Wang who is so clearly tied to a Communist Party organization that censors movies like the ones you used to make. Hell, if somebody banned me and my movie, I’d be pissed. Maybe Zhang’s just more forgiving than I?

But you see, as a now Chinese owned studio, Legendary has to get The Great Wall entirely past the censors. This means that every line of dialogue, every scene of horrible computer generated action has to support the message of the Communist Party.

And therein lies the real crime of this movie, not the color of Damon’s skin. If I ran into Wang on the street (as in if I stowed away on his jetcopter) I’d like to ask him straight to his face if all of Legendary’s future movies are now going to have to be approved by the Commie censors?

I ask this because Legendary has made some damn good movies throughout the last fifteen years. I’d like to know in advance before stepping into the theater whether my movie experience got approved by some undersexed-degenerate-apparatchik-tool.

Hollywood (in theory) is supposed to be a land of consummate free speech. After all, it’s freedom of speech, freedom of the arts that enables Hollywood to function. It’s what gave birth to this pinnacle location of the film industry at the start of the movie era a century ago.

But money talks, and Hollywood (most, but not all) values money over principle. So Damon and a whole bunch of other people are perfectly happy to climb aboard a production that is essentially bankrolled by anti-free speech goons provided they get their tasty paycheck.

Seeing as how, like most celebrities, Damon does substantial humanitarian and human rights work, if I ran into Damon on the street (as in if I stowed away on his autogryo) I’d like to ask him straight to his face what he thinks about hundreds of Chinese human rights lawyers and activists being rounded up and convicted in show trials? Or that they’re being forced to read Cultural Revolution style confessions to the public like in one of the heart tearing scenes that Zhang used to put into his movies.

Did I also mention that Wanda Group owns AMC Theaters? Do you like movies? I sure do. Do you like free speech? I sure do. Well, as far as I can figure, I think these two concepts go hand in hand. But if you’re Wang, Zhang, or Damon, I guess you can respectfully disagree. Money!

Here’s the problem though. Wang and Zhang are placing a bet that you can have quality movies in a realm without free speech. It’s the same gamble that the Communist Party is taking all throughout China’s culture. For example, the Communist Party is backing efforts to dramatically enhance scientific research and development, but without the freedom of speech and academic liberty that normally comes with it.

I suspect, just as it’s awfully hard to invent cool shit when the censors are all over you, that Wang and Zhang are going to discover that without freedom of creativity that they can’t make decent movies. They might make a lot of money (see Transformers for the ability of bad movies to make billions) but not actual good art.

Until China’s film industry can make consistent, freethinking, actual good art, they’re never going to produce a true global star like Damon. I just don’t see it happening. True art requires true freedom. End of story.

Maybe The Great Wall will be fairly decent. Like I said, Zhang is a superb filmmaker. And I really do like Damon as an actor. But for the future of movies, I hope this film tanks.

we duel MacArthur and Patton

Patton selected his .357 Magnum and a baseball bat. MacArthur chose an original Model of 1911 and a bolo knife. I met their ghosts at dawn at a nondescript grassy plain somewhere alongside the Hudson River. After a bit of friendly but restrained banter, I outlined the rules of the day.

And …, wait, hold on. [shuffles papers] [unintelligible muttering] I know, hold on. [throws papers] Yeah, okay, that didn’t happen.

But what did happen is a long while back I visited MacArthur’s ivory skeleton box.

So for whatever reason I decided to rewatch Patton and then watch MacArthur the whole way through for the first time. Then I decided to compare the two, because why not. For those who have seen both movies you know how this is going to end. But this is all for fun, so why not.

All the pieces were in place from the start. Patton pulls a decent director in Franklin J. Schaffner who made some good films beyond just this one and also served in combat in said war. They got some c-grade hack named Francis Ford Coppola to write the script.

MacArthur gets stuck with some guy named Joseph Sargent and a writer known as Hal Barwood who you all will surely remember as the guiding hand behind the Oscar nominated video game Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Oichalcum plot twists my ass, Hal, what the hell were you thinking? Indy wasn’t like that. [throws chair]

MacArthur also pulled a budget 1/4 less even though it was made seven years later. For whatever reason MacArthur’s creators then decide to compound the impending misery by covering a span of ten years instead of Patton’s three, all with a running time 40 minutes shorter than Patton.

In terms of MacArthur, I think a bunch of producers got together and decided to shoehorn a Patton clone, they somehow got Gregory Peck involved, and figured even though they were setting it up for failure that it’d somehow all work it and still make a bunch of gold. It didn’t.

MacArthur made a fraction of Patton’s money, lives with justifiably poor reviews, and just leaves you with sense of apathy. When you’re done with Patton you get the idea you’ve just watched something powerful. When MacArthur’s over you shut off your television and go get another beer.

Peck, who remains one of my favorite actors, touched on this:

I admit that I was not terribly happy with the script they gave me, or with the production they gave me which was mostly on the back lot of Universal. I thought they shortchanged the production.

No kidding. Yet for some reason Peck would still go on to say this was one of his most favorite roles. Maybe because MacArthur was a victorious general, famous and mostly beloved, and Peck got to do a whole bunch of long monologues.

A good example of the disparity is that Jerry Goldsmith did the music for both flicks. You can hear Patton right now, picture the light notes of the trumpet across the North African desert. You know that music. It will live forever. Now you go ahead and try and remember one note from MacArthur. You can’t because Jerry phoned it in. So did everybody else.

MacArthur is just going through the motions, they portray MacArthur’s evacuation of the Philippines in the first ten minutes of the film. It’s one of his most controversial and gut wrenching decisions and we see it immediately with no buildup, no time to establish the film. It’s jarring how quickly this scene shows up.

Conversely the movie is nearly an hour long by the time we see Patton confront his inability to keep his mouth shut and the ever eternal slapping of one of his men. These scenes have power because the movie has taken its time to build a character and story.

The crazy thing about Patton is that so many of the memorable parts we take as genius, thus making MacArthur look silly, almost never happened at all. Nobody wanted to go with the opening flag speech scene. George C. Scott wanted nothing to do with it. So Schaffner just lied to him and said it’d be filmed at the end.

Says Coppola on the commentary tack, “All you young people, bear note, that the things that you are fired for are, are often the things in later life that you are celebrated and given lifetime achievements for.

Patton also has to deal with the enduring reality that it was made without Patton’s input, family, diary, notes, and thus relied heavily on Omar Bradley. I can say what I want about MacArthur’s poor film execution, but the content at face value is likely almost entirely accurate. The same cannot be said of Patton.

If you ask me, the most controversial aspect of the film is not Patton himself but Bradley’s presence. It’s open to interpretation just how much of Scott’s portrayal of Patton’s personality is a mythical creation inside Bradley’s mind. It makes for wonderful movie, but maybe perhaps not the look Patton himself would appreciate. From my end, I think this is how Patton was, some of the time, as in an act. A deliberate act of leadership. The rest of the time he was likely the thoughtful military professional his writings depict, but that which does not make for entertaining movie.

In the end, the best part of these two movies though is that I think that bizarrely, both Patton and MacArthur got the movies they would have personally wanted. Patton got to be played by George C. Scott and seen forever as an eternal warrior monk badass. And MacArthur gets Gregory Peck, who gives a bunch of cool long speeches for two hours. In this sense, they both win the duel. As always, in their own way.


Gentlemen! I will now count off the paces. No General MacArthur, I do not know the current exact time of day. General Patton, please wait till my countdown is completed before you wield your bat. General Patton!

Shakespeare’s skull is missing; we’re on the case

In some of Earth’s most ancient cultures, it is said the soul can never fully be at rest if the body is un-whole. Poor Shakespeare is missing his skull, and his soul might thus be trapped in some kind of weird Valhalla purgatory where he is compelled to club fight the same thug over and over again until his skull is reunited with the rest of his bleached skeleton.

We, at The Arcturus Project, are here to help. Based upon our belligerent preliminary research, my Guests and I propose the following unhinged scenario and vicious plan:

1) We build a time machine and fly back to 1794 where we will intercept the grave robbers on site. Rather than liquidate them immediately, as my Guests desire, we will preserve the timeline by sedating them, giving them a fake skull, and returning the original skull to the grave with the thieves none the wiser.



We’re on it, bro!


2) Should we fail in our attempt to fold space and time via a machine, we’ll have to buckle down and search in today’s realm. Naturally our first stop will be Derek Jacobi’s hallowed mansion. As the foremost headman of the Anti-Stratfordian Faction, surely he’ll know the secret whereabouts of the skull as his cult has undoubtedly kept it hidden for centuries to further cloud the memory of the author who they claim is surely a fraud. Should we fail in our brutal interrogation of Jacobi, taken in by his charm, gentlemanly behavior, and delightful ability to star & seriously act in even the most C-grade of hack garbage movies, we’ll have no choice to resort to more ridiculous methods.



Derek Jacobi, in the Oscar nominated Underworld: Evolution


3) We’ll begin by exhuming Shakespeare’s entire skeleton, a process that might result in the complete destruction of Holy Trinity Church, but whatever, omelets need making. Then we use the DNA from the skeleton to clone Shakespeare. Once the clone reaches the age of 52, we summary put him to death, and harvest his skull. We then rebuild Holy Trinity Church, put the original skeleton back in the tomb, and add the Clone Shakespeare’s skull into the tomb as well.


4) As a caveat, we don’t know the rules of Valhalla. We’ve never been there. So it’s possible that because the skull is a clone skull, that this won’t work. And Shakespeare’s soul would still be trapped. So next what we’d have to do is use the most invasive of surveillance methods to catalog the location of every 17th century skull in the British Isles. We’ll be able to tell what skull is from this era by detecting the presence, at the molecular level, of frilly cravat material common in this age, such as that seen gracing the neck and skull of Her Majesty:


Then we’ll use DNA tracing (see first part of Plan 3) to analyze millions of skulls until we find the right one. Then we’ll but that skull back in the church and (hopefully) manage to put back all the millions of other skulls too.


X) In the event Plan 4 becomes logistically impossible, we’ll have to activate Plan X. My Guests & I fly to Stratford-upon-Avon, and descend upon the Hamlet’s Determination Ale House. We drink until we come up with a better plan to solve this most pressing of the planet’s problems.


I’m banking on Plan X. However, if you wish to personally assist us in this most noble of quests, specifically Plans 1-4, please kindly provide us a bit of seed money by posting check, cash, or money order to the following address:


The Arcturus Project – Shakespeare Reclamation Branch

C/O Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation

1794 Aguiyi Ironsi Street

Abuja 900001, Nigeria


Your cooperation, as always, is very truly appreciated.


mel hamlet

Mel’s got it.  Mel’s got it!

choosing the right direction

I find it intellectually interesting that just a few days after the country celebrated the legacy of Martin Luther King, that we have such a forceful issue dealing with his message. Normally I couldn’t care less, or desire to comment, about a circular firing squad emanating from Hollywood, but I feel compelled today for some reason.

Lots of reasonable people can read these words different ways:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

But to me, when King says he wants people not to be judged off the color of their skin, I’m pretty sure he means he doesn’t want people to be judged off the color of their skin.

Yet today’s professed problem with the Oscars is that they’re judging people based off the color of their skin. Titan-of-Humanity George Timothy Clooney says Hollywood is “moving in the wrong direction“.

But what are the Oscars anyways? The organization has been a panel of white man slime since its existence. For instance, all those old Hollywood legends of how they treated young women didn’t just materialize out of thin air. Which has always kind of made me wonder why so many people take the Oscars so seriously.

What exactly is supposed to happen here? If the Academy doesn’t nominate black performers it’s not diverse? So should they have just thrown in two or three black performers, just to keep the controversy away from the panel?

What about Asians? How many is the Academy required to nominate each year? What about lesbians or gays? How many each year is an acceptable number? Is there a set quota that will scratch the itch of every interest group, racial, ethnic, religious, or gender background? And while we’re at the elimination of gender roles, why do the Oscars even continue to nominate based off male or female categories? Shouldn’t we force the Academy to create a single category for all performers? Or at least create a category for all 17 of these newfangled gender roles? You can really take this craziness down a long road to which there is no end.

So to me, the solution simply comes back to King’s dream: judge by character, and nothing else. Which occasionally, yeah, it might mean no performer of a particular identity gets nominated.

So some of you would make the argument that the Academy is not judging by character, and that if it did, there would be more black nominees. Eh, perhaps, but almost every article I’ve read on this issue mentions skin color first as the issue at hand, and not character. I also get that the business is the business. And in the Hollywood business, if you have an Oscar you’re a freaking legend, and if you don’t you’re not. Which is why the Oscars are so important an issue.

But still, at any rate, whatever the situation, I now offer a few belligerent solutions:

1) Stop pretending the Oscars are a meaningful benchmark

Is this the pinnacle of filmmaking? Why? Because the Oscars been around since 1929? So they’re the true benchmark of success because they’re old? These are the judgmental jackasses who picked Shakespeare in Love over Saving Private Ryan and gave a best director award to an acknowledged child rapist. I’m not sure what a proper replacement is, but at a certain point maybe it’s time to acknowledge that the opinions of a bunch of faceless big shots doesn’t equal what’s actually a great performance.

2) Stop going to the Oscars

The one thing I’m very okay with regarding this latest round of shouting is that folks are actually putting their actions where their mouths are. Usually Spike Lee just complains but then goes on like nothing happened. This time he’s not going. Good on him. If you truly believe in something, don’t participate. It removes the element of hypocrisy. As I wrote above, I don’t necessarily understand how Lee and the others are going to get the result they want, but at least they’re showing they mean what they say

3) Create your own benchmark

If you’re a young white/black/etc/etc/etc filmmaker or performer then what’s your definition of success after say 40 years in the business? I submit, if your benchmark is, “I won an Oscar”, you’re missing the point. Just as if a writer’s definition is, “I won a Pulitzer”. Those things might be neat, but they aren’t life and they certainly aren’t art. They’re just the voting intentions of a panel of other human beings. Good movies, literature, art, are all things that transcend silly little voting exercises. Art at its best is composed of the things that define the “content” of our character. If you ask me, if you want to move in the right direction? Forget fixing the Oscars. Create your own benchmark. Create your own dream that isn’t based off an award chosen by others. That’s the right direction to go.


Oh George.