Robots and Sunglasses

In which I shamelessly post in the style of This Recording….

I was watching Westworld (1973) a few weeks ago and a couple of images at the beginning of the movie struck me.

Obviously, they’re the same guy/robot and the implication is that they’re both robot pilots guiding the unsuspecting tourists to their doom at the hands of disgruntled robots. Even though Steve Vai believes his guitar is his personal window to his soul, the Hollywood tradition is that robots wear sunglasses to hide their eyes because eyes are the windows to the soul — and robots and governors don’t have one.

When Yul Brynner shows up in Westworld, he has creepy eyes with movie lights in them which is to say, this post is sort of about robot mythmaking. Oddly enough, in the movie, you differentiate the robots from humans by looking at their hands, not by the movie lights in their eyes.

(I was saddened when I realized that Yul Brynner had been reduced to a robot cowboy signalling the end of the Hollywood Western. The genre was briefly revived when Lawrence Kasdan did Silverado (1985) and then Clint Eastwood did Unforgiven (1992). Let’s face it: the genre will live on with a respirator the same way Elvis does).

People wear sunglasses in public, on the subway, and when they’re playing poker because they don’t want you to see their souls or their wandering eyes. Similarly, femme fatales and French film directors have souls of dubious provenance. Tut alors! They’re both (somewhat) French!

Celebrities wear the sunglasses and take their endorsements because even Republicans know that celebrities don’t have souls. And the whole history of sunglasses is wrapped up in celebrity culture and power culture. You can be an instant rock star by popping ’em on!

I’ve recently watched the first two seasons of the newer Battlestar Galactica. The show has a giant fanbase and a lot has been written about it already but maybe…. not…. I’m the first to observe that the robots … well, “skin job robots” … don’t wear sunglasses because they have souls. The best mindwarp of the show is that the “skin jobs” are made by the “Danger Will Robinson” Robby Robots. Thank goodness.

There’s an old science fiction book the Jesuits made me read called A Canticle for Leibowitz where humanity is doomed to reach The Nuclear Age, destroy itself, then evolve back up into another Nuclear Age, ad infinitum. The stories and the sunglasses just keep coming, don’t they? Here’s me editing this post….

Let’s watch a robot video. Robot video looker….

A Blast from the Cabinets

The Brothers Quay remind me somehow: always be blogging.

the cabinet of jan svankmajor

I saw a series of BQ movies around the time they came out and they had a profound influence on me. I feel funny recommending them to people for fear they won’t get it. Their films felt out of place in the 80s and today I feel I would have to KNOW that someone was at least into puppet animation before I would recommend the BQ to them. I’m disappointed they haven’t been very active lately but then, in my eyes, they are completely self-fulfilled artists and who would blame them having already achieved artistic nirvana.

Dirt, Lights, Action, Noir

lightbulbs in a dirty cabinet
The lights are in but the cabinet is really dirty

I watched a great trashy noir movie from 1949 last night called Jigsaw. This was obviously made by a bunch of beatnik proto dirty fucking hippies. (Watch it for free.) That should be enough to get what it’s about without giving the plot away although even I gasped when 20 minutes into the film the special prosecutor started making out with the widow of an early murder victim.

In my googling, I also found this. Someone needs to make a movie called Jigsaw about an evil jigsaw. No, really.

War, Inc.

I was dumb enough to volunteer for a screening of John Cusack’s new movie and ye, sucks pretty bad. He should’ve stuck to being low-budget absurd and focused more on the writing. There’s a lot of money in this production and it’s wasted on a flat script.  I can’t believe Mark Leyner had a hand in this.  The real jokes are few and the transparency of Marisa Tomei’s character for Cusack’s crush on Naomi Klein is the stupidest plot driver since being caught masturbating in a pie. I have a crush on her too but jeez….  Ben Kingsley and sister Joan  can’t push the slapstick hard enough either.  This could’ve been good but it’s bungle city.

Standard Operating Procedure

Looking up at Grand Central

I used to take friends and tourists for walks up in the windows of Grand Central. Remember that?

I was kind of surprised there were only about 25 people in attendance at a 7 pm showing of Errol Morris’s new documentary, Standard Operating Procedure the other day. Walking by some of the lines for the Tribeca Film Festival where close to a hundred new documentaries are being screened might provide an answer or maybe it’s because no one really cares about intangibles like the recoverability of America’s standing in the world. As some would like to put it, what’s there to recover from [besides …]? As has been pointed out, the real horror of Abu Gharaib is what’s not pictured. How a dead body from the interrogation rooms would show up, (pictures taken, “look ma, a dead guy!”) and then how he was ghosted away the next day. No names of superiors are mentioned and CIA names are obviously on a “you don’t wanna know or we’d have to kill you” basis. Most of the soldiers interviewed were made scapegoats and part of a dog-and-pony show for anyone wanting to dig deeper. Punished mostly for taking pictures.

Clicking on mainstream reviews of movies like Rendition, The Kingdom, and Syriana, one finds a genuine bias against these pretty believable efforts to make some fictionalized sense of real events. Small wonder they flopped at the box office but seem to be doing alright in DVD incarnation with their 3-4 star ratings amongst Netflix subscribers. Typical crits include “morality is too black and white in these films,” “thin character development,” and “sheer Hollywood grandstanding.” Realism aside, the freeway car bombing scene and subsequent apartment house shoot-outs in The Kingdom are top-notch action filmmaking. These cry-me-a-river entertainment journalism clearinghouses are the same ones with news arms that rely on soundbite journalism, some even going out of their way to publish “we’re not about soundbites” stories. Thin character development, doncha think? Sheer no-spin-zone grandstanding. Stop pulling news out of your ass and report on the issues. Get out of bed with the War Pigs. [Sheer lazy MCHuge grandstanding finish.]