Review of “Catching Fire” movie

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How would you rate the movie?

I think for a followup movie, they did a very good job of keeping the excitement of the original while driving in new elements.  As far as seeing it without the first movie, it has the elements it needs to make sense.  Although I think some of the training elements maybe should have been a bit different.  In the book, there are numerous scenes of studying Haymitch in his winning of the games previously that they skipped on.  Although this likely was a good decision as the younger fans would more enjoy the focus on Katniss and Peeta characters. Additionally, this would have dragged out the train tour scene visually.

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How well do you think they followed the book?

In each adaptation of a movie from a book there are shortcuts taken to focus on the key scenes.  Do I think they got that right?  Very close.  They did eliminate some foreshadowing of District 13, which probably made sense in that the ending becomes a complete cliff hanger if you haven’t read any of the books.

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Another section they slice off is the electrification of the fence and the finding of the house to retreat to in case of the revolution coming.

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What do you think are the successful factors?

The whipping scene is very strong and captures the brutality of an authoritarian regime.  There are historical parallels in modern society with slavery.

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Are there modern regimes using brutal methods?

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Sure, look at the Sudan where they publicly whipped a woman for adultery under Islamic fascist-style governments.  In Saudi Arabia they stone women.  Below is a photo of stoning in Somalia, again by a Islamic extremist group.

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As with the book, the structure of the Hunger Games changes over time and there are surprise plot twists.  This is a classical must-have feature for a sequel to have long-term success as the audience will bore of the same plots repeated as is common in many serial novels.

Because of the cover-up of some of the foreshadowing of the ending, the ending is very strong and comes to the audience in a blast.

 

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The fact that they focus on the results of the slow burning uprising really enhances how the general population of Panam is rising up.  Visually, its actually stronger than the sense you get in the book, which is trickier.  In the book, you have to describe the uprising and keep it top of mind.  In film, you can show the crowds getting more and more extreme, so it is burned into your retina memory much faster.

Why do you think this series touches such a nerve in the population?

One of the themes is a domineering political center, the Capital, stealing all the resources in abandonment ways of splurging while the rest of the population is starving.  Historically, this happened as the Nazis rose to power in Germany and as the war progressed, but also recently you can see similar trends in the US government. You saw this as a troubled teen took on the Boston bombing or the hacker group Anonymous beginning to challenge all different power groups worldwide.

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Boston Bombing and Police 2012

Are you saying the US is becoming Nazi Germany?

No, not yet.  What I mean to qualify is that you do see a militarization of the police to an extent never seen before in US history.  In my lifetime, I have seen AK47s wielded by the Polish Communist police, but now we are seeing the US police, SWAT and all other police forces carrying machine guns to protect us from terrorism.  A great example was the police response to the Boston bombing in 2012.

Another example is the response to the JFK assassination in 1963 and the 2013 women who rammed the white house road blocks.  In one case you have lax police protection, which allowed the opportunity of assassination.  In the other hand, you have a dental practioner with her child in the car gunned down by over zealous DC cops protecting the White House. This is major upset from likely too few cops to too extreme cops in 5 decades.

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Have you done any artwork on this theme?

Yes, I did do an artwork on the Hunger Games and will likely just leave it at one work for the entire series of books and movies.  My painting focuses right on the time when Katniss decides to volunteer in District 12 and show self-sacrifice to preserve her own sister while Effie, representing the Capital powerful elite excess, draws out her name with a beautifully decadent accent.  She then tells the reapees that “May the odds be ever in your favor.”

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May the Odds be Ever in your Favor

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Review of “V for Vendetta” movie

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What did you think of the movie?

When I first saw the Guy Fawkes mask and crazy spinning knives on the ads, I refused to go see it.  It looked completely comical.  One day I rented the movie and fell in love.  It captures how a democracy can easily fall into dictatorship, rebellion in such a state and losing your fear.

So did you change your opinion of the Guy Fawkes mask?

Totally.  In the movie, it comes to symbolize freedom from repression and how to overcome a dictatorship.  In fact, it became the symbol of Anonymous in their battle against extreme government and other groups controlling and corrupting society.

Have you done any painting related to the movie?

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Anonymous

Earlier I painted about the PS3 attack by Anonymous for over 23 days.  This painting encaptures symbols of the movie, quotes of Anonymous as well as the cover story of lost credit cards that Sony claimed was the reason for the attack.  The original reason was that Sony shut down the functionality of the original OS in PS3 and a hacker reopened it back up to the original stock OS.  Sony didn’t want to be bothered managing the original open OS system that programmers enjoyed.  So they sued the hacker and all downloaders.  After this heinous act, the PS3 network was taken down by Anonymous for exactly 23 days, which was the same number, 23, as a german cult hacker movie.  Needless to say Hollywood remade the movie into a paranoia movie with Jim Carrey, almost makes you think they hacked the movie to cover the original plot line of the movie 23.  In all likelihood, they just butchered the remake out of stupidity rather than a diabolic intention by Hollywood.

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How relevant is the movie today?

Well, after the NSA revelation with Edward Snow, we are starting to see how deep the rabbit hole goes.  Ironically, I just finished a painting on the Chinese government snooping on US companies and the warm virtual war we are already in with US vs. China in cyberspace.  Now with the public growing aware of how deep the government is watching its own citizens without warrant, a complete oversight of the 4th Amendment in the US constitution, we see how relevant this movie is.  If the government decides you are a “terrorist” based on a word count of your website, who knows what they will do.  Is this not the apex of the slope sliding down to what the Stasi did in the DDR in Germany?

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Riding the Dragon on the Plains of Slaves

You really think the NSA is becoming the Stasi?

Not yet, but the truly scary thing is the German Prime Minister Merkel is bringing up the issue with Obama in the current visit.  This just shows how extreme the US government is really acting towards its own citizens and cavalier attitude towards the US constitution.  Likely, the only cure is likely to ban the NSA outright as they will not stop spying on the US citizens.  If you look at the similar scandal of the IRS under Obama, you can see how the government is now trying to throw elections and sliding to some type of autocratic system of rule that is not backed up by true public voting of its elected representatives.

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Are there other popular media of a similar story?

A classic is 1984. It covers a totalitarian state where every word you write is overlooked by the government.  Each possible suspect is then detained and re-educated in camps.  The main character falls in love, but is then captured.  After being re-educated in a camp, he doesn’t even recognize his love of his life afterwards.

The funny irony is that Apple used 1984 type ad in its infamous Superbowl commercial to sell the Macintosh.  Now they are one of the US companies suspected of turning over private citizen data to the NSA.

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We currently have prisoners at Guantanamo being held without trial.  Now we believe that the government is holding them as some type of POWs, yet brings no charges on these war criminals.  If they truly have fought against the US citizens, then likely these charges would stand in court.  Why not bring this chapter to a close? Obama promised to close Guantanamo in his first 60 days yet kept it open another four years.  Are we really living in a democracy with full rights to a fair trial anymore?  What prevents the government from throwing more neutral opponents to the system in this off-shore prison? Nobody knows, you just have to trust Obama.

The truly sad thing is that the US government has regularly rounded up various minorities in times of war. Below are the signs of the Japanese intern camps of WWII only 70 years ago. They lost all their property in fire sales or illegal squatting by other US citizens.

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Previous to that the US fought various native Americans and eventually put them into camps called reservations where they had no historical connection and usually on worthless farming land.  One of the results of this policy, was the Battle of Little Big Horn by Custer.  Today these are some of the poorest communities in the US equivalent to third world conditions.

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So have you done any recent painting on the subject?

Stay tuned.  I just finished an abstract on the subject.

 

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Review of Argo

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What did you think of the film?

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I really enjoyed the fear and paranoia that was captured in the film as the Iranian Revolution comes into play.  As Malcom X would say “the chickens have come home to roost” as the US felt the full impact of the overthrow of the Shah in 1953.

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How did the overthrow of the Shah drive the US hostage crisis?

Well, not only did the US organize a CIA plot to overthrow the legimate Prime Minister at the time, they backed the Shah using the brutal secret police Savak, which was trained by the CIA.  So the Iranian citizens had suffered decades due to this bad policy decision at the height of the Cold War.

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How accurate was the film?

Well, like any good Hollywood film the plot was tweeked a bit to increase the cliff hanger suspense.  They did use as much of the real events as possible to capture the public hatred of the US and how the hostages suffered because of this.  The film skims over coming of the Ayatollah because of time constraints as well.  All in all I think it was a great capture of a historical event.

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For people of my generation, we had no idea that there was a Canadian Caper as the operation was called to get out some of the hostages.  I only knew of the bungled US helicopter rescue that led to Iran dividing up the majority of the hostages and increasing the impossibility of a repeat of the failed mission to fly them out.

How has Iran responded?

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Great question.  There is the official and unofficial response.  The official government line was to say it was highly inaccurate and begin filming their own version of the event, which shows how weak the regime is in the use of the propaganda and how crucial the US hostage crisis was at demonstrating the power of the regime to its own public.

The unofficial on the street response is a complete runaway success of black market versions of the film with subtitles in Farsi (the main language of Iran).

Why does the Iranian public respond so well to a film portraying them as the enemy?

One reason that the film was a smash hit in Iran is that the film is done intellectually and portrays the humanity of each side well.  Its the complete opposite of such films like “Team America” by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.  I love that film, but it is the typical simplification of US policy abroad, which resonates with a western audience only.

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I think that Ben Affleck as director went out of his way to explain the 1953 coup in the beginning of the film, which was the reason the initial Iranian response to the US hostage crisis was so positive and cemented the power of the Imans in politics.  As the decades have passed, the Iranian public has realized the same terror tactics used against the US Embassy staff is now being used against the public.

What are those tactics?

In the recent 2009 reelection of President Ahmadinejad, the public was outraged at the voter fraud and started protesting the results.  The regime responded by attacking schools with motorcycle gangs with chains and even shooting civilians.  The shooting of Neda became the martyr face of the green movement protest.

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Have you decided to paint on the subject?

I recently completed the painting “444 Con” about the US hostage crisis as a whole rather than the focus of Argo on the Canadian Caper.  As a painter, you only get one image, so I take on the whole perspective of the Ayatollah, who likley could have ended the crisis at any time, but milked it for all the political value to cement his power over other political groups vying for power.  The US flag has various symbols of the revolution and historical themes leading up to the revolution in 1979.

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Yes. I send about every 4-6 weeks at http://shawnshawn.co/Site/Contact

Review of Django Unchained

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What did you think of the movie?

The movie just grabs you right from the start with blowing away a slave trader at close range with a shot gun and goes from there. It definitely has a unique flavor of the old spaghetti western, but from a mythical black hero perspective set in historical restrictions.

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What do you think of Spike Lee’s refusal to see the movie?

He definitely is entitled to not see a movie as it brings a mythical quality to the serious subject of US slavery. I think though you really need to see a movie to honestly judge it or it is prejudicial by definition. Its almost as if Spike wants to live in his own reality and think no white man could possibly do slavery well in a mythical film. Spike Lee’s own words were, “American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. It Was A Holocaust. My Ancestors Are Slaves. Stolen From Africa. I Will Honor Them.”

How was slavery handled here? Is this a disrespect to slavery?

I really enjoyed how it was depicted as a quite serious, dark angle to the reality of 230 years of slavery. If you never have seen Roots, this film really captures all the types of punishment, degradation and dehumanization of slavery. Tarantino covers a range from prostitution, wrestling slaves to the death like a cock fight, beaten to death, eaten to death and even castration. At the same time it shows the illusion of the slave owners seeing themselves as righteous. I would say that likely the slave owners would in general not have been quite as evil as the character played by Leonardo Dicaprio.

Did the script use the word “nigger” too much?

This is a total assault on your ears with maybe 100 + uses of the word. That being said, historically in that time frame it is likely accurate in its common use as it was a verbal technique at dehumanization to maintain slaves in the system. I think Tarantino could have spared us a bit of the language and just use the historical signs as he did for example with servant clothes. It does do a frontal assault to the fact that this word is white-washed out of any other spaghetti western with minimal display of slavery like it did not exist. Also, another point to make is that you hear that word still today used by racist, so the heavy use gets to the historical impact of the word on US culture even today. I just heard it several times by some racist kid on Call of Duty II, so it is relevant.

Is this the best Tarantino movie?

Well, it definitely is in the top 3 with Pulp Fiction and Inglorious Bastards. I think it is a great choice to redefine the spaghetti western in the true brutality of slavery which has been side-stepped in every other Western to-date.

Was there too much violence in the movie?

There definitely has a lot of classic Tarantino slaughter scenes, which directly contrast other high tension and suspense scenes. One of the best scenes is where Jamey Fox’s character rides with Reginald Hudlin as bounty hunters on the way to Candiland ranch. Jamie has to pretend to ignore other slaves plight as he is pretending to be a black slaver, which actually existed in the 1860s. There is a lot of tension with a spectacularly brutal scene of a slave’s death at a pack of dogs.

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What are the surprising roles in the film?

Yes, I loved the portrayal of Samuel L. Jackson as the head house slave. Wow! This just brings a new edge to how slavery was used by house slaves to dehumanize their fellow slaves, so they could enjoy the 2nd class citizenship in the big house.

Another amazing role is by Miriam Glover as Betina, the top prostitute, who cooly watches a fellow slave be fought to death while sipping a cocktail. These roles really get to the clutch of how slavery worked on several levels within society and trade-offs people made to make it up the ladder, so to say as a slave.

Another great angle that Tarantino exposes is the formation of the KKK in the movie. Here we see them struggle to harass the main characters in their first lynch mob. It is a fearful, then hilarious scene. It hits a major nerve.

Do you think Tarantino went too far with the castration scene?

It really encapsulates the key point in the plot, where the whites are avenging the slaughter of their fellow slave owner family. It also is key to see again the great scene with Samuel L. Jackson facing down Django again as the double-faced head house slave that ran the slave mansion system for the master.

 

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Yes. I send about every 4-6 weeks at http://shawnshawn.co/Site/Contact