Antiviral, the Movie: The Horror of Celebrity Worship.

Antiviral

On Netflix Streaming. Sci-fi horror about the near future, when drug companies create a new way for fans to get even more intimate with their celebrities: injections of viruses directly from sick celebrities into their obsessive fans.

The story follows Syd March, who works for the Lucas Clinic, that creates cultures of pathogens directly from the blood cells of sick celebrities, and sells them to fans who seek to have the very cells of celebrities fuse and mutate with their own in a twisted form of identification. Lucas Clinic custom designs the molecular structures of the sicknesses so they are not contagious and therefore not transferable. They want to maintain their patent and profits after all. It’s positively diabolical and absurd in its notion, yet, not far from the truth of the spiritual sickness of our culture of celebrity worship. Indeed, watching this film, I actually think it is quite prescient of where we are going as a culture.

One more gruesome corollary of this dystopian future is that celebrities also sell their normal body cells to be clone-cultured and grown into slabs of meat, that are also sold and eaten by the adoring public. It’s quite literally a science-justified form of cannibalism, since the cultures are not persons, but just meat made from their cells. Of course, its all done in a very clean and white environment, so the hideousness is hidden behind the veneer of “safe science.”

Syd engages in some blackmarket moonlighting by injecting himself with pathogens that enable him to remove the copy protection on the virus, that he then sells to his shady contact. But when Syd injects himself with a deadly pathogen of famous celebrity Hannah Geist, he now must try to save his own life before he follows the young woman to the grave.

Coming from the son of David Cronenberg, one must be aware there will be some influence of dad on this filmmaker. Thus, it is all a bit bloody and physically repulsive at times, artsy and opaque at others. But the directing and acting is excellent, and the beautiful cinematography lent a powerful irony to the eerie darkness beneath the surface. I found it a quite truthful picture of the nature of celebrity worship and how it is a form of idolatry that leads to bizarre self-inflicted degradation on the part of the populace, as well as the willingness on the part of celebrities who are virtual and willing house slaves to those who “cannibalize” them.

This movie was weird, but it really had a profound spiritual truthfulness to it that remains an echo in my memory, long after I’ve forgotten whatever big stupid movie I’ve seen in the theaters this week has dissolved.

The Equalizer: Cathartic Violence in an Unjust America

Equalizer

Maybe The Equalizer is just a violent guys vigilante revenge flick.
But I doubt it.

I saw this a week or so ago. But it’s been on my mind a bit because it was such a good story. It got me thinking about vigilante movies and why they are so emotionally moving.

The story is about Denzel Washington as Robert McCall, an ex-CIA killer, who has gotten out of the Company, and is trying to live a normal life as a blue collar worker at a Home Depot like company. He lives alone and has OCD, which makes him a little too orderly, but without losing his friendliness for people. Denzel meets a young hooker, played my Chloe Grace Moretz, at the diner where he reads a book. Of course, he is an honorable guy and tries to inspire her to leave her world and live a better life. He tells her something to the effect of “We can do anything we choose to do to make our lives better.” She is abused by her pimps, who are Russian mob and so Robert tries to “buy her freedom.” He goes to the headquarters of the Russian mob and offers them all the money he has, $9800 to let her go. They laugh at him, and then attempt to put him out of his misery.

They should not have done that.

Robert kills them all, which starts a hunt by the big boss of those bad guys, and well, you know the rest. It’s all very formulaic. But it’s fantastic. I have written about revenge movies and vigilante violence as being immoral in posts on The Punisher, Walking Tall and Sin City, and my most detailed in reference to A Time To Kill. In Man on Fire Denzel’s character learns that he can only save the innocent with self sacrifice not revenge, which is also an ironic challenge to vigilanteism.

But what makes this a great moral movie is how they play Robert’s approach. He is not a vigilante killer who goes around and kills people he thinks deserves to die outside the law. He actually offers evildoers a face to face opportunity to right their wrong or to repay their victims. He confronts them with their sin and challenges them to repent. Then he only takes them out, when the bad guys, who obviously laugh at him and never repent, then try to hurt or kill him. So he is actually acting in self defense, which is completely legal and morally justifiable.

At one point we see that Robert is reading Don Quixote, and he says something like, “it’s about a knight in a world without chivalry,” which is clearly the theme of this movie. We have lost our heroic chivalrous nature because of our corruption.

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It got me thinking: Why are vigilante stories so powerful? Why do they draw us in with such a strong cheer for the hero? It’s not because we just like to see violence. I believe it is because they are cathartic in giving us stories of justice in a society where justice is blocked by corruption. When our own society becomes so corrupt and unjust, normal law abiding citizens become so saddened and frustrated with the evil that goes unpunished. We long for justice that is not being served. So vigilante movies (And again, The Equalizer is not the immoral vigilante type) serve to satisfy that desire that evil will be punished.

And then I realized why this movie is so timely and resonant. Right now, we live in a society of widespread injustice and increasing polarization. Liberals say we have an unjust racist society, conservatives say we have a society that is peddling false racism as a dog whistle that creates reverse racism and justification for racist knockout games, flash mobs and riots. Liberals say we are denying global warming, conservatives that we are denying Islamic terrorism. Liberals say we need Big Government because we are so unjust, conservatives say we have a corrupt unjust Big Government with a president who is violating the constitution with Executive Orders, and using the IRS and FBI to persecute his political enemies and influence elections. Liberals would say our laws are unjust regarding immigration and gun control, conservatives would say we have a corrupt Department of Justice and a criminal racist Attorney General who violated the laws he swore to uphold with racist policies, defiant non-enforcement and criminal conspiracies like Fast and Furious. Both sides warn of increasing militarized police.

What do you think?

Maybe The Equalizer is just a violent guys vigilante revenge flick.
But I doubt it.

Gone Girl: Cynical Feminism Come of Age

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Maybe Gone Girl is just a twisty “artistic” thriller.

But I doubt it.

Watching the first half of this movie has all the hallmarks of a good David Fincher directed thriller. Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne arrives home to discover his wonderful wife, Rosamund Pike as Amy is missing and there is little evidence of it being foul play. Ah, but there is a little evidence and it begins to mount in the direction of Ben’s guilt. We hear the thoughts of Ben Affleck as he caresses his wife’s head in a flashback with the double entendre allusions to him wishing he could crack open her head so he could understand the way she thinks. Okay, pretty on the nose, but makes the point of a good thriller that we must not be sure of the hero’s innocence.

It is not until the midpoint big twist of the movie that we begin to see this is not a standard thriller, but a “statement” about modern marriage, because characters begin to make unbelievable choices and the plot conveniently twists in additional unbelievable ways, all in the support of the storyteller’s “message” they are apparently trying to make.

SPOILER: Okay, look, I’m not interested in writing movie reviews. I want to talk about worldviews and meanings of movies and how they affect our lives. So I have to spill the beans. So don’t read me for movie reviews anyway.

Amy is a trust fund princess and Nick, the fast talking alpha male to replace her controlling parents. At the halfway point, we discover that Amy has constructed the entire scenario to look like a murder, so that she could punish Nick for losing his job and therefore self-worth and for his secret adultery on the side. Amy is on the run hiding her identity and even plans to kill herself originally, all to get back at Nick for ruining her life (a common feminist interpretation of how male dominance leads women to self-destruction). Nick gets a hot defense attorney and they begin to play the media image as they try to find Amy. Meanwhile, Amy ends up at the hideaway of a past stalker who was obsessed with her and is now rich himself. He is still obsessed with her and seeks to “help her” by controlling her and turning her into his puppet of pleasure, barefoot and lingerie laden at home. She finally plots another frame up of this creep and murders him.

There is a truth that Dennis Prager writes about and talks about on his Male/Female Hour on the radio. Feminists, egalitarians, leftists, metrosexuals, and other Christophobes will HATE me for saying this truth. But it is how God made us: What a woman most wants is to be loved by a man she admires, and what men most want from the woman they love is to be admired. What is a simple truism for those of us happily married (and not), becomes a kind of natural law against which this story struggles with all its soul like a rat trying to claw its way out of a cage.

Watching this movie, one can feel the palpable hatred that the storytellers must have for traditional marriage, seeing it as an oppression of women under the thumb of men who use them for their own pleasure and prop up of worth, while it smothers their own self worth. It depicts a marriage that starts out like all marriages, happy and blissful, but then over time, it dies down and crumbles. In this worldview, men are simple pigs who see women always in sexual terms and can’t pick their own ties. Women ruin themselves, just like Amy, by their desire to have a man to admire, so they try to create that man by picking his ties and put aside their own worth to try to prop him up. Can anyone blame Amy’s lack of choices by running from the slouch loser of Nick to the help of her past stalker, who is himself a cliché of controlling women through a patriarchal protection that is actually sick and twisted?

Like all good stories, Gone Girl tries to throw in some opposites for good ambiguity. So a male/female pair of grifters rob Amy when she is on the run, and they appear to be led by the woman, not the man. But then again, the man is a lowlife male who is easily manipulated into such things, another cliché of feminist narratives, just like Nick and just like the stalker. Men are easily manipulated because they are driven by their little heads. We also discover that another guy was unjustly indicted for rape charges by Amy in college because he didn’t turn out to be what she wanted. So she is a sociopath, but a sociopathic expression of a value in our society. But in this story, it seems that is what it takes to make the marriage “work.”

Families don’t get a good shake in this film. Amy’s parents use her as their story source to make millions writing children’s stories. And then borrow away the trust fund money they saved for her out of their guilt. The local woman with multiple children is the “stupid pregnant woman” that Amy manipulates to achieve her deception. And in the end, Amy comes back to Nick and offers him the opportunity for them both to stay together. She does this because she “falls in love” with him again when he pleads with her on national television with a secret message. He becomes that man that she can admire again.

The obvious absurdity that the storytellers have to get us over: Who would possibly reunite with a murderer sociopath? You’re right. No one in their right moral mind would.

In the end Nick chooses to stay with Amy and live the lie! The fact that she is a deluded scheming murderer is overridden by the fact that their marriage gives them both what they need, for her, an alpha male to admire, and for him, a woman who would do anything for his acceptance. I think this is a black comedy of sorts because that choice is CLEARLY NOT the right choice morally and therefore unsatisfying for those who want justice to prevail in a story. But that is the point of black comedies that show darkness win, I think the storytellers are trying to make the point that staying together in marriage with these beliefs requires the subjugation of a woman’s identity to a man’s strength that will drive her to do evil things to maintain that value.

It’s possible that the author is trying to show that our male and female natures taken to an extreme can become self-destructive. But if that is the case, then I think the story fails because it does not depict a proper balance of those natures against which to judge the extreme. The result of this kind of one-sided depiction is a generic statement about those natures as being all bad.

I am a sinner who needs God’s grace daily, and I don’t have a perfect marriage. But I can say that a happy marriage is not achieved by turning men into women (ie: metro girly men), or by demanding egalitarian equality of power (which is itself power-driven), or by denying our male and female natures (which is self-delusion). Rather, it is achieved through self sacrifice and dying to one’s self. It comes from a woman being loved by a man she admires and by a man being admired by the woman he loves.

Maybe Gone Girl is just a twisty “artistic” thriller.

But I doubt it.

 

Transcendence Movie: The Idolatry of Transhumanism

transSci-fi Thriller about a scientist who uploads his consciousness to the internet and threatens humanity with the next step of evolution.

This movie, starring Johnny Depp as the scientist Will Caster, starts as a promising Michael Crichton type warning of the danger of AI technology, but ends like a bad TV show about unbelievable eternal love with his wife Evelyn, played by Rebecca Hall, and a ludicrous non-battle with government armed forces of about ten men.

The first half of this movie is fascinating and thoughtful as the spectre of AI and Transhumanism is raised for debate. AI is Artificial Intelligence and it is the belief that consciousness as self-awareness can be achieved by a sufficiently complex machine such as a computer. In this view consciousness is simply a property of matter that “emerges” out of a complex system. In other words, when a machine or biological organism becomes sufficiently complex, it becomes self-aware and therefore conscious.

Transhumanism is a currently fashionable “movement” that believes we can transcend our humanity by hybridizing ourselves with machines such as computers. One such way of achieving transcendence is to upload our consciousness into a computer. Both of these beliefs are based upon the materialist assumption that there is no “spiritual” component or soulishness to humanity that transcends our material bodies. Consciousness is ultimately reducible to brain synapses and chemicals.

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In this story, the antagonists are a Luddite type technophobic terrorist group who fears the tyranny of machinery to steal our humanity and ultimately control us as slaves. So they engage in terrorist attacks, which includes attempted murder of Will Caster, as one of the heroes of AI research. They don’t kill him right away, but the discovery of a radiation affected bullet means Caster will die in weeks. So he does the untested: He and his wife, with the help of Max Waters (Paul Bettany), do the first uploading of a human consciousness to a computer – Will Caster’s consciousness.

Max becomes the questioning character, our stand-in for the troubled person who sees the dangers but also sees the potential good that technology accomplishes. He becomes captured by the technophobe terrorists and soon joins them in their quest to shut down Al Gore’s wonderful internet.

But what soon becomes manifest is that when Caster’s consciousness is uploaded to the internet, he gets access to the world of information and “evolves” quickly into the god that he sought to become.

And this was the one thing I liked about an otherwise poorly executed movie. It illustrates the very universal nature of mankind to seek godhood. As Max says, “Survival isn’t enough.” AI Caster will seek to gain control of all information by his very nature, and ultimately end “primitive organic life” by replacing it with eternal machinery. This “next step of evolution” is clearly genocidal.

Early in the film, an anti-techy says to Caster, “So you want to create a god. To make your own god.” Caster replies, “Isn’t that what mankind always does?” And of course, the god that Transhumanism seeks to create is the godhood of the human. And this reveals the ultimate and inescapable religious nature of atheist humanism. That is, man is a religious being in need of worshipping the Creator God. But when he denies that god, he replaces it with himself, and he seeks to achieve eternal life through his own “transcendence,” of his finite humanity. But such godhood always requires control over the more “primitive humans” who do not agree with such enlightened wisdom. (Talk about a Scientific Inquisition). When the AI Caster gets his wife to buy a small town and build a huge scientific research center underground to expand his “power,” it is no coincidence that the town’s name is “Brightwood.” “Bright” is the nomer that the dull-headed new atheists have called themselves.

The film shows this religious atheism in full swing when Caster evolves in his intelligence to the point where he can use nanotechnology to heal people from their sicknesses almost instantly, like Jesus. In other words, “miraculous.” One of his healings is of a “man born blind,” which brings to mind the famous story of Jesus healing a man who was born blind in John 9. So he gets a following of such people to become his willing followers, who have become “networked” to Caster’s AI system and can operate independently, but can also act collectively as one. And the ultimate goal of such godlike power is expressed in creating life through 3D printing technology, which is what Caster seeks to do.

But the temptation for omnipotence with such “transcendence” becomes clear. And no matter what someone does in the name of “helping humanity,” absolute power corrupts absolutely, and so it does with Caster. But in a “nice” totalitarian way. He never becomes a “monster” like a Hitler, he just goes about his plans to abolish and replace human organisms in his amoral quest for so-called evolutionary perfection. It actually reminded me of C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength, where the villain had the same goal of scientific purification of humanity. It is our Brave New World that appears to be amoral which is actually immoral in cloaking genocide in scientific terms of forcing a humanity that doesn’t know better, to become better against it’s own wishes. But of course, the better is defined by the one in power.

Paul Bettany’s character begins as a great foil as he struggles with the realization that he had believed all those years that consciousness was reducible to electrical brain impulses. And he then realizes that the illogic of human emotion can reconcile what a machine cannot reconcile. (Rather than “human emotion” the storytellers should have used morality to counter logic without restraint. This was a wasted powerful moral moment) He tries to get Evelyn to realize that whatever the AI Caster is, it is NOT Will Caster. It never was.

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SPOILER ALERT: Unfortunately, then the movie breaks down into ridiculous plot elements and unbelievable character choices that makes it lose steam. Instant self-sacrifice by Evelyn occurs, which no matter how noble in itself, is not believable when it is not precipitated by a believable motivation and cuts against everything that was being shown in the character. The worst of it is the ludicrous government force that is marshaled to stop Caster’s little scientific complex that will rule the world. It was like 10 mercenaries, with a few canons lobbing shells onto the solar panels that powered Caster’s scientific paradise, and the pacifist mind-controlled followers of Caster who are accompanied by scary music but who never to do anything other than just walk up to the violent mercs and just look at them. It was so ridiculous, I was thinking, did they lose 10 million from their budget at the last minute, so they couldn’t do the big battle finale?

And then worst of all, this threat to the entire world is stopped by a little virus that worked instantly to make all the power in the world go dead, except for the lights in the underground complex until the good guys could get out. A little virus that this amazing AI that has evolved way past all computers in the world had no protection against. Just ridiculous.

Oh, no, wait, there was one more worst of all. After this entire story of proving that the “singularity” notion of humanity without limits leads to tyranny and destruction, it all ends with a contrary ending that negates everything before it. We are shown that the AI Caster “always was” Caster after all (thus reversing Max’s belief and reinforcing the discredited notion that consciousness is uploadable and reducible to 1s and 0s). But also the absurdly Romantic notion that “everything Caster did, he did so he could be together with his beloved wife.” Awwwww, he wasn’t a bad dictator, he was a loving dictator!

Such good potential story lost.

This movie proves that mankind should not transcend itself because we do not deserve godhood, and do not have the requisite goodness of nature to handle it. (No, we need a God for that). but it also proves that a poorly executed story can ruin an excellent idea.
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Parkland: The Passion of the Christ Kennedy – Boring Idol Worship Movie

True Crime drama about what happened the day JFK was shot based on Vincent Bugliosi’s book. On the fiftieth anniversary year of Kennedy’s assassination, it is no surprise a movie like this was made. In and of itself, I don’t have a problem with that. It remains the single most curious assassination in history for most Americans, and I admit that I was curious to see the details of everything that went on that day myself.

Unfortunately, a movie about historical details does not a story make. I concluded that the movie was a boring hagiography for Kennedy idol worship, because quite frankly there was NO STORY justifying the movie. It was just boring apart from the excitement surrounding the bloody murder and all. We see what happened that day in the lives of people surrounding the event from Abraham Zapruder, who shot the infamous 8mm film, to Oswald’s brother, to the key doctors and cops involved. But there was NO STORY.

BOOOOORING.

I have to say on the positive side that it eviscerates the conspiracy theory which is itself a form of idol worship. Yes, one shooter, no cover-up, just honest internicene squabbles with incompetent government policy and workers on every level as well as a few chance events for a perfect storm. But I believe that conspiracy theories are literally god substitutes. For example, people cannot accept that such a nothing human being combined with unfortuitous chance events can ruin history so deeply. And when you don’t believe in a providential God controlling things, then you cannot live with the absurdity of such meaninglessness, so you create a “god” to fulfill that need for meaning behind events. In the case of conspiracy theories, it is actually an evil god, usually in the form of powerful people who have orchestrated it all for a diabolical plan. This gives meaning and purpose that they cannot live without.

Well this movie shows the very real and non-conspiratorial events that happened that day. Another reason why it is boring as a movie, because reality is often not a very well structured story. And conspiracies make for better movies; detailed real life is mundane.

But that is the idolatry with which I think it ends up replacing the previous idolatry. Why bother telling the story for petty details of pain alone? Unless you want to maintain the fantasy Camelot glory of the man as they do in this movie by elevating the tragedy to godlike importance and blood sacrifice atonement. The blood in this movie made me think of The Passion of the Christ. And they never show the face of Kennedy with a kind of holy diversion reminiscent of how Jesus was avoided in Ben Hur. Even Jackie’s face is often avoided to keep her as a kind of Mother Mary Jackie. The terror and despair in everyone’s faces and lives throughout the whole movie made you think Jesus himself died and America lost its innocence and hope – which is exactly what Kennedy worshippers believe.

The real assassination of America’s innocence was the 1960s. We are still suffering the devastating effects in every area of life from that immoral rebellion.

Ironically, those Kennedy worshippers would damn Kennedy TODAY for being a politician whose policies were more like a modern liberal Republican than the current Democrat party of his heritage. OMG, the god Kennedy believed in less taxes and American supremacy abroad? Why that is as evil as the devil himself: George W. Bush! And to modern Democrats, that would make Kennedy a warmongering racist (of white privilege) since he was a white rich cracker and disagreed with Obama’s policies. Even worse, he was pro-life!

The laughable legacy of Kennedy worshippers is that they are still today actually spinning the story as if Kennedy was killed by a Right Wing “hateful city of Dallas.” These fools must not know that Dallas was a liberal potpourri and that Oswald was a Left Wing Communist who murdered a guy whose policies were more right wing than the Democratic Party would ever tolerate today! JFK would not even be allowed to speak at the DNC because of his political beliefs. Truth just doesn’t matter to idol worshippers.

Just their religion.

And the truth is, a far greater man died on that same infamous day in history. A man whose legacy really has changed the world for the better. A man who, while he doesn’t deserve idol worship, and he would decry it as well, he does deserve a higher recognition. He represented and served a true Camelot God and kingdom, but his death was overshadowed by a media obsessed idol worshipping kingdom of man. He didn’t live a life of wealthy privilege, and didn’t have a world of sycophants covering up serial immoral sexuality, selfish abuse of authority, and drug addiction. He wasn’t a perfect man, but he was a more worthy one.

That man was C.S. Lewis.

Now his is a story more worth telling.

House of Cards: Shakespearean Tragedy About the Political Pursuit of Power – of Democrats, that is

Netflix Political Thriller series. An amazingly written and directed series starring Kevin Spacey as Francis Underwood, a Democrat congressman who is withheld from a position in the new Democrat administration in Washington, and enacts revenge on those who betrayed him.

I get tired of all these series that are based on anti-heroes or worse, villains as heroes. But House of Cards is not one of them. At least not yet. It is Shakespearian in its dramatic quality and appears to me to be the set up for a tragedy on the level of Breaking Bad.

There is no bones about the storytellers showing us in the first scene that Underwood is a Machiavellian villain who is not a good man, when he breaks the neck of a dog that survived being hit by a car. Of course he tells us that he is the one who does what needs to be done, but no one wants to do it. But it doesn’t matter what his justification is; if you kill a dog you are evil. That’s movie and TV rules. ☺

And we know that we are going to be following the mind of a man whose sole ambition is power because he tells us so. He regularly “breaks the third wall” and talks to us the audience in asides to give us what is really going on in his mind. It’s a truly satisfying and clever storytelling technique that builds rich irony we could not know otherwise.

A subplot surrounds his wife’s own political ambitions mixed with humanitarian causes and the weird twisted agreement they have in their marriage that looks a lot like the Clinton arrangement, if you know what I mean.

Of course there are others whose stories we follow as well, like the young reckless congressman who is being used as his life falls apart, and the amoral journalist who spouts journalistic integrity about not revealing sources while sleeping with the congressman to get stories for her own advancement.

But here is the interesting thing —no, the fascinating thing. Though it is a series about politics, it is kind of apolitical in that it doesn’t seek to make specific political policy arguments like the West Wing or other courtroom shows these days. And it hasn’t made any political potshots at Republicans that I was aware of. It’s really more about the pursuit of power. In fact, everyone in the show is driven not by truth or justice but by different ambitions of power.

Everyone.

In the entire first season, it seems there was not a person who truly believed in any policy they fought for. They only fought for what was most convenient for their personal advancement or ambitions. Policies are mere means to their ends of power. Talk about the ultimate revelation of the true corruption of politics! The only one who seemed to have integrity, was a low level worry wart who was fired in the first two episodes for her moral convictions.

I make a qualification. There are two women who seem to believe in their causes moreso than others: Underwood’s wife, Claire, played with perfection by Robin Wright, and an activist she hires. But by the end of the first season, they engage in unjust immoral and illegal actions to further their own interests as well. Claire brings food from her privileged class fundraising party out to the protestors outside her event. But of course we see it is only a photo op to look compassionate and make the protestors look bad. And the activist maliciously initiates a lawsuit based on politically correct lies of “social justice” to get revenge on Claire for firing her. An ironic revelation of how social justice is revealed as a weapon of social injustice. In other words, their commitment to a cause is a self righteousness that they use as a weapon of – you guessed it, POWER. In fact, one suspects that Claire like a Lady Macbeth (or Lady Clinton), has her own diabolical purposes that drive her façade of social concern.

One might say this is a cynical show about politics. A very cynical show.

Or, one might say it is a revelation of the truth behind the Democratic Party.

Yes, I know I said that it is apolitical on the surface. And yes, I know the storytellers are all, no doubt, Democrats, and I don’t suspect that is their intent to dump on the Democrats at all. And I know the show is only beginning. But so far, if you think about it, they could have made a show about Republicans doing all this evil and corruption, which is the usual spin, but they didn’t. They chose the Democratic Party.

Which works best because it is the Democratic Party that is essentially the party of the pursuit of Power.

One could say House of Cards is the Anti-West Wing.

Think about it. Of course there are individual corrupt Republicans and big government Republicans as well. And the RNC is full of cowards who bow to political correctness and compromise their values or even seek power. These are the inescapable results of a fallen world of corrupt individuals everywhere. But the Republican Party, as a party, is philosophically founded on creating smaller government and less government for more personal freedom for people to take care of themselves and each other. The party was created to fight slavery, for God’s sake!

The Democratic Party philosophy, on the other hand, is based on building bigger government and expanding government control, and creating more dependents on government handouts to get votes, which is more power and control over people’s lives. Its very essence is Power, for gods’ sake! (That is, for the sake of being gods).

So the RNC is based on smaller government and less power, while the DNC is based on bigger government and more power. Yes, there are evil people in each party, but this series, so far, is a lens into the actual philosophy of the DNC and their corrupt systemic mindset of POWER.

Let’s see if they try to spin it around as the series goes on, but for now, it was refreshing to see a Hollywood political TV show finally speak the truth to Power.

The Counselor: Nietzsche at the Movies, or Shakespeare without Redemption

Crime thriller. After watching The Counselor, you get the feeling that you need to take a shower. And not because it was a guilty pleasure, but simply because you’ve wallowed in a nihilistic worldview for an hour and half that ends in despair and offers no way out of evil.

It tells the story – and not a very clear story – of a greedy lawyer, the Counselor, played by Michael Fassbender, who gets in way over his head when he gets involved with drug traffickers and his deal goes awry. He is portrayed as a man who has finally found true love with the beautiful Laura, played by Penelope Cruz and buys her a diamond he cannot afford, which is the symbolic impetus for him stepping over the line into big illegal money.

A couple of his criminal “friends” tell him not to do it because he is too naïve to handle it. (This is not the same as a moral injunction to do the right thing.) Of course the deal goes wrong when someone steals the shipment from Fassbender’s connections, and all those connected with him are hunted down to pay.

The thing about it is, I went to this movie because of the A-list director, Ridley Scott, and the A-list cast of Fassbender, Cruz, Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem and Cameron Diaz. I was disappointed. Sure, because of Cormac McCarthy, it had some of the most lyrical existential dialogue ever in a thriller or crime movie (albeit, some of it out of place and self-important). But in the service of a nihilistic worldview, such lyricism becomes verbose mockery. McCarthy’s cynicism here amounts to self-righteous platitudes.

There is a scene where the ruthless Cameron Diaz visits a priest for confession only to mock him. But the scene was out of place and confusing and didn’t make much sense other than to show her mockery of religion. And that same religious commitment in the innocent Laura made her ignorant and a victim to the strong.

On the surface, I should like this movie because it is kind of a two hour movie version of Breaking Bad. That is, there is heavy lyrical poetry spoken throughout about how our decisions make us who we are and our actions have consequences. (I forgot my note pad, so I didn’t get any of them down. But I probably wouldn’t have been able to anyway, because there was so much of it and quite complex at times). But what I picked up from it was the added notion that we cannot undo the bad choices we’ve done. There’s no going back. No second chances. Our choices set in motion an inevitable ending of despair and death.

Now, on the one hand, for those without God, I would quite agree that there is no hope, just death in this life (I would add: Judgment after that). And yes, the world of crime and evil never ends well, and even ends in destroying innocent people, which is a moral truth in the right context. But a story that ONLY shows the dark and the evil and shows no good in contrast, no hope for redemption spurned, no possibility to change, is a story that communicates there is no hope or redemption.

That is nihilism.

That is not worth an audience.

Inhale: How Far Would You Go to Save Someone You Love?

Medical conspiracy thriller about organ donation on Netflix Streaming. This is a little gem of a movie about Paul Stanton (played superbly by Dermot Mulroony) and his wife Diane (Diane Kruger) who have a young daughter who is dying of a lung disease. Paul is a State Prosecutor who is a man of conviction. He is prosecuting a man who shot a child molester who was hitting on his son (though had not yet done anything). While the shooter’s justification was that he was protecting his son against what the registered sex offender was GOING to do, Paul is set up as a believer in legal due process against vigilante violence in the name of protecting even our children. He supports the law against our emotion, and the need to engage due process or we lose our souls. But Paul is a man of justice, because he is NOT in favor of the sleazy defendant either. He pursues justice under the law.

But Paul’s daughter’s death is imminent, and it appears she will not receive lungs as organ donation. In fact, the system is so screwed up that organs expire while in impossible transit to others higher on the list rather than the closest person in need. So in their case, following the rules results in more death. So Paul becomes desperate and finds out there is a way to avoid all the unfair rules and regulations in America that keep victims from receiving organs: Mexico has lax laws and plenty of organs from dead people because of its three times the homicide rate.

So he does what any loving father would do, go to Mexico and face life threatening danger in order to find a pair of lungs to save his daughter. Of course he has to journey though the dark belly underworld of this enterprise filled with a mixture of creepy criminals and compromising do-gooders.

The movie really shows the pressing reality of the desperation that anyone would feel when all options have been unfairly taken away from them, when it does not need to be that way. There are plenty of donors to fill the need. It’s just that the bureaucracy of the law actually impedes the good rather than provides for it. So Paul’s dedication to law is challenged and he is forced to rethink his values and convictions. This movie presents a real world moral dilemma that addresses an important issue at the heart of our ethics. What do you do when the system works against justice or goodness?

But just when Paul discovers where the organs really come from, he is faced with an even greater moral dilemma. He is put into the position of the man he was prosecuting at the beginning of the story. And he must decide: Should he do wrong in order to achieve the good on behalf of his own child? Is any price worth saving our loved ones? What is the value of human life if we deny others that value?

His decision is heroic and satisfying, but not without its pain and loss in the real world. Thus making it a rich moral fable with conviction. I recommend this movie for a heart wrenching moral journey of character and integrity.

The Purge: Hate the Rich Agitprop

Great concept, but terribly morally confused and untruthful. This film is in the satirical tradition of Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal, where Swift suggested they sell the children of poor people as food in order ease the economic burden of poverty and the growing underclasses. In this movie, the idea is very simple and high concept: In the near future, one night a year, called The Purge, everyone is allowed to release their hatred upon one another and not be arrested for their violence. The goal is to purge the hatred through a cathartic release of “the Beast” within as people rape and kill one another. Supposedly this cleans up crime to only 1% during the rest of the year, by “sacrificing” those victims of the Purge to the “cleansing” of that Beast. This comes from a “reborn America,” that was instituted by the “New Founding Fathers,” who instituted the Purge to decrease crime and whose praise is chanted by Americans in the phrases, “Blessed be America. May God be with you all.” And of course, in good hypocritical fashion, all government officials are immune from the Purge, just as they always are unaccountable to the laws they pass to saddle everyone else.

Coulda been great.

The hero, James Sandin, is played by Ethan Hawke, as the inventor of the new security systems that most rich people have to “lock down” their homes with steel doors and such. He believes in the Purge and is also excessively prepared to survive the night, with back up firearms and plans – oh, you know, kinda like those whacky survivalist types. The problem comes with a black homeless man who is being chased by some rich kids cries out to helped. One of Sandin’s kids lets him into their home, which sets in motion a violent bloodfest as a group of killers threaten Sandin to let the black homeless man into their hands or they will kill his entire family.  And the killers want to kill him because he is a “worthless non-contributing member of society.” And he is black, so they are also racists.

Well, I have to say this was a great concept to explore some complex moral issues such as how far do we go to defend ourselves? What do we do if presented with the impossible options of protecting our family vs. endangering that entire family to save one person. One versus the many. And especially how evil people can be when they think they are not accountable for their actions or if they think they can get away with their behavior. Not that the movie is saying this, but I think this is a powerful argument for the rule of law, as well as, the belief God. If people think that they will ultimately not be punished for what they do in this life, they will do heinous things – even those who seem like nice people on the surface, because the human heart hides a dark sinfulness.

The problem with the movie lies in its confused political morality.

It is an obvious parable about how the rich shelter themselves in their safety and “let the rest of the poor” fend for themselves. Some good potential there too. Which kinda made me think. Well, the most relevant example of that would have been to have the hero be a Hollywood celebrity in his rich protected mansion – not caring about the world they feed off of, or the poor they kick off their curbs – oh wait, those are the people making the movie. We can’t have that. Take two…

But the thing that makes this story fall flat with a lack of authenticity and true original thinking is the Hollywood Political B.S. of trying to tie this Purge concept and all the evil rich people to the Tea Party. Yes, that’s right. The obvious religious language and references to the Founding Fathers, just like the Tea Party always talks about returning to the vision of the Founding Fathers, and God and all that. But the problem is that the immorality of anarchic destruction and lawlessness is the antithesis of Tea Partiers who promote the rule of law peacefully. But lawlessness is more like that of the Occupy Movement with its laundry list of violent crimes like rape, theft, vandalism, and murder that plagues its hateful protests. This rhetorical connection is so opposite of reality that it makes the movie laughable propaganda instead of thoughtful moral exploration. The kind of thinking that results in such violent notions of catharsis and anarchic crime do not come from the Christian religious folk, but from the antichristian Leftist universities and Media machine that dominates this country. One of the few things this movie gets right is having the lead sociopath wearing some kind of prep school jacket or such, to try to show that the evil is just as much from the educated upperclass. Well, actually, it is precisely from that Marxist Leftist hatred of the rich and victimization philosophy that comes from the Universities that would breed this (atheist) French Revolution notion of The Purge. “The rich” are mostly not religious, but secular, so that whole “God bless America” rhetoric just doesn’t ring true. Too bad. It coulda been a thoughtful story.

And I just don’t see this desperate and consistent obsession to connect the “rich” with the Tea Party conservatives or the Republican party. It’s completely counterfactual. The top richest people in congress are almost all Democrats. Wall Street and Big Business give far more money to the Democratic party than the Republican party. The richest people in America tend to be liberals and leftists. All the above the line people of that very movie are statistically all liberal or leftists and they make profits far beyond “fair” compared to the little guys who work below the line. A story has to ring true to be good. This story doesn’t ring true.

SPOILER: At the end when the worst villains turn out to be Sandin’s rich neighbors who kill all the killers because they want the Sandin’s for themselves. And why? Because he got rich off of all of them of course! Really?! I think they are trying to say that the rich like to exploit but they don’t like being exploited. Okay, fair enough. But again, I think that the storytellers may not realize that they are inadvertently proving the point that the real evil that results in all this violence of our society is the victimization that results from the Politics of Envy. The fact is that it was not wrong for Sandin to become rich off an invention of protection that he provided the world. The profit motive is not what is evil, envy and theft is. The belief that getting rich is inherently evil is becoming so woven into our social fabric through government propaganda, media, and entertainment, that people are actually starting to believe the Lie. And that is the lie that justifies in their minds the evil they engage in to “purge” their own hatred with violent desires. The irony of it all is that it is the policies of the secular Left that lead directly to the oppression and exploitation of the poor and minorities, not the religious Tea Party. In order to have been a good movie that dealt with a moral issue fairly, they should have avoided all the politicizing. But if they were going to be truthful or consistent, the phrases that should have been spouted as the slogans of America should have been more like “pay your fair share” “spread the wealth around” and other Socialist or Marxist phrases.

And then the ultimate moral confusion comes when, after the bloodbath, and the wife of Sandin and her kids have the upper hand over their rich neighbors who are trying to kill them, she refuses to kill their attackers because “there’s been enough bloodshed” tonight. She wants to hold them until morning. Obviously they are trying to say that you must stop the cycle of violence by not returning violence with violence. Fair enough. But the problem is that this denies the morality of self-defense. If you do not kill those who are trying to kill you as they are trying to kill you, they will not stop trying to kill you. It’s human nature. Self defense is morally justifiable homicide. Now, if this was a normal legal situation, where they could be brought in to pay for their crimes, then it would be entirely acceptable to “capture” them and bring them to the Law because justice would be done. But that is not the situation. These murderers would go home without justice served, so the wife is simply allowing them to live to kill them the next time, which is not protecting her family. Now, one of the killers tries to get the wife’s gun and she gives the killer a broken bloody nose, so she’s not above using violence to get some “justice.” Wanna stop the killing. But the filmmakers recognize our need to see some comeuppance to the killers, so that’s why they threw that in there. But it ain’t enough. Because we know they will come back to kill again. So there is some worthy stuff in that ending worth debating, but it’s not worth the rest of the untruthful story to get to it.

In case you’re wondering, no, I’m not rich or a member of the Tea Party.