Optimus Prime Fails to Let Awful Humans Die in ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’

By Tara M. Clapper, The Geek Initiative’s Senior Editor. Initially published on The Geek Initiative

Optimus Prime makes a big mistake in the latest “Transformers” movie: he defends humanity. This installment proves even more regressive than “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” formerly my least favorite movie. Since the last film was tolerable and my husband is a fan of the animated “Transformers” series and movies, I decided to give the fourth installment a shot.

Typically I adore plots that involve characters defending humanity – whether it’s an alien robot like Optimus Prime, the president in “Independence Day,” or the god of thunder. Unfortunately, all of the humans in “Transformers: Age of Extinction” fail to prove they are worth redemption.

Not Dating Him, LOL! He’s My Dad!

The human side of the story begins in Texas, complete with idyllic sunset. There, we meet Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz). But there’s a catch – the relationship between Cade and Tessa is ambiguous at first until we realize Cade is the widowed parent of Tessa. There’s nothing wrong with the age difference (it’s great to see a young parent who supports his daughter), just that it’s presented so you may first assume the two are dating. Additionally, Tessa’s uncle figure makes more than one creepy comment about her before their relationship is established as well.

Women Are Objectified Again. And Again…

Male characters objectify women throughout the film. We are led to believe this is pretty much their purpose in good old Texas, but the primary objectification occurs with Tessa as the subject…or rather, the object.

Tessa primarily serves as character development for Cade and Shane (Jack Reynor), her tan Irish racecar driver boyfriend. The two spend most of the movie fighting over what Tessa is allowed to do, who she belongs to, and who is worthy of protecting her. They seem to disagree with what the 17-year-old should be allowed to do with her body. Tessa, of course, just stays quiet except for the occasional ‘but daaad,’ and lets the men decide her fate in all regards.

There were also some fake bots that looked suspiciously like Arcee. Bumblebee refers to these fake bots as ‘things.’

Even when Cade tells Tessa she wasn’t a mistake (because she was unplanned), he makes sure to remind her that she’s the best thing that ever happened to him.

Tessa Is a Victim

Tessa serves as a victim in most of the film. She’s a victim of:

  • Her mother’s death
  • Her father’s lack of responsibility
  • An agent pointing a gun at her within the first 20 minutes of the film in order to make her father cooperate
  • Robots, robots, and more robots – somehow everyone else can roll out of the way but for Tessa, who remains paralyzed with fear
  • While restrained, she is nearly a victim of alien tongue penetration – yes, it really does get that rapey
  • Denial of education as she is rejected for a collegiate scholarship
  • Fear of heights, despite the male characters’ innate ability to traverse suspended cables in moderate winds
  • Men deciding who is responsible for her while she isn’t even awake

The Role of Tessa

If Tessa had a role other than victim or possession, her character might be redeemable. I spent most of the movie vacillating between ‘she’s already so weak, I hope they don’t fridge her’ to ‘now she’s just annoying; put her out of her misery.’ Not only did I lack sympathy for Tessa, she just seemed intentionally helpless. No wonder the men were fighting over who had to bear this burden of protecting the farm girl.

That’s the thing, though – in the beginning of the movie, Tessa finds out that she doesn’t get a college scholarship. She doesn’t even tell her father; instead, she starts to justify staying at home because no one else is there to take care of her father. He doesn’t even notice she’s upset.

At least she has a role – she cooks and makes sure he has food and she cleans the house. While it isn’t what she wants out of life, it’s something – except in true Michael Bay fashion, her house blows up less than 15 minutes later, leaving her without the backup role of homemaker.

Blatant Racism

The movie has a lot of white people in it and many Asians who fit neatly into stereotypes (especially martial arts master). Aside from a few random agents, the film contains no African-American actors…except for one. He’s just a tiny robot guy with a ‘black’ accent. He gets trapped and experimented upon and when a white man of authority is tired of hearing him complain about it, he electrocutes the robot to make him stop talking.

The little robot, meant to be comic relief, becomes free – and declares he’s “free at last” – because nothing says ‘it’s not racist, he’s just a robot’ like a racially exaggerated, electrocuted robot blatantly quoting/mocking Dr. Martin Luther King.

Confusion in Humor

At various points in the film, I think some of the characters’ misogynistic comments are supposed to be exaggerated; unfortunately, the blatant sexism taking place in the ‘who possesses Tessa’ trio makes it nearly impossible to tell exactly where the line is drawn – if there even is one.

Sexism in Language and the Vagina Monster

“Don’t bitch out on me.” This is one of the more disturbing lines in the film. What’s even better – Tessa’s father is the one who says it to her boyfriend. What’s more disturbing is that Wahlberg not only agreed to say this line multiple times, but brought his wife and children to the movie’s premiere.

Someone else gets called a bitch – this time by Hound (John Goodman). He lays out the curse while he’s taking care of a villainous vagina monster – that is a vagina dentata alien who offended him by ejaculating fluid onto him.

Michael Bay Films…Now With More Machismo!

I’ve heard it before. Us pesky feminists, always complaining about how women are treated unfairly when men endure so much. Well, Bay’s film has something to offend you as well, especially if you happen to be a less-than-perfect-looking bearded dude or a guy not working in a high level of government. Anything other than that – including a large chunk of the film’s demographic, I imagine – is a stooge. Several ‘normal guy’ characters (including male scientists) are portrayed as not manly enough.

He Who Has the Biggest Peen

So who actually gets to decide what Tessa does with her life and her body? Her dad. That’s because he’s the one who strokes the big giant penis sword first.

What I Liked About This Movie

  • Very occasionally, some women in the movie had heroic moments. Unfortunately, they were overshadowed by the rampant sexism of the males.
  • Dinobots and explosions are cool.
  • The poor editing was hilarious. One moment, Cade’s crying out about injustice and two seconds later a bad cut scene reveals his sudden serenity.
  • Despite being in a survival situation, Tessa is sure to find some time to make sure her nails are painted a trendy periwinkle about three-fourths of the way through the movie. Obviously she has her priorities straight.

Trivia – Possibly Unrelated, But I’m Thinking No…

Screenwriter Ehren Kruger once worked as an executive assistant at The Fox Network, also known as the company that airs Fox News and the company that canceled “Firefly.” Draw your own conclusions.

(Re-published with permission)

Hello, High School Flashbacks

Hello, Film Syrup viewers, we’re back! Film Syrup’s creative team: Paige Skelly, Roxanne Pfaus, Colleen Rowe, and our NEW creative accomplice – Sarina Penza! We have provided the following post and photos to recreate generally well known movie scenes and character interactions. It’s a reunion and you’re all invited:

Infamously horrifically portrayed, high school is often considered by many middle-aged bar goers at happy hour as a chunk of their prime years, while  others, tortured by the memories of themselves as the classic “geek,” pretend that it’s a portion of their history that’s unaccounted for. If you’re anything like me, you don’t care either way, but you expect the people who portray it to be so wonderful or so oppositely horrible to want to leave it behind and make new memories. As often is the case, logic is thrown out the window and run over by a steam roller when filmmaking is involved and stories have been and will continue to be created to exhibit remnants of these high school stories, whether they are exaggerated or completely made up. IMG_5529Among the high school movie classics, there’s a commonality for jealous or resentful friends to become murderers of the “Queen Bee.” It sounds extreme, because it is. Along with a setting and victim, this teen villain needs a weapon. For a sweet ending, the weapon in this case is a jawbreaker, (yes, the candy).

Pictures inspired by: Jawbreaker (1999), written and directed by Darren SteinIMG_5537On the left, our model portrays the originally innocent, “Fern Mayo,” (Judy Greer) who inadvertently walks in on “Julie Freeman,” (Rebecca Gayheart) portrayed by our model on the right, as she and her friends attempt to cover up the “accidental” death of the high school-famous, Elizabeth Purr. Fern makes a deal with the devil, Julie’s friend, Courtney Shayne, and trades her promise to keep their cover up a secret, so long as she becomes one of the most popular gals in school – ladies, I hope you are not taking notes.IMG_5533Fern Mayo renamed, “Violet,” is given this chance to surpass her role as a mousy “geek,” swimming helplessly at the bottom of the high school social pyramid, into the world that Julie Freeman and her friends control. For the first time in her life, Fern is making the decisions that lead other people to trip and fall before her.IMG_5596With this new found power, Violet has the world at the tips of her fingers, or perhaps, just a jawbreaker that is shaped like the world (It’s okay, sometimes people get confused about planet sizes. Astronomy isn’t typically a high school class). With this metaphor for power, the Jawbreaker, Violet sits on her throne, blinded with the power that her sweet tooth introduces her to. She just doesn’t realize that her throne is made of fake gold.IMG_5612Eventually, Violet loses the one true friend she might have, Julie, because of her obsession with being someone great – someone that people will remember.IMG_5611Regardless of what or who you want to be, you’ll always be the person you were before the facade someone else made for you melts like lipstick in the sun. It’s better to be just Fern Mayo than an accomplice to a murder. Choose the name you were given – if you resort to calling yourself a flower, there’s obviously something wrong with you. “I killed Liz, I killed the teen dream. Deal with it.” -Courtney Shayne (Rose McGowan) *** IMG_5650Surprisingly Jawbreaker isn’t the only movie where the protagonist is an accomplice to a high school murder. The infamous Heathers (1988) did it first. Directed by Michael Lehmann, Heathers follows a group girls, three who are appropriately named “Heather” and the other, “Veronica” (Winona Ryder). After one of the Heathers mysteriously commits suicide, there’s a buzz where this act of sadness becomes a craze, like a fashion statement would.IMG_5620Rudely absurd, this 80s flick is beyond ridiculous, especially when psychopathic J.D. (Christian Slater) comes into the picture. Why is everyone playing croquet when there are murders and faked suicides taking place? Here, we’ve replaced croquet with golf, modernizing the comedic aspects of the film, because regardless of what anyone says, this film is surprisingly, a comedy – well, a black comedy.IMG_5643J.D. definitely arises serious animosity between Veronica and the Heathers – or at least the ones who remain alive. Originally friends, these bratty chicks become enemies. What else is new?IMG_5678Watch out, Heather(s), with J.D. on her side, Veronica is unknowingly becoming the hottest murder accomplice in town. I wouldn’t get on her bad side.

IMG_5659The issue of Veronica attacking her friends becomes controversial, because the Heathers are typically horrible. With their feigned sadness and pouts, you start to hate them for their complete disinterest in the deaths of their friends and classmates, especially Heather Duke (Shannen Doherty).

IMG_5637Remember to keep your friends close, but your Heathers closer. *** IMG_5688With a lighter tone, we enter the world of the brave and the clueless. No, wait, it’s just the clueless. In the 1995 Comedy, Clueless, written by Amy Heckerling, rich and thoroughly aloof, Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) is obsessed with creating projects for herself to make over those who are, in her opinion, in need of extreme help.IMG_5732 IMG_5730Compared to the “teen dreams” in Heathers and Jawbreaker, Cher is much more open to helping others rather than screwing them over. Or really, in the case of those movies, killing them. She adopts confused, new girl, Tai (Brittany Murphy) as one of her projects – to re-do her shy, stoner girl “look” and make her into a member of the crowd. There is one aspect of Tai’s personality that doesn’t have to be redone for her to fit in: she is completely clueless.clueless 3While Cher dominates, it is not with vengeance, malice, or regret. Her original motives to impress her love interest and prove herself to him with charity work, something that he generally admires, turns into a mission that shows there are more depths to a seemingly clueless gal than expected.clueless 1 IMG_5695Although these girls aren’t very intelligent, they prove to be good people. Are these movies teaching us that you have to be mean, manipulative, and vindictive to resemble any form of a logical human being? Do we have a choice to be a clueless good-doer or an informed bitch? Just grab your furry pen and write a complaint, I guess. *** IMG_5757Cult classic, The Breakfast Club (1985), written and directed by John Hughes, should never be forgotten when referring to great setting-based high school films. The two female characters within the film, Claire (Molly Ringwald), and Allison (Ally Sheedy) are opposite poles with skirts on. Stuck-up, popular, Claire, and Grunge-inspired, introvert Allison are stuck in detention on a Saturday with their three male classmates.

the bfast clubThey’re portrayed as these female high school students who live in completely different worlds – Allison’s is painted black and Claire’s is showering her with diamond earrings. Criticized separately for being who they are, one assumes that the “perfect” high school female attraction would be a girl who sits at the median of their rotating spheres.

IMG_5769 IMG_5765After admitting to past offenses, getting stoned, dancing to a classic 80s playlist and requesting that the male “geek” write their papers as a joint effort, they eventually learn more about each other than they originally plan to.IMG_5799Don’t, Don’t, Don’t, Don’t forget about the basket case and the princess. Don’t you.. *** “This is what I know…I´m 25 years old and I have never really kissed a guy. A geek to the core, most of my childhood years were spent doing extra homework I requested from the teacher. High school was more of the same…IMG_5810I will stand on the pitcher´s mound for five minutes prior to the first pitch. If this man accepts my apology…I ask him to come kiss me…for my first real kiss.” (Never Been Kissed, 1999) Directed by Raja Gosnell, Never Been Kissed depicts the life of Josie Gellar (Drew Barrymore) and her return to high school at 25, as an undercover reporter for the Chicago Sun Times.IMG_5828Critiqued by the “popular” girls, Josie attempts to fit in by partying at the local venues where her classmates dwell, only to fully embarrass herself in front of everyone who matters for the success of her journalistic report. Her original objective becomes unfocused, but the result of her return to high school is unexpected.IMG_5871Initially, Josie’s high school experience (#2) isn’t successful socially. Her car is stolen by the “in” crowd, she’s repeatedly called a loser, is forced to wear a sombrero in her Spanish class as a result of her tardiness, and the list goes on like a consistent throb.IMG_5916With the help of her brother, Rob (David Arquette), who accompanies her on her trip down memory lane, Josie is accepted into the “cool” crowd, where prom costumes are styled based on Barbie-related wear.IMG_5926Regardless of her newly improved social status, Josie must still conform to popular norms, including beginning to ignore a classmate who was nice to her when everyone else treated her horribly.IMG_5930Kirsten (Jessica Alba), thinks that “YOU SO DO NOT DESERVE TO BE PROM QUEEN,” Josie Gellar. Which is probably a good thing…since you’re 25. Take it as a compliment and get back to your extremely legitimate job, leaving the ghost of high school past to perish in waves of forgotten memory behind you.

You should only return to high school in real life  when there’s a reunion or maybe not even for that. It’s a part of your past just like the period where you learned how to walk is. It happened, you learned “stuff,” -completely necessary stuff- and you moved on. For now, if you’re ever feeling nostalgic for unnecessarily small lockers, watch one of these films and reminisce. Stick to the films that preceded High School Musical – don’t be lame!

Team:

Writer/Photographer – Colleen Rowe

Stylist/Co-Photographer- Roxanne Pfaus

Model- Paige Skelly

Model- Sarina Penza

Help us to spread the word/contribute so that we can continue making future projects like this.

Interview with Filmmaker, Bethany Orr, on her new feature film, Campaign titled: “ICELAND OR BUST”

Sometimes, location is everything and in Bethany Orr’s upcoming feature film,  which is untitled, but being supported by the campaign name: ICELAND OR BUST, this might prove to be true. There’s also the addition of her individualistic ideas that paint her words with originality and sass. Bethany Orr, [Agorable, ] tells Film Syrup and its viewers about her new creative Icelandic adventure and the perks those who support her are allowed.

“No one I know could execute such a bizarre idea, never mind think of it. Definitely worth supporting.” -Cinephile Stephen Les

iceland 1

Project Title:

Campaign is called ICELAND OR BUST.  igg.me/at/icelandorbust

Film Syrup: Why Iceland? What draws you to its culture?

Bethany Orr: I started having visions of Iceland back in 2012 when I was studying with Werner Herzog. I had just completed my short film, Agorable, and was toying with several different story ideas for my first feature and for whatever reason, things became super clear around that time. Specifically, two of the stories I had been working on merged into one and then showed up in Iceland. And now here we are. I’ve learned you have to trust that kind of stuff when it gives itself to you.

Herzog is a fan of Icelandic mythology and was the one who introduced me to The Poetic Edda, a dense, rich volume of primordial poetry from Iceland (it was on the reading list for Rogue Film School), so that was definitely an influence. Now, I’m pretty obsessed. With everything – the Icelandic people, the economy, the history, politics, landscape. But what I have now is an intellectual and intuitive understanding of the place, being there in September will give us the chance to have a real experience with her.

Film Syrup: How did you and Patrick Kennelly start working together?

Bethany Orr: Patrick is a very exciting director. He and I collaborated on his feature film, Excess Flesh, which shot this past spring. I played the lead role. He knew I was a filmmaker as well as a performer, and the work we did together really transcended any experience I’ve ever had on a project before, my own included. We’ve become good friends since and are looking forward to expanding our creative partnership on the Iceland film. Which, by the way, doesn’t have a name yet. We’re working under “Untitled Iceland Feature.” Maybe our supporters will have a say in that down the road!

Film Syrup: You’re traveling to Iceland right now, but you said in your campaign video that shooting won’t start until 2015 or later. What are you attempting to achieve in these separate travels?

Bethany Orr: It’s a larger project than is realistic for us to crowd-fund a full budget for (we’re not Zach Braff and Veronica Mars), so we’re engaging our fan base for the development funds to help us get this thing off the ground. We have a match-funds offer from an angel investor, which is great. $10,000 will be enough to cover this scouting trip as well as the costs involved with engaging the right producer. Luckily Iceland has a pretty incredible Film Commission, and we have a number of contacts there, so we anticipate having a good experience. It’s an ambitious production no matter which way you cut it. We hope we’ll be back sooner rather than later, but there are a lot of unknowns at this point. One thing we can offer our supporters an insight into the film development process, demystifying things in a way—they will be there for the whole ride. That’s exciting to be able to share.

Film Syrup:What is your involvement with Transatlantic Talent Lab and how will it benefit your creative pursuits?

Bethany Orr: Being accepted to the Lab is a major opportunity. It was specifically set up to give highly focused support to a handful of filmmakers from Europe and the US who are making their first feature. This is my first feature, not Patrick’s, but neither of us have shot out of the country before. And since Iceland is our shooting location, it really does feel like the Lab was tailor made for me and where this project is at. I’m very excited.

Film Syrup: Where did you come up with the ideas featured in your very creative campaign?

Bethany Orr: We’re not running the typical crowd-funding campaign. We worked hard to try and distill the message down to it simplest form, but I don’t know. It’s pretty impossible to communicate this stuff inside me, and anyway that’s what the film is for. So we tried to capture the essence of the script as much as possible by using some unusual, even disturbing imagery in the campaign video. It’s weird. I’ve always had a unique take on the world, and Patrick and I share complementary points of view on a lot of things. Our most meaningful work deals with universal struggles—emotional violence, anxiety, depression, guilt, social acceptance, grief—through a kind of fucked up but visually engaging filter. But I believe audiences still truly want and need to be challenged and can take it.

Film Syrup: Tell us and our viewers more about what you’re offering your contributors in exchange for their support on this campaign.

Bethany Orr: We’ve got some pretty crazy rewards – like playfully sinister cross-stitch art, a short film made just for you, a handmade Viking tomahawk, a 3-night stay at a Hawaiian B&B (in case you’re feeling contrary). If you’re particularly well humored, we’re even offering the special opportunity to “Adopt-a-Dong.” I can’t tell you about that one, you’ll have to look it up yourself!

We’ve also got some tamer ones, like script coverage or some beautiful photographs we’ll be bringing home from Iceland. And for anyone who contributes $25 or more, we’ll make you into a superhero…

iceland 2

Film Syrup: What is the basic premise of the film and who do you believe will be your most interested viewers?

Bethany Orr: The film is a psycho-sexual drama about four strangers who meet in Iceland to discover their lives are interrelated.

iceland 3

It’s actually a movie about grief, although you may not be able to tell that exactly from our campaign. We decided to take a humorous approach to the presentation, but the subject matter of the film itself is dead serious. The story is filtered through an absurdist lens, but yeah, it’s about human loss… and freedom. I happen to agree with Shakespeare that the veil between comedy and tragedy is very thin, so I exploit that line an awful lot in my work.

The script uses a lot of stark, visceral imagery, things that really haven’t been seen before. I can’t say too much about the particulars of the plot, but it revolves around the central idea that the grieving inhabit a world of alternate logic. The logline is: Mourning is an island with its own set of rules. There’s nowhere else on earth I can imagine doing more justice to this film than Iceland.

icleand 4

Film Syrup: What does this film mean to you?

Bethany Orr: It’s all of me. I’m very serious about it. I heard an interview with a guy awhile back who had adopted 13 children from foster care. The interviewer asked if he had a favorite. And he said, “Yes. The one I happen to be with at the moment.” I feel that way. On any given day there’s a dozen ideas screaming around in my brain and body. This is the one that’s telling me it’s ready, so it has my full attention.

In fact, I just found the mission statement I wrote to accompany Agorable in application to Rogue Film School. This will give you a good idea of my approach to creating:

In America you are twice as likely to kill yourself than to be murdered. We are– empirically– our own worst enemies, and we treat each other with emotional and physical violence as an extension of our self-loathing. As an actress I’m drawn to desperate, brutally flawed or flayed characters. As a filmmaker, for me it’s life or death every time. Well-humored, naturally. A little blood never hurt anyone.

I’m captivated by the notion that ANYONE is capable of doing ANYTHING (even committing the most heinous of acts), under the right circumstances. Doubt and fear are our great equalizers; none of us is any better or worse than any other because of what we have or have not yet been driven to do…

(Interview conducted by Film Syrup Managing Editor, Colleen Rowe)

Stony Brook Film Festival Photo Collection

Andrej Landin at Stony Brook Film Festival’s Q & A for his short film: “Into the Silent Sea.” Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014Andrej Landin

andrej landin 2

Don Cherel at the Q & A for his short film “Sorta’ Horny”, Tuesday, July 22, 2014

sb ff horny

Film Syrup model & contributor, Paige Skelly with Daphne Rubin-Vega (Smash, RENT [Broadway]) after the showing of “Fall to Rise.”

paige and daphne rubin vega

Cast members and director, Jayce Bartok during the “Fall to Rise” Q & A. Saturday, July 19th, 2014.

q and a fall to rise

A Tropese Artist & His Meta-narrative Whirl(ed)s

By Joseph Pravda

Long before “cyberspace” became argot (owing to a certain expatriate author known as Gibson minting it), simulation was the hyper-spatial home of Daniel F. Galouye’s “identity units.”  Fittingly, his tomes are not to be found on the bookshelves just before Mr. Gibson’s growing oeuvre in a “place” we know as three (at most, four) dimensional analog “real life.”

Arthur Clarke, perhaps without intending it, crystallized the issue: “Sometimes I think we’re alone in the universe, and sometimes I think we’re not. In either case, the idea is quite staggering.”

Staggeringly staggering is the proposition that analog creatures can digitize themselves, leading to the greatest imponderable: what sort of entity allowed this to take “place”—and just how, then, to define that rearview mirror image of “real”.

Galouye (pronounced ‘guh-lew-eh’) undertook to become the Samuel Johnson of this new lexicon in “Simulacrum 3” (a runner-up to “Stranger in a Strange Land” from Robert A. Heinlein for the Hugo Award), first depicted by wunderkind German filmmaker J.W. Fassbinder for the, then, still new medium of television (aptly, in Germany, a still new half-nation, perhaps searching to, via mass communicative media, reunite itself electronically, as it were).

In April of 2010, this production, as “World on a Wire”, saw its 35mm world premiere at New York’s MOMA, and shown as recently as January 19, 2011, to reviews retrospectively remarking on its prescience, only casually recalling the tale’s authorship, not unlike praising Francis Bacon’s editorial/authorial genius portraying another long-forgotten author’s work, newly available as “The King James Version.”  [From MOMA’s website, Film Screenings page, as it’s now part of their permanent collection: “‘MoMA’s Department of Film recently participated in a restoration of the film, and we presented the luminous new 35mm theatrical print in a weeklong engagement earlier this year. Working from the original 16mm negative and a digital transfer, Juliane Lorenz, director of the RWF Foundation, and Michael Ballhaus, the film’s original cameraman, supervised the making of the new print. The restored film had its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival in February 2010, and is now part of the Museum’s collection.'”]

At that century’s last gasp, another German director, Josef Rusnak, deployed a much less derivative version via digital projection in the cyber-melodrama “The Thirteenth Floor,” whose release, much to its demise, coincided with “The Matrix,” an unrelated yet truer synchronous revelation of the questioning of reality per se.

As timely inheritor of Tesla-ized modernity’s newest capabilities, he saw the literal manifestation of the ‘truth as stranger than fiction’ aphorism as truism.  In the same way that Gibson, conveniently alive, describes science fiction as “a narrative strategy” for reflecting upon the “incomprehensible now” in his interviews, Galoyue saw as yet nonexistent digital recreation as but a potentially infinite layering of meta-realities, the Russian doll nesting of one within another.

The American chronicler of the seemingly paranormal, Charles Fort remarked: “A social growth cannot find the use of steam engines until comes steam engine time.”

At the very incipient front edge of digital engine time was D.F. Galouye, finding uses only hinted at then— today, no less scientific luminaries than British Astronomer Royal Martin Rees and JPL’s Rich Terrell (behind such epoch-making scientific probing as Voyager) concur that it is highly plausible that you, reading this, and I are “living” within an ancestor simulation.

As you step away from your electronic quantum device du jour—perhaps to reboot your own central processor’s neural net—scan your surroundings, aware that, as those brave cosmonauts and astronauts have attested, I.e., there are no directions in “space”—ponder this: are “birth” and “death” carbon-based palliatives for the more accurate binary notions of “online” and “reboot”?

Cue the Swedish band from Rusnak’s “The Thirteenth Floor” soundtrack, The Cardigans’ “Erase & Rewind”… ‘Cause I’m changing my mind.’

“Game Over,” do you want to play again?

http://www.andmagazine.com/contributors/114_joseph_baron_pravda.html

http://www.angrysponge.com/

“FACT SHEET” -Stony Brook Film Festival

SBFF

Provided by the Staller Center for the Arts, 100 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook University, New York

-The Stony brook Film Festival (SBFF) is a highly competitive, highly selective festival presenting an international selection of new independent features, documentaries and shorts over ten evenings. The 20th annual SBFF will be celebrated in July, 2015

-The SBFF is produced by Staller Center for the Arts, Stony Brook University, located on the north shore of Long Island, 55 miles east of NYC. All films at SBFF are screened once in the 1,000 seat Main Stage Theatre. Directors and actors attend many of the screenings and Q&As.

-SBFF receives hundreds of entries a year from across the country and around the world for its film competition.

-A passholder can see all selected films with an $85 film pass. Tickets are $10 general admission, $8 senior citizens, and $5 students.

-Film passes and selected events of the Festival have sold out for the past several years. Several individual screenings per Festival sell out completely–usually Opening Night, Closing Night and 2-3 additional films. The Theatre seats 1,000 people so “sold out” means a large audience. Approximately 14,000 passes and tickets are sold over the course of the Festival.

-Presenting sponsors include Applied DNA Sciences–James A. Hayward; Campolo, Middleton & McCormick LLP; HBO; Suffolk County; Teachers Federal Credit Union; The Village Voice; and WALK 97.5 Radio.

-The entry deadline is May 1 each year. Entry forms become available in the winter at http://www.stonybrookfilmfestival.com

“Whitnail and I, you know what I mean?”

By Nora Gilmartin

Year: 1987

Director: Bruce Robinson

Production: HandMade Films

George Harrison was a producer, allowing it to be one of the few films in history that contains an original, fully licensed Beatles song (Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”)

Infamous in British university culture for its impossibly difficult drinking game

There is always one work within every film lover’s artillery that serves as the perfect representative for their sense of humor. The absurdist name drops Monty Python films— fans of eccentric, wry humor tout Coen brother works like Fargo— disciples of visual comedy worship Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead. So in an attempt to self-categorize my comedic taste, I always simply say, “I’m a big fan of Withnail and I, you know what I mean?” Only no one ever knows what I mean. They’ve never even heard of it.

That’s not to say to Bruce Robinson’s directorial debut wasn’t beloved, or indeed even worshipped. The film holds a cult status in the hearts of many Brits, and arguably served as the catalyst for star Richard E. Grant’s career. It has aged like fine wine for the press, now being ranked as one of the top British comedies of all time. But for whatever reason, it never made its home in the States. Perhaps Withnail’s visa was denied because of public intoxication charges. Because if there’s one thing you rarely see in this film of many elements and many one-liners, it’s the main characters sober.

The film opens like a raging hangover. Set in a squalid flat in Camden Town in 1969, we are introduced to two of the many casualties of the decade of artistic exploration– Withnail (Richard E. Grant) and “I” (Paul McGann). As the rest of the world settles back into the drone of office routine and 6 o’clock news, Withnail and his companion are still “resting”– broke, unemployed actors, with serious alcohol problems.

Withnail is Shakespearean in his flamboyance— teetering between the pride and arrogance of a king, and the emotional imbalance of a madman. He assails against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and curses the underserving folk who have become more successful than him. “I”— also referred to as Marwood in the screenplay, but never named in the film— serves as the voice of the audience. Only slightly saner, he strives to find ways to resolve their destitute state and avoid any further chaos.

In an attempt to flee urban London, they reach out to Withnail’s wealthy Uncle Monty. Played by Richard Griffiths, Monty has been lauded for decades as his greatest role (sorry, Potter fans). A corpulent, gay Oxford alum, he manages his time equally between tending his growing vegetable collection and reminiscing over half-fabricated memories of his thespian years. They obtain a key to his home in the country, and immediately head off in their deteriorating Jaguar.

The holiday, unsurprisingly, is a disaster. The pair find themselves even more out of their element than ever before, in a dingy, wet hut of a summer home— relying on their own natural hunting ability to gather food. They attempt to shove a chicken in a kettle, and use plastic grocery bags as Wellingtons. The nightmare is heightened tenfold when Monty arrives in an attempt to seduce Marwood. He retreats when he gets the impression that Marwood and Withnail are in a secret affair, and is saddened by yet another rejection in his old age.

Despite being a comedy, the film is incredibly self-aware of the tragic nature of the characters. The world no longer holds a place for their kind— if it ever did— and they have reached the age where they must adapt, or perish. In a moment of ingenuousness, Monty holds the boys’ hands and declares, “We are at the end of an age… And here we are, we three, perhaps the last island of beauty in the world.”  It is a sentiment echoed throughout the film by the companions, and reflected by the behavior of the outsiders. They are harassed by local drunks, ignored by rural neighbors, rejected by posh tea drinkers, and abused (albeit rightfully) by the police. These are the scenes which provide the greatest comedic effect in the film, but upon further scrutiny reveal the bleak future to come. What will happen to these characters, when the last drop of wine is spilled, and when they tire of amusing schemes to escape their state?

Marwood is astute enough to realize what must be done. Upon returning to London he secures the leading role in a play, cuts his hair, and makes his final exit. An eviction notice comes through the mail, for which Withnail is too high to even show concern. Yet he reveals his devastating fragility in the final scenes, as he attempts to appear happy for his friend’s success, while trailing him to the station— quietly hoping Marwood will become aware of his betrayal. Marwood remains headstrong, saying his sincerest goodbye in Regent’s Park. Withnail is truly, completely alone.

Standing in the rain, in front of the wolf enclosure they used to frequent together, Withnail belts out the “Hamlet” soliloquy: “What a piece of work is man.” The rain strengthens in its intensity, as if to drown him out, but he continues to scream over the downpour. He takes his bow, and the screenplay ends with, “The wolves are unimpressed.” There is something painfully relatable about Withnail as he walks into the distance. His bombastic and rebellious facade has been shattered, the last remnants of dreams finally crushed, with no support or encouragement to be found. He is stranded– a man out of time. Out of cash. Out of booze.

So how does this reflect upon myself, and others who declare Withnail & I to be their favorite comedy film of all time? Perhaps we embrace the more farcical elements of life, acknowledging that the most comical and extravagant characters are often also the most tragic. We can find humor in the darker sides of humanity, and mockery in those who herald themselves as the elite. And maybe, just maybe, we fear that we are the outsiders— narrowly avoiding isolation and destructive despair.

Jesus. That’s grim. Time for another drink.

Nora Gilmartin graduated from Hunter College with a BA in English Literature.

Man of Steel: A Spoiler-Free Feminist Review

By Tara M. Clapper, originally published on The Geek Initiative.

I’ll give it to  you straight: “Man of Steel” fails the Bechdel Test. Hard. There’s a lot of missed potential. Here’s a spoiler-free, feminist perspective on the movie.

Lois Lane – This version of Lois (Amy Adams) has potential. There aren’t too many character details that need to be changed to update the character. Her profession is still relevant; her personality is still independent and irrepressible. This movie confirms these facts before Lois encounters Clark (Henry Cavill). In the beginning of the movie, we learn that Lois served as an embedded journalist in a military situation. Sounds kick ass, right? Well, after it’s mentioned, this fact is forgotten.

Lois Lane’s Role In Plot – Aside from serving as Superman’s love interest, Lois helps Clark discover his identity and purpose. In this specific way, it’s nearly identical to the role of Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) in “Thor.” Beyond that, Lois does learn information key to the success of Superman and his human allies. However, instead of acting completely with this information in vintage Lois fashion, she just passes the info on to a (male) character, who then completes the task.

Once she uses her reporter skills to understand (extremely early in the movie) that Clark Kent isn’t a typical guy, she serves only as a love interest and a vessel for information. Her role becomes very passive as the movie progresses. As Superman’s quest for identity and monumental decisions take on more importance, Lois becomes a background character – yet her romantic interest in him grows.

While we do see Lois working as a journalist at various points in the movie, her accolades and experiences are not mentioned after the main action sequences.

And So She’s Damseled – Yes, even I wanted to see Superman rescue Lois as she’s falling in the sky. I was glad to see it once. But several times? It’s overkill. I actually feel like she was only falling from buildings and planes to remind us that she was still present, because the script gave her nothing else to do and no other way to again catch the attention of that handsome guy in the red cape. 

The Relationship – My husband didn’t like the progress of the romantic interactions between Lois and Clark and we had a debate about it. In this movie, Lois is actually present for some of Clark’s journey in discovering his identity. I felt that this strengthened the relationship and made me relate to both of the characters more, but my husband expressed a strong preference for the standard ‘double identity’ scenario in which Lois does not realize that Clark and Superman are the same guy.

I don’t think it works well in a contemporary setting, especially when we’re supposed to believe a Pulitzer-winning investigative journalist can’t figure it out. I’m glad they alter the dual identity thing in this movie and I think my husband’s yearning has less to do with nostalgia and more to do with patriarchal bullshit. I’m pretty much over comic book movies that exhibit this type of behavior and I’m very grateful that “Man of Steel” moved past it.

Bechdel Test? Nope. Despite several opportunities for the female characters to pass the Bechdel Test, they do not. Additionally, Superman likes to save people and he saves both males and females – and that’s great. During the movie, this theme is echoed when other characters act to save bystanders and colleagues. Unfortunately, only males get to be heroes in this scenario, and the victims in need of rescuing are usually women.

Villainous Female – There is one female villain in the movie. Faora-Ul (Antje Traue) is on Team Zod, and she kicks ass. She can hold her own against male and female opponents. Unfortunately, she’s the only woman in the movie that gets to exhibit any real physical power. And she’s a villain. So basically…this movie is just trying to tell me that powerful women are bad.

How Clark/Superman Treats Women – Clark is respectful to women in the movie (Minus Faora-Ul, but she’s out to kill him). His real struggles are with his own personal identity, some difficult decisions he has to make, and his human father, Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner).

Maternal and Nurturing Imagery – “Man of Steel” featured a great deal of maternal and nurturing imagery towards the main character, who is depicted at different stages of life, and never without a mother figure. Clark is always the decision-maker (even when it’s him and his human dad), though women tend to take a passive role. That said, I wouldn’t say this imagery is negative; I just wish it was balanced with a more assertive female character or at least a physically intimidating female character who did something useful.

Three female characters are also portrayed as emotional, however I would argue that this is a positive trait of the movie. If anything, all of the male characters except Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and General Zod (Michael Shannon) were a bit too unemotional to be realistic.

The Penis Pods – At one point, some characters get put in pods in outer space. They’re shaped like penises. Flying dildos encompass the entire movie screen. Thank goodness I wasn’t watching the movie in 3D!

It was so obvious that most of the audience started laughing and pointing at the penis pods. Why were the pods shaped like penises? I’m not sure. It had to be intentional, though, because I can’t imagine anyone calling those things anything other than space dildos or penis pods. At that point, I was pretty immersed in the story, but the shape of the space pods ruined my immersion.

Female Soldier – There is one (token) female soldier. She gets few lines and they are always spoken to men. Her most significant line, of course, is about Superman. After she manages to survive (and I assume perform duties adequately) after a major catastrophic event, her male commanding officer does not congratulate her. Instead, he asks her why she’s smirking. I’ll let you guess why. It has nothing to do with the fact that she may have worked on a team who defends against alien invaders and everything to do with the male superhero who doesn’t even thank her for her service. And if she even had a name, I didn’t catch it.

I visually surveyed the audience at the theater. It seemed about 80% male, versus the 60% male audience I observed at “Iron Man 3″ and “The Avengers.” Yeah, Henry Cavill takes his shirt off. Yes, he looks great – but DC unfortunately hasn’t figured out something Marvel clearly understood with “Thor” in 2010 and the movies that followed: female viewers want more out of a movie than a good-looking guy, and they’ll pay to see a comic book movie at least once if you keep that in mind.

Overall, the movie could have been worse. The acting was top notch; Cavill’s portrayal of Superman is a careful balance of an homage and an original. The plot is easy to follow for a non-comic book fan and the first quarter of the movie is especially gripping. It blended lessons learned from “Serenity,” “Star Trek,” “Thor” and “The Avengers” (some of the plot comparisons are unavoidable) as well as “The Matrix” without borrowing too heavily from any one influence. However, you may want to take some motion sickness pills – the camera is constantly shaky to provide a documentary-style feeling and to blur out sub-par special effects.

Tara M. Clapper is the Senior Editor at The Geek Initiative.

Interview with Co-Founder & Writer/Director of Congested Cat Productions, Christina Raia

Film Syrup interviewed Co-Founder & Writer/ Director of Congested Cat Productions, Christina Raia, hoping to bring to the surface this resourceful production company’s in-progress projects and creative motives. Read the following series of questions that Film Syrup presented to this independent filmmaker. Congested Cat Productions, based in the New York City area, is made up of an inspiring team of young creatives, including Raia. 

265783_10151092273807919_62753384_oFilm Syrup (FS): Among the short films you are currently working on, which do you foresee your audiences receiving best, relating to most closely, and responding to through social media, writing, etc.?

Christina Raia (CR): I think both shorts, “Not Our Living Room” and “We Had Plans,” will appeal to our audience, but the latter may resonate more with the audience we’ve acquired from our past collaborative work, “Kelsey.” Our fan base for the series was predominately female and within that mostly comprised of lesbians. I think the “Kelsey” fans appreciated that we created a series centered on a lesbian whose sole existence was not wrapped around her sexual orientation. Yes, that was a prominent aspect of her identity, but she was an individual with experiences and emotions that all people go through, who also happened to be gay. We believe in portraying people as people, and expect our audience to look at them that way, and relate to them on an emotional level. We don’t do caricatures or stereotypes. We aim to do the same with both of these shorts. However, since “We Had Plans” is about sisters (while “Not Our Living Room” is about brothers), where one is a lesbian, I believe it’ll draw in our audience a little more.

 

FS: What are your long term creative goals in your management at CongestedCat Productions, LLC? What message do you wish to send to audiences? Do you think this message has previously been achieved?

CR: CongestedCat Productions started as a branded umbrella for me and my collaborators to produce and release our creative content. However, in the three years that we’ve been around, we’ve evolved more into a company that believes in unifying and empowering independent film and filmmakers. We believe in creating and showcasing innovative and original content, not just by ourselves but by our peers as well. This is how our free monthly film screening series, IndieWorks, got started. Ultimately, we believe in portraying and giving voices to underrepresented individuals, both in terms of the content creators and content created. I do believe that is something that sets us apart from other production companies or teams because not many that I’ve encountered have made diversity and challenging social norms a priority.

 

FS: What components of your company do you feel are very essential to the industry it is based in? Is there a gray area where film meets business that takes away from creativity, or that makes business more creative?

CR:Our company was started not as a way to profit, but as a way to create. So, for us, artistic merit and creativity comes first and then it’s a matter of figuring out our strategy in gaining funding and/or an audience for each individual project. I personally never aspired to be on the business side of film but no one was knocking on my door offering to bring my work to fruition; so I had to create that opportunity for myself. Because of this, it’s been a bit of a steep learning curve for me since founding the company three years ago. However, all the team members (we like to think of ourselves as a team rather than just a company) are under 28 years old, which I think benefits us because we’re sort of coming up in this new generation of film making and film technology. We’re very aware of the more traditional methods, but are most open to more innovative ones. Often filmmakers feel pressured to conform to mainstream expectations in terms of creative choices as well more production-based aspects like casting, even in the festival circuit. Since our team aims to make less mainstream, more diverse content, we’re much more into modern digital based distribution platforms and options. For instance, creating a web series worked well with our more youthful appeal and approach both on a creative side as well as in advancing the new-media industry reach of our company.

 

FS:Where did the name “CongestedCat” derive from? Do you think it influences your interested audiences to view your videos, website, or general media? (Cats are apparently in right now).

CR: I founded CongestedCat Productions with my childhood friend Chris Carroll (who mainly acts as resident photographer and graphic designer within the company). When trying to name the company, we knew we wanted the title to have two C’s to represent our names. We tried to think of what we had in common, and the two things that came to mind were that our zodiac sign is cancer and we both love cats. The former wasn’t so appealing name-wise, so we decided to work with the latter. Chris typed into google “C Cat” and the first thing in the drop-down menu was “congested cat.” Chris said it jokingly and we laughed about it for a while, not seriously expecting to use it. However, the more we said it, the more it grew on us. We felt that when heard, the name would likely not be forgotten by people. Additionally, since the intention was for originality with a touch of familiarity to become a bit of a company trademark, we thought it’d work well because it was offbeat in a way that would force people to presume that the content they’d be seeing from us would be anything but generic or predictable.

Because the name came before we really established the team or the content we’d produce, it has very little to do with our target audience. I suppose if people like cats, though, they may be drawn to viewing our work. Our crowdfunding campaign is under the name ‘CongestedCat Shorts’ in order to attract our already existing audience that associates our company name with the content they enjoyed and supported (most notably “Kelsey” but also my upcoming feature ‘Summit,’ past shorts films or IndieWorks).

FS:Do you think the viewership of short films are majorly different from the viewership of full feature length films? Specifically, how does this question apply to CongestedCat Productions?

CR: I think that traditionally people who enjoyed short films were exclusively filmmakers themselves or cinephile types, while feature films appealed to people across the board. However, with Youtube and Vimeo becoming the norm for how people consume media content, there’s a deeper appreciation, I think, for short form content and the ability to tell a compelling story in a short amount of time. For CongestedCat, this is beneficial because we enjoy short form content and believe it’s a useful way to reach people quickly and effectively. With that said, we do have a plethora of stories and styles we want to convey; so feature films are definitely part of our long-term plans. They’ll be more of passion projects that we’ll choose to work on very selectively, and hopefully be able to build an audience around through our future shorts.

 

FS: What is the main premise of IndieWorks? What is the viewer turnout like for the screenings at People’s Lounge & Bar?

CR:IndieWorks is a way to showcase and support local filmmakers in New York City, and create a sense of community in an environment that can often be overly competitive and about stepping on each other. Ideologically, we believe in working toward a middle class of indie film where we’re all supporting each other and rising together (while still showcasing what makes us all unique), rather than hoping to be the chosen one in a group of many. So, for us, we wanted to start an event free of the politics and capitalism that tend to overrun the festival circuit and, of course, Hollywood, and create an environment where we can see and appreciate the work of our peers and allow discussions and networking that could spark collaboration and support. We have one screening of 6 films every month and average about 45 people at each event. The weather often plays a part in the turnout. The least we’ve ever had was 30 people. The most was 120 at our 1st year ‘Best of Fest’ screening 2 months ago.

To find out more about CongestedCat Productions & Indieworks: http://www.congestedcat.com/