The Firm Fragility of A Life Well Lived

In the end when all is said and done, life is fragile, isn’t it?

As our eyesight fades and our memory meanders into meaninglessness, do you sometimes wonder what is the point in it all?

Why do we toil and fight and rise and fall day after day after day?

Why do we resist entropy? Why do we resist death?

Perhaps it is no surprise that the thought of death rises so swiftly to the forefront of our minds as of late. After all, we are nearing the second Christmas of a global pandemic, a post-apocalyptic optimistic new normal that should go down nicely in our history books, just like the Spanish Flu did. Wait, did they teach that in our history books?

I thought not. Like many random and meaningless events, it too will be lost in our global memory, swept under the floorboards like a bad dream that left a sour taste in the mouth. Or a lack of taste, I should say.

However, in spite of this constant threat of death, these thoughts of doom and gloom were not Covid inspired. To be fair, when is there not a constant looming threat of death?

In an eerie series of events in the past weeks, the reaper has reared its rickety head and presented itself at my neighbours’ doors on many occasions, until I cannot but heed its steady rapping and tapping.

It began with a mysterious disappearance. My significant other’s relative decided he would take a drive out to the salty coast of Negeri Sembilan to get some sea breeze, and ended up abandoning his car in the dunes of Port Dickson, never to be heard or seen. Despite a somewhat unstable past (don’t worry, no horses were hurt), it seemed a bit out of character to be a disappearing act for this boy. I like to imagine he was inspired by the film Into The Wild, where the protagonist valiantly and somewhat recklessly abandons his life and cuts off all contact with his past to experience the natural world to its fullest, to return to nature on his own terms.

Spoilers aside, it did not end well for a number of characters in the surrounding subplots recently. Our cat was found cold and curled up in an old shirt; several colleagues lost their loved ones; my significant other lost her grandmother. And there I was binge watching Sean Lock standup videos.

Spoiler: RIP to the legendary Sean Lock, said every single top comment of every single video.

I watched Dune (the latest one), and despite the stunning visuals, poignant acting and compelling plot (I’ve read the novel and have always loved it, and they did it more justice than I could ever put down in words), I couldn’t help but be saddened by the immense loss of life, albeit highly dramatised fictional loss.

Spoiler: some characters may not be returning for Part Two.

Extra spoiler: yes there is at least one sequel.

To avoid more spoilers, just go read the darn book. It’s a bit of a slow start, but once you get used to all the gibberish words (Mr. Herbert enjoyed crafting his own vernacular) it’s quite the ride!

It amazes me that it took decades and decades of special effects and computer graphics and visual bumfuckery to finally be able to achieve what this mastermind of imagination concocted back in the 60’s. It took the glorious mind of Mr. Villeneuve (I had to Google how to spell that) and Hans Zimmer and a ridiculous boatload of A-list actors to craft an epic science fiction masterpiece that could live up to the opus dei that is Frank Herbert’s Dune.

I was rather miffed that they gave away the sandworm riding so early on, because that was a major mindblowing moment for me in the novel, and in the film they almost casually toss it in, like some dude just randomly surfing the sand seas.

Wait until you find out where melange comes from.

Now that I think about it, they never once use the term melange in the movie…

Also the tone of the film is a little different from the novel, with the focus being drawn heavily to the local indigenous population of the battle-scarred planet of Arrakis. The novel focuses primarily on Paul of the house Atreides and his compatriots, while this film almost hijacks it by portraying a lot of it through Chani and sparkly dream sequences.

Anyway, this has somehow become a movie review. My point was that the film portrays loss and death very viscerally and directly and it does not shy away from the rather unsightly nature of the whole affair. Although not as graphic as Game of Thrones and its modern fantasy ilk, Dune is certainly a violent writhing mass of slaughter and…game of thrones, with great houses and factions vying for control of the known universe through the control of resources that come from this parched planet of pulverised spice.

So yes, you could say that death is at the forefront of my mind.

However, while it is something I contemplate greatly at times, it is not something I would consider myself partaking of, at least not prematurely.

I doubt I will go by my own hand.

Is that something I should be contemplating?

I see death somewhat romantically, cheesy even.

I see death as a celebration, as a brief flicker of a bright flame on a stodgy little birthday candle. Out, out brief candle as a lord once exclaimed.

For there to be death, there must first have been life. And so death is a celebration that there once was life, that there once was some degree of activity and vibrancy, a spark of joy and lust and growth and sadness.

All our lives we battle against the forces of nature and physics, defy gravity and entropy and the elements. We rise slowly and quickly and raise our fists to the sky and each other. And at the end we lay back down to rest, yielding to gravity and decay and the laws of the world, giving back what we have taken, gifting life to others.

Spoiler: in the end, it gets us all.

So the question is: what are you going to do about it?

For starters, go check out Dune if you haven’t already.

Life is so very fragile, isn’t it?

Tenet Review: The Spy Who Screwed with Time

It’s spy time! Don’t worry, no spoilers here.

Pacing is light speed, as is the dialogue, so subtitles don’t hurt but you do run the risk of missing all those delicious hidden Nolan nuggets interspersed throughout the film.

That and losing the plot amidst all the mad spy-fi action.

Yes, spy-fi is a genre now.

My advice for those watching it the first time is to take the advice given by the chick in the lab coat at the start of the film: “don’t think too much about it.”

At least not about the pseudo-science part. Do try to follow the characters and the flow of events throughout the film. If you can do that, then you should have a reasonably satisfactory experience. I suppose that applies to…most movies.

I must say Mr. Nolan has a knack for blending and balancing human emotion, sweet cinematography, fast paced action and wacky science and effects into his works. If you thought Inception and Interstellar were out there…then, well, Tenet isn’t that far off.

Set in what appears to be present times (or maybe not too long ago), Tenet is the name of a secret organisation that is tasked with preventing global catastrophe. Of course it would be typical of a spy film to have “save-the-world” stakes. Because of course it only takes one man or a team to save the world. Human power! Or hubris. But I digress.

And we are thrown right into the fray, from the second you step into the theatre to the credit roll, things just keep flying. Like you know that saying about having fun?

So yes, as you may already be aware, Tenet is all about time, and the wacky things you can do with a solid grasp of good time management. Also, there’s the Sator Square.

The Sator Square is an intriguing reference – if you’ve seen the film but never heard of the Sator Square, this might set off some light bulbs. Here it is below, for those of you who haven’t seen it yet:

S A T O R
A R E P O
T E N E T
O P E R A
R O T A S

Apart from the obvious name references in the film, the Sator Square is also a multi-directional palindrome, meaning it reads the same backwards and forwards and up and down. And at the centre of the square is tenet. You can see where Nolan got his inspiration from.

The Sator Square is an interesting bit of culture itself – it is a recurring motif in ancient history, from Pompeii to Italy to Syria. The meaning behind it is still something of a mystery, although it appears to have religious links.

That said, the Sator Square isn’t really that central to the film – it’s just a cool reference and the namesake, and perhaps an indicator that there will be some backwards and forwards business going on. But that’s about it. So…you’re welcome?

I must say Mr. Pattinson’s performance is truly top notch, as is Mr. Branagh’s. Of course we mustn’t forget the protagonist – an all round solid performance.

The protagonist does feel a little one-dimensional though, as his motives are never entirely elucidated. Is he just doing his job? Saving the world from an unseen and unknown threat? Does he actually like the lady? Or maybe he’s addicted to time travel?

So many questions, but not nearly as many as you’ll have when they start firing names, places, acronyms, code words, quips left right and centre. The characters are all clearly cleverer (that words somehow doesn’t sound right in my head) than all of us because they all seem to be able to keep up with the crazy shenanigans that go on in all the timelines and subplots of the film. But of course they do, they’re in the film!

No, that’s not what I mean. I mean if you were in their position in the movie, I imagine you’d have a tough time trying to figure out who is what and what to say to who when where. But then again, I imagine that’s what being in a real life spy campaign is like.

Also, long distance radio connection from an underground facility that is quite possibly still heavily radioactive? Hellooooo? I guess the film is actually set in the distant future when they can actually get a semi-stable halfway-decent internet connection.

The soundtrack is a little otherworldly, and I wonder what it would sound like played backwards. Might scream for Sator or Arepo or some deity’s name. I heard complaints about it being a little loud and overpowering the dialogue, but I felt the volume levels were reasonably well tuned. If anything the visuals in the action scenes were harder to follow, what with things happening in strange sequences and lots of little details thrown around.

Overall a clever film that makes you think (forces, I daresay) with enough action and drama to keep you on the edge of your seat even if you forget about all the sciencey physics defying stunts they pull.

But if you like to think things through and make sense of it all, then this film is definitely for you. I daresay they could turn it into a series, like Dark. And no, I’m not saying that because the main character is of a certain ethnicity.

And at the end of it all, I realised I don’t even know the bloody fool’s name. They forgot to name their protagonist.

Blade Runner 2049 Wildest Review Ever

blade runner 2049 harrison ford

Blade Runner 2049 Review Time

I hope you enjoyed the movie, because everybody dies!

Oh wait…was I supposed to say spoilers alert first?

I’m just messing with you – they’re Replicants; they never die. They just…retire.

Now it just occurred to me that a large part of the premise of Rockman X (Megaman X, for those reading at home) is very much based on the concepts from the Blade Runner universe.

Let’s run through some similarities (glaring as they may be), shall we?

blade runner maverick hunter
They’re like, totally identical, man!

It’s make-a-list time!

So Blade Runner and Megaman X are similar in that they:

  • Both have lots of guns. Pew pew! (Egads! The violence!)
  • Are set in dystopian futures (and not too distant, mind you)
  • Both involve artificial humanoids or very closely human-like robots – Blade Runner calls their artificial humanoids Replicants, Megaman calls them Reploids. Both are capable of human thought and emotion; both are stronger in most physical regards compared to weak, fragile humans
  • Both have stories centred around those who seek out and destroy rogue Replicants and/or Reploids
  • Both involve lots of flying and jumping around in futuristic craft
    Megaman X Ride Chaser Speeder
  • Both have mad geniuses that engineer countless artificial beings and then sic them on each other
  • Both have amazing futuristic visuals and graphics
    Megaman X City Waste
  • Both have protagonists that have yet to be subjected to a Turing or Voight-Kampff test
  • Both have nerdy fanboy followings (and surprising mainstream ones too)

Well, that list kind of fizzled, but you see my point.

Wait, what point?

The point that I played nerdy computer games! Ya happy?

On To The Review

Now that I got that out of the way, Blade Runner 2049 is a strikingly vivid cinematographic orgasm of moist grim dark.

It’s literally raining all the time, and although I didn’t see any flaming smokestacks this time, it has that same dirty, polluted, overcrowded vibe with gaudy neon banners getting all in your face.

Ryan Gosling plays a sullen, straight-shooting, soft-spoken Blade Runner that suits his style of acting. I mean, for crying out loud – I’m sure the guy has range, so why do you keep giving him these roles!? And why do you keep taking them, Ryan? Why?

It’s like I’m watching Drive all over again.

Long pans of cityscape; cruising in sleek rides all over town; sudden outbursts of action and gratuitous violence (but also quite gratifying).

Hey, let’s make a list to comp-ok fine, let’s not.

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy watching an expressionless robot speed around with acid rain streaking horizontally across the glass, and get mind raped a few times over. But replicants are supposed to have some proper emotion, man!

The dude didn’t even cry when that really, really sad thing happened!

He just sat there and stared.

It’s like I’m watching Drive all over again.

Whining aside, I honestly did enjoy this installment of the Blade Runner franchise and I agree it did justice to the original.

Some people may have found it rather draggy and slow, but I felt the pacing was in a way homage to the classic style of movies. It also gives good breathing room to the audience in between all that story and action.

And all the settings have such character!

blade-runner-wallace-corp-indoor-setting

Very artfully done locations and picturesque places, albeit intentionally stale and depressing.

blade-runner-wallace-corp-indoor-setting

And the music! Oh, Hans Zimmer I knew thy touch upon each dissonant shred of thine unique brand of high. The music is simply mesmerising and combines so well with many of the quieter moments in the film.

All in all, Blade Runner 2049 is one of those movies where you should not go in expecting to see a whole lot of whiz bang action and nonstop firefights. It’s one of those films where the people that made it want you as the viewer to appreciate this magical, futuristic universe that they’ve concocted; to bask and linger in the strange yet uncannily familiar sights and sounds.

All you need to do and stay awhile and listen.

Does it hold up to the original? Only time will tell.

But it’s definitely worth the watch (but be warned it’s almost 3 hours long).