Thursday, November 22, 2012

Run From The Lights

Friday, February 17, 2012

Nine Lives. One Destiny.

Puss in Boots (Shrek)
Being a parent, I know that children need to be entertained. My son, for instance, has a short attention span, so finding something to keep him occupied has many advantages. I have found that cinema offers an attractive outing for the whole family. Rather than stare at the small flickering box in the living room, you get to share the experience with strangers in front of a much larger box. At least I don’t have to contend with him arguing with his sister about what they’re watching. A box of popcorn and they’re content until the credits.

Puss in Boots was the preferred choice, the computer-animated film acts as a prelude to the Shrek franchise. After his success as a supporting character, Puss (Antonio Banderas) gets his own self-titled movie. We learn that Puss has been known by many names; Diablo Gato, The Furry Lover, Chupa Cabra, Frisky Two Times and then The Gingerhead man. But to most Puss in Boots, outlaw! Based years before he meets Shrek and Donkey, the story follows his early adventures at an orphanage in San Ricardo. We’re introduced to lifelong companion Humpty Alexander Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), and love interest Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek).

Those familiar with the Shrek lineage will know what to expect, there’s the fairy tale characters parodied and popular culturesaturated, plot points, and conventions. Through much of their childhood, Puss and Humpty grew up in the orphanage. However, as they grew older, the harmless pranks they performed as children soon turned into crimes. They eventually drift apart, their dreams of finding magic beans abandoned through betrayal. But, Humpty returns with a plot to achieve their lifelong goal, and with Kitty Softpaws plan to steal the magic beans from Jack and Jill, grow a beanstalk, and find the golden goose of legend. Naturally, there are complications along the way! Jack and Jill for instance aren’t the cute kids from the nursery rhyme; they’re angry outlaws with domestic issues. Humpty the long-estranged childhood friend has questionable intentions. Whilst Kitty Softpaws, one of the most feared and well-respected high-end thieves, takes on the role of the femme fatale.

Banderas, as he proved with the Shrek franchise, was born to play this role. He’s much better than any visual effect and the advantage is that you don’t need to use fancy glasses to appreciate him. All you need are your ears! Salma Hayek does well as Kitty Softpaws, while Galifianakis gets so into character that I didn’t realise it was him. He doesn’t have the same impact as Walt Dohrn’s, Rumpelstiltskin from the Shrek series but he’s still likeable. Overall this is a pleasant story for the character that felt like the best part of the original movies. The beginning has decent pace and originality, even if the ending does become predictable. Children and adults will really enjoy this movie and even though this was intended to be a straight to DVD release, I’m hoping there will be more from Puss in Boots.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Keep Talking..

Anonymous with Guy Fawkes masks at Scientology...
Stephen Hawking’s famously stated that “…all we need to do is make sure we keep talking.” Freedom of speech is a necessity but it’s also a myth, especially with censorship and privacy concerns frequently appearing in the news. What’s the Arab Spring again? Governments and organisations compete to regulate and moderate the Internet and there’s an arms race developing between Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Together so much could be achieved but legislation and lawsuits only widen the divide. There would be anarchy if there were no rules in place, but bills like the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) are bad policy and would harm innovation. While I support the desire to stop piracy and protect intellectual property, the US government already has considerable power to arrest people and seize assets in other countries. Is more power even necessary?

Adam Curtis’ documentary series The Power of Nightmares: “Baby it’s Cold Outside” (2004) claims that in the past, politicians offered us dreams of a better world. When this optimistic vision failed, people lost faith in ideologies. Today’s politicians are seen as managers of public life, instead of delivering dreams they promise to protect us from nightmares. Threats like the war on terror, that Curtis claims is an imagined threat, an illusion created and played out through the media. Such a view marks out a decline in trust in democratic politics, which in the last decade have become increasingly trivialised, with political consultants “spin doctors” attempting to shape the public attitude. David Cameron’s Big Society aims to provide a platform to communicate, but pressure groups have emerged with similar intentions to engage communities into public discussions. These assemblies allow people to voice their ideas for a better future through collaborative production. Declaring it’s time for citizens to represent themselves. The revolution might not be televised but the media have an important role in shaping the public opinion.

In recent years digital activism has become common place, allowing groups to raise awareness in issues that might oppose the mainstream. WikiLeaks are an organisation that takes this further by publishing and commenting on leaked documents. The site is designed to protect whistle-blowers, journalists and activists who have sensitive materials to communicate to the public. The organisation has been applauded and condemned for its approach to releasing information to the public, but despite the mixed reaction, there’s no denying that people coming together can make a difference. Since the publications of “CableGate”, WikiLeaks has faced an unprecedented global financial blockade by major finance companies including Mastercard, Visa and PayPal.

The first step is admitting there’s a problem, and then collectively, people can work towards finding a solution. Fight Club (1999) could be interpreted as an example of how activist groups mobilise to challenge the mainstream. The narrator attends support groups, becomes increasingly disillusioned with consumer culture and through collaborative participation leads to the collapse of several financial buildings. Anonymous who are Internet activists parallel Fight Club, they are a large, decentralized group of individuals who share common interests and coordinate to achieve self-agreed goals. Members don’t talk about their involvement and they conceal their identities. The imagery of the “suit without a head” represents leaderless organization and anonymity. When appearing in public the Internet-based group use the Guy Fawkes mask popularised by V for Vendetta (2006) for ‘collective identification and simultaneous anonymity’ (The BBC, 2011).

Another people-powered movement that utilises the Internet are Occupy Wall Street and the other occupations around the world ( Organized through a non-binding consensus based collective decision making tool known as a “people’s assembly”. They are fighting back against major banks and multinational corporations, who they believe are responsible for the ‘economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations’. The movement is inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and aims to fight back against ‘the richest 1% of people that are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future’.

The Internet has become an important political platform, national borders have become much less important and there’s growing organisational complexity in contemporary life. To resolve issues, people need to communicate much more and fulfil promises; the blame culture needs to change before we’re able to move forward. This won’t happen overnight but rather through evolution than revolution.

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