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Category: Film Conversations

Film Conversations: They Live (1988)

They…are everywhere and are trying to control us!

EDIT: Just noticed that I actually wrote about this film earlier so I guess this would be a part 2? That must mean I really like it.LOL

Before I get started talking about this film I want to let my new readers know that I don’t do strict film reviews. I like to talk about the social ramifications of films, what they can teach us and how they fit into our current dystopian hellscape. There will be SPOILERS.

I am a John Carpenter fangirl who loves his films and his music. With that being said this is my all time favourite film of his, because I feel like it actually ‘gets’ me. It takes a very sharp look at capitalistic consumer culture and what it does to a society who lets it take control of their lives.

This is not a very complex film, in either message or tone. A group of people living in poverty learns that the world around them is being controlled by Aliens who, through the use of subliminal messaging, bombard them with words such as obey, sleep and reproduce. When you think about it it’s an ingenious way for an alien species to invade Earth. Instead of having a military battle, in which many lives would be lost, they slowly tighten their grip upon society until people are so brainwashed they they really don’t care what is going on. If they can buy their new car, pop out a baby, and stuff themselves with food then everything is fine.

I was a teenager in the 80’s when this film came out and to say that the 80’s was a decade of conspicuous consumption is an understatement. If you were poor in any part of that decade you were made to feel like you were totally crap for not having the nice shiny things that everybody else had. Yes, this has happened throughout history, however it really peaked during that decade. I remember once wanting a pegged legged type of jeans and the only pair I could find were by Guess. As soon as I got home I ripped the label on the back pocket off. When I wore them to school people were asking me why I ripped the label off. No joke, people were befuddled as to why I didn’t want to wear clothes with blatant labels. I didn’t want to be in the part of society that worshipped brand names like they were gods.

A face that even a mother couldn’t love.

The downtrodden rebel group in the film start making sunglasses that allow people to see what is really going on around them. When worn you not only can see the subluminal messages, you can also see what the aliens really look like. The aliens have disguises that allow them to look human and they are everywhere; bank tellers, politicians, policemen,etc… They have infiltrated into every facet of life in a capitalistic consumerist based society, and their presence assures that things will stay exactly the same. People in the society are so conditioned not to question authority that when offered the sunglasses they will fight to the death rather than accept the chance to see what is really going on.

The themes in this film still hold true today. A whole segment of society will believe whatever they are told without question, and if somebody has a worse life than them it’s their own fault for not pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. Since these people don’t have the money to buy nice shiny things then they should be forgotten. In this film people actually sell out and turn on their fellow humans because the aliens promise to make them wealthy for doing so. Gaining wealth is so important in that society, and in this one, that people will do anything to achieve it.

The 80’s was a very wealth obsessed decade, but with the advent of the internet new ways to perpetuate this line of thinking have come to fruition. ‘Influencers’ on social media perpetuate all of this. They basically want to be famous for not having any sort of talent, other than getting others to buy the products that they are promoting. They are capitalist consumer conmen. They promote products to their wide eyed audience as if they too can be an influencer someday if they also buy the product. Aspiring to be an influencer is seen as an actual career path by some of these people. Why go to school when you can get cash and free shiny things while having no discernable talent? Remember folks, acquiring shiny things makes you a vital part of society and better than those who don’t have them. The aliens in this film would be very happy about this state of affairs.

John Carpenter has stated that he made They Live as a statement against Reaganomics. He saw the American middle class being harmed by economic policies that only helped the wealthy and felt that he had to say something against that. What he ended up making is now considered to be a cult classic, a film that is as relevant today as it was over thirty years ago.

Film Conversations: The Terminator (1984)

This is definitely one of the films that shaped me into the post-apocalyptic loving weirdo that I am today. I am going to assume that everybody who is reading this has seen this film already, especially since it’s approaching its 40th anniversary fairly soon. If you haven’t seen it in a while it’s up on Prime for free. Since we are in the midst of living in a dystopian hellscape I find this film to be rather comforting. Yeah, the world really sucks at the moment but at least we don’t have marauding cyborgs hunting us down to extinction. Sometimes you have to look on the bright side of things.

There is one huge question that this film poses. Would you really want to live through a nuclear war? Machines hunting you down is bad enough but having to live in absolute squalor while being dosed with fatal levels of radiation really brings the reality that this film creates to a whole new level of misery. The aftermath of a nuclear war that this film depicts is in no way sanitized or glorified. It looks depressing, because more than likely you would be scavenging for food and dressed in rags. Personally, I would only want to live in that timeline if I was located far away from a major population centre.

This was made near the end of the Cold War, a time in which nuclear annihilation was a real possibility. Back in 1984 the truly sci-fi aspect of the film was the depiction of cyborgs and drones going around hunting people. The really scary thing to me is that we now live in a world in which drones fly around dropping bombs. Drones controlled by humans who are thousands of miles away from where the action is taking place. These machines look a whole lot like the ones depicted in the film, which freaks me the hell out sometimes. Recently there has been news that the British MOD have created a drone that is equipped with dual shotguns that uses AI to assess targets in dangerous situations. Who the fuck thought that this was a great idea? People who have obviously never seen this film.

Would humans from around the world really band together to try to save all of humankind? The current pandemic has taught us that there are governments out there who just really don’t give a shit about their own citizens let alone people located in different countries. If there was a threat of a nuclear war the heads of such governments will bunker down and leave all the survivors to fend for themselves. I think our current situation has proved that when it comes down to it you have to prepare for emergencies because the government won’t be willing or even able to help you when the time comes. Be a Sarah Connor.

I’ll be back.

One of my favourite scenes in the film is the entire police station sequence, because it really shows how arrogant the police can be. The police think they are at the top of the food chain and that they can easily defeat anything thrown their way. Then a T-800 series of Terminator enters the picture and slaughters pretty much the entire station. If the film were to be re-released right now that scene would probably get a standing ovation. When the film was made it was still widely believed, by white Americans in particular, that the police were the good guys. These days it has been shown again and again that they are anything but the good guys, so it is only natural to cheer for the T-800.

Some people may find this film a little dated but I think it is actually timely when it comes to the crap we are living through right now. Always keep an eye on the news so that you aren’t totally surprised when something horrible happens. In other words always be aware of your surroundings, whether it’s your neighbourhood or the country that you live in. The rise of the machines in the film took people by surprise and that is why Skynet had such an easy time annihilating humans. Our current pandemic took a lot of people by surprise because they weren’t paying attention to the reports coming out of China. Reports that were fairly easy to find online. I, and a lot of others, knew about the virus even before our governments made official announcements about it.

As you can tell I am a huge fangirl of this film and for me it really stands the test of time because, as I have shown, its theming can easily apply to the times we are living through right now. If you have somehow never seen this film do yourself a favour and watch it because it is definitely one of the best post-apocalyptic themed films ever made.

Film Discussions: Cherry 2000 (1987)

Trailer for Cherry 2000

WARNING…….SPOILERS This isn’t strictly a film review, instead it’s a conversation about the meaning behind the film’s events,etc…

I have seen tons of post-apocalyptic films through the years and Cherry 2000 is definitely one of the best to come out of the 80’s. Mostly because there is a woman lead character, Johnson, that doesn’t need constant saving. She is a total badass.

What is unique about this film is the theming. It looks obviously 80’s, but that aesthetic is blended with others to denote different locations in the film. You have the pick-up bar in which everybody has 80’s hair and make-up but with kind of a futuristic sci-fi bent. Then you have the town of Glory Hole which is 80’s meets westerns. Finally you have the enclave of Sky Ranch which is firmly planted in the 50’s with Hawaiian shirts and games of hokey-pokey. Visually it makes everything more interesting, rather than almost every character in every area wearing very similar clothes.

Speaking of visuals, I think the the guys who made Fallout 3 definitely watched this film before making the game because there are some similarities between the two of them. Specifically the enclave of Sky Ranch. In Fallout 3 there are small enclaves in the wasteland that are 50’s themed, that sometimes happen to be filled with cannibals. In Cherry 2000 we see a cookout going on in Sky Ranch in which they are grilling some meat and you have to wonder where the heck did they get the meat if they are in the middle of the wasteland? Yep, I think they are cannibals!

The film is set after the ‘border wars’ are fought. Who fought who? We aren’t given an answer, which is actually okay because we don’t really need to know. It’s a society where single people do one of two things for companionship; buy a sex robot or go to a singles bar. If you go to the singles bar and want to hook up you have to sign a contract of what will and will not happen, and lawyers are there to make sure everything is agreed upon. Sam, our lead male character, prefers his robot, a Cherry 2000 model. When she glitches and fries her circuits Sam goes to the town of Glory Hole, hires a tracker named Johnson and off they go into the wasteland of Zone 7 to find him yet another Cherry 2000.

The future portrayed in the film is kind of similar as to what is going on right now. Everybody recycles everything and there is a 40% unemployment rate. Yes, our current unemployment rate isn’t quite that bad yet, but we are heading in that direction this winter. Everything seems very soulless and people are very self-centred. If I had to live in the time of this film I would head out to the border town of Glory Hole, because at least life there doesn’t seem as manufactured. Yes, they have sex robots for hire there, but people aren’t playing it as safe. They are living life on their own terms, instead of living how society tells them to. There is something life affirming about that.

When Johnson and Sam finally arrive in Las Vegas things will look a little familiar. That’s because Blade Runner 2049 used some of the same visual landmarks. Others have argued that Blade Runner 2049 also stole the idea of a non-human companion. I wouldn’t go quite that far, because it’s a bit of a step from robots to holographs. However, I do think that Denis Villeneuve, who directed Blade Runner 2049, had seen Cherry 2000 before he made that film.

This film is pretty much a ‘falling in love’ story set in the wasteland. Sam, who only wants a Cherry 2000 for company, slowly realises that Johnson has something that a robot can never have; a soul. Cherry only ‘lives’ for Sam, does everything that he wants her to do. While Johnson does as she pleases and isn’t afraid to tell Sam when he is wrong. I think Sam realizes that Johnson actually cares about him, rather than being programmed to do so. This whole aspect of the film doesn’t feel forced, rather it feels like something that would naturally happen.

Feel like taking a trip through the wasteland? Then Cherry 2000 is definitely the film for you!

Film Conversations: The Chronicles Of Riddick (2004)

I love this film, and I feel that there is a lot of irrational online hive mind hate directed towards it. It is perfect? By no means, however its got a lot going for it. It’s got beautiful visuals, a cool storyline and Karl Urban looking very dreamy as Commander Vaako, one of the invading Necromongers.

Every single time I watch this I think about how cool it would be if the Necromongers invaded Earth. Sure, they are religious nutcases, but how is that any different to what we have to deal with right now? Instead of white Christian fanatics invading just countries here on Earth the Necromongers take it a step further and invade planets in the name of their religion. A religion that believes that each universe has a different god and that life is antagonistic to the natural order of the universe. To die is to overcome this and insure that one has a place in the Underverse, which is a place in which all life is cherished. So, basically it is like a cross between the Valhalla of the Vikings and the Christian Heaven. The most powerful of the Necromongers have actually made the trip there, and have come back with very strong powers.

The Necromongers are a warrior type society. If you kill somebody in battle you then own what they have. So, if you happen to kill somebody who is rich then you are in turn rich. This is also how the Lord Marshals of the Necromongers are chosen for the most part. The Necromonger who defeats them in battle then themselves becomes the leader. That is why Commander Vaako tries to kill the Lord Marshall with the urging of his wife, who by the way is a total shrew of a woman that I would proudly bitchslap.

Planets are given the choice to ether join them or be killed. This is how the Necromongers gain an endless amount of soldiers to use to force planets into submission. If they came to this planet all of the people who follow the Abrahamic religions would look at it as an opportunity to martyr themselves. On the other hand there are people such as myself who are morbid as hell and would jump at the chance to join. The Underverse sounds like more fun that ‘heaven’ and it’s a place that you can visit and come back from with magical powers such as separating you soul from your physical body. That sounds nifty!

Excuse me while I fan myself.

I think one of the main reasons why I like this film so much is because the baddies sound a lot more interesting than the good guys. I always tend to like the bad guys in films rather than the good guys. Bad guys quite frequently have a reason as to why they are invading, killing,etc… While the good guys frequently are just spending their time fighting the bad guys. They’re bad guys so they have to fight them, even if the logic of doing so makes no sense. Your life is total shit on the planet you are living on and there is no way to change that. Some aliens come to your planet saying that your life would be better under their rule. Would you decide to defend you planet, even though your life is shit, or would you welcome a better life with arms wide open? It’s logical, in such circumstances, to want to join the bad guys and have a better life.

Besides everything else I feel that the Necromongers have a really killer sense of fashion. Everything from their uniforms to their hairstyles really make my heart skip a beat. How could I think that Commander Vaako, Karl Urban, would be the wrong choice for a leader when he looks like that? My husband and I once went to a film museum in London and I got to stand in front of one of the Necromonger suits of armour. I felt like I had found my people!

When it comes down to it I would totally support a takeover of Earth by the Necromongers. I don’t care if that would make me a traitor. At least I would look good while ruling over all of you!

Film Conversations: The Purge (2013)

Most punchable face ever!

SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Purge definitely ranks as one of my favourite modern dystopian films. The main reason is because the premise of it is so believable that there is no way that you can totally dismiss the concept as being too far fetched to actually happen. The best kind of dystopian films show us a reality that is possible if the wrong people get placed into positions of power. Since I have proven that we are in fact living in a dystopian society the events that take place in this film are just that much more believable.

The New Founding Fathers have declared a national holiday of crime that is to happen every year. The year that this film is taking place is 2022, just a few years after the first Purge was commenced. This day of violence supposedly rids people from wanting to commit crimes for the rest of the year. Have you always hated that little bitch who teased you all through high school? Well, you have permission to hunt her down and kill her! It will make you feel all better because the government tells you it will. The government never lies…or does it?

What I especially like about the premise of the film, and what is explored even further in the other Purge films, is that the homeless and poor working class are seen as disposable. The government wants these type of people gone since they supposedly ‘waste’ government money. Why should the government help these ‘leeches’ when they can’t even help themselves? The wealthy and ‘better’ people are urged to hunt these kind of people. As evidenced by the college students who demand their homeless ‘kill’ back when the young son of the house lets him in after he begs for help outside. This whole cultural event makes those that have money and power in society feel like they are at the top of the food chain.

What is really the most frightening aspect about this film, at least to me, is that you can’t trust anybody. Your boyfriend will try to kill your father because he wants him to stop dating you. Your neighbours will try to kill your entire family because they are jealous of your success. So, you have to basically make sure that you never piss anybody off, because when the night of The Purge arrives they may come after you. Do you really want to live in worry constantly? Is that really a healthy way to live?

These mysterious ‘Founding Fathers Of America’ use the same kind rhetoric as the Republicans in America and the Tories in the United Kingdom use to control the underclass. Does you life suck and you’re really mad about it? Don’t take it out on the government, the real entities who have caused your issues! Hey, see those poor and homeless people over there? They are the cancer affecting society and your life would be so much better if they were gone! In fact, here is a special night every year in which you can go kill whomever you want, and you won’t even get in trouble for it! Get rid of those homeless and poor people, because that would make life so much better for you!

Society, as seen in this film, is filled with people who don’t question what the government does. To show their support of Purge Night people place blue flowers outside their homes. If they don’t you get the sense that such people will be easy targets for those seeking to ‘release the beast’. So, by an extreme form of peer pressure, the government is able to make sure that everybody supports their legal night of murder.

Finally, what I would like to touch on is that it is claimed by the government that crime and unemployment are at all time lows because of Purge Night. What I’m guessing is that this isn’t the whole truth. I think it is yet another form of propaganda that the government uses to get people out there killing those pesky undesirables that the government seems to hate so much.

Could this scenario actually happen in real life? Of course it could, because when has the UK or US governments given a damn about the people in society who struggle to live?

Film Conversations: They Live (1988)

EDIT: I wrote yet another post about this film because I had forgotten about this one. I’m going to keep both up because I make some different points in each.

Please remember that there will be SPOILERS in this article. Instead of reviewing films I am talking about how I connect to them and what they mean to me and society at large.

I am a John Carpenter fangirl! He will always be my favourite horror/sci-fi director, and I have seen most if not all of his films. Even when he makes a supposedly ‘bad’ film, such as Escape From L.A., it is still entertaining. Honestly, I don’t think he makes bad films. I just think that he makes great films and others that aren’t as great but are still fun to watch. I will be talking quite a bit about his films on this blog…because they are nifty!

The plot of They Live is pretty basic. Alien creatures from some far off planet have colonized Earth, and have gotten themselves into positions of power by successfully disguising themselves as humans. They subliminally influence and control the population by hiding words in programs, ads, books, etc.. How do they do this without people being aware of their evil machinations? What looks like a regular billboard adverting jeans actually says such things as ‘buy’ ‘consume’ and ‘conform’. The only way that humans can see what is really going on is by wearing some sunglasses that shows the world in black and white; the advertisement messages and the aliens out in the open. The sunglasses basically interrupt the signal that the aliens use to disguise themselves and their subliminal messaging. The good guys blow up the satellite that the signal comes from and then everybody sees life as it really is.

It is really obvious that They Live was meant to be a social-political statement against Reaganomics. Reaganomics was a ‘trickle down’ type political theory that stated the following; if the wealthy class of people are given tax breaks the money that they have saved will eventually reach the underclass. It was been proven wrong again and again. What the wealthy do with the extra money are things such as buying back company stock shares, and buying mansions around the world that they actually really don’t need.

How did Reagan, and his cronies, fool the middle class and underclass? They promoted conspicuous consumption as something good that everybody should do to help the economy. Want a new car but don’t have the cash to pay for it? That’s okay, just take out a loan with interest levels so high that you will never actually own the car. Who cares though! You are driving a newer car and people are noticing! That is what was so important in the 80’s, to be seen following trends no matter how ridiculous said trends were.

I am very proud to say that I never owned a neon piece of clothing in the 80’s.

What happened in the 80’s if you did not conform along with everybody else? You were thought of as strange, that something must be really wrong with you to not want to be like everybody else. So, if you looked different or listened to non-mainstream type music you would be confronted all the time. Other people listen to Wham and wear neon coloured clothes, why can’t you? No matter what answers you gave to these type of people they would never be satisfied because wanting to be different in a largely conformist society is just not done. You become the ‘other’, a type of person who doesn’t deserve to be treated well because how dare you flaunt your nonconformist ways. Often you would even be physically threatened or have things thrown at you when you are just minding you own business walking down a street. Quite often even in school you weren’t safe. I remember being sent to the ‘Student Responsibility Center’ one time in high school for verbally defending myself. The teacher who was in charge of watching us told me that I wouldn’t have so many issues if I just dressed normally. Yep, he victim blamed me.

For the record, in the 80’s conspicuous consumption and conformity was even done sometimes in the ‘alternative’ type communities. If you didn’t wear the right outfits or listen to the right bands you weren’t considered weird enough so you were banished to the bottom of the weirdo totem pole. So, not only did you get shit from the ‘normal’ people, you also got shit from others who thought they were better at being a ‘weirdo’ than you were. Instead of helping you learn about music,etc… they would hold the information out of your reach. You had to really be into ‘alternative’ type music and clothes back then to have survived all of that. I honestly don’t think that a lot of the younger folk into such music and clothes right now would have survived as a weirdo back then.

Does the society that They Live depicts seem eerily familiar even though it was made over thirty years ago? The lessons that John Carpenter wanted us to learn by watching the film have not been absorbed, and instead we are right back where we started from. Trump is yet another mentally deficient racist president who tells lies in order to hold onto the support of his fandom, who consist of mostly the white underclass. Trump is the greatest president that the world has ever known because they voted him into office and they could never be wrong, right?

What can you do to fight against such a society as the one we now live in? What has the film They Live taught us?

-Don’t buy crap you don’t need. You do not need to shop at certain stores or wear certain brands just because everybody else is. Also, we are in the midst of a global pandemic. Use some common sense and buy things that you actually need such as food.

-Question authority. Always question leaders and people that sit in a place of power as to why they do or say certain things. Just because they got voted in doesn’t mean that their opinion should be taken as the truth.

-In the wise words of the Subhumans, just think for yourself.

Film Conversations: The Road Warrior (AKA Mad Max 2)

Man and machine.

This is the first in a series of posts that I am calling Film Conversations. They are not purely reviews because I will be speaking only about films that I enjoy. Also, I will try to take a deep dive into the themes and events that happen in these films. This will mean that there definitely will be SPOILERS contained within these type of posts. So, if you have never seen this film please do so before reading any further.

First off I would like to state for the record that this film is known as The Road Warrior in America and Mad Max 2 just about everywhere else. The reason for the name change in America is because the first film in the series, Mad Max, didn’t do as well in America as elsewhere so they decided to promote it as a stand-alone film.

This film helped to shape me into the person that I am today; a weirdo who is heavily into post-apocalyptic and dystopian themed films. I first saw the film on cable in the early 80’s when I was a young teenager, and almost every single time it came on I would watch it. I saw it so many times back then that to this day I still know most of dialogue by heart. What was it about this film that spoke to me?

During the 80’s the Cold War was still raging and it really felt like Reagan was going to push the button that would decimate us all. I don’t think people who weren’t alive back then can fully comprehend just how frightening the Cold War really was. There was a TV movie that came out in the early 80’s called The Day After that was all about a nuclear war happening and its aftermath. I remember watching that on TV and being so scared that my friends and I went to our school principal the next day and asked if the school had a bomb shelter. In the UK there was a TV movie called Threads that was twice as scary and very graphic. I saw it for the first time a few years ago and it really shook me.

The Road Warrior takes place after a nuclear conflict, but instead of wearing rags and having open wounds some of the characters that populate this film are dressed in really cool looking black clothes along with haircuts and accessories that make them seem dangerous, but in a splendid kind of way. They looked way more interesting than the supposed ‘good’ guys who wore light colours. The only character in the film that looks somewhat sick is Lord Humungus. He seems to have some radiation burns on his head, so he wears a metal mask to cover them. I’ve always liked villains in films way more that the heroes because they almost always have a better sense of style, and this is no exception.

Lord Humungus The Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla

In the film the survivors of a nuclear war are driving all over the wasteland, their main concern being that of finding gasoline so that they can do even more driving about. Instead of hiding out in a bunker for decades, like in the Fallout series of games, they are out there living their lives as they see fit. It’s still gloomy as hell, but there seems to still be a spark of life within these characters to drive them forward, some sense of hope that maybe things will get better if they are around to watch such events happen. This includes the character of Max, who despite the loss of his wife and son still hasn’t given up on life. There is some sort of hope in the back of his mind that maybe, just maybe, he can find happiness yet again. All he has to do is keep driving until he reaches it.

The character of Max is neither totally good or totally bad, and this makes the film less fantastical and more realistic. In my opinion this is the mark of a really good film. Max brings a dying ‘good guy’ back to the compound after the guy is attacked by the bad guys while trying to flee. He isn’t doing this for altruistic reasons, instead he is only doing it because the dying guy promised him all the gasoline he could carry if he brought him back to the compound. The guy dies right after Max is let inside rendering the deal useless.

After some other events Max ends up helping the ‘good guys’ obtain a truck and trailer so that they can escape the compound with a huge container of gasoline. Max is almost killed in the ensuing chase and comes to find out that he has been used as a distraction because the trailer contains sand and not gasoline. The ‘good guys’ drive away in a school bus filled with barrels of gasoline. I always thought that was really messed up. Max puts his life on the line to help these people and they use him for a really selfish reason, as if his life is expendable.

This film really spoke to me because even though a nuclear war decimated the human population in some ways it was a more honest society than we are living in today. Everybody is out searching for gasoline, food, water,etc…and every single person knows that is what others are also doing. There is no escaping this endless search, it is something that must be done. When it comes down to it there really is no difference between the good or bad guys. Both use lies and manipulate others to do their bidding. Max only loses in the end because he fell for the lies that the ‘good guys’ told him. Before Max met those people he knew the score, but the moment he put his common sense away he set himself up to fail.

Would I want to live in the wasteland constantly on the prowl for my next meal or tank of gas? It would be a hard life, but it at least would be an honest one. No pretensions, just striving to make your way towards a new future that might just be better than the one you left behind.

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