Saturday, August 24, 2013

The World's End: Mid-Life Crisis of Faith in Adulthood

Okay, folks, I’m going to try something here. I hope you’ve seen The World’s End by this point. You have, haven’t you? The last entry in Edgard Wright and Simon Pegg’s Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy? You really should see it. It’s a good time. Also, I’m about to spoil the ever loving shit out of it in a moment here, so I suggest watching the movie first. I don’t think this entry will go anywhere in the meantime. 

For those that have seen it, I have a theory about it. It’s worth noting that I’ve made a point to not look anywhere on the interwebs for fan theories because I didn’t want to be tainted or affected by other points of view just yet. Who knows, maybe everyone got this shit down already and I’m just as much of a self important tool as the voice in my head keeps saying I am every time I post something here. Also, I’ve only seen the movie once and have not had a chance to fully vet my ideas. They may be crap.

Here’s the theory: All of the events of The World’s End, following the initial jaunt down memory lane and circle therapy session, are a series of delusions leading to a complete and voluntary psychotic break on the part of a man who could not deal with the fact that his life never got any better than one night as a teenager.

We know Gary King has been institutionalized.  This is made clear from the group therapy and the eventual reveal of the identification bracelet. No doubt. No question there.

Courtesy of WH Times
It struck me as a bit odd that Gary still had the exact same outfit from that night as a teenager. The same shirt, jacket, pants, necklace and even sunglasses. All of them in perfect condition. And they still fit. I could see him holding onto these relics of his once great past, but your body changes too much as you get older and clothes just don’t hold up that well.

The lives of all of his friends are limp caricatures of adult life, with no real valuable details to them. They work nameless corporate or sales jobs and never mention anything about the wives and children they say they have. These aren’t real people, they’re dress up dolls. A bit odd, coming from writers known for creating honest and rounded characters.

Those details are what first made me doubt the reality of what I was watching, even within the context of this fictive universe.

Then we have the basic driving element of the plot: an invasion of alien robots, made to look just like us and take over our lives so that we can act more civil as a part of the larger galactic society. They all seem the same in too many ways. They don’t seem to be having fun anymore. They’re just emptily going through the motions of life, filling a bland role that was decided for them by someone else. Everyone who has not been taken over by them is trying desperately to fit in or looks positively mental. And, if you do not choose to act properly (by their definition of the word), then they will forcefully reeducate or replace you. It’s worth noting that the conversion process appears to take place via an attack on the head.

I can’t tell you how many times I spent with people describing their parents and other adults in nearly the same terms when I was a teenager.

Once we realize this grand conspiracy, we see Gary’s friends being subverted, converted around him. They’re changing from the hip, free guys he knew back in the good old days into these empty robots that refuse to admit that they are robots. I also think the ones who don’t change are pointed: the best friend whom he nearly killed (I’m concerned that dear Andy may not have survived that accident) along with his presumed rival and the girl he walked away from so long ago. These are the ones he desperately wanted to believe could never really change. That had to stay free, to stay young, like him.

Then there is the great shiny voice at the end. Calm. Reassuring. Telling him that everything they are doing is for his own good. That these changes are needed to be a part of the greater, civilized society and that those who take part are not, as he believes, slaves. Anyone who has laid out on the couch or sat across a desk from a psychiatrist or psychologist or psychoanalyst knows that voice.

Finally, that voice gives up on him. He has chosen to be Peter Pan. To stay young forever and live in an idealized post apocalyptic fantasy land where all of the civilizing elements have been removed. Where his best friend reveres him and tells stories of how he freed them all. Where he roams the countryside, now as a rebel on the other side of the fence (always the rebel, always fighting the good fight against the main grain) with the posse of his youth behind him.

I’m kind of curious if we’re meant to picture him out in society, acting out these fantasies and possibly murdering decent swaths of the citizenry in the process, or locked up in a cozy soft room, pumped full of the best drugs public services can provide. All the same, I don’t think that matters to the story being told.

The thing that throws a wrench in my theory is the repeatedly explained definition and etymology of the term “robot”. I have a tough time swallowing that a hard partying lout paid enough attention in class to learn that. However, I could see a therapist repeatedly telling him that, hoping to use the information to pull him back from his fantasies and ground him in reality.

I’d be very curious to hear other opinions on the matter.

***post note: after posting this, I decided to look around and found at least one person who came to a similar, if not exactly the same, conclusion. check it out here. ***

Saturday, August 10, 2013

What's wrong with the movie industry, applied to the things I love.

I recently read an article on BoingBoing that prompted me to finally open my fat mouth about ALL THAT IS WRONG WITH MOVIES THESE DAYS.  Now, the article in question makes it clear that the author believes these problems lie in too much dependence on explosions and blood and CGI. Or maybe it’s that the big producers keep churning out the same trope worn bull. Or that indie filmmakers just aren’t given enough of a chance, dammit. Except when, like Blomkamp, they are. In which case they churn out trope worn bull full of explosions and blood and CGI. And something about GMO popcorn. He gets a little muddled in the course of his “movies these days aren’t as good as they used to be” rant. But he’s sure this is why Hollywood is imploding.

I don’t particularly agree.

Yeah, the vast majority of movies out there slip in one eye and out the other without a second thought. But that’s how it is with most things that exist. I’m sure that you are familiar with a Bell Curve and that it shows that most of the things are average with very few remarkable in either the good or bad spectrum. Worse, our expectations keep getting raised by every amazing film we see. Inception was a brilliant statement on the value of fiction in reality. If we ignore the horrid writing, Avatar looked damn pretty. Hell, there’s no point in making a puppet based movie since The Dark Crystal because holy fuck have you seen that fucking movie?! It’s goddamn gorgeous and amazing and everything I love in this world. They all raised the bar for what we are willing to accept, moving the line for average further over.

So, there aren’t many amazing films. No shit.

Where I think the problem really falls, and I think this is more of a business model issue, is that there is too much product for the market to support. The same article mentions 600 movies slated for release in 2013. Take a moment to think about the last 600 sandwiches you ate. Now, tell me about the ones that stood out.  We’re running into the same problem here. Especially when someone is asking you to spend a minimum of ten dollars on each sandwich, hoping that you’ll actually spend anywhere from $15 to $40 (if we include an eventual DVD/Blueray sale). 

That’s why I think the projected collapse of several studios is a good thing. Even among the independents. I’m also hoping the remaining studios will learn a lesson and cut their production numbers in half. Right now, this over production is cannibalizing their own profits. I think it is the raw amount, not the quality, that’s killing them.

This is the painful part, where I apply this to publishing and writing. 

Right now, we’re facing the same thing in literary markets. Epublishing and print-on-demand options have reduced the up-front cost of publishing to the point that there is very little risk in it, especially if the authors are paid off royalties.  This has created some marvelous opportunities for independent publishers to stand nearly ankle high to the big boys (Hey, it’s better that being the fungus stuff between their toes) and has made it easier than ever (at least in my lifetime) for a schmuck like me to get published. 

Those things are great, but they’re devaluing the market for everyone. Too many new indie publishers seem to be going with the approach that, since they can publish as much as they want, then they should. They end up putting out way too many books per year, which then cuts the profits they make from the books and devalues the whole shebang.

I suggest looking at the diamond market. Those assholes control the price of diamonds by hoarding them and releasing them in controlled amounts . Sure, it’s a dickish thing to do, artificially creating the illusion of rarity to drive up perceived value. But it works. Their product continues to mean something to people. There’s a lesson in that.

If self-restraint isn’t exorcised, then it will be enforced by market conditions and money eventually. That process is always painful.