Sunday, October 30, 2011

"In Time" - a film for the 99%

New Regency Pictures must be thrilled at the fortuitous timing of the launch of their new film “In Time.” The science fiction thriller revolves around a world in which time is the ultimate currency and most people can’t get enough of it.

The world is divided into time zones, most of them poor, except for the zone of New Greenwich, where the richest 1 percent live.

The premise of the world of the film is this: All people stop aging genetically once they hit 25. They have to earn every minute over 25. If they run out of time, they die. And to earn time is difficult for the 99 percent. Caught in low-level jobs or, in some cases, resorting to crime, the scrappy ghetto inhabitants who populate the world of the film make difficult choices about what to do with the time they collect.

The story is propelled by Will Salas, played with appropriate action hero intensity by Justin Timberlake. Will is given a gift of time at the start of the film with an admonishment not to waste it by a man who has already lived more than 100 years. He shares information with Will that sends Will on a quest to see how the 1 percent live.

When Will’s donor dies, the “timekeepers” — the police in this society — believe Will killed him to steal his time, a common occurrence among the 99 percent. As Will crosses into New Greenwich, he is pursued by one Timekeeper in particular who refuses to quit, playing Javert to Timberlake’s Valjean.

In New Greenwich, Will meets one of the wealthiest men in the world, Philippe Weis, played (in a brilliant piece of casting) by Vincent Kartheiser, the rich young prick of Mad Men. Weis possesses untold millions of years of time, but he is poor in other areas that really matter.

Will befriends Philippe’s caged bird of a daughter Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried), who longs for adventure and to be free of the bodyguards who protect her from others who would steal her time.

Together they set off on an adventure that may cost them all the time they have left, a risk both are eventually willing to take, because society is broken, and they think they have a chance to fix it. They don’t know if their plan will work. But they know they have to try.

This isn’t a character study. This isn’t an emotional drama. But it is a fascinating, fast-paced ride through a parallel reality that is fun, interesting, and strangely heartening.

As winter storms threaten to put a chill on the Occupy Wall Street group and its compatriots in other cities, this film has the potential to send flurries of new protesters into their camps. The film presents a compelling — if obvious — parable about what happens when some keep all the bounty for themselves and force the rest to support the excessive lifestyle choices of the few.

It’s unfair. It’s not right. And it must be changed. But change is never easy and requires the sacrifices of many.

As I left the theater, I felt like I was still in the movie. I was at The Grove, a fancy village-like mall in Los Angeles where the 1 percent shop.

Outside the theater, a Christmas tree was being rebuilt. Branches from a stately forest veteran that had been sheared off a couple of days ago were now being groomed and reattached, propped up by blocks of additional wood, because nature’s own creation evidently isn’t good enough for the 1 percent.

Near the tree sat diners eating $50 steaks and drinking $100 bottles of wine. I passed $990 Prada pumps en route to my humble abode in a much lower rent district nearby. I put my worn-out shoes in the closet, opened the refrigerator and pulled out a bag of fading carrots.

But I’m not complaining. I’m grateful. I have time. And I have the keen realization that it is — by far — my most precious possession.

[This review first appeared at]

Saturday, October 22, 2011

British hypnotist shows how an ordinary person can be programmed to kill: Sirhan/RFK parallel

Wow. I mean, just, wow. It's one thing to believe something. It's another to know it. I used to simply believe it was possible to program someone highly hypnotizable to kill, or pretend to kill, someone else. But now I don't just believe. I know. I saw it done, on this British show.
Master hypnotist Derren Brown has a new series of shows called "The Experiment" on Channel 4 in the UK. In his season opener this year, he did a segment called "The Assassin" in which he chooses a highly hypnotizable subject and gets him, by the end of a show (filmed over, if memory serves, a two-month period), to shoot at a celebrity in a public setting where the subject was given every reason to believe he was not being filmed and that was not part of an experiment.
You simply have to watch this show. You'll never know - you'll only just believe, or disbelieve - until you see this.
Watch fast. I'd be surprised if these links work for long.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Review of the new film re Shakespeare: Anonymous

The film Anonymous deals with a longstanding debate many people have never heard about: the question of who wrote the plays of William Shakespeare. While the answer seems obvious, numerous scholars have concluded the answer is anything but.

Some of the many notables who have challenged the notion that the barely educated Shakespeare wrote those brilliant works, filled with literary and cultural allusions, include Sigmund Freud, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), Charlie Chaplin, Orson Wells, famed Shakespearean actor Derek Jacobi, Malcolm X, Helen Keller, James Joyce, and Lewis Lapham, among others.

Some of the issues raised include these: Shakespeare’s plays display a vast and in-depth array of learning that his grade-school education could not have provided. Fourteen of Shakespeare’s plays take place in Italy, but William Shakespeare never went to Italy. Most of his plays deal with the intrigues of the nobles, but Shakespeare was a commoner.

In addition, not a single document has ever surfaced written in Shakespeare’s own hand, an oddity shared only by his contemporary Christopher Marlowe, who some have speculated wrote Shakespeare’s plays after faking his own death. Yet numerous handwriting samples exist for many of their lesser-known contemporaries.

Early theorists thought perhaps the learned Sir Francis Bacon or poet Ben Johnson might have written the works under the name of Will Shakespeare. One late 19th century theory posited that the name Shakespeare was used for a collective of writers that included Marlowe, Bacon, and others.

Another theory favored around the turn of the previous century was that William Stanley, the Sixth Earl of Derby, wrote the Bard’s words.

The theory the movie is based on, however, is one of the current mainstream theories regarding the authorship question.

In 1920, an English schoolmaster named John Looney set out to try to uncover Shakespeare’s true identity. He made lists of allusions and references in Shakespeare’s work and then tried to map them to one of Shakespeare’s contemporaries. He found a remarkable fit in the Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere.

De Vere had been a child prodigy who developed a serious interest in the arts and wrote several poems under his own name. He attended college and was surrounded by a bevy of tutors. He lived inside the Court bubble for a good portion of his life, and saw the intrigues of the nobles up close.

He lived in Italy for two years. He was stationed in Scotland for a couple of years. He studied law at a place known for mounting dramatic productions. And on and on.

Naturally, there are rebuttals to these theories. While the dating of Shakespeare plays is an inexact science overall, those who think Shakespeare wrote his own plays have a strong argument in The Tempest, which seems to be based in part on a famous shipwreck that happened after de Vere died.

The film will not decide the issue for you. It simply presents its own theory, fictionalized, of course, of what might have happened.

The film is bookended by a contemporary device, reminding the audience that what follows is itself a play, a story, and not history or documentary. And with that context firmly in place, the wild ride through Elizabethan history, arts and politics, and the intersection thereof, begins.

The story shifts back and forth between the older de Vere and his younger self, with key points in his life and English history highlighted. The story is breathtaking in its intricacy, a delicious, hearty meal of Elizabethan era intrigue.

The story centers around the period where Queen Elizabeth was nearing the end of her life and the question of succession was on everyone’s mind. But the tangled history of Britain’s monarchy provided no easy answers. Add to this mix a few more theories about incest and secret descendants and you have a storyline that roils like a witch’s brew.

Although the film is graced with the talented Rhys Ifands as Edward de Vere, Vanessa Redgrave as the so-called “Virgin Queen” and Edward Hogg as the Queen’s trusted advisor Robert Cecil, among others, the real star of this film is the story.

Billed as a “political thriller,” it’s an adventure in alternative history one won’t soon forget. Check your skepticism at the door, and open your mind to a fascinating tale of Shakespearean proportions.

The film also celebrates the sheer force of words from both a positive and negative point. Words can be used to sway populations and even royals to action. Words can also be used to malign and betray.

Those who wield words well have tremendous advantage, then and now, as the film itself demonstrates. The people I saw the film with were mostly unfamiliar with the authorship controversy. On the way out, many expressed a newfound curiosity about the matter.

Lastly, the film is both an homage to and a warning about following one’s passions. In the end, our passions define us, for better and for worse.

As a postscript, V for Vendetta fans might note that the Gunpowder plot of the “Remember, Remember the Fifth of November” rhyme happened just four years after these events and contained some of the participants from the Essex Rebellion, a key event in Anonymous. The plot was foiled by the same Robert Cecil, reminding us that history is one long through-line, no matter where you enter it.

This piece was originally published at Consortium News. Please visit Consortium News and donate to support independent journalism.