Sunday, June 24, 2012

Fire From The Sun - Why I Dislike Prometheus

A god and hero, stealing fire from the sun [like the sun would even miss it] was only one of his accomplishments. The creation of man out of clay [sound familiar?] was another pretty big one. He MADE mankind. No-one seems to remember that part of the Bible. What? It's not in the Bible? Go figure. Quick question: if he had stolen fire and not created mankind, what then?

A trickster, like Loki in The Avengers but, unlike Loki, a lover of mankind [well he made us, all makers love their creations, right?], patron god of scientific inquiry - what's this sun thing made of? - and advancement, antecedent of Dr Frankenstein ("Prometheus Unbound"), he was condemned by Zeus, who obviously wanted us to freeze, and eat carpaccio and sashimi forever, to have a quickly regenerating liver that was pecked out every day by crows. Bound and struggling, trying unceasingly to escape from the limitations of his captivity (a metaphor) but never giving up, and no doubt in desperate need of a blowjob (not a metaphor).

Prometheus was an awesome dude.

The movie? Not so much.

Please make sure you get the correct reference here: it's the origin of mankind part, not the fire-theivery that underpins this movie.

But let me give you my opinion of the movie straight up. Ridley Scott, maker of such flops such as A Good Year and, um, others, has over-produced Prometheus into an overflowing chariot of horse-shit. This ridiculously expensive, overdue, over CGI'd, over-thought-out waste of time has no redeeming features. Whatsoever. Ah, yes, like John Carter, is does serve as an example of what not to do. Over this, over that, and I was very relieved when it was over.

Listen to me: Anyone over 12 who liked Prometheus is an idiot. [Harsh, E@L, harsh. But fair.]


I don't have the movie in front of me to correct the errors which might creep into this post, as the torrents are currently in Handicam versions, but several egregiously execrable scenes and irrational concepts have burned themselves into my psyche the way X-raying my first corpse or losing my virginity (the first time) did. (Equally nauseating and frightening experiences. They were not on the same day nor in the same place fortunately for the corpse.)


Ron Cobb, who designed the interiors of the Nostromo ship for Alien, has as interesting opinion.

I resent films that are so shallow they rely entirely on their visual effects, and of course science fiction films are notorious for this.
–Ron Cobb on his designs for Alien.[my emphasis]

This is part of the reason why Prometheus fails for me, why I resent it. In Alien the visuals were awesome, gritty and real, and somehow tacit. In Prometheus, they have tried to do this in the ship scenes but the outside scenes of giant CGI visuals are completely distracting and unnecessarily overwhelming. Oh, look giant human-headed pyramid that no-one seems to cares about, ho hum, WGAF, it's merely CGI.


Woeful science in a science-fiction story grates on me. Scientists who behave illogically and without a Skerritt (sorry) skerrick of scientific objectivity and respect for scientific method drive me batty.

My disbelief has this thing about being suspended, particularly when bad science is combined with 2D characters in 3D movies doing silly and just wrong things, things a sensible or real person wouldn't ever do. In Alien, the characters moved cautiously, everything was weighed, considered, discussed. In Prometheus, people act randomly, independently and irresponsibly.

No1 Son, who has a similar if not quite as rabid as opinion as his dear old dad on this, pointed out how the scientists in good old The Andromeda Strain (which he had first seen only a few weeks earlier) acted like perfectly normal scientists. They didn't run around screaming, they were methodical, careful and observant. If science had advanced to the degree that is required for background inventions, etc... in Prometheus to work, then future scientists would have to be as just as careful, methodical and cool-headed. Unfortunately these were not the type that clambered aboard The Prometheus.


Here are the 26 Things That Bugged Me Most. Don't worry, there are others.


a) "Don't come in to the ship!" yells the completely unnecessary [as a character, apart from the sweaty push-ups at the start - I'd do her at this point] Charlize Theron. And then SHE OPENS THE FUCKING HATCH in order to threaten them with one of left-over prop flame-throwers from the original Alien! WTF? "Hey, don't come in through this large and impervious door which I have now opened in order to tell you not to come in through it." Just leave the fucking hatch closed you blonde idiot. Seriously. Who wrote this shit?

b) The prop flame throwers in Alien were wired together in desperation. Dallas and Ripley hope that the unlikely possibility they might work against the invisible beast might lift morale a bit. That and a holiday in Phuket. In Prometheus: "Hey, pass me the standard issue flame-thrower."

c) What's with Elizabeth wearing noting but a surgical gauze bikini. Gauze? Gauze? I mean, seriously, GAUZE? Has she grazed her nipples from running in a marathon without band-aids over them? Apart from being a corny stunt, why bother? We know from TGWTDT that Noomi Rapace has no tits whatsoever, so who gives a rats about her thorax adherent nipples [nipples WTF, male v female, worthy of a blog post]?

d) Geologist? Complete and utter fuckwit. More on this later.

e) How much did they pay Dr Manhattan to play the giant, unfriendly precursor human?

f) Surly red-headed guy with raptor haircut. A complete arsehole from word go. Don't they do psychological assessments before these long flights? The guy should be in a nuthouse, or a prison, not in a confined spaceship with people he obviously detests. The surly crew in Alien [Harry Dean Stanton and Yaphett Koto, whom this character is meant to parallel, no doubt] were troublesome to a degree and certainly disrespectful, but psychopaths?, no.

g) That spaceship is covered in awkwardly jutting spars and omnidirectional antenna like every movie space-ship since Alien. It's a future-gothic thing I guess. What's wrong with the sleek lines of The Enterprise, which was an magically simple, and the iconic design of Discovery One, whose construction made sense: living quarters at front, storage quarters middle, nuclear reactor as far away as possible. Inverse square law. The Prom is just a big brother of the CGI helicopters from Avatar, but is the ride comfortable?

h) Ignorance, and/or the ignoring, of the basic laws of physics abounds. Why are the spaceship's engines running all the time? [A common Sci-Fi movie error.] No friction in space, people. Momentum, one blast at the start will do it unless you are accelerating or decelerating, in which latter case the rocket thrust should be directed FORWARD [in the movie, it's not]. Did no-one on the set study Newton's first law? BTW did anyone check the gravity of this 1000 light year away planet (see next criticism) before we left, to check it we could get anywhere near its surface without getting crushed on landing or if we can generate enough thrust to get to escape velocity?

i) Two years asleep? Some have said that this would put them only halfway to Alpha Centauri, but that it true of you are referring to two earth years, that is, for the people back on earth. Assuming the Prometheus could approach the speed of light, to say 90% [its mass would more than double!], and overlooking the year or two of acceleration and then deceleration it would take to get up to that speed and then slow down without intolerable G-forces ripping everyone apart, one year on earth would equal slightly less than one day for the actors astronauts. Therefore, in their relativistic perception, Alpha Centauri is only 4 days away. Two years asleep at that speed? That would mean that back on earth it is now close to 1000 years later.

I shouldn't be too critical here. 2001, Alien, Aliens and Alien3, and others no doubt, all suffer from this flaw. It's a shrug now, right? It has become a cinematic cliche to put long-haul astronauts into the freezer. Shut the fuck up E@L.

If you want accurate relativity physics in Sci-Fi space-travel, read Forever War by Joe Haldeman. A big sigh coming up. Ridley Scott, sigh [there it is], has the film rights to this book and it is slated for release in 2013. Please don't fuck it up, Sir Rid.

j) I hate inappropriate adrenalin manipulation in intrinsically unexciting situations. Everywhere, but most ridiculously, when the Lunar Rover vehicles and their adherent tricycles, as seen from a soaring overhead CGI shot, seem to RACE to the big-headed pyramid to the thumping stress-inducing half-diminished sevenths and the walking tritones [duh duh DUH duh...duh duh DUH duh...duh duh DUH duh...] of a Hitchcokian horror fillum. Why? They are not being chased by anything, they are not off on an urgent mission to save humanity before the self-destruct sequence is finished or Harvey Dent blows up. They just charge out full-tilt for no reason. What is the fucking RUSH? This aeons old pyramid is not going anywhere in the next few minutes. And shouldn't you be looking out for everyone's safety and confirming that these convenient "roads" are safe to travel on at any pace? And if they are, who's been maintaining them over the millenia?

k) Why are the spacesuits more advanced than those in Alien? Lightweight and clear bubble-helmets? Luckily they knew that the planet would be relatively pleasant. Oh, look we can take out helmets off inside the cave so the audience doesn't have keep up with whether the condensation inside the mask has been wiped off recently or not. Or has the "problem" of condensation itself been solved by this time and yet forgotten by the time Alien comes around.

l) Ditto the stasis (suspended animation) pods, much sleeker. I am never a fan of suspended animation though. Do you need it? See above re: time compression. And yes, well, show me a cure for frost-bite first and I might suspend my disbelief for this. [BTW I have looked very hard the for the first cut of the equivalent scene in Alien, where they were all naked. Or was that an apocryphal story meant to tease old pervs like me...]

m) OK. Listen This is the one that completely kills me. Inside the cavern/spaceship under the giant yet ignored head, the geologist guy is hanging with red-head anti-sidekick (what does he do again?), and says in effect: "Oh look, a cute little alien eye thing on a stalk [cue: War Of The Worlds] has emerged from the black oily slime [cue: The X-Files], which itself oozed from metal canisters in suspiciously good condition considering their 30,000 years of existence in an oxygen rich environment, and this goo's sudden obsidian oleaginous icky appearance was most sinisterly triggered by our mere presence. Isn't it cute? Maybe it is friendly and speaks English."

This geologist, consummate idiot, against all laws of scientific inquiry and common sense, [I shake my head], then smiles like a moron and leans forward into the standard Leap Into My Mouth You Snake-like Creature position. Wrong! SO fucking wrong. 'Run Away' is the correct scientific response in this situation. Like the others RUN!

n) What is it with the fucking alien crappy hologram things running through the tunnels? Seriously, what? Seriously, why? BTW there is zero dramatic tension is this entire cavern sequence.

o) What's with fucking holograms altogether? They didn't need them in Alien.

p) Girls, girls. Listen. When a large hoop-shaped spaceship is rolling on its edge towards you, run... to... the... side...

q) Hey, fellow pilot, let's commit suicide cheerfully for reasons we don't fully comprehend because we were in the frackin' main cabin the whole time. I for one wouldn't do this.

r) Why is Michael Fassbinder so much more handsome than either Ian Holm or Lance Hendriksen [who isn't?]? Who later decided ugly androids integrate better than cute ones?

s) If Fassbender only needs his head to function, why does he need the rest of his body in the first place?

t) Where did the medical team appear from? Didn't Theron yell out, "Get a medical team down here!" at one point? Where did they go afterwards? And why would she not know their names? "Get Dr Frankenstein down here now, and make sure Cloris Leachman comes too."

u) Jesus, what happened to Guy Pearce? Did he fall face first into a bucket of half-set play goo?

v) Why the fuck would the do-it-yourself home-surgery machine have a set of delivery forceps as its default tool? Stunned by the inanity of this.

x) It's not just me: according to NYT's A. O. Scott - "But the virtuosity on display makes the weakness of the story — the screenplay is by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof — all the more frustrating. I’ll avoid spoilers here, but “Prometheus” kind of spoils itself with twists and reversals that pull the movie away from its lofty, mind-blowing potential... There are no revelations, only what are called, in the cynical jargon of commercial storytelling, “reveals,” bits of momentarily surprising information bereft of meaning or resonance."

y) Why? Ridley, why? Alien was fine. Leave it alone! Get back to Forever War!

z) The giant Navigator's mask isn't a hood or respirator. The dude snores like fuck: it's a CPAP mask


Speaking of illogical crazy SciFi movies, 5th Element was sooooo wrong, but it had the enormous advantage of taking itself 0% seriously.

It all boils down to this - Prometheus is neither Blade Runner nor Alien.

There are no moments of "It has acid for blood!" dread, no completely unexpected chest-burster scared shitless moments, no touching, awe-inspiring "Starships on fire over the belt of Orion," moments...

It's just... Not. Good. Enough.


Monday, June 18, 2012

The Eye Of The Storm

The doorbell rings just once, a short single "ding", rather than the distinctive tri-tone that is supposed to sound. It is 4am. My mother is startled awake.

About two weeks go by.

The doorbell rings just once, a short single "ding", rather than the distinctive tri-tone that is supposed to sound. It is 6am. My mother is startled awake. She is not sure if the security light has come on. She claims she can't remember. She, who calls me Greg, or Tim, or Doug.

About three weeks go by.

The phone rings in the mid-afternoon. It is a man's voice. My mother listens, but doesn't hear much at first, it was difficult to hear him, he is mumbling something. It is a young voice, a strange voice, sort of clouded, perhaps a teenager with his voice breaking. Then a few words come through more clearly - "I bet you're frightened now..."


My mother hung up. Her heart was racing, anxiety. She had the presence of mind to call my sister immediately. My sister called the police. She called me. I called my mother. She sounded very distracted, confounded. She didn't know what to do, where to go, how to act in this situation. She was indeed frightened by now - well wouldn't you be? The door bell rang, the complete tri-tone. There was an authoritative knock. But my mother was still talking to me and this sudden perception of threat upset her more, frightened her more. Of course it did.

Who was this at the door?

"I don't want to answer it," she told me. The door knock came again, even on the phone I could hear a voice calling, "Mrs E@L's Mother, are you there?"

"Relax, Mum. It's the only police, answer the door, answer it. It's only the police."

"Are you sure?"

She put the phone handset down (somewhere in the lounge) and I can only imagine how reluctantly she would have walked to the door, the anxiety that must have been reaching a crescendo as she unsnibbed the lock. Or perhaps she was more calm than I can imagine.

It was the police of course. I could hear just one man talking to Mum. I'm not sure if there was another policeman, perhaps one was in the car or looking around outside. I could hear the two of them talking softly in the electronic distance. I could hear the policeman being reassuring, Mum sounding a little lost for words at first. Well, wouldn't you be? He was asking her questions, gently, with a pleasant, let's-not-take-this-too-seriously attitude. But he was solid, firm, I could hear that. A you're-safe-now, I have the solidity of society behind me here voice. This had the desired effect and it sounded like she was calming down. Mum was repeating hesitantly what she had just told me. Their voices faded as they walked away towards the phone station when he suggested checking for caller-ID (there was none).

Mum had forgotten that I was on the other end of the line. Well, wouldn't you?

I hung up.


Mum, who is 87 and had been living independently in her house (all paid up) forever, is currently staying with my sister. But that can't continue, not for much longer. For a variety of complicated reasons (I've counted 12 so far) that must be redacted for issues of personal, let alone national, security. It's complicated.

More complications - me living in Singapore, aiyah! That distance doesn't do much to ease the burden on my sister's straining shoulders.

However, surprisingly good timing, I was able to visit them for the last two weekends as I have been working in Australia and New Zealand for three weeks. (Perth, Melbourne, Auckland, Sydney, Melbourne, Sydney.) We could talk, we could reassure her, we could map out the future, we could hammer through the options... Over a nice cup of tea.

We sat in my sister's over-heated lounge room where it felt colder the closer you stood to the gas-fire, even though it was hotter (think simmering frog), and we tried to discuss what we could do, should do. And when to do it.

There are good humour, lightheartedness, and just maybe a smidgen of sarcasm in our family. It's a common enough Aussie trait, but not universal. We all have it. We don't take ourselves too seriously, but we know when we are being serious about serious issues, even if we speak lightly of them and joke around. We get it from Mum.

And so Mum was sitting there between us, in the most comfy chair, as we discussed into which hell-hole of a retirement lack-of-concentration camp we should dump her. Which Aged Don't-Care, Mis-Managed Care, house thieving, pension-cheque extorting, food pilfering, illness ignoring little slice of heaven was in her (and ours, don't forget) best interests.*


But Mum scoffed at us, ignored us, her eyes and ears were on the TV - a movie.

Judy Davis, Charlotte Rampling and Geoffrey Rush in The Eye of The Storm. From the novel by Patrick White, Australia's only (so far) Nobel Prize for Literature winner (don't hold your collective breath for E@L's!) Directed by Fred Schepisi - remember Roxanne, Six Degrees of Separation, a few others.

Patrick White - expect upper-class skewering, expect working-class ambivalence, expect bitterness, expect irony. Expect a touch of humour and the odd flash of soul-piercing humanity. Expect to be confused and confronted now and then as well. Expect something powerful.

Just don't expect us to be watching movies in the middle of our serious discussion. Except that...

Charlotte Rampling is Mrs Hunter, the very rich, snobbish matriarch of an Australian family, her mind fading, her body fast failing in her exquisite Sydney mansion (no doubt based on the White family home). The long-absent family vultures come to feed. Sir Basil, the famous thespian, star of stage and, well, stage mainly. There's no money in that, what? Princess Dorothy, the society belle from last decade, still pretentious, still parlaying tres bean French. Both broke. They need that inheritance.

But Mrs Hunter, just to be a bitch one assumes (correctly), favours her maid, the German dancer. Or does Mrs Hunter now favour the warm, caring lawyer (whom she bonked once) who handles all her affairs with punctiliousness and with scrupulous honesty?

It was bloody complicated and we all enjoyed it immensely.

So, as you might gather, after watching this 105% appropriately-timed film, absolutely NO issues were resolved at home that night. How could we? The coincidence killed it.


Mum is still with my sister for the moment, until she feels confident enough to go back home. And so she is gathering her strength and her will by working in the garden, weather permitting, doing little old lady things around the house. Laying new roof-tiles. Putting up the ceiling roses, finally. Re-stumping the extension. I asked if an internet linked security system will make her feel more safe. A friend's husband installs them. "It'll be too late by the time you see me on the internet! It'll all be over. Don't waste your money." Sigh.

As you can tell, it is coming along, her strength, along with her sense of humour. She was almost ready to go home last weekend, she told me. She is talking herself up. She reminds us of great strength she showed in coming to Geelong alone with two young kids after our Dad died.

"I was strong wasn't I?" she asked. "I must have been stupid," she added, only half joking, so we half laugh.

She wanted to bring us up away from the influence of her father and brothers on the family farm (one brother overly authoritarian), and she never married again. This was at the end of the '50's, can you imagine it?


Of course we don't want Mum gathering dust in some sterile, penny-pinching retirement village, no matter how close to my sister's place (where-ever that may be after those unmentionable complications are sorted). I wish is was more simple at my sister's place. I would like them both in control of their own kitchen and their own life.

We would like all, save a couple, of Mum's old friends not to have died.

We would like to be young again ourselves, not teetering the tipping point of cardiac risk and hepatic injury. We don't want to grow old. We want to live forever.

We want our Mum to live forever as well.

It's complicated. It's always complicated. It's been a difficult few weeks for all of us, my sister in particular. Despite all those other issues, she has been a rock.


But it's calm now. It's very, very calm.


* A nurse I once knew was managing an aged-care centre, and she ended up in jail for her heartless treatment of the people supposedly in her care. She lived on their pension cheques, took the food that was allocated for them home to feed her family, let them wallow in pissy sheets overnight, you name it. Bitch.

And this sort of stuff hasn't gone away, and the management in the most disreputable Dickensian (Whitean?) places now only get mildly spanked for their transgressions.

Friday, June 15, 2012

viz: A Life So Luminous

My sometime flat-mate (a week, maybe 2 or 3 times, every few months) Cara has a great talent for drawing amusing doodle characters. She always leaves little (or big) whimsical, amusing, thought-provoking messages in cartoon form around the house. Things like this...

I mean, how could you not love her back?

Her daughter must have been long aware of this talent and she gave her a notebook for Christmas last year, I think it was, to scribble these doodles in, as a diary. Each evening *without fail* (would-be writers take note) she has been analyzing the events of the day and, instead of plodding out more words (she talks for a living), she sketches out a cute little comic that pins that day down.

When I first noticed her doing this she showed some and they just cracked me up. They seemed to be banging right on the head of some incident's nail, not that I knew what had actually happened during her day necessarily. I loved the way she appeared to get under the skin of the facts of the day and reveal in her cute illustration the soul and the heart within - they are about inter-personal politics and that ineffable wind-across-the-wheat-field subtlety of relationships about which most blokes would just go. "What?" Blokes such as me. But I found them damn amusing. Know what I mean? No? Cara could do a scribble and doubtless render a visual explanation far better than this tongued-tied stuff.

Point of post - last time she was here, she was experimenting with a new gadget (it must be contagious, come to my place, need to purchase technology), one of those things that clip onto the end of a notepad and track your pen movements across a page and then sends them off to her iPad (or wherever). She was struggling with it, and swearing at it, and rebooting this and rebooting that until, just before booting it out the window, she got it going as its designer had intended. Now she can put her stuff into The Ether (as we once called The Cloud) as well into her physical diary.

Yes, you guessed it, she has a blog now where she puts up some of her more philosophical little pics. Check it out, she has something new up most days.

It's called A Life So Luminous."

There are posts with words too but, hey who reads these days?


She already gets more hits per day than E@L did back in his peak, when he was a naughty boy in school.

Needless to say, she is very good at that DrawSomething game.


Free Podcast

Related Posts with Thumbnails