“The Thinning” (2016), directed by Michael Gallagher, from Legendary Digital Studios (usually connected to Warner Brothers) specifically for You Tube Red original films, gets attention now as lead actor Logan Paul, who plays the hero teen Blake Redding, drew negative attention recently for a suicide-related video he posted. That has been said to complicate the production of the sequel, but we’ll all that aside for another time.
The point of the film seems shocking, beyond satire. In 2039 in Austin Texas, a Vista Pointe High School is part prison camp, as every year the kids have to pass a test on an iPad tablet. Those who fail are executed, removed from society. This is America’s answer to the world population problem exacerbated by runaway global warming.
Some people might say now that such a film puts the idea of doing something like this in play. That’s the thinking of the trigger warning crowd. But the film has plenty of precedents: the entire “The Hunger Games” franchise, and the 2000 Japanese thriller “Battle Royale”.
Blake is the Governor Redding’s (Matthew Glave) son, and Glave is running for president on continuing to Make America Great Again. Although the film was apparently shot before Trump’s election victory, it is clearly intended to send a message that we’re headed for Nazi-Germany style fascism, where the weak are eliminated. In a speech where Redding announces his candidacy, he calls failing students “parasites” whom we “wash out”. But at the end of the movie he makes a similarly sickening speech where he honor’s the kids’ sacrifice for the Common Good, like the new Soviet Man. Funny how fascism and communism can join together.
Of course, the film has to become a stereotyped B-movie thriller at some point. Predictably, after Blake loses his girl friend Ellie (Lia Marie Johnson) to the thinning and protests (and isn’t prosecuted because he’s the governor’s son), Blake decides really challenge the system next year and deliberately fails. Nevertheless, he is selected to pass, whereas tutor Laina (Peyton List) fails in his place. The kids arrange a diversion, with a power failure and some chase sequences as the school is shut down and the scandal exposed. It’s interesting that at the beginning we learn that Laina had been helping mediocre students cheat by selling them special Google contact lenses to pay for medical treatments for her mother. (Health care? Obamacare?) At the end, we learn what really happens to the failing kids. Blake is still very much alive and undercover.
I have to say that Logan Paul (who grew up in Ohio) has a spectacular, even perfect, bod on camera.
I’m not personally a fan of the “rotten apples” theory of pulling work by artists because of their “sins” that come to light.
The idea of “ranking and yanking” employees has been common in business. Furthermore, the idea of doing this to kids reminds me of the Vietnam era draft, student deferments, and the whole “McNamara’s Morons” issue which I’ll take up soon in a book review.
The original “Blade Runner” (1982), directed by Ridley Scott, based on Philip K. Dick’s novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep?”, had an interesting premise, that ranged far and due to happen soon, om 2019; a blade runner would track down slave replicants who had stolen a space ship and “illegally” (Trump-like) returned to Earth to look for their creator. I saw the original film at Northpark in Dallas.
The newer film “Blade Runner 2049”, directed by French Canadian Denis Villeneuve, was necessary to reset the calendar. It starts out by showing up an eyeball, and then a huge array of solar panels in a very smoggy California desert, before a vigorous young LAPD detective named “K” (Ryan Gosling) tracks down rogue replicant Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista) and winds the hand-to-hand battle, tearing out walls in a remote desert house, before finding human remains.
The movie seem sets up is premise, which is geographically limiting. The older replicants were to be retired and eliminated, and the newer ones are integrated into society. But soon K gets information on a missing veteran replicant Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), and discovers that replicants can actually reproduce. K’s adventures lead him to a particular ogre, Nilander Wallace (Jared Leto), who sets up a demonstration of a holographic pregnancy surrounded by disembodied black crawling eyes as if they were partial creature remnants themselves. (There was a horror film “The Crawling Eye” on “Chiller” in the early 60.s). There is curious terminology that calls the new replicants “angels”.
K moves between the city, modern LA, and a work farm out in the Mojave Desert, where kids (“proles”) are trained in a massive work farm, to burned out Las Vegas (“Cibola” from Stephen King’s “The Stand”). There is a critical scene with the Luxor (where I stayed in 1997) in the distance), which is ironically across the street from the rampage on Oct. 1. Coincidence?
Some of the scenes, with bizarre alien structures laid across the desert, are impressive, but most of the time in this film, you don’t really know where you are going. But it is the psychological composition of the people that gets interesting. First of all, K has gradually come to realize that he is a replicant himself. He is told he has no soul by a supervisor (Robin Wright), and that some of his childhood memories were implanted digitally.
Yet, K seems psychologically intact. He may have mild Asperger’s, but he is really quite likeable and self-aware, and seems to have a certain intellectual integrity that doesn’t require close involvement with other people. It’s almost like he is a kind of Alan Turning, or maybe “The Good Doctor”. He could be fine as your best friend. Relationships with women turn out to be fantasy pieces with holograms, but why not. He doesn’t seem inclined to reproduce, but has discovered that maybe he is supposed to. It’s not hard to imagine how this kind of film could have used a gay subplot.
The movie would beg the question, what really gives someone an identity? If your memories could be transferred (like by a virus) to someone else’s brain, could you wake up perceiving yourself in that person’s body. It would be a good way for a 70 year old to become 21 again. With a finite list of souls, no one dies, and there is no need for reproduction. But then you don’t do your part dealing with the entropy of the universe. Inevitability of death is tied to life.
I saw the film at Tyson’s AMC in 3-D, having left Friday’s just before the Washington Nationals came up with their winning home run rally in the game I was watching on a plasma screen during dinner.
The film was produced by Columbia Pictures (and Alcon, and Scott-Free) and has plenty of references to Sony products. It is distributed by Warner Brothers. The introduction dispensed with the trademark music and went right into the Hans Zimmer’s bizarre musical world of sliding scales (more dissonant than the 1982 score by Vangelis). The music score often quotes Prokofiev’s March from “The Love of Three Oranges”
Previewers of the film were required to sign unusual non-disclosure agreements of certain spoilers, but they probably don’t matter much now.
“Blade Runner 2049“
Denis Villeneuve, DGC
2.35:1, Imax, 3D
When and how viewed:
AMC Tysons 2017-10-7, evening, ample crowd
Warner Brothers, Columbia Pictures, Alcon, Scott-Free
I usually review “YouTube” films on my legacy blogs on Blogger, and the following 25mnute video by “Reality Survival” would normally go on my “Films on Major Threats to Freedom” blog. But I thought that this particular technical explanation of the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) threat so cogent as to need to be brought over here as a significant longer short film that ought to be offered in festivals.
It is titled “17 Misconceptions about the Effects of an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP)” by Reality Survival
He (the presenter) does not list his point, so I trust that his strike count is 17.
He starts out by pointing out that a high altitude nuclear blast from a thermonuclear weapon (hydrogen bomb) who have a “source area” below where the effects are severe, and a “tangent” area surrounding it where they are much less severe.
The most widely touted damage is the “E3” phase, or third phase, lasting perhaps a minute, where Earth’s magnetic field around the event is severely disturbed. This is the phase that overloads transformers and knocks out the power grids (there are three in the U,S.) He says there are about 370 major transformers in the United States that are too large for conventional transportation and have to be built in situ. It could take two to three years to rebuild them all. That presumes that the components could still be manufactured in other parts of the world and shipped. But he says that a solar storm that was severe enough (larger than Carrington in 1857) could envelop the Earth even on the night side and prevent any remanufacturing anywhere, so that rebuilding would take maybe 10 years. We may have had a close call with a huge coronal mass ejection in late July 2012. So from the power grid perspective, the solar storm risk may be greater than what is posed by North Korea (although Russia and China are capable of wiping out civilization for good, as are we).
But the EMP from a nuclear blast has two other components, E1 and E2, where it is much easier to provide some protection. Furthermore, (at least according to Resilient Societies) fission nuclear weapons produce only these first two effects (a fact touted by “EMP deniers”). That is one reason why North Korea’s claim to have a hydrogen bomb is strategically significant.
The HEMP E1 is a fast pulse that destroys magnetic data and personal electronics. These devices might be protected by “nested Faraday cages”. He notes that solid state electronics (like thumb drives) can be destroyed by E1 even though they are not ordinary harmed by household magnets or ordinary magnetic fluctuations in the environment (like by nearby transmission towers). He recommends people back up their data on optical data, like single-sided CD’s. Automobile ignition systems are often touted as vulnerable (as in the book “One Second After”). He says that most cars made before 2003 would probably run, and some newer cars still have the proper shielding. He says that sometimes a car will start if the battery is disconnected and then reconnected. But of course you would run out of gas eventually, and electrical charging stations presumably would not work.
The speaker hints that old-fashioned electronics of early stereo and HiFi enthusiasts in the 1960s might work (when I was collecting classical phonograph records) but some vacuum tube components could be undermined by “selenium rectifiers”.
The E2 pulse is more like what a lightning strike to an existing power line does. Your surge protectors may actually shield from these. The E2 pulse is the easiest to deflect.
It’s noteworthy that the E3 pulse (like from solar storms) does not normally threaten personal electronics.
James Woolsey, as noted before, has warned that North Korea could launch an EMP attack (possibly in retaliation if Trump strikes the DPRK mainland) from one of its “Shining Star” satellites. But it does not appear that it would have a thermonuclear weapon on one of these satellites, but it might be capable of an E1 strike. So consumers need to back up their data on optical data now, even this week? Remember, an E1-only strike would wipe out devices without wiping out the power grid, apparently. As a purely geopolitical matter, I note that some other videos on YouTube suggest that China could actually goad North Korea into a high-altitude thermonuclear E3 EMP strike over the US so that China could then conquer the US. The Domino Theory is back.
There is no information that I am aware of as to whether big cloud companies (Google, Apple, etc) have physical protection of their data with faraday-like covers.
It’s also possible for non-nuclear magnetic flux devices deployed by terrorists in local areas. It is not clear which effects they have, but they might mainly be E1 and E2. This was covered by a now largely forgotten Popular Mechanics issue around Labor Day of 2001, one week before 9/11. The Washington Times wrote about this in 2009. The US Army uses these devices in Afghanistan now, and one is on display in the Ordnance Museum in Aberdeen, MD.
All of this suggests an enhanced kind of cultural hygiene that we have already gotten used to in meeting cyber threats and hackers (particularly, recently, ransomware as well as doxing and release of PII). Protection of personal data with optical devices or with Faraday cages could become part of the culture that people need to learn to deal with. I plan a visit to Best Buy soon to discuss this with Geek Squad. But that seems applicable only against one kind of threat: older fission nuclear weapons.
The larger point is that society has become much more technology dependent than it was, again, say in the 1960s, the time of the last Cuban Missile Crisis. While the Pentagon seems to have protected its own systems, protection of consumer and commercial use of technology seems to have lagged behind the serious threats.
It’s noteworthy that “Resilient Societies” has claimed on Twitter that the power grids could be protected with an investment by the utility industry of about $5 per consumer (about $2 billion nationwide), but I can’t yet find any statement as to what the technology at the transformer protection level would be. However, many utilities (Dominion Power in Virginia for example) have recently announced unspecified security enhancements to their grids against both cyberterror and direct physical threats.
That’s one reason why the “doomsday prepper” and survivalist crowd has developed its somewhat extreme vision of personal morality (that we sometimes associated with the alt-right): that everyone needs to learn to deal with the immediate physical world and participate in a familial social hierarchy to protect others before seeking global fame through modern civilized living.
The Wikipedia article on nuclear EMP is here. Note the 2013 bill proposed in the House.
This article by Motoko Rich and David E Sanger about the geopolitical strategy is quite chilling. The Domino Theory of the Vietnam ear draft (my DADT I book) is indeed back.
I have to ask, also, where is the mainstream media on this? It’s hardly ver mentioned. But Newt Gingrich and others have testified about this threat before Congress as recently as March of this year. It’s not just North Korea, it’s also space climate (which doesn’t change.)
(Posted: Monday, September 4, 2017, at 10:30 AM EDT)
Update: Sept. 5
The filmmaker has sent me the link of his followup:
“How to Build a Nested Faraday Cage: Protect Your Electronics from an EMP”
“Bokeh” (referring to the way a lens brings together out-of-focus points of light, the kind the first George Bush liked) is a challenging science fiction film by Geffrey Orthwein and Andrew Sullivan (a different person from the well-known gay conservative writer, who ought to make a film).
We’re presented with an attractive young couple on an apparent honeymoon in Iceland. That is Riley (Matt O’Leary) and Jenai (Maika Monroe). Riley is particularly attractive visually.
Seven minutes into the film, Monroe gets up at the 3 AM dawn. Suddenly there is a huge explosion on the horizon. A Gamma-ray burst would be invisible. More likely a comet or asteroid crash, at first. I wonder if a huge coronal mass ejection could cause this.
The next morning, at 10 AM, the couple finds that there is no one at the hotel front desk or in the continental breakfast room. (How often have I made waffles at Comfort Inns when on the road?) They go outside, and in ten minutes or so they realize something is very wrong. Riley speculates about aliens; Maika about the Rapture.
They try the Internet, and find it up but news stopped flowing at 3 AM. They try to call people on their smart phones. Even for newlyweds, friends matter. No one answers or calls back. It’s interesting that (geothermal or hydro-driven) electricity, water, and Internet all work, so a solar event of EMP is ruled out. Later, there will be a scene where Riley almost gets stuck for all eternity on an elevator.
They wander in a high-tech wilderness where they can break into stores and find food. They visit a hot spring near a volcano that will set up the movie climax. About an hour into the 90-minute film, they encounter a stray cat, who I think could have come along and been written into the script. Then they find one other survivor, an old man (Arnarr Jonsson) in his cabin, dying of pneumonia. He has only a religious explanation. The film does move toward further tragedy without explanation.
The movie reminds me of musical works like Vaughn Williams’s Sixth Symphony, or Bartok’s last string quartet. Neither is used, but the chamber score by Keegan DeWitt is atmospheric enough.
I can bring to mind other films or series: your dome-wall movies (Stephen King’s “The Dome” on CBS; “The Wall” (a Swiss film); or your Rapture-based movies, like “The Rapture” itself (1991) or the HBO series “The Leftovers”. But his film turns out to be nothing more than beautiful desolation.
I can remember a dream as a child, looking across a nocturnal, oily, desert landscape with a lighthouse in the distance and a command from on high, “Do not go near the Tower of Ned”. Indeed, there is such a tower in my own screenplay “Epiphany”, on Titan, on a methane lake (most of the action happens in a rotating rama colony).
The horror sci-fi film “The Dark Tower”, directed by Nikolaj Arcel, is based on Stephen King’s novel series by that name. Indeed, part of the movie happens on another planet (actually filmed in South Africa), accessible through a portal, largely desert, populated with shanty towns and ruins of pyramid-like structures, leading to a sanctum where the Man in Black Walter O’Dim (Matthew McConaughey, who has a chance to be bad in rather arid fashion) unleashes his minions. He seeks to control an engine of the Universe, the so-called Dark Tower, made to look like Burj Khalifa Dubai, a metaphor for some kind of pulsar emitting rays in straight line fashion. His opponent is Roland Deschain, the Gunslinger (Irdis Elba).
Vox has pointed out that the film adaptation is rather loose (screenplays by Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, and Anders Thomas Jensen as well as the director). I haven’t read the novels, but I remember great characters from other King novels becoming movies, like the “Walkin’ Dude” in “The Stand” as well as films like “Dreamcatcher” and “Storm of the Century” (sold in print as a screenplay, “Give me what I want and I’ll go away”), as well as the book “Cell”.(where technology makes people into monsters).
The star of the movie is the 13-year-old kid Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), who anticipates the Dark Tower rivalry in his dreams, and whose fantasies and writings (he’s written graphic novel) are so shocking that his mother (Katheryn Winnick)l want to send him (from an upper West Side apartment) to therapy upstate (arranged by the villains). Instead, Jake will become almost the next Christ figure.
I saw this film as a break for news coverage about the North Korea nuclear crisis, and just as the movie ended I learned of Mattis’s stark warning backing up Trump’s. Kim Jong Un is indeed a caricature of the Man in Black.
“It Comes at Night”, written and directed by Trey Edward Shults, puts it all together: frightening horror in a suddenly primitive Catskills forest environment off the grid, family loyalty, radical hospitality, doomsday-prepper survivalism, and personal moral karma. Even if the premise is different, I’m remembered of classics like “The Blair Witch Project” and “The Last Broadcast”.
The background premise is a little bit open to interpretation. A horrible pandemic has suddenly stopped the civilized world, rather like the super-flu in Stephen King’s “The Stand”. Symptoms include vomiting black blood (yellow fever). But rather than multiple road trips, this film presents a home stand. A former history teacher Paul (Joel Edgerton), open minded enough for an interracial family with wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and teen son Travis (Kevin Harrison, Jr.) holes up in the woods in an ample house (a kind of “Cabin in the Woods“), hoping to become the next Noah. One night a young man Will (Christopher Abbott) breaks into the house looking for food and water. Paul keeps him bound and quarantined outside but eventually the men start to trust each other. Each has a family, and that’s very important/ Paul drives Will back into the woods, escaping one ambush, and eventually brings Will’s wife and young son (Riley Keough and Griffin Faulkner) to the house.
They set up a little commune with house rules, rather like an intentional community (like a miniature Twin Oaks). But when the dog detects a menace outside and disappears, the trust between the two families, who have to behave according to certain norms if they can get a mini-civilization restarted at all.
The presentation of the dank insides of the home in the film is quite chilling. The force intimacy within each family — including the family bed — is something I could never deal with. This leads to an eventual catastrophic confrontation between the two adult fathers. I could not function in this kind of world. You have to be want just remain alive enough for your own genetic progeny to function this way, like a wild animal with just the remnant of civilization to restart.
The dog’s fate does pose a real question about where this threat came from.
“It Comes at Night”
Trey Edward Shults
When and how viewed:
Regal Ballston Quarter, 2017/6/14, ample crowd on a weekday night