Here there be monsters (socratic) wrote,
Here there be monsters

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I wanted to put Richard Thompson's poem up in my journal, even though it's old, because it's one of my favorites, and I want to have an easy reference for it. So here it is. Remember, it's composed entirely of actual verified quotes by George W. Bush, and there are no cheapos like taking "is" and "our children learning" from different sources.

by George W. Bush
I think we all agree, the past is over.
This is still a dangerous world.
It's a world of madmen and uncertainty
and potential mental losses.

Rarely is the question asked
Is our children learning?
Will the highways of the Internet become more few?
How many hands have I shaked?

They misunderestimate me.
I am a pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity.
I know that the human being and the fish can coexist.
Families is where our nation finds hope, where our wings take dream.

Put food on your family!
Knock down the tollbooth!
Vulcanize society!
Make the pie higher! Make the pie higher!

Saw Aliens, and it's not nearly the film that Alien was. The Ripley character transfers over very nicely, but the film feels too much like Terminator 1.5. You can see aspects of both of Cameron's Arnie Opuses in the film, in some cases whole ideas are lifted wholesale from one film or the other. The most blatant example is how a character played by Michael Biehn teaches a female character how to fight, and then is taken out of commission at which point she carries on without him. Dwayne Hicks and Kyle Reese are spitting images of one another, and though Hicks never scores with Ripley it certainly seems like it's only a matter of time. I have no problem with Biehn's performances in these two roles, but it was kind of cheap of Cameron to write two roles so similar and cast the SAME actor in both of them, especially considering that the films were released two years apart from one another and appeal to similar demographics. Of course the similarities to the two terminator films in and of themselves are not really a problem, per se, seeing as both of those are excellent genre pictures and I love a good polished action flick as much as the next guy. The trouble with Aliens is that it can't really decide if it wants to be an effective action movie or a horror flick, and in attempting both (to a degree) it really achieves neither. I'll give an example. After the APC and dropship get destroyed and the survivors are holed up in the base, with the entrances sealed, there is a feeling of real tension and suspense. It's a good horror film moment. This is also the case when the two facehuggers are released into the room where Ripley and Newt are sleeping. However, the fact that the two of them are rescued by the marines just ruines the tension of the moment. In a horror film nobody'gs going to come in with pulse rifles and protect you, you are going to have to protect yourself, or die trying (usually the latter) This also reduces the sense of dread that arises when the Queen Alien comes up the elevator after them. You have had it foreshadowed that the drop ship is going to pop up and rescue them. The same effect is had by there being survivors from the first Alien encounter. The reason that the marines lose is because they don't have enough firepower, not because they are doomed from the start. In the first movie there are 6 people, and one Alien, and the people are well-organized, decently armed, and hopelessly outmatched. In the second there are a dozen people, more or less, over a hundred Aliens, and the people are undermanned. That's a whole different ballgame.

There are other reasons why it doesn't work as a horror flick. For one the sets are too brightly lit. Even the Alien hideout is full of brightness. (Speaking of that lair, it was poorly done. I know Geiger was involved in the movie, and probably okayed it, but it contradicted the basic idea of the creature from the first film, which was that it was perfect and pure. The lair was sloppy and haphazard, just a whole bunch of resin stuck to walls with human corpses plastered all over the place like discarded hamburger wrappers.) You see the Aliens coming, and that reduces their impact considerably. There's all sorts of other stuff, but what it comes down to is that you never don't see them coming, and besides a few moments, often fueled by Bill Paxton's spot on performance, you never feel any sense of dread.

So why doesn't it work as an action film? Well, it does, to an extent. The main problem I have is with the expendability of the antagonists. They walk forward and get blown up, until they overwhelm the warriors and break through the lines. It's never a thrilling battle because you know that the marines have no chance of success, all they can do is stave off the attackers until they escape (this is much like Terminator 2, except that in T2 there was only one attacker, and so you could focus on the combat between the Terminators, and feel viscerally fulfilled whenever Robert Patrick's character caught it in the kisser. In Aliens whenever an Alien bites it it's sort of ho-hum, because there's another identical one right behind it.) The combat me and never thrilling or overly interesting.

The film has other problems too. Logical fallacies being one of them. In the first Alien film the crewpeople were on a dingy little ship in the outskirts of space, all cramped quarters and unreliable technology. That was fine, and it made sense why there were so few of them and why they were so low on equipment. In the second film, the set up includes a lot of sequences that shows that both the Weyland corporation and the U.S. military have plenty of equipment and resources. So why are they sending one small platoon of marines, underarmed and undermanned? True they don't know the fate of the colonists, but they do know that there were 158 of them. If they were wiped out, chances are it wasn't by a lone gunman. Okay, fine, Burke sent them out to the ship and he knows what's going on but doesn't want anyone else to. I guess he could finagle a small landing party rather than a big one through lies and manipulation, but why would it be a group of marines then? Why not a rescue ship, or even just a scout of some sort, to check out what's going on? It doesn't make sense to send such a small cadre of soldiers. What exactly are they expected to accomplish? I know that the U.S. military relies on special operations rather than putting whole brigades on the ground, and this could be an extension of that, but the strategy doesn't make sense in this scenario. A) This is U.S. colony soil, so there are no diplomatic or 'surprise' issues with mounting a larger expedition. B) It is very far away from potential support staff if things go wrong. C) If it's NOT a military mission, why send only military personnel along with a shit-eating Paul Reiser? And as little sense as it makes to send this one ship, it makes even less sense for EVERYONE ON IT to go down to the surface. You'd think that they'd leave at least a reasonable size crew on the ship to protect the cost of the equipment, provide support, and tell them what went wrong if something did. This scenario only makes sense if resources are very thin and the whole thing is a shoestring operation. The movie never gives that impression, so I was left sitting there thinking if you'd just sent 50 guys instead of 12 and a few weapons platforms of greater power than an APC, none of this would have happened, dumbasses.

Then there's the Burke character. What's his deal? Is he psychotic? I understand why he sends the colonists off to the ship in the first place, and the greed that drives him to try and direct a small salvage operation, but once there he never exhibits any fear for his life, just his property. Protip: The greedy, at least in movies, are quite often very attached to their own skins. He never seems to be. He goes down to the planet with them, is reasonably calm under pressure, and then makes the just plain WEIRD move of trying to off Ripley and Newt after everything's fallen to shit and he's almost certainly going to die. I could understand him going after the little girl, since he doesn't realize how essential she is for navigation purposes, but Ripley's already proven herself a competent leader and the best shot they have at that point. Trying to kill Ripley is just stupid for the sake of his own survival. I don't know, maybe he's scared of what she'll say and how shitty his life will be if he gets back with her intact and the mission a total failure. Fine. But to try and kill her at that point is STILL suicide? Why not wait until a more opportune moment? Maybe it was the way Paul Reiser played him, but the character just never made sense to me.

All this whining might make you believe that I don't think Aliens is a good film. That's not true. I don't think it's a classic film, but it's got decent elements to it, and good performances, even a few decent action sequences, like the stuff involving the Queen. I don't mean to bash it as unwatchable crap, I think it's a solid 80's sci-fi piece. It's not as great as everyone says, though, and it doesn't really compare to the first. There are images that have real power and stuck in my mind (the alien landscape was terribly well done, and in fact the set design in general was great, besides the lair stuiff.) There were good performances, fine special effects (although the Aliens looked kind of silly taken from the darkness and shoved into the light of a flamethrower.) I liked it okay, but to me it was a Cameron film, not an Alien film (even the much maligned fourth one was closer to the first in terms of tone and what happened. The horror of when the one alien kills the other in order to escape into the ship is an incredibly well done moment in an admittedly flawed film.) And not a great Cameron film at that.

I had a negative experience regarding the employment thing today. I signed a confidentiality agreement so I can't really talk about it.

After that I went over to my Aunt's house for dinner with family. It was actually pretty nice. I really like my cousin Tommy and his wife is nice. They have an ADORABLE little 6 year old girl, like right out of a postcard. She was even wearing a dress, which is somewhat unusual these days. I read to her a little, and it reminded me of how long it's been since I've been around children. I used to be great with them, but now I was just sort of uninvolved and didn't quite know how to relate. She was incredibly tired, and laughing up a storm, but my delivery just wasn't what it could have been. It was a decent time, though, which is rare for my family. My Aunt made an excellent supper and the company was fine. Not a bad experience.

I walked home through Central Park, alone, at night. Not the safest manuever, but I'm a big guy and I figure if I get mugged it's a great story, and if I get killed, no big loss. The walk was nice, and the park deserted. I made good time and there were no incidents except for some firecrackers going off.

When I got home I found out via email that one of my favorite cousins, who is around 80 and who I've been seeing every summer for awhile, had a terrible stroke and is quite likely going die. I'm a little dumb at the moment. I really cared for him, he was such a vibrant wonderful man, and his wife is going to be lost without him. I probably will go to the funeral if invited, but it'll be down in baltimore and I've never arranged a trip like that on my own. It'll be tough because I can't drive.

Please no prayers or bullshit like that, I don't like em and don't need them. It's just a rough situation. Of course I hope he pulls through, but from what was said that didn't seem likely. I really do love him, and I'm going to miss him if he doesn't make it. I just hope he does.
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