Thursday, 23 October 2014

Shrinking the Gap



Shrinking the Gap

As a warning, this solution to economic problems will never happen because it is an idealistic view of something too set in stone to change. Though many may think of it being socialist, it will still enforce the capitalism idea, but it will shrink the gap between the rich and poor. Sometimes the simplest solution can actually be the answer to a huge problem. Starting at the most recent recession is the best way to look at it. After the financial world collapsed, money was tight which halted spending. While people were begging for pay increases in the times of austerity, companies were 'tightening their belts' whilst simultaneously blaming the majority of the working class for not spending enough in the economy to correct it. What makes this such an horrific statement is the fact that those rich people, the 1% population, were complaining about the lack of spending in an economy where they hold 40% of the economy's wealth - the 0.01%, a NET worth of over $100m, control 11.1% of the US's wealth.[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] In America, that is. It is even highlighted in the end credits of the film The Other Guys.[10] It may not be as drastic elsewhere, but it still is as disproportionate - although this article suggests it is worse than we think.[11] Simply blaming the working class for not spending money on the economy that you control, then denying a pay increase as it is a recession, is a logical fallacy.  

Now what seems basic is a simple shrinking of the gap. The economy is in the state that it is because that 1% are static with the majority of their wealth, meaning it does not get pumped into the economy. If they were stimulate the economy by actually spending instead of sitting on it to invest in the future to make even more money, then the economy would not have remained stagnant for so long. The divide between the rich and poor needs to be there in a capitalist society. It also instils ambition in the population, constantly striving to become better, to improve the world and be rewarded for it. There is no need for the divide to be so drastic. With only 1% of the population having such monetary control, means that their restraint in spending damages the economy of the entire population, giving power to those that really should not have it. Having all this money encourages the rich to disregard everything else but profit, causing the economy to become static, while they look for a way to increase the wealth of themselves and/or their companies/conglomerates.

This has a detrimental effect as well on the planet's actual health. Now, this may sound like hippy-free-love stuff that makes people roll their eyes, but the planet's actual environment is important because we like living, essentially. Most of us, anyway. Oil companies claim famine in terms of oil to justify their amplification of prices, but if they were simply more efficient then we would have a significant amount more of oil. For example, the Niger Delta river has been filling up for years with oil, but it is simply cheaper to let it drift there, allowing pirates to fight for it, shooting at each other and accidentally igniting it, as it is oil.[12] [13] If people actually thought for once about perhaps spending more to have even more product in the long run, for the benefit of a world reliant on oil, then there would be no need to claim that there is less oil. There is simply less oil because of instances like this. It has gone entirely to waste. This isn't reflective of problems like the BP oil crisis, but that happened again because of a money saving exercise to please shareholders.[14] Simply put: fuck the shareholders for once and think about the bigger picture.

If the gap was shrunk significantly, more money would be in the economy. That constant flow would help stimulate it, drastically improving the quality of life for the majority of people. In a more idealistic view, it could possibly lead to a lower unemployment rate too. That stimulation would mean we could rejuvenate the public sectors, hiring more staff because it would have created functioning and efficient public services, as they would be a non-profit organisation. Imagine hospitals if the Conservatives were not trying to constantly privatise it to exploit the profit possibilities that plagues pharmacology.[15] Universal healthcare is not only a human right but a necessity. Healthcare would be improved upon if the administrators did not receive such absurdly high wages, while nurses are left to struggle on an income as low as £14,000 a year in 2014. (Estimate of my mother's annual wage: a full-time working auxiliary nurse) That is another topic for another time. If the money that came into the public sector was put back into it, it would be able to improve its service dramatically. No more horror stories in tabloid newspapers that condemn an underfunded NHS. Services would run for the people, rather than for the money.

"If" has plagued this post because it is an idealistic hypothetical, but financial equality should be a given. If the wage gap was shrunk so that 45% of the population controlled 55% of the nation's wealth, the boost in the economy would be revitalising. That would mean 55% of people would be able to spend even more in a society that has adverts begging for people to spend. Everyone is a winner. As there would be a cap, a limit, companies and people could possibly think about everything other than their virtual bank balance or NET worth. Less greed would mean that the exploitation of the world for short-term gain would no longer be worth it. People are fighting for a bigger bank balance that will not carry on with them after they pass away. It is better to preserve the future for future generations rather than destroy it for a brief monetary gain that is fleeting in something much larger than one person. Companies must stop avoiding tax in nations they profit in. Especially by a company that then proudly advertised that 77% of the emergency services use Vodafone[16], after getting their tax bill cancelled by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and HMRC boss Dave Hartnett.[17] Basically an advert laughing at their exploitation of the public sector. Vodafone seem to be getting worse with each year too.[18] George Osborne must not turn the cheek or cancel the debt, then make cuts to the public sector that services the working class devoid of wealth, because the companies want to maximise their profits which are already extraordinary.[19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] [26]A man who is in charge of our tax bills and loopholes, used those loopholes himself to get out of paying tax.[27]  

Idealism should not be a pejorative. We should strive to obtain the highest quality of life. It is a shame that this would not happen as it would need to be globally co-ordinated. Like a UN initiative - which would not happen, but that scale of global regulation in a world becoming more and more globalised. Essentially this has been a utopian dream post, about a world not interested in its own wallet, but with a consideration to everyone and everything. Why is that seen as abnormal? Why is that condemned as negative?  



References

[1] http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-04-03/top-tenth-of-1-percenters-reaps-all-the-riches
[2] http://www.vanityfair.com/society/features/2011/05/top-one-percent-201105
[3] http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2011/10/03/334156/top-five-wealthiest-one-percent/
[4] http://www.forbes.com/sites/moneywisewomen/2012/03/21/average-america-vs-the-one-percent/
[5] http://www.epi.org/publication/unequal-states/
[6] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/10/pay-gap-between-1-percent_n_3900373.html
[7] http://www.lcurve.org/
[8] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPKKQnijnsM
[9] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/03/06/this-viral-video-is-right-we-need-to-worry-about-wealth-inequality/
[10] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3yBfWz2bSOQ
[11] http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-06/the-1-may-be-richer-than-you-think-research-shows.html
[15] http://www.theguardian.com/healthcare-network/2014/aug/06/privatisation-ripping-nhs-from-our-hands
[16] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8PohtcIA88
[17] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/oct/22/vodafone-tax-case-leaves-sour-taste
[18] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/vodafones-84bn-tax-avoidance-bonanza-nothing-for-taxpayers-in-verizon-deal-while-bankers-share-500m-in-fees-8794169.html
[19] http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/
[20] http://www.theguardian.com/business/shortcuts/2012/oct/17/boycotting-tax-avoiding-companies
[21] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20560359
[22] http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/tax-avoidance-public-accounts-committee-pac-hmrc-461647
[23] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/eurobonds-scandal-the-high-street-giants-avoiding-millions-in-tax-8897591.html
[24] http://realbusiness.co.uk/article/25034-six-companies-that-avoid-paying-their-taxes
[25] http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-1711339/Revealed-Tax-havens-of-the-top-20-UK-companies.html
[26] http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/boycotts/boycottslist.aspx
[27] http://blog.38degrees.org.uk/2010/10/28/tax-avoidance-george-does-it-too/

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review



It is an exciting prospect to watch what you loved as a child be reimagined with a gigantic budget. What you loved is still relevant to the masses according to the studio, a hundred million dollar shot of nostalgia, giving you an exciting rush that many films cannot rival. It is also a dangerous path. Like the line, never meet your heroes, you’ll only be disappointed, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an utter disaster that in one single swoop can destroy your entire childhood. Filled with self-doubt, you will question whether or not it was even good in the first place and was always this tragic. That may be the truth for the other live-action incarnations of the turtles, but the cartoon still has something special that is ruined by the transfer. Ruined is the only fitting word for a childhood that lays in shambles, covered in dirt, on the floor, being spat on, the money flaunted in front of you.

This is a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles origin story, because everyone has always wanted to hear about how these turtles mutated into adolescent masters of Ninjitsu. Reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) wants to do more as a reporter than bounce on a trampoline for people to ogle her. The fluff pieces are crippling her. The very first thing we find out about her from another character is “Boy, you don’t give up, do you?” in case you don’t get from all the work she puts in that she’s tenacious. April starts to follow a story about the Foot Clan, but it leads to strange markings which are present in crimes that were thwarted by acts of vigilantism. The story starts to unravel, in an unimaginable scale for April.

It would be easier to list all of the problems in this film than anything else. It is a mess. A mess which tries its inadequate hand at humour, but rarely ever actually hitting it. When you hire someone as talented as Will Arnett, it’s baffling how you cannot give him funny lines, or perhaps even let him riff to make his own. Most of what Will Arnett says is not funny, but that is not his fault at all, it is the script’s. Possibly the most bizarre casting is that of Johnny Knoxville as Leonardo, the straight leader role of the Ninja Turtles. Johnny Knoxville is an inherently funny guy, it feels downright ludicrous to give him the character with the least humour. Even daddy issue Rafael (Alan Ritchson) has more comedy. William Fichtner, who is usually terrific, has to utter only exposition or a clich├ęd line for his character – most of the time, it’s both. None of this is the cast’s fault. They all try their hardest, but the problem starts long before them. The script is of the lowest order, making sure to hit Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat! beat sheet while adding in some of the stupidest dialogue of the year.

In the end, this is not a film for review. This is a film made for children – although its 12A rating in the UK is a bit of a head-scratcher – but since when does making something for children mean something awful? They will enjoy this, it’s about ninjas who happen to be teenage turtles, as they make pop-culture references from the past 3 years. Pop-culture references are fine, we live in a postmodernist era of constant intertextuality, but there are ways to make it funny and then there is simply saying that you are aware of these things. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles does the latter. Jonathan Liebesman proves that he can direct some action sequences, but that does not mean they will be exciting. After the past failings of Battle: Los Angeles and Wrath of the Titans, you feel like studios would start to strip away his budget. He is a director bereft of personality – unless oversaturated visual effects counts. For the exception of a chase sequences down a snowed cliff, the action sequences are basic and bland. Its attempts at personality are having its characters say something moronic. These characters are meant to be likeable, everything is always about likeable, but these characters could be the most hated of the year, thanks to their idiotic dialogue that is no way endearing. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a wreck unfolding in front of your eyes; drained entirely of the Turtle Power that hurtled them to fame.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Moebius Review


My Moebius review for Next Projection


Kim Ki-duk’s latest is a twisted tale of incest with the addition of our natural love of genitalia. It feels weird to say that the most absurd thing about this film is its complete lack of dialogue; not the inclusions of castration, cannibalism, incest, masturbation, voyeurism and rape. Its extremism says a lot about humanity’s condition, though it may be unfair to criticise a film for what it isn’t or doesn’t have, Moebius feels like that strange beast that would benefit with some dialogue. Kim Ki-duk does a fantastic task of having a thematically rich film through silence, but it feels that there is a profundity lurking, ready to be vocalised, instead of being an Oedipal video essay.

Kim Ki-duk does a fantastic task of having a thematically rich film through silence, but it feels that there is a profundity lurking, ready to be vocalised, instead of being an Oedipal video essay.

Meobus
Discussing the plot is difficult, because the sheer insanity of it seems off-putting. Within the first fifteen minutes of the film, we are aware that the husband is cheating on his wife with another woman as they scramble for his mobile phone. Then, the wife and his son, watch as the husband cheats on the wife in the car. That leads to the son’s arousal and his mum walks in on him masturbating. The mother decides that revenge is the sweetest option, by attacking her husband with a knife to cut off his penis. He succeeds in resisting, so the mother – who demonises all men in this instant – decides that any sleeping penis will do and decides to cut off then eat her son’s as payback for her husband’s infidelity. Again, this is the first fifteen minutes of the film. An extremist start to the gruesome welcome to the world is befitting of the New French Extremism movement.

One of Kim Ki-duk’s most daring – but incredibly effective and interesting choices – is that the mother and mistress are played by the same actress with a few make-up tweaks between characters.

One of Kim Ki-duk’s most daring – but incredibly effective and interesting choices – is that the mother and mistress are played by the same actress with a few make-up tweaks between characters. This really amps up the Oedipal and Freudian themes that are explored through desire, which mostly stems from our genitalia. An interesting quote from the filmmaker about this film is about never being free from “physical desire” and its ramifications, that we are effectively controlled by our genitalia which will lead to “self-torture, maltreat[ment]or becoming maltreated” because of our innate desire for desire. These words show that the filmmaker really has a lot to say. Moebius is visually astounding on this ground, by speaking volumes with character actions, but with an intelligent director clearly pushed by desire himself, could explore themes in immersive detail.
Moebius has great performances from the main trio playing four characters. Kim Ki-duk needed them to express a lot through looks, gazes, angsty screams or even Google searches. Intelligence is found in the moments where the film stops, becoming a tableau to analyse in detail. The film is mostly quiet, which lends itself to stillness as characters sit ashamed or stare at each other, conveying a mixture of complex emotions. Kim Ki-duk also described this as the “penis journey” where one finds that the entire body is capable of the arousal that is linked with genitalia. The sensation of both heavenly climax then followed by pain later on is a physical manifestation of shameful masturbation. That is where Kim Ki-duk’s film is clever, more an art piece to be analysed rather than enjoyed. Some have described it as a black comedy, but it feels far too tragic to be considered entirely as a comedy. Analysing ourselves as walking genitalia ready to upset, be upset or torture ourselves in restraint is a realisation of sad inevitability, telling us a lot about the sexual repression of an entire society, but also the problems of the sexual liberation of western civilisation. Moebius is a complicated film with a lot to say, but no dialogue to verbalise it. Instead, it’s down to the audience to deduce what they see and how they see it. Clever filmmaking from an interesting, intelligent extremist director that really could do more by saying something else further than the Oedipal and Freudian concepts that are now engrained in the zeitgeist.

★★

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Hannibal Season 2 DVD Review




After 559 minutes in a day, you can spot a lot of Hannibal‘s shortcomings, rather than waiting a week for each episode. After the rather captivating finale of the first season, especially the subversion with the final shot, it seemed that Hannibal had broken in on itself. No longer would it need to satiate the audience that is looking partly for something that resembles CSI, with rather sick and twisted murders every week, solved indefinitely with only a throughline between Will Graham – Hugh Dancy is either perfect or too much – and Hannibal Lecter – Mads Mikkelsen plays his character with a devilish relish that even tugs on your sympathies. No longer would they present someone with an iPad of information, solving the case, in the final few minutes to conclude the episode. It could be broader, bigger, be more daring and playful with the characters now that it didn’t have to do those daily episode conclusions. Bryan Fuller has done a good job running the show, but still there is something amiss, something problematic.

As this is the second season review, there will be spoilers for the first season as it continues on from there. Nothing much will be specified from season two – especially not the last few episodes. Will Graham is now in Baltimore’s State Hospital for the Criminally Insane after being framed by Hannibal Lecter for the murder of several women. No one believes that it was actually Hannibal being the murderer – an ex-surgeon now psychiatrist with a penchant for food and manners isn’t possible of murdering, of course. Will Graham, while going under extreme scrutiny and psychiatric evaluations, must convince everyone around him of his innocence and Hannibal’s guilt. Season two has a big problem if you are going to watch it in a binge. Its opening is high octane which is thrilling, but it drains the suspense of later episodes that would grip your throat and dig its nails in with tension otherwise. Though knowing that something else to comes leaves less tension and more curiosity in how they will play out. Perhaps that’s purposeful but it feels as though the programme is missing a trick.

The subtlety that was in the first season of Hannibal’s murders has disappeared slightly. Now that we know what he is all about, he even gets dressed up like Patrick Bateman in American Psycho - although it’s much more sinister when you take away Huey Lewis and the News. We may be more aware of his professional curiosity in Will, his sociopathic love for a cruel game of cat-and-mouse with the law and his extra love for slicing, dicing and serving up humans, it feels like it is slightly more obvious that now it is Hannibal. He is around clever professionals constantly who seem to skim over the fact that he has been able to affiliate himself with all of the victims and is a skilled surgeon – a necessity in stitching and organ removal. Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) is a successful FBI agent, ranking his way up, yet he still can’t see what is right in front of him. Hannibal may distort the truth, especially the evidence presented to give his view to lead them off the trail, but an agent of that standing would not be that blinded. Especially given his relationship with Will Graham.

The first few episodes are brilliant. Playing on having Will Graham behind bars and Hannibal Lecter filling in his role for the FBI is a nice step, leading to some interesting moments as the tension rises as to whether or not Will Graham will be found guilty. The first season played with the professional curiosity Hannibal had in Will but with a different dynamic. In this season, Will is aware of who Hannibal is yet they continue delving into each other’s sociopathic minds, playing games throughout. Each character has the same flaw: infallibility. Will thinks he’s the most intelligent, therefore he’s a step ahead of Hannibal. Hannibal thinks he’s the most intelligent and that his psychiatry is paving the way for Will’s manipulation, meaning he’s a step ahead. Jack Crawford watches from the sidelines as the titans go at each other, thinking that as he can see both of these things objectively – which he doesn’t – that he is the step ahead. Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas plays her particularly nicely, despite the character’s shortcomings) is possibly the most foolish of all the characters, believing that she knows and understands sociopaths better than anyone else but you will see for yourself that it is far from true. Her trust is misplaced every time.

Hannibal maintains its stylish, elegant feel with amped up productions and even more violence. What is bizarre about this cable network programme is that it can show wince inducing gore but it cannot show any nudity. Sometimes its stylistic flourishes are its own undoing. In one scene, the sun is supposedly rising over Will Graham’s house, but it is plainly obvious to tell that it is done via the colouring – a poor job at it too. It also still holds the mantle as TV programme filled with food porn – a severed leg will make you salivate; that is until you know it is a severed human leg. Hugh Dancy explores the more neurotic, arrogant side of his messed up character to have it all undone in a spectacular finale that throws every single thing at you – even a few surprises you could not and would not remotely guess.

Episodes may lull but the series remains transfixing, through bizarre dynamics and interesting characterisations of killers and investigations. Finally it embraces its intricacy as it builds to a conclusion that is bound to burst someone’s bubble of arrogance. You will also get to see why people are now asking for Michael Pitt to play The Joker, should they cast another reiteration in the future. His character is essentially The Joker without the make-up. Hannibal improves upon its first season, which of course means amping up every aspect, especially the stakes. It will hook you, pull you in for its finale, then throw you to the bottom of the barrel before it tears you apart. An improvement overall that needs to fix some episodic lulls, character motivations and regain tension by not starting somewhere later down the line.


★★½