Monthly Archives: January 2015

My 20 Favourite Films #13: A Clockwork Orange

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

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It is hard for me to pick a favourite filmmaker of all time since so many of the ones I like bring various types of films to the cinematic table. But, if someone was to put a gun to my head and demanded that I pick one I would say Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick was a visual artist who made films with images so vivid that they stick in the viewer’s memory forever.
In 2001: A Space Odyssey we see breathtaking shots of space that take time in delivering the art to the viewer and every shot in Barry Lyndon looks like a Victorian or 18th century painting come to life onscreen. There is not a Kubrick film that isn’t beautiful and selecting which is my favourite is no easy task. 2001: A Space Odyssey could have easily stolen this #13 spot depending on my mood, but as it happens A Clockwork Orange won out.

Despite its subject matter, A Clockwork Orange is no different than any other Kubrick film in that it is beautifully and artistically shot. Much of the imagery such as Alex DeLarge and his droogs in the milk-bar, the joyriding down English roads, the eerily lit sequences involving Alex’s conditioning, and even the bizarre and unnerving scenes involving rape indelibly leave a mark in the viewer’s visual memory that cannot be forgotten. Kubrick was a meticulous man who made sure every shot played its role in making a film be what it was. He was never lazy and often made his actors take several takes just to get the perfect shot for his piece. And I say piece because that is exactly what it is. It is a piece of art-work or a composition. Kubrick didn’t make blockbusters; he made visually artistic works that could be taken as seriously as a critic may take a famous painting by Da Vinci or a classical composition by Chopin. And despite its controversy, A Clockwork Orange is no different.

The film is about a young delinquent named Alex DeLarge who has a taste for violence. He and his gang of thugs whom he calls affectionately his “droogies” delight in killing, maiming, and raping helpless victims for their amusement. Alex is very much a connoisseur of finer pleasurable pursuits such as Beethoven and collecting weird artwork for his bedroom (including some disturbing anatomically correct sculptures of religious icons); and he owns a pet snake that he loves as much as a common man would love a dog or cat. The “old ultraviolence” is just another passionate pursuit among his taste in music, food, or fine art. He has an unconvicted nonchalance about everything he does. He just as casually will break into a home to rape a woman as he will pick up a couple ladies at a shop to have a threesome. He is amoral, lacking any sense of decency nor cares or sympathises with those he harms. He lives a satisfied life outside of morality while he may or may not be aware that his actions are evil, he doesn’t put a great deal of thought on it in any case.

After an attempted burglary goes wrong in which he kills a resident and his companions betray him he is captured by authorities and taken to a brutal prison for juvenile delinquents where he agrees to shorten jail time by undergoing an experimental conditioning for hardened criminals. The conditioning would, if successful, cause Alex to no longer be able to commit acts of violence. The conditioning which involved drug therapy combined with being forced to watch several films and reels depicting sex and violence eventually lead Alex to becoming sick every time he is faced with sexuality or acts of aggression. The success of the experiment is demonstrated in front of a board of psychologists and “social reformers” by having Alex put on a stage where he is confronted with a nude woman and a man abusing him. Both confrontations tempt him to becoming aroused or seek retaliation respectively which he can no longer fulfill because he comes sick to the point of retching when he tries. As a result of this he is declared cured and released.
When he heads home he finds his parents have moved on, his beloved snake is dead, and his room is occupied by a tenant who having heard about Alex from his parents takes no liking to him at all. Alex finds himself alone on the streets where he encounters a bum whom he once assaulted who tries to kill him for revenge, but escapes with the “help” of two cops who turn out to be his former droogs who decide to relish the opportunity to beat poor Alex before leaving him to battered in the countryside. After a series of harsh abuses on the streets Alex attempts suicide but is revived and hospitalised where his parents find him and take pity on him offering his room back. Furthermore the psychologists behind his conditioning are blamed and ostracised for their role in his current troubles and they are shut down by the government which feels guilty over Alex’s plight and ,thus, sets him up for life.

The ending, to say the least, is disturbing and bizarre. After committing horrible acts of murder, assault, rape, and theft he is exonerated on the grounds that he was treated too harshly by the authorities. This would seem laughable if only the real world didn’t actually do this. However, we have seen too often that murderers and rapists are, in our society, pitied by would-be reformers with good intentions who complain about abuses in the prison system. I am, by no means, saying prison abuse is a good thing; but I will argue that pitying killers and rapists because they are “misunderstood” is absurdity.
It is my interpretation of A Clockwork Orange that Alex left that hospital cured of his conditioning, but went on to do worse things than ever before. Society in criticising the system failed to see that Alex was still guilty of the crimes he committed. He was still evil even if he was treated wrongly. Being exonerated over a technicality that fails to deny that someone committed the crimes he was guilty of is ridiculous and will not stop recidivism outside of the prison walls.

It is to be noted that there is not a single character in A Clockwork Orange who is innocent. The Good and Bad people are just a divide between Self-righteous, self-deceptive prigs and immoral villains. Alex and his droogs were anarchist thieves, murderers, and rapists. Alex’s parents were apathetic cowards who made bad choices at every turn in dealing with Alex. The police and prison officials were mindless brutes with no sympathy or desire to see their prisoners reformed or cared for. The psychologists were suppressors of freedom with an agenda to silence men rather than help them. Even Alex’s former victims were unforgiving and harsh. The bum Alex once assaulted tried to kill him even though Alex just gave him some money. And the husband of one of his former rape victims who became an activist for troubled and wayward youth hypocritically tortures Alex after he discovers who he is. And finally society and the government sooth their own guilty conscience by making him rich and comfortable for the rest of his days.

A Clockwork Orange is a remarkable look at society’s hypocrisy and foolish, lazy attempts at reformation while ignoring the heart of its problems. Corrupted individuals like Alex are spat out every day by society with its ignorance, hypocrisy, stupidity, cruelty, and unfairness. Society’s attempts to fix these corrupted youth often fail because they approach reform with the same ignorance, hypocrisy, stupidity, cruelty, and unfairness that birthed them in the first place.

I highly recommend A Clockwork Orange for audiences with strong stomachs since it is not a film that is easy to view. Despite its R-rating now it was originally released with an X-rating due to its content. As a result I rarely recommend it for this reason although I hold this film in high regard. But if you have a taste for Kubrick’s artistry or simply want to see a good film about juvenile delinquency and society’s role in it see A Clockwork Orange.

Full Circle

Seems like falling down
Lost balance, hit the ground
Endless mistakes thrown in your face
It’s not right, it’s not okay
Rug swept out
All these doubts

Maybe it’s poetic
Maybe it’s pathetic
Karmis justice
Cruel Irony
Shakespearian dramedy

It’s gonna turn around
Can’t lose what you never found
No need to worry
The furture is stunning
You’ll hit the ground running
It’s coming full circle now

Don’t worry about the end
Everything will break or bend
Even when it feels the good is gone
\It won’t be that way for long
It all comes back around
And pieces together again

Contributor ~ Amanda Zober

Things people say that drive pregnant women nuts (me personally)

CONTRIBUTOR: Raven Akashiya

Pregnancy is an amazing time for a woman; there are so many changes that happen. Some are really cool, while others are a pain in the ass (or the back.) But it is all worth it when you hold your baby for the first time. However, sometimes the comments people make can drive you up the wall. Even if intentions are good in a pregnant woman’s mind it could be the worst thing ever said. Here’s my personal list of things said to me that drove me up the wall.

  • “You have gotten so FAT! ” … Wait, what do you mean I have gotten fat? *looks in the mirror* Well, I am fat. But come on I’m carrying a small human being in my belly.
  • “You don’t look pregnant to me” … Wait a second, are you doubting the existence of my baby? Well thank you very much Snobby McSnobbery, next time I’m dealing with morning sickness you can swap bodies.
  • “You shouldn’t eat that you know” … Dude, you are lucky I don’t eat you. When cravings hit I’m going to eat whatever I want. Besides, I’m going to get fat anyway.
  • “Are you sure you want another baby?” … It’s a little too late to think about that now. Either way I’m pregnant.
  • “Stop being so emotional” … If I could I would. CURSE THESE HORMONES!
  • “You look like you just woke up” … Chances are I probably did. When baby starts wiggling and keeping you up at night there’s a good chance that naps will be taken frequently.
  • “You need to get all the sleep you can before baby is born” … What is this sleep you speak of? If I forget my body pillow even one night there is no such thing as sleep.
  • “Do you want a boy or a girl” … Everyone has a preference. To be honest I don’t care as long as baby is healthy.
  • “You are only __ weeks along?!?!?!? Wow, you still have a long ways to go!”  … Thank you Captain Obvious! I know how much longer I have. The reminders aren’t helping.
  • “That dog is going to hurt the baby!” … Wait, what? Do you even know my dog? Biggest baby in the world. I think he’s more excited about the baby than I am (meh, maybe not.) He may need a little more training but I can guarantee he won’t hurt my baby.
  • “Your nursery theme is stupid!” … Who exactly died and left you as nursery monitor? My house, my baby, my rules!
  • “The names you picked out for the baby are dumb! Your child is going to be picked on his/her whole life!” … Hey! My kid! If I want to name my son Rusty Peter or my daughter Ima Virgin that’s my business! (No those are not my children’s names.)

I could go on all day. These are a few that I hear on a regular basis. Please remember that our hormones go nuts and we can get a little crazy.

maintaining-pregnancy

HOT LUST AND A SMOKIN’ GLOCK

That’s the safety. Flip it down, look through the sights at the end of the barrel to aim, and fire.

You know this is a strange relationship. I take you to see indie movies and go exploring for old books and you take me to motorcycle shows and gun ranges.

That’s what you get for messing around with a female cop.

A married female cop. Can’t forget that.

Don’t start. We both went into this with our eyes open. I told you how it was when we met that night at Frozen Paradise. It’s not like you could have resisted all this goodness anyway because I was looking good that night.

True dat, you were. Like I care anyway. He’s your problem, not mine.

Don’t say that. We enjoy each other so there’s no need to bring up my husband. You know you ain’t trying to marry me or anybody else anyway.

Yeah, I probably even like the fact you’re married because I can have my cake and eat it too chasing after other women.

You do know I’m holding a gun too right now, don’t you?

Yikes! Sorry. Slip of the tongue.

Uh-huh. I bet but again we both know what this is so no problem. We both make each other feel good and that’s all that matters. What’s that you told me one of your uncles told you? Ain’t nothing wrong with an even swap.

Yeah, guess so but that didn’t stop you from getting salty when Lavesa came to my place that day.

Darn that dizzy hussy. You need to schedule all your other women better because no one’s going to mess up my time with you.

Possessive aren’t we?

When it comes to what you give me I am but since I know you like to run around that’s why I keep the condoms handy.

It’s like that?

And that’s the way it is.

Touche’.

Now hold the gun with both hands, aim, and fire.

Why can’t I hold it sideways with one hand like they do in the movies?

Because the recoil will break your arm. Now concentrate on the target and fire.

That was fun.

Yeah, it releases a lot of stress from the job for me. The ammo is free for us so I might as well use it here instead of in the streets. Let’s see how you did.

Damn, that’s awful.

No, it’s decent enough for your first time.

Yep, first time. I don’t like guns but I can see why people do now because this kind of power is seductive. I still don’t want one because with my dark soul I may try to eat a bullet one night when the depression hits.

Don’t say that because we both know you’re not going to kill yourself or anybody else.

I could always reach for your gun and you can shoot me dead. Justified shooting.

And how would I explain being naked in your house wearing nothing but my hat and gun belt?

Could you lose your job behind something like that?

Sure could and end up in jail because adultery is still against the law in this state.

Seriously? Then I’ll be good.

Good to hear because Jesus knows I love what you do to me but I’ll end this thing right now if you’re going to bring problems like that to me.

That’s what your mouth say because you know I got you twisted all around me. You know I done rocked your world.

You do and you have but not the way you think, Dre. I can get sex anywhere because men and women make it very clear every day that they want me. Heck, I had men chasing after me when I was over three hundred pounds.

You kiddin’?

No, men like a pretty fat girl with light eyes. Would you have talked to me if I was still that big?

Yeah, just wouldn’t be seen in public with you. I’d call you my ‘Round Midnight girl because that would be the only time I’d let you come by.

See how you treat me?

I kid, babe, I kid. Weight can always be lost but if you’re ugly it don’t matter too much what the body looks like for me. You’re beautiful inside and out so I still would have gave you some holler.

Charmer.

If you got ‘em all lined up after you like that then why are you with me? I’m broke, a playa, and I have a bad attitude.

You’re also smart, handsome, and, despite all the junk you talk, you’re a caring person. All that and then what you do to me when our clothes come off. Mercy. So, I’m going to ride this and you until we can’t go no further.

Ha! You need to start back going to church because you got the fever.

I’ve never had the joy you give me though so don’t get embarrassed if I have to testify.

Crazy woman. You got the clip reloaded?

Yes. Here you go. Now again focus, aim, and fire.

Gotcha. You have a gun with a laser sight because those look cool.

No, but I love it when the bad guys pull one on me. Makes it easier to to know where I’m shooting.

Damn, you’re serious aren’t you, Thea?

As heart attack, Dre, as a heart attack.

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–Jason O. Logan

Assassin’s Creed II Review (PS3, 360, PC)

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Assassin’s Creed II is the sequel that whole-heartedly triumphs over the original in every possible way. This sequel is an expansive and bloody romp through Renaissance, Italy that plays up every popular aspect that the first installment had, while righting many of its flaws and downsides.

Assassin’s Creed plot borrows a bit from the Matrix, and combines it with a lot of historical fiction, and throws in some elements of conspiracy theories that could be found in a Dan Brown novel. The series has the benefit of being crafted by some of the most talented hands in game development. The environments, animations, and art are beautifully portrayed in addition to the game-play which builds upon the foundations of the first game, that in hindsight makes the first Assassin’s Creed look nothing more then a tech demo.

Both fans, and detractors of Assassin’s Creed will be pleased to know that the sequel fully addresses, and ties up many of the loose ends from the first game. It picks up directly where we left off, with Desmond Miles, the kidnapped bartender locked in his cell at Abstergo. This corporation is the face of the modern day Templars and they’re after Desmond’s precious and valuable genetic memories. The plus side to modern technology allows Desmond to relive the exploits of his ancestors, many of whom were Assassins. His very own genealogy puts him at the center of a war between Templar and Assassin.

The game begins with a bang, springing Desmond out of his confinement and introducing him to other modern day Assassins at their hideout. Here they have access to the same technology that he was being forced to use at Abstergo. This time though instead of going through Jerusalem and the third crusade, Desmond finds himself in 15th century Italy, learning the ways of the Assassins through his ancestor Ezio Auditore Da Firenze.

While convoluted in theory, it provides a great excuse to skip through different periods of time. Players are introduced to Ezio at the moment of his birth in a clever way to show movement. Then it jumps forth to his formative years as a womanizing street fighter, who also happens to be the son of one of the wealthiest bankers in all of Italy. Depending on your tastes, you may like Ezio, or you may not but the game produces your common revenge plot that provides the player with plenty of reasons to stick with the story. The addition of the Renaissance as a setting also adds a healthy dose of color and humor to the series overall.

As we learn more about Ezio and become acquainted with his home-town of Florence, the game presents interesting bite-sized tidbits on how to play Assassin’s Creed II. This interweaving of plot and tutorial establishes an interesting tale of revenge and slowly explains a varied and complicated control scheme.

Just like from the first game, Assassin’s Creed II employs the use of a free running system that allows player to climb over almost any surface. Movement speed has been significantly increased from the first game, allowing players to fluidly zip around the environment. The only real downside of this free-running is that there are moments, where the camera doesn’t always presents the best view of what’s over the next rooftop. Players who are over-zealous will take more damage falling off rooftops and buildings then from a sword of a guard or enemy.

As a stealth game, Assassin’s Creed II breaks the mold by having it adhere to a set of rules one might find in a Bourne film where quick actions and a dense crowd are the tools for escape. While this may go against the grain in terms of more traditional stealth games like the Metal Gear series, I personally found this version more refreshing, and more realistic and ultimately a success due to numerous options the player has when navigating the city streets and rooftops.

There are still hiding places like bales of hay, and rooftop gardens in which Ezio can use a sort of safe-zone that will break a pursuer’s line of sight. Also Ezio can dive underwater for a short period of time which also can be used for temporarily cover. However a more satisfying approach in dealing with foes, lies with distracting them from hired help. Thieves, mercenaries, and even whores can be hire for a fee an be directed at targets as living tools of distraction. Players also have the option to throw money into a crowd of people which in turn can start a small riot as everyone makes a grab for what you’ve thrown.

If you choose to fight instead of taking the stealthy approach, then that opens up a plethora of possibilities and choices to fight with. Open up the weapon selection wheel, and players are granted with the choices of swords, daggers, smoke bombs, throwing knives, and the dual assassin blades. There is also a surprise weapon, that I won’t spoil here. Each weapon has its benefits in terms of strength and speed along with its own slick set of animations. New weapons can be permanently purchased through shops or temporarily stolen from an enemy in combat. The weapon variation has done a lot to improve the style of combat.

Even without a weapon, the way you engage an enemy has depth. A notoriety meter and enemy awareness indicators that are clearly marked on the screen gives the player fair warning over what sets the guards off. Once engaged, there are side-steps, and special combat moves (like the ability to throw sand in an enemy’s face) and grapples. Novice players will fall back on pressing a single attack button, which can turn repetitive real quick, but experts can turn the combat into an art.

The addition of a monetary system also changes things for the better. Ezio receives money as he completes quests, finds treasures, or pickpockets victims. Health will not regenerate completely over time so buying both medicine and better armor is a must in order to survive against the more heavily armored enemies. Besides applying these funds to new weapons, armor, and remedies, players will also have the choice and ability to upgrade your home base which is a Villa in the countryside. This home base is something of a glorified display case for all the collectibles and secret items but players can also dedicate money to upgrading its appearance and facilities. Rebuild the church and find a treasure, upgrade the black-smith and receive a discount on weapons and armor. This provides an addictive and optional diversion that competitionists will drool over.

Through the mission structure, Assassin’s Creed II guides and nudges the player towards the meat of the game. At the start of each mission, the player must “accept” the task or put it off until later.

The missions that advance the plot are always marked on the map with an exclamation point, meaning that even though the game offers a bunch of side and optional things to do, it keeps the main goal visible at all times. This in of itself is a good design as well as a nod to the critics of the first game who moaned that the side missions stood in the way of the good stuff.
It’s rather difficult to nail down parts of Assassin’s Creed II that aren’t satisfying. Sections that border on frustrating are either fleeting, or optional and some of this “extra” content is downright enjoyable.

For example, Prince of Persia fans, will revel in the hidden Assassin tombs, scattered throughout Italy that require dexterity, patience, and expert timing. Even if you ignore all the extras in Assassin’s Creed II, the game is still a lengthy experience. The story alone can last upwards of 18 hours and still include enough variety to be interesting throughout. The assassinations are far exhilarating then tailing a target or following an alley through a city. However, there are some one-off missions that are both exciting and wildly different from the core game-play. With more variety and a tighter focus, Assassin’s Creed II gets the pacing just right.

Assassin’s Creed II, transforms a middling action game, into an intriguing and consistently entertaining, open-world adventure. The experience is layered, unique, and shows an incredible attention to detail. This is indeed one of those instances where the sequel has triumphed over the original by catching the game-play up to the already impressive visuals. No matter what your preconceptions are about Assassin’s Creed II, the game is well worth your time and your money.

Rating: 9/10

Contributor: [Adam Buskirk]

Top 5 Things You Do Not Say to Captain America Fans

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

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1. So where is Captain Britain or Captain Yugoslavia? Marvel is being very xenophobic right now!

2. What a stupid outfit for a superhero to wear! He is a walking target with that getup on!

3. Do we really want this idiot representing America? He hasn’t seen Star Wars, he is dependent on a silly-looking shield to get him through the day, and he can’t even get drunk!

4. Super-soldier pumped with chemicals making him strong and fast? So original! Marvel really knows how to scrape the bottom of the barrel.

5. Why does Stan Lee even have cameos in Captain America movies?! He didn’t create this character!

Next Sunday: Anime Month