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Entries in dick cheney (153)

Monday
Dec052016

In Which We Know Where The Maze Ends

What's Older Than Ed Harris?

by DICK CHENEY

Westworld
creators Lisa Joy & Jonathan Nolan
HBO

There's a moment near the end of the first season of Westworld when Ed Harris is shot in the arm from a very long distance. Blood spills out of the artery, and he is just overwhelmed with delight. He has never been so surprised in his entire life. The truth is he probably has been that shocked before, but he simply cannot remember it. The novelty of that bloody, unexpected injury is only a reminder of how he was hurt before.

Would you possibly be interested in hours and hours of this kind of dialogue? Androids talk to each other the same way the humans do on Westworld: in a boring, quasi-philosophical monotone. Having all the androids and most of the humans wear the same clothes/costumes for ten consecutive episodes was a great way of saving HBO money, but I grew to hate Jeffrey Wright's black suit and the suburban mom pants constantly worn by Evan Rachel Wood. She looks like a corpse flattened by a truck.

Westworld creators, the husband and wife team of Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan, spent the entire season sketching out the "mystery" of this garrulous place: it was primarily that one storyline was a flashback to the younger days of the park's owner, William (Ed Harris). (You will note this was also the basic premise of Lost.) All the viewers of Westworld figured this out rather quickly, so there is some question as to why this had to be veiled at all.

There was one other key mystery of the place, which is that a lot of people were androids who maybe didn't seem like it at first due to the various deceptions of the park's creator Ford (Anthony Hopkins). This led to a chilling scene in a basement and a few more ones in retrospect if you have the time to go back and watch the early episodes. (I'm retired, so I have that kind of freedom.) More and more people turned out to be androids as time went on. It was difficult to trust the death of anyone given that they could simply have created an android version of themselves to take the bullet, as probably occurred in this season's final scene.

We all knew where this completely dull show was going: eventually the androids would rebel and murder a lot of the humans. In last night's season finale, they did it, laughing and smiling the whole time. It was unclear why their murder spree was so joyful until we realized that it too was simply another storyline created by Ford. As Evan Rachel Wood opened fire on the executive board of Westworld, it was just another fake storyline — albeit one with real casualties.

The best part of Westworld's story, we found out last night, was also fake: the awakening of Maeve (Thandie Newton), who discovered she was an android and decided to leave the park. The story of one human being on a mission to destroy the world entire is always a strong plot, and she was supported in her mission by the completely charming Felix (Leonardo Nam). The fact that one murderous android was distinctly more sympathetic than another murderous android gave me a lot of pause.

No one ever made it very far past the basic concept of Westworld before. It is easy enough for machines to take over a space designed for them, with few modern weapons, that they have inhabited for 35 years. Keeping a rebellion going depends on substantial ingenuity, and the element of surprise would not really hurt either. Neither detail really plays much of a role here.

Along those lines, it is difficult for Westworld to come back for a second season with much of the same cast. The finale featured the hasty establishment of some new characters to replace the old — perhaps more significantly few of the park's owners and board members have actually been killed. Unlike most shows, we never really got terribly attached to any of these people/non-people to begin with.

It is a function of old age that people are always asking for advice. No one has ever seen a man like Donald Trump become president before; how could we possibly know what to expect no matter how long we have been alive? When my wife Lynne asks me if I should watch Westworld, I say no. Then she often asks why. I ask her if she has ever thought about whether the roomba that vacuums our living room ever wanted kids or engages in vigorous wishful thinking. After she says no, I tell her to watch The Crown.

 

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.


Thursday
Oct272016

In Which Jack Reacher Was Catfished By The Very Best

T.C. = J.R.

by DICK CHENEY

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
dir. Edward Zwick
118 minutes

Jack Reacher starts up a phone relationship with a brunette, one Major Turner (Cobie Smulders). She's like twenty years younger than him and is currently under indictment for espionage, which makes her incredibly appealing. For a good portion of the running time of Jack Reacher: Never Go Back they never meet, which only heightens the intense erotic tension.

At roughly the same time that he begins this romance, Jack Reacher finds out that he has a fifteen-year old daughter. He has never even heard of the mother, but then again he did a lot of things around Y2K figuring that the world was probably coming to an end very shortly. He follows this suspected daughter, who looks something like a runway model but is a professional shoplifter. When she confronts him for tailing her, she asks if he is a cop. "Do I look like a cop?" Reacher responds. No one could possibly look like more of one.

Sometimes I wonder what sex between Cobie Smulders and Tom Cruise would actually be like. I imagine it would be something close to a mexican stand off, with a lot of rustling and light smacks atop the phallus and vagina. "Ten minutes is a very long time," announces another character. We can't imagine to what that could refer.

About twenty minutes into Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Tom is put into a military prison. Five minutes later he breaks out Cobie Smulders and himself without firing a single bullet. The first thing they do back in Washington D.C. is hit up an internet cafe to catch up on the Drudge Report and stuff. She still uses a RSS reader, which is kind of weird.

Reacher gets antsy and starts missing his new daughter. He breaks her phone by shattering it on the ground, and makes her dress up like a Catholic schoolgirl. She steals the credit cards of a classmate and does not fit in at the school at all. She has no plan to take the SAT and her college prospects look grim. Reacher pulls her out of school and the three of them fly from Washington D.C. to New Orleans. It's actually quite funny watching Reacher have a family who he has to account for his actions to, and it makes Jack Reacher: Never Go Back a lot more fun than the horrid first film in the series.

While they are the plane, Reacher's daughter cozies up to Cobie Smulders for a long talk. "What was it like working with Jason Segel?" she asks. "Does he talk about his dick as much as people say? Do you like Jack Reacher? Is he your boyfriend or friends with benefits?" She denies caring about Cruise at all, and he pretends to be asleep throughout this whole episode. Sex is anathema to the entire Cruise project — it will be like Westworld where everyone turns out to be a robot, Jack Reacher most of all.

A lot of times I wonder about what Tom Cruise is going to do when he gets really old. He does a lot of crossfit to stay in this good of shape, although it is quite noticeable that he never bothers taking off his jacket throughout Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. His horizontal mobility is still top notch, but sometimes when he runs, which is very often, you can see him starting to flag a bit.

The one thing I hate the most is when older people talk about being old. To his immense credit, Tom strictly emphasizes that no one is to refer to him as old. When he looks for a doppleganger in the airport in order to steal an ID that will allow him past the TSA, Tom looks for a guy no more than thirty. The two women he is with agree that they are a perfect match.

Later in the movie, Cobie Smulders strolls into Jack Reacher's hotel room with a white robe. She asks him what he was thinking would happen after they went on their first date. She seductively places a french fry in her mouth. To no one's shock or surprise this scene ends in an argument. If Reacher can't close given these circumstances, this is a man who has no interest in sex with a woman whatsoever.

Maybe that's for the best. Intercourse slows inertia — Tom's aerodynamic properties could possibly compromised by the addition of other individuals. Soon enough he tells his women that they should stay at the greasy New Orleans hotel Cobie paid cash for while he meets up with a bunch of men in what looks to be an abandoned warehouse. It is the first time he has smiled since he has been in the South.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

 

Monday
Oct102016

In Which We Replace Our Phone And Our Prostitute

This Is Heaven

by DICK CHENEY

Westworld
creator J.J. Abrams, Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joy
HBO

Evan Rachel Wood wakes up at the beginning of every episode of Westworld having slept in her clothes. At some time later, the android she portrays will be questioned extensively by a human being, usually in a droning voiceover. Every conversation with Wood is a Turing test of sorts, and soon it becomes obvious that all the robotic hosts in the theme park of Westworld are coming fully alive. That this happens already in the first episode of the show makes for a long and boring slog to revolution.

Where they pissed away hundreds of millions on this show, I have no idea. If androids could be created that had this kind of flexibility and intelligence, the fact that they could be used in a lifelike recreation of the Old West would be similar to using a cure for cancer on dogs. All of the so-called newcomers who arrive at Westworld are very eager to ejaculate inside of the women and sometimes men, who are both called hosts. There is not a lot of concern as to whether they have been cleaned or anything.

The coming rise of androids seems more of a private matter. Think of all the things Donald Trump could use an android for – it wouldn't have to be just locker room talk. Androids are actually quite useful in a number of professions besides sex toys. They make wonderful teachers, perfect security guards (they're a bit expensive for soldiers) and excellent organ donors.

Ed Harris plays a rich patron of Westworld who wants to get involved in the park on a "deeper level." He scalps one android and finds a weird maze-like map on his scalp that intrigues him greatly. Harris keeps shooting every robot he comes across, alarming some of the park's staff, who suggests to their director of safety that "He just took out a posse!" I am completely unclear on what significance this could have for anyone.

It all seemed a bit fake and disingenous when prominent Republicans began pretending to be offended by the things Trumper said to Billy Bush. There was a story weeks ago about how the man asked for all the overweight women working at his resorts to be fired. Isn't employment discrimination a bit more serious than whatever bullshit the man comes up with on a tour bus? Like, really, did you hear any of the things Trump said about Megyn Kelly months ago?

So every time Hillary Clinton doesn't want to answer a question, is her plan to state that Michelle Obama is her good friend? She sounds nowhere near as authentic as the madam portrayed by Thandie Newton on Westworld, whose number one line to her newcomers is, "In this New World, you can be whoever the fuck you want." I don't know who is more likely to be an android — probably Anderson Cooper.

Anthony Hopkins plays the creator of this mess, channeling John Hammond. In tandem with Jeffrey Wright (pretty sure none of these characters have names but I'll check IMDB later), he is responsible for the programming of the androids. As they usually do, the writers give Hopkins these weird extended monologues of supposed profundity. Listening to him and a Westworld storyboarder argue over the meaning of what the park is actually made me feel like I was losing brain cells.

The androids aren't controlled by anything as foolproof as an off-switch. They are made to respond to verbal shut-down commands. It is unclear of the what the point of adding all these auditory cues is – isn't it simply more convenient to have a kill-switch? Engineers and programmers are taught that things are bound to go wrong. Samsung recently replaced a smartphone which regularly caught on fire with another smartphone which regularly caught on fire, and they tried to cover it up.

That's a phone battery, though. Once an android starts telling you he's about to make your life a living hell, as one informs Anthony Hopkins, I suspect you would begin to reassess your entire project. In the original Westworld, which was also quite terrible while costing significantly less money, humans had lost total control of the means of production. Androids in some cases were constructed entirely by other androids and human beings simply did not know how they operated.

If we ever actually feared something from living machines, an electromagnetic pulse would probably do wonders. A key moment in Westworld occurs when Evan Rachel Wood murders a fly that has settled on her neck. It seems far more likely she is simply imitating human behavior she has seen. This is how most living things learn how to act.

The casting of Evan Rachel Wood is the one great masterstroke practiced by J.J. Abrams, whose forays into television have not been as financially profitable as his films. Wood's slightly uncanny looks are made all the more attractive in this context. It is hard to understand why she is not the biggest star in the entire world; she is even a substantially minor part of Westworld, involved as she is in a relationship with another android (James Marsden).

I would watch Evan Rachel Wood do anything. I wish that there still existed extensive tapes of her relationship with Marilyn Manson. What did they talk about? Probably her, a lot.

The only interesting direction Westworld could take is outright war between humans and androids. I am deeply skeptical of this, considering how much the show has already spent on Western sets and costumes. Abandoning that in order to bring the production into a futuristic society is just not on the menu. It is far more likely all the creators of this theme park will be locked inside where they can talk to each other for hours on end, and reveal that, sigh, some of them are actually robots, too.

At that point, Abrams will demand the writers institute his favorite narrative device — the flashback. What will it take to make Abrams retire from film and television, please? I guess I shouldn't be mad since having him spend most of his time slightly remaking the Star Wars movies with the exact same plots as the originals is like having a sociopathic murderer wandering around a deserted island in the middle of the ocean. How much harm can he really do? I miss Vinyl.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.