Director: Iain Softley
Screenplay: Rafael Moreu
The Plague of Libertarianism
It’s really easy to decide, in retrospect, that certain books or movies are what set up my expectations for what my life should be like. While I do believe that aesthetics and media have an incredible impact on who we choose to become, I’m afraid I might ascribe too much importance to specific movies and books.
Continue reading Hackers (1995)
Directors: Graham Annable & Anthony Stacchi
Writers: Irena Brignull & Adam Pava
Based on: Here Be Monsters!, a novel by Alan Snow
Finally, someone made a movie that does steampunk justice. The Boxtrolls is set in an alternate 19th century with mad inventors and giant robots and an aristocracy more concerned with tasting various types of cheeses than with caring for the poor, and the filmmakers didn’t just glue gears onto everything at random. More importantly, class relations are even more integral to the plot than the clanking machines of madmen.
It’s beautiful and stop-animated. It’s earnest, it’s cleverly-written, and it’s funny as hell without resorting to hidden sex jokes. Instead, the hidden aimed-at-adults jokes are fourth-wall-challenging references made by the henchmen who ponder the moral weight of their actions. Are they the good guys? Are they the bad guys? Despite having clearcut protagonists and antagonists, this film does a good job of examining the difference between good and evil actions versus good and evil people.
Continue reading The Boxtrolls (2014)
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Director: Leonard Nimoy
Writer: Leonard Nimoy
I was reticent to re-watch The Voyage Home simply because it looms so large in my memory of childhood. But with Nimoy’s death, the house decided to marathon Star Trek II-IV, and The Voyage Home did not disappoint.
Star Trek IV is the only Star Trek movie both written and directed by Leonard Nimoy, and stands as the most on point (in my opinion) movie in the franchise.
In case you watched all the Star Trek movies decades ago and can’t remember which one I’m talking about: this is the one where the crew of the Enterprise goes back in time to the 1980s to save the whales. It makes explicit the concept that if we don’t save the whales, the entire earth will eventually die.
Continue reading Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
Directed and written by: Oliver Assayas
Content Warning: Drug use, police brutality.
Something in the Air is a French film that follows about a six-month period in the lives of several radical high school students. The film—which was originally titled Après Mai in French (“After May”)—is set in 1971 and is primarily concerned with how the students negotiate the decline of the political movement following the May 1968 events. In viewing it, you get the sense that it isn’t just about the characters in the film, but rather is a broader commentary on May 1968, its aftereffects, and even the decline of revolutionary movements more generally. For me, it was worth watching on that level alone and the plot seemed somewhat incidental, although it definitely helps that the story is interesting and is far from being just a political essay converted to film.
Continue reading Something in the Air (2012)
Troika Games, 2004
Recommended: Yes, despite it all
I’ve been getting back into playing the tabletop roleplaying game Vampire: The Masquerade recently, and a growing obsession with the World of Darkness (as the setting is called) had me pick up a computer game I haven’t played in years: Vampire: Bloodlines.
A decade old at this point, Bloodlines has been reviewed plenty. Suffice it to say that: it set a new bar for roleplaying games; it’s immersion and writing are spectacular; it was rushed and buggy because capitalism is an awful economic system for creators; and the game’s, uh, not so perfect from a gender point of view.
Continue reading Vampire: Bloodlines
by Natasha Alvarez
2014, Black and Green Press
I study anarchist fiction. I read fiction that anarchists write and I read what other people write about what anarchists do. And in all that time, I can’t say I’ve read anarchist fiction that’s more deeply engaged and poetic than Liminal, a novella published by Black and Green Press.
To be honest, I’m cynical about activist fiction (or whatever you want to call it when people hoping to transform the world write fiction). I’m cynical for a bunch of reasons (most of which I learned by interviewing people who are much smarter than me). For one thing, fiction is generally more adept at asking questions than it is at providing answers. For another thing, writing fiction is really fucking hard to do well, and most anarchists and radicals and activists just haven’t put in the work required to create beautiful, compelling narratives.
Continue reading Liminal by Natasha Alvarez
Director: Joon-Ho Bong
Writer: Joon-Ho Bong
Bechdel test: fail.
Trigger Warnings (for the film, not the review): cannibalism, violence, child abduction/labor.
Premise: In the near future, governments across the world decide to dump chemicals into the atmosphere to stop global warming, inadvertently freezing and killing everything and everyone on earth, except for an (un)lucky few who manage to board a train that travels around the entire world once a year. The film takes place about 18 years later.
When I went to see this movie, I had no idea what it was, but when it quickly became clear it was about class war in a dystopian future, it had my attention until the final scene. The poor masses, huddled in the back few carts of the train, led by a man named Curtis, have to travel and fight their way up to the front to confront Wilford, the owner and conductor of the train and the rest of humanity. I would chalk this one up next to V for Vendetta and The Hunger Games in terms of theme.
Continue reading Snowpiercer (2013)
Wolf in White Van
by John Darnielle
2014, Farrar, Straus and Giroux
After reading a pre-release review of this novel, I had to preorder it. When it arrived, I read the whole thing that same day and then sat down to write this review. That alone should suggest how highly I recommend this book. If you’d like to skip the rest of the review, then: just read this book. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. This is a book that will stick with the reader, and it’s deep enough that everyone will take away something a little different. I know it will be in my mind for a long time.
Wolf in White Van, written by The Mountain Goats songwriter John Darnielle, has already been favorably reviewed online, featured on NPR, and been nominated for the National Book Award. All the praise is well deserved. On the surface this is a story about Sean–the survivor of a terrible teenage tragedy, currently the game master of a play-by-mail role-playing game–and his reflections on life and the game. At its heart, it is a story about the power of imagination, about coming of age in a time when being a geek was far from cool, and about dealing with life-changing and traumatic experiences.
Continue reading Wolf in White Van, by John Darnielle
Cockneys Vs. Zombies
Directed by: Matthias Hoene
Written by: James Moran
Trigger Warning (for the movie, not the review): Violence, some sexist characters, and abysmally one-dimensional black characters
So there’s a movie called Cockneys Vs. Zombies. To use a British expression, it does exactly what it says on the tin. Cockneys (working-class people from the East End of London) end up fighting against a zombie infestation. It’s a comedy. You’re either going to watch it based on the title or you’re not.
But if somehow you’re fence-sitting on the issue, then let me just say: it kept me laughing.
One thing that draws me — and lots of people, I’d argue — to zombie movies is that after the zombie apocalypse, law and ethics are entirely disparate from one another. But Cockneys does us one better and protagonizes the lawless from the very beginning. Our bumbling heroes are off on a bank heist when the zombie swarms take over London. The other heroes are the residents of an old folks home, who are cartoonishly badass.
Continue reading Cockneys Vs. Zombies (2012)
The Purge: Anarchy
Director: James DeMonaco
Writer: James DeMonaco
Recommended: Surprisingly enough, yes.
Bechdel Test: Pass, right off the bat
Trigger Warnings (for the film, not necessarily the review): Rape threats, intense weird classist violence
“Anarchist” was a pejorative for a long-ass time before people started calling themselves anarchists. So while I’m pretty convinced the definition of anarchy is “a society without systemic oppression” and not “when everyone runs around killing one another,” I kind of get why some people still hold onto the latter understanding of it.
That was what I told myself to steel myself to watch a film about lawless violence that had “anarchy” in the title.
Maybe I didn’t need to. The Purge: Anarchy is, well, more or less an anarchist film.
Continue reading The Purge: Anarchy (2014)