Movie Review: Jigsaw (2017)

Saturday night I went out and caught this film before it left theaters. Jigsaw is the eight film in the long-lived horror franchise but it is the fist that I have seen. It earned a decent review from a critic I like and mostly agree with and it was directed by a pair of brothers, the Spierigs, whom have turned out some fairly enjoyable pictures. These two factors were enough to prompt a ticket sale.

Jigsaw takes place ten years after the death of the serial killer known as Jigsaw, AKA John Kramer, whose M.O. was to capture people he considered to be sinful and place them elaborate death traps which offered a chance for survival but usually with pain and sacrifice involved. As bodies start appearing around the city bearing marks and wounds

that suggest Jigsaw is back on the hunt, then police and a forensic team attempt to unravel the mystery and discover if Kramer survived his reported death.

In a story told through parallel editing we also follow the latest victim players in the cruel, deadly games. Unlike a lot of ‘torture porn’ out there the Saw franchise is built upon the conceit of a twisted form of justice and the victims are not innocent people simply being maimed and killed but rather individuals who have not taken the requisite responsibility for their actions. Let me be clear that in no way justifies Kramer’s actions as judge and executioner, he’s just out right skipping the jury role, but it changes to morality of experiencing the film, and that is important. The death traps in Jigsaw are elaborate and mostly within the bounds of reasonable disbelief and provide moments of genuine suspense and empathy.

When the final mystery is unraveled the answer to Kramer’s fate revealed it is a satisfying resolution that leaves open questions for further films. To get the answer before the film launches into its ‘how I did it’ explanations audience need to pay attention character given when discussing Kramer’s first game and that game’s first victims.

Overall I enjoyed the film and do not regret going to see it at a late showing. It may not be to everyone’s tastes but the Spierig brothers, who brought us Undead, Daybreakers, and the unmatched Heinlein adaptation Predestination continue to be filmmakers to watch.

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Franken Resigns and the Democratic Party Strengthens

So after eight women came forward and leveled accusation of misconduct at Minnesota Senator Al Franken the Senator announced his resignation from his position. Now Franken tended to provoke strong reactions, I know people who adored him as a senator and dreamt of presidential plays and I also know people for whom it seemed impossible to mention his name without a personal insult travelling along side I had no such passions about the man. His comedy was so-so and his political positions were fairly solidly liberal and predictable.

All that said the party forcing his resignation was in my opinion the best move that they could have made. Did the Democratic Party lose a high profile member with name-recognition? Yes. Did they lose a member whom could be counted upon as a consistent liberal vote? Yes. Will the Republicans be shamed into taking action against their members accused of sexual misdeeds? No. So how is this good for the Democratic Party?

It is the long game and there are two advantages in what has happened.

First, you cannot claim to be a party of values, standards, and principles unless you live up to them. Sweeping Franken’s accusations under the rug would be a bold loud proclamation that political victory matters more than any principle. That these women’s trauma matters less than getting a vote on policy. That is damaging. It corrodes the Party’s brand and helps erase any distinction between them and their opposition. For liberals it may hurt to lose one of their favorite stars but you can only hold the moral high ground by consistently being moral.

This is a lesson the Republican Party failed to learn. Over and over again when faced with this sort of thing they chose the path of political expediency and destroyed their claim to any moral standing.

Second, it builds a bulwark against sliding into chaos and angry politics. If the party turned a blind eye to Franken then when another crisis of principle arises it becomes that much easier to turn that blind eye again. When called out on it the only course to defend against such blatant hypocrisy is stoking anger and hatred in the Party’s base for all those who are not lock step with the Party. Personal destruction of all enemies, within and outside of the Party, becomes the norm and acceptable discourse plummets to the gutter. Soon only the loudest, angriest, voices carry any weight.

Does this sound like a familiar history? It should. No organization sets out to corrode what they fight for, and yet so many do. It happens because when faced with expediency over principle they take the easier path and like getting turned by an enemy intelligence asset, each step makes it that much harder to regain your proper course.

As I said I have no strong feelings for Franken, but my analysis is that the Democratic Party did the right thing and they should continue doing the right thing. And if you still think that his votes, his policy matters more than the things he is accused of then you are making the precisely same argument as those who intend to vote for Roy Moore. Choose politics over morals and eventually you will be reduced to no morals.

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A Bonanza of Movies

I must say that looking forward over the next few weeks my troubles appear to be finding enough time to see all the movies I want to see.

Next weekend The Shape of Water opens and I am both a fan of the Universal Gill-Man movies and Del Torro, so this movie if aimed right at me. The week after that of course if the opening of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and I thoroughly enjoyed The Force Awakens so this one is also on my radar. (I also have no doubts that JJ Abrams is a much better fit with Star Wars than he is with Star Trek.)

On Dec 13th I will be joining a bunch of fans for a sold out screening of 1980’s musical fantasy Xanadu. (Now this film is really a bad movie. The script is terrible and apparently was subject to daily rewrites but there is an emotional core that resonates with me making it a personal favorite. See you can love art that is not well executed. All that matters is that it speaks to you.)

Coco has opened and that is a Pixar movie that has really grabbed my interest. In addition to that I admit a more than passing interest in the latest entry in the Saw franchise, Jigsaw, even though I have never seen any movie of that series. (It’s the directors, they are talented and the three previous films the brothers have all worked for me.)

Sadly this is also the time of year when I am working 10 hours a day helping people get the insurance that they want and that leaves limited hours for going out.

Still, no complaints. Life is good and on the 15th my latest short story hits publication on the web so while I am tired I am happy.

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Revisiting my Youth

So, as I have mentioned the notion has been bouncing around my head to try my hand a pulp style adventure. I have received some good advice that perhaps I should start with a short story first and then perhaps attempt a novel.

A few weeks ago my sweetie-wife and I was walking near the Antique Row area of Adam’s Avenue in San Diego and as we passed the Adam’s Avenue Bookstore, a treasure horde of used books and my favorite used bookstore in town, I popped inside to see if they had any of the old Doc Savage novels.

They had one: Fear Cay.

I bought it, and bought another book that my sweetie-wife wanted and we headed home. Now when I was a young teenager I discovered the Doc Savage novels shortly after discovering science-fiction in general. These were pulp adventures written in the 30’s about the superhuman hero/adventurer Doc Savage and his team of five fantastic men as they spanned the globe fighting evil. There are more than 180 of these novels and I think I have read maybe twenty, but my memory is one of fun, adventure, and a pseudo-supernatural mystery that always turned out to have a scientific explanation. Really just the sort of thing I am thinking about exploring. Armed with my pulp novel I settled in to read Fear Cay.

Wow. The prose is terrible.

The adventure unfolds pretty much as I remember most of these adventure unfolding, but I had no recollection at all just how clumsy, expository, and plain bad the actual writing was. I have worked my way through this book but I can attest that it was not a smooth and effortless journey, Certainly I do not want to imitate the prose style of something like this, only the atmosphere of grand adventure. I have a short story coming together for my own pulp hero and after I finish work on my novel that will be by next project.

As an aside, apparently writer/Director Shawn Black (Iron Man 3, Lethal Weapon, etc.) if planning on making a live action, period set, Doc Savage movie staring Dwayne Johnson as Doc. That should be interesting.

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Cultural Criticality

The sudden and widespread exposure of sexual misconduct across widely disparate fields feels like a cultural tipping point has been passed. This seemed to start with the Harvey Weinstein expose and then like a row of tumbling dominions it spread, but that dominion simile is not quite correct. No, this is more like a nuclear chain reaction. To my mind that picture is also a much better analogy for grasping what is going on and what could happen in other areas of the social sphere.

Imagine you have a large number of 1-gram blocks of Plutonium. In this thought experiment you take the blocks and assemble them into a cube. One by one you pick up a cube and add it to the others, and wow nothing is happening. They just sit there. You can do this thousands of times and nothing will happen, but somewhere around 11,000 times you will add one cube and the mass with become critical. At that point you are dead. The chain reaction takes off and the cubes that had presented no serious danger before are now all presenting a lethal threat. The last block you added? There was nothing special about that one. It was exactly the same but adding it to the pile did not provoke the same non-reaction.

Why the Weinstein expose and not the Cosby one? We can never know, here the analogy is not a perfect fir, but it still serves. It feels like we have hit a critical reaction and going back to the way it was before is looking less and less likely. (Not a bad thing in my opinion.)

I think we are still facing a similar situation with mass shootings. Newtown and a cowardly murderer targeting children did not change things, but we were and are still below criticality. It is not the individual event and its character that will matter but with some future some ineffable sense will change and sudden it won’t be the same game anymore. If there happens to be a Democratic controlled Senate at that time it would not surprise me to hear that they are suspending the filibuster for legislation in order to pass something. (And if they do pass something Trump would sign it. It costs him nothing and he can bask in the warm glow of praise. All that matters to him, that and money.)

This is the danger that I see pro-second amendment factions are ignoring. By taking no actions, by offering nothing at all, and there are things that they could offer that are not gun control and bans, they are removing none of the block from this growing pile.

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Post LosCon 44

The fact that I did not post during the con is an indication that this past weekend’s convention, Loscon 44, was a lot of a fun. Once I arrived at the hotel Friday evening there was simply too much to do to take time out of my schedule to sit at thee computer and bang out an update.

Friday night I did find a quite corner and completed my writing for the day and the end of the novel is pulling up over the horizon but beyond that it was panels, parties, games and good conversations all weekend long.

For those not in the know LosCon of the Los Angeles Area Science-Fiction Convention and this year was number 44. I have been attended for about twenty years and last year I participated as a panelist though this year I was simply a member having fun.

The convention runs from Friday through Sunday afternoon, but I miss the daylight hour events on the first day, as at my day-job I simply do not have the seniority to take that day off from work. As soon as I got off work my Sweetie-Wife and drove to L.A., listening to old episode of the NPR news quiz show Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell me.

A goof convention, and this one fits the bill, recharges my enthusiasm and revitalizing my creative muse. I am ready for more 10 hours work days and more long session producing prose.

 

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Do You Want Humanity on Mars?

Then you had better hope that the tax bill is never passed. The changes to the tax code in respect to high education will devastate the postgraduate population. You cannot get humanity off this damned planet without Ph.Ds.

Do you want research into aging?

Well you better kill this tax bill because we are never going to conquer that condition without advanced medical skill and if you dry up the pool of graduate students you will be cutting you own throat.

That’s just one aspect of a terrible terrible bill flying through congress. It permanently lowers taxes on corporations and the ultra-wealthy, while temporarily reduces them on the middle class as a budgeting gimmick, leaving the middle class to face tax increases to fund the afore mentioned cuts.

Cuts that aren’t even required.

Corporate profits right now are at an all time high. Employment is near full employment. There is no shortage of cash for any of the massive corporations that are preventing them from expanding and razing wages.

Hell, even those commie socialist liberals at Forbes magazine are attacking this plan as a bad one for the US Economy.

If it is so clearly a bad bill why on earth are the elected Republicans hell bent on getting it done. Trump is more easily understandable by some estimate this will save his personal family; nearly a billion dollars but the GOP Representative and Senators passing this will not gain such a reward.

However rewards and incentives are key to understanding this. In American politics there are two major sources of power, a motivated voter base and large donors. If you have both firing on all cylinders you’re in a great spot. If you have one or the other you can work what resources you have and save your job, sometimes.

Populism has stolen the GOP base away from the main elected members. The movement that carried Trump to an electoral victory ignored him in Alabama for the more fiery populist candidate Roy Moore. Steven Bannon is leading digital crowds of pitchfork wielding peasant in assaults on the ‘establishment’ fortress. They have lost control of an energized base that leaves the large donors as their resource to fight off both liberal and the revolting peasants. They simply cannot afford to alienate these mega-donors and the donors want this tax cut. One GOP congress is quoted as reporting that his donors are telling him get this done or never call them again.

We are in serious trouble.

 

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A Difference in Magnitude not Kind

It has been interesting watching the political debate surrounding Moore and Franken. On both sides there are people calling for resignations and on both sides there are people calling for pragmatism.

Moore may be a child molester and a hypocrite but he’ll vote for the right policies and his opponent will not

Franken may be a molester of adults and a hypocrite but he’s a good progressive, standing on the right side of almost every issue his replacement may not.

Do you see that these really are the same argument?

I am certain that I know the number of ‘free’ assaults Democrats would allow a conservative is zero, and I am equally certain that number of ‘free’ child molestations the Republican’s would allow a liberal is an equally low zero.

The Tea Party has taken ‘compromise’ to be a dirty word and for the most part politics is compromise but there are things upon which you should not bend and basic morality is one of them.

I walked away from the Republican Part when is embraced torture as a ‘pragmatic’ solution because party unity mattered more than right and wrong. As such I have no qualms about voicing my opinion that Moore is a terrible person and should be gone.

Franken’s assault, though not against children, are also terrible.

If you do not hold people to standards then they and you will never meet those standards. Be wary of pragmatism over morality for in the end you may be left with neither.

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Franken

Let me make this real quick as I have a novel that is not going to write itself. (And believe me I have tried that method.)

If there are creditable accusations, and I have not taken the time to make that judgment, then he should step down and Minnesota should hold a special election to replace him.

See, that was easy.

To conservatives who want to hide behind Clinton and Franken hoping to retain control of the Senate with that nut-job Moore.

Franken and Clinton aren’t your shields.

Moore is a direct result of the party you have built over the last few decades. When angering and trolling liberals is more important than policy or ideas then you get men like Moore and he will not be the last.

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Blogging will be Light

 

For several months there I was pretty good about some sort of update on just about every weekday but that is not going to happen these last couple of months of 2017.

This is the super busy period at my day-job as the applications of Medicare Replacement plans flood our inboxes.

This is good. I make nice extra money working overtime and truly the work is good work, but something has to suffer. I am still maintaining about 1000 words or so a day on my novel and therefore it is the blogging that will take a hit.

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Literary Saboteur

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