October 2010


fall has come

and she doesn’t try to change it
she feels its sad wet clouds
on her shoulders

she doesn’t try to change anyone
she feels their fear
in her heart

there is no right way for a day to be
they are all unfolding perfectly

there is no right way to mourn
we are all mourning perfectly

there is a peace that no one can give you
it is always in you to be rediscovered

there is a greatness that no one can give you
it is within you and without you everpresent

you and I will be forgotten
yet we die into the lasting Mystery

you and I are poor
yet we indulge in all the wonder of life

there is no one who is inadequate
there is no one who is less

(oh strange vapor!
what great wild leaps you will make
what grand failures you’ll have
in your losses in your pain
you are human, cherished
and wholly holy)

In the Halloween spirit, I recently watched Predators and Twilight.
And I got to thinking about villians.
To me, a true villian is one who operates in a different but consistent moral frame than the mainstream.
A good villian is as three dimensional of an antagonist as the story’s protagonist.
To me, an important part of a good villian in film is their choices, yes–and also how they come to those choices.

In Predators and Twilight, we get ‘villians’ who I would suggest operate more as “forces of nature”.
And forces of nature are interesting, and their stories are important, but I got to wondering:
which is more scary? a force of nature or a villian? or are they just ‘different types of scary’?

Let me explain how I see forces of nature by citing some examples: Aliens, Jaws, Moby Dick, Zombies, Terminator, some Vampires.

So to Twilight. It is a horrible film. Why can’t anyone make eye contact? Why is the camera swinging around people in some vain effort of ‘gravitas’? It is a mumbling dreary Chilean mineshaft where unlike reality, no viewer comes out alive. Anywho…
We’re set up to believe that Bella is like the prime rib of humanity. She “smells good” to the point of being some panty sniffer’s Golden Calf. And that’s all we really know about Bella in the film other than she mopes, shakes her head and shoulders to convey every emotion, and has only her dim wits in a drearily witted school and ‘new kid on the block’ cred to keep her socially afloat. (I digress)
But James the Big Bad in the film is primarily attracted to her scent. It is only by the tacked on motivation of “upsetting Edward” (a fellow James presumably just met) that James is going to enjoy mowing down on some tasty Bella vittles.
He is a force of nature. He is a vampire, he wants blood, he wants the tastiest blood around. 
Do bears poop in the woods and ride tricycles at whip cracks? Naturally.

Predators is a movie again where the Big Bads are just an alien species who likes to hunt. 
You can almost imagine them thinking, “Sorry, ol’ chap. But I just got to admire your skull upon a stake.”
Predators are to skulls as Ash Ketchum is to Pokemon.

Are these folks no different than Jaws? Just folks out doing what they do…and it just so happens that what they do is munch on you. Does that make them more scary, less scary, or just different scary?  

And what is the characteristic that is missing from a ‘force of nature’ antagonist? Maybe that they cannot be reasoned with. By that measure, was Jack in The Shining a force of nature?

NPR carried a story recently about cinema’s function of creating and reflecting our fears:

a pious Student of religion
at a prestigious university
sat with tired vacant eyes at a bar

a Woman getting off her second job
sat next to her

the Student turned to the Woman
and asked how she could look so content so peaceful
in a world of confusion violence religious bigotry poverty

“well take this glass of beer for example…”

“oh!” said the Student butting in “you mean look at how the glass of beer wants nothing does nothing yet is perfect just being a glass of beer and quite content without trying to do anything and we can just imagine that all the whirring wild atoms or banging and fizzing bubbles of its carbonation might be overwhelmed if they just saw things from their little perspective but always in realtiy they’re perfectly together composing a lovely smelling amber ale. as the beer is so is the universe and everything in it. that’s what you mean right?”

“what i was going to say” said the Woman “was now you see it now you don’t.”
and with that she drained the glass in one long gulp

“oh!” said the Student “you mean to say that everything changes and that this too shall pass, right?”

“honey” the Woman said “i don’t know if you’re some religionist or on some philosophy trip or what. but if you promise to stop thinking so much and get some rock and roll outta that juke box i’ll buy the next round.”

“oh!” said the Student and understood

there was one who invented a machine
he called it Dread Necessity
others called it War

the Machine was elegant, honed and keen
so well did it work that hymns were written
for it and tithes laid at its feet

Dread Necessity worked very well
it was a Machine that once begun
could not be turned off
and where there was neither
dread nor necessity it made them

despite the pious priests’ hymns
and redoubled offerings
and the devotion of the people
the Machine ate them whole
without distinction

when all others were gone it ate its creator

alone and solitary
Dread Necessity churned its gears
with pleasure

there was no enemy
there was no one

all were safe from risk
all were dead

there is a story told
of one who carried swords

named by one wiser than he
his swords were called
Orphan and Dowager

this warrior’s last victim
locked himself
around the warrior in a death grip
unable to be broken

the warrior’s last days were spent
with carrion birds circling


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