Post-Apocalyptic Triangulation (Z for Zachariah review)

People are sick. They have an odd fascination with the end of the world as we know it. EOTWAWKI for short. But the problem with the EOTWAWKI is that it’s been done so many time in film, music, visual art and literature now, that we don’t really react to it as viscerally as we should.

I blame it on summer blockbusters, but that’s just my theory. Now, where it gets interesting is when we start to explore movies that deal with the subtleties of what could happen both during and post. Today’s review is about the later.

 

 

 

Z For Zachariah (2015)

Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Margot Robbie, Chris Pine
Director: Craig Zobel
released on blu-ray October 20, 2015
******** 8/10

Z_for_Zachariah_poster

IMDB: 6.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 79%, Audience Score 45%
The Guardian: ***/*****

Craig Zobel is an American director, who got his start as a co-founder of the animated web series Homestar Runner. If you don’t know anything about Homestar Runner, you need to go check it out right now. Stop reading this review and watch some episodes of the show. Start with the back catalogue first, especially the Strong Bad Emails. Done? Good.

How weird is it that the guy who made that show is making serious movies now? I find it very unsettling, especially considering how much I enjoyed Z for Zachariah. And the fact that Zobel also directed Compliance, a 2012 movie about the strip search prank call scam that happened in the United States in the early 2000s.

Z for Zachariah is the story of a woman named Ann (Margot Robbie) who has survived nuclear war. She is living on her family farm in the middle of a valley – which has somehow been sheltered from the fallout, with the exception of water that comes over the falls from the mountains. She has a good routine which involves feeding both her and her dog, tending the land, and enjoying music and books.

One day a stranger (Chiwetel Ejiofor) enters the valley in a radiation suit. He was working in a government bunker and avoided the initial attacks, but has definitely been effected by the radiation and loneliness from searching for survivors. When he stumbles upon Ann’s valley, he immediately goes to the falls to clean himself, but Ann jumps out and warns him of the radiation. The man gets sick, and she cares for him until he is well, asking God that he might live. We learn his name is John Loomis, and both Ann and John begin to trust one another.

At one point John suggests that they build a waterwheel to divert the water and generate power, however because it would require a break down of the community church that Ann’s father built, she is reluctant to do so, and John drops the subject. Their chemistry and sexual tension increases over time as well, and just as the relationship is about to blossom another stranger shows up. His name is Caleb (Chris Pine) and he has a different perspective on how events should play out than John.

This is where the story gets interesting, a love triangle forms between the three characters, with conflict between John wanting Ann for himself, wanting her happiness, distrust for Caleb and Ann caught in the middle. We get to witness the full range of emotions that each character has about the other two, without a ton of dialogue. In some ways, it simplifies the plot, but in others it sets the story up for a rather poignant ending, which I won’t ruin because I think it’s worth saving.

Pros: It is a very thoughtful story, albeit somewhat slow in it’s pacing. But with the decision made, it allows the viewer the opportunity to really mull over what has been seen and wonder whether characters are committing deeds out of love or self-love.

Cons: The movie struggles with knowing when to speed up and really make a choice about it’s message. We are left to fill in a few of the gaps ourselves.

Runtime1 hour 38 minutes

Points of Interest: Based upon a book by Robert C. O’Brien, the love triangle is not in the original story, which only featured Ann and John.

This is a nuanced and interesting take on the post-apocalyptic film. Chiwetel Ejiofor gaves a nuanced performance and makes you question his character though he is set up as the sympathetic male lead from the start. Margot Robbie of course delivers with a range of emotions and her obvious naïveté as a young woman who doesn’t know what to do. She pulls it off well. And of course, Chris Pine is always charming and interesting with his devil-may-care attitude. While Z for Zachariah s not quite the same thing as the book, Zobel manages to construct an interesting story all the same.

 

 

 

This post-apocalyptic movie is definitely a slow go, but it does ask the question – what if you had all the time in the world? What would you do? And then what would you do if all of a sudden there was a possibility that you had to suffer as a third wheel in an infinite loop? Zobel manages to expose these shifts in power and opportunity, never revealing what each characters true motivations are. I doubt you’ll catch many Z’s after watching this one, but that’s just a theory.

Tim!

Kill Your Darling Mother Goose (History of Easter Eggs)

Now that the chocolate withdrawal has begun to rear it’s ugly head, I thought this was a good time to take some time and discuss the Easter tradition, as it relates to art. It is Timely Thursday after all, dear readers.

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Whether you are gung ho for Easter or not, it is a commonplace event in Western culture and is celebrated for a few different reasons. Some do it to celebrate a tradition, others feel obligated to keep their children included and their colleagues in a state of uniformity, still others really really like the ideas espoused in the messages (family, charity, giving, togetherness, etc.) both from a religious or secular viewpoint.

The reality is that there is more than meets the eye to the tradition of Easter, both from a Christian perspective and a secular one.

It has a lot do with notion that whatever the dominant religion is in a culture, most people won’t reference the detailed aspects of the tradition, they just do what their families and friends have always done, and that is how events like this slowly evolve over time.

Look at the history of the Easter egg for example, a lot of people believe that Easter eggs are decorated and given out to symbolize the empty tomb of Jesus (death and rebirth), others believe it is a symbol of spring time, represented by the Easter Bunny. Which makes a lot of sense, but isn’t necessarily realistic.

The reality is kinda a combination of the two beliefs, and they just layer right in there. The tradition of the Easter egg stretches as far back as to ancient Africa, over 60,000 years ago. And we have evidence that eggs were symbols of fertility, death and rebirth, via the Sumerians and Egyptians about 5000 years ago – being placed in graves and decorated with gold and silver.

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Christians in Mesopotamia started the practice of staining eggs red, as a symbol of the blood of Christ. And this invariably spread throughout the different Christian communities over the centuries. Which is why Russians and Greeks got ahold of this practice, and it eventually made it’s way through different European countries…

Taken from Wikipedia and edited,

In the Orthodox churches, Easter eggs are blessed by the priest at the end of the Paschal Vigil (which is equivalent to Holy Saturday), and distributed to the faithful. The egg is seen by followers of Christianity as a symbol of resurrection: while being dormant it contains a new life sealed within it…

In Greece, women traditionally dye the eggs with onion skins and vinegar on Thursday (also the day of Communion). These ceremonial eggs are known as kokkina avga. They also bake tsoureki for the Easter Sunday feast. Red Easter eggs are sometimes served along the centerline of tsoureki (braided loaf of bread)…

The dying of Easter eggs in different colours is commonplace, with colour being achieved through boiling the egg with either natural colours (such as getting brown by using onion peels, black by using oak or alder bark or the nutshell of walnut, or pink by using beetjuice), or using artificial colourings.

When boiling them with onion skins leaves can be attached prior to dying to create leaf patterns. The leaves are attached to the eggs before they are dyed with a transparent cloth to wrap the eggs with like inexpensive muslin or nylon stockings, leaving patterns once the leaves are removed after the dyeing process...

Pysanky are Ukrainian Easter eggs, decorated using a wax-resist (batik) method. Many other eastern European ethnic groups decorate eggs using wax resistant batik methods for Easter. The word comes from the verb pysaty, “to write”, as the designs are not painted on, but written with beeswax.

As you can see from the excerpt above there is an incredibly storied history to the Easter egg, and a ton of opportunity to contribute to it’s future. But what do you think? Do you decorate eggs every spring and have you ever considered using eggs as symbols in your art? Know any expert egg painters? Please leave some comments and we’ll eggsecute a discussion.

Sorry I had to, I mean I had all this unused internet to write on… Please don’t leave, I can eggsplain, I was recently eggshiled from my family and I make yolks when I’m lonely.

Okay, I’m done. I got all the fun I could get out of that joke. And I’m out of theories for now friends, so please have an eggsellent weekend, and I’ll catch you on Sunday evening for something stimulating!

Tim!

Flower Power (The Cult, Hidden City review)

Lilies have a few symbolic purposes in culture. From Greek culture in particular, the lily represents birth and motherhood, and also sexuality. In Christian symbolism, it stands for chastity, innocence, and purity. When we get into the esoteric, we can combine the symbols of purity, innocence and fertility together, and then add in vulnerability and freedom of identity.

This week’s album is made by a musical group known for their love of exploration and consideration of the details, I wonder which symbols their lilies represent?

 

 

 

The Cult – Hidden City
released February 12, 2016
******* 7/10

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The Cult are a British rock group which have been reunited twice since forming in 1983. Touted as a post-punk and goth-rock band since their inception, they are famous for the singles She Sells Sanctuary and Rain.

The group gained enough traction to enter into North American markets by the end of the 1980’s and kind of did things at their own pace after that point.

Hidden City is the 10th studio album by The Cult, and the third in a “spiritual trilogy” produced by Bob Rock.

I’ve always been a fan of The Cult since I first discovered them in my teenage years. This was well after they had already broken up once and were on their way to another split, but GTA: Vice City introduced a 90’s kid to popular music from the 1980’s, which I’m thankful for. And so  not content to collect the anthology, I eventually decided to buy Best of Rare Cult; a compilation of selected songs from the Rare Cult box set, which had been released in the fall 2000.

Maybe I’m fortunate for this decision or maybe not, but Hidden City features the energy of that compilation album and some of their more experimental artistic decisions.

For instance, Dark Energy is an incredibly appropriate high energy opener, laced with helpings of both mysticism and spirituality, something to get you excited and remind you why The Cult has a cult following, so-to-speak. How convenient for them!

In Blood features soft beats and dreamlike lyrics, while Birds of Paradise takes this further and really heightens the emotional pull.

Hinterland feels like an anthem for spiritual awareness but upon closer inspection I think it’s also an admission of guilt by Ian Astbury to the problems of ignorance and following routine in an age of connectivity and political intrusion.

But that’s the thing about The Cult. The surface and the core aren’t always the same and they play with this idea throughout the record.

Avalanche of Light has a great chorus and reminds me the major reason why this album exists in the first place. The Cult are exploring the intimate and the unknown – Hidden City is a metaphor for us. The tools may be guitars, drums, and microphones, but the result is still the same, a record by The Cult which features goth-rock like tracks Lilies and Deeply Ordered Chaos, which share in the metaphors of life.

You should check out the audio video for Dark Energy and the music videos for Deeply Ordered Chaos and Hinterland to get a taste for the album, but if you like The Cult, goth-rock or are looking for a place to test the waters of hard rock, Hidden City is a good place to go spelunking.

 

 

 

At albums end, I have to admit I’m not perfectly sold on the perfection of these tracks, but this is a damn good record either way. I’m inclined to theorize The Cult is pulling all of those lily symbols in and out of their songs, but I’ll let you be your own judge, after all, you have your own Hidden City to look after.

See you tomorrow for another shadowy review, this time it’ll be a movie.

Tim!

 

 

Mattersville (Savages Adore Life review)

Ah anarchist symbolism, you just get me don’t you? It’s funny that a movement so strongly associated with breaking down institutions and challenging globalization can be identified by large “A” and black flag symbols, as well as the raised fist.

By having these symbols, the movement struggles with the mire of misrepresentation and stereotyping.

Opposing the idea that any one person or thing can represent us all is not a new one, for sure, but punk rock still feels like the music which most strongly associated with the importance of questioning ideals and self-governing societies.

But what does love got to do with it?

 

 

 

Savages – Adore Life
released January 22, 2016
******* 7/10

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Do you folks ever buy an album solely based off of a single review you read, without doing any other research and trusting entirely in the efforts of that professional critic?

Well I can admit that I sometimes fall into that routine when I get super comfortable with someone. But these days I’m not sure if you can simply trust the opinion of one person to make all of your media consuming decisions.

And that’s what led me to do a review on Savages.

You see, Savages are an English post-punk band with roots in noise rock, and they’ve been around for about 4 years, with their 2013 debut album Silence Yourself boosting their attention into the UK charts and beyond.

As someone with heavy roots in the punk movement myself, listening to this album often feels like coming home and rightly so. With influences like Joy Division, Siouxsie Sioux, PiL, and Bauhaus, its hard not to see the dark and gloomy in Savages sophmore album. But that doesn’t mean it’s garbage and should be discarded like so much trash.

This is art rock with a heavy heart. Somewhere in between the post-modern notes and the torch songs, we find a band that is stirred by the mere notion of life.

“Is it human to adore life?” is repeated over and over in the eponymous album track. How can something so humble turn into an act of rebellion and affirmation? Drenched in confidence and love all at the same time? That’s the power of punk rock.

Manifestos and uniforms aren’t new to the genre, and political leanings often get rocked (pun intended) with every song, but Savages aren’t doing anything new here.

They’re free radicals in a soup of free radicals.

What makes Savages interesting is that this is human life in all of it’s complexity. What so many genres forget to do in their music is explore and be unpolished. Hell, none of us are. Sure we can get dressed up and go dancing, but we still like to wear sweatpants and dig into terrible microwaveable cuisine too.

When you listen to bands like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, My Chemical Romance, and Death From Above 1979, you’re not doing it to numb the pain, no you want to embrace it and say to the world, fuck you, I’m still here and you can’t get rid of me that easily.

Tracks you will want to watch out for are definitely Adore and The Answer, not because these are the best songs on the record, but because it gives you a better taste for the intensity of the foursome.

The songs are overall an elemental and unquestioning force for love, but I think Sad Person, The Answer, and T.I.W.Y.G. are the ones to pay attention to.

 

 

 

That there is the rub – love doesn’t need to be left out of punk rock considerations, but because love is just as complex as freedom, punk rockers don’t often touch the subject with much emotional vulnerability.

Well Savages are not afraid to jump directly into the water and challenge these issues either. And for that reason alone, you should give this record a listen.

That’s all I have to say about this foursome, but I hope you have a marvellous Monday my friends, and I’ll see you tomorrow with another movie that features an “M” word.

Tim!

 

 

 

Dat Mask (The Costume – A Shocking Expose, part II)

Previously on timotheories… We continued to watch in anticipation as the Winchester brothers Dean and Sam were hot on their father John’s trail, travelling the back roads and small towns of the continental United States in in hopes of finding him and killing the demon responsible for all of their family troubles!

Nope, that’s not right.

That’s definitely the update on Supernatural I was saving for my next livejournal entry – I seem to have misplaced some copy, which I’m only slight sorry about (read: sorry, not sorry). Just kidding, I don’t use livejournal folks – I use a moleskin. Anyway, it is true that I have very recently have gotten into that show in a big way and am kind of hooked now. I might have started last week, in fact. Interestingly enough, there are some minor correlations between that show and part 2 of my post on mascots and comic books.

Well, the correlation is moreso about what the show represents.

If you really think about it, urban legends and ghost stories have just as much power and hold nearly as much cult interest as the broader and older mythologies that we are all familiar with. And I’m sure you’ve heard the theory that today’s mythologies have become the stories told to us through the platforms of superheroes and supervillains.

No? Well, dear readers, I ask that you try to sit still for a minute because I’m getting ahead of myself again, and that is a theory we need to dig into at some point. But first, we need to finish the story that I just left hanging there in the ether from last week’s post. Then I can begin to tie all of these little ideas together in a nice made-for-TV movie message.

So where were we? Right, I had just been yanked off the dance floor.

…But then something happened. My conscience knew immediately what that arm on my shoulder meant. I was being slowly herded out of the gym by two guys who I thought, in my moment of hyper paranoia, were probably going to throw me outside and beat me up.

Or worse, haze me and take pictures.

“Screw you, Jill and Dustin,” was all I could think of in that moment. Well that, and that one-hit wonder by Lifehouse.

To be honest, getting beat up probably would have been an easier fate than what was about to unfold. I was going to face one of my worst fears, failure and disapproval from an authority figure whom I trusted and admired. All of my power was leaving my fingertips, that euphoria of coolness and mystique was gone. We started the slow march back to the SU room, and my feet felt like weights, but I had no choice, I was going to have to face reality soon.

One of hired guns inquired to my “friends” about who was in the costume. I thought maybe they would at least lie or something fortunate like a disaster of inner-ear damage would disorient them and free me from their grasp. Maybe if I made a break for it, left my personal belongings behind, and just ran home, I wouldn’t be in any trouble. How would they pin it on me? There was no proof I was actually in the costume, right?

Nope, I couldn’t get away it, plus my CD player was in my coat, and I needed that to function on a daily basis.

For those of you who hit your teens after 2005, a CD player, or compact disc player, is a smaller version of a car stereo with earbuds. And this is what we used for quite a while in western society in order to listen to music, before we had the option of digital files that could be housed in our phones. Yeah, I know, crazy right?

So I finally admitted that I was in there. Which got a decent amount of shock because I didn’t really do stupid things at school or at least I didn’t execute them myself, I was lucky enough to have friends who would happily experiment with these types of scenarios for me. But that was neither here nor there. I pulled off the mascot head and felt the kryptonite of accountability slowly engulf my system and leave me a paranoid android. And I didn’t even like Radiohead that much yet, so that fantastic reference was lost on me.

I only knew that one song Creep, I was so naïve. I felt like a creep too. Ugh.

Both of the teachers were in a decent amount of shock, but now I had to deal with the teacher in charge. We put the mascot costume back into the storage locker and headed towards the cafeteria for the trial.

I paced back and forth for a good 15 minutes of living hell while we waited for the SU teacher advisor to show up. I assumed he had called the cops.

A few people tried to comfort me, talking about the future and how when it was over I could go dance with some girls. There was no way that was happening. I was too concerned about the fan and all of the fecal matter everywhere, nothing was going to detract from that disgusting reality. I mean, even if I WANTED to dance with a girl, which was the last thing on my mind now, had they not read the beginning of the story? I was awkward with women. I was using the suit to mask my identity and pretend I was someone else.

I had been unmasked and was now prepared to die. Mr. SU Teacher Advisor had arrived.

Now that he had arrived, he was very direct. He didn’t sugarcoat the situation and definitely didn’t cut corners. I was given a reprimand and something about “my file” was brought up. Another of my associates was given his second strike. Later on he would get his very hilarious third strike, and kicked off the SU council, but that’s a story for another time. As for the third student, which is the way it usually goes in stories of fiction, he had no repercussions despite being the true mastermind behind this escapade. And he never admitted to it, not once, to this very day.

After it was all said and done, I can say I learned a very valuable lesson – mascot costumes smell, but the sweetness of their concealing power is far greater. Would I go through this experience again? Of course.

That was so emotional for me. Mostly because I decided to first reread the original story I had written for the high school newspaper, and man, has my writing improved since then. Fun fact, that article I have now shared over these two posts was called “The Costume – A Shocking Expose”, and you should be ever so thankful for the revised and expanded edition. Trust me on that.

So why was this particular story my Uncle Ben you ask?

You guys are so perceptive, you can’t even wait for me to weave this together organically. In that case, I’ll sate your curiosity.

Well the truth is this – had this experience not happened, I wouldn’t have started the subconscious trek through identity analysis and self-improvement. This moment in time effectively killed the old me, the child who was happy to avoid most human interaction and instead focus his time on activities like reading, playing video games, and absorbing copious amounts of TV and music.

Another great example of this concept of identity management comes from an awesome 90’s movie; mostly because I love to make associations with pop culture.

The Mask, which is fairly loosely based off of a Dark Horse comic book of the same name, is incredibly irreverent on the surface, but like most satire, it holds a powerful message when you look closer. One of my favourite parts comes from this clip below.

And remember how I mentioned that the word mascot was slang for “witch” and “spell” at one point, but now refers a symbolic figure that brings good fortune? There may just be some sort of magic or illusion association between those costumes and what we are really thinking behind our social masks. The only way to know is to find out for yourself.

I hope you enjoyed these theories, dear readers. Let me know what you think! Share some mascot stories! Tell me, what supeheroes do you like to read about?

Tim!