Apocalypto (Mel Gibson 2006)

MV5BNTM1NjYyNTY5OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjgwNTMzMQ@@._V1_UY1200_CR90,0,630,1200_AL_and so anyway it turns out the best thing about Apocalypto (2006) is not the sensitive, respectful and not-at-all-made-up way Mel Gibson, the mullet-toting Donald Trump of 80s action cinema,[1] depicts an ancient indigenous civilisation, nor is it his bizarre failure to cast white actors in the lead roles (perhaps Tom Cruise, given how much running there is – although surprisingly there is a Stephen Yardley lookalike among Jaguar Paw’s Mayan pursuers), nor is it the way in which catholic cultist Mel Gibson depicts indigenous people as being so obsessed with having nine or ten kids each that they might just as well be catholics, nor is it the way he depicts them as already having violence, disease and slavery so that they might just as well have Europeans around to run all that shit for them, nor is it the way he crams in pretty much every cliché of colonial adventure fiction you can imagine (human sacrifice, escape from sacrifice courtesy of a well-timed solar eclipse, jumping off a waterfall, running into quicksand, pan pipes over slow-motion action, and so on and so on, though sadly there are no rivers full of ‘devil fish’ and no one gets their foot trapped in a giant clam as the tide rises or walks backwards into a giant spider’s web – or escapes from an erupting volcano in a balloon), nor is it the way the to-be-sacrificed captives get painted blue, thus inspiring James Cameron’s Avatar (2009), no, the best thing about Apocalypto is that this DVD jacket is so badly printed that on the back the film seems to be described as a ‘THRILLING FUCK’…

Notes
[1] Steven Seagal, of course, is the lardy, pony-tail toting Donald Trump of 90s action cinema.

Piqued Oil

energy-the-battle-to-keep-alaska-pipelines-flowing_66062_600x450[A version of this piece first appeared in Salvage]

On 28 September 2015, Royal Dutch Shell – suddenly and without warning – announced their withdrawal from exploratory drilling in the Chuckchi Sea. This decision will cost them, depending on who you ask, somewhere between $4-8 billion in terms of money already spent or contractually committed. Many have found reason to celebrate this announcement – especially when it was followed a couple of days later by Alberta’s governor, Rachel Notley, declaring that there was no long-term future for the province or Canada as a whole to be found in the continued exploitation of the Alberta Tar Sands.

But for others, Shell’s press release – a bland technocratic utterance, an oleaginous misdirection, terse, wilfully oblique – was a cause for concern, a weird provocation.

What exactly has Shell done up there off the coast of Alaska? What have they found? Why are they not talking about it?

What haematophagic vegetal Thing from Another World did they accidentally defrost? What therianthropic congeries of cellular neo-liberalism? What ripe metaphor? What ravening alien maw?

How long until our skies are darkened by fleets of Nazi UFOs pouring out from the Hohlweltlehre’s Fourth Reich? How long until our lands are ravaged by their subhuman legions of Dero Sturmtruppen?

Did Shell really mistake that oozing nightmare plastic column of foetid black iridescence for oil? What rough shoggoth, its hour come around at last, is now slouching southwards to consume us? What Hyperborean sleeping abnormalities, what blasphemously surviving entities, have they disturbed? To the attention of what Elder Gods have their clumsy probings brought us?

Did they drill so deep into the crust that the Earth itself screamed?

Or have Shell, rather more mundanely, had a Mitchell-and-Webb epiphany? Did they stare into the abyss and find themselves staring back? Have they realised that they are the bad guys? Are they going to apologise? Are they going to shut down their chunk of the oil industry and devote future revenues from green energy to repairing the environmental destruction for which they are responsible? Does this retreat from the arctic mark the start of a new era that recognises the unsustainability of development? An era in which existing development will be radically redistributed?

If only.

This is not Armageddon. No plucky oilmen and hot-doggin’ roughnecks are going to divert the extinction event coming our way.

This is not The Abyss. Deep-sea drilling operations are not going to uncover some watery alien messiah.

This is not even On Deadly Ground. No possible blend of motivational-poster mysticism, misappropriated indigenous culture, pony tails and lardy kung fu can stop the oil companies.

Shell is clear on this. Like recent similar withdrawals by Exxon and Chevron, this is a temporary, strategic move based on the several variables. Their main concerns at this point are ‘the high costs associated with the project, and the challenging and unpredictable federal regulatory environment in offshore Alaska’. Their announcement must therefore be seen as a statement of intent: they will lobby and exert influence to get those regulations revised in their favour; they will develop and/or await the technologies that will sufficiently lower the cost of drilling, extraction and transportation; they will wait for global warming to make the Arctic more conducive; they will rely upon – and manipulate – oil demand and oil scarcity; and then they will return.

They say they will ‘cease further exploration activity in offshore Alaska for the foreseeable future’. As if they do not foresee this one. As if this is not their plan.

Notley talks about weaning Alberta – and Canada – off fossil fuels over the next century. A timescale which, however well-intentioned, however inadequate, might just coincide with the oil in the tar sands running out anyway, as peak oil gives way to oil depletion.

So while this weird flight from the icy seas might seem like a turning point in the story of peak oil, it is, in truth, more about piqued oil.

The monotonous self-serving corporate drone of Shell’s statement is designed to conceal only one thing: they are just a little bit miffed.

But rest assured. They were already regrouping, strategising, shifting resources and priorities before they even said a word. And remember: they can’t be bargained with; they can’t be reasoned with; they do not feel pity or remorse or fear. And they will absolutely not stop, ever, until the last drop of oil is made profitable and then wrung from the planet.

120 years of sf cinema, part seven: 1985-1994

2015 marks the 120th anniversary of sf cinema. This is the seventh part of a year-by-year list of films I’d recommend (not always for the same reasons).

Part one (1895-1914), part two (1915-34), part three (1935-54), part four (1955-1964), part five (1965-74), part six (1975-84)

thequietearth
1985
Brazil (Terry Gilliam)
The Quiet Earth (Geoff Murphy)
The Stuff (Larry Cohen)
Zaveshchaniye professora Douelya/Professor Dowell’s Testament (Leonid Menaker)

1986
Aliens (James Cameron) – original cinema cut
The Fly (David Cronenberg)
Hombre mirando al sudeste/Man Facing South East (Eliseo Subiela)
Kamikaze (Didier Grousset)
Kin-dza-dza! (Georgiy Daneliya)
Mauvais Sang (Léos Carax)
Offret/The Sacrifice (Andrei Tarkovsky)
RocketKitKongoKit (Craig Baldwin)

1987bfi-00m-iwp
Friendship’s Death (Peter Wollen)
Gandahar (René Laloux)
Ground Zero (Bruce Myles and Michael Pattinson)
Island of the Alive (Larry Cohen)
Mr India (Shekhar Kapur)
RoboCop (Paul Verhoeven)

1988
Akira (Katsuhiro Otomo)
Caller (Arthur Seidelmann)
Incident at Raven’s Gate (Rolf de Heer)
Na srebrnym globie/On the Silver Globe (Andrzej Zulawski)
They Live (John Carpenter)

1989tumblr_muj6gegSuy1r3owlzo1_1280
Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Tsukamoto Shinya)
Tremors (Ron Underwood)

1990
Darkman (Sam Raimi)
Frankenhooker (Frank Henenlotter)
Hardware (Richard Stanley)

1991poison4
Bis ans Ende der Welt/Until the End of the World (Wim Wenders) 280 minute director’s cut
Delicatessen (Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
Naked Lunch (David Cronenberg)
964 Pinocchio (Shozin Fukui)
Poison (Todd Haynes)
Terminator II: Judgment Day (James Cameron)
Tetsuo II: Bodyhammer (Tsukamoto Shinya)

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Alien 3 (David Fincher)
Dongfang San Xia/The Heroic Trio (Johnny To)
Gauyat Sandiu Haplui/Saviour of the Soul (Corey Yuen)
Gayniggers from Outer Space (Morten Lindberg)
Orlando (Sally Potter)
Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies Under America (Craig Baldwin)

1993
Acción mutante (Alex de la Iglesia)
Demolition Man (Marco Brambilla)
Sankofa (Haile Gerima)

1994
Cosmic Slop (Reginald Hudlin, Warrington Hudlin and Kevin Rodney Sullivan)
Welcome II the Terrordome (Ngozi Onwurah)

George-Clinton-Cosmic-Slop

part eight, 1995-2004

120 years of sf cinema, part six: 1975-1984

2015 marks the 120th anniversary of sf cinema. This is the sixth part of a year-by-year list of films I’d recommend (not always for the same reasons).

Part one (1895-1914), part two (1915-34), part three (1935-54), part four (1955-1964), part five (1965-74)

1975
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Jim Sharman)
Shivers (David Cronenberg)

1976mrblack
Dr Black Mr Hyde (William Crain)
God Told Me To (Larry Cohen)
The Man Who Fell to Earth (Nicolas Roeg)
Queen Kong (Frank Agrama)
Rabid (David Cronenberg)

1977
Le couple témoin/The Model Couple (William Klein)
Eraserhead (David Lynch)
Izbavitelji/The Rat Saviour (Krsto Papic)
The Last Wave (Peter Weir)
Star Wars (George Lucas)

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Coma (Michael Crichton)
Dawn of the Dead (George Romero)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Philip Kaufmann)
It Lives Again (Larry Cohen)
Jubilee (Derek Jarman)
The Long Weekend (Colin Eggleston)
Piranha (Joe Dante)
Test Pilota Pirx/Pilot Prix’s Inquest (Marek Piestrak)

1979
Alien (Ridley Scott)
The Brood (David Cronenberg)
‘Hukkunud Alpinisti’ hotel/Dead Mountaineer’s Hotel (Grigori Kromanov)
Mad Max (George Miller)
Sengoku Jietai/G.I. Samurai (Kôsei Saitô)
Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky)

1980flash_gordon_ornella_muti_mike_hodges_022_jpg_biqb
Altered States (Ken Russell)
The Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner)
Flash Gordon (Mike Hodges)
Scanners (David Cronenberg)

1981
Alligator (Lewis Teague)
Escape from New York (John Carpenter)
Gosti iz Galaksije/Visitors from the Galaxy (Dušan Vukotić)
Mad Max 2 (George Miller)

1982Liquid-Sky-Large
Blade Runner (Ridley Scott)
Chronopolis (Piotr Kamler)
Liquid Sky (Slava Tsukerman)
Les maîtres du temps/Time Masters (René Laloux)
The Thing (John Carpenter)

1983
Born in Flames (Lizzie Borden)
Videodrome (David Cronenberg)

1984
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension (W.D. Richter)
The Brother from Another Planet (John Sayles)
Dune (David Lynch)
Forbrydelsens Element/Element of Crime (Lars von Trier)
Repo Man (Alex Cox)
The Terminator (James Cameron)
Threads (Mick Jackson)

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part seven, 1985-94