Devs-Raw on the Inside, Burnt on the Outside

In Uncategorized on April 24, 2020 at 00:03

Devs-All Bark and no Bite

Devs is an Alex Garland’s production. He was the director of Annihilation, Ex-Machina, and 28 Days Later, other films that question humanity’s role on the planet and in the universe. Devs asks us about the nature of reality. If you have seen the trailer, and thought, this show looks weird, square that to infinity and you will get close to how strange it really is.

JoBlo TV Show Trailers

Garland’s central exploration of reality in Devs revolves around the idea of determinism, a concept my high school psychology teacher shared with me, us, back in the early 80s. The point is, the hypothesis of determinism isn’t new, it’s just not a theme of many major motion pictures. The other main theory he explores is the idea of multiverses, the questioning of reality itself. At times, this is fascinating, at other times, it is muddled and unscientific. That’s probably because no one has found a way to test the multiverse hypothesis, and scientists have only shown how it might be true in mathematical models.

Other than the protagonist, Lily Chan played by the compelling Sonoya Mizuno, the characters are played by average looking people, not models like in The Magicians, Expanse, and Grey’s Anatomy, not to mention the shows predicated on the hotness of their characters like Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and The Vampire Diaries. Good thing I didn’t mention them. I like looking at attractive casts, but not when it sacrifices acting talent. There are online entertainment magazines for that.

The acting ranges from capable to excellent throughout. The standouts are Alison Pill who plays Katie, the second in charge at Amaya (the umbrella company for the Devs division) and Jin Ha who plays Jamie, a cyber security expert and love interest of Lily. Many scenes are elevated by the presence of these two actors.

Nick Offerman lacks the complexity to play Forest, the megalomaniacal head of Amaya. Most of the time he seems in a daze like he did an all-nighter or was smoking pot before each scene. This daze could be interpreted as mystery, I suppose. However, it seems like Offerman didn’t know how to play the character. Forest is dictatorial, cruel, and damaged. Offerman doesn’t project the danger required to match the character’s actions. To be fair, Forest is a complicated, difficult role to play that few actors could play satisfactorily.

In contrast, Zach Grenier plays the head of Amaya security with frightening efficiency. When he appears on screen, you know something bad is in the offing.

Devs from bloody-disgusting.comPhoto from bloody-disgusting.com

Sonoya Mizuno does a decent job playing the protagonist, Lily Chan. However, everyone in the show talks about how brilliant Lily is, and I just don’t see it. We are supposed to believe it’s true because characters say it. They also tell Lily that she is so brave. Sure, but sometimes, she’s just foolhardy. The difficulty is in the predicament presented to Lily. She is set to end up in a time and place, that’s the story, but it is against the character’s strong and independent streak, and thus, doesn’t play as authentic.

The story takes place in the present or near future tech world. The show plays on our fear of tech giants such as Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and others. But what plays out at Devs is not more frightening than the surveillance state, data collecting, tracking, and dominance of the economy that the tech companies have now. There is no big scary payoff at the end of the show, although the set up in the first four episodes does frighten us and sets us up for a fantastic, amazing, and tragic, or at least revelatory, ending. That ending never arrives.

The sets are amazing to look at, and they give the show the tone that the acting and dialogue sometimes lacks. The music is fine, but the song interludes are terrible, even the use of Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s song Genevieve. The songs didn’t fit the tone or theme of the show and they seemed to be put in because Garland, who directed each episode, liked them. Thankfully, the songs became less a part of the show as it neared the last episode.

There are a few other issues here. First, smart characters make obviously stupid choices. Moreover, the motivations of the characters are mysterious and not clear. That’s fine for the beginning, but when programmer Jackson makes a fateful decision at the end of the series, it is poorly explained. Moreover, there is nothing in his character up to that point that makes that choice clear. At least when another programmer, Lyndon, does something incredible in a later episode, we have a sense of what motivates the character. Then there was a technical gaff when describing something incredibly small. Jackson stated that he was looking at a particle on the atomic level, at x10^18 meters. That should have been x10^18. Small particles would be measured in negative exponents if it’s sub-atomic.

Rating: Matinee

I am sure millions will love this show and call it brilliant. I would have agreed about half-way through. However, the conclusion to Devs is not surprising nor satisfying. It’s not a bad watch, especially if you are into long pauses, staring, and discussing determinism and multiverse theories.

Tex Shelters



The English Game (minor spoilers)

In Uncategorized on April 15, 2020 at 02:34

english-game-from 3rd Degree

From 3rd Degree dot Com

The English Game follows the athletic exploits of two of England’s footballing pioneers, Arthur Kincaid and Fergus Suter. Kincaid, played ably by Edward Holcroft, comes from Eton’s upper classes, and Suter (well played Kevin Guthrie) came from the lower classes in Glasgow. They become rivals when The Old Etonians clashed with Suter’s Darwen team in the FA Cup semifinals.  Kincaid turns out to be a gentleman compared to the other upper crust gits on The Old Estonians and Suter is an arse at times, he is a regular guy with a troublesome past that informs many of his decisions. Watch and find out.

Some reviewers of The English Game miss the point of the show and call the mini-series a history of the beginning of football in England. That is just the backdrop. The English Game isn’t about football, it’s about class, upper classes versus working classes, and the football teams symbolize each class. Another very important theme is how women are second class citizens in the Victorian Era, and only by the grace of God and the consent of a decent man, could they have a say over their lives.

Class issues arise when The Old Etonians (from Eton, of course) play against a team of working class mill workers from Darwen. There’s a catch. The owner of Darwen, who is also an owner of a small mill (Britain’s main export and industrial product at the time) has hired two of the best players in Scotland to join Darwen. They are Fergus Suter and Jimmy Love. The problem? Football players are supposed to be unpaid amateurs.

While it is easy for the wealthy Etonians to take time off to practice and play games, the working class teams can’t afford such a luxury, and that’s why all the teams from upper class backgrounds have won the FA Cup, a league-wide championship in English Football that still goes on to this day.

The two teams develop a rivalry, with the Etonians changing rules or not accepting rules changes so they can keep the cup. I know it shocks you to learn that the wealthy elite change rules so they can stay in power, but that actually happened, I swear it did.

Giving birth gives women worth in the Victorian age, and we see the horrors of having children out of wedlock in The English Game. Well, we see a watered down version of the horror. It is dealt with well, except the story was never complete, like a lot of the plot lines in the series.

Another underlying theme, and I say another in case I am forgetting one, is the value of sport in our lives. Is playing the sport worth all the effort and money, does it bring comfort, does the competition make us better people? Certainly, the talented working class Love and Suter make the best of it and Suter becomes a champion. But what about the rest of them? What if they had spent the energy building windmills and inventing medicines? The deeper problems with capitalism aren’t addressed directly in the film: the owners of the mills have enough money to pay players, build stadiums, and give paid days off for the wealthy players, but then they cut the wages of the mill workers. Typical, that.

Regarding the class conflict in the show, the presentation is rather shallow, lacking a deep analysis of class. Granted, Marx’s treatise on historical materialism, Das Kapital, came out only twelve years before the action starts in the film (1879). However, it seemed a glaring omission that no one called out the owner of Darwen as a capitalist. Though the poorest mill owner, he was still part of the Petite Bourgeoisie for he was an owner of the means of production. Sure, he wasn’t the rankest bastard of the bunch, but in the end, he still took value from the labor of the mill workers in his factory. It was no collective.

Some people call out the show for its plodding pace, but it wasn’t all that. The action was uneven with often overly sentimental dialogue. A main producer was Julian Fowles, the man who brought us Downton Abbey, so it is no surprise that the language is maudlin at times. Still, I found the acting good and enough interest in the conflicts to give it a rating of: Matinee.

Tex Shelters

Suck it Progressives: Billionaires Won!!

In Current Events, Election Politics on March 18, 2020 at 21:50


From: The Intercept

With the nomination of Biden, a billionaire toadie, and Trump, a faux billionaire and billionaire lackey, the billionaires will rule the White House for four more years, regardless of who wins, Biden or Trump. Billionaires already control the media, the Congress, and the Supreme Court. How dare Bernie Bros try to destroy this beautiful symmetry and take the White House for THEM plebes, not US rich folks. We bankers, Wall Street investors, hedge fund managers, resource tycoons, and tech giants have bought this election; how dare Sanders and his ilk try to steal it from us! How dare these commies suggest that the wealth created by workers go to…workers. That surplus value from labor is much better spend on tax cuts for the rich, and Trump made it happen!

Biden's billionaires

From Forbes.

After Biden won on Super Tuesday, health insurance stocks rose $40 billion dollars. And when the stock market goes up, that helps everyone, because I said so. Billionaires thank you for you continued support of our chosen candidates. Don’t worry, a vote for Biden or Trump means profits will eventually trickle down on workers from billionaires. Just vote for Biden, or Trump, and you will feel the trickle. Just be patient. Just wait for your reward. Besides, who else are you going to vote for, Republicans? Democracy means never having to make choices.

Thanks to god, the corporate media, and most of all, billionaires, the U.S. won’t have to live under the threat of universal healthcare in the near future. While it may be true that the cost of Medicare for All is less than our current health care plan, universal healthcare will hurt health insurers, pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufacturers, and so many people that it’s not worth saving average people money and providing healthcare to the undeserving masses. Just think of the profits to the 1% that would be lost if healthcare was available to everyone, especially during a pandemic.

Moreover, with Trump or Biden, banks holding student debt won’t have to worry about losing interest payments and control over college graduates living under the threat of bankruptcy. Wages will remain stagnant with elites running our government and that will help the bottom line of billionaires who had to sweat it out thinking they would have to part with even a dime in new taxes and giveaways, i.e. raises to workers!

Thanks to the patriotic billionaires who refuse to kowtow to the needs of homeless vets, the uninsured who die without healthcare, the needs of the planet (hell, the rich will be the LAST to die due to catastrophic climate change), our slide into feudalism will continue unabated.

Here’s why progressives lose:

  1. They underestimate the selfishness of the U.S. voters. Granted, less than 30% percent of the people voted in primaries in 2016, and those high information voters are seduced to side with their oppressors to believe the messages in the corporate media outlets. In 2020, even fewer people are voting in primaries. These voters decide things for the rest of us. “The best democracy is the democracy decided by the powerful few,” said one connected lobbyist in the US Chamber of Commerce.
  2. Progressives don’t vote out of fear, that’s why their candidates lose. If you vote for a better tomorrow, you will only be disappointed.
  3. Caring for others and not just looking out for yourselves is a major pitfall of progressives. When you care for others, you assault billionaires with your share the wealth, everyone deserves not to starve, end homelessness, and stop death due to curable diseases dogma. Making the rich pay their share of the benefits they receive from U.S. infrastructure, educated workers, and military protection is down-right unpatriotic!

There you have it. Keep voting, because the choices billionaires give you have been vetted and they have nothing to lose.

Tex Shelters

P.S. Coronavirus update: How dare Sanders continue to run in a time of the corona virus? Why does he hate America! It’s time to call the primaries for Biden and in fact, call the general for Trump. And this virus gives us an excuse to bail out companies with trillions in cash! Yes!

P.S.S. You want hope? Watch this Obama 2008 ad.