Saturday, November 13, 2021

Your honor, we find the defendant....

This is a political post. 

I had this dream.

The Wisconsin Bar Association held a press conference and declared a mistrial in the Rittenhouse ....well, thing. Action, let's call it an action. I dreamed that the Bar Association as a whole had looked at the whole...action...and decided the obvious display of bias on the part of what is supposed to be it's referee was just too egregious and just decided to rescind his license effective immediately. Pretend he died they'd say. And if the world could just hold up, they take a month, let everybody settle down and then start over.

I mean, although I'm certain more than few in the region see the circumstances of what happened that night differently than I do, I would hope they would at least be affronted with how blatant this thing is getting.

But that's not going to happen.

It's almost like it's not understood that it was this type of action - one where the law is applied as one person sees fit in front of everyone, damn what you other people think - that sparked the demonstration that got us to the night that got us here. It's like a total lack of self-awareness. It's why now the National Guard is on alert for verdict. A few years of civil rights demonstrations, followed by a tone deaf incident leading to another demonstration and then another incident and we've...well, some folks... still haven't gotten the idea that maybe justice really needs to be blind. Or at least hold the cane, bump into stuff and pretend, real, real hard.

I'm going to be honest, I didn't think they'd get a conviction there. Just the demographic make-up of the region. Even without the prosecution bringing up Call of Duty, or rulings that suddenly Apple zoom is suspect or not being allowed to call the people the defendant shot 'victims.' The judge finds no issue with the defense calling protesters to rioters or looters, but go figure. People have looked at the judges past conduct and claimed that this is about par for the course with him. But someone should tell him THIS isn't the usual course, this is Augusta's older cousin. All the little personal quirks should have been left at the clubhouse.

I do find it odd that trying to get a murder conviction against a minor who crossed state lines, with a illegally acquired weapon, who then purposely went to an area where it was possible he might have to use that weapon, after publicly stating he wanted to do just that, would be a hard sell. I mean there are photographs and video. And even with the admittedly less than great witnesses, we would normally get there. As someone in the legal profession, the judges restrictions on Rittenhouse's previous statements, considering what we theoretically all learned in law school regarding state of mind, are a bit hard to swallow. But even if all of that were...even keel... I still just didn't see a conviction there. It's just that part of the country. I've read people swear that this clearly self defense. How I don't know, but they swear. These are probably the same people who don't see what Aaron Rodgers did wrong, but as I said, its that part of the country.  

What I didn't think was that the situation would look like this. Because although I'm aware the court has in essence followed the law in the usual manner, it feels like the judge has done everything but straightened the defendant's tie, patted him on the head and told him to show us all that pretty smile, because they won't let the bad 'prosecutor men' hurt him. And the idea that it even feels this way is wrong. 

I'm hoping for the best. Either way the verdict is not going to be liked. But the version I'm hoping for involves the incident/rights demonstration cycle at least getting a break. For a couple of weeks at least. 


Thursday, November 4, 2021

Five minutes watching... Dune

I don't watch a lot of movies because, well, at this point I just don't. A lot of movies and television of late have become more niche oriented and just plain horrible, and I'm trying to be productive, and also write this thing (second draft) and moreover I have a ton of video games I bought on sale I still want to play so there. So, I watch a movie or a little TV when I get a chance. Go figure. 

So I watched Dune. All two hours and thirty-five minutes of it.

It was....ummm, er.

Boy am I jaded.

Maybe it's because I first experienced Dune more than thirty years ago and unlike a quite few books I still own, I've never gone back to it. It was one of those things you were supposed to experience as a nerd in the eighties, so I did. A whole bunch of it didn't make sense to me back then, because I was young, and because it went in a wholly different direction of the big 'Stars' types (you know, Wars & Trek), I used to read everything back then so it got lost in the shuffle. Later on I would grow to appreciate the type of world-building that Herbert did here, but at the point in my life I indulged I wasn't there yet. Now comfortably aged, but not immune to nerd pressure, I tuned into my HBOMax and gave it a look.

I know a story as dense as Dune is hard to bring to the big screen. it's got a lot of backstory, side plots and intrigue wrapped in little pieces of lore that a veteran sci-fi reader gobbles up like candy. So the reality is you have to cut out a lot of what makes the story the story to get it down to your standard movie run time. And even though this went long, the director still put too blunt a blade to this thing. Trying to be inviting to someone new to the story without throwing too much exposition at them early was a great idea, but handled badly, and so they've unfortunately crafted a film where most viewers are are going to miss pieces without repeated viewings (which again given the length of the film probably is unlikely) or doing some homework. As it is I suggest you at least go read the Wikipedia entry for the story so you'll understand why a bunch of stuff is happening.
so, SPOILERS from here on out. 

The film suffers from three things really: Long slow 'Lawrence of Arabia' type establishing shots coupled with long pregnant moments before something happens, the set decorator's complete lack of imagination and the missing pieces of the story. Well, four things really, but let's tackle these three first.

Dune is supposed be this epic tale of an Empire, while most of this part of the tale takes place on the desert world of Araakis, sole source of the, spice. To convey the grand scope, we're 'treated' to several large stately set pieces and ceremonies early in the film to let you know the Empire is big, space ships the size of small towns rising and all that, then sweeping shots of backgrounds and open space when they reach Araakis. This is where I think the film could have benefited from a widescreen format. I saw it at home, maybe in the theater it's aspect ratio is better. But most of these shots are either the city (framed badly and unimpressive CGI) or the sparsely populated (read: empty) shots of the desert. We get shot after shot of this. It just does not work, and at times with it's very less than convincing CGI makes it look like it was shot for television. I know establishment shots are needed, but I'm of the opinion they could have removed or cut down some of these less than grand ones and added in more story, did a bit more fleshing out or adding in some other subplot.    

Which bleeds really into the second issue with really most sci-fi films, in that all the set decorators seem to think everyone who ever owned a spaceship is a minimalist. The outfits and costumes worn by the characters were nice, but the sets were barren, empty spaces bereft of decoration. Big blocks of empty space. Just nothing. Empty. That it sparsely populated doesn't help, but empty just feels wrong. Oddly, the last time I saw someone consider the a sci-fi story as an actual place was The Fifth Element, where the spaces looked lived in. By like people. This does not do that.

And finally, the missing pieces of the story. Again, as I've alluded to earlier, it would have helped had it been made clearer that Duke Leto knew that the Emperor granting him reign over Araakis was a trap, but one that he could not refuse. Or some of the interplay between secondary characters that hopefully will show up in "Part 2" since that's confirmed now. Having Hawat show up aiding the Harkonnen makes no sense because we missed a whole subplot where he suspects Paul's mother of betraying Leto. There are a lot of things going on in this story that had to be cut to make time for ...long shots.

Which brings us the fourth problem.

So, um, Dune was a white savior story? Huh.

Now, I saw the first version, back with Sting, on something ages ago. HBO, Cinemax, something, but I remember that the native Fremen in that film were just a bunch of dudes from central casting. And I didn't really get that deep into the book, so I didn't make a connection at that point either. To be honest, this didn't even crystalize for me until the last five or ten minutes of the film, during the fight scene. I should have gotten it earlier during Paul's visions, but nope. You know, I don't even think that effect was intentional, more along the lines of semi-awareness woke-type thinking of "wouldn't it be a bit silly if we cast a 'Nordic' look for people of the desert?" But then that gets us here, which is equally problematic. But then, the book is from the 60's, written by a guy mostly likely raised on Tarzan movies. Go figure.

Which presents a major issue for the second part. Because while the white savior aspect was hard to spot in the first movie, that aspect will be front and center in the second. Paul the chosen one, and all those brown people. Wow. Didn't we just have this issue with GoT a few years ago? Apparently we've learned nothing.

Barkeep. Just a coke and some chips. Thanks.