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Cory Doctorow

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

"To you we are a loathsome breed that will never be ready"

(h/t to memory-alpha.org for the quote from one of my favorite original "Star Trek" episodes)

Is the above photo just a picture I took of the commuter parking lot I return to at the end of the work day for the four-mile drive home OR could it be a "still" from the movie District 9, which I saw yesterday afternoon?

I wanted to see District 9 at a gi-normous multiplex feature screen with a digital projector, top-of-the-line sound and big, plush seats.  Through an interesting set of circumstances, I saw it in a 99-seat badly-in-need-of-renovation home-theatre style screen from a 35-mm print with sound to match this decades-old technology.

I'll leave an actual movie review to the professionals.  What I will say that, in a summer that started with a terrifically fun re-imagining of "Star Trek" and is wrapped up with "District 9", it's been a great summer movie season!

Here is what caused my jaw to really drop (outside of the unexpected gory violence and the play-by-play dialogue of the main human character in scenes involving eviction of the aliens from District 9):

First, it took a lot of people to make the photo above look the way it does.  With the same resources, this parking lot would look a whole lot cleaner if the same people who caused the litter in the first place just took their trash into their cars and disposed of it properly.  It is incredibly depressing to look at this every day and reminded me a bit of the classic PSA from the 70's which featured Iron Eyes Cody.  I now totally understand the sentiment expressed by Cody in that 30-second spot.

Second, the couple sitting next to me walked out of the movie 1 hour into it and never returned. I don't normally notice because even I cannot usually sit still that long.  I could not take my eyes away from the screen for the entire two hours and, because I sat still that long, was hobbling for the next 15 minutes or so when the show ended.  It's really the only thing that annoys me about getting old is how much more difficult it is to sit still for long periods of time then easily bounce up and carry on the rest of the day.

Finally, when someone behind me while the final credits rolled said loudly "Well, that was $10 wasted!", it suddenly occurred to me the likely reason the couple left in mid-movie.  What I thought was really a science fiction / morality play much like many of  the "Star Trek" and its revived set of series from the late 80's to the mid 00's was actually some kind of hippie-liberal-far-left propaganda tool!  

Heavens, I wish I was just joshin' you, but I'm not.  As an aside, it's the fictitious multi-national conglomerate MNU which does all of the evicting, etc., to the aliens, not the government. The film explains that the task of dealing with the aliens was contracted out to MNU years earlier.  Leave it to a conservative "news service (?)" to mess up that important plot point.

I thought the story, while reminiscent of the allegory present in "Star Trek" (meaning, the show isn't really about starships and aliens, it's about us), was very original in its telling and featured a protagonist that at times was milquetoast, cowardly and ultimately driven by love (very rare in an R-rated sci-fi flick). The gore, which I'm normally not drawn to, was necessary to drive the story along.  I found myself rooting for the aliens for much of the movie, which I suppose puts me in the liberal/commie/pinko/fascist column.  However, the movie, as is the case in much of real life, doesn't paint everyone with a broad brush.  There are heroes, cowards, villains and bit players throughout the movie.

Maybe the fact that what, on the surface, seemed like a summer popcorn flick was really a whole lot more, was what made this move so good in the first place.  If people walk out of a fictional movie thinking about where their opinion was if the movie was an actual documentary (District 9 is part documentary style, part news footage style and part traditional movie format), then perhaps it has actually earned much of the praise it has already garnered and, perhaps with a little bit of luck, the people who put on the award program in late winter which features a gold statuette with a bald headed male figure holding a sword pointed downward will recognize this movie for more than just the effects.

Perhaps, this one gets recognized more for the affects instead.

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