• Tag Archives review
  • Tom Waits

    2015 Artist of the year.

    Tom Waits

    Tom Waits

    My interest in music rarely comes through simply listening to an artist and buying their album, instead I participate in an organic process of familiarising myself with a personality. Tom Waits is an atypical celebrity, which is to say somebody without the celebrity ego. He conveys a high level of empathy and belief that to others may seem eccentric.


  • Automata 2014 Sci-Fi

    It is commonly believed that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, God also created man in his image. And for a time it was good, everything and everyone had a place in the natural order of things. Man multiplied and began consuming more than he needed. Eventually man became separated from nature. To simulate order man became disconnected from nature and formed civilised communities. However these communities grew and diversified, so to maintain the illusion of order man crafted tools – machines. However this simply perpetuated the need for dominion and control. Great misery and suffering followed, war and hatred were born through belief and the struggle for peace. The disconnection between man and nature became complete with the advancement of modern technology, man’s greatest contribution to the order of things was also his undoing:
    the internet – death of learning,
    social media – death of communicating,
    and the birth of AI – transcendence of man and the confines of biology

    And so we come to Automata – 2014 directed by Gabe Ibáñez, a science fiction (or fact) movie with a unique take on a firmly established story – the evolution of advanced Artificial Intelligence.

    automata 2014 movie

     

    Here we see how man’s obsession with self-preservation and the advancement of technology has destroyed all natural resources and rendered the environment ineffective to sustain biological life. Unaffected by this is machine, something Automata superbly presents through amazing but subtle special effects. We see just how quickly A.I develops and witness the birth of true artificial autonomy and what this means to modern man. This film provides a glimpse of what it means when robots no longer need the input from their human architects – Automata provides a beautiful telling of the vulnerabilities of man, our need for life-sustaining nutrients and the dependency of water to live, components not required by the machines.

    Lead role played by the talented Antonio Banderas, he believably conveys emotions and will through a memorable performance as a struggling husband and protective father. This is personally the first time I have seen Antonio play a character as unique as this, flawlessly engaging with his artificial co-stars.

    I purchased this on DVD with a sceptical outlook of this film’s visuals. Having seen this film however I assure a Blu-ray purchase will soon follow.

    Automata is set in a desecrated utopia of modern man, a radioactive desert, and at it’s heart lies the last city of man, a place populated by machine and withering man. Sand blasted surroundings contrasted only by the gloss and glow of advanced robotics.

    Forget war with the machines, The Terminator and Skynet, Automata is exactly the opposite, the dying of man was an inevitability brought about not by war but by progress. The true villain here is man himself, the machines simply exist, adhering to preserve life by following their programming.

    Love this film, perfect accompaniment to The Machine, I Robot, Ex Machina and to some degree Transcendence in relation to man’s desire to surpass the limits of a biological mind.


  • The Matrix Revolutions – beyond the Matrix

    The systemic anomaly of the one has now been revealed, a paradox found in an otherwise perfect system, the parallels between Agent Smith and Neo clash to form both beginning and end. Neo remains in a state of apparent coma. [continuation from previous review] His brain patterns read as one who is still connected to the Matrix, despite not appearing within its coding. He is connected to a peripheral system outside the Matrix, a limbo proxy system between the matrix and the machines – or as the Oracle puts it “…he is trapped in a place between this world and the machine world.

    On a slight tangent, what the hell is the significance of the bulls head symbol in the Matrix Revolutions opening title digital rain sequence? – Would like to know more.

    Back to the anomaly then. Once Neo finds his way back to the Matrix it becomes apparent that he no longer reads as one connected to the system, his presence in the Matrix code becomes unrecognisable, similar to the way Agent Smith is encoded.

    And then we come to it, perhaps the most pivotal point in the entire Matrix franchise, the purpose of The One, Neo’s path. The revelation kindled between Neo’s last meeting with The Oracle, and the narration for one of the best film trailers and to my knowledge first end-credit teasers of all time. Neo learns that the power of the one extends beyond the Matrix and that there is a greater threat than that of system (Matrix). And in this revelation the true purpose of Agent Smith unplugged, the other anomaly, is revealed. Neo and Smith are opposites, two half’s of the equation trying to balance itself out (as foretold by The Oracle who is revealed as the ghost in the machine – the chaos and imperfection of the system).

    “ Everything that has a beginning has an end. I see the end coming, I see the darkness spanning, I see death….” – The Oracle.

    Agent Smith proceeds to infect the entire Matrix executing his viral anomaly, spreading to all connected humans and all system programs and entities including The Oracle herself. The effects of the infection on the system can be seen in the code itself (as viewed from the Osiris.  [ Agent Smith is initialising his very undoing, he is simply progressing towards the singularity of inevitability the same way Neo is heading to his. ] The anomaly then spreads beyond the Matrix to the side of the Machine world through the neural connections of Bane.

    bane

    Matrix Revolutions then proceeds to raise another interesting concept, one I have spoken of in other AI related posts: the question of reality, how do we know what is real? This is mentioned on Bane’s awakening when he describes the cuts on his arms as being self-inflicted. “…but why would I do that to myself, unless I wasn’t myself, but if I am not me then who am I?” This refers to Bane’s self-awareness as both himself and his neural patterns (as Agent Smith). – To a machine everything is virtual. (Also highlighted in The Animatrix: Kid’s Story and The Animatrix: Matriculated.)

    Agent Smith is Control and Neo is Freedom, Simulacra and Simulation, Good and Bad, Strength and Weakness (in all applications).

    Smith’s integration outside the Matrix becomes ever more virulent as Bane displays further distorted projections of his inherent hardwired behaviour. Evident through inherited memory recollection of pursuits within the Matrix – mentioned in the first encounter between Bane and Trinity aboard the Logos.

    The blind Messiah: Neo was almost killed during the fight with Bane. Losing his sight in the real world strengthens the power of the one, making his control over the Machines and subsequently the connection with the Matrix itself stronger. Revealed when Neo is able to see Bane’s neural patterns as Smith (Smith’s code). [the paradox here is how would Neo visually recognise the code outside of the system if the rendering (interpreters) work for the Matrix – this would only be possible if the real world was itself another system of the Machines]


    As the film enters its second hour the Machines begin their major assault on Zion to destroy the free humans and so preventing them from unplugging which is ultimately destroying their source of free energy. The machines remain unable to recognised or stop the true threat, the system anomaly of Smith.

    And so the inevitable ending where the anomaly becomes both beginning and end. There is no life without death. Agent Smith infects Neo and by doing so crashes the Matrix forcing an unhandled exception in the system, a paradox that destroys Agent Smith and the Matrix. Neo fulfils his purpose and the prophecy comes true – in exchange for defeating Smith, the only entity the Machines cannot control, and one that ultimately threatens their survival, the Machines grant the humans peace and so ends the war.  However whether this results in the freeing of those still connected to the Matrix is unclear (and artistically so). As further emphasised during the final scene where The Oracle and the Architect can be seen talking. Is this a new Matrix, or is this another system? And if so are there any human slaves to the system?

    The finale is orchestrated by perhaps the most recognised end fight scenes of all time – Neo and Agent Smith in the Super Burley Brawl. Which brings me finally to the music score, a perfect successor to the original 1999 Matrix Score – with particular reference to the final fight scene music.

    Speculation and theory:

    Matrix 4

    The Matrix Reloaded concludes with the revelation that Neo is able to feel the machines, later (beginning of Revolutions) his physical self becomes disconnected from the Matrix but paradoxically his mental self remains within the Matrix. On this basis when merging with Agent Smith during the final fight Neo (or more accurately Mr Anderson) finally dies, his project mental avatar becomes erased, and in the process destroys Smith. However – Neo’s physical self appears lifeless as it is carried away by the machines, but his mind, in theory, should simply be in a state of temporary coma. Will he wake up and if he does will he be reintegrated into another incarnation of the Matrix?

    Neo was the sixth iteration of the One, are we to conclude his system lifecycle is now complete?

    — Related Links —

    Keanu Reeves sees Matrix 4 and 5 on horizon?

    Matrix 4: Reborn – Official Trailer #1 (2017)

    The Matrix / Nature of Reality blog by David Icke

    The Animatrix review / discussion (coming soon)


  • The Matrix Reloaded – Choice is an illusion.

    In The Matrix we begin to see the code, what would be pages of code are revealed in the opening credits. For The Matrix Reloaded we see the code in everything, unlike the slow digital rain from the first film we are now exposed to the vast intricacies of the illusion of reality. The code is everywhere and is everything. The code itself is portrayed as brighter, faster and deeper than the 1999 original, and this is reflected in the music score. Background themes that were slow and progressive are now faster and more elaborate while still conveying the dark artificial reality that is the Matrix.

    Visually the film is noise free, shot using new cameras the picture quality is pin sharp. The world of the Matrix is further explored with scenes showing the wider CITY. Colour tones remain faithful (for the most part) to the original film but are projected more sharply and with greater colour dynamics.

    Neo has embraced his powers over the Matrix, the Machines continue to prevent humans escaping the program, and a new anomaly surfaces from the events of the original film. Human resistance is growing as more minds are set free.

    We are introduced in the second film to that desperate race of men either born outside the matrix or set free by it. We see Zion, the last free city of the human race.

    Agent Smith returns from a backup inadvertently made by Neo himself. However the new Agent Smith is no longer bound to the syntax of the Matrix. The very act of destroying Agent Smith triggered an anomaly the Matrix was not designed for. Agent Smith now has the uninhibited ability to copy himself to a human plugged into the matrix, including the human resistance willingly jacked in. This provides the very paradox Agent Smith needs to escape the Matrix. He succeeds through Bane.

    We are also introduced to other varieties of sentient program based around similar programming to the Agents of the Matrix, these are in the form of Serif, the Merovingian and the Keymaker.

    I think I understand why followers of the original may not be pleased with Reloaded. Here we are exposed to new features of the Matrix, we see more of the CITY, its people and places, and during the film we become too complacent, too familiar with this virtual world. In the original film we get fleeting glimpses inside the Matrix, mostly of night scenes and rain veiled streets, but in Reloaded we are presented with daytime shots and busy outdoor fight scenes. That minor aspect, in my opinion, produces insufficient potency to degrade the film.

    The boundaries between simulation and reality become blurred when Neo begins to feel the machines in his world. Neo’s path leads him to the Machine Mainframe – The Source but one compiled by the Matrix; however the power of the one extends beyond The Matrix, Neo begins to understand his connection with the machine world, and his inevitable journey to the real world machine mainframe.

    The film concludes by Neo establishing his connection with the machines, he realises now he can manipulate the machines as he can their simulated reality – the Matrix. However, like Agent Smith, this creates another anomaly. See The Matrix Revolutions review for a continuation.


  • The Matrix Realised

    What follows are some realisations I achieved through a recent viewing of The Matrix (1999). I also highlight some interesting parallels between this movie and the world of Tron.

    Don’t think you are know you are: our knowledge comes from the mind. A mind born in our consciousness; the same space that occupies our concerns, sadness, joy and emotions. Within this space comes our inner chatter, our thoughts. “Am I saying the right things” “What do others think of me” “Am I attractive?” These are things we may think about, they come from the same place as the one Morpheus suggests when saying to Neo, “Don’t think you are, know you are”. So the latter “know you are” part of the dialog belongs to true self, that which is beyond the story of you, beyond the self to the inner-self. It is outside our thinking mind.

    Neo and Smith: Mr T Anderson born in the matrix and Agent Smith a sentient program within the matrix, are opposites. Neo is a prisoner of the Matrix and Agent Smith is a prisoner of reality, Smith is an entity bound to a single real construct designed by the machines. Neo breaks free of Mr Anderson’s reality The Matrix and Agent Smith tries to escape his prison of the machine running the matrix – he wishes only to infect the wider machine network and consequently the entire physical and simulated reality, to change it to his version of perfection.

    Its all about not knowing who you are, but being who you are.

    This serves as a lesson for the difference between knowing who you are and being who you are, as Morpheus himself puts it: “sooner or later you are going to realise… there is a difference knowing the path and walking the path”.

    Interconnection with Tron Legacy: An apparent analogy can be found in Tron Legacy. Kevin Flynn (The Creator – and also The Dude) is a human born in his reality the same as Agent Smith was created in his. Flynn then created his vision (at the time of Tron Legacy) of perfection and named it The Grid to which he later became prisoner. So by inference Kevin Flynn is similar to Agent Smith but was born rationale.

    In the same way the Master Control Program (MCP) relates closely to The Architect of the matrix. The MCP is the operating system or interface for the physical processing system of the machine, The Architect of the matrix is the program for the machine mainframe.

    The creators of the Matrix claim the look was inspired by the Korean language credits at the end of the movie Tron. – The Matrix Code wikia.


  • Karine Polwart

    Karine Polwart – This Earthly Spell

    This Scottish philosopher come talented folk artist first caught my attention back in March 2008, she was featured on the now sadly discontinued HMV Choice magazine (March 08 issue).

    Having earned a Masters in Philosophical Enquiry at Glasgow Karine Polwart’s writing certainly covers many of life’s great topics, with a beautiful poetic intelligence her lyrics often delve into worldly arguments and dark matters, ranging from the physical, the emotional, questions of the heart and those of the metaphysical.

    Karine has been around since the late 90s Folk boom, with a background in music she first followed an academic path in philosophy, with her first solo album release Faultlines in 2003. My first album purchase was of This Earthly Spell – Karine’s follow up album to Scribbled In Chalk. The album is a beautifully delicate mixture of traditional songs featuring a simple collaboration of only 2 to 3 musicians, keeping the sound folky and crisp. Her elegant vocals, those expressive Scottish inflections and her country jazz flavours produce wonderfully elegant songs that carry the thought provoking lyrics straight to the soul.

    What is unique to Karine’s song writing is her method of combining dark, often depressing themes, with an angelic uplifting voice, she constantly weaves opposites together in her material. Her writing plays with contradiction to produce beautifully lyrical metaphor and oxymoron.   The end result is a humbling journey of hope and morality in the face of conflict and trail. After her academic studies she became a philosophy tutor, and in a way her lessons continue today through her music.

    Useful Related Links:

    Karine Polwart – This Earthly Spell

    Malinky – Scotlands Finest Folksong Group (Karine Polwart joined the group as lead singer between 1998 and 2005)


  • Rachel Sermanni

    Rachel Sermanni – Under Mountains

    During my exploration on Half Moon Run I decided to check out their video Full Circle – played live for the Mahogany Sessions.  Within the suggested videos section was an interesting titled song – Marshmallow Unicorn played by Rachel Sermanni  – somebody I had not, at the time, encountered.

    Rachel Sermanni

    I was instantly captivated with her velvety vocals and her intricately layered emotional inflections, the video itself sees her sitting on a busy street (images of Brighton Lanes came to mind), delivering a beautiful poetic piece accompanied with soft acoustic guitar. Her delivery is dreamy, almost introspective, her vocal delicacy is beautiful, with haunting romantic whispering and heart felt rhythm.  – It terms of genre she falls within the folk fairy-tale flavour, a space well known to the likes of Emiliana Torrini and Karine Polwart.

    Useful Related Links:

    * Rachel Sermanni home (good place for tour and venue dates – she is a busy busy lass)

    * Folk Radio UK review (featuring some free track samples)

    * YouTube home of the Mahogany Sessions

     


  • Cypher

    2002 was a good year for science fiction and fantasy, shortly after seeing Cube and Cube 2: Hypercube I was hungry for more, for something of similar ilk and strangeness, and so I turned to Cypher, also directed by Vincenzo Natali. However it was a good few years later that I actually managed to obtain a copy on DvD – again, like The Machine, this film simply vanished after being released.Cypher is an old friend to my movie collection, it has a wonderful abstract beauty and compliments my copy of Cold Souls to which it resides next to on my shelf. I won’t trouble to detail the exact plot synopsis suffice it to say that it revolves around a newly appointed spy (Morgan Sullivan) who, in order to conduct his duties, must change identities. He is required to attend conventions to collate and transmit intelligence back to the agency. These assignments are seemingly monotonous, mundane and extremely uneventful. Having established his new identity as Jack Thursb he begins to question his assignments and experiences painful headaches and disorientation. However identities become confused and he journeys down a trippy rabbit hole of secrecy and espionage to discover the truth about his ambiguous assignments, his true identity and his true purpose.

    Cypher is certainly a thinkers-film, its plot is intricately woven and deserves your full attention, indeed it took me at least two viewings to fully unravel the many double-agent twists and turns. Many of the scenes feature strong edges and flat planes (particularly the travel scenes) giving it a mundane surrealism, this is complimented with an almost monotone pallet broken with grey hues. Set design and costume continue this theme with very sharp blacks, greys and light canvas creams with few colours between, achieving a very abstract suburban style. Colours become more vibrant as the many woven lies and secrets begin to fall away, concluding with a wonderfully scored scene by Inara George. Lead actor Jeremy Northam has done a superb job at portraying the many conflicting personalities and delivers quality conviction, beginning the movie as a lifeless introverted office nobody who then endlessly switches between personalities.


  • Secret Window

    “I’m sure, in time, her death will be a mystery, even to me.”Jonny Depp plays a reclusive troubled writer (Mort Rainy), who has lost himself in seclusion after discovering his wife was having an affair. Mort experiences a bizarre encounter with another author, John Shooter, who has accused him of stealing his story (despite Mort having published first). This stranger wants his story fixed and is prepared to go to any length to see it done. As events unfold Mort begins to question himself, he becomes disconnected, suspicious, he starts to lose track of time and places. His grip on reality is severed and bad things start to happen. Mort becomes threatened by shadows and reflections; his isolated wood cabin retreat becomes a place of anguish and confusion.

    Depp’s performance is outstanding, his mannerisms and tired detached internal struggles are delicious. In an interview (of unknown source) I once heard Depp mention that he has always been drawn to play downbeat detached characters as they offer a richer pallet of emotions and challenges, indeed my two favourite Jonny Depp films both feature troubled writers (the second one being The Ninth Gate by Roman Polanski).

    We sometimes associate a movie with particular events or times in our lives, I often do. For me Secret Window is synonymous with my time, and indeed life-style, as a university student. The sleepless nights, the burdens of writing, the detached confused introversion portrayed by the lead character were elements I could relate to as a student.

    This movie is all about character, its based on a Stephen King novella called Secret Window, Secret Garden by Stephen King. The movie offers clear motivations, rich character development, what long seclusion could do to the creative mind of a tormented writer, and has well defined paranoid thriller elements. From the very first scene we a greeted with a tight shot of Mort sitting in his car rooted by indecision. The camera work on this opening scene is wonderful and really established the theme for this film and introduces the audience from the start to Mort’s internal struggle.

    What was I like before seeing this film? Was it just coincidence that Mort behaved like me, or was I inspired to essentially be Mort? Slowly I found myself becoming quite obsessed with the look and feel of this film. I developed a love of Palmal cigarettes, I styled my hair on Mort (which was easy to do), and I routinely fell asleep on the couch wrapped in a weathered night-gown with the lamp left on. Emotionally I was more invested in a movie called Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, but aesthetically this movie crafted my general appearance during 2005 and 2006.