Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Book of Eli

(and yes, there are spoilers ahead)

Short version- it was a well-made propaganda film for the Bible. Kinda felt like Ralphie after getting his decoder ring- "A crummy commercial? SonofaBITCH." I liked it though.

I enjoyed this dystopian view of the future & the vagueness of the event that created it. It's always a little more interesting when some details are left to the imagination. This was definitely an alternate reality though; one that could never be the result of the actual world we live in- no ipods and no kindles! What the hell kind of future could that possibly be? While the blindingly obvious lack of ipods was likely a branding/sponsor decision (with the lack of Kindles being a plot device- their existence would render the plot moot), it was interesting to see what companies had agreed to product placement: KFC, Busch, KMart (at this year's Comicon, I expect to see plenty of KMart nametags emblazoned with the name "Eli." The new 'nerd cred' status symbol, perhaps).

Like a majority of movies I see these days, I loved the concept, loved most of the execution, but was underwhelmed by the ending. I must say I saw the twist coming a mile away. Not sure if it's because I knew that a twist was coming; I'd like to think I would've guessed it anyway. Normally I never ever see a twist coming. I think The Others may be one of the few times I've called it. But I digress! I am a fan of digression, btw. So yeah, I thought about the blind thing when he was hunkered down in the abandoned house cooking that cat, and I watched the entire movie wondering if I was right, trying to find proof or disproof of that theory. I actually remember thinking of how he jumped in fright when he opened that closet and found the body hanging there. Struck me as kinda funny and authentic that a tough guy can still be startled. I retrospectively justified it in my mind that the smell is what made him jump, but his sense of smell was so strong, that didn't seem plausible. Couple other moments when they oversold the blind thing, especially when Mila Kinis remarked (needlessly) about how bright it was in his room, after we had just seen him viewing his bible by flashlight (which in hindsight made no sense and was a red herring just for the sake of being a red herring, which is storytelling bullshit). Also oversold- when one of the thugs said "It's like he's protected somehow." For fuck's sake, leave it to the audience to connect the dots, massive and unmistakable as you made those dots, about faith and man.

Other blindness "bloopers" (and to be fair, I am not a fan of picking a movie apart just for the sake of doing so. I just think that if you base the heart and soul of your story on an improbable Shyamalanian twist, you have to play fair and not go out of your way to unfairly dupe the audience): He looked everyone in the eye. I've known a few blind people, not to mention every other blind person in the movie, and that's not typical. His hearing and smell were WAY too refined. He was better at navigating his world sightlessly than Daredevil. And Daredevil has mutagenically enhanced senses AND radar! He could smell people yards away. And he could pinpoint shoot somebody just based on sound? Balderdash! Glaringly, how would he have found the first house he camped in? Let alone the house where the two well-armed old cannibals lived (sigh... Deus ex Machina. Shelter and the biggest cache of weapons this side of a Schwarzenegger movie) that he "saw" from maybe a half mile away! I'm willing to go with the fight scenes. I've always been a fan of the "blind swordsman" angle, and I can suspend my disbelief enough for that (I can also suspend disbelief that Mila Kunis can't read but can drive a car better than I can). And the opening scene, where he skewers that cat??? I don't care how good his hearing is, he was wearing a hood and mask and that cat was quiet as shit. Not to mention the logistical impossibility of him setting up that trap anyway. How did he manage to line up that shot in the first place? And how did he so easily grab the felled cat after shooting it? Those instances flew in the face of the subtle clues given later on- the way he would always touch the door before entering a room, the way he always first consulted the sun before heading West, and as I already mentioned the way he wouldn't shoot someone until they shot first thus giving up their position. Those were great, subtle clues about his lack of sight. It was cheap, bush league even, to intentionally mislead the audience in the other direction.

More anti-blindness hullabaloo: How did he know that the shop he entered was a shop at all, where he could barter? Love me some Tom Waits, by the by. Always pleasantly surprised when I find him in a movie. Also a fan of Oldman and Kunis. And the poster of A Boy and His Dog in the room where he stayed? Very nice touch. Yay digression! When he went to pick up his non-ipod MP3 player (like such a thing exists!) he spoke to the shopkeep as though he could see the cords plugged into his device. Even at the end, when they stopped on the Golden Gate bridge, let's just say he could tell where the side of the bridge was based on the wind. Or something. There is still no way he could know there were STEPS he would have to negotiate to get to the edge. And lastly, perhaps most annoyingly, how in fucking blazes can a blind man accurately paddle a rowboat towards an island? Backwards???

Inevitably, a die-hard fan of the movie might say faith allowed him to accomplish these things. But that explanation would render his blindness immaterial and undermine the twist.

All that aside, I did find it enjoyable. Mila Kunis has never looked hotter than when she strapped the Sword of Michael to her back and headed off for some sweet, sweet revenge. And the cinematography was top notch. From the washed out look of the film to the fucking beautiful tracking shots during the gunfight- moving from inside the house to back out, then in again. Out-fucking-standing. No doubt in my mind that those shots were digitally stitched together, but it was still a thing of bullet-driven beauty.

The blindness thing was just too contrived and altogether unnecessary. Would've been a cool story even if he could see. Maybe not quite as strong a statement about faith, but I argue it would still be a solid faith-based tale. I was thinking (hoping) that the Bible he finally handed over to Gary Oldman was either boobytrapped with a bomb (but they already did that once), blank pages (because he obviously already had it memorized), or written in either a different language or illegible shorthand. Those would've all been as good as, if not better. And when the Librarian (Malcolm McDowell!!!) asked "Can I see the Bible?" it was already obvious that it was memorized even before Denzel described himself as the book "Kinda beat up, but it'll do the job." Just after that scene I was thinking it'd be cool to see the other journeys that other zealots had made as they brought the Qur'an, etc to the library. Alas, those books were already there.

Before I saw the movie I had actually contrived my own twist in the week or so since I learned this flick had one. Imagine if the movie plays as is until Gary Oldman leaves him for dead, but before Mila Kunis jacks the truck. Now imagine it cuts to the reveal: Denzel is a patient at a mental hospital, no known family, no one knows anything about his history other than he's been a patient for 30 years and he is certifiably insane. He has a book (in real life) that he is obsessed with and defends. There have been instances where other patients or staff tried to check his book out and he attacked them, severely beating them. It's all been his fantasy world; Oldman is his shrink, and he is not an evil guy at all. He finally got the book from Eli- hence Eli imagining being shot and dying. Dr Oldman opens the book and it's just blank pages. Eli dying in real life as he dies in his fantasy world. Roll credits.

Boom! (that means I'm done)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Fun with spam emails Pt 3

Another spam email that I replied to. This one never wrote me back, possibly because of my pervasive (yet intentional) grammatical errors. Or possibly because they did steal my idea!

16 Rue Lanterne,
Lyon 69001, France.

The Fondation De France(FDF) would like to notify you that you have been chosen as one of the final recipients of a cash Grant/Donation for your own personal, educational, and business development. We are giving out US$1,350,000.00 each to 100 lucky recipients in different categories for their personal business development and enhancement of their educational plans.

The objective is to make a notable change in the standard of living of people all around the Universe (From America to Europe, Asia to Africa and all around), probably like in the next 20yrs.

Based on the random selection exercise of internet websites and millions of supermarket cash invoices worldwide, you were selected to receive the award. (Note that all beneficiaries email addresses were selected randomly from over 100,000 internet websites or a shop's cash invoice around your area in which you might have purchased something from).

You are required to contact the Executive Secretary below, for qualification documentation and processing of your claims. After contacting our office, you will be given your donation pin number, which you will use in collecting the funds. Please endeavor to quote your Qualification numbers (FDF-444-6647-9163) in all discussions.Reply to:

Executive Sec. Mr. Dane Blarer

On behalf of the Board kindly, accept our warmest congratulations.

Mrs. Claudia Lauren


Mon, February 4, 2008 5:24:40 PM

Hey that is awesom about the grant money. I need to give you my info so you can send me a check? I have a great idea to change the world. It is the idea to train badgers to rescue starving people from their starvation. Badgers are notoriouos for finding food and if I can train them (I have allready trained one and it is a success!!!) to find starving people and carry them to where the food is it litterally has the possibility to change how the world is run and not have people die from starving anymore!

PLeas send money.

PS- if you think to stael my idea I can sue you!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Fun with spam emails Pt 2

Here's another spam reply I sent. She actually wrote back to me, but it was very long-winded and she clearly didn't actually read what I wrote to her. Oh well.

Subject: for charity
Date: Sun, 8 Nov 2009 17:58:27 +0000

Good Day
I am Rita Richardson, My Doctor have diagonised me cancer. I have decided to donate $4.8 million, to you and want you to use this gift which comes from my husband's effort to fund the upkeep of the less privilege.
Pls. respond:
Rita Richardson


RE: for charity‏
From: (
Sent: Sun 11/08/09 4:31 PM
How great! This is not only extremely lucky but incredibly ironic- I've been working on a device to give poor people cancer; not only would it help with overpopulation, but it would also (eventually) end their needless suffering.

This money you are generously donating will help me finish my research and will technically achieve your wish of assisting the less fortunate. Thank you so much!!!

Mr Miyagi

Fun with spam emails

I get just as much junk email as everyone else, mostly to my hotmail account (which is why I rarely use that one anymore). Even though that's all I really get via hotmail, I keep that account open. Because to me, spam emails are a lot of fun. I try to write back to the really good ones. Occasionally, they respond to my reply, and then it's just a matter of how long I can string them along before they give up on me. Or until I get their ssn and bank account info. No luck on that. Yet.

Subject: accountant request
Date: Tue, 1 Dec 2009 00:11:52 +0100

Dear friend,

My name is Mr. John Gelsthorp. I am the accountant of the FinBank Plc Victoria Island Lagos. I am married with two kids.

I am writing to solicit your assistance in the noble transfer of US$3,800,000.00 (Three Million, Eight Hundred Thousand US Dollars). This fund is the excess of what my branch in which I am the accountant made as profit last year. I have already submitted an approved end year report for 2008 and also submitted report of first quarter of this year 2009 to my Head Office here in Lagos and they will never know of this Excess. I have placed this fund on a SUSPENCE ACCOUNT without a beneficiary.

As an officer of the bank, I cannot be directly connected to this money thus I am impelled to request for your assistance to receive this money into your bank account. I intend to part with 30% of this fund to you while 70% shall be for me. I do need to stress that there are practically no risk involved in this. It is going to be a bank-to-bank transfer to your nominated bank account anywhere you feel safe. All I need from you is to stand as the original depositor of this fund.

If you accept this offer, I will appreciate your timely response.

Best regards,

Mr. John Gelsthorp


Dear John Gelsthorp,

No offense, sir, but if you have an excess of $3.8MM that you are trying to cover up, you must be a piss-poor accountant. Seriously, where did you get your accounting degree? From a school advertised on a pack of matches? I suggest you update your resume and start looking for work. Preferably not for something that handles money. I doubt you'd even have success as a McDonald's register clerk. "Oh, excuse me, Mr Manager, my drawer is over by $150,000 tonight!" Nice as it sounds, that's the kind of problem that corporate would frown upon.

Anyway, good luck with that.