....LMB: "Dawn of the Dead (movie)"....

March 27, 2004

It's a nonbrilliant theory of mine that the popularity of horror figures only endure so long as they touch a popular nerve, that they invoke a deep fear inherent in humans, or that is part of the current cultural climate.

- Frankenstein and many other monsters, of course, hit our fears of science gone out of control.

- Dracula and vampires, I would argue, are about our fear of seduction; modern vampires are sleek, sexy, charming things that could tempt us into giving up our lives and souls.

- 80s slasher villains invoked our fears of, well, everybody. They were about strangers, who could appear and behave completely unpredictably, and tear "us" out of our suburban havens. Maybe two decades of safe suburban living have assuaged these fears.

Other horror figures did not maintain their cultural power, and faded away. We no longer see movies about giant killer ants, blobs, or fishmen from the swamp.

But we now see a resurgence of zombies. I think that the "traditional" zombie, the slow-moving, slow-witted undead, is about claustrophobia, an unstoppable force, about inevitable death which we cannot ever escape (of course, I should differentiate our regular zombie movie zombies with the resurrected slaves of Haitian folklore). I'm not entirely sure what the new crop of energetic, high-speed, screeching zombies mean. Honestly, I don't expect them to catch on.

What always intrigued me about the movies of George Romero's old "Living Dead" trilogy was that they created a whole new world, one in which every time someone dies, their body turns into shuffling, mindless monster that only wants to kill (and infect) the living. Our everyday world is rapidly transformed, like a nuclear apocalypse without the bomb, with its own different textures and flavors. Governments, authority, family, and relationships collapse. The comfortable world of the city turns into a dangerous jungle, a battleground.

The "Dawn of the Dead" remake manages to catch a little of that feel, but not much of it. The movie's introduction teases us with a bit of background chaos (main characters ignoring radio reports about murders and unexplained disease outbreaks) before putting us right in the thick of it when the main character's neighborhood is overrun by the zombie holocaust. Fire, death, sprinting zombies, and an already advanced case of civilization breakdown. It's pretty scary, and you can feel "you are there" licking at your heels. "What would it really be like?" you think to yourself. "What would I do?"

Then there's an interesting credits sequence with a quick-cut montage of pixelated video footage (which makes it more "realistic" somehow) of all kinds of worldwide conflicts and catastrophes that we're supposed think are somehow zombie-related, all set to the tune of the late Johnny Cash's end-of-days ballad "When the Man Comes Around." Odd.

And after that, most of the movie is crap.

Survivors from "all walks of life" hole up in a shopping mall to escape the zombie hordes. Gore. Tension and conflict and romance among the refugees. Discovery and revelation. Gore. Stupid decisions that lead to unnecessary battles with zombies. Exploding zombie heads. Gore. A final mad plan for escape.

Many movie buffs compare this version to its predecessor, lamenting the new film's lack of social commentary and ridicule of consumer culture. And while this is true, these critics conveniently forget that the original movie was actually pretty boring.

Dawn of the Dead 2004 is a video rental, at best.

Posted by Jake at 11:45 AM | TrackBack (0)
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Lying Media Bastards is both a radio show and website. The show airs Mondays 2-4pm PST on KillRadio.org, and couples excellent music with angry news commentary. And the website, well, you're looking at it.

Both projects focus on our media-marinated world, political lies, corporate tyranny, and the folks fighting the good fight against these monsters.

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Media News

November 16, 2004

Tales of Media Woe

Senate May Ram Copyright Bill- one of the most depressing stories of the day that didn't involve death or bombs. It's the music and movie industries' wet dream. It criminalizes peer-to-peer software makers, allows the government to file civil lawsuits on behalf of these media industries, and eliminates fair use. Fair use is the idea that I can use a snippet of a copyrighted work for educational, political, or satirical purposes, without getting permission from the copyright-holder first.

And most tellingly, the bill legalizes technology that would automatically skip over "obejctionable content" (i.e. sex and violence) in a DVD, but bans devices that would automatically skip over commericals. This is a blatant, blatant, blatant gift to the movie industry. Fuck the movie industry, fuck the music industry, fuck the Senate.

Music industry aims to send in radio cops- the recording industry says that you're not allowed to record songs off the radio, be it real radio or internet radio. And now they're working on preventing you from recording songs off internet radio through a mixture of law and technological repression (although I imagine their techno-fixes will get hacked pretty quickly).

The shocking truth about the FCC: Censorship by the tyranny of the few- blogger Jeff Jarvis discovers that the recent $1.2 million FCC fine against a sex scene in Fox's "Married By America" TV show was not levied because hundreds of people wrote the FCC and complained. It was not because 159 people wrote in and complained (which is the FCC's current rationale). No, thanks to Jarvis' FOIA request, we find that only 23 people (of the show's several million viewers) wrote in and complained. On top of that, he finds that 21 of those letters were just copy-and-paste email jobs that some people attached their names to. Jarvis then spins this a bit by saying that "only 3" people actually wrote letters to the FCC, which is misleading but technically true. So somewhere between 3 and 23 angry people can determine what you can't see on television. Good to know.

Reuters Union Considers Striking Over Layoffs- will a strike by such a major newswire service impact the rest of the world's media?

Pentagon Starts Work On War Internet- the US military is talking about the creation of a global, wireless, satellite-aided computer network for use in battle. I think I saw a movie about this once...

Conservative host returns to the air after week suspension for using racial slur- Houston radio talk show host (and somtime Rush Limbaugh substitute) Mark Belling referred to Mexican-Americans as "wetbacks" on his show. He was suspended for a couple of weeks, and then submitted a written apology for the racial slur to a local newspaper. But he seems to be using the slur and its surrounding controversy to boost his conservative cred with his listeners.

Stay Tuned for Nudes- Cleveland TV news anchor Sharon Reed aired a story about artist Spencer Tunick, who uses large numbers of naked volunteers in his installations and photographs. The news report will be unique in that it will not blur or black-out the usual naughty bits. The story will air late at night, when it's allegedly okay with the FCC if you broadcast "indecent" material. The author of this article doesn't seem to notice that Reed first claims that this report is a publicity stunt, but then claims it's a protest against FCC repression. I'd like to think it's the latter, but I'm not that much of a sucker.

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Jake's first attempt at homemade Mongolican barbecue:

Failure.

What went right: correctly guessing several key seasonings- lemon, ginger, soy, garlic, chili.

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Result: not entirely edible.

Plan for future: try to get people at Great Khan's restaurant to tell me what's in the damn sauce.

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