The Greencine Five, Part II: Phantom India, Tribulation 99, Immortal, Twin Peaks, Gattaca

Sometimes clicking “rent” at things that look vaguely interesting gets you classics, like I’m Not Afraid. At other times — well, you get my last two weeks of movie watching. That “Gattaca” is the highlight of the list says a lot. I would have had more fun watching any of the movies on the Awful Movie Database.

Paternalistic Marxism

Like Twin Peaks Season 2 Disk 2 (reviewed below), this second disk is one DVD too many. The director’s orientalism, marxism, and general Frenchism (calling the Jews degenerate was a nice touch) gets tiring, as does his superficially informative documentary about India. If you want to see what India’s true problems in the 1960s were, watching Commanding Heights. If you need to punish yourself to restore karma from a particularly bad dead — say, the sacking of Samarkand — then finishin Phantom India. If you liked Amin Maalouf’s In the Name of Identity, as I didn’t, you may be able to tolerate this movie.

Republicans = Molemen

A real conspiracy theory wrapped inside a false one, Tribulation 99 starts out fanatistically strange.. and ends as yet another angry, campus-radical screed against Reagan, Bush, the United Fruit Company, and counter-revolutionary generally. The whole film is about 50 minutes long — watch the first half, then throw the disk away. (Or, if you subscribe to greencine, return it and get another in the mail!). Many references will be familiar to Coast to Coast AM fans. If the film hadn’t strayed so far into late-eighties-campus-leftist paranoia it would have been a classic.

Thank you, France.

Immortal deserves 3/10 stars because portions of the soundtrack are courtesy of Sigur Ros. Without this touches it’s a solid 1/10. A dull French fantasy about revolution in a futuristic New York
features, among other things, a floating pyramid and an uncomfortable fixation with schizophrenic rape.

And the murderer is…

If Season 2, Disk 1 of Twin Peaks was the equivalent of how LOST’s second season started out, Season 2, Disk 2 is the equivalent of how LOST’s third season began: awful. The pacing is slow, all the interesting stuff is missing, and the acting is hardly believable. The only redeeming feature is that the first scene of the first episode on the disk ties into the last scene of the last episode. I only watched this disk because I want to watch every episode of the series, in its proper order, by the end of the summer. Not recommended.

Run! Science!

A stylish sci-fi drama set in a futuristic 1950s, Gattaca is based on a simple fact: as variation in environment decreases, the variation in outcomes explained by genetics decreases. This is not a terrible thing — unequal environments, of course, are how we can look at low IQ across Africa without resorting to racial explanations. Gattaca drags on, but makes one think a lot. Final verdict: Below-average but still good.

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11 thoughts on “The Greencine Five, Part II: Phantom India, Tribulation 99, Immortal, Twin Peaks, Gattaca
  1. I thought Gattaca was above average — it's one of my favorite strictly-SF movies — mostly because the questions it made me 'ask' revolve around issues related to determinism. Although stressing 'spirit' over genetic determinism may have been the most apparent focus, one really wonders whether emergence, caused by genetics + environment, may often trump the sort of planned emergence which would occur if those genetics and that environment are carefully structured by well-meaning humans. Yes, it's Of Mice and Men; yes, it promotes skepticism; but it also may have some relation to the concept of Black Swans. In such a light, the film is not necessarily anti-deterministic so much as perhaps a more fully pro-determinist flick, and it puts into focus a little better questions concerning the real reality which is not the reality produced by a too-conscientious, or even casual but pervasive, attempt to construct the real. (I would not expect most to get this out of the movie, however.)

    The socio-political implications are also therefore quite intriguing.

    Plus, I thought Jude Law was great.

  2. Curtis,

    We liked Gattaca for the same reasons. It forces the viewer to ask what the result of better social sciences will be, which is an important question. And, almost as important, I've enjoyed every performance of Jude Law that I've seen.

  3. Dan,

    I also disagree with your assessment of “Gattaca” as below average. It is an excellent film (set in the near future by the way, not the 1950's). How many films are about individual achievement when the whole of society, including the state, is against the main character? Your libertarian sentiments should make you jump for joy for this film.

    Anyway, watch it again…

  4. Dan,

    I agree on both thoughts: Gattaca is truly a thought provoking film, one that made me even more skeptical — almost cynical — about the “promise” of deliberate social planning. And Jude Law is probably one of the most underrated actors today; his two 2001 releases (as Vassili Zaitsev in Enemy at the Gates and as Gigolo Joe in AI) were almost as good as his performance as the “real” Jerome in Gattaca.

    sf/ shane

  5. I have to semi-agree on IMMORTAL. I wouldn't want to show it to kids and I spent much the movie just trying to work out what was going on. But it does have its plusses: the use of real actors vs CGI to denote the character's inner humanity, the female lead, the scene of Anubis and Bast trying to figure out a board game, the final scene in Paris where the final pieces fall into place FINALLY.

  6. Ox,

    Your radical Keynesianism won't get you far here…

    Gattaca would be more powerful, I think, if the central conflict hadn't been so banal. Not just astronautics, but many fields of endevour, routine use probabilistic screening, especially where the results of failure are very high.


    You're right that much of the movie was fantastic seen in isolation. I agree with all your specific praises of immortal.

    Every piece of greatness was there, except execution.


    Agreed, but more than just public policy is un-promising in light of genetic advantages. I don't think our system of health insurance can withstand cheap genomic screening.

  7. Dan,

    First, I am not a Keynesian, radical or otherwise. I openly reject the formal theory that underpins the various Keynesian models. While I agree with the Keynesians that government intervention is necessary in a modern economy, this does not make me a Keynesian. Rather, I am more properly termed an Institutionalist because I believe that the market, and the economy more generally, can be understood in terms of the social institutions of which it is composed. The market, for example, does not operate without the courts and police to enforce it. Legal rules and human behavior in reaction to those rules constitutes a market. Read John R. Commons' “The Legal Foundations of Capitalism” and then we can talk.

    Second, so what if the main character's goal is cliche in “gattaca”? Does it really matter what the goal is? Some power is telling him he can't meet the goal because of his physical composition. He proves that he can do it despite his difficulties. This is a fundamentally HUMAN story, and if you don't like it, then maybe you're not really human. :^)

    Third, this is one of the few times I'm going to allow you to bait me with the Keynesian thing online. So enjoy it while it lasts.


  8. Ox,

    I will keep my eye out for the Commons book. And , I did enjoy the bait. 🙂

    To misquote you, Gattaca a fundamentally fraudulent story.

    Imagine a story about an Apollo 13 astronaut knowingly fails a physical health criteria — say, because of an exposure to German Measles. He knows that this would prevent him from flying, but in order to show The Determination Of The Human Spirit or some-such he keeps this a secret so that he can get into space.

    I know, I know, that could never happen [1]…. but how would that be different from Gattaca?

    How, apart from the technology employed in making this biological prediction on government employee, is this different from Gattaca?

    Or imagine an employee seeking top-secret accent, who keeps a security risk hidden from the government? If this The Triumph Of The Human Spirit? Or Fraud?


  9. I wonder why a person of your obvious intellectual brilliance can't be bothered to do something as simple as learn to spell.

  10. “I wonder why a person of your obvious intellectual brilliance can't be bothered to do something as simple as learn to spell”

    Because it's the only way I can get comments that start out, “a person of your obvious intellectual brilliance…” :-p

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