Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Killing of a Sacred Deer Ending Philosophical Discussion

This was written on reddit, hence the formatting:

The ending of Sacred Deer essentially presents a Russian Roulette scenario to solve the morality issue that the Surgeon (Colin Farrell) has with killing one of his own family members. There are six plausible endings (though there could be many more potentially) that I'll discuss briefly as far as the Moral, Utilitarian, and Cinematic value associated with each.

The first two we can sort of throw out because the ending doesn't fit into a traditional Greek Tragedy format and instead have an "American" tinge to them. (e.g. Wind River has an American ending).

**One:** Colin Farrell kills his son voluntarily after he starts bleeding from the eyes (a sign of impending death), and then kills the perpetrator Martin (kid from Dunkirk, Barry Keoghan) after his Wife and Daughter recover. This ending assumes that Martin is not omniscient and can be killed without instantaneously causing the mysterious Pathogen again.

In my opinion this is the most clean ending and provides the most Moral value, but it does make the movie a revenge fantasy instead of a Greek Tragedy which invalidates various constructs throughout the film.

**Two**: Steven (Colin Farrell) shoots himself instead of continuing the Russian Roulette. At the very least the Son and Daughter die, unclear whether the Wife (Nicole Kidman) would die or not but if we take the Demon Child at his word she would eventually. While this ending is undoubtedly tragic it eliminates the "Divine" element of chance from the ending which seems to be one of the major underlying points, if a not entirely obvious one.

This ending provides the least Moral Value since the antagonist is not eliminated but everyone else is, it ties for least Utilitarian value (though it depends on your interpretation of John Stuart Mill).

The next four endings all fit into the tragic mold nicely without eliminating an element of randomness.

**Three:** Steven shoots Martin in the basement in the hopes that his Pathogen does not continue post death. This either results in just Martin dying or in his entirely family dying, but it is unknown which would happen unless you assume Martin is telling the truth (the movie does nothing to imply that he isn't).

If his entire family dies I think this is a fitting end for a Greek Tragedy and it also ties for least Utilitarian value. Regardless this is the other potential best Moral choice, because Steven does not know whether or not his family will die and is still taking an action that could theoretically save all of them. This seems like the third best cinematic choice, but it is difficult to make an ending work for it without just cutting to black.

The next three results are all directly tied to the Russian Roulette (one of them is the actual ending):

**Four**: Steven shoots his son (Sunny Suljic) randomly.

The son is, as far as the audience knows, already going to die at the point at which he is shot; since he is the only one that dies this provides the most Utilitarian value. However since Martin is still alive he will most likely use his power to torment someone else or Steven again, so it is not a particularly sound moral choice (though it would be if done intentionally) Since a random act of chance determines an ending where only one person dies you can infer that the randomness (i.e. Greek Divinity or whatever you want to input) is morally righteous or at least utilitarian. But since the son is the most pure/youngest person in the film it is also very tragic that he dies (but he was going to die anyway as far as we know). This is also perhaps the most obvious ending which is frequently what happens in Greek plays to assist in foreshadowing. However in my opinion this offers the least cinematic value out of the four viable endings, since the result is quite a bit less unsettling than if random chance results in more chaos. If for example DeNiro dies at the end of Deer Hunter instead of Nick (Walken) and Nick returns and has a happy life in America then it results in a happier, less tragic ending since he manages to save Nick's life.

**Five** Steven shoots his Wife (Nicole Kidman) randomly.

This is the second most tragic ending since the son will also die, and the wife acts in a self serving/self preserving manner in the film. Personally I think any act that pursues survival is morally righteous so I don't actually think the Wife is an evil character or anything (Martin is the only evil character in the film) though her presence makes more sense in a Greek Tragedy than a modern film. However she is older and thus closer to death, so theoretically her death is less unsettling than the death of a teenage girl. This provides the second least moral value and is somewhere in the middle in terms of utilitarian value. I'll discuss this more in the final ending but it is also extremely unsettling as far as anyone who believes there is inherently good in the universe in any way shape or form (i.e. the vast majority of people).

**Six** Steven shoots his daughter (Raffey Cassidy) randomly, Bob also dies since the pathogen has reached a terminal state. This is the most tragic ending other than Steven shooting himself, because the daughter is younger than the mother. Also since random chance is the deciding factor and results in the worst situation we can infer that the universe is some uncaring husk of horrors in which all is nothingness and emptiness; with no moral compass to guide us and no Zeus to help out either. I really like this ending and if the director/writer/whomever made three endings out of the Russian Roulette and then just picked whichever one people liked the best I can sort of respect this not being the result that you end up with. However it certainly causes the most cognitive dissonance in the audience and would probably propagate more discussion than the present ending. This ending provides the least moral value and ties ending #5 for Utilitarian value (in the middle).

While I do very much enjoy the ending setup for this film it does seem like once a character starts bleeding from the eyes a medical cause could be ascertained since you can't psychologically decide to start bleeding from your eyes (though most likely a cure could not be found before all three characters died); and since we grounded the entire film in that frame of reference it should at least be addressed in the film somewhere.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Baseball and Social Justice

"I think its okay to not know, but I think its wrong to deny the possibility of knowing." ~ On Objectivity/whether Justice or "Truth" can exist.

Another Barry Bonds post, reminder: 2001-2004 Bonds put up like 50 WAR and that should give you a hard-on as a baseball fan no matter who you are.

This was written as a response to the fantastic Joe Posnanski article about Babe Ruth which had a dumb sounding comment printed thusly:

"“I wonder if the middle-aged millennials will reclaim their era and turn Bonds and the rest the Selig-era crew into heroes.” — I think this is halfway happened already. When they go into the Hall, which I think will happen in about 4 months, the process will be complete. The reporting will probably say that Bonds’ election is an act of Social Justice. 🙂"

And my response was as follows:

"Greetings and salutations illustrious Invitro. So you’re tugging at something that is vaguely intelligent but doing it in such a way that makes you look utterly foolish; but hear me out this isn’t aimed at you as a particular blight or anything. There is a theoretical extant “Social Justice” in all humanity and there are groups that are wronged, except that the vast majority of pursuits in this vein are at least somewhat monetarily motivated bullshit; also the correlation with “Wronged” has more to do with who has money/lives in a first world country and who doesn’t than anything else. My personal viewpoint is simple “All men are equal under the sun except for the unique gifts God has granted them,” Napoleon Bonaparte (who employed African Marshals in the early 1800s); I feel like this is virtually indisputable as written. However the communal sense of justice as it is driven by stupid people by and large fails to see the overarching point and must accomplish some small thing with their task instead of attacking the larger establishment in some way that might actually change things.

To Bonds and Baseball: Bonds unquestionably suffered racism from being African American, but it probably has only a small amount to do with his lack of acceptance in the baseball culture; that’s easy enough to chalk up to image/”Well-Likedness.” Now if Bonds pushed that angle hardcore for the next several years it would probably work quite well getting into the HoF; but he’s only kind of mildly doing that right now; if he does push it harder than you have a point. But ultimately the only fucking thing that matters is whether Bonds was one of the best players of all time. Yes he was. Boom HoF. That’s it. This isn’t a debatable player like Palmeiro; Bonds is better than fucking everyone in baseball right now including Mike Trout, he was better than practically everyone that came before him; Bonds and Clemens are top 5 players all time. It makes no fucking difference how big of a douchebag they are, whether they’re black or white, how much they cheated, how much they abused women (which I’d guess about 50% of HoFers have done to one degree or another); these are the best of the best and that’s the end of the story (and everyone likes stories where the characters have flaws anyway)."

This is a very advanced societal fixing sort of concept and one that most people will fail to grasp because a lack of perception of macro elements, and it's probably not articulated particularly well here, but I always like to push the good ideas given the opportunity. So thanks to Invitro, he of the Joe Pos comments spam.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Wonder Woman

Before we get started the best way to approach this film is to think of it like a Greek play or story such as The Iliad. I’m sure when they did research for the film that was referenced quite frequently and it can also inform the viewer to think of it like that. It doesn’t really follow the traditional superhero movie plotline in that it’s almost totally cut off from the rest of the universe of other films. It also doesn’t really have an antagonist for most of it and they didn’t like equip the Germans with laser rifles yet still make them totally ineffectual a la the first Captain America (a dreadful film in comparison). This is just a battle of the gods while the humans help as best they can. Wonder Woman represents pseudo Athena and the Germans and their assistants are basically representing Ares, a classic duel. Sadly no Diomedes and the gods are far more willing to engage in direct combat (killing many) instead of only inspiring warriors to fight on their behalf.

Having said that the first hour and a half to hour and forty five minutes of the film only occasionally feature supernatural occurrences; instead we’re treated to a delightful origin story and how Wonder Woman discovers the world in its 1918 state. This leads to a lot of interesting humor based solely around how naïve she is since she basically grew up in a pseudo tribal society compared to the Otto von Bismarck/Hindenberg 1870-1918 european era. It’s like two simultaneous period pieces since the island of the Amazons is still more or less intact as a Greek paradise with swords and shields and so on, but at the same time you’ve got Chris Evans with his glorious trench gun (M1890 I believe?) and his usual bevy of racially diverse sidekicks. Though they at least picked interesting ethnic groups this time so that didn’t really seem too bad, always happy to see Native Americans in movies for instance.
The first major point where you run into the Greek play aspect is when they’re patrolling the trenches and then out of the blue Diana decides to just walk straight across No Man’s Land into a line of German Machinegun fire; when you first see it it looks like it’s going to be corny as hell but they do some really awesome shots and the audience comes to believe in her invincibility. I knew going In she was a daughter of Zeus since she says that all the time in Injustice 2; but like Hercules is not totally invincible so you figure she might have some weakpoint or something, but it’s possible she’s 75% god or 100% (Hippolyta, Diana’s mother, is a daughter of Ares in Greek Mythology). The really cool thing about this scene is that she’s not really doing the offensive work, she’s basically giving the Germans a huge target and then the soldiers eventually decide to charge and take the other line. It is Gaea protecting her children or something like that, a tactically offensive move but solely done in a defensive (i.e. non-masculine) fashion.

Of course the vast majority of the action in the film is of the masculine beat the shit out of people kind, but Wonder Woman’s ability to draw out a different set of emotions from the audience than almost any other superhero movie is incredible. There’s actually impactful scenes, her character development is super interesting, and her relationship with multiple other characters actually has some depth to it. The third act is probably where the film will get criticized the most, but I think it really works well; Diana’s speeches about Love and so on should be silly but since it’s that battle of Greek Gods context where basically everything is an absurdist clash of Masculine and Feminine values it pulls it off. The main “surprise” of the ending sequence is pretty predictable because of the psychological issues that arise if that doesn’t happen; but I still think it works tremendously well as an agency for Diana to further develop her powers.

There are a few minor issues with the film, the first is that the Germans in WWI were not particularly evil or villainous. The war was essentially started by terrorists (a convenient Casus Belli), not an aggressive invasion of Poland or anything; and while they did massacre millions of soldiers and civilians it was more or less indiscriminate with regard to race/ethnicity (and in this first world society where bombing third world countries is cool, that’s okay too I guess), and Kaiser Wilhelm was kind of just a figurehead and not a lunatic. At the start of the film I was really hoping the Germans would be who WW was helping or something, but alas; kind of just followed the generic WW2 arc in that regard (reminder the best war film ever All Quiet on the Western Front is told from the German perspective).  The other issue is with regard to the ending theoretically negating the need for another ridiculously massive war, but WWII still happened. This is also kind of a positive though because there Is no obvious sequel bait whatsoever, naturally this probably means the next one will be set in modern day and be far less interesting, but one can always hope they do a WWII movie and then a Korean War movie, Vietnam, Iraq (Body of Lies style), and Mexican Drug Cartel Wars (Sicario style). If they never make a sequel (yeah, right) this is probably the best standalone Superhero movie ever as far as needing no prior films to set it up at all and nothing afterward that demanded its existence.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Ranking of Souls Bosses, Top 5 and Bottom 5

Ranking of Souls Bosses

This idea nestled in my head about 40 minutes ago and I haven’t been able to fall asleep yet; figure I might as well knock some of this out tonight. I will be including every Souls/Soulslike to date before I’m unable to keep up with the deluge of Soulslikes in the future. Apologies to Salt and Sanctuary but I’ll just be figuring in the bosses that I remember, which isn’t very many. For now lets do the top 5 and bottom 5.

Top 5

Maria of the Astral Clocktower

It should be noted I come at the Bloodborne DLC from the perspective of only having played it on NG+7, this led to great misery in some cases and eternal joy and wonderment in the case of Maria. Every time I clear the game now I make sure to fight her twice, if I win on the first try I die on purpose just to have that ridiculous amount of fun twice a run.


The epitome of cool, probably objectively the best boss in the series and just an utterly incredible fight when fought with a melee character (i.e. the vanilla state of the game); I do have Scholar on PS4 but don’t think I’ve fought Darklurker yet there, hence the lack of a video (though there will continue to be none for Demon’s Souls/Dark Souls)

Vicar Amelia

By far the best “large” boss in the series, Amelia’s vast array of attacks and sheer speed always make for a harrowing experience; without having anything too cheap or overpowered in her arsenal to make this feel unfair.

Gwyn, Lord of Cinder

Gwyn of course comes with the caveat that about 70-80% of the playerbase looked up how to fight him instead of actually fighting him and the cheesy parry method won the day; but in the absence of that an incredibly intense, awesome fight with the best music and atmosphere in the series. Darklurker can be cheesed as well but most people at least get rocked a few times before they realize that, in the case of Gwyn it feels like people just pulled out google immediately and refused even to try. This is simply the curse of Souls and information proliferation on the internet, it will be a very common theme moving forward.

Tachibana Muneshige
It’s interesting that a boss in both the beta and Last Chance Trial turns out to be the best overall in the game, his AI does eventually get matched in Level 270 NG+ dojo missions so fret not if you’re still hunting for a similar challenge. Again avoiding cheesy parrying/Guardian Spirit/Sloth/spear loop/etc usage is required to get the most out of this boss but in a general spacing/stamina management war perhaps the foremost out of any souls fight. Early on he tends to have enough gusto to hold his own and not be totally demolished in a huge momentum swing; but obviously when your gear gets better that’ll happen.

Honorable Mentions: Ornstein and Smough, Gehrmann, Gascoigne, Artorias, Mirror Knight, Orphan of Kos, Kalameet, Fume Knight, Alonne, Manus, Sinh, The Nameless God (Salt and Sanctuary), Nameless King, Sister Friede, Flamelurker, Tower Knight, Storm King (Demon’s Souls), Shima Sakon, Okatsu (230 NG+ Dojo Mission version), False King, Executioner’s Chariot, Smelter, Ivory King, Worshiper (Lords of the Fallen), 5 or 6 more Nioh bosses (debating over which)

Bottom 5 (5-1)

Probably the worst part of Demon’s Souls, the fight itself is okay if boring/generic; but fighting him on the narrowest boss platform in the series is straight up bad design. An awful, tedious fight that everyone just hyper modes now.

The second phase of this fight is alright, too bad the first phase is awful (numerous unpunishable high damage attacks, two one shot moves that have unpredictable hitboxes) and he also has 40-45k life on NG+; one of the only fights in the series where an NPC is always going to be more efficient than simply playing well simply for the AI manipulation; not having to deal with first phase bullshit while you steamroll him with one of a handful of high DPS weapons is the way to go for NG+7 and beyond. Of course if you don’t have that high DPS you’ll be slogging here for a while.

Ancient Dragon

Dark Souls II manages to avoid misery for the most part but there’s no better way to describe this monstrosity, I guess they eventually tuned him to be okay but one of the few fights that was almost completely impossible in co-op and basically only possible via forced AI repetition/OP shit in single player. I appreciate a big fuck off dragon that always one shots you but you can definitely do it better than this.

Four Kings

The original shit fight, it should be mentioned I one shot this boss the first time I played the game; but that just is the boss; your build wins or it doesn’t: the end. Straight garbage.

Laurence the First Vicar

This boss is pretty poor on NG, but on NG+7 it’s just utter shit; terrible attack patterns; comical amount of health (near 50,000), asinine last phase. The Bloodborne DLC overall makes it worse aside from weapon variety and Laurence, along with Ludwig, is the biggest reason why. The worst.

Dishonorable Mentions: Pinwheel, Prowling Magus, Curse Rotted Greatwood, Twin Princes, Yhorm the Giant, King Allant, Leech Monger, Dirty Colossus, Old Monk (offline), Priscilla, Giant Lord, others

I like Bed of Chaos, a puzzle boss that retains its challenge after the first go around is a definite plus in my book. Every other puzzle boss is trivial after the first time so only something with extreme novelty can be good. Dragonrider is the easiest boss but the speedrun method is just so fucking fun to do every time.