Monthly Archives: March 2016

Batman v. Superman-my review

I sat in the cinema next to my cousin and got ready to see Thomas and Martha Wayne die. Here is one of the inviolable laws of life in the movies and TV shows-Thomas and Martha Wayne must die. We must see Thomas and Martha Wayne die. We have to see the alleyway. The gun, the pearls. We have to see the young boy who would become the Bat have the whole of his world broken right in front of him. This we must see.

 

We may see the young boy fall down a hole into a place filled with bats. This calls on us to imagine this young boy and his twin traumas. The loss of his parents right in front of his eyes that’s a tragedy no young boy should face. Falling down a cave filled with bats that immediately start flying around and screaming at him- a horror that would stay with any young boy forever. The horror and the tragedy are the things that make him the Bat. One and he mourns his parents but moves on to a normal life the other he is forever scared of bats. Together he forever uses bats as  a refuge from the real pain he was feeling-the stab of cocaine after an accident that leads to a life-long habit.

 

In this rendition the bats begin to circle the young boy. They swirl round and round him. Being as demonic as we all secretly believe these creatures are: shrieking, blind, lovers of the dark, carried on leather wings the screams of the damned. And as they swirl and swirl around him he begins to be lifted to the opening of the cave. He’s flying on the bats. They pick him up, they put him back on solid ground. We find out that this was a dream. We see a couple of batman’s dreams and this is what we learn from them: this is one fucked up dude. There is no question in anyone’s mind about at the very least that.

 

After this scene we are taken to Superman’s first outing. The battle that ended Man of Steel. His huge, destructive, life-taking fight with General Zod. That was a great action scene. The two Kryptonians hit each other over and over. They broke buildings and roads, they injured infrastructure and upended all urban planning. At the end of that movie (an end we get to see again) Superman breaks Zod’s neck in order to stop him killing 2 people. This after the thousands and thousands dead as a result of the fight he had. But this at the very least is a consistent character trait. He believes with an iron will that only a death he causes directly can be attributable to him. This is a strange thing to believe but perhaps it’s the only way that a creature like him could sleep at night.

 

Bear with me for a little bit, Superman spends a lot of his time as Clark Kent. Writing stories and keeping up appearances. Doing human things that you really can’t do fast-lining up at Equity to pay rent for example. If you sit still and consider it this is evil. Here is an alien with the power to stop, if not all, a  significant amount of all violence and accidents. There are people somewhere right now being robbed, raped or ripped from life. Right now accidents are happening-car accidents, freak accidents, fatal accidents. If you have the power to stop all of these things and you do not because you were pretending to be a reporter can’t it be argued that they are all attributable to you. There’s a scene in the movie where he sees a kid in a fire on TV and goes there to save the kid. His superpowers specifically allow him to know about the fire before its shown on tv. Still he does nothing to stop it till he sees it appear before his face. It can be argued that a truly moral superman would be out there all the time. Saving people all the time. Putting fires out all the time. Stopping bullets all the time. All the god-damn time.

 

But, he isn’t. He isn’t and is still able to live a happy life. Half of all violent deaths in the world are indirectly attributable to his inaction. There’s a kid somewhere in Australia or Europe who didn’t  get this treatment and died because North America will only show fires from South America. The only way a person like this, with these abilities could live is if he decided that any killing that is not directly attributable to him is not his fault. That’s why he can’t let Zod kill those two right before his eyes. This is how he justified a similarly reprehensible act  somewhere down the line in DoJ. But this is the only way superman can really live.

 

Back to the movie. Bruce Wayne rushes here and there, trying his best to save as  many people as he can. Running into the fire to get people out and being confronted with his inability to do it. He has to make a choice and it’s not between pretending to be Clark Kent and saving the world. It comes down to running into this building or that one. Allowing himself to believe that the life of an employee of his deserves more consideration than the life of a person in another building. He can’t be everywhere after all. He also understands that a life taken indirectly is still his fault. You can see it in the way he holds that little girl in the trailer. This is not the morality of a god but the morality of a man. All he knows as he sees all this death and destruction is that Superman caused at least half of it.

 

 

From that moment the confrontation is inevitable. Of course the characterisation of both wavers a little. Fuck this I don’t even know if anyone read this far but I feel like really writing about this movie and that means there are going to be SPOILERS.

 

One aberration in Sups character is his justification for hating Bats. Batman has been branding people with his insignia. The news reports that this is a death sentence, if you show up in jail with this mark on you soon you show up in the morgue. This vigilantism really gets to superman. He somehow feels as if this direct contribution to the homicide of horrible people makes the Bat culpable. This though is the kind of aberration from character that all people experience. Someone does something slightly worse but in the same ball-park as the things you do and it tickles something inside of you. A mirror of your worse impulses that is the most repulsive thing that you have ever seen. So of course Superman hates Batman too.  Isn’t that beautiful-their conflict growing organically from their characters, the weakness of their characters, the things they do in order to sleep well at night being the things that drive them to this fight.

 

The resorption in their fight was also a testament to how well Bat’s character was established. By this point we have seen all his nightmares-one in which his mother’s grave is huge character. It’s perfectly understandable that when he hears Superman whisper the name Martha just as he is about to die (just as Bruce’s father did in the beginning of his journey) that he’d stop. That the reminder of this person’s humanity comes from a moment that is so much like that which stripped away so much of his.

 

Lex Luthor was awesome too. It was great to have a different take on Lex that still honoured his past incarnations as a scientist. Lex Luthor is the smartest man in the world in possession of the one of its richest corporations. He is smarter than Bruce Wayne. He is smarter than Superman (though this is because almost nobody ever writes superman smart.) There is none of this bullshit they always have where he doesn’t know who Clark Kent and Batman really are. The world changed for him on the day that the Kryptonians came. His position in the world changed. He is an atheist that seems to have come to his decision because of the paradox that claims god is all powerful and all good. He holds on with tenacity to what he calls the oldest lie in America “that power is ever innocent.” He knows power corrupts. For him it is not something theoretical it has corrupted him. It changed him, power. It allowed him to have anything he wanted. The thing he wanted was knowledge.  The knowledge that there were others out there can’t let him sit back and do nothing.

 

This seems to have been the motivation behind most of his actions in the movie. He wanted to know what would happen if superman was painted as evil. He wanted to know whether batman could beat him. He wanted to know the effect of people finding out that Superman had killed batman. He wanted to find out what abomination comes about when you bring something to life. He wanted to call out to the hundreds of thousands of planets out there that the kryptonian ship had gathered knowledge from and superman never gave a fuck about because Lois Lane is his “world.”

 

I’m not ending this without mentioning wonder woman. She was awesome. Walked sexily through parties. Honourably returned to Bruce what he had stolen from Lex. Piqued our curiosity when she was in a picture from 1918 (what the fuck was she doing there) and again when she casually says “I’ve killed things from other planets too.” There is a scene where Doomsday has taken a beating-remember that Doomsday gets bigger and stronger the more is thrown at him. At this point he has had a nuclear weapon thrown at him. He has had all that Superman can offer. She has a laso around him, trapping him, he is unable to move, she is that strong. As I heard someone say she is all mystery. A mystery I look forward to seeing being unravelled.

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accident

I’ve seen an accident and recently I was in one. There are definitely the kind of crashes where the brakes squeal, the car turns over, the airbags come into operation and there is blood everywhere. That was not the kind I was in. My accident was the more common type. I was in a matatu on my way to Nairobi. It was a late evening matatu so the sun had set for a few hours before the scene of the accident.

 

The road to and from Meru is littered with bumps. The road feels real. I’ve experienced roads that are worn away because of lack of maintenance, roads that are more holes in the ground than actual road. I come from Nyanza, and a part of it that has resolutely refused to be touched by development in any form. I have also been on a road that’s more of a trail, a bumpy road with stones shaking me all the way to my destination. The road to Moyale which may be the worst road in Kenya. It puts the lack of development anywhere else in Kenya to shame. That road has not been fashioned by any policy from any government. It is the result of the brute force of business and migration. The path picked out by wheels of buses and lorries. Completely untended by either trace of tarmac or sight of cement. The road to Meru is different. There is tarmac practically all the way. The road has bumps though. There are stretches with bumps every few metres. Single and double humped bumps and in some places bumps by the fours. The matatu gets here and you sink in once, twice, thrice, for the fourth fucking time. The whole time you are been thrown around, unable to convince gravity to give you purchase on the seat.

 

That road reminds you at every opportunity that a road is an artificial vein. That it can be the result of policy. That it is rough and hard, not a surface to lie on. I was dozing fitfully on this road. A kind of hyperaware sleep because of the regular bumps. When the matatu braked sharply and for a long time. I woke up and secured my glasses as the matatu continued braking. Then there was a bump as we hit someone and it finally came to a stop. Accidents take forever. It’s not the adrenaline that does it, it’s the fact that accidents actually take forever. Braking from the speed we were travelling at until we had stopped is not something that vehicles usually do. There is a different quality to the braking as if you are being thrown forward, as if a part of you goes to witness the accident and you are pulling it back.

 

A crowd gathered immediately around us. I was still groggy and had no idea what had happened. Then the rumour, quickly confirmed swept through the vehicle. We had been in an accident, we had hit somebody. The scene of an accident is a strange place. The crowd gathers as if from thin air and it takes some time to realise the extent of the accident or even to see the fact of it. The effects of the accident were at the front of the matatu. The guy we had hit was lying a few metres from where the vehicle had stopped and he wasn’t moving. The driver was frantically making call after call on his phone. The makings of a citizen’s cordon were all around us. He in his uniform was going nowhere and he knew this. There was after all a man on the road, that rough and hard road apparently dead.

 

I needed a piss and went to take it. Then thoughts began assailing me. I was pissed that we had hit this guy because we were going to be late to Nairobi. It was a selfish thought but it was the first thought I remembered having. Then: there’s nothing we can do for him, I’m not a doctor I should find a way out of here and continue my journey. Then a matatu that I had rejected because I was in a hurry passed me by and I wished that I was in that matatu because then the accident would be something witnessed, a curiosity on the side of the road instead of something that directly affected my life. I even thought that I would write about that moment and looked up to see the night and the crowd and any sources of light. I began to think that if I had been on that matatu then the guy would probably not be dead. I entertained this thought for all of a split second before it hit me.

 

That guy is probably dead and here I am thinking about how inconveniencing his death is for me. It shook me how selfish I had been in those moments where my mind had gone through those thoughts and discarded them one after the other until it finally allowed me the chance to think about somebody else. Somebody whose body was lying on the ground. Probably dead. I went and looked at the front of the matatu. The metal was dented and the windscreen shattered, not completely just enough that you couldn’t see through it, cobwebs of brittle and broken, tiny and poking bits of glass webbing through its front.

 

I could almost see it. The impact, the way he had been hit and jerked back. His body flying one way his head the other until it hit the windscreen and then in unison the whole of him being flung to end up on that road unmoving. Life is dangerous, so, so dangerous. It had worked all its magic so that it could flee him in such a fashion. Again I wished I hadn’t been on that matatu this time for less selfish reasons. If I hadn’t been on that mat it would have left later and missed him. I began to think of all the mechanics fate had resorted to in order to get him here and to get the matatu here too. That if I had caught another one that would be it no accident tonight. I remembered a lady who sat on the front seat near the door, the guy sitting near the driver needed to pee an hour or so back. She had refused to leave the mat so that he could pass. The guy had to squeeze in front of her to get out and squeeze back in. If she had let the guy out we wouldn’t have been on the road at that second. If the guy hadn’t needed to piss we wouldn’t be here. This death was the fault of all of us and so the fault of none of us. It was fated and fates arrows are drawn from far back. Decades in the making, centuries. If it was actually fated there was nothing any of us could have done for it. He should have started his walk home earlier or later. There should have been railways in Kenya. There could have been anything…anything at all so that this wasn’t the result staring at us but this was that. This was that result and nothing could be done about it.

 

An old man was now guarding the matatu. He brandished a stick and dared anyone to enter it. There was something of the mob in him. The scent of blood. A warning not to go near him because he was old and angry and he meant business. People angrily stopped a taxi and the body was carried to it. He looked dead, his arms didn’t flail, his body didn’t move. It became an object, something that let be done whatever was done to it. There were elements of the crowd that were gleeful, people laughing as if drunk. A comedy playing itself before them and they unable to resist its charms. There was also the sinister, the darkness that followed violence, like a whiff of gasoline. There was also that  warning that this could turn dangerous in a minute.

 

The driver went with the victim and I stood there wondering how people could bear to drive. Those were not vehicles. They were tonnes and tonnes of metal hurtling dangerously down tarmac shared with other vehicles and even more dangerously human beings. Things made of meat and blood. Animals that stupidly evolved to have the hard part on the inside. How could anyone drive when it was a promise that you could kill? How could anyone drive drunk?

 

The police arrived after a while. There was no siren singing as they came only the lights. Blue and red. Flashing and flashing and flashing. Those lights are much brighter than usually imagined to be and they impose a sense of authority on things. We have been so thoroughly socialised that the crowd dispersed as soon as those lights glanced off their clothes. The glee that had been there before, the sense of abandon and freedom, the threat that anything could happen disappeared almost immediately.

 

They secured the scene and waited. We waited too until the driver arrived. He came back and told us that the man wasn’t really dead. That he was hard of hearing and on top of that drunk. So when the matatu knocked him down he seemed dead but wasn’t, not really. He would be fine we were assured and immediately I went back in those hours feeling instant gratitude. Happy that this person wasn’t dead. Happy that this driver wasn’t going to experience the worst night of his life as well as guilt that would consume him perhaps forever. Taking away from him his way of earning a living.

 

I was happy too that I wasn’t so very selfish when there was a dead person in front of me. Hopefully this will teach me to be better about such things. To forget inconvenience when confronted with tragedy. To extend better that leaf of humanity to those who may need it.

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deadpool a review (only sort of)

So I went to Nairobi to watch Deadpool.

I had Friday off and I decided to catch the 10 o’clock Imax show which costs 3 sok. Yes, 300 shillings and all you have to do is have time on a weekday morning. Because it costs so little it is almost completely the preserve of students. They get up and go for this movie without planning. I’ve gone for a late night show, a worker’s show so to speak. You book the tickets hours in advance so that you can get good seats. There is endless coordination over the phone because this guy works in Upper Hill and the other guy in Westlands and the one buying the tickets works in town. The town guy buys the tickets on the understanding of a refund. The westlands guy gets there early and they go for a drink. The result of which is everyone is late. Or they catch a drink at the IMAX bar which is hopelessly overpriced and to which people only flock because they want to watch a movie while drinking.

This is different than the ten o’clock show. I got up to go and my brother, who’s in uni, asks where I’m going. To a movie I tell him. What time he asks. I tell him. How much he asks. I tell him. Si wait for me we go together. I wait. Simple.

On our way into town he says he can’t believe he’s going to watch a movie sober. I don’t want to admit it but my heart began to beat because suddenly the possibility of liquor was on the table. I reminded him that supermarkets don’t sell alcohol until ten. This was something he did not know. This is something no one seems to know. I don’t understand how come people have such a tenuous grip on mututho laws. I know because there was a week after I cleared university that I bought a bottle of liquor every day on the way home. Got home, slept, fed, rose and took a matatu to Rongai so I could attend the night parties of a conference happening at the multimedia university. I know because it’s important to know when alcohol is available and how much you can get it for.

So we bought our tickets at 20 to. The woman at the counter rushed us along in such an abrupt manner I felt insulted. But, she did not have the benefit of the worker crowd who would have bought their tickets hours earlier. She had to sell all the dozens of tickets to choosy students in twenty minutes or less. So I guess it was her job. She asked if I wanted pop-corn. I asked how much they were and it turns out they cost almost as much as a ticket, 200/-.Tickets in hand we went to nakumatt. We were there at ten loitering outside the alcohol shop. There are parents whose hearts would have broken at the sight of this. There we were, I was looking very studenty too, unable to wait any longer for our morning fix. In fact willing to get there as early as possible to get it. The attendant saw us and opened the shop. I slid in. We considered our options and quickly settled on the cheapest one there. These were our popcorns.

Armed we walked back to watch the movie. Brazenly using the coaster between the seats for what it was intended for, to hold on to refreshments. Bottles popped we sat back to enjoy the movie. Movies, big screen movies especially are essentially solitary experiences. You are there with all these people but when the movie begins many of us will want to keep quiet and not talk to the person we went there with. The sounds allowed to erupt are laughter and applause. The tittering of whispers is discouraged, the bumble of conversation is openly banned. It’s even considered bad form to make out in a movie theatre now.

This is the reason nobody goes to the movies with a girl. Well, some people do but that’s usually already your girlfriend. I wouldn’t go on a date with a girl I was wooing to the movies. It has too many potential pitfalls and none of the payoffs are worth it. To wit; she might like a different sort of movie than you and the movie you feel has shifted your soul barely stirs her toes, she might be the kind of person who wants to whisper during the movie and you don’t want to kill your chances by perpetually hushing her. There’s no talking in the movie, not really and that’s what dates are for which is why long walks are a perennial favourite. And after all this you will not feel the tender touch of lip on yours, the lustful and urgent grope for your penis as she turns and moans with a barely suppressed passion that is all the more pronounced because this is semi-public. If you can’t talk, have a possibility of disagreeing AND there’s no chance of having your hard-on caressed why would you go with a girl to the movies. Better left as group activities. Something to be done with the boys where you can act raucous unless someone complains.

The trailers pass. The first sips of chrome vodka (which now even sells orange flavoured drink who the fuck knew?) are forced down. The anticipation of a marketing campaign that was flawlessly pulled off delivers us here. The movie begins. The opening sequence was beautiful. Everything is in the air. The movie throws us straight into a battle and everyone is frozen. It’s like that Dr. Dre video where everyone is stuck in a painting and moving really, really slowly. The credits come on and for anyone who reads this kind of thing the movie is already worthy because it stars amongst others “a British villain, the comic relief, ” and is written by the “real heroes here.” Then it begins. The movie throws us into a carefully choreographed scene of violence where blades, guns and barbs are applied to lethal effect.

I don’t know how people review movies without spoiling them. I imagine they talk about
1. The acting- which was superb the actors delivered in both the comic and the tragic moments.

2. The soundtrack-old school rap, well rap from like 14 years ago…X gon give it to you… if you are my age you’ll love it.

3. The cinematography- I know shit about cinematography but I can assure you cameras were put to use in this movie.
4. They tell you the best jokes (which is the real spoiler but hey I’m just learning from the professionals)- For example when Deadpool goes to the X-Men mansion and finds the same two x-men he wonders whether this is happening because the studio could only afford two xmen.

5. How awesome it is to see boobs on an IMAX screen. I mean it’s like a giant’s boobs but she’s not a giant. And there’s the communal lock on the screen as everyone tries to show how worldly they are, not excited at all, not repulsed in the least, not surprised acting as if it’s all the time that they see giant boobs. I was so jazzed while I could go for the easy rhyme here and say that I almost jizzed that would not be true.
6. The plot structure. Like Man of Steel where the origin is told in flashbacks. Once when breaking the fourth wall (which is deadpools real superpower) he goes into flashback and breaks it again and says whoa it’s like breaking the 16th wall.(see 4 above.)

7. The way there was a strong female character who all but overshadowed the lead. (Morenna Baccarin) Well her giant boobs were giant(see 5 above). Also I’ve seen her before she’s Brody’s wife in Homeland. She’s appeared in a bunch of other stuff and whenever her character shows up I fall in love with her, she’s that hot. When Deadpool meets her he says something about being glad not to be stuck with the shorter two dimensional version of her Hollywood prefers(see 4 above). So yeah she was pretty three-dimensional. And hilarious and bad ass.
8. The theme. The deep theme. So Deadpool while masquerading as a superhero movie was actually a movie about masks. It showed us a man who hid his heart behind walls because of insecurities and scars, the baggage that we all lug around. His masks were humour and his good looks. When he is stripped of his looks he hides himself away from the woman he loves, a commentary on our society’s focus on materialism and image. He is unable to show the world how he truly looks and instead hides himself still further fashioning the costume and persona of Deadpool. His attempts to find the hero inside him fail miserably as he gives in to impulse after impulse, completely unable to slow himself or show himself. A character we all love but cannot help but compare to a less fortunate Dorian Gray, the rot in his soul not mirrored in a painting in his attic but on his own skin. Using violence as yet another mask. The most touching moment of the movie is when he feels confident enough to show himself as he really is. Scars and all. This is also the point where the movie disappoints by turning away from its realist and gritty depiction of the superhero world as metaphor by allowing a happy ending, no doubt intending to draw in more audiences and shoot for a sequel.

I left that theatre boozed. It’s interesting to be boozed in Nairobi at lunchtime on a Friday. The city is grim. All you can see around you is people on their paces. Suits and ties. Determined walks. Laughs that only break the surface. Trailing conversations. Everything is in the service of getting somewhere quickly. This is the city through which I was floating in a bubble of booze with not a care in the world and the afterglow of “getting a load” of Deadpool shining off me.deadpool

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