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My review of Elysium

6 Jan

With Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, and a few positive critical reviews, Elysium seemed like a safe choice. The premise is intriguing, and the production values are high with stunning aesthetics. Many years in the future, earth is a dystopian shit hole populated by the disenfranchised, while the folks with means have evacuated their way of life to an exclusive artificial colony hovering over earth, called Elysium. I am not going to bother with unwrapping the political parables of the setting because it’s all way too obvious, even in a simplistic way.

For a variety of reasons, Matt Damon’s character needs to break into Elysium where one of the perks of living there is access to Med-Bays which reverse and eliminate all diseases and injuries. But as one would expect from an exclusive orbital colony, pirate ships trying to penetrate Elysium are repelled with brutal force under the auspices of a ruthless Secretary of Defense, played by Jodie Foster.

Before long, the whole affair falls flat on its ass with huge gaping plot holes, mediocre acting, and one too many over the top caricatures. Like the pseudo villain called Kruger who comes to the screen with a particularly annoying South African accent. Overall, Matt Damon probably gave the best performance, but the biggest disappointment was Jodie Foster. Her character didn’t even amount to one dimension, and like Kruger, she too sported a ridiculous accent. But unlike him, hers was intermittent and unidentifiable which was at best annoying, and for the most part highly distracting. Even the usually dependable William Fichtner, who’s made a career out of being the underrated actor who delivers the goods, left me with scant nothing.

As a writer, it both pains and enthuses me to see such weak stories making it to the silver screen. There were at least six major back-to-back plot inconsistencies/implausibilities.  Neill Blomkamp, the South African director of this film, also wrote it, which further confirms  my belief that some of the best movies tend to be based on excellent books. In other words, a good director isn’t necessarily a good writer. Unless you happen to be James Cameron.

Was Elysium the worst movie I’ve ever seen? Far from it. It was generally entertaining and watchable. But it thwarted my willing suspension of disbelief and was guilty of the worst thing any work of fiction can commit – to make the consumer feel they can do a better job.

I give it 2.75 stars out of 5 for beautiful visuals and for keeping me watching till the end despite the stated weaknesses.

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Private Gallery: Syrian Wartime Art

5 Sep

What does a war do to the spirit of an artist? What does it take away, and what does it give in return?

These are the paintings of an unknown Syrian artist living and working in Damascus under violent conditions. They provide a rare glimpse of how the creative mind works under conditions of extreme stress.

Who are these people that the artist has captured? Are they still alive or have they perished in the war? There is a chilling undertone to all the paintings, including the ones that are not blatantly dark. As if death and destruction have crept in as uninvited co-contributors to the artistic process, with or without the artist’s permission.

The nudes and pseudo-sexual pieces are of particular importance in what they tell us about how the artist has internalized the conflict, and what his mind is spewing. The bodies are stripped of their sexual symbolism and stand devoid of any erotic suggestions. They might as well be dead, even though they aren’t.  Maybe this is what war does to those who are left behind. It kills them too. Slowly.

Click here to view the gallery.

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A.M. Khalifa

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