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V for Vendetta: An Intellectually Intriguiing Work of Cinematic Art

V for Vendetta: An intellectually intriguing work of cinematic art.

                                                A review by Mary Kate Leibman

 

Thrilling and daring, V for Vendetta is more than just a movie based on a comic; it is the catalyst for intense political debate.  The film will keep you on the edge of your seat, and not because of fancy CGI and stunts.  Produced by the Wachowski brothers (responsible for the Matrix trilogy) the film outdoes the success of the Matrix by far.  It is brilliant in the way it entwines two separate stories into one intense plot.  It is a film which takes us into the realms of a completely new world: one in which our freedoms have been stripped, and America is no more.

 

Based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and directed by James McTeigue, the story revolves around Evey (played by the multi-talented Natalie Portman), a slave who works at the government-run TV station.  She is introduced to us as a quiet, shy, obedient citizen of the current British Totalitarian government set in the near future.  After being out after the government appointed curfew, Evey is approached by the government police who attempt to rape and attack her.  It is here that we are introduced to V, the masked avenger who sets out to kill off the key members of the totalitarian British state.  He rescues Evey from her attackers, and takes her to the rooftop where he blows up the Old Bailey.

 

V explains that the destruction of the Bailey must happen in order to remember the 5th of November.  The 5th of November, 1605 is when revolutionary Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Parliament.  V states that on the next year of this date, he will assure Parliament’s destruction.  Here starts the revolution, as the impressionable Evey bites into V’s plan hook, line, and sinker. 

 

Throughout the movie, the filmmakers make an artistic attempt to tie in symbolic undertones to parallel today’s government with the totalitarian regime in Britain.  For the politically savvy, the allusions to today’s fear-based politics in the Bush administration are hard to ignore. 

 

High Chancellor Suttler, played with chilling detail by John Hurt, is what many consider to be today’s Bush.  He stands in front of a screen telling his cronies that the people need to believe that they are endangered.  Somehow, one can’t deny this is exactly how Bush was re-elected, playing the terrorist card.

 

What is more is that terrorism plays a key role in this film.  And no, they are not from the mid-east either.  Anarchy was the key theme in the graphic novel, which the film was based on.  V is the anarchist in this movie. He is labeled a terrorist in the movie. And a massive manhunt ensues to try and find him and bring him to government style justice.

 

V was the unfortunate victim of a fire in a government testing facility.  He underwent cruel experiments and was exposed to viruses that would eventually wipe out a 3rd of Britain.

 

It is no wonder that the viewer is supposed to sympathize with the terrorist.  It is the real genius in this movie the way we as viewers sympathize with the terrorist.  Ultimately, regardless of political ideals, the filmmakers have us questioning government.

 

With strong symbolic ties to the current administration, the makers of this movie have us realizing that the government is just as lethal as the terrorists who challenge it.  Though exaggerated in this movie, the producers want us to believe the government is the real threat.

 

Treating V like a hero and giving him a cause glorifies his stance as a revolutionary.  Much like the play Wicked, it toys with our notion of what is good and evil.  More so, it has us questioning why people do evil things (or what is considered to be evil). 

 

After the connections have been established through symbolism, we start to see clever ploys that attempt to inject more criticism of government.  The filmmakers allude that the American military are terrorists, and government profits off of other’s misfortunes.

 

Brilliantly disguised in a heroic tale of revenge, V for Vendetta really comes across as a tool of propaganda for certain leftist beliefs (of which some are true).

 

On the other hand, the movie focuses on the manipulation of Evey, and how convincing V can be.  He manipulates her into his cause by having her face her fears.  Facing her past, Evey is able to rationalize V’s killing spree of government officials.

 

The cinematography also plays with the emotions more than your average film.  As it is supposed to be; a movie is supposed to externalize the internal.  Using brilliant color schemes to reflect certain feelings, the film will make you feel as cold as the blue tone of night, and as warm as the yellow of the day.  Frequently, the lighting will change drastically, so much so, that you feel the change of emotion in the pit of your stomach.  At certain points, the film takes on a “noir” feel to it, using shadows to create edgy effects of suspense right out of a 40s horror flick. All in all the film combines artistic cinematography to illuminate the emotions of the viewer.

 

Though a genius political thriller, the film never strays from its action packed roots.  Sorry Matrix fans, no dodging bullets here just plain old Zorro style sword fights.  With V’s charming side to him, it seems as if you are watching something out of The Count of Monte Crisco (V’s favorite movie).

 

Almost perfect, the movie does have some definite weaknesses.  In fact, the film is very confusing.  The filmmakers try to reach too many different audiences with stories, sub-stories, and a smattering of symbolism.  On one hand we have the intricate relationship between V and Evey.  Love story, not exactly, but Hollywood would want you to think so.  We have the tackling of major current events to reach the politically intellectual viewers.  With the amount of symbolism they use, it becomes tiring trying to piece it all together.  In the end one tires because their brain feels like it has exhausted it’s self into a state of paralysis; where the only thing that will make you function again is a trip to the bathroom (a well needed diversion from a drawn out film).

 

Overall, this movie was a creative way to insert political viewpoints as an undertone to a dystopia that some think is possible.  Though extremely exaggerated, the film tells us what can happen to our future if we are not careful now.  The message this film sends makes it the most politically charged movie of the past decade.  So, if you are in for another comic book film filled with explosions and drawn out fights, this is not your movie.  If you are in for a rewarding, intellectually intriguing work of art, then enjoy what is arguably one of the best films I have seen in a while.

August 7, 2008 at 3:32 pm Leave a comment

Jack London: a Man of Our Times?

Jack London: A Man of Our Times?

Nearly 100 years ago, Jack London fought for the lower class, bringing attention to the wide disparities between the rich and the poor. Now, nearly 100 years later, much of his cause has gone unresolved. With our markets in bearish trends, and our middle class eroding by the day because of soaring fuel costs, 2010 looks to be a lot like 1910. Jack London would be appalled at out current situation. If we look at his cause, we can see a parallel between then and now. We can really appreciate what he has done to give the poor a voice; and take note of it for modern times.

Jack London was born into lower class backgrounds in San Francisco, CA in 1876. His father was a disabled civil war veteran, and his mother a common house wife. He was primarily raised by an ex-slave, Virginia Prentiss. He attended grade school in Oakland for a brief time. After grade school, he was primarily self-educated. He taught himself to read and write at the public library. It was there that he came across his literary inspiration: Signa. It was about a young peasant child who rose from poverty to become a famous opera composer.

As a teen, he spent much of his time sailing the Pacific to make money. He eventually made enough to attend High School. After graduating, he went to Berkeley, but was forced to drop out due to financial restraints. This forced him to seek work in the gold mines, where he wrote his first stories. Eventually he wrote his first book: Martin Eden.

It was published. He wrote more books after his first success, most notably The Call of the Wild. Eventually, he became wealthy, a staple in the upper echelon of society. Only, he realized that his new life was no more glamorous than his old, and committed suicide at the age of 40.

As a member of the upper class, Jack found a voice in politics and social affairs. As a journalist and novelist he exposed the life of the average poverty stricken American. He also joined the Socialist Working Party in 1896. In his fiction novel The Iron Heel, he showed parallels between the rich of his time and the Oligarchies who stomped out the middle class. Though fictitious, his novel rings true, and not only back then. Much like Jacob Riis’ How the Other Half Lives, Jack wrote his own depiction of first hand accounts of poverty. His account based in London, England as opposed to New York was entitled The People of the Abyss.

Aside from writing about the social class problems, he often gave speeches to further his cause. While touring the U.S. as a member of the Socialist party, he published essays about his findings. Two of the most notable were The War of the Classes and Revolution, and Other Essays. A man once from the lower class himself, he took pride in bringing attention to the needs of the poor.

Unfortunately, the Socialist party would never become a staple in our political system, as the Cold war and other problems distorted much of our views concerning socialistic values. Jack London (also a communist sympathizer) gave money to the revolutionaries who killed off the Czar and his family amidst Bloody Sunday. He called those people his “brothers.” These brothers eventually turned Russia into a communist dictatorship. Jack London never saw this happen. The heart of his cause died out with the greed that exists in all human beings, regardless of political beliefs.

With his main ingredient for change an utter failure, why are his achievements in journalism and politics so important to us now? Aside from his political beliefs, Jack London’s problems exist now as well. There is no significant voice for the poor. Sure, many of us pick up the ladles in soup kitchens on Thanksgiving, and when it counts, but how much are you really doing? This is not even about the poor any more. It is our middle class that is slowly eroding into the poor house.

This year is an election year, the economy is a key issue. This issue was essential to Jack London as well. However, with the complete elimination of any socialist party, millions spent on campaigns, and bribes from lobbyists on both sides of the political spectrum, it would not be far off to say Jack London would not vote at all. In fact, he probably would not even stay here in the U.S. I decided to show a few people who Jack London was. I gave Ryan, a student from Albany University a look into his life socially, and politically. “I think he would move to a country like France maybe”, he says. France is a country in which Jack’s socialist views have taken a strong hold in a democratic forum. This seems to be a very accurate guess. However, it is unfortunate our government will never mimick or mock that of western Europe’s social democracies.

So, with the gap between our classes widening, we need to look back at the times before the middle class. We need to look to Jack London, a man who lived the American dream, but was still unhappy because there was so many who could not live his dream. We live in a society built on cheap gas and free markets. There will never be a democracy like France (one that Jack London would find appealing). Yet, we can still see Jack London’s voice as reason to give the underprivileged a chance to speak, and not just in the election years. Regardless of who is elected, there is a good chance that the poor will remain poor, the middle class will remain at the lower or upper ends of the medium, and the rich will remain rich. It is us, fellow Americans who need to create change from the bottom up. So long as Jack London’s cause remains important, his message remains important, more important than any of our own selfish needs.

Mary Kate

August 3, 2008 at 4:17 pm Leave a comment

Crossing the Bridge to Green: the real solution to America’s energy crisis

Crossing the Bridge to Green: the Real Solutions to America’s Energy Crisis

 

With oil over four dollars a gallon, many Americans are pleading for a quick fix to our growing energy problems that have reached a peak in 2008.  How ever, this is an unrealistic request, seeing as it will take many steps to quench our thirst for oil and the new energies we so desperately crave.  With promising technologies like cellulosic ethanol, wind, and solar energies twenty to thirty years away from having any effect, many experts suggest building a bridge to green.  Though controversial, experts show just how cost efficient, quickly effective, and surprisingly environmentally friendly these solutions are.

 

Lets start with a button pushing issue: Offshore drilling.  As of right now, president George W. Bush lifted a 27-year executive ban on offshore oil drilling.  This decision came in reaction to record high prices at the pump, which were driven up due to speculation and weaning supply.  Currently, 700 billion dollars of our money is being sent to hostile nations like Iran and Saudi Arabia for foreign oil. These nations refuse to increase production despite the growing worldwide crisis.  In fact, king Abdullah of Saudi Arabia attributed the reasoning of his decision due to the “selfish interest, and increased consumption” of the west.  Speculators see these hostile sentiments of the mid-east as ample opportunity to bet that oil prices will rise (often contributing to rising prices themselves).  These problems combined equate to the suffering of oil addicted Americans at the pump.  “The higher cost of energy is not just affecting Americans through the price of a gallon of gas, it’s affecting the cost to put food on their table”, says John Derrick, director of research at U.S. global investors.  So, with 83% of Americans in approval of permanently lifting the ban, is it time to do so?

(CNN poling data, July 2008 )

 

The economic benefits of such a decision are clear: quick relief.  Since the ban was lifted a week and a half ago (July 2008), crude prices dropped from 147 dollars to 123 dollars a barrel, according to market data.  There is an estimated 116 billion barrels worth of oil in the OCS (outer continental shelf).  Scientists from Exxon-Mobil say that some of this oil could be available within one to two years.  Yet, the democratically controlled congress won’t budge.  Their argument is not as compelling as it once sounded.  Congress claims that the oil will not be available for ten or more years. This is false, according to scientists who have studied the area (OCS) extensively.  Another faction of their argument is that oil companies already have 68 million acres of land to drill.  The land has been proven to be an uncertain supplier, and possibly dried up. This has been proven due to technology that reads electromagnetic waves in the earth’s crust that detects crude reserves.  Regardless of when the oil is usable from the OCS, it will bring down prices (as it has shown through the recent decline in crude prices).  Speculators cannot rely on conflicts in Africa and the mid-east for reasons to bet on a rise in prices, because we will dictate our own oil market.  We will have the measures in place to control our own oil production until we have alternative energy at our hands. 

 

 

 

 

Aside from the fact that drilling in the OCS is cost efficient and effective, many feel it is not environmentally friendly.  This is surprisingly untrue.  The ban was originally set in place to combat the poorly maintained facilities on the OCS back in the 70s.  Since that time, we have seen improving technology that have attributed to safer, more environmentally friendly practices. (CNN report)  Since the 70s, we have seen drastic declines in oil spills from rigs.  Barrels that have dropped into the sea have declined from 1,000,000 in the 70s to under 1,000 after the turn of the 21st century.  In fact, only 1% of oil in the sea is attributed to rigs offshore. The majority of oil in the sea is due to tankers importing oil. (Recent study performed by the U.S. department of interior, Mineral management service, Pacific OCS).  In ANWR, many residents are for the drilling in their region.  According to ANWR.org, these are some of the reasons:

Only 8% of ANWR would be considered for exploration, 250,000-735,000 jobs would be created, Prudhoe Bay (explored land) studies show that there is no direct impact on animals, such as the caribou (who went from 3,000 to 32,000 animals since exploration).  With these perspectives, it is tough to argue that the technology is environmentally unfriendly.

 

Another hot button issue is an essential piece of the bridge to green: Nuclear energy.

The founder of Greenpeace, Patrick Moore, says, “nuclear energy … remains the only practical, safe, and environmentally-friendly means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing energy security.”  Nuclear plants emit zero carbon dioxide into the environment.  Unlike Nuclear plants, old, coal-fired plants contribute to 93% of nitrogen oxide, 96% of Sulfur dioxide, 88% of carbon dioxide, and 99% of mercury emissions, according to the U.S. clean air council.  How ever, many environmentalists fear another disaster, like Chernobyl or Three Mile Island.  Both of these disasters occurred due to poor design and maintenance.  As of right now, over 400 nuclear reactors have operated every day without serious incident (100 of those reactors in the U.S. already).  In fact 1/3rd of the cost goes to maintenance and infrastructure safety.

 

The environmentally safe features are proven, but what about the cost? A single facility costs around 11 billion dollars to build.  Also, in order to meet with regulations, facilities have to update their reactors every 10-20 years, costing additional billions.   It is not impossible to afford though.  Many countries, like France have heavily relied on nuclear energy.  79% of their energy is from nuclear energy alone, and much of that is exported.  When compared to the continually rising costs of solar panels, nuclear energy comes in much cheaper according to Patrick Moore.  Also, nuclear power, like in other countries is subsidized, ultimately decreasing the cost.

 

Environmentally friendly, but a bit expensive to maintain, nuclear energy has proven already that it is a viable source of alternative energy.  France has built functionally safe facilities in five years time.  This means we could have clean energy that could fuel our homes and businesses as soon as 2012!  The U.S. already has 100 reactors. Yet, we will need even more to make an impact. 

 

Finally, one will need to eventually have more fuel-efficient cars in addition to wind, and solar energies.  How ever, many car companies are only just beginning to switch green, as plummeting SUV sales call for a change.  In Europe, they pay ten dollars a gallon for gas!  Their cars are very fuel efficient, getting well over 30 MPG rated.  American companies like GM and Ford build many of these cars. With the increase in production of these fuel efficient and smart cars, we can start seeing changes soon.  First, legislation will need to be passed in order to prevent car companies from manufacturing cars under 30 MPG.  Both candidates have a plan to make this possible.  By 2012, all major car companies will have electric cars, and fuel-efficient vehicles to reduce consumption of oil regardless of any legislation. (NY auto show)  In order to allow ethanol to replace oil, it will take at least 30 years.  Ethanol is also very expensive (more so than oil – at its average price before 2008).  It would also outsource a lot of farming in order to meet production needs.  How ever, like Nuclear power, the benefits are clear.  Brazil took hint at the embargo of the 70s and is completely reliant on ethanol.  Like the cars being produced now here in the U.S., Brazil’s cars are flex-fuel vehicles (vehicles that can run on alternative fuels).  With the car companies and farmers working together, Brazil’s success can be ours by 2030.  The only con is being able to produce ethanol on farms without disrupting the production of other necessities like food.  Researchers are working on a way to synthesize production in order to combat with this problem. Although solar and wind are cutting edge as well, these alternatives cannot yield enough power alone to fuel the U.S. (according to recent studies) Hopefully with enough research, we can find a way to combine solar, wind, and even hydro energy in a cost efficient and productive matter. 

                       

So, as for now the future is ethanol, and nuclear power. Both have proven to be the most effective, cost-efficient, environmentally friendly cures to America’s oil addiction.  How ever, it will take some time, as that particular future is over 30 years away.  So, for now we need to make the bridge to green by domesticating oil production and bringing down the prices of crude.  After that, it will be up to us to increase fuel efficiency in the vehicles we drive.  This will allow us to cut back on oil, and use less of our own product.  Simultaneously we need to give incentives to our investment class, in order to make them put the necessary funds behind ethanol and green energy research.  America is at war with it’s self. We need to stop the partisan politics and free Americans from the strangle hold of the gas pumps; and that starts here and now, with the facts about the real non-partisan, spin-free future of energy.

 

Mary Kate

July 27, 2008 at 7:05 pm 3 comments

SUV injures two and causes excess of 5000 dollars in damage.

 
 

 

A tenured 52 year old nurse sustained a neck injury when an SUV backed into her smaller, compact car last week at a local hospital. The nurse, who was injured drove a small 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit, which sustained $5600 in damage. A 54 year old passenger (a medical records keeper at the hospital) in the Rabbit also sustained a neck injury. The 31 year old SUV driver, also a nurse, was not injured.

The accident occurred just before seven in the morning at the hospital parking lot. A security guard told the driver of the SUV that the parking garage was full. He then told her to “back up.” The driver, without looking backed up into the Volkswagen Rabbit, which was stopped at the stop sign just before the entrance to the garage. “She was going at least 15 to 20 mph”, says the 52 year old nurse and mother of two, who chose not to be identified. The damage was excessive, crunching the 11 day old Volkswagen like an accordion. The mid-size Honda SUV received only a minor paint scrape. Both passengers of the Rabbit were treated at the hospital emergency room.

“SUVs were originally designed and built to be work vehicles, and most are still built using a truck chassis and have not been comprehensively re-designed to be safely used as passenger vehicles”, says the citizen.org president in a presentation of SUV safety awareness. This fact has prompted many to push for the requirement for a special license for SUV operation. “These things are trucks, and truck drivers have licenses – the same should go for the drivers of the SUVs”, says the driver of the Volkswagen. As for now, accidents involving SUVs continue to climb, according to an NHTSB (National Highway and Transportation Safety Board) study. With more SUVs on the road, the statistic will only go up.

The driver of the Volkswagen Rabbit remains on leave facing a possible herniated disk in five years time from now. No charges have been filed to the driver of the SUV, who was 100% at fault for the accident. All injury related care is being covered by the hospital through workman’s compensation.

Mary Kate Leibman

July 19, 2008 at 6:27 pm Leave a comment

Here we go again, another O’reilly rant

Pre-fox era O’reilly is just as crude.

July 19, 2008 at 4:12 am 1 comment

Open-ended

Casually sitting before me with her pale complexion gently hidden by long wiry, curly hair is a multi-talented writer, sports enthusiast, and gifted singer. Her name is Amy Eiferman, and she is going to make waves in the field of creative writing one day – or is she? In fact, writing is but one of her passions in life. So, could it be that Amy has many potential goals to follow? One thing is for sure, it must be something she enjoys. “I want to wake up every day and be excited to go to work”, she says, hands waving in the air with enthusiastic gesture. As for now, she spends most of her time working on the next big sports feature in the school news paper. She is the head Sports editor of the Vignette, the school paper here at Nassau Community College. Asked whether she wants to pursue sports reporting, she does not consider it a main goal. “It is very hard not to let your bias show through when writing about sports”, she says with a slight look of disappointment on her face. This statement comes from an avid Yankees fan, and writing nice things about Boston is not an easy thing to do. Also, she considers her self more of a creative writer than a news reporter, or sports journalist. Yet, with all the teams she follows, the Yankees, Giants, and Rangers to name a few, ESPN is definitely not out of the equation.

How ever, she seems passionate about wanting to write something more in the realms of the arts or fantasy. “I guess I wouldn’t mind working for a magazine – not a news magazine though”, she insists. She leaves it very open-ended, and is not exactly sure what she wants as a career. Surely it has to do with writing in some aspect, since she has been creatively writing since her childhood. As for fantasy, she has always loved the creative freedom it allows. This seems fitting since Amy her self is very free-spirited.

She also sings, and loves American Idol along with multitudes of other genres of music. Her eyes open wide like a child in a toy store when speaking of music. She tells me she has taken classes as well as vocal lessons to improve her favorite musical ambition: singing. Aside from kicking-ass in Rock Band (a video game with a singing mode), she hopes to try out for American Idol. “I like that every week there is a different genre of music – it allows people to discover their style”, she says about the hit show. She personally favors Motown, and also 90s alternative music in terms of what she chooses to sing. Sarah McLaughlin and Jewel are some of the influences on her singing style. “I feel they [Jewel, and McLaughlin] suit my voice the best.” She also listens to Country legends like Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson when not listening to ESPN radio on her way to school.

In all she tells me: “I want to aim high.” And, with all of her interests and talents, she plans to transfer to either Barnard or Columbia. She majors in the liberal arts (for the freedom it possesses of course) and hopes to take more English classes. As for the future, it remains unclear – but not in a bad way. In fact, it is unclear because of all of her possibilities. With her optimism and determination, I see her not just as a young student, but as some one special who will have the chance to influence the world for years to come as the next J.K. Rowling, or maybe even the future editor of ELLE. What ever she does, I look forward to seeing the outcome, for it will be a great one.

Mary Kate Leibman

July 11, 2008 at 2:03 pm Leave a comment


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