Battle: Upland

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Thinking about Scott’s question and thinking about the struggle to keep from falling right back into the patterns that I really have no choice but to try to shake off and shake up and re-set…

…as soon as I start thinking more narratologically, more about making a movie that’s a movie, I start turning my life into my own star vehicle… and I start feeling more secretive, more greedy, more manipulative, more phony – more in need of and part of a project that “makes sense” the way that the crappy movie I pay-per-viewed tonight made perfect sense, both on its own terms and as a business venture…

I knew going in that BATTLE: LOS ANGELES would be a movie about the state of the move industry and little else, and, if I had been in more of a mood to laugh, I would have laughed out loud when the production company logo came onscreen: “Original Films.” Ironies don’t get more “on the nose.” BATTLE: LOS ANGELES is the frictionless inter-alignment of two genre systems – modern alien movie, modern war movie – and other than that a computer-shooter for people who don’t have time and habit set aside for computer-shooters. Storyline was very much STARSHIP TROOPERS, ID4 and a thousand forgotten or never-filmed scripts and books. Aliens attack, overwhelmingly superior, but heroes discover key vulnerability, execute daring plan, achieve victory… one giant leap for all mankind. Was probably pitched as a combination of ID4 and BLACK HAWK DOWN or some such.

The point is that as a story – Marine Sgt on last tour rallies his plucky ragtag troops and overcomes personal demons in against the odds fight against evil aliens – BATTLE: LOS ANGELES isn’t a story at all. As a collection of data points in the ongoing real Battle: Los Angeles, between the Movies and what’s destroying the Movies, it had a bit more to offer. Humanity defeats Special Effects in the end – “Let’s take back Los Angeles” is the final sentence. But without Special Effects – the mechanized alien menace – there is no reason for the film, no basis for this spectacle, nothing much to the film at all.

Who or what really wins in a movie like this one?

So, I tell myself, and try hard to believe it, stop doing or trying to do this thing I’m trying to do as though it’s BATTLE: LOS ANGELES… let the falls chip where they may… At least Scott will like it.

(This actually was all about the outline for the Second Draft that I’ve been fighting with… maybe more on that later.)


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12 comments on “Battle: Upland

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  1. A) why would the aliens want to take Los Angeles by force?

    why not follow the usual pattern and sneak across the intergalactic border because Obamablahblah, get false id in the name of John Smallberries and John Bigboote, collect all them welfare checks and use the foodstamps to get likkered-up (and selling liquor to them whatever-skinned welfare grabbers oughta be a felony, of course, of course) and drive all the decent godbothering folks to the Inland Empire to bitch and moan and practice their RRRRRRRRRRRRRR idolatry

    B) why fight to take LA back rather than just seek to shape the alien’s choices?

    C) why pay to watch shit like that?

  2. fuster wrote:

    A) why would the aliens want to take Los Angeles by force?

    a) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PltMO5xPQ-A&feature=related

    Though L.A. is just the battleground we happen to observe directly. The Aliens are doin nasty alien things in at least 20 other major cities…

    b) maybe in the sequel, after 10 years…

    c) wanted something to eat my sandwich across from… plus I keep track of special effects/sci-fi movies and war movies, too… and destruction of LA movies… lots of very familiar places were destroyed…

    …I once had an office on Wilshire Blvd, not far from the LA County Art Museum… at just the time I moved in… that horrible movie came out with Tommy Lee Jones and Anne Heche… and a volcano rising up out of the L.A. ground right out in front of my building… nearly the day I moved in the weekly newspaper featured a picture of the front of our building… being destroyed by a volcanic eruption…

    …when I feel a need to get grounded in and face my here and now, there’s nothing like escapism to do that trick…

    “The gaze fixed squarely on consummate negativity delineates its mirror opposite.”

  3. I “will like it.” Yes. “The gaze” is the interesting part. Foucoalt stuff. Dig him still. Don’t care how not-cool the deconstructionists might be or not be right now. Still cool in my fall chip May day.
    I’m going to see Cowboys and Aliens this weekend. I imagine that there will have to be at least something going on with it on a level of “Other.” Right away, we have the can’t-be-more obvious Indian to Alien update. So will the aliens be the bad-guys that the Indians couldn’t be in the Cowboys and Indian movies, especially as time went on? Probably. It’ll be weak. But we’ll see. I just finished a Larry McMurtry book, believe it or not. Gruesome. “Dead-Man’s Walk.” I’ve been interested in him ever since I read that he and my boy Ken Kesey were friends. Strange friends. DMW is a prequel. And it’s interesting in respect to McMurtry not addressing or accidently working out any prequel problems. Things have to relate to later things but at the same time not affect them because they are already written in stone. Anyway, there’s two leads. Just like Lonesome Dove. Never saw it or read it. But DMW has the same two guys. One likes to think about shit, and the other doesn’t. I think McMurtry has two writers inside of him. One just writes, the other thinks. The push-pull dynamic (fight) between those two drives does make for an interesting creation. What happens with Other is inside you as well as Non-Other. That is the question at this point. What is CK going to do with the Others inside him?

  4. @ Scott Miller:
    No, not Foucault, although Foucault took up the “gaze,” as did many others. It had already figured prominently in Husserl, and was frequently a subject of post-structuralist feminist film criticism back when I was reading such stuff, but the quote was actually a late-night garbling on my part from Adorno’s MINIMA MORALIA, which, in addition to being simultaneously a great work of philosophy, a great work of social criticism, and a great work of literature, arguably belongs on the Destruction of Los Angeles list with War of the Worlds (1953), Terminator 2, Earthquake!, and Chinatown. The phrase I was referring to was from the last passage of MM:

    The only philosophy which can be responsibly practised in face of despair is the attempt to contemplate all things as they would present themselves from the standpoint of redemption. Knowledge has no light but that shed on the world by redemption: all else is reconstruction, mere technique. Perspectives must be fashioned that displace and estrange the world, reveal it to be, with its rifts and crevices, as indigent and distorted as it will appear one day in the messianic light. To gain such perspectives without velleity or violence, entirely from felt contact with its objects—this alone is the task of thought. It is the simplest of things, because the situation calls imperatively for such knowledge, indeed because consummate negativity, once squarely faced, delineates the mirror-image of its opposite. But it is also the utterly impossible thing, because it presupposes a standpoint removed, even though by a hair’s breadth, from the scope of existence, whereas we well know that any possible knowledge must not only be first wrested from what is, if it shall hold good, but is also marked, for this very reason, by the same distortion and indigence which it seeks to escape. The more passionately thought denies its conditionality for the sake of the unconditional, the more unconsciously, and so calamitously, it is delivered up to the world. Even its own impossibility it must at last comprehend for the sake of the possible, but beside the demand thus placed on thought, the question of the reality or unreality of redemption itself hardly matters.

    I’ve been thinking about this paragraph for decades, though I’ve also suppressed it for years at a time. To fill in some more of the context for the remarks, the book was written in 1944-9, in the general area destroyed during BATTLE: LOS ANGELES. The other quote from the book that has guided me is “every trip to the cinema makes me worse.” How much worse off we all are in an age when the cinema travels to us!

  5. @ Scott Miller:
    And God in name’s why are you going to see COWBOYS & ALIENS??? That one looks really incredibly pornographically stupid, and not in a good way…

    …not saying you couldn’t trace a useful paragraph from it in the grand autopsy of our zombie culture. Just not sure you actually have to sit through the whole thing in a movie theater to do it.

    When you’re done, please provide an estimate of how much Jon Favreau hates us.

  6. Come on, it’s got Olivia Wilde going for it, It reminds me of this 70s series ‘CliffHangers’ that ran on NBC, it was a trio of programs, one was
    a pre steam punk adventure tale with some underground civillization
    that ran on gold, It’s based on a graphic novel, much in the same vein as Lowell Cunningham, the inventor of Men in Black, that I first encountered in one of the last issues of Omni, I disagree, not surprisingly with your view of Battle LA, it’s an old fashioned war film, it’s fairly lowtech, the Aliens share the conceit of the original visitors, they want to drain our water, and presumedly consume us, in roughly that order.

  7. Favreau, has had a blog dialogue running at the Huff Po, so maybe you should check it out, Yes Sonnenfeld’s ‘Wild Wild West’ is considered a
    crime in ‘several solar systems, so the watchword should be considered
    as caveat emptor.

  8. Someone did a cool outsider poster for it:

    Doesn’t make me want to see it… Scott’s right to focus on the substitution of aliens for Indians… nothing in the promos suggested that they did anything with it, on any noticeable level… maybe it’s all over the actual film… or maybe, more interestingly, it’s rigorously suppressed…

  9. From some of the interviews, the dominant metaphor is we are the Indians, chew that paradigm around for a while,

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  1. […] As I’ve pointed out before, BATTLE: LOS ANGELES offered a nice variation on the same theme: […]

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