Scroll down for Amygdala archives! You know you want to. [Temporarily rather borked, along with rest of template.]
Amygdala's endorsements are below my favorite quotations! Keep scrolling!
Amygdala will move to an entirely new and far better blog template ASAP, aka RSN, aka incrementally/badly punctuated evolution.
Tagging posts, posts by category, next/previous post indicators, and other post-2003 design innovations are incrementally being tweaked/kludged/melting.
Above email address currently deprecated! Use gary underscore farber at yahoodotcom, pliz! Sanely free of McCarthyite calling anyone a traitor since 2001!
Commenting Rules: Only comments that are courteous and respectful of other commenters will be allowed. Period.
You must either open a Google/Blogger.com/Gmail Account, or sign into comments at the bottom of any post with OpenID, LiveJournal, Typepad, Wordpress, AIM account, or whatever ID/handle available to use. Hey, I don't design Blogger's software: sorry!
Posting a spam-type URL will be grounds for deletion.
Comments on posts over 21 days old are now moderated, and it may take me a long while to notice and allow them.
I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?
I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.
Thanks for any understanding and support. I know it's difficult to understand. And things will change. They always change.
I'm sometimes available to some degree as a paid writer, editor, researcher, or proofreader. I'm sometimes available as a fill-in Guest Blogger at mid-to-high-traffic blogs that fit my knowledge set.
If you like my blog, and would like to help me continue to afford food and prescriptions, or simply enjoy my blogging and writing, and would like to support it --
you are welcome to do so via the PayPal buttons.
"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
NIKTO. The breadth and depth of the trashing reviews of the remake of Day The Earth Stood Still is positively awesome.
To start with some of the smaller-name reviewers (but the big guns are equally dumbstruck!): Tri-City Herald:
[...] Not only have they sacrilegiously done a redo of what many consider perfection, but the producers also have arranged an 186,000-mile per second beaming of the flick into space. It is aimed at Alpha Centauri. Inhabitants in the three-star cluster will be able to see it sometime in 2012.
How smart can it be to broadcast this into space? A real Klaatu could be out there monitoring us. A movie this bad could tip our fate scale in the negative direction.
If you’re looking for chuckles this holiday season, bypass the miserably unfunny “Four Christmases” and go where the real comedy is — “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” a clumsy, moronic remake of Robert Wise’s brilliant 1951 classic about an alien invader trying to save the human race from its own self-destructive impulses. [...] The new “Day” can’t be bothered to include the thought-provoking dialogue of the original, choosing instead to bury the audience with special effects that are visually impressive but no substitute for an actual script. And what words do remain are so exquisitely awful that they provide some of the season’s biggest laughs. [...] Discussing the acting in “Earth” is something of an exercise in pointlessness — Reeves does a lot of wooden staring while speaking in a monotone, so at least he’s working within his skill set.
[...] In the early stages of this very, very bad film, Reeves does manage to be the one arresting thing on show, a tight-lipped and sinister emissary who has borrowed human DNA and emits a woozy aura of body-snatcher threat. "We've decided to sedate him," says the US Secretary of Defense (Kathy Bates, modelling this year's neocon winter range, and Sarah Palin's hair), but sedate our leading man any further and he'd be unconscious, surely. [...] Yes, the movie is instantly silly, but you hold out hope it might at least fall into the good-bad category of The Day After Tomorrow – global meltdown with some kick-ass special effects. Unfortunately, every such effect at Derrickson's disposal is just terrible [...] but the eschewal of all internal logic starts to feel like an insult, the cinematography is dismal, and the cocktail of lazy CGI and po-faced, sub-Al-Gore environment lecture leaves you light-headed with tedium.
[...] No, it’s a giant, interstellar turkey that’s flapped its way weakly across the cosmos, Keanu Reeves strapped to its back, to provide solid, incontrovertible, squawking proof that if a classic ain’t broke... Hollywood will do its darndest to smash it to pieces anyway. [...] Connelly does what she can with a plot that merely requires her to raise her eyebrows on cue, while Reeves provides compelling evidence that intelligent life really doesn’t exist beyond our own planet – his dead fish eyes and monosyllabic drawl lulling you to coma levels of boredom.
Add to that some unimpressive CGI and a bizarrely abrupt ending and you have the day your buttocks went to sleep, your brain melted and your will to live evaporated.
[...] Unfortunately, "The Day the Earth Stood Still" is a jumble of spare parts and leftover dialogue, as if it had been assembled out of unused bits of every movie where an unknown whatzit threatens our way of life and the government goes into full institutional pants-crapping panic mode. [...] I saw this movie yesterday (as I write this) and I can barely remember it. It definitely has Reeves in it, though, as the alien Klaatu, who arrives in Central Park encased in a mold of icky space-gelatin and faints into the arms of super-skinny biologist Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly), who's got on sexy but sensible hip-hugger flares under her containment suit. [...] Derrickson's previous directing efforts have included "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" and "Hellraiser: Inferno," and there's nothing in those mid-level movies or this much larger one to indicate that he has any particular aptitude for the craft. (He's apparently now making a film based on "Paradise Lost" -- yes, the epic poem by Milton -- and, really, what can you say about that beyond expressing abject and total horror?) Still, it's hard to hold Derrickson fully responsible when the screenplay is so hackneyed and dunderheaded. I half suspect that Scarpa's script is hackneyed and dunderheaded on purpose, as if trying to re-create the stark and seemingly innocent Earth-vs.-Martians, good-vs.-evil dichotomy of 1950s science fiction. If so, it doesn't work. [...] The fictional president and vice president of this movie are never seen; they've been chained up and shipped away to separate faraway bunkers, leaving Defense Secretary Regina Jackson (Kathy Bates) behind the desk. Jackson dresses like Madeleine Albright but thinks like Don Rumsfeld, and the only reason she doesn't have Klaatu subcontracted out to Egyptian or Bulgarian torturers is because he's a superpowerful alien who can bring down helicopters with his hands, raise New Jersey state troopers from the dead and extract tuna-salad sandwiches from train-station vending machines without paying. [...] Like Helen and all the other scientific and military advisors surrounding her throne, Jackson suffers from a syndrome common in these kinds of epic disaster films but nearly absent from the general population: She's apparently never seen this kind of movie and doesn't know how the story goes. She's amazed to learn that shooting Sidewinder missiles at Klaatu or at his ginormous robot defender, who are manifestly the products of a superior civilization, does no good at all and even makes matters worse. Furthermore, as dumb as human beings may be, I don't even buy this: Maybe when aliens land on the Great Lawn we'll just start randomly heaving military hardware at them, but I'd like to believe that any plausible human leadership would adopt a more judicious approach.
The Christmas turkey has landed, in the form of 20th Century Fox's worst blockbuster ever. [...] Exposing this overgrown weakling to honest criticism feels as cruel as knocking away Tiny Tim's crutch and giving the boy a comprehensive kicking. [...] Keanu Reeves delivers the year's most inadequate performance as Klaatu, a thunderously boring, inadequately briefed, intellectually minuscule alien who arrives on Earth to warn that humans are going to destroy the planet if we don't change our ways. Like now, man. [...] The other big hoot is when Jennifer Connelly looks into Keanu's dull, lifeless eyes and inquires: 'Any signs of neural activity?'
The answer, not for the first time in Keanu's career, is 'No'. [...] This is a disaster movie, in more senses than one. Verdict: The Day The Remake Died From Dumbness. Rating: Turkey.
Keanu Reeves, who was The One in "The Matrix," takes on another messianic role in Scott Derrickson's cluttered, pointless remake of Robert Wise's 1951 "The Day the Earth Stood Still." It's a part he might have played in his sleep, and he almost does. [...] Jon Hamm, the charismatic star of AMC's "Mad Men," plays a character so poorly defined that he seems to have been written out of the movie while it was shooting. [...] Casting Reeves as Klaatu (replacing the wonderfully eerie Michael Rennie in the original) may also have been a joke, just not quite as private. Reeves has become so inscrutable he's funny, especially when the script requires that Klaatu go through a change of mind. This leads to a series of scenes so sappy and awkward that no one seems to believe what they're saying. The movie stumbles to an ending that's more whimper than bang.
[...] "Everything will be explained," a government goon tells Jennifer Connelly's exobiologist, Dr. Helen Benson, in "The Day the Earth Stood Still." A space ship has landed and Helen is urgently needed to make nice with the occupants. What's never explained is why anyone would do such a dumb remake of Robert Wise's 1951 sci-fi classic [....]
[...] Actually, a good portion of this sci-fi disaster movie is unintentionally comical. And the parts that aren't funny are just plain dull. [...] The spaceship resembles a giant Christmas ornament [...] Never fully engaging us, The Day the Earth Stood Still has more plot holes than a hunk of Swiss cheese. And the story is about as fresh as a stale cracker.
[...] Who goes to a sci-fi film to be reminded about conservation? I get enough of that from my recycling bin, which, by the way, is far more visually exciting than "The Day the Earth Stood Still," as well as more pleasing to the ear.
No, I don't know who 7(M) Pictures is, but although uncommonly positive, I had to quote this:
[...] The best part of this movie is Keanu Reeves. He plays an alien who doesn’t talk much and shows no emotion. I really think he has found his perfect role. [...] Still, “The Day the Earth Stood Still” isn’t an entire waste of time. I’m sure the filmmakers figured they were making a movie that would really make people think, but I implore you to not think at all when watching this film. The logic is terrible. The moral compass is out of whack. And the general flow of the story and actions of the characters are sometimes downright silly.
Arguably the worst reconstitution of a '50s sci-fi classic since the ghastly Godzilla remake — that 1998 travesty made by boneheads who forgot the Original Gangsta Lizard can, like, breathe fire — The Day the Earth Stood Still is a stunningly misconceived folly that is bearable only for as long as it remains a fair-to-middling chase movie. During its final act, alas, it repeatedly sacrifices narrative logic for CGI-spawned spectacle, all the while building toward an ending that aims for the ambiguity of 2001, but misses by several light years. [...] Rennie underacted the part to the point of sporadic stasis, but Reeves makes him look in retrospect like an over-caffeinated show-off. [...] So it’s not really Reeves’ fault that this updated remake — in which Klaatu has zero tolerance for global warming, not nuclear proliferation — is about as satisfying as a plate of lukewarm leftovers. [...] After that, the remake doesn’t conclude, it merely stops.
At which point, audiences can be forgiven for shouting rude remarks at the screen.
[...] This is the kind of movie in which, when they arrive, the feds basically tell Helen to leave her young stepson (Jaden Smith, son of Will) at home; he'll be fine, except for maybe that huge hurtling object.
It's also the kind of movie where a fellow scientist ("Mad Men's" Jon Hamm) says, "I'll have to crash-brief you," and later tells the secretary of defense (Kathy Bates) that a cosmos traveler is "the most important discovery in the history of mankind!" [...] The stone-faced silliness in this new "TDTESS" at first seems like an homage to old-fashioned '50s watch-the-skies movies, until it becomes clear it's just newfangled bad filmmaking. Early on, there's some jumpy paranoia, though once Reeves, Connelly, Hamm and Bates move their lips, things go south. [...] The film's major action sequences are never exciting, and even the now-requisite destruction of New York feels lazy. (No one even comments on half the city being eaten by space locusts. Maybe they're mulling that news report early on that says, "Financial markets react to alien invasion.")
And closing out with a few of the bigger name critics, Richard Schickel in Time:
[...] Unfortunately, the new director is a dope named Scott Derrickson, who has teamed with a morally deaf screenwriter named David Scarpa, and they have made what must be the worst major release in what may be the most disastrous year in recent Hollywood history.
Most basically, these aliens are not here to give us a last peaceful warning. Their trigger fingers are beyond itchy and they launch a major assault on the world's capitals, a concatenation of been-there, done-that special effects that first deadens the senses and then, mercifully, induces narcolepsy. The aliens don't really give a chance to respond to their warnings. As a matter of fact, since their alternative to our threatening behavior appears to be even more menacing — it consists of swarms of metallic insects gnawing nastily away at any human flesh in its path — it makes as much sense to resist the invaders as it does to heed them. You couldn't possibly be any worse off. [...] The guy was never a ton of fun, but formerly he was at least a figure of moral weight and — especially rare in popular entertainments — a believably brainy one, a kind of public intellectual before that egregious term was invented. Now he's pretty much a drip.
I could go on — pseudo-scientific investigations of Klaatu that produce more glop than useful information, a failure even to reference the earlier film's famous catch phrase ("Klaatu Barada Nickto," which essentially means, "Cool it, Gort" and which was on every 12-year-old's lips a little more than a half century ago), a cross-species romance between Klaatu and an earth woman (Jennifer Connelly) that was once rather touching and now registers somewhere between fatuous and nonexistent. But why bother? Suffice it to say that these morons have, quite simply, turned The Day the Earth Stood Still on its head and what's falling out of its pockets in that upended state is a stream of junk.
[...] But wait, Helen pleads. We can change! To provide evidence of this transformative potential she takes Klaatu to see her mentor, Professor Barnhardt (John Cleese), a scientist who listens to Bach and was awarded a Nobel Prize for “altruistic biology.” Apparently this is the Swedish Academy’s euphemism for pimping: the good doctor’s advice to Helen about how to approach Klaatu is to “persuade him not with your reason, but with yourself.”
Still, any movie that awards a former Monty Python cast member a Nobel Prize in anything cannot be all bad. And “The Day the Earth Stood Still” could be worse. Its scenario and many of its scenes feel ripped off rather than freshly imagined — why do aliens always seem to end up in New Jersey?
"The Day the Earth Stood Still" need not have taken its title so seriously that the plot stands still along with it. [...] The message of the 2008 version is that we should have voted for Al Gore. This didn't require Klaatu and Gort. That's what I'm here for. Actually, Klaatu is non-partisan and doesn't name names, but his message is clear: Planets capable of sustaining life are so rare that the aliens cannot allow us to destroy life on this one. So they'll have to kill us. [...] That's no big deal, because Klaatu looks on everything dispassionately. Maybe he has no passions. He becomes the first co-star in movie history to elude falling in love with Jennifer Connelly. Keanu Reeves is often low-key in his roles, but in this movie, his piano has no keys at all. He is so solemn, detached and uninvolved he makes Mr. Spock look like Hunter S. Thompson at closing time.
On the bright side, this movie seems to have almost followed through on the intent of the origional movie: it brought together some 80% of the Earth's movie critics. Too bad it was to hate the film; as higher purposes go, that'll have to do.
Read The Rest Scale: what, this wasn't enough for you?
Oh, and nobody ever says "Gort, Klaatu barado nikto." Really.
Twentieth Century Fox makes history by transmitting the first motion picture in to deep space, making The Day the Earth Stood Still the world's first galactic motion picture release. The first deliberate deep space transmission of this highly anticipated science fiction thriller will begin this Friday, December 12, 2008, to coincide with the film's opening day on Planet Earth. If any civilizations are currently orbiting Alpha Centauri, they will be able to receive and view the film approximately four years from now in the year 2012.
In a time when global movie launches are now commonplace, Fox is raising the bar by spearheading, with Deep Space Communications Network located at Cape Canaveral, the ultimate in "wide release" platforms.
Now they really might come and destroy us.
ADDENDUM, 12/15/08, 7 p.m.: I should have pointed out earlier that mocking "biological altruism" = stoopid.
[...] This is an area in which science fiction, for all its vaunted imagination, is traditionally quite conservative. With some notable exceptions, we tend to assume that the forms life can take are neatly divided into “intelligent species” and “everyone else,” and we are snugly in the former category, and all intelligent species are roughly equally intelligent and it’s just a matter of time before we get our own seat in the Galactic Parliament.
Which is a lot of horsepuckey.
ADDENDUM, 12/23/08, 5:18 p.m.: Gary Westfahl, one of the most perceptive writers on science fiction films, starts off:
Well. If you have never seen the original version of The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), if you value neat-o special effects above all other aspects of the cinematic experience, and if you don't object to a film delivering a simplistic environmental message with all the subtlety of a Captain Planet cartoon, then you just might enjoy this addled update of Robert Wise's classic film. Alas, I fall into none of these categories, and therefore can value this film only for its unintended but interesting commentary on the ways that human society, and science fiction, have changed in the last fifty years.
In this film, however, I think Reeves achieves a new all-time low.
Having just read the various bits by and about "Rog" Ebert in the late '50s Seattle fanzine Cry (of the Nameless), I'm of the opinion that "Roger" Ebert's review of this film is to be basically trusted.
I didn't mention all the reviews, as that would have been a muchness of muchness, and quoting the few positive reviews would have diluted the theme. I did give the link to Rotten Tomatoes, so people could examine them all if they felt so moved.
"in the late '50s Seattle fanzine Cry"
I've written about Roger's fannish past a number of times, such as here and here, among other posts.
"PS: You coming to Corflu Zed, Gary?"
I wasn't under the impression much of anybody particularly wanted to see me. I was under the counter-impression that various folks would be horrified at the notion. Feel free to disabuse me via email. (gary underscore farber at yahoo dot com)
Holy crap, Mr. Movie (Tri-City Herald) got one right! In the whole stopped-clock sort of way... in my ten years in the Tri-Cities, I couldn't recall him giving ANY science fiction movie a positive review. Maybe he's mellowed with age, as I haven't lived there for over a decade.