Random Movie Review: Gattaca

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Gattaca is a dividing movie that people either love or have selectively forgotten. Director Andrew Niccol, who, if I may digress, also directed Nick Cage’s best film, Lord of War, paints an incredible portrait with Gattaca‘s stylised near-future First World. Where Sky Captain and the World Of Tomorrow failed to integrate a post-WWII fashion sense, Gattaca brings it with architecturally stunning shots populated by beautiful people in perfectly tailored, vintage-future clothing.

The main story line is carried by Vincent (Ethan Hawke) who was born as an in-valid, or person of lesser genes. Vincent dreams of flying in space, and so gains access to the Gattaca Aerospace Corporation by pretending to be the genetically perfect, but now paralysed, Jerome (Jude Law). There is much male hair-brushing, nude body-scrubbing and urine-collecting as Jerome and Vincent successfully swap identities by duping Gattaca’s genetic-scanning system.

Perhaps the most overdone moment in this film is a flashback to Vincent’s childhood as he competes against his younger brother in an impossible swimming challenge. Under grey skies, an orchestra of ever-swelling strings accompanies the boys as they struggle against choppy water. The sequence beats us over the head, illustrating the fragility of human life but serves a necessary purpose in revealing the protagonist’s overall dedication and perseverance.

Nothing says 90’s blockbuster like Uma Thurman, Ethan Hawke, and, introducing Jude Law. Gattaca was culturally topical, too. The eugenics-obsessed Western World was primed for this film, it being released a year after IRL scientists in Scotland introduced the world to Dolly the Sheep, the first successfully cloned mammal. Trust me, in 1996 that was a really, really big deal.

Gattaca‘s brand of speculative fiction schlock is right up my alley. Overwrought and extreme genetic tinkering, Big Brother scanning our DNA, with a duplicitous murder mystery plotline thrown in for good measure. Science fiction liberates storytelling by providing a brutal mirror to shine against our modern society. For similar reasons, Gattaca was nearly demoted to “Natalia’s Second Favourite Film” by the much grittier Children Of Men. But this was fuelled mostly by my short-termed celebrity crush on Clive Owen.

Gattaca succeeds because it is a well-conceived movie. It is complete, as Art should be, in its casting, costuming and set design. I also commend Gattaca‘s pacing. A continuous underlying tension carries this film, skillfully buried beneath the forced grace and poise the protagonists must maintain to pull off their scheme. Our dark personal secrets make life challenging enough. Imagine also having to obsess over the idea that losing an eyelash might condemn your freedom forever.

Check the super 90’s trailer here:

Pop Culture + Kids + Aging Hipster Mom = ???

I am now in the twilight of my second pregnancy: with less than two weeks to go and the baby already “in position,” I’m finding I have to force myself to focus on the marathon I’m about to run. Labour is similar to just that — running a marathon — it is mentally and physically exhausting, but the reward at the finish line is like nothing else we, as human beings, will ever experience in our lifetime. This goes for moms and dads.

This being our second child, I feel more confident than I did the first time around. And while this confidence still comes with its own hesitations, I guess I am more relaxed knowing how the whole labour thing is generally going to go down. I pulled up my previous birth plan and whittled it down to the “best of,” a half-page of point-form notes detailing my personal list of dos and don’ts for whoever is staffing the maternity ward that day.

As I was working on the plan, I decided to consult the Internets to read about plans for second births. One of the resources I came upon was a blog called TheFeministBreeder.com. The name of the blog was one thing and the advice was fine, but more captivating was the blogger’s bio:

Gina Crosley-Corcoran — writer, doula, childbirth educator, activist, and mother of three littles. Used to play in a famous rock band. Now earning a Master of Public Health in Maternal Child Health.

I mean, “famous rock band?” How could I not Google this? The rabbit hole led me to ’90s femme-grungers Veruca Salt, of whom I was a big follower in my mid-teens. While mommy-blogger Gina was not in the band while I adored them, I was nonetheless fascinated to learn that the band is still kicking around. I watched YouTube videos for Seether and All Hail Me two of their singles from their seminal 1994 American Thighs album.

Thank the heavens that tight, ringy snare sound, which I would vocalise as a tonal schpincks, has gone out of style.

Beyond that, I began thinking about our seven-year-old daughter who can memorize and sing back a song after hearing it once. She comes home from school with all this total musical garbage in her head — stuff her peers are “into” — though I’m sure they don’t know why they like this music other than the fact they must be mainlining the Disney Channel where it’s being marketed aggressively to them. I mean, these kids are in grade two and their parents are buying them head-to-toe Selena Gomez and Hannah Montana apparel. Call me a snob, but yuck.

Do people even listen to music? Following my alternative lifestyle, harsh words for most mainstream music and dangerously “aging hipster” attitude, I mostly think that music is an empty escape for most of the consuming public.

But I digress. I want my daughter to actually listen to music, to hear and appreciate what she is listening to. She is immediately drawn to music with female singers — she likes Feist and Robyn but we rarely listen to music at home so nothing is forced upon her — and for a moment I thought maybe she would like Veruca Salt.

Parenting is an odd, amorphous journey you take with your children. We have to avoid cramming our own nostalgia down their throats and let them discover who they are and the culture that will inevitably inform their identity. So as I shepherd a seven-year-old carefully around the edges of the music industry, I will also welcome a new person, who will grow up hearing me talk crap about music marketing and false-representation in the arts.

Wish me luck.

This post also appears on the HuffingtonPost.ca

Spazzy Aesthetics

In my last post I mentioned the long, rambling, roundabout thoughts adulthood grants, versus the stroboscopic fallout of media that today’s youth are exposed to. And so I’ve been noticing this spastic aesthetic that the kids are getting into: I call it neo-psychedaelia, and it especially afflicts today’s indie rock hipster monoculture. Check out these links that really illustrate what I’m on about (not sonically but visually, of course):

– Montreal band Think About Life: What the hell is going on? Hunh? Too much information! I’m too old for this. I think I broke my hip trying to find their bio.

– Über-duo MGMT: Cool thing is you can type any word (only nouns seem to work) into the “MGmtSEARCH” dialogue box and it somehow pulls an image of that thing from the web and inserts it on the page. You have to try it because it’s pretty rad.

Why?’s latest album cover. Can everyone stop pooing clouds for a minute of our lives?

– Intergalactic Virign’s tripped-out MySpace. I stumbled upon this on The Dears’ MySpace so it’s totally random. It shows how even something as formulaic as MySpace’s profile editing can be manipulated into something that is barely legible.

It’s beyond a cut-and-paste vibe, this frenetic, nonsensical overlap of images. Remember when you had a 286 and how fun that little drawing app called “Paintbrush” was? It’s like these websites are being designed in Super Mario Paint. These softwares were really shitty but embodied the niftiness of the 90’s: “Wow! Look at this useless thing my computer can do!” right before you went and played Lemmings for two hours straight. I think the amazingness of this kind of design is its crappiness: it doesn’t rely on complicated Flash animation or intense HTML programming. It’s pretty basic (or perhaps written in BASIC?), which is what makes the aesthetic so accessible and raw.

I guess this trend has its equivalent in fashion with ironic 80’s sunglasses paired with the comeback of the bandana (see example below, though with fashion I find the aesthetic is more derivative and a bit boring):
hipsterorspecial_2.jpg – from DO.PALICIO.US

P.S. I can’t believe I made programming jokes, but I did take two years of computer science in high school.