Unauthorized documentaries

On tonight’s Darkstream, I had the privilege of announcing that Unauthorized.TV is now presenting documentaries, beginning with Reclaiming the Blade, an intriguing documentary from Galatia Films about the history of the sword. It’s available for all subscribers and we plan to add one new documentary a month. We’re also producing the first Unauthorized documentary, which we plan to release on Unauthorized this fall.

If you’re a subscriber you can watch Reclaiming the Blade by clicking on the image below or by selecting Catalog/Books, Films & Comics/Documentaries.


X-Men meltdown

The SJW implosion continues apace:

X-Men: Dark Phoenix is on track to have the worst opening in the history of the franchise.

The movie collected just $14 million on Friday, making it the lowest debut ever for an X-Men movie, reports Variety on Saturday.

The Simon Kinberg-directed Phoenix, which cost $200 million to make, was initially projected to gross $50–60 million with the studio expecting a $40–50 million debut.

The vacuum just keeps expanding. And the high regard for the comic arc from which it was derived only underlines how badly the filmmakers screwed it up.

The Dark Phoenix Saga is not only one of the greatest X-Men tales, but it is also a frequent nominee for the best comic book storyline of all-time.

Yeah, so, about that….


Chernobyl, corrected

A Soviet general who was featured in the recent miniseries Chernobyl, Nikolai Tarakanov, corrects the liberties taken by the creators of the docudrama in a fascinating interview with Russia Today.

Tarakanov: It was a terrifying sight, really. What on Earth could demolish an entire structure of reinforced concrete? A nuclear bomb? Some massive accident? I couldn’t imagine what had happened there. As a result of the explosion, all the rubble and dust was sent into the air. 300,000 cubic meters of soil around the plant were extracted, put in trucks and taken to burial sites. The soil was replaced with 300,000 cubic meters of crushed stone, sealed with concrete and covered with heavy concrete plates. This led to radiation levels falling by hundreds of times around the site, which allowed us to deal with the plant itself and decontaminate the equipment. It’s a long story. But then again, it was the soldiers who did all that. That is why when they ask me about it I always say: yes, there were scientists. Of course there were scientists; I have a doctoral degree myself. But it was the soldiers who were the main heroes of this story. When you think about war history, you always remember the military leaders, great generals, like Zhukov and Voroshilov. But who did all the fighting? It was the soldiers.

Tarakanov: There’s this episode, it’s is an ugly one. They show this boy, a conscript arriving at the military compound. What comes next is just ridiculous. They give him a uniform and moments later they are teaching him how to shoot animals. I mean, that’s just silly. Nothing even close to that ever happened. This is one serious mistake.

RTD: Are you saying they never executed animals, like they show in the episode?

Tarakanov: No, they did, but never in the residential area. In the residential parts, there were no cows, no dogs – not a single one. The shooting did take place, but it was in the forests, where wild animals still roamed, including deer, as well as cattle that wandered off after the evacuation. But to show this young boy, recently drafted, being given all this equipment straight away [is just absurd].

The way it actually happened was pretty simple. The government issued a decree announcing general mobilization. They were supposed to call in 20,000 reservists, as they were called, from, say, Moscow and elsewhere… Those were all men of conscription age, between 30 and 40, mostly. And, of course, they knew nothing about their pending deployment. Later, when they arrived at the base, they were assigned to different units, a platoon, company or battalion. Only then would they set off for Chernobyl. So, all the procedures followed the law. Yet, the time they had to serve there was way too long.

RTD: This series portrays then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev as a confused man, who is doubting the reality and hesitating to take control. Is that true? Is that how it was and did he really fail to assume responsibility for the incident?

Tarakanov: What I can tell you is that if we speak about the man’s character, since I knew him quite well… he did lack that firm grip on things that, for example, Boris Yeltsin had, the kind that majors and generals have, who can take the lead; issue orders and know what to do, that kind of stuff.

So, when he got the news he didn’t even go there himself, he sent [Nikolai] Ryzhkov [chairman of the Council of Ministers] and Shcherbina to take care of things. And not knowing what’s happening on the ground; not having the slightest idea of what it’s like, he was trying to low-ball the whole thing about the danger to the population and the impact. He was hoping that the commission would report any day that it was all over and fine.

It’s disappointing to hear that the pet shootings were invented, not because one wishes they were real, but because it casts a malevolent shadow on the makers of the docudrama. What is the point of inventing and then subjecting the viewer to such psychological horror, especially when it was not real? Given the way in which Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin claims “The lesson is that lying, arrogance, and suppression of criticism are dangerous”, what could possibly be the objective of lying about the mass slaughter of puppies and kittens by Russians…. oh.

It’s not “a serious mistake”, it’s malicious revisionist historical (((wizardry))). Every. Single. Time.


Delighted to hear it

Damn the rocks and the coastline, it’s full speed ahead for Marvel Studios:

Marvel Studios Producer Victoria Alonso: “We Are Actively Working On Making Our Universe As Diverse and Inclusive As We Can”

Marvel Studios producer Victoria Alonso recently did an Ask Me Anything on the Marvel Studios subreddit where she indicated Marvel Studios is “actively working on making our universe as diverse and inclusive as we can.”

Alonso noted that she has been with Marvel Studios since late 2005 at the very beginning of Iron Man. She began as a co-producer on Iron Man and visual effects producer.

During the AMA she noted that her best part of working for Marvel Studios is “to be able to show new generations the characters that represent them in each and every way.” She would go on to note that she “would feel honored to have a member of the LGBTQ+ group represented in our films and I hope the future shows that.”

Alonso’s comments should not come as a surprise. She recently described the X-Men as “outdated” arguing there are a number of female characters in the team. She also discussed how Marvel Studios is committed to diversity at the world premiere of Captain Marvel.

“Why wouldn’t we be? Why wouldn’t we be? I’m so passionate about this. Our entire success is based on people that are incredibly different. Why wouldn’t we? Why wouldn’t we only want to be recognized by one type of person? Our audience is global, is diverse, it’s inclusive. If we don’t do it that way for them, we will fail. If we don’t put pedal to the metal and the diversity and inclusivity, we will not have continued success. Our determination is to have that for all of the people out there watching our movies.”

They’re betting on diversity and inclusivity. We’re betting against it. Snicker-snack….


Chuck Dixon wept

I’m not sure even The Legend could do anything with Sparkly Batman:

He fought for the ultimate role as the famed Caped Crusader.

And Warner Bros. has officially approved Robert Pattinson as the star in The Batman, according to Deadline.

The 33-year-old former Twilight star had to battle his way through screen testing against Nicholas Hoult to portray the coveted superhero.

Snicker-snack….

In the meantime, check out Chuck Dixon On Comics #6 on Unauthorized.TV.


Hollywood trying to make law

Georgia would do well to tell Hollywood that any corporation that tries interfering with its laws will no longer be eligible for tax incentives.

Bob Iger said it would be “very difficult” for Disney to keep filming in Georgia if the state enacts a new abortion law. In an interview with Reuters, the CEO of the Walt Disney Co. said he had doubts the company would continue production in Georgia if the controversial ban on abortion in the state comes into effect, primarily as the company’s employees would be against it.

“I think many people who work for us will not want to work there, and we will have to heed their wishes in that regard. Right now we are watching it very carefully,” Iger told Reuters.

The exec added that if the law does come into effect, he didn’t “see how it’s practical for us to continue to shoot there.”

Disney’s prospective withdrawal from production in Georgia would be a huge blow to the state. Recently, Disney’s Marvel Studios filmed portions of both Black Panther and Avengers: Endgame in Georgia.

On May 7, Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed the “fetal-heartbeat bill,” which bans abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy. The legislation, as well as similar moves in Alabama and other states to ban abortion, has caused a furious backlash in Hollywood and led to calls to boycott those states.

Disney, through Iger, is the latest company to wade into the controversy. Earlier this week, Netflix said it would fight Georgia’s abortion law and would “rethink” its operations there should the law go into effect.

All Iger’s stupid threat makes me think is that abortion opponents should go after Florida next. Let’s see if Disney is converged enough to shut down Disney World.


The thing with an agenda

Gregory Hood points out the creepy Deep State aspects of the strange ending of A Game of Thrones:

The political settlement that ends the series is even more implausible. “Bran the Broken” possesses magical powers of seeing events in the past, present, and future around the world. He has mostly sat around the past few seasons, occasionally making awkward comments. Nonetheless, the lords of Westeros make him king, based on a speech by Tyrion. Democracy is laughed off, but some form of elective monarchy is created. Bran’s sister Sansa declares the North should be an independent kingdom, and Bran agrees, thus ceding a huge part of his realm as his first act. Why other kingdoms don’t also immediately secede is left unexplained.

Obviously, Westeros is a world of fantasy, where magic, dragons, and giants can be found. Yet as George R. R. Martin repeatedly states, it contains a low amount of magic for a high fantasy series, and the focus is on political realism and cynical maneuvering. Naïve audiences who hadn’t read the books got the message when Ned Stark had his head chopped off. Supernatural beings only work in fiction if they operate in a context where they are comprehensible. Characters must respond in believable ways. The idea that lords with their own agendas and interests would agree to have an odd cripple with no blood connection to the ruling dynasty is absurd.

Yet this is just lazy writing and not important unless you are deeply committed to a television show. If we accept “King Bran,” what’s the real message? It’s that he represents the rule of Narrative, which is to say the rule of media, rather than the rule of tradition, heroism, or even intelligence.

Tyrion justifies the choice of Bran by saying he has the best story. “The boy who fell from a high tower and lived. He knew he’d never walk again, so he learned to fly,” he says. “He crossed beyond the Wall, a crippled boy, and became the Three-Eyed Raven.” Many online wits observed just about every other character (Jon, Arya, Sansa) had a better story.

Yet Tyrion says more than this. He argues that stories are ultimately what unite people more than armies, gold, or flags. “There’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story,” he says. “Nothing can stop it. No enemy can defeat it.” (He obviously hasn’t heard of online deplatforming).

Much earlier in the series, Varys posed Tyrion the question of what power really was. Varys said “power resides where men believe it resides.” Tyrion now goes further—power lies in the ability to shape belief.

If any one person has this power, it is Bran. “He is our memory, the keeper of all our stories,” says Tyrion. “The wars, weddings, births, massacres, famines. Our triumphs, our defeats, our past. Who better to lead us into the future?” This is an echo of Orwell—“Who controls the past controls the future.”

Indeed, Bran shows he doesn’t just know about events, he can shape them. Earlier in the series he said he could never be Lord of Winterfell, because he was now the Three-Eyed Raven. He wasn’t really Bran anymore.

Now however, he accepts the crown. “Why do you think I came all this way?” he says. Though he claims he doesn’t want to be king (indeed, earlier in the series he says he doesn’t really “want” anything anymore), he overrules Grey Worm’s objection to making Tyrion Hand of the King. “I’m king,” he says in justification. Bran also shows more emotion and personality after becoming king, though not much. There’s not really “one” person ruling the realm through the power of story (of narrative). However, there’s clearly something with an agenda of its own.

Bran as king doesn’t make any sense at all… except perhaps as predictive programming and rule by AI. The obvious king from a logical perspective was the Gendry the blacksmith, the bastard of Robert Baratheon and the most-legitimate claimant to the throne.


Darkstream: the Game of Thrones finale

My take on the finale of A Game of Thrones relied somewhat upon this article on Scientific American explaining the way in which the shift from George Martin’s sociological storytelling to Hollywood’s psychological storytelling all but ruined the HBO show, but allowed for a moderately satisfying end to the saga nevertheless.

It’s easy to miss this fundamental narrative lane change and blame the series’ downturn on plain old bad writing by Benioff and Weiss—partly because they are genuinely bad at it. They didn’t just switch the explanatory dynamics of the story, they did a terrible job in the new lane as well.

One could, for example, easily focus on the abundance of plot holes. The dragons, for example seem to switch between comic-book indestructible to vulnerable from one episode to another. And it was hard to keep a straight face when Jaime Lannister ended up on a tiny cove along a vast, vast shoreline at the exact moment the villain Euron Greyjoy swam to that very point from his sinking ship to confront him. How convenient!

Similarly, character arcs meticulously drawn over many seasons seem to have been abandoned on a whim, turning the players into caricatures instead of personalities. Brienne of Tarth seems to exist for no reason, for example; Tyrion Lannister is all of a sudden turned into a murderous snitch while also losing all his intellectual gifts (he hasn’t made a single correct decision the entire season). And who knows what on earth is up with Bran Stark, except that he seems to be kept on as some sort of extra Stark?

But all that is surface stuff. Even if the new season had managed to minimize plot holes and avoid clunky coincidences and a clumsy Arya ex machina as a storytelling device, they couldn’t persist in the narrative lane of the past seasons. For Benioff and Weiss, trying to continue what Game of Thrones had set out to do, tell a compelling sociological story, would be like trying to eat melting ice cream with a fork. Hollywood mostly knows how to tell psychological, individualized stories. They do not have the right tools for sociological stories, nor do they even seem to understand the job.

This is why it’s going to be challenging to make A Throne of Bones properly. But we’ll find a way to do it, and the success of A Game of Thrones is why we’ll have the opportunity.


So that’s not suspicious at all

I’m only surprised Isaac Kappy wasn’t found hanging from a red scarf:

‘Thor’ and ‘Terminator: Salvation’ actor Isaac Kappy has been confirmed as the man who jumped to his death from a bridge in Arizona on Monday, according to TMZ. Officials confirmed on Tuesday that Kappy, 42, was struck by a Ford pickup truck after hurling himself from the Transwestern Road bridge onto Interstate 40, where he died, according a statement from Bart Graves, a spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Public Safety….

Per his Twitter account, Kappy appeared to be on a crusade to take down people he believes are sexually abusing children. He wrote in his post on Sunday, ‘While it’s true I have spent many, many hours of research and disseminating information about bad actors, I have had SO LITTLE CARE for introspection about MY OWN actions.

‘And while it’s true I have outed many pedophiles that were former FRIENDS, I remained in their sphere for much longer than I should have, and attempted to gain from them AFTER I knew about their actions. And in my SHEER ARROGANCE I did not even reflect on this fact.’

His timeline is full of retweeted news stories about pedophiles and rants about high-profile people accused of sex crimes and some who aren’t. He accused Green of being a pedophile in a video posted in July.

It is reported that “several bystanders tried physically restraining Kappy from jumping but failed to hold him”. Perhaps they did. Or perhaps that is the Hollywood way to describe throwing someone off a bridge.

But regardless, it’s hard not to notice that individuals who are known to have traveled in and around pedophile circles have a statistically improbable suicide rate.


Mostly stupid

It wasn’t quite the relentless, multi-level stupidity of Avenger’s Endgame, but the penultimate episode of A Game of Thrones left me with much the same impression as reading A Dance with Dragons did. Namely, that I can do better. And I was very far from the only viewer left unimpressed.

WARNING: Spoilers ahead:

10 big flaws with the penultimate episode of Game Of Thrones:

1. Daenerys

Some viewers complained that the way Dany abandoned her principles (everything she’d ever stood for) and descended into butchery was irrational or rash. In fact if anything it was too predictable – to Varys and us anyway, if not Jon and Tyrion.

‘They say every time a Targaryen is born the Gods toss a coin and the world holds its breath,’ the Spider told the dwarf. ‘We both know what she’s about to do.’

In a fable about power, and the hunger for absolute power corrupting absolutely, it was inevitable – much like Varys’ execution.

But the way she spared Tyrion, Jaime Lannister, and even her lover Jon surely made less sense. If anything their betrayals were much greater than his. It was not Tyrion’s first mistake either and her warning ‘next time you fail me is the last time you fail me’ didn’t sit with her ruthlessness towards Varys – or King’s Landing.

‘Sansa trusted you to spread secrets that could destroy your own queen,’ she hissed. ‘And you did not let her down…Varys knows the truth because you told him. You learned from Sansa and she learned from Jon, though I begged him not to tell her…He betrayed me.’

2. Varys

Probably the most under-rated, under-used Game Of Thrones’ character, Varys had known ‘more kings and queens than any man living’, as he pointed out to Jon, and survived them all. In fact he’d turned survival, seamlessly switching sides, into an artform. So it was unlikely that he’d have allowed Daenerys to come for him without conceiving some sort of escape, especially as he knew Tyrion disagreed with his view Jon would make a better ruler. Finally the way her dragon simply torched Varys was a disappointingly, uncharacteristically, coarse form of execution.

Rash: Some viewers complained that the way Dany abandoned her principles (everything she’d ever stood for) and descended into butchery was irrational or rash +10
Rash: Some viewers complained that the way Dany abandoned her principles (everything she’d ever stood for) and descended into butchery was irrational or rash

3. Tyrion

Tyrion’s sustained faith in Daenerys being a benevolent, moral, candidate to rule the Seven Kingdoms was never very convincing. Tyrion wasn’t ever idealistic let alone naïve and, given his acute intelligence, ignoring Varys’ judgement/counsel just didn’t add up either. He had already been suckered by Cersei and Jaime so shouldn’t have swallowed Dany’s promise to hold back after a surrender. Obviously, family is everything in GoT. Tyrion releasing his brother (returning the favour) made sense but urging Jaime to save Cersei (telling him to escape and ‘start a new life’) ?? Nope, just don’t see Tyrion doing that – especially as it was before Dany went on the rampage.

The biggest problem with all this fake drama, which I addressed briefly in last night’s Darkstream, is that it was dependent upon highly intelligent characters to be something they were not. Both Varys and Tyrion saw Daenerys’s descent into ruthless butchery coming, but neither of them, despite their long personal histories of taking matters into their own lethal hands, bothers to do anything conclusive about it. Given how much both men care about the people of King’s Landing, their fecklessness in the situation is simply absurd, particularly in the case of Varys, since the treachery involved in his letting others know about Jon’s claim on the throne guaranteed his execution in the event of detection anyhow.

I see this trainwreck of an episode as a classic example of letting the visuals drive the story, which is almost always a mistake. The writers have a certain image in mind, so they move the pieces around to ensure they can present it to the viewers with no respect for either the characters involved or its effect on the story. Or, for that matter, the viewers’ intelligence.

It was even too stupid for The Verge:

Taken as a whole, all these idiot gestures look exactly the same. “The Bells” is full of characters being their dumbest, most ill-considered selves, solely in the pursuit of momentary conflicts and payoffs. Jaime’s death in Cersei’s arms seems like a fitting payoff for all his awful behavior with her in the early going of the series, but it completely ignores all his character development over eight seasons, including his most recent relationship. Euron’s attempt to murder the first person he sees after his ship is destroyed seems in character for an agent of chaos, but it still feels forced and random. Varys couldn’t go about his plan in a dumber way if he tried — it’s almost as though he’s anticipating and hoping for execution, to remind Jon that Dany is capable of killing even those closest to her.