Tag Archives: Featured

Blade Runner 2049: What It Means To Be Human.

Alan Turing once said, “Machines can never think as humans do. but just because something thinks differently, doesn’t mean it’s not thinking at all.”
Well, it’s a really pretty quote, except Alan Turing never said that. This quote is from the 2014 movie, Imitation games starring Benedict Cumberbatch. You’ve probably heard of it, it was in the Oscars and got a lot of recognition. But what about the man the movie is based on? Well, not quite. Much like any other person to ever walk the surface of the earth, Alan Turing, the father of Artificial intelligence himself, has been lost in time… you know, like tears in rain.

View this post on Instagram

#cyberpunk#bladerunner2049 #videoessay

A post shared by Songs Voices Never Share (@songsvoicesnevershare) on


But what it is about science fiction is particular that is so keen on exploring the idea of AI, dating back to the original Blade Runner in 1982, that it keeps raising questions like, “Can machines think?” or “Are machines human?”, over and over in the central theme of the story. Maybe, it’s because only by examining the abstract, we can understand the real. We explore the intelligence in machines, to delve deep into the notion of what makes us human.
But to me, the Blade Runner films have never been about whether machines are human, I mean for one, the artificial beings inhabiting the Blade Runner universe are not very machine-like. They always seem to hide a deeper question underneath.


“What does it even Mean to be human?”


The blade runner universe comprises of replicants and humans. The replicants look like humans, talk like humans and probably even feel like humans do, except they are made by humans themselves. So they are denied the right to be considered equal to the humans. Which is evident from how the Blade Runners are hired to “retire” them once they cross their expiration date or are of no use to their creators. The replicants are not killed or murdered, they are retired like an old piece of junk.
Blade Runner 2049 begins with Ryan Gosling’s Detective K, retiring an old replicant. Living in the almost uninhabitable dystopian version of Los Angeles, K is a replicant himself, working for the LAPD as a Blade Runner, following the orders of his human superiors and being mocked and bullied in and out of work. The humans hate him because he’s a replicant and the replicants hate him because he works for the humans, they call him a “skinjob” – probably the the n-word equivalent of blade runner universe, but K seems to have made peace with all the constraints put on him. He’s accepted his position as an inferior being in front of the more superior homo sapiens, and has build his own small world for him, with his partner Joi, a digital AI, yet another type of man-made consciousness. We’ll get to her later.


THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS

Cogito ergo sum.
I think, therefore I am. It is believed only humans are capable of critical thinking, all other animals lack the ability to think rationally. But, the replicants are more than capable of critical thinking. K is shown to be the most intuitive detective in LAPD, and also trusted with the important case of finding out the lost child of Deckard. And K, doesn’t just investigate because he is ordered to, he is intrigued by the the idea of a replicant giving birth. He says…
“It means they have a soul.”
Throughout the movie K is actively searching for the truth, digging deeper to resolve the mystery. He understand the importance of truth, and actively questions his place in this world just like any human being. He believes in the notion of something bigger than himself, he thinks the truth is what will set him free.
Replicants throughout the Blade Runner films are highly sophisticated and empathetic creatures. Take Roy batty for instance, spilling out poetry in the face of death, reconciling with his whole life, going back to his memories. Even K, though played by a very wooden Ryan Gosling, shows a range of emotions. He is in love with his AI assistant, aspires to be something more, feels emotions like sadness, anger and hopelessness, all key to the identity of humans.
One could argue that those emotions aren’t real, they are programmed responses to situations that are installed in the replicant’s software. But how do we know, our emotions aren’t programmed biological responses to the sensory information picked up by our brain. For all we know, love is just a chemical reaction in our brain, how is that different from a computer generated prompt.

MEMORIES

Our memories make us who we are at present. It dictates our beliefs, choices and decisions in life. We grow and build experiences to help us survive in this world, each experience has it’s own importance in our memory, we learn from our mistakes and derive our understandings from our failures. We base our choices on our memories, bright happy memories gives us the pleasure of joy, and we are often reminiscing about them or trying to recreate similar moments in life only to feel again. On the other hand negative experiences, drive us away and fill our heads with dark thoughts, whenever we think of them it pushes us towards depression and anxiety, and we are very unlikely to do things, meet people, or go places, we associate with particularly bad memory.
So an artificial being can be given memories in such a way that dictate their personality, depending on the skills required of them. K’s memory of the wooden horse is a big influence to his rough and tough personality that makes him a detective, fighting to keep what’s his own. Albeit, all these memories are real, they are somebody else’s but to a replicant they are as real as they can get and they don’t even realise they are not real, like K convinces himself that he is the son of Deckard based on his memories. And sometimes they don’t even realise they are replicants, if they aren’t told that there memories aren’t real real, like rachel, or heck, possibly even Deckard. Their memories make them real, even if they aren’t real themselves.


LOVE

Humans by nature are the most capable of love among any other species known in this world. It might be hard to believe that, considering the amount of hate going on around the world right now, but it is true. Human beings nurture and take care of their off-springs like no other, participate in social activities and gatherings, build and break new relationships continuously, and hopelessly fall in love over and over again. Love is the purest of emotions felt by us, and at the end of the day everything a person is fighting for. Can’t the love between two machines be pure? I want to think so. I mean Rachel and Deckard’s love was so pure, it created a miracle – baby given birth by a replicant.
Blade Runner 2049 takes this idea a little further, by adding the character of Joi to the mix. Joi is an artificial being too, but she has no body. She’s like a more advanced, Holographic  version Alex or Siri, a digital assistant that can be a little more than assistant. I’ll be honest, Ryan Gosling’s relationship with Joi in the beginning seemed to be like a real red flag for me. And Villeneuve is such a smart filmmaker, that every time K and Joi share a romantic moment, he cuts back to a scene of Joi being advertised as a sex object, and it fills your brain with doubt and questions. But then it develops into one of the sweetest relationships in cinema history, and the fact that they are not humans or one of them doesn’t have a body never crossed my mind.


SEX AND REPRODUCTION

The Replicants more often than not, are portrayed as objects of sexual fantasy in the Blade Runner films, they either shown as prostitutes or sold off as slaves. Joi is practically marketed like a virtual girlfriend that will do anything you want, like a rpg game. But still, K and Joi overcome all the prejudices of thier society.
The scene where Joi invites a hooker, as host so she can get physically intimate with K, is without a doubt one of the best sex scenes ever put on film, a scene that is by the way very reminiscent of a similar scene from the movie Her. The way the three broken individuals come together to complete what each one them lack, is such a beautiful moment to witness. They are truly whole in this moment, maybe not in the way we understand it, but the feeling cannot be denied.
Sex and reproduction are an undeniable part of the human life, or life of any living organism for that matter. Our entire biology is designed a certain way to facilitate reproduction in an attempt to keep our species alive. It is our way of immortality, if you think of it, passing on the knowledge of our ancestors through our DNA to the progeny. And maybe that is life, passing on, from generation to generation. And that’s why the replicants think the biggest way for them to prove their equality to the humans is finding the child of Deckard and Rachel – a child born out of love, a miracle.


PURPOSE

For Aristotle, writing in the 4th century B.C., being human meant having a telos — an appropriate end or goal.
It is startling that such philosophical ideas were discussed centuries ago, I guess it just goes to show that man is a naturally curious creature, always questioning it’s purpose or place in this world. It is interesting how many actual living and breathing creatures roam around us, without ever actually finding their purpose in life, will they be considered human? I wonder.

K doesn’t have any purpose at the beginning of the film, he’s a puppet to the humans. He just quietly does his work and spends his days aimlessly until he finds himself engrossed in the mystery of Deckard’s child. He believes it is him and assumes his purpose in life. That’s why when he learns that he is not Deckard’s son, all his hopes come falling down. He feels lost in the world all of sudden, like he doesn’t know who he really is. He walks around the streets of LA aimlessly again, as be stands face to face with an hologram of Joi. He’s reminded of her death, and all he has lost to get to this postion. He suddenly finds a new purpose in life,  purpose that he is aware will mostly likely get him him killed, but he chooses has telos, an appropriate end. K might not be born naturally, he might not be a human, but at the end he evolves into something more.

Blade Runner 2049 is masterpiece of the cyberpunk genre, from Deakins’ gorgeous cinematography, to Vileneuve’s sharp driecting and Hans Zimmer’s moody music, it is sensory and visual overload, that can only be felt to be to be believed. It is a film that is not afraid to to take it’s time and meditate on it’s characters and aesthetics, and in the process exploring big questions about existence and life.

At the end does it even matter if something is human, or what it means to be one, as long as we are alive and living happily? There was a time when women weren’t considered human, who knows maybe one day machines will be more human than us. Soon, all of this will be gone and lost forever, only our memories of all that is happening right now will remain. So, sit back, relax and enjoy it all in bliss, while it lasts.

Mountain of Skulls

The bones flowing in the bloody river collide
In the arms of my guitar,
As I rise through the endless
Pile of skulls sprayed around me
The scarlet sky blazes in the backdrop
Of the hellfire, bent on the
Apocalypse of human consciousness.

I use their orbits as a jug
And climb up above like a thug
A mountain of skulls
Filled with memories of the forgotten,
Resting around to decompose into the Earth
The mountain grows bigger and bigger
As time goes by,
And the ones below get pushed further down.

Once I get to the top 
I must make a choice
The others will be waiting for me
As I gave my word to the bard
I promised him I will play my guitar 
And I'll play my songs
I'll share the voices, of those unheard.

But he warned me that 
It'll come with a price
Though at the moment 
I only have my mind on the ticket out
And climbing up this mountain,
Stepping on the skulls of the deceased,
Is only way out.

I take a step and pull Raven up,
She's right behind me, trying to keep up
I tried to tell  her 
About my talk with the bard
But she said she's heard bout' it
And even knows what choice I'll make
But I don't ask her.

I like to think I have some control,
Though my experiences contradict that belief.
My hand's blistering with pain,
I think we're almost at the top.
I look at Raven - she looks morose 
And somehow even prettier than before.

I ask her why it's gotta be me,
Who has to make the choice.
She hides behind her dreary smile
And speaks in her lucid voice,
"You know that, don't you?
You're the boy who entered dreams,
By escaping bone cages called cities."
In that moment, our feet touch the mountain peak
And the countless skulls collapse underneath.








HBO’s Watchmen – A Timely Classic for Black America

What’s happening in America right now is heartbreaking, but I’m so happy to see so many people come together in support of the #BlackLivesMatter initiative and fight back against the racist system. All of you who are taking part in this protest, whether your posting about it in social media, going to rallies or donating to support groups, I’m so proud of all of you for finally standing up. I’m neither an American or a black person, but this is issue is beyond all race and culture – it is about our fight for humanity.

But still, since I’m not an American and the protests and their ramifications are still in a very premature state – I’m not willing to write about it explicitly yet. So here’s me instead telling you about a series that perfectly encapsulates the problems America is facing today as a whole – HBO’s Watchmen.

Damon Lindelof’s series that is a continuation of Alan Moore’s acclaimed graphic novel ‘Watchmen’, uses the template of the graphic novel and uses it to showcase the struggles of Black America, and with other timely issues . With story lines that deal with racism in America, White Supremacy and heinous crimes against Black people over centuries in America – Watchmen is really a timely classic for our times that you need to see. Let me tell you why.

(NOTE: While reading the original graphic novel helps since this is a continuation of that story, the show is good enough to stand on its own and you can watch it anyway. By the way, who hasn’t read Watchmen? It is considered to be the greatest comic book of all time. Go read Watchmen!)

Tulsa Race Massacre

Tulsa Race Massacre; 1921

Right away, the opening of Watchmen’s pilot sheds light on one the darkest days in American history, which will surely send chills down your spine. The Tulsa race massacre of 1921 took place on May 31 and June 1, 1921, when mobs of white residents attacked black residents and businesses of the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It has been called “the single worst incident of racial violence in American history,” and yet it cannot be found in school textbooks and anyone barely knows about it. This Monday, we marked the 99th anniversary of the incident and yes, we’ve come a long way since 1921, but watching the incidents of violence against the people of the black community that are prevalent even today, I am just left wondering if we have made any progress at all.

Origin of Hooded Justice

Hooded Justice from comic panels

Watchmen begins with a young boy witnessing his parents die in the horrible Tulsa Race Massacre, and brilliantly sets up the origin story of Hooded Justice in one of the show’s best twists. It is revealed that Abar’s grandfather (the old dude who killed the police commissioner) is actually Hooded Justice, showcasing how vigilantism lies in their blood.

Louis Gossett Jr. as Hooded Justice

In episode 6, which is one of best scripted episodes of television I have seen, the tragic backstory of Hooded Justice is revealed as Abar consumes her grandfather’s nostalgia. The show makes changes to original mythology of Hooded Justice’s origins, and adds so much more depth to it. The show explores his tough times growing up alone and taking care of the baby he found on the day of the massacre, then how he fought in the war of USA even tough he was always treated unfair by his superiors and not given the honor he deserves and then how he eventually got a job as a police officer like he always wanted, but that was only for namesake – he still didn’t have any power over the whites who owned him. In fact he almost gets beaten to death by his peers, while his is face covered in mask and then hanged from a tree with a rope, for trying to arrest a rich white asshole.

Hooded Justice and the Minutemen

But the policemen don’t kill him, they just let him go with a warning – Don’t get your nose into white folk’s business. As he walks back to his house with a rope hanging from his neck, tortured and humiliated by his fellow officers like a dog, he sees a few mob men attacking a lonely couple. He puts his mask on and fights the bad guys – and thus Hooded Justice is born that night. To be honest, I have always thought that the Hooded Justice costume looked dumb, but what they did with it here is mind-blowing, and I gotta commend them for that. But he doesn’t wear a mask to be a superhero – he wears his mask to hide his racial identity because he feels society isn’t ready for it. He wears white makeup around his eyes so that nobody realizes that they are being saved by a black man and even after he joins the superhero team Minutemen, his racial identity remains unknown, and as far as the world knows – all the superheroes from history were White. Talk about whitewashing history.

Regina King as the Series Lead

Regina King in Watchmen

While the Watchmen graphic novel was revolutionary for it’s time, there were noticeably no black or characters of color and minority in the whole story. Also the only female character in the story was the one who was least developed in the story (and raped I might add). Damon Lindelof made it very clear that his intentions were to diversify Watchmen’s rich world and tell the story with modern sensibilities. Casting Regina King as the lead was a big part of that, and she absolutely nails the role. She’s a bad ass as the vigilante who works for the police and we all knew she was great performer, so the acting is top-notch. Watchmen went from being a book with no black characters to a show with a woman of color as the lead.

The Police in Watchmen’s World

The way the police are portrayed in Watchmen is very important to analyse considering the recent events regarding George Floyd’s death. Watchmen takes place in an alternate universe where the government is run by far-left politicians. So in this world, rather than the police exploiting the minorities, here we have the police being attacked by the racist white terrorists who feel they are being suppressed for not being able to use their ‘white privileges’ anymore. Thus, the police wear masks to hide their identities and they are just another part of the vigilante system in Tulsa. Also, an early scene in the show establishes how the police aren’t allowed to use guns anymore, unless a threat is verified, so that the department can reduce incidents of cop killings. We definitely need a check like that in our real world.

White Supremacists in Rorschach Masks

White Supremacists wearing Rorschach Masks in Watchmen

The white Supremacists form a cult in Watchmen’s world, who wear Rorschach masks in memory of their beloved misguided hero who believed in ‘Justice even in the face of Armageddon’. And what justice are they fighting for – loss of their white privilege or the humiliation in treating a black person equally?

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s Dr. Manhattan

Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen

Another revolutionary casting from the series came as a big surprise, as it was revealed Abar’s husband, played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, was secretly Dr. Manhattan in hiding. Apart from a black actor portraying a famous character from comics who is traditionally white, this change is immensely powerful for what they decide to do with Dr. Manhattan’s story line here. Yahya is amazing in the role, and plays Dr. Manhattan so good that he steals every scene he’s in. And like the original, Dr, Manhattan raises many questions of love, faith, destiny and time in the series that are worth analyzing and giving a deep thought to.

Regina King and Yahya Abdul-mateen II in Watchmen

Politics, Vigilantism, Philosophies and Watchmen

Watchmen Graphic Novel by Alan Moore

Watchmen has a long history of dealing with politics and asking philosophical questions – it is what made Alan Moore’s original graphic novel so famous. The graphic novel broke down the superhero genre and really analysed what it meant to be a superhero, and HBO’s adaptation continues this tradition. There’s so much to dig into and analyse in Watchmen, that if I were to discuss them all, I would need to write at least ten more posts on the show. So, in case you haven’t seen the show yet and are at the safety of your home – it is the perfect time for you to binge Watchmen on HBO. You’ll have a great time while subsequently get educated on some timely topics, and at the end you will be left with some heavy questions to ponder upon for hours.

Why you should get HBO Max.

With HBO Max launching tomorrow, a lot of you maybe be wondering whether you should spend your valuable bucks on the brand new premium streaming service. This article will tell you everything you need to know about the AT&T and Warner Media owned streaming service, so that you can decide for yourself if its worth the monthly subscription.

In this article:

  • HBO Max vs. HBO GO vs. HBO NOW
  • The Crown Jewels of HBO Max
  • DC CONTENT
  • HBO Max Originals
  • The Criterion Collection
  • Studio Ghibli and Crunchyroll Anime Collection
  • HBO Collection
  • Children’s Programming
  • Extensive Movie Library
  • Why you should get HBO Max

HBO Max vs. HBO Go vs. HBO Now

HBO Max vs. HBO Go vs. HBO Now. What should you pay for?

Since 2015, HBO NOW has been HBO’s standalone streaming service. For $15/mo., you get access to everything HBO’s ever made, plus a rotating collection of around more than a thousand movies. HBO Max will include everything that HBO NOW has for the same price, and so much more. Not only do you get everything that already available, but a whole bunch other big shows, movies and HBO Max Originals. If you’re already a HBO NOW subscriber, you’ll automatically be upgraded to HBO Max without any extra cost.

But for HBO GO subscribers, things are a little complicated. HBO GO is a streaming service included in HBO cable subscriptions and TV packages. It essentially allows HBO cable subscribers to stream the HBO content they’re already paying for, facilitating on-the-go viewing. If you get HBO through AT&T TV, DIRECTV, Hulu or Spectrum, you’ll automatically get an HBO Max subscription at no extra cost as soon as it launches. If you however don’t get HBO through the following service providers, you’ll need to pay the bucks for HBO Max.

To me, HBO Max is clearly the superior streaming platform, since you get so much more at practically the same price point. So, if you’re a HBO NOW or HBO GO subscriber, I would advice you to upgrade to HBO Max at launch without a doubt.

The Crown Jewels of Streaming

Even tough every streaming service is hungry for new content, most people just wanna watch the good old stuff and have a good time. HBO Max reportedly paid over 1.5 Billion dollars for 3 big shows alone. Let’s have a look at these shows.

F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

The Friends cast – Courtney Cox, Matthew Perry, Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc and Lisa Kudrow.

Friends is arguably THE crowning jewel of the streaming wars – drawing more viewers than any other show in the world. The popular 90’s American sit-com about the tumultuous lives of a group of friends living in New York is still hit with fans among both the old and new generation. The Friends reunion was supposed to be the thing that would make people sign up for HBO Max, but due the corona-virus pandemic, the show has now been delayed. Still, Friends remains one of the most popular shows on the platform and with it’s high re-watch-ability, it sure gonna be there for you.

The Big Bang Theory

The Big Bang Theory

WarnerMedia’s nascent streaming platform will have exclusive rights to 12 seasons of the show from Warner Bros. Television and co-creators/executive producers Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady. All 279 episodes of “Big Bang” will be available on HBO Max when it launches.

South Park

South Park

South Park, the long-running animated comedy hit, will have a new streaming home on HBO Max. The upcoming streaming platform from WarnerMedia scheduled to launch in May of 2020 will have exclusive streaming rights to the iconic series beginning in June of 2020.

DC CONTENT

Personally for me, the biggest draw of HBO Max is all the DC content they will be serving up.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League

#releasethesnydercut

After years of fans petitions and online wars, Warner Brothers finally announced last week that Zack Snyder’s version of the justice league will be release exclusively on HBO Max in 2021. It is said to either in the form of a four hour movie or a six episode miniseries. Whatever be the case, excitement for the Snyder Cut among fans is high and it is expected to fetch HBO Max a lot of subscribers.

Green Lantern

Green Lantern HBO Max

A live-action Green Lantern TV series is currently in the works for the HBO Max streaming service, with Greg Berlanti producing.

Justice League Dark

Justice League Dark

Abrams’ Bad Robot company is working on a number of projects for HBO Max, including a Justice League Dark series. The line is not official yet, but expect Constantine and Zatanna to appear.

Other HBO Max Original DC shows

DC’s Strange adventures
DC Super Hero High from Elizabeth Banks
Aquaman: King of Atlantis from James Wan
DC’s DMZ from Ava DuVerney

The CW Shows

Arrowverse shows will not be available at launch

All the new CW shows will be available on HBO Max including the season of Batwoman and the new Stargirl show.

DC Universe Shows

Doom Patrol

Doom Patrol season 2 will release on HBO Max along with the first season. However, the fate of other DC Universe shows like Titans, Harley Quinn is still unknown.

The DC movie Library

DC Movies on HBO Max

The complete DC movie library will available on HBO Max – From The Dark Knight to Joker, Wonder Woman to Aquaman and Man of Steel to Batman Returns.

HBO Max ORIGINALS

Dune: The Sisterhood

Dennis Villeneuve will accompany his star-studded film adaptation of Dune with a companion series on HBO Max, titled Dune: The Sisterhood. The series will center on on the women of Bene Gesserit as they navigate the political framework of The Imperium to make way for the planet Arrakis.

Overlook

This Stephen King-inspired genre piece will feature characters from The Shining and will tell stories from the most famous haunted hotel in fiction. It’s produced by J.J. Abrams and his company Bad Robot, who are also behind Hulu’s Castle Rock.

Raised by Wolves

Ridley Scott will executive-produce the sci-fi series from Aaron Guzikowski about two androids raising human children on a mysterious planet. As the growing colony of humans almost falls apart due to religious differences, the androids realize how dangerous and difficult their task really is.

There are literally tons more, these are just what I’m most excited about.

THE CRITERION COLLECTION

The Criterion Collection, Inc. is an American home video distribution company which focuses on licensing “important classic and contemporary films” and selling them to film aficionados. Honestly, I’d pay 15$ just for this.

STUDIO GHIBLI COLLECTION

Studio Ghibli, Inc. is a Japanese animation film studio based in Koganei, Tokyo, Japan. The studio is best known for its animated feature films, and has also produced several short films, television commercials, and one television film. 

CRUNCHYROLL COLLECTION

Crunchyroll is an American distributor, publisher, and licensing company focused on streaming anime, manga, and dorama. Founded in 2006 by a group of University of California, Berkeley graduates, Crunchyroll’s distribution channel and partnership program delivers content to 50 million registered users worldwide.

HBO COLLECTION

Well, this is a given but all shows and movies will be available on HBO Max. They are know for their prestige dramas and they have some huge shows coming up too like Lovecraft Country and Game of Throne’s prequel House of the Dragon.

Children’s Programming

As the parent company of Cartoon Network and Looney Tunes, WarnerMedia has an impressive collection of children’s content that will also hit a nostalgia nerve for their parents. Many of HBO Max’s original series are also aimed at children and families. Also cartoons from Cartoon Network and Adult swim will be available on HBO max.

Extensive Movie Library

The movie library on HBO Max is so big, that I’m not even gonna try to list them all. Apart from the great Warner Library, they also have several classic films from other big studios available on their service. Also, HBO Max will be producing original movies for their service. Seth Rogen’s An American Pickle will be the first original movie to release on HBO Max.

Seth Rogen in AN American Pickle

Why you should get HBO Max.

Now let’s get to business. I honestly think you should get HBO Max, even though it’s costlier than other service like Disney+ and Netflix. But see it this way, you were most probably already paying for HBO, you just get all the extra stuff free. And even if you never subscribed to HBO, there’s just so much content here that I believe it’s absolutely worth the 15$/mo price point. It’s literally so much content that I probably didn’t even consider 5% of all that is available in the service. And it’s not like they are just putting anything on there – it’s all premium content, made by some of the biggest names in Hollywood and with some of the biggest pop culture properties. Just like the tagline of HBO Max goes – “Where HBO meets so much more.”

So what are you waiting for? Sign up for HBO Max now!
http://www.hbomax.com

The Lighthouse – How to build and release tension in a single scene?

Anatomy of a Scene – The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse is one of my favorite films from last year, if not my favorite. So, today I wanna look at a scene from The Lighthouse that in my opinion, is the perfect example of how to build and release tension in a single scene without any dialogue.

The particular scene that I’m talking about, happens around twelve minutes into the film where Robert Pattinson’s character is taking a smoke break after completing his chores at the lighthouse. Prior to this scene the movie sets up the two lighthouse keepers who have come to stay in this hostile environment completely isolated. Just in the scene before, we see Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe argue over dinner, on who should be doing the light duty as Pattinson thinks he’s ready for it. Now it might look like a very petty issue, but it creates one of the fundamental conflicts in the story. Dafoe completely rejects Pattinson’s proposition and in turn says, “The light is mine!” But this only increases Pattinson’s curiosity about the light, as now it has been told that it is forbidden to him. He imagines his master to derive some kind of divine pleasure, which he doesn’t want to share with his assistant. After all, Dafoe clearly says, “There’s enchantment in the light.” However futile this sounds to you, this scene actually lays foundation for the Prometheus allegory that runs as one of the main themes of the story. And that is the beauty of The Lighthouse, Robert Eggers takes these really simple scenes where nothing really happens on the surface, but he adds so much meaning to them through subtext,

Robert Pattinson staring at the Lighthouse with his lustful eyes.

The scene begins as we find Robert Pattinson smoking on the rock, staring up at the lighthouse with desire filled eyes. If you didn’t catch it earlier, the light here represents Zeus’s fire and Pattinson’s desire for it is deliberately showcased because it becomes one his character’s biggest motives later on in the film. But as a viewer watching the movie for the first time, you are not aware of what the light means, so you’re left wondering of its meaning and there’s an immediate tension and mystery attached to Pattinson’s actions.

The first shot is a tracking shot from behind, as the camera follows Robert Pattinson walking towards the mysterious pitch black sea, lit faintly by the moonlight. In the sea, we see a few wooden logs floating away like an illusion and it immediately grabs our attention. DOP Jarin Blaschke deserves special praise here, his cinematography makes even the most mundane visuals haunting, while being so pretty at the same time. And like us, the sight sucks in Pattinson too, as he in drawn towards it. He gets into the water and starts pacing towards the logs with his lustful eyes right on it, as the camera cuts between the enchanting waters and Robert Pattinson’s bewildered face which only increases the tension. We want to know what’s in the and we want to know what’s attracting Pattinson, so we have ourselves more unanswered questions.

Robert Pattinson in The Lighthouse.

But that’s not where it stops, as Eggers adds even more tension to the scene by placing a person in between the logs which is eventually revealed as the logs move away, and upon inspection anybody can tell that he dead. Suddenly you have a whole new set of unanswered questions – Who is person? How did he get here? What caused his death? And as the camera cuts back to Robert Pattinson, you see all the same uncertainty and tension in his face. And my God, does Pattinson act in this scene! This is by far some of the best acting by him, and he sells everything in movie that on paper might seem really crazy. And as for the last piece to building tension – Pattinson walks straight into his death. He starts to drown in the ocean and now, not only are you uncertain of what is happening or what Pattinson is doing, now you’re also uncertain of whether he’ll survive.

A scene from The Lighthouse where a dead body is found in the ocean by Robert Pattinson.

So now that all the tension is built, how does Robert Eggers decide to release it? There are mainly two ways to do this, either provide the audience with some kind of answer or jump cut to a more peaceful scene so that the audience is left wondering what the fuck happened. Eggers decides to do both, but only partially. He gives us an answer but it only complicates the plot even more, he slows us a mermaid. It is important to note here that, this is first supernatural occurrence in the story, and it remains to be the only one for a longtime. So as the story develops you’re always reminded of the mermaid and her chilling cries underwater, so the tension remains intact throughout. Even though, Robert Pattinson’s character never talks about it later, you can tell that it’s bothering him since it was earlier revealed that the last keeper died after talking of the mer-folk.

The mermaid in The Lighthouse

So what does the mermaid represent in The Lighthouse? For that we’ll need to what’s the role of mermaids in mythology. While some western cultures do represent the mermaid as friendly beings, most mythical stories portray them as vicious creatures. In popular stories mermaids are found to lure seamen out of their ships into the and seduce them to death. And while being seduced to death doesn’t sound so unpleasant, it is really one of the worst ways to die as they feed off your soul for years.So, again what does the mermaid represent in The Lighthouse? It represents desire – the very thing that leads Pattinson’s character to his doom.

Valeriia Karaman as the beautiful mermaid in The Lighthouse

The mermaid comes back in several scenes throughout the movie as a recurring theme. And because of this first scene, we’re always scared that something bad might happen to Robert Pattinson like the previous lighthouse keeper, whenever she appears. So not only does she act as a motif throughout the film, she also becomes a source of suspense and tension. With each appearance of the mermaid, Pattinson’s desire only increases and it comes out of in the last act of movie – first as a rage-filled masturbation scene where he imagines having sex with the mermaid, and second as a vengeful act against his master.

Robert Pattinson having sex with a mermaid in The Lighthouse (2019).

Now, some people think that all the scenes with the mermaid are actually dream sequences, but in my opinion that doesn’t matter. You can think whatever you want to think that happened, it’s the symbolism behind the scene that matters. It is the story of Prometheus trying to steal what the gods denied him as an act of revolt, and in turn being punished for it for eternity. But what Eggers cleverly does in his take of the story is he doesn’t choose a hero, instead he paints both sides in dark nuanced tones, and what happens in result, turns The Lighthouse into an age old story of men going too far to fulfill their desires.

Analyzing Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 masterpiece To Pimp A Butterfly, five years since its initial release. A Complete Track by Track breakdown.

Before TPAB, Kendrick Lamar was the new kid on the block. Everybody had heard of him and almost everybody knew he had the potential to do something big. But he wasn’t a star yet. His previous album Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City was a critical darling and quite a big hit considering his humble beginnings, but it just wasn’t enough to get him into the mainstream rap scene. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great album and even made Kendrick famous. Heck, it was the fame he earned from his first two albums, that lead to him creating TPAB. Having trouble to deal with this newfound fame, money and cultural identity, Kendrick went to South Africa looking for inspiration. The influence of his trip on the direction of the album can be easily felt.

It’s been only five years since Kendrick released To Pimp a Butterfly (15 April, 2015), but it’s already considered to be a classic by many. And rightfully so, TPAB is one of those albums that cements your name among the legends forever. Kendrick was no more the new upcoming talent in the hip hop scene, he was one of the masters of the genre. A commercial and critical success upon it’s release, It went on to earn Lamar 11 grammy nominations, and a grammy for best rap album of the year (It lost Album of the year to Taylor Swift’s 1989 funnily). A lot of magazines called it the best album of 2015 and The Independent named it the “Album of the decade”. In short, it was huge.

Kendrick explores a lot of themes on TPAB, all of which I can’t even comprehend. It talks about subjects ranging from black history to celebrity worship. If we were to discuss all of those themes, all the literary references and musical innovations , we’ll be stuck here all day. Instead I’m gonna talk about each track individually, discuss about what I think they’re about and what they mean to me and at the end I give you my final thoughts. Sounds cool? Aight.

Wesley’s Theory

“No one teaches poor black males how to manage money or celebrity, so if they do achieve success, the powers that be can take it from right under them”. Kendrick Lamar has given pretty clear explanation about what’s this song is about. He makes a direct reference in the song about Wesley Snipe’s arrest at the age of 35, on the charges of tax evasion.

“But remember, you ain’t pass economics in school
And everything you buy, taxes will deny
I’ll Wesley Snipe your ass before thirty-five”

This is one of my favorite tracks in the album. Right from the opening you know you are in for a treat. The instrumentation is beautiful and the sampling by Kendrick is exceptional. I also love the features on this track. From George Clinton to Steven Ellison, all bring their A-game.

I also like to read this song as reference to Chaos Theory o The Butterfly Effect considering the things Kendrick talks about later in the album. It states that the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings in one part of the world can cause a cyclone in the other end. Kendrick compares himself to the butterfly a lot, and his little songs that can have huge meaning or effect on people at the completely other end of the globe.

“But remember, anybody can get it
The hard part is keepin’ it, motherfucker”

2. For Free? (Interlude)

When I first heard heard this song I couldn’t stop laughing. I couldn’t decide if was genius or a disaster. But once I listened to it for the second time I knew it was genius. I mean the jazz instrumentation is itself sensational but combined with Kendrick’s fast flowing sarcastic lyrics – it is a masterpiece.

“This dick ain’t free
You lookin’ at me like it ain’t a receipt like I never made ends meet
Eating your leftovers and raw meat
This dick ain’t free”

Kendrick takes a dig here at the materialistic nature of modern rappers, how they always go around flexing girls and cars. He also talks about the struggles he had to face suddenly once he became rich and famous, and how suddenly girls wanted to sleep with him now. Kendrick makes a statement about this dirty side of fame and most modern musicians seem to have accepted. The song also talks about all the dirty things money makes people do and how it affects family values and nature in Ameica.

“Oh America, you bad bitch, I picked cotton and made you rich
Now my dick ain’t free.”

3. King Kunta

“The yam is the power that be (that be, that be, that be, that be, that be)
You can smell it when I’m walkin’ down the street”

Let’s start this one with some background information. Kunta Kinte is a fictional character from the novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family. Kinte got his right foot cut off because of his attempts to escape his plantation. The way Kendrick uses yams to represent power and discrimination with the song is genius.

If we take a look at the song, you can see that Kendrick is using an easy rhyme scheme to bring the message across in a very simplistic way so everyone can understand it. He calls out the people that weren’t interested in him before he got famous and he also raps about how everyone wants a piece of his leg (reference to Kunta), that means everyone wants a piece of his money, fame or success.

“I was gonna kill a couple rappers, but they did it to themselves
Everybody’s suicidal, they ain’t even need my help
This shit is elementary, I’ll probably go to jail”

4. Institutionalised

“What money got to do with it
When I don’t know the full definition of a rap image?”

Kendrick’s past is still a part of him even though he made it out of the hood. He talks about everyone being Institutionalized and put into stereotypes. The Intro talks about What Kendrick understood of a rap image – money, hoes, clothes, and celebrity – was just part of what it means to be successful. What he didn’t understand is that one can obtain these things, but it doesn’t mean you’re entirely free from your past or societal limitations put on a person of color. You can be famous but still poor of spirit or mind. Verse 2 shows how money influences people’s actions and behavior towards other people by an example of one of Kendrick’s friends.

Institutionalized is also a metaphor foe how the music industry changed Kendrick as a person and what he thinks of it.

“And once upon a time in a city so divine
Called West Side Compton, there stood a little nigga
He was five foot something, God bless the kid
Took his homie to the show and this is what they said”

5. These Walls

“I remember you was conflicted
Misusing your influence
Sometimes, I did the same”

The title has 3 different meanings. The walls of a woman, the walls of his mind and the walls of a prison cell. The song narrates Kendrick having sex with a married woman whose husband is in prison for killing one of Kendrick’s friends. Lamar views this as an act of revenge for his dead friend but he also has a bad conscience about using his power to seduce someone like mention in the song “For Free?”.

“If these walls could talk
I can feel your reign when it cries
Gold lives inside of you”

6. u

“Mood swings is frequent, nigga
I know depression is restin’ on your heart for two reasons, nigga
I know you and a couple block boys ain’t been speakin’, nigga”

So this is a very dark and personal song for Kendrick Lamar. He faces internal battles such as insecurities, self-hatred, selfishness and let-downs. He talks to himself and blames himself for things he has done or not done in the past. He also questions himself and questions who he really is.

Kendrick deals with depression and suicidal thoughts during the song, especially towards the end of it. The lyrics here are extremely beautiful and heartbreaking. You may not have faced the same situations as him but you feel Kendrick’s pain through this track.

“I cry myself to sleep
Bitch, everything is your fault
Faults breakin’ to pieces, earthquakes on every weekend
Because you shook as soon as you knew confinement was needed”

7. Alright

“Alls my life I has to fight, nigga
Alls my life I
Hard times like, yah!”

Alright is the most successful single of TPAB. It probably even has one of the most catchiest hooks of the album (Nigga we gonna be alright). But that’s doesn’t mean the song isn’t deep. The first line itself is a direct reference from the famous 1982 novel “The color purple” which tells the tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation.

‘Alright’ is like a response to ‘u’. He tells himself that he’ll be alright and he’ll get through it with God’s help. The song has an optimistic message and verse 2 introduces Lucy (Lucifer)

“And we hate po-po
Wanna kill us dead in the street for sure, nigga
I’m at the preacher’s door”

8. For Sale (Interlude)

“The evils of Lucy was all around me
So I went runnin’ for answers
Until I came home”

The 2nd Interlude of this album is about Kendrick dealing with Lucy’s temptations. She sells him all these ideas that she will fulfill all of his dreams and promises, but he knows that it is all a lie.

He also decides to spread his message through his songs instead of selling out like many other artists, which boy he does. But Kendrick doesn’t only share his ideas he makes sure the music supporting those ideas is great.

9. Momma

“met a little boy that resembled my features
Nappy afro, gap in his smile
Hand me down sneakers bounced through the crowd”

Momma refers to Africa, because that’s where he comes from, that’s where his roots are. He also went on a trip to South Africa in 2014. Lamar talks about growing as a person and fighting off Lucy’s temptations. The trip to Africa changed his view and perspective on a lot of things and he realized that he didn’t know as much as he thought he did.

“The mind of a literate writer but I did it in fact
You admitted it once I submitted it wrapped in plastic
Remember scribblin’ scratchin’ dilligent sentences backwards”

10. Hood Politics

“I don’t give a fuck about no politics in rap, my nigga (my nigga)
My lil’ homie Stunna Deuce ain’t never comin’ back, my nigga (my nigga)”

Kendrick’s voice is at a higher pitch on this track to signify his younger self when the hood was all he knew. He tells himself just to spit lyrics for his homies and not to worry about politics at the start of the first verse. Kendrick celebrates the hood life in this song and at the same time criticises it’s shortcomings. He analyses he’s transtion to the man that he is today, and you can even sense a longing for the hood life in him.

“But that didn’t stop survivors guilt
Going back and forth, trying to convince myself the stripes I earned
Or maybe how A-1 my foundation was
But while my loved ones was fighting a continuous war back in the city
I was entering a new one.”

11. How much does a dollar cost?

“How much a dollar really cost?
The question is detrimental, paralyzin’ my thoughts
Parasites in my stomach keep me with a gut feeling, y’all”

In this track Kendrick runs into a homeless man at a gas station in South Africa who asks him for a dollar. Kendrick thinks that he wants the money to buy some crack as he looks like a crack addict. He starts to feel guilty about his selfishness. Later on, the homeless man claims to be God and a dollar has cost Kendrick his place in heaven.He curses Kendrick on his lack of generosity. Kendrick asks for forgiveness and is now free of Lucy and Uncle Sam.

Here Kendrick expresses his visual confusion about what to do with all the money he has earned He doesn’t want to give it away to the poor, because once he was one of them, and if he can make it even they can. Money will make them lazy and they won’t work. We wants to help them with the money he’s earned but not give it to them.

“He looked at me and said, “Your potential is bittersweet”
I looked at him and said, “Every nickel is mines to keep”

12 Complexion (A Zulu love)

”Dark as the midnight hour or bright as the mornin’ sun
Give a fuck about your complexion, I know what the Germans done”

Through this song, Kendrick talks about discrimination based on color. And not just discrimination among black and white, but within the people of color. Complexion is about educating society on Color-ism and telling everyone that every color is beautiful to him and that dark skin and light skin is equal.

“Call your brothers magnificent, call all the sisters queens
We all on the same team, blues and pirus, no colors ain’t a thing”

13. The blacker the berry

“Everything black, I don’t want black (they want us to bow)
I want everything black, I ain’t need black (down to our knees)”

This track borrows it’s name from The Blacker the Berry: A Novel of Negro Life, a novel by American author Wallace Thurman, associated with the Harlem Renaissance. The novel tells the story of Emma Lou Morgan, a young black woman with dark skin.

This song deals with racialized self-hatred and racism in general. It also deals with internal problems the black community faces. Kendrick raps with an aggressive voice throughout the song and is angry about the destruction of black lives.

“You hate my people, I can tell ’cause it’s threats when I see you
I can tell ’cause your ways deceitful
Know I can tell because you’re in love with that Desert Eagle
Thinkin’ maliciously, he get a chain then you gone bleed him”

14.You Ain’t Gotta Lie (Momma Said)

“And the world don’t respect you and the culture don’t accept you
But you think it’s all love
And the girls gon’ neglect you once your parody is done”

This track might be a reference to 2Pacs ‘Lie To Kick It’, I’m not sure about it. The intro introduces Kendricks mother as the initial voice. The song is about being yourself and not lying to fit in somewhere and it’s also about stereotyping people.

“Tell me before we off ya, put you deep in the coffin
Been allergic to talkin’, been a virgin to bullshit
And sell a dream in the auction, tell me just who your boss is”

15. i

“I done been through a whole lot
Trial, tribulation, but I know God
Satan wanna put me in a bow tie”

‘i’ is the complete turnaround to ‘u’. Though TPAB revolves around negative temptations and self-doubt, this song offers redemption. He found himself and is able to love himself now. This is also contrast to ‘u’ where he hated himself and couldn’t imagine loving himself. Kendrick also explains how the media wants to keep everyone down by spreading negativity. He is proud to be black and shows this by the word ‘Negus’ which means royalty in Ethiopian.

“And I love myself
(The world is a ghetto with big guns and picket signs)
I love myself
(But it can do what it want whenever it want, I don’t mind)
I love myself
(He said I gotta get up, life is more than suicide)
I love myself
(One day at a time, sun gon’ shine)”

16. Mortal Man

‘Mortal Man’ is probably the most ambitious track in hip hop history. The track can be divided into three sections. The first half of it he name-checks different leaders such as Nelson Mandela or Malcolm X. This part was clearly inspired from his trip to South Africa, where he visited Nelson Mandela’s prison cell.

He describes his early self (and many others like him) as a caterpillar forced consume anything and everything in order to survive. He then realised the only way he can make it out of the streets (the cocoon) was to pimp his music, talent and beauty out to the record labels and privileged society. This metaphor was used throughout the whole album and is also the title of the album. It’s also interesting that the former name of the album was Tu Pimp A Caterpillar (2Pac).

Kendrick got the audio recordings of 2Pac’s interview in Germany when he was doing an interview himself. Kendrick was fascinated because the answers that 2Pac was giving were still relevant for today. I gotta tell you as soon as I heard Pac’s voice I got emotional. Here I was listening to one of my favorite artist talk to his idol, a legend who’s now a dead man. So let’s get to the interview with Pac. They discuss the black culture, racism, fame and image. Kendrick feels like 2Pacs spirit lives through him and the poem that continues throughout the whole album at the end of songs comes to an end as Kendrick reads out the poem to Tupac perfectly circling out the whole album. At the end when Kendrick calls out “Pac.. Pac… Pac…”, not gonna lie, I totally cried.

Final Thoughts

“The caterpillar is a prisoner to the streets that conceived it
Its only job is to eat or consume everything around it
In order to protect itself from this mad city
While consuming its environment
The caterpillar begins to notice ways to survive
One thing it noticed is how much the world shuns him
But praises the butterfly
The butterfly represents the talent
The thoughtfulness and the beauty within the caterpillar
But having a harsh outlook on life
The caterpillar sees the butterfly as weak
And figures out a way to pimp it to his own benefits
Already surrounded by this mad city
The caterpillar goes to work on the cocoon
Which institutionalizes him
He can no longer see past his own thoughts
He’s trapped
When trapped inside these walls certain ideas take root, such as
Going home, and bringing back new concepts to this mad city
The result?
Wings begin to emerge, breaking the cycle of feeling stagnant
Finally free, the butterfly sheds light on situations
That the caterpillar never considered
Ending the internal struggle
Although the butterfly and caterpillar are completely different
They are one and the same”

I think this poem perfectly sums up the theme of To pimp a butterfly. Kendrick fully transforms into the butterfly at the end. He might have a longing towards his humble early life, but what he has is much more valuable. Sure the artist life is full of problems and mental insecurities. But as an artist he can now do things he never could earlier. He can speak to people around the globe, he can shed light on issues no one else would, he has the power to uplift the conditions of those like him and he the opportunity influence a whole new generation with his rap. But the fact that he’s a big man now, a butterfly, doesn’t mean he’s forgotten his roots or where he came from – The caterpillar still lives somewhere inside the butterfly.