Archives for category: Reviews

It was great to see Brent Spiner again in his best known role as the android Data — even if presented only as in a dream.

As I was watching the first episode of Picard on CBS All Access, many thoughts came to mind. My appreciation for Brent Spiner was just one of them. Jean-Luc Picard is the star, and at first I thought a better name for his show would have been Old Man Picard.

But upon watching the whole episode, I came to the conclusion that there is available a much better name. For in a sense Patrick Stewart-as-Picard is not really the star. The star may actually turn out to be Isa Briones, playing the part of twin “synthetic” women.

Considering the nature of how — foreshadowing suggests — some unnamed conspirators get this synthetic set out of just one stray, remaining node of Data’s destroyed-in-Nemesis positronic matrix, and how they have already killed off (or: seemingly killed off) one of these twin cyborg/android/synthetics, the better name for the show becomes obvious:

Datum.

Note: the show did not send up any immediate SJW On Board flags. Reading some reviews online, I see that I may not be in the majority, here. In any case, the show is not Discovery-dreadful. IMHO.

I was reminded of my Facebook post, above, while watching Late Night, tonight, the drama about broadcast television’s least funny time slot, late night.

Though Seth Meyer, the no-longer-funny-at-all comedian of post-primetime network TV, actually makes an appearance (as himself) in this sorry contrivance, do not let that fool you: the melodrama is not without a few laughs.

But it is not a comedy, and I do not think it was trying to be.

It is the adult SJW equivalent of an “After School Special” — an earnest attempt to provide a smart secular morality play. I watched it because it got rather high marks on Rotten Tomatoes, and because I suspected these numbers were inflated by ideologues and “low-IQ individuals” (thanks, Trump).

The show stars Emma Thompson as a typically unfunny but otherwise untypical (for the networks) NPR-lite/midcult “entertainer.” You know, the kind of snob who thinks California Senator Diane Feinstein is a smart bet for a chat in front of a live New York (and national TV) audience. In other words, in a world where unintentional comedy is the kiss of death, this film specializes in unintentional realism. And the realism is about how unfunny late night comedy now is.

Just read the official synopsis — does this sound like a comedy to you?

So, why, when watching the flick, did I think of my Facebook post regarding the two stories of ideological Gray Lady nonsense?

Not because of the word “crone” — Emma Thompson is not there yet. Not quite.

The reason is the story arc: an allegedly misogynistic woman professional is redeemed by becoming yet another woke-scold pseudo-comedian, telling jokes about how male Republican Congressmen want to legislate women’s bodies because they cannot get laid, or some such nonsense.* This joke, of which much is made in service to the main plot — rescuing the career of “Katherine Newbury” — is astoundingly stale. That the authors of this lame commonplace think it (a) funny and (b) daring shows how out of touch they are.

The 80 percent Tomatometer rating is inexplicable, except as an indicator of how ideological and stupid critics have become.

But what stuck out, to me, was how conservative it all is. The whole saccharine moralism that imbues the show with its “heart” is essentially conservative. Oh, sure, because of the core bit of intersectionalism featuring writer and co-star actress Mindy Kaling — a young, earnest Indian-American — one might mistake it all as “progressive.” But progressivism is, as I have argued before, nowadays almost wholly a conservative movement, moralistically shoring up the power of a paternalistic elite. And in this movie the allegedly “progressive” #metoo hashtaggery is cautiously merged with an anti-adultery message, and we are really not very far from 1950s cultural conservatism.

Emma Thompson is a fine actress, and does her best with the limited material. She manages to almost convince the forgiving viewer that her character is a comic of the first water. When she takes to the stage in the third act, and proceeds to bomb, it is her acting alone that convinces us that her “spontaneous” routine is worth a laugh.

Mindy Kaling, who wrote as well co-stars, is thus the one to blame.

But really, for once we should spread the responsibility around: society is to blame for this inanity. For just as late-night TV has been ruined by social justice and political partisanship, so that nothing is funny any more, Late Night shows us a fantasy world where young, talentless women of color can save a show (and, by synechdoche, an industry) just by earnest moralism and blunt confidence and shepherding more talented people to being more social justice-y — a sort of doubling down of a failed strategy. Late-night and comedy in general has been ruined by the moralism of the Millennials. This movie, which asserts that this moralism and these Millennials can save late-night comedy, is not the more laughable, alas, for being preposterous.

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* The link is with the first Times story I mention, about the young leftist who is “brainwashed” by the “alt right” to wind up exactly where Late Night winds up: in the arms of the SJWs.

I just watched a roomful of men with cigars (one of them being Senator Ted Cruz) talk about the ending to HBO’s Game of Thrones, and though there is much good criticism about what went wrong and why, not one of them gets to what I think of as the weirdest and most astounding error: the fizzle of the Winter, which was all build-up and no pay-off.

Winter should have, by the penultimate episode, put King’s Landing under many feet of snow, and the show’s last scene should have been a montage of people all over Westeros tunneling under strata of snow, eking out the barest holds on existence after the stores of food had been depleted by war after war. In this context the dragon and the Night King would have had their final haunting presences.

An album titled after the first cut, a piece by the great Finnish composer Aulis Sallinen.

High fantasy lives and dies by what Lawrence Durrell called a Sense of Place. Or, to put it in different terms, high fantasy works by conjuring up Faërie. Which is a place as well as a state of mind. In addition to archetypes instantiated, high fantasy gives us weird and strange worlds that are themselves characters of over-arching importance. William Morris in The Water of the Wondrous Isles, The Well at the World’s End and The Sundering Flood; Lord Dunsany in “The Sword of Welleran” and “Charon” and The King of Elfland’s Daughter; J.R.R. Tolkien in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings; Mervyn Peake in Titus Groan and Gormenghast; Peter S. Beagle in The Last Unicorn — all of these succeed by making place as important as plot and character.

In the end, it is the place that is Westeros that was betrayed in the final season of Game of Thrones. The showrunners and writers got too caught up in plot and (to a lesser extent, character) to not realize that their great mission was to be true to an imagined world. A world that George R. R, Martin imagined, in his as-yet-unfinished series of books, and as he built into the very structure of his story.

And the great truth about his world was uttered often, and which served as the motto of House Stark: “Winter Is Coming.”

It barely arrived at all. In the final scene Jon Snow and his wildlings head north of the Wall with barely a flake falling from the sky and a mere dusting on the ground.

No wonder the ending lacked fire. It had too little ice.

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William Morris’s last romance, and probably his best.
Fan Petition to Redo Game of Thrones Season 8 Escalates as Finale Approaches,” Jacob Oller, SyFy, May 16, 2019 (Update: As of May 19, the petition has reached 1 million signatures.)

Ah, Game of Thrones: it ends tonight!

Though the writing of dialogue has diminished in quality over the last few seasons, and there have been problems with plotting the big incidents — and, perhaps saddest, Tyrion and Varis both became increasingly feckless, their roles almost pointless (so it was perhaps fitting for Varys to expire by Drogon’s fire) — my only real complaint with last Sunday’s episode regards the problem of the seemingly endless dragonflame. I mean, no attempt to explain the never-ending fireworks in terms of the conservation of matter?

At least Heinlein, in his otherwise quite bad Glory Road, bothered to consider the chemistry and physics of the fire-breathing dragon.*

Obviously, my kid’s-view of science persists.

All its many flaws being admitted, the very idea of a fan petition to redo the last season is idiotic:

As Season 8 (and the series itself) comes to a close, a fan petition to remake the season has picked up steam — reflecting some of the criticisms raised among the community.

Some are angry at its perceived disservice to its female characters, while others are upset at its underlit battles. On the flip side, some argue for its twists. The point is, the takes are often as hot as Drogon’s dragonfire. Those have manifested into a Change.org petition that user Dylan D. started a week ago. It started off slow, but by Thursday morning it neared 400,000 signatures.

The petition suggests what is wrong with culture these days: way too much “voice,” not near enough “exit.”


* The opening pages of that book were well done, too. I can admit that.


Men decide where power resides, whether or not they know it.

Varys in The Game of Thrones, best line in the penultimate episode, “The Bells”
from Wiki of Thrones

UPDATE: Watched the “finale”; was less than impressed. No great revelations, no deep change of perspective, and certainly no epiphany. But boy, did they try to force that latter. With sad, romantic music. Still, a few nice touches:

  1. Jon kills Dany, because she was homicidally mad, and this was especially tragic, since he loved her, blah blah.
  2. Drogon melts the Iron Throne, then carries off Dany’s corpse across the sea.
  3. Sam’s pitch for democracy got a laugh.
  4. Sansa makes the North independent and becomes the Queen of the North.

But the “winter is coming” theme sort of fizzled. Not much of a winter. I wanted to see snow piled high on the ruins of King’s Landing, but we got just a few flakes.

Being Hercule, so to speak; publicity photo from The Hollywood Reporter, June 21, 2018.

John Malkovich stars as Hercule Poirot in a 2018 BBC rendition of Agatha Christie’s The A.B.C. Murders, now streaming on Amazon Prime. And his performance bookends a clever thriller just out on Netflix in a film called Velvet Buzzsaw.

I saw the latter, which stars Jake Gyllenhall and Rene Russo (see below) and a few other familiar faces. Think of the movie Final Destination crossed with the old TV show Friday the 13th, but with a satirical twist. Jake G’s performance is . . . odd. He plays a bisexual art critic but with gay mannerisms. Probably perfect for a satire . . . not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Very well done. I greatly enjoyed it.

Haven’t watched the Poirot miniseries yet, since Tony Randall’s performance in the same story lingers in memory. From the first few scenes it looks like they have taken the story in a very different direction than was taken in the film starring Randall.

Velvet Buzzsaw; see this weekend’s review in the Chicago Tribune.

Rachel Brosnahan plays Midge Maisel.

It took me at least a month to get through the first episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Watching Mr. Maisel go through his excruciatingly bad comedy routines, as the viewer had to do repeatedly early in the show, was hard to endure. And a host of other small problems plagued the comedy-drama. The whole emprise, for example, made Woody Allen seem WASP. But it was a Sherman-Palladino production, friends said they loved it, and the lead actress is fun to watch. So I plodded through, a few minutes every other day or so. And got to the end, where it got good.

And then I binged all the way through the two seasons up on Amazon Prime.

The show is fun, but has . . . “issues.” As notes Rachel Lu:

There’s a scene in Season Two of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel that perfectly encapsulates the show’s central conundrum. Margaret (Midge) Maisel, our 1950’s-Jewish-housewife-turned-comedian, has finally gotten a gig at a semi-respectable New York City club, somewhere on the way to midtown. She shows up in her trademark black cocktail dress, fresh and beautiful and raring to go. Unfortunately, her act gets pushed back repeatedly as confident male comedians breeze in to claim her spot. By the time Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) takes the stage, it’s late and the audience is drunk, while she herself has completely lost her feminine charm. She’s sweaty, angry, and mildly intoxicated, sporting mustard stains on her sexy dress. Storming the stage, she abandons her prepared act and launches into a meta-discourse on comedy, and the suitability of women to participate in it. Comedy, she says, is about pain and rejection. Who understands these things better than women?

“Mrs. Maisel’s Mixed Messages,” by Rachel Lu, Law and Liberty (February 8, 2019)

Everybody understands pain, at least as it pertains to them. Telling other people that you know pain more than they do must be demonstrated. And made funny. The breakout rant described above is not comedy, and funny only because filled with invective. It is also not quite believable, because both too defensive and offensive. It is a manifesto Mrs. Maisel delivers. Or “womanifesto,” if you must. But it is only funny for the insults.

The story of the show is this incredibly peppy, “privileged” woman, married with two children, who almost never takes care of her children. Her parents and her wayward husband and a series of nannies do that. Her parents are wealthy. How they got this way is never quite explained. Her father, played by Tony Shaloub, is a college professor of mathematics. This was not a lucrative career path then or now, not without a government grant (which actually occurs as the story develops). Her mother dresses to the nines in every scene, and comes across as an heiress. But that information, if imparted to the viewer, missed me. Her husband (who leaves her in the first episode) works for his own father in the family clothing factory. Yet the young couple and the old live in vast, multi-room apartments elegantly decorated and filled with books and bric-a-bracs and elegant, 50s-era appliances.

The pain she experiences is not poverty.

The rejection she experiences is from her hapless hubbie alone.

And of course, only barely mentioned in one scene, there is a background pain — giving birth to her children, whom she almost never sees or touches.

This is all some weird sort of fantasy. And some of the fantasy is feminist.

One thing not quite confronted is why male comics were then and are now more common than female ones. We see two “famous” comics in the show: Lenny Bruce, who was a real man and most people say was funny, but whose work has not made me laugh in the past, but which isn’t bad re-created here; and “Midge’s female nemesis, Sophie Lennon . . . a crude hack recycling years-old material.” Neither of them strikes me as especially driven by pain or rejection.

A decade ago, the “gender” issue in comedy became a hot topic. The upshot from the men, whom I believe (and not the feminists, whom I do not), was that men are funnier than women, on average, because men need to amuse women while women do not need to amuse men — men like women even if they are not funny.

Rachel Lu, in the review I link to above, notes the theme of comedy and pain, and Midge Maisel’s insistence that does she know both. Neither seem plausible.

Her lips say “I belong on this stage,” but the show’s creators seem to be signaling something else. Before the lady comic was permitted to claim her microphone, she was forced to morph into a smelly, angry, drunken slob. In other words, she had to be un-womaned before practicing the comic arts. Was it freak happenstance? Or is there some deeper truth here? Can a good woman also be a great comedian?

This re-gendering is perhaps dramatically necessary because men understand the function of comedy, and, well, maybe women do not. Or, more likely, feminists do not. As in the old joke: “‘How many feminists does it take to change a light bulb?’ ‘That’s not funny!’” The point is, it is men who understand rejection on the receiving end. The evolutionary setup is fairly clear: women find advantage in making themselves as attractive as possible to as many men as possible, and rejecting all but the very best of those that want them. Men tend not to reject women as routinely. This basic truth undergirds all comedy. The comedy landscape in the show seems a tad misleading. We are being misled. We are being Mrs. Misled (sorry about that).

Of course it is not that women cannot be funny. It is that they have less incentive to be. There are good female comedians. Just like there are good male models. But the evolutionarily stable strategies do not stack the deck in either favor, and aren’t most male models gay?

So, what of the men in Mrs. Maisel’s world?

As in previous Sherman-Palladino creations (The Gilmore Girls and Bunheads), the men on this show share one possibly-unrealistic quality: they reliably take notice of witty and talented women, and find these qualities sexy and alluring. In general, Sherman-Palladino’s men are judged by two criteria. First, can they handle their manly business, as professionals and members of society? Second, can they handle their women? Sherman-Palladino dramas have no mercy on men who are too weak to match the objects of their affections.

This is very much a fantasy, but, alas, with no unicorns.

Or, one — our unicorn, Midge, a funny Jewish woman who claims to that pain and rejection feed her art but whose experience is quite different: a charmed life right up until the first, almost-unwatchable episode. But her magic seems more plausible as we get sucked in, as the fantasy picture show does its magic.

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spoiler alert!

In the movie Black Panther, we are introduced to a superheroic country hidden in the snowy mountains of Africa — this is very much an H. Rider Haggard/Edgar Rice Burroughs sort of utopia. The country, called Wakanda, is technologically advanced and has been for eons, but has kept out of world affairs on the grounds that its treasure, a philosopher’s lode of a supermetal, if transported out of the region, would destabilize the world and ruin the country. So it is isolationist. Yet technocratic.

Now, much has been made of the movie’s racial politics, and it has been lauded — and prodded into the limelight — for its social justice-y elements. But what struck me about the movie was that the baseline mythos could best be described as “Wakandan exceptionalism” of an almost Trumpian sort. The antagonist of the film is a bitter, resentful African-American criminal bent on world revolution (with a special attention paid on killing “oppressors”). In fact, he talks like a “Black Panther” of days of yore (racial solidarity, revolution) and it is he who must be destroyed so the country can grow into its new role as world benefactor. So the moral arc of the story is from isolationist exceptionalism to globalist benefactor — essentially moving from Trumpism back to standard-brand 20th century American globalism, where foreign aid is parlayed as the prime diplomatic value, above revolution, militarism and trade — the latter not even getting any mention. The real-world “Black Panther” type must be put down so the mythic “Black Panther” may triumph.

There is nothing radical here. It is essentially a JFK “liberal” movie.

It also contains a quite a bit of tribalistic mysticism, and rituals of a primitive, ooga-booga type. Rather embarrassing. We are really not far from Hollywood Tarzan tropes here.

As a Marvel movie, it is of course expertly made, a technical marvel; and if, like me, you enjoy watching scantily clad bald black women kicking ass, you will find some thrills. Andy Serkis has a fun role as a mad Russian criminal mastermind.

I saw it in Astoria, Oregon, in a theater half-filled with white Americans … and no one else. (Astoria has a sizable Mexican population, but is otherwise lily-white.) I did not feel a whole lot of excitement coming from the audience — not like in the Iron Man and Captain America flicks — but no hatred, either. I have no idea how it fares elsewhere, but in this neck of the woods it does not appear to be a hit.

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N.B. The popular meme of Wakandan exceptionalism being “alt-right” is accurate, for the most part, insofar as the country is portrayed at the beginning of the movie. It is 4C6A88CB-B755-4E6B-815C-786D49F5BA10also not inaccurate to describe the country at the end of the movie, though the kingdom’s new “black man’s burden” policy would surely undermine the stalwart atavisms of its traditionalist nationalism. As with most comic-book world-building scenarios, it does not bear close examination — just as the amazon-warrior theme does not. And alt-right dreamers might note that American exceptionalism came from open borders and trade — not anything like Wakandan autarky. There is a disturbing cargo cult element to much current political fantasizing. The wealth redistributed by any real or fantasied State entity has to come from somewhere. In Black Panther, it came from outer space and lies in the ground in the form of a metal that the Wakandans mine.

I forget the name of the metal, but it is really just a McGuffin, as in the goofy, embarrassing “unobtainium” of the horrible science fiction film Atavism, I mean Avatar. I could look up the name of this fantasy material, but memory tells me that it starts with a “v,” so I just think of it as “virkkalanium.”

Philip K. Dick’s 1952 short story “Human Is” is clever. Not great. Just clever. (You can find it in the collection We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.) It is not unlike, say, a Fredric Brown story, but not as well written.* It does not present an elegiac mood, or aim for anything like the sublime. It is a rather cynical sf tale about marital discord and unhappiness. And betrayal.

But it was taken as the inspiration for Amazon Prime’s new series Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams, appearing as the third episode. And was it changed! Only the ending of the short story remained untampered with, quoting (adopting) about two lines verbatim.

Yes, friends, there are spoiler ahead. . . .

The short story’s basic premise — of a mean, cold bastard of a husband (Lester) going off to an alien planet, Rexor IV, and coming back changed, turned into a nice, easy-to-live with loving man — that is the same. But instead of a literalist, a scientific researcher, the show features a callous warrior (renamed Silas, played by Bryan Cranston), bent on exploiting and killing an alien race for the good of “Terra.”

The short story’s subplot about the wife’s brother and nephew, that is gone. And all the dreck of everyday life? Gone too. The change of scenery and alteration of tone from the original make the show different. Very. Instead of reading about an unloved wife whose uncharitable husband will not help an inlaw out, we see an unfulfilled and tyrannized wife — emotionally abused and domestically oppressed despite her elevation to a major official role in the futuristic sealed-off society.

Yes, in the TV show she has been turned into a professional — a government official, even. And instead of suffering neglect from the man who won’t serve as foster father, we see our heroine suffer from coldness, indifference, and even envy from her husband. Actually, he is much worse, because minatory. Yes, he threatens violence.

The show’s penultimate scene takes place in a court room, in a trial that spells the issues out very clearly, cleverly. The written story is nowhere nearly so thematically tight.

But the big change? The whole story has become politicized. The husband in the show is portrayed almost exactly as leftists see “right wingers” — eager to kill and exploit foreigners (aliens), and as being emotionally withdrawn and cruel. And since the woman is now a career woman, a leader, this makes her a feminist heroine rather than the pathetic character that Dick imagined. With the child gone, it is just the microsocial antagonism of a childless couple, not a family drama — and the show carefully evades any issue of parental feeling from her husband to his brother-in-law’s son. This excision allows our feminist heroine to be portrayed as romantically and sexually unfulfilled. The very model of a modern Ms. obsession.

Indeed, in the show, because of her husband’s lack of interest in intimacy, early on she seeks out some sad satisfaction in a far-flung-future orgy in the sterile city’s underground (yes, the teleplay writers made sure to hit every possible mythic beat). When her husband comes back transformed, changed into a cheerful, sympathetic, and very sensual sexual partner (we “get” to see Cranston’s full-rear view nude form in a lovemaking session), she defends him — chooses him — even though it has been proved that he is not her husband.

Who is he? Well, her husband’s body, possessed by an alien metamorph. Invasion of the body snatcher!

The alien is from Rexor IV — as in the original PKD story. But where in the original the husband had been a careless innocent, his soul stolen by surprise while on a solo vacation, in the show there is war, and he was the aggressor and he became a casualty. At the beginning of the show, our heroine had politically opposed her husband’s plan to kill Rexorians and steal their atmosphere (or something like that). At the end of the show, she lets the enemy, the Rexorian, not only into her society but also into her bed, ostensibly because her human husband had not been nice enough to her. Not appreciative enough.

And was a bad guy anyway.

All this is standard left-right archetypes and stock figures and bigotries. Let me spell it out:

  • The husband? The very cliché of a left winger’s idea of a conservative.
  • The wife? The leftist self-image of a feminist heroine, ill-treated by her conservative partner.
  • The Rexorian? An exploited alien (foreigner) just “fighting for its life” and perhaps justifiably attacking our military and Silas, the Cranston character.

It would be hard to imagine a clearer allegory to today’s conflict with the Muslim world. The feminist women betray conservative men because those evil conservatives are bent on defending their nation by exploiting and killing foreigners (Muslims/Rexorians); further, those feminists replace the murderous conservatives with the foreigners, going so far to bedding them . . . because the frustrated, unfulfilled feminist women will be more sexually fulfilled by the foreigners/aliens than by their fellow nationalists/Terrans.

Also present is the “right wing” fear that the enemy will infiltrate and pretend to be “one of us” but then betray us completely, taking our place — this “paranoid” fear is exactly mirrored in the television story. And, going another step even further, the right wing suspicion that the leftists will betray us, preferring the other to their own, and making cuckolds of the West’s men . . . that is very close, too — for the woman does betray Terra, and just because the alien treats her better as wife and lover.

So, the fantasies and fears of both rightists and leftists are played to. Both sides could view the story with a kind of . . . indecent? . . . pleasure. And, because the Amazon version is so artfully done, it turns out to be a beautiful, sublime story, too. Much more powerful than the original.

It is now a philosophical horror story, not just a clever little domestic drama with a cynical sci-fi surprise ending.

The wonder of it is how brazen it is, how timely. The perpetrators — I mean, writers and actors and producers — of the new drama surely know what they are up to. But why? Why do it this way? I assume that these are all left-leaning Hollywood types. The story, though with all the biases of your standard-brand Hollywood Left Coast cosmopolitan written deep into the story’s premise, and played out as the drama unfolds, in the end gives away much of the game to the right wingers. What could be worse than the Left shown as the betrayer and the enemy shown as capable of using elaborate deception? And all because the leftist woman demands love she is not getting at home.

First world problems leading to the conquest of that world by the Third.

She even goes as far as cuckolding the Right in the end. In a sort of Gertrude-and-Claudius way.

A cautionary tale — an apocalypse! — indeed.

Ah, the culture wars. All-too-human, is.

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* Dick’s science fiction short stories, at least the early ones, are not very artful on the sentence level — his realistic novels were far more carefully crafted. The short stories are also rather tawdry, as are many of the science fiction novels, filled with the dreck of everyday domestic conflict.

N.B. I wrote the above before reading anyone else’s criticism. And now, as I clean this up, I flit around the net and find appraisals that do not go very far. And not a few just show the insipid shallowness of modern feminism.

Philosophy and Christianity have been mostly at loggerheads from the beginning . . . of Christianity.

My side is with philosophy. No doubt about that. But having watched God’s Not Dead for the first time tonight, I have to say that I am not exactly on that proselytizing film’s critics’ side. The movie is not as bad as most critics make out. It is well acted, tightly plotted and edited, artfully framed with incidental music, and contains several juicy, fun scenes.

At base, God’s Not Dead is about a philosophical argument. Kevin Sorbo plays an atheist philosophy professor who professes atheism but engages in almost no philosophical argumentation.

I would like to say this makes the film horribly unrealistic, but I have heard stories about such abominations in colleges. Sorbo’s Prof. Radisson is a terrible teacher, and there is little evidence demonstrating his expertise in his subject. Surely most philosophers would leap at a student’s interest in a subject dealt with in many different ways during the course of philosophy. Instead, Radisson tries to skip the theology section of his philosophy course by demanding that each student sign a piece of paper saying “God is dead.”

An absurd approach to teaching, and no way to cover philosophy, which began, after all, as the critique of both religion and common sense.

But it does not really seem too far out of the stream of bad teaching in America.

His foil is our hero, a young Christian student who stands up for God in class.

Philosophers who like movies might want to contrast it with Agora, a film set in late antiquity Egypt starring Rachel Weisz as the neo-Platonist philosopher Hypatia.

Whereas God’s Not Dead is fiction, with a shaggy god ending, Agora retells a historical tale. Fictionalized, of course.

In Agora, as in history, a  mob of Christians kills the philosopher.

In God’s Not Dead, the filmmaker kills off the atheist professor . . . fictionally, giving him a deathbed conversion to boot.

This is how Christianity has progressed: from lying about and killing a philosopher to discrediting a philosophical position by “killing off” the vexatious representative character.

In a film that also depicts (fairly realistically) a Muslim father who disowns and throws out of his house a daughter who converts to Christianity, I would say that this is a kind of progress.

Still, the attack upon reason goes on. In real life, a number of years ago, Christians got their hands on senescent atheist philosopher Antony Flew, cajoling him into a half-assed repudiation of some of his previous positions. The devil takes the hindmost; Christians pick off the weakest.

Most critics of GND hated it, saying it was too simplistic and tendentious. Objectively, that is true. But we are talking movies here. Simple-minded and tendentious is the new style, no? That’s what all political movies are, basically. Michael Moore, anyone?

It is not as if today’s highly politicized ideological culture is better when it comes to politics. It is not.

For my part, the biggest disappointment in the film is not the convenient death of the professor. It is the ending at a Christian Rock concert. If I wanted to disprove the existence of God, I might point to Christian Rock as all the proof I need. God cannot even make a miracle of converting young people to like great music. Instead, they adopt CR as a smoker switches to vaping. The drug is there. It is just a new delivery system.

This man, The Amazing Atheist, asks the question: should we boycott the upcoming Ender’s Game flick because the author of the original, eponymous book “is a douchebag.” (And worse: “fucking pussy.”) How is Orson Scott Card a “douchebag” etc.? By opposing gay marriage, by being a social ultraconservative, and by saying extreme things in defense of same . . . but most particularly for his back-pedaling regarding his most outrageous statements, in fear of the threatened boycott.

Now, I don’t agree with Card. I find the disjunct between his sometimes brilliant and humanistic science fiction and his crackpot conservatism puzzling, to say the list. But if I boycotted movies because of the “douchebaggery” of the films’ creators, I wouldn’t get to see many movies. Surely, “douchebaggery” is not limited in our culture to Orson Scott Card, homophobes, or the far right.

Oh, and by the way, this video presenter uses a lot of vulgar language, most of it unnecessary and none of it amazing. He shouldn’t call himself The Amazing Atheist. How about “The Fucking Anti-Faithist”? You know, to forestall “douchebag” charges.