Children of Men & Contagion

Ceci n’est pas un film au sujet de maladie.

Everything you wanted to know about Hobbesfreude, but were afraid to legislate. 
Reported on 13th of November, 2011

What are the parts of the trailer they always show in a film directed by Mr. Ronald Emmerich? No, not a body surfing Shakespeare (1m21s in), though that is pretty great. What they to choose to get your butts on their seats are blowing up White Houses, waves of a freezing cold water engulfing New York, or arks crashing into each other because they forgot that the 2012 flood that engulfs the entire world might be a little choppy. Apologies, of course, for the sudden outburst of high expectations. Why can’t movies about Mayan predictions for the end of the world be realistic?


re: Children of Men & Contagion

The trailer cutters choose these scenes for a reason, and it’s basic psychology. As Sigmund Freud once said, sometimes a cigar is just a giant cock in your mouth. Apologies, of course, for the sudden outburst of repressed homoeroticism; why can’t movies made in 2011 not star Ryan Gosling? The comment I meant (in the sense of the word that I meant, but not that I…oh, never mind) to repeat was Freud’s contention that every fear is also a fantasy. As Christian mythology, Al Gore and Zombieland has made abundantly clear, we want the world to end. We say we don’t, but methinks we doth blow things up too much. Every fear must be a fantasy; otherwise we would be afraid of actual threats to our existence. As it turns out, we find babies adorable.


22 October 2011 @ The Mann's Chinese

$9.00 or, if one must be jejune, and one must... 
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆


With a film like Contagion this fantasy would seem at first to be of the Emmerich variety. Some superbug comes along and everybody dies: boo, but secretly hooray. Sadly (happily?), this does not happen, for this is not the fantasy of the film. I, like you, was severely disappointed to discover that this very realistic movie flu has a mortality rate of 20%. 20%, I mean why even get up out of prophage in the morning?

It's like if you made a film and populated it with Freddy Krugers, Hannibal Lecters, Michael Bays, and...okay, again, terrible example. I would see that movie. It's like a film populated with Bellas.

The film reveals two other fantasies, the first involving ‘fulminates’. Fulminates, or so the film tells us, and no I cannot be bothered to look it up and it’s besides the point anyway, are the bits of virus left on surfaces that survive for a few hours. Like the ridiculous, great, and ridiculously great Outbreak, which I feel was directed by Mr. Emmerich, but probably wasn’t (see can’t be bothered to look it up, above), it’s all about the close-up of things. Lookout for the doorknob! No, really. Lookout for that doorknob. It’s going to kill you. Contagion takes this absurd everyday fear and just keeps going. Stay away from the elevator button! Don’t eat that! No hugging! It’s a very expensive obsessive compulsive’s visualization of a CDC public service announcement and it feels like the film has to state even the most obvious things, just to cover their asses. We already know to stay the hell away from Gwyneth Paltrow. Jeez.

In so doing, it’s not unlike Mission Impossible (the TV series, not the irksome films). This show was never about spies or ideology; it always took place in some apolitical non-country specified Înstîtüt. It was about the state of paranoia and suspicion of everyday life, that your girlfriend could at any moment pull off her mask and reveal that she was Barbara Bain. Again fear=fantasy, which the IM force took great delight in recreating. Likewise Contagion is about a fear we already have: touching, and a fantasy we don’t admit, wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to. This is evidenced when Mr. Steven Soderbergh investigates every crack and crevice of a Hong Kong casino in macro lens detail, and everything that we touch is a threat. Especially other human beings. In other words, clean everything or your baby will not survive!

Don’t touch your baby!

Which leads conveniently to our second fantasy, since it wasn’t long before I realized that this film was the unholy marriage between Outbreak and Children of Men, itself also an extremely well made, and deeply evil film. I am out as much as one can be regards my views on population, babies, and so forth. The train conductors are getting a little tired of hearing about my vasectomy. And I’m getting tired of telling them.

I’ll be bombarding you with an article next week about the extremely great We Need To Talk About Kevin, where I will be making various arguments that you can ignore about tying a fucking knot in it already (this is opposed, of course, to tying a knot in fucking already). I am bringing up my views on overpopulation and not actually voicing them in this piece because we are on the topic of Children of Men, a film which does exactly the same thing. I remember shaking with rage the first time I saw the trailer, which depicted a world where we no longer had children (getting us back to fantasy=fear, by the way). Here, or so I thought, was a film about how the one thing we need more than anything is more babies. I prepared myself not to be pleased.

Children of Men

28 December 2006 @ Pacific's The Grove 18

$14.00 or, if one must be jejune, and one must... 
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆


And I wasn’t. But not at all in the way I expected. First of all, it’s an astonishingly well made film. Sr. Alfonso Cuarón having made HP3 and Little Princess, is probably the best living shot chooser, and I am genuinely sad he isn’t working more. Filming the action scenes in single (admittedly digitally altered) takes works so well you don’t notice until you exhale at the end, and I get angry every time I see a cut in another movie. Or, as in the case of Mr. Michael Bay, 1,000 cuts. And no, I am not advising that Michael Bay be cut 1,000 times. I am merely hinting at it.


The Grove is the perfect place to see a film about children ending the world. Well that’s the film I saw.

(My praise of Mr. Cuarón is lightly veiled jealously, as I have always wanted to make an action movie based on the aesthetic of Shigeru Miyamoto-tono, the designer of Super Mario 64, and thus of the third person platformer. What’s that now? Well, I play video games, and I’m old, which means very few of my friends do. Consequently I have seen first hand how people become mesmerized watching someone who is, at best, an average player (this assertion merits a further nested parethetical: I know that I am average having played cooperative Quake back in the old days in the times where I was the first person to have a dual ISDN connection. The other players, with dial-up (you’re too young, and that’s my third nested parenthetical by the way), were confused by my sudden appearance, shooting them in the head, and disappearance before they could even say ‘what the?’ Let’s just be glad a person like me doesn’t exist in real life). From this, I can infer that watching play video games may be oddly interesting, and I think it’s because we identify with the character whose face we don’t see more than one who we do.

Movie critics complain about video game movies in general, and with the exception of the-confuse-a-Dalí Super Mario Bros. (see it and see it now), they’re right. But also please rent Doom and fast-forward to fourteen minutes from the end, which has actually recreated the first person shooter in a movie. All one shot, three minutes long, and you’re really sad that the rest of the movie is not like this. Also, having renting it you don’t have to watch the agonizing talkity-talk talking parts (nevermind, here it is. I’m saving you money all over the place). I still say that this is the way to make a great action sequence, and Mr. Cuarón has beat me to it.

I ain’t dead yet, Cuarón).

Fortunately for my schadenfreude, Mr. Caurón has made a fairly evil film, but, as it turned out, it wasn’t because he was making the tired argument that children are the only way we’re going to solve the mess made by all the children. In this film world, which is falling apart because no one has had a child for 24 years and one woman is unexpectedly pregnant, we encounter characters, pretty much all of them, who are just, well, shitty. They all want to use the pregnant lady, shot in beatific light and so forth, for their own various political and selfish purposes. As everyone keeps betraying and killing each other, it’s like being naturalist dedicated to studying cannibalistic scorpions. If aliens came to earth, went to Pacific’s The Grove 18 and saw Children of Men, they would wonder: wait, why haven’t we blown this place up? And then reassemble the molecules of Mr. Roland Emmerich and have him make a movie about it?

The Take – Children of Men

Not totally hating it the first time I saw it.
Seriously. The guy knows where to put the camera.
Look, I’ve watched the single take sequences more than several times, and it does add up. I got a bargain (15 times twenty minutes, divided by 100 minutes @ $0.10 per minute).
Total Profits
I have enough trouble with these kinds of folks in real life. You may as well make a film about neo-realist filmmakers. About, not by.
I don’t get to the pause button in time to miss all the ugly people scheming.
Total Losses


Which is fine for the aliens, but from a film point of view we have a problem. Contagion, like Children of Men, is about the end of the world, and is likewise populated with, well, dicks. People fight over food, sell each other out, Mlle. Marion Cotillard is kidnapped at gunpoint by the people she was helping, held hostage to get medicine for their village, the CDC gives them fake medicine, whereupon she goes back to the people who kidnapped her, Patty Hearst-ified enough to be an idiot, and I have to ask: why, as an alien, do I care if these people live or die? I don’t. I’m an alien, I only care about reruns of Glupnor’s Homeworld and eating brains. It’s like if you made a film and populated it with Freddy Krugers, Hannibal Lecters, Michael Bays, and…okay, again, terrible example. I would see that movie. It’s like a film populated with Bellas.

7 minutes of trailers. 7 minutes. Plus, having built the Mann Chinese 6 five years ago, they're tearing it down to built another one, even though you can still smell the outgassing. I don't hate everything about LA.

7 minutes of trailers. 7 minutes. Plus, having built the Mann Chinese 6 five years ago, they’re tearing it down to built another one, even though you can still smell the outgassing. I don’t hate everything about LA.

But this is what scared me a little. Because if every fear really is a fantasy, then this is, what? Misanthropefreude? The fantasy here is that is what people ‘are really like’. It reminds me of the various Marxists I encounter on a daily basis (and yes, I have exactly the same reaction you do: they’re adorable!). They’re always arguing about the masses and how they’re manipulated by the media and so on. The problem being, of course, if these people who you want to save and not so secretly hate have no free will, and are essentially robots whose only problem is that they are just waiting for the good programming that you will no doubt provide, why do want to help them in the first place? It should be no surprise that the conservatives, neo-Hobbesians that they are, have exactly the same viewpoint. They’re just better at it.

And so we’re back to where we started a second time, except that now it’s about zombies. If we do want to live in a world where we get to shoot people in the head, it’s because we see people as so selfish as deserving it in the first place. Which is entitles us to act selfishly and be confused why people are looking at us like we’re zombies. It’s like if someone saw an impressively light and energetic film by Mr. Steven Soderbergh – a true rarity these days – and didn’t mention the fact at all. Like the penis-breasts in Aliens, a tightly constructed narrative makes it easy to give in to the impulse to ignore the film and dive instead into the mucky zeitgeist that gave birth to it. Luckily for me, this is cause to rail against whatever dark motivations that lurk in Mr. Steven Soderbergh’s subconscious, rather than simply praise his ability. What can I say?

I’m afraid of bad filmmaking.

The Take: Contagion

Seriously, this film does for doorknobs what Psycho did for showers. And what Hugo did for going to the movies.
Yeah, the guy knows where to put the camera, but consider the competition.
A story of struggling to survive…
Total Profits
…full of people that deserve to die
Fortunately, the ending that tells us that everything is fine, as long as we have the prom.
Changing ‘Stop saving the world’, the girl complains to ‘Stop saving the world, Daddy!’
Total Losses


Thoughts on Hobbesfreude

  1. Nathan says:

    We’re not neo-Hobbesians. We’re Hobbesians. And if Mlle. Marion Cotillard gets a tag, we demand one too.

  2. Scott Scott King says:

    Mlle. Marion Cotillard can basically have whatever she wants. And I can’t believe you didn’t see ‘Hobbesfreude’. I have little doubt I’ll be using it again.

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