No. This is not a review of the music store that was popular in the Los Angeles region in the 1970s and 1980s. This is a review of the new Paul Thomas Anderson movie that hit theaters on Christmas. Day. Not counting the short films, documentaries, and dozens of music videos that he has directed, Licorice Pizza is Anderson’s 9th feature film. As a director who has an allergy to making bad movies (Even though Inherent Vice came close), Licorice Pizza definitely takes its place as a classic alongside the similarly 1970s era Boogie Nights as one of his best films and very possibly the best movie of 2021.
It is really hard to classify a Paul Thomas Anderson film. But when you go to a theater to watch one, his filmmaking style becomes instantly familiar. Often loaded with wonderfully long vibrant takes that help establish atmosphere mixed in with amazing cinematography and deep characterization, a PTA film is an exercise in organized chaos. Characters feel alive on the screen and their behavior and actions take the story into interesting and original directions. Licorice Pizza has a slightly different style. Really lacking a unifying plot, the movie is broken down into vignettes that revolve around the relationship of Alana Kane and Gary Valentine as they grow up in the Valley of Los Angeles in the 1970s. Alana Haim plays Alana Kane, a 25-year-old girl working dead end jobs who has no real direction in life. Her counterpart is Gary Valentine played by Cooper Hoffman, the son of Philip Seymour Hoffman who appeared in multiple Anderson films, who is an extremely confident 15-year-old teenager that owns multiple businesses throughout the movie and has made courting Alana Kane his goal despite their age difference.
Whether through an introductory scene where the camera follows our two protagonists as they meet for the first time at Valentine’s high school, to a political campaign where the sexuality of the candidate needs to be hidden at all costs due to the culture of the time, to the exceptional water bed delivery scene revolving around real life jackass Jon Peters, who was dating Barbara Streisand at the time, the movie never has one single moment of boredom. Each moment, including the Peters scene where the oil embargo in the 1970s plays a key role in what happens to each character, is pulled off with masterful precision. A simple scene where Kane is looking to get an agent with Gary’s help evolves into a wonderful monologue where the agent focuses on Kane’s Jewish nose as well as her other more superior “traits.” As a person who was born and raised in the South Bay of Los Angeles in 1974, Licorice Pizza celebrates the craziness of growing up in an area where all possibilities were endless and bad behavior and cancerous personalities existed everywhere. Everything I loved about growing up in Los Angeles and hate is wonderfully reflected in this movie. The dirty suburbs and strip malls of my childhood are well-represented. Anderson’s ability to remember this era with such exquisite detail really brings back the nostalgia of a time and place not too far in the past that almost feels completely alien.
The movie has been subjected to some controversy. Like so many of these cynical takedowns of an era that no one under 40 seens to understand (Look at the age of this kid that wrote the article about being offended. He is an infant), the movie is actually an accurate portrayal of the 1970s right down to the oil embargo. This is the way that people acted in the 1970s. Is John Michael Higgins character a racist and using his Asian wives for his own personal benefit? Absolutely. But this is what people did in 1973. Did a casting agent focus on appearance and make multiple comments about Alana Kane’s nose? YUP. Looks were an important aspect of getting cast into films. When a young kid makes a comment about an era and a timeframe that he has no understanding of, should we really take this review or controversy seriously? Looking at something with 21st Century eyes does not give you a moral say or the experiences of people who actually lived during that era and experienced these exact same problems. If anything, PTA reflected them back with incredible accuracy.
There is nothing else for me to say. I am not sure if this movie is going to work with younger people. My daughter loved it, but she also has studied history and Los Angeles culture (Mainly because of her dad) more than most kids her age. Licorice Pizza is charming as hell and does a wonderful job reflecting an era through amazing vignettes that will keep you thinking about this film for days. Go see it when you get the chance. This is going to become a cult classic.
Expectations can always be seen in two distinguishable contexts. First, when a piece of pop culture entertainment achieves the lofty goals that match your personal expectations, there is no greater feeling of joy than getting to experience this art. But on the reverse side, expectations can often ruin a personal experience. Sometimes, a movie is good (Avatar) but because the expectations surrounding the film were escalated due to it becoming the highest grossing film of all time during its release, you can leave the theater feeling like the underlying culture misled or misguided you. I have felt this way about other cultural iconic experiences like Black Panther or the play Hamilton. Cyberpunk 2077 is 2020’s best example of this type of entertainment. No game was more eagerly anticipated by the video gaming community than CD Projekt Red’s follow-up to the Witcher franchise. So even though I played the game to completion, why does it feel like Cyberpunk 2077 was missing something?
Entertainment is always objective. My opinion on Cyberpunk 2077 will likely not match the majority of video gamers who likely enjoyed the experience. But when compared to some of its modern-day contemporaries and thinking about the game and its use of the open world, Cyberpunk 2077 is a letdown. The game begins with you choosing one of three paths (Corporate, Nomad & Street Kid) that will lead the main character “V” to one of five possible endings. This idea of multiple pathways has become popular since the Mass Effect franchise helped push the idea of personal choice into the forefront of video gaming experiences. The problem is that like Mass Effect, these personal choices still feel like pre-selected destinies that do not lead to much diversification in the gameplay other than certain conversation choices and slightly modified ‘solutions’ to some of the side stories. No matter what you do, only five choices await you at the end.
Second, being a fan of open-world games like the Red Dead franchise, the Grand Theft Auto franchise, and the Fallout franchise, Cyberpunk 2077 tries to create a vivid lively world that feels alive. The best open world games exist as a sandbox that your player has influence on. But even without your character roaming the irradiated hills of Washington D.C. or the beautiful landscapes surrounding the town of Strawberry, these worlds feel like they have been lived in. Have you ever watched one character in Red Dead Redemption 2 just go about his day as a blacksmith? Even if you are there observing him, the character has a routine that they follow. Accidents can happen between NPCs even if your character is not around. The police arrest criminals even if you were not involved in the crime. In a game like Fallout, random attacks can occur between people living inside settlements and mutants looking to survive. The world has randomly generated events (Just like real life) that can impact how a mission is completed. This type of world is not what you will get when playing Cyberpunk 2077. While the graphics maybe some of the most stunning in any video game I have every played, the world feels like a digitally created sandbox that only reacts to the “choices” that you make. There are random events around the city, but they usually fall into a set category of missions that become repetitive very quickly. You can talk to any character. But follow that character and watch their actions. It looks like they are on a pre-destined routine and if you talk to them a couple of times, they quickly start to repeat. This is the biggest failure of Cyberpunk 2077. The world just does not feel real. It feels like a simulation created for your character. The tragedy of this is that The Witcher franchise engaged with the open world experience in a fundamentally more realistic way.
Despite these two main complaints, the game has its positive aspects. The gameplay is fun once you figure out its various complications. Many of the side quests which often involve deep dives into a character that you associate with are the highlights of the game. Despite the tediously slow start, the relationship between ‘V’ and Johnny Silverhands (Played by Keanu Reeves) actually evolves into the heart of the main story which allows the ending to have a respectable payoff. The game was savaged upon release for its various technical flaws which has led to loss of faith in CD Projekt Red and various class action lawsuits that have led to millions of dollars of payouts. But upon my playing experience, the technical flaws were mostly ironed out after I waited five months for the company to repair them. There were still some characters that walked through cars, or disappeared after I talked to them, or walked into the street only to have another car drive right through them. But in terms of the main story, I only had one instance where the game caused a technical issue, and it was resolved upon resetting my Xbox Series X.
My completion time of the game took 66 hours. After playing many of the gigs and random open world missions, I quickly grew bored of them. Once you reach the Street Cred Level of 50, there is really no reason to continue with them unless your completionist tendencies overwhelm you. I found it quite acceptable to finish the main side quests and the primary story without diving into the deepest corners of the map to find a random mission that needs completion. Unlike other open world games, Cyberpunk 2077 is just not enjoyable enough for exploration despite the superior graphics. In fact, there is a moment during one of the endings where you can contemplate your time in the city at a scenic overlook before you ride off into the future. I spent absolutely no time contemplating the city. Because the city just did not do enough for me to be emotionally invested in it. I quickly jumped in the car and ended the game.
If I had to recommend Cyberpunk 2077 to another video gaming aficionado, I would recommend it but with caveats. If they asked me to give them one open world game to play so they could experience what these type of games is like, I don’t think Cyberpunk 2077 would even crack my Top 10 of recommendations. But there are some good ideas here even if the recent real-world events involving the tech industry seem to be moving us into the dark dystopian future that this game represents. Keanu Reeves’ story is not nearly as cringe inducing as some other journalists mentioned and the game does have an underlying heart mixed in with all the dehumanizing technology. But my opinion is only that, one person who found his most anticipated game of 2020 as his biggest disappointment of the past year. But if this type of science fiction future dystopian world is interesting to you, then feel free to buy Cyberpunk 2077. But count me out on any future replays. I just have no interest in committing another 70 hours of time to this video game.
This blog has only had one post over the past six weeks. I apologize as my responsibility as the patriarch of a family sometimes takes priority over my journalistic ramblings. As a person who is always open-minded and fascinated with learning new skills, my mind has been distracted by economic questions mainly revolving around proper money investment and historical economic doctrines. This research will likely lead to a series of blogs at some point in 2022 on this topic. I am also in the process of doing final edits and adding photos into my U.S. Route 95 book. Since I have never published before, I am going to begin the process of figuring out how this works (On Amazon and possibly a few other places). As mentioned in a previous blog, I intend on releasing the book for a decent price with the ultimate goal of converting it into a free e-book once I acquire an advertising identification that pays for hyperlink referrals. So now that you are caught up, I have an outline of some new ideas that have been floating around in my mind. Starting with this blog, I am going to start a new minimum three-part series on the politics in the United States in comparison to Europe and other neo-liberal countries. This ties into the seven-part series I still need to complete revolving around the degradation of our educational system. The former will involve a comparison between these continents and how it relates to the still ongoing COVID-19 “Pandemic” which has long since evolved from a medical emergency to a political problem. It will likely also dive into history and reflect back on the American and French Revolutions and explain why the aftereffects of these two historical moments are still being felt in the present day. I also just finished a game called Cyberpunk 2077. I am going to submit my review as well as the complicated technical history and debates that this game has created since its release last year. But first, this blog is going to ask three questions about our current political and social climate that need to be answered. Plus, I am going to squash some frustrating “conspiracies” that have irritated me over the past decade. I hope you enjoy!
Question 1: Is the Mainstream Media serving as “propaganda” for the United States Empire?
This first question is a doozy and one of the solutions can be found here in my last blog. Since the orange-haired narcissist took office back in 2017, the mainstream media has been losing its mind over “fake news.” There is an arrogance among these media ‘elites’ that the election of Donald Trump was some sort of “mistake” made by American people that were lied into electing this so-called racist to office. The election was actually a rejection of the neo-liberal and neo-conservative globalization doctrine which has been ongoing in this country since the Clinton era (And likely was started during the Nixon era). One of my favorite aspects since Trump was elected is to understand two key things I have seen inside the media since taking my first job in the industry back in the post September 11th days in late 2001. First, the propaganda mechanisms behind the media have come out of the “dark” for the whole world to see. For anyone who thought the mainstream media was ‘independent’, this belief is the real conspiracy ‘theory.’ Second, if you believe that the mainstream and social media are working in unison to manipulate your thoughts, this opinion has more factual legitmacy than anything that these billion dollar companies and their puppets tell you on a nightly basis. What Donald Trump really exposed was how much control the media was under from political organizations and our own government (Through these corporations). This is why censorship had to escalate. The narrative they have spent almost my entire lifetime promoting is slowly starting to slip away because of the freedom that many of the tools created during the technological revolution has given us. A recent speech by Antony Blinken and a warning issued by the most recent Nobel Peace Prize winners show how dangerous the media has gotten. Thankfully, the men behind the masks are being revealed.
Question 2: Why is it so hard to believe that organizations formed by rich people (WEF/Davos, Bilderberg Group, Tri-Lateral Commission) and government entities that they control (WTO, United Nations) would not be competing against one another but instead, planning a future of technocratic authoritarian control over the entire global population?
I have my issues with Alex Jones. His emotions allow him to offer opinions or subjective judgments that come across as ridiculous. Trying to get inside the mind of people that are trying to control you can come across as a fool’s errand. We can argue that billionaires are plotting and scheming to create this type of system without giving an opinion on what YOU PERSONALLY BELIEVE is going to happen. This is why the mainstream media can destroy Alex Jones and censor him online. But this does not mean that his concern over these organizations should be completely dismissed. Billionaires do seem to be in alliance with many corporations, governments, and foundations (Like George Soros’s Open Society Foundation, Bill Gates Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Koch Foundation, and the Clinton Foundation) in creating a new type of world. They have been arrogant enough to tell us about their plans. So to believe this is not the case is its own form of ‘conspiracy theory.’ These foundations all seem to hide behind some sort of societal problem where the solution almost always seems to lead to the same place, a new form of ‘governance’ (See a technocratic, authoritarian future) for the entire globe. I also find the debate between liberals who find the Koch Brothers as the epitome of evil and Republicans who feel the same way about George Soros as idiotic. I hate to tell both political parties that each of these men are power hungry sociopaths often in alignment that are actually looking to control your life through the issues that are important to each one of them. They are both trying to take the world to the exact same place. Instead of believing that they became rich through their own good fortune and a healthy dose of luck, these extremely wealthy people believe that their intelligence and wisdom surpasses all other human beings and that we need to submit ourselves to their control as they go about saving the world. There have been thousands of years of history proving the dangers of this type of rationalization.
Question 3: Why the United States Political System Continues to Prove its Superiority over the Asian and European Options?
I will dive into the answer to this question in more detail during my look back at the French and American Revolutions. But, for those Americans who take pride in this country and the values that it stands for, 2021 has given cynics a tremendous amount of hope. As Biden’s “Build Back Better” Plan (For those who think this is a conspiracy, I am guessing that his choice of words was completely and totally unrelated to the plan being implemented by the WEF. Nothing to see here, no conspiracy at all), seems to be on life support and Americans have started to understand the political implications of these COVID-19 lockdowns, the United States (Like the Chinese) seem to be rebelling against the neo-liberal, globalization agenda. (Generation Xers already knew how this would turn out in 1999. We fucking told you so.) Two things that are vitally important to understand: The United States history of federalism especially with the 9th and 10th Amendments is the reason that the United States has never fallen into tyranny. With the separation of powers described in the Constitution, the states (Who have the majority of power in our form of government) and the Courts (Who can invalidate the laws that the State or Federal Government create) have gone back to exercising their power against the Federal Government. This movement really started in the 1990s with the states individually legalizing marijuana over the federal prohibition (A right that is being properly exercised by the states). This has now become an issue with the Legislative and Executive Branch’s attempt to mandate health care and vaccines onto the general population. Over the last five years, all of these things have happened:
Trump eliminating ObamaCare’s Health Care Mandate with the Help of the Judicial System: CHECK. Ironically, my home state California (Using their 10th Amendment Rights) immediately re-instituted the mandate for Californians.
The Courts freezing Biden’s Federal Mandate on Vaccination for Employers with 100 Employees or More: CHECK and with the recent United States Senate vote: DOUBLE CHECK. This bill still needs to pass the House which seems unlikely. But the Court decision still stands making the mandate invalid.
The Court halting Biden’s Federal Contracting Vaccination Mandate: CHECK
The Court blocking Biden’s Vaccination Mandate for Health Care Workers: CHECK
Just two days ago, there was more good news. The state of Pennsylvania invalidated the School Mask Mandates (An issue that I am personally involved in because forcing masks onto children should be considered criminal behavior.): CHECK
This is why the United States Federalist System is the best form of government in the world at present (There are still better forms if you believe in true freedom and even less centralization).
If you happen to be a liberal and have a “hatred” for the United States (Not necessarily based in irrationality) over our political system, this should give you hope for your future. Because you could have ended up in any number of countries that do not have or respect a general rule of law which makes tyranny a painful possibility in these countries’ future.
Look at Austria.
Or Australia (With Concentration…sorry…COVID Camps)
Or even Canada (This one continues to shock me).
And the U.K.
If you think that there is a cabal of billionaires trying to create a globalized system of control, then two continents have already fallen under their control (Europe and Australia) as well as Canada. Thankfully, protests are happening in these countries over these obviously authoritarian measures. Plus, countries like Hungary and Poland (As well as the non-European Union Russians) are fighting back against these corrupt measures and the EU which is looking to gain (And likely will) full legal control over its vassals in Europe. All I can say about this is, “God Bless America”; flaws and all.
Since this blog got away from me in terms of its length, I have two more questions that will be answered next week (Involving the military and “green” energy). I hope everyone had a satisfactory Thanksgiving. More to come next week!
EXPERT OF SOME