A Review of ‘DON’T LOOK UP’


A Review of ‘DON’T LOOK UP’

‘DON’T LOOK UP’ is a 2021 deadpan movie satire on human stupidity in ignoring Climate Change by the popular obsession with social media and “fake news,” and by the extreme narcissism of government leaders and their billionaire patrons. This movie is in the same spirit as Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb’ was about human stupidity regarding nuclear war.

However, since the full arc of the Climate Change story is several decades long, for dramatic punch DON’T LOOK UP has compressed that timeline down to six months — from first detection to final impact — by being an allegorical satire where the real problem of Climate Change has been substituted for in the movie’s story by a planet-killing comet larger than the Chicxulub bolide of 66Mya heading straight toward Earth.

Mass media, Trump-style American government, Gates-Zuckerberg tech fantasy grandiosity and Bezos-Musk-Branson billionaire space privatization fantasy (the last two types of fantasts being wrapped up in one character), are all deliciously eviscerated in this movie.

The serious message at the heart of this movie is quite simple: pay attention to reality. That was also the same message in ‘On The Beach’ (1959) and ‘Dr. Strangelove…’ (1964). The cast is made up of A-list players, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence playing the scientists who discover “the problem” and try to alert the public, and the government to take action. But, the tech billionaire and the bought politicians see a potential profit-making opportunity instead. The character of Milo Minderbinder embodied the same idea of greed blinding the perception of reality in the struggle for and precariousness of survival, in the novel ‘Catch-22’ (1962) and its great film version (1970). The satire in DON’T LOOK UP is exquisite right up past the credits (hint, hint). Enjoy it.

There are so many inside and throwaway jokes in DON’T LOOK UP (many about Trump and trumpians) that I even thought of seeing it again for a 3rd time, in stop motion, to be able to catch them all and write them all down (at least the one’s I can recognize) for cataloguing in a subsequent encyclopedic “like and subscribe” article of my own, as a do-it-yourself-without-tuition-payments master’s thesis in film studies. But I decided to leave that huge task to the future alien archeologists who will land on Earth to sift through the ruins of our so-called civilization, and decipher our remaining media recordings like today’s Mayanologists have deciphered the glyphs inscribed at Tikal, Uxmal, Chichen Itza and many other Central American archeological sites.

So then, here is just one example. Leonardo DiCaprio’s character — the astronomy professor whose student played by Jennifer Lawrence has discovered the comet — is called “Randall Mindy”. In 2004 during the G. W. Bush Administration there was a big scandal because while Bush and his people (Republicans) and their allied media were all saying that Global Warming Climate Change did not exist, the Pentagon had commissioned a secret study of its worst possibilities — which potential consequences turned out to be something approaching the story used in the 2004 movie “The Day After Tomorrow”: the Gulf Stream Atlantic Current could shut down because of the Greenland icecap melting and flooding into the North Atlantic, diluting the salinity of the cold North Atlantic waters thus preventing the conveyance of Caribbean heat to Western Europe, which in turn could result in an Ice Age type of rebound globally (I’ve described the physics of all this elsewhere: trust me, I’m a scientist).

The Pentagon had commissioned this report in 2004 because they wanted to plan ahead “for the worst”, which is always what they use to get them the most money from Congress (also, there is another sly joke in the movie about a money shystering Pentagon general). Word of that secret Pentagon report leaked out quickly in 2004 and there was a public furor, so the Pentagon declassified it and made it public (you can find it online somewhere). That report was call the “Schwartz-Randall Report”, after the surnames of the author-researchers contracted to produce it. RANDALL = warning the world despite official efforts of being muffled.

Maybe “Randall” is just a coincidence, but I’m inclined to think that the writers of the movie’s story and screenplay, David Sirota and Adam McKay, are much more crafty than just simply haphazardly lucky.

For me another chuckle is the whole idea of framing the social phenomenon of Climate Change denial as if we are all like the dinosaurs 66Mya not looking up at their extinction triggering comet/meteor streaking in, to plunge into the Yucatan then and into the Pacific in the movie.

I wrote that exact idea (climate change = our extinction meteor, ignored) explicitly in an article in 2012, and implicitly in 2013 (they were published at Swans.com). So I figure Sirota, McKay and Leonardo all owe me BIG — but I won’t get paid because that’s not how success works among humankind. And — I admit — it’s even possible that somebody else might have had the same idea before me. But remember, when you do know of a prior statement of “your” idea, that never giving credit for it and successfully disguised plagiarism of it are the essence of career advancement in “the intelligentsia” of our advanced society. (I may be using a little bit of irony here.)

So for sure I love the movie, everyone in it did an absolutely superb job, and I can see every actor got a kick playing their characters, and played them to the hilt. I particularly like the Jennifer Lawrence character, not because of the young cutie pie factor the movie marketeers undoubtedly wanted her to bring into the picture, but because she spits flaming bullets at all the usual culprits, shredding those assholes, and she does right by her portrayal of Millennials, who are always being dumped on with betrayals by media depictions of them, and by the “old fuck” financial string-pullers vampiring off them.

My wife says I am like the “Randall Mindy” astronomy science guy (I do have an expired science Ph.D., from Princeton no less, and a Millennial kid), but I’m not such a nebbish, I don’t need mood pills, and there’s no way some Cate Blanchett type (the old people’s cutie pie for this movie) is going to gush on me, as shown humorously in the movie with Leonardo and Cate (I most definitely am not gush-worthy).

So all in all, a great great movie (because I agree with it), worthy of a Stanley Kubrick had he’d been alive to make it (call this one Dr. Strangelove II), a credit to all the multimillionaires and Oscarites who acted out the parts with verve in front of the cameras, and will get to crow about it in their charity foundation websites or hit songs, later — not a tax writeoff I can get, but oh well — and there is even a self-parody joke about this movie within this movie! DON’T LOOK UP is especially a credit to the story and screen writers, however-much they stole ideas from others or thought them up all on their very own (as if we all really lived in an intellectual vacuum).

So, great film, and great that we’ve at least gotten this far in really doing something “actual” on climate change. The sky’s the limit and we’ve now finally almost gotten to liftoff. The alien archeologists will really love this show.

DON’T LOOK UP (trailers)


Two Worlds


Two Worlds

There are only two worlds now: the Included and the Excluded; and there are only two kinds of people: those who care about it, and those who don’t.

The Included World hastens to fortify its walls, gunmen, and accountants enclosing its select archipelago of oases defining its territory of secure consuming obliviousness, against the straining pressure of the rising flood from bursting Exclusion, compressed against its own outflow by Inclusion’s higher thicker dams holding back that impoundment of anguish swelling with frigid impoverishment and churning into boiling panicked stampedes toward the fabled cervixes of Inclusion, like turbulent torrents of delirious sperm racing up narrow clogged fallopian tubes, hurling themselves toward feverish beatific visions of higher bountiful fruition, while all around everywhere those exhausted in body, mind and spirit by the blind rush for survival fall out unseen to stagnate in the worlds’ gutters littered with the failures of luck and the refuse of compassionless inattention, to wither in the open, waste away in the dark, and be picked off by soulless scavengers.

Beyond the age of three, unless they thereafter ferociously resist the dissolution of their personal integrity by the ambient mass psychosis, the potentially Included increasingly devolve into zombies absorbed into generic personal fogs of indoctrinated illusions roboticizing them to mesh into enslaving gear trains of unconscious commercialized self-absorption as redundant units in the anthill pyramids of petty-minded potentates contending for greater leadership in Inclusion’s assault on the future. The waste heat of Included thoughtless excess rains down a desiccating coldness of heart onto the Excluded whose wellsprings of vitality are parasitically sucked out by remote greed, inundating the castaways with a desolation of uncaring, and garrotting them by the concentration of their bombarded fecundity.

Day after day the buoyant Included step with practiced ignorance over the unnoticed corpses of expired Excluded, fallen in their parallel isolation from within the descending crowd, across the pathways of Inclusion’s unrelenting drives of politicked ascendancy toward higher rungs of privilege and prestige, toward ampler harvests of enriching sales, toward wider presences of blaring advertisement in the electronic fields of automated rent-seeking, and toward grander delusions of self-worth measured by volumes of automated vapid exaltation, and looted cash.

In time the violent dams erected by Inclusion will collapse like the ice dams of the Pleistocene, with ensuing floods scouring to scablands the now plump islands of contentment, homogenizing the muddy sea of humanity. When? How? Who knows? But Nature eventually balances opposing forces, levels steep-sided heights, and equates differences in the time-unravelling chaos of entropy. The personal you, and all of your stuff, will be carried off by time’s unceasing undercurrent of dissipation. All your scheming and all your dreaming will be dissolved away, like everyone else’s, and the only fleeting remnant of any real worth you as a conscious organism may have had will be the fading memories in succeeding generations of if you had cared and how you had shared. Be happy, this is good, it means we each can know how to live enlightened and then come to die with an honest self-respect free of regrets.

Indifferent Nature dictates the Two Worlds must merge into One, but by the whimsical randomness of evolution our human species has uniquely been granted the limited power of deciding, soon, if that future One will be alive for all, or dead for us. Be happy, this is good, it means we can collectively know how to live as a socially enlightened species in harmony with all life, and with honest self-respect free of regrets — if we chose to.


Understanding Christopher Hitchens, and Letting Go of the Future

Happy New Year.

Many have written about Christopher Hitchens, since his death on 15 December 2011. In the numerous articles I found, I only saw discussion about what Hitchens did/didn’t do, and should/shouldn’t have done, as well as what the commentators thought/felt about it/him.

Eventually, I realized that the mass of memorial-condemnation literature about Hitchens was itself a reflection of the character of the American intelligentsia and especially that of its left wing, which cared most passionately for and about Hitchens these last four decades. I was interested to learn what drove the man, why did the private human being Christopher Hitchens have the public persona “Christopher Hitchens?” The opinions I formed from this point are presented in an article just published by SWANS. I thought Christopher Hitchens himself, in his final column published by Vanity Fair, verified my hypothesis about him.

Christopher Hitchens, Coyote, or Saint Paul?
2 January 2012

Besides looking back on 2011 through the lens of Hitchens’ impact, I was drawn forward into 2012 by spelling out my view about the obsession many have with the future. My political philosophy (which is assuredly amateur, and not formalized) involves a rich blending of Jungian psychology, Buddhism and science, along with a few political and economic beliefs. Our political philosophies are helpful when they give us insights that contribute to social progress in the here-and-now; they become social impediments when we treat them as political objectives.

The Endless Reality of the Imperfect Now
2 January 2012

Best wishes for the New Year.