The Vaughn Fallacy

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I enjoy internet memes. They elicit a momentary chuckle or eye-roll (depending on the subject and/or point-of-view). That’s usually where it ends; I don’t have a lot of time to dwell on silly things like that. But every once in awhile, there comes a meme that is so absurd that I can’t abide it.

The memes in question are connected to the current COVID-19 pandemic. It compares the words and actions, when it comes to COVID-19, of President Donald Trump and other (mostly conservative) politicians to those of Larry Vaughn, the feckless mayor of Amity Island (played by Murray Hamilton) from Steven Spielberg’s 1975 masterpiece, Jaws.

As you may recall, Mayor Vaughn was adamant about opening the beaches of Amity, which were the economic lifeblood of the community, for the busy summer season – even though there was a very real threat of a great white shark attacking and killing beachgoers. The comparison to Trump et al comes from their supposed callousness and enthusiasm for reopening the economy “prematurely” at the expense of thousands of people succumbing to the virus.

While it may make for a momentary, emotional comparison without a lot of thought, as both a big movie fan and a big fan of common sense, this comparison doesn’t tread water (pun intended).

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The Saul Bass Centennial

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Last Thursday, May 8, would have been graphic designer Saul Bass’ 100th birthday. You may not know his name, but you have no doubt seen his iconic artwork. Bass has always been one of my favorite graphic artists, and it’s really great that he is appreciated for the aesthetic visionary he was.

Bass is best known for his work in film – specifically with directors like Otto Preminger, Alfred Hitchcock, and Stanley Kubrick. His minimalist design philosophy revolutionized how films were advertised. Using a few colors, lines, and shapes, Bass would boil down the ideas of a film into one striking image, rather than using a more classical style to focus on the movie’s stars, as so many posters did in the mid-20th century.

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Bass also created some of the most impressionistic, avant-garde title sequences for films, again reflecting the ideas and situations presented in the film itself. He used all kinds of interesting animation techniques to pull these off, which I have always been mesmerized by. My favorites among these inventive titles are all Hitchcock films: Psycho, North by Northwest, and Vertigo.

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On top of all that, Saul Bass was also responsible for some amazing corporate logos that we have all grown up with. Some of these simple yet effective icons are still in use by their organizations to this day.

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Last year, the Royal Ocean Film Society, a YouTube channel run by the very talented Andrew Saladino, published an outstanding video essay on Saul Bass’ work with film posters – highlighting the designer’s philosophy and style. Take a look below. And be sure to subscribe to the channel for some more interesting film retrospectives!

MIDWAY – Profiles of Bravery

MV5BMTI3YTFmYWYtNzNiYy00ZDdhLThkZDAtYThhNzY2MWI5Y2MyXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTkxNjUyNQ@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,675,1000_AL_The Second World War is one of my favorite historical eras, and I will always give most films set in that time period a look – even if I know there’s a huge possibility that they are going to be bad.

When I heard that director Roland Emmerich was making his own film about the Battle of Midway, the turning point in the Pacific Theater, I was filled with trepidation, to say the least. While I do have a soft spot for Independence Day and The Patriot, Emmerich has been very sketchy with his last few films. They have gone into overwhelming schlock territory (Independence Day: Resurgence) and insulting, one-dimensional cartoon action (White House Down).

Much to my surprise, I enjoyed Midway a lot. It was Emmerich back to form—creating an exciting spectacle without any schlock or political pandering. It was an engaging film that made history come alive. And the history buff in me also appreciated how true to the actual events the film stayed.

Midway and similar films set in the WWII era bring with them depictions of varying degrees of heroism, valor, and bravery. It was a reminder just what real brave men looked like and just how much our current culture has corrupted the meaning of the word.

SPOILERS AHEAD! WELL, THE ALLIES WON WWII, SO…

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APOLLO 11 – Miracle on the Moon

Apollo 11 PosterFew events defined the modern age quite like when Neil Armstrong set foot upon the moon and declared his one small step “one giant leap for mankind.” At that moment, the world was unified and celebrated a truly amazing human achievement. Americans, in particular, were extremely proud of their country and what the nation’s best and brightest minds were able to accomplish.

50 years later, the Apollo 11 mission still fascinates historians, scientists, and regular folks alike – be it the aforementioned brainpower that dreamed and designed the larger-than-life rockets and spaceships or the spirit of the American people and will of the nation’s leadership to shoot for the stars – literally. This spirit and fascination are perfectly captured in the new documentary, Apollo 11.

This film was outstanding in almost every measure. Partially created from newfound 70 mm footage of the titular mission, Apollo 11 soared with amazing visuals that captivated the viewer and filled them with a sense of excitement and emotion that probably mimics what all of America and the world felt during those few days in July of 1969.

Apollo 11 also reminded me of an axiom of human nature, and how our own perceptions affect our belief in the occurrence of real historical events.

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Why THE LAST JEDI is Terrible…in Detail

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Ever since it was released in December 2017, I’ve wanted to write a review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. This film was so bad – not just because of its construction and execution, but because of what it has done to fundamental parts of the Star Wars franchise and mythos – not to mention the schism it created with the franchise’s loyal fanbase.

I really wanted to break down all the minutiae of why The Last Jedi is awful – if for nothing but my own catharsis. But I hesitated because I had a lot going on personally and professionally at the time and several other people who are much more talented than myself have done a better job of explaining why The Last Jedi doesn’t work than I ever could.

At first, I thought that Red Letter Media’s take on The Last Jedi was the best – both their initial review as well as their “Plinkett Review.” RLM is a favorite of mine because they take the time to explain exactly why a film doesn’t work and have actual examples to back up their claims. Their dissections of the Star Wars prequel films, in particular, are a master class in bad storytelling.

But then, I saw this two-part, three-plus-hour piece of brilliance from HackFraud Media. They were obviously riffing on RLM’s Plinkett reviews, which is pretty funny in and of itself. But this review went into even more detail than the exceptional RLM version – taking apart all the film’s absurd characterizations, lazy storytelling, half-baked subversions, and long-term damage done to the saga itself in a clinical, profound, and entertaining way.

Just a warning that, like RLM, there is some profanity.