Saturday, June 28, 2014

Another Radio Free Albemuth online review -- this one less argumentative, focusing on what I loved

This movie is more faithful to the letter and spirit of Philip K. Dick than his fans ever thought they had the right to expect in a movie. Imagine a film adaptation that makes no artistic compromises. Well, you don't have to imagine that anymore. Although it's not a word-for-word adaptation and takes creative liberties, Radio Free Albemuth "gets" Philip K. Dick's dystopian vision, and sensitively handles the mystical experiences that were the subject of the novel. The special effects are clever and interesting, better quality than "cheesy" but low budget and appropriate for the sort of sci-fi movie this is. The acting is surprisingly good given the short filming schedule and small budget I'm assuming they had, with some absolute casting coups, especially in Shea Whigham who plays a hilariously deadpan Philip Dick. Jonathan Scarfe is transcendental as Nicholas Brady, compellingly portraying the entranced and blissed out altered states of consciousness and moral convictions of the character. Katheryn Winnick is sexy and sweet as Rachel, capturing the paradoxical qualities of the PKD wife archetype. She is protective to the point of being neurotically controlling, getting defensive whenever he brings up the religious experiences that drive the plot. Alanis Morisette is a surprising choice for Silvia Sadassa, but pulls off the role and brings a certain musical presence. Scott Wilson is effectively creepy as the evil president Fremont; the FAP girl (whose story is a spin off of FBI agents asking the real Philip K. Dick to inform on his wife) is seductive and dangerous in the honeytrap scene. The music is fantastic and lovingly crafted, and the astute viewer will notice many little easter eggs that reveal little differences about the alternative universe. You don't have to be a Robyn Hitchcock fan to enjoy the soundtrack, although his songs dominate, and I find myself getting the song that drives the subversive activity plot stuck in my head. "Join the party!" It's worth mentioning that given the recent NSA revelations, the surveillance theme in this movie are more interesting than ever. What I think is interesting about it, and most critics seem to have missed, is the casual way in which the details about the dystopian society are revealed to us, basically as the characters discuss them over dinner or around the TV. Rather than shoving action or special effects in your face, or depicting horrifying ultra-violence, this movie creates an effective dystopia more subtly by showing how ordinary people who aren't yet taking scary societal changes seriously. It's like, all of a sudden there are security checkpoints and we have to take a test about what the president said, and look aren't these questions tricky? Philip K. Dick's under-appreciated masterpiece has become a film that rewards viewers in so many ways I couldn't hope to enumerate them in this small review. After three viewings I'm still catching more that keeps me interested!

Radio Free Albemuth is the Most Faithful Philip K. Dick Adaptation -- But not just for PKD-Heads Only!

This is a surprisingly successful indie film that was made on a tiny budget, pulled off with a lot of creativity and elbow grease. I'm a huge fan of PKD and writing a book about his mystical experiences, so forgive my bias, but I think that it deserves better than its gotten in some of these reviews. When you grok the context, that it's a goofy science fiction movie in a long tradition, the understandable flaws (which I don't find distracting in the least from the story, which is captured accurately to the letter and faithfully to the spirit) can be forgiven. The cast is great, and their performances are more than adequate to capture Dick's characters. if you can imagine how rushed their filming schedule must have been, what small flaws can be found in delivery can be forgiven. For the most part, the actors know their characters and make them come alive, but because a lot of what is happening is quiet or subtle the big city critics have mistaken this for "lifeless" acting. Considering these actors had weeks to create their characters, I'd say they've accomplished an amazing feat of bringing them to life. Whigham's portrayal of Phil Dick is a great example. He's deadpan and sardonic, not resorting to the cheap jokes that Bill Pullman did when he played the crazy PKD. And some critic has the nerve to complain that he's not wild and crazy enough? This criticism misunderstands the character, which is how PKD viewed himself, cool and witty, and Whigham NAILS THAT. Winnick is amazing as his wife, sexy and sweet, capturing the paradoxical essence of the Dickian wife archetype. She's concerned about her husband to the point of being protective and controlling, annoyed and defensive when he talks about his weird experiences. Alanis is not there as a gimmick, she pulls off her interpretation of Silvia, which I might disagree with at points but don't dislike at all. This movie is very much worth your time if you like philosophical science fiction, and you don't need to be a diehard Philip K. Dick fan to appreciate what it's doing. It's only in theaters for a few more days, so go!

Friday, June 27, 2014

I'm going to the Radio Free Albemuth movie tonight!

It's playing at the Berkeley Rialto 430 6 9 for a week.
Also working on a podcast which I hope to post soon.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Interview with Radio Free Albemuth director John Alan Simon

I've had the privilege of seeing the movie twice and hanging out with John for a few hours on a PKD tour and between events at a few cons. It's a great movie -- see my review below -- and finally hits theaters this Friday. Tomorrow I'm going to distribute some promotional postcards they sent me in Berkeley which is kind of a trip because it's the city where the film is set. Bay Area readers let me know if you want some of the postcards and maybe we can meet up.

Friday, June 13, 2014

interview bit on the tutelary spirit voice

"The voice that speaks to me, my priest – I’m an Episcopalian – is identified as ruah, which is the word that appears in the Old Testament for the Spirit of God. It speaks in the feminine voice and tends to express statements regarding the Messianic expectation.
It guided me for awhile. It has spoken to me sporadically since I was in high school. But I haven’t heard from it since the sequel. I expect, though, that if a crisis arises it will say something again. It is very economical in what it says. It limits itself to a few very terse, succinct sentences.
I only hear the voice of the spirit when I’m falling asleep or waking up. I have to be very receptive to hear it. It’s extremely faint. It sounds as though it’s coming from millions of miles away."

Monday, June 9, 2014

Philosophy and Religion from the Joe Vitale interview

AQUARIAN: Then what is the major influence on your work?
DICK: Philosophy and philosophical inquiry.
    I studied philosophy during my brief career at the University of California at Berkley. I’m what they call an “acosmic pan-enthiest,” which means that I don’t believe that the universe exists. I believe that the only thing that exists is God and he is more than the universe. The universe is an extension of God into space and time.
    That’s the premise I start from in my work, that so-called “reality” is an mass delusion that we’ve all been required to believe for reasons totally obscure.
    Bishop Berkely believed that the world doesn’t exist, that God directly impinges on our minds the sensation that the world exists. The Russian science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem poses that if there was a brain being fed a simulated world, is there any way the brain could tell it was a simulated world? the answer, of course, is no. Not unless there was a technological foul-up.
    Imagine a brain floating in a tank with millions and millions of electrodes attached to specific nerve centers. Now imagine these electrodes being selectively stimulated by a computer to cause the brain to believe that it was walking down Hollywood Boulevard chomping on a hamburger and checking out the chicks.
    Now, if there was a technological foul-up, or if the tapes got jumbled, the brain would suddenly see Jesus Christ pass by down Hollywood Boulevard on his way to Golgotha, pursued by a crowd of angry people, being whipped along by seven Roman Centurions.
    The brain would say, “Now hold on there!” And suddenly the entire image would go “pop” and disappear.
    I’ve always had this funny feeling about reality. It just seems very feeble to me sometimes. It doesn’t seem to have the substantiality that it’s suppose to have.
    I look at reality the way a rustic looks at a shell game when he comes into town to visit the fair. A little voice inside me says, “now wait just a second there…”
AQUARIAN: Religion and religious inquiry also occupy a very prominent place in your writing.
DICK: I’ve always been interested in religion. In man’s relationship with is god, what he chooses to worship. I was raised a Quaker but converted to Episcopalianism very early in my life.
    The new novel I’m currently working on for Bantam Books has its basis in theology and what I’ve had to do, in short, it to create a new religion right from scratch.
    It reminds me of something a girl said to me a couple of weeks ago. She said, “You’re really smart, too bad you’re not religious.” (Laughs) And here I am doing nothing all day but reading the Bible, the Apocrypha, the writings of Gnosticism, histories of Christianity. I’ll tell you, I could go out and get a degree in theology right now!
    It seems like a natural progression of sorts. I got badly burned in the political arena. I was hounded by Mr. Smith and Mr. Scruggs. I would literally get thrown out of Socialist and Communist Party meetings when I was in college for disagreeing with party doctrine. And so I turn to religion, and I find incredible bigotry. Two thousand years of history and the names change but the activity remains the same. Somebody was always throwing someone else into prison for his beliefs or burning him at the stake.
    I believe that the establishment churches have lost the keys to the kingdom. They don’t even know what the Kingdom of God is.
    It’s like some guy who loses the keys to his car. He knows he had them a second ago but now they’re gone. The churches, however, don’t even know what the car looks like anymore. They can’t even give a description of it to the cop.
    Organized religion is crooked, dumb, and it’s lost the keys. I mean, it’s OK to be crooked and dumb, we’re all crooked and dumb. But the tragedy is that they’ve lost the keys. They can’t even point us in the right direction much less take us there.
    The whole question of religion is very melancholic. It makes me very sad really. I mean, I’ve read so much and still, I haven’t found God. We have a “deus abscondatus,” a hidden God. As Plato says, “God exists but He is hard to find.”
    I’ve spent the majority of my life studying and reading and seeking God, but, of course, the thing is you can’t find God. God has to find you. I’ve learned that.