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Will Hindmarch
Posted on Monday, January 01, 2007 - 10:17 pm:   

Whether you read Market Forces or wrote it, whether you wrote Altered Carbon or read it, I want to know what you think of Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men.

To influence your opinion as early as possible, I'll say this: It's fucking brilliant. The futurism put into its vision of the setting is modest, but cleverly restrained, while the futurism put into its shooting style is ingenius. Somehow, it manages to be zany and brutally tense, just seconds apart.

If this version of Children of Men had been shot ten years ago, it would've seemed far-fetched, unrealistically pessimistic and much more cautionary than speculative. As seen during the last week of 2006, though, it's something else altogether.
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richard morgan
Posted on Monday, January 22, 2007 - 07:12 am:   

Yeah - fine movie. I seem to remember reading somewhere a review that called it "the most convincing cinematic future since Bladerunner", and with that I'd have to agree. Plus, Clive Owen makes a superb understated desperate (and slightly inept) hero, and Michael Caine was brilliant as these days he usually is. All of which helps distract from a really REALLY unlikely central conceit - the childbirth thing was really more of a poetic image than a viable piece of futurity, but I sat through the whole movie without noticing that at all......
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Will Hindmarch
Posted on Thursday, February 01, 2007 - 09:29 am:   

I came out of it saying that it wasn't great futurism, but in hindsight I'm doubting my own opinion. There are little details in scanner technology and media interfaces, but not much else -- because how diligently will humanity pursue new tech when it doesn't believe it has a future?

The conceit, while undeniably unlikely, is also brilliant. (It is, in my opinion, the conceit which is the only really stand-out element in the novel.) It's a great archetypal absense that just about everyone can imagine would be haunting, alien and catastrophic, whereas if this was just another future where we run out of oil (or land, or whatever), we'd spend more time arguing with ourselves over whether or not that'd be so bad. Thank heavens there's no attempt to explain why such an unlikely -- and uniquely human in both origin and effect -- natural disaster occured.

The real futurism in Children of Men, though, comes from camera trickery. The scene in the car with the attacking vandals and the whole last reel of the film are stunningly shot in ways simply not possible before. In one case, this is due to camera rigs, in the other it's due to modern editing capabilities.

I dug it.
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William Bradford Vanatta
Posted on Saturday, June 02, 2007 - 10:17 am:   

I just saw the movie, "Children of Men", and have not read the book, so I do not know if my inquriy was answered in the book, or the movie and I just missed it. Here goes: I do not understand what mankinds infertility has to do with anit-immigration. I would think that if man could no longer reproduce, then counties would welcome MORE immigration, to fill the work force. That countries would compete to get people to immigrate. Wouldn't it have made more sense if the UK, where the move was set, did NOT allow people to leave. Was this explained in the book, or movie and I just missed it?
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Will Hindmarch
Posted on Monday, June 04, 2007 - 12:40 pm:   

I haven't read the book (or, rather, I haven't read all of it), but it is considerably different from the movie.

I wish I had a better answer for you, but I can recall the director, Alfonso Cuaron, explaining in an interview a bit about the anti-immigration issue, but do not recall specifics. The gist of it is, simply, that rampant terminal nihilism in the rest of the world had created such chaos that refugees were rampant in places that were more stable. Since all the world's appreciable resources of life were now finite -- only so much liquor and so much love could be made before extinction -- I think the British were concerned about more people coming to eat the dwindling pie, as it were.

Alternately, when I first saw the film, I thought it was unrelated to the infertility. The idea being that Britain was already anti-immigration when it hit, or shortly thereafter, for unrelated reasons. That anti-immigration stance is what kept Britian stable in the face of global nihilism, and it was fighting hard to stay that way.

I don't know.
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richard morgan
Posted on Monday, June 04, 2007 - 02:09 pm:   

Yeah, I'm with Will on this one - I think the implication is that the anti-immigration stance already existed. Of course, it also serves as a powerful metaphor in the movie - developed nations desperately need the new demographic protein of immigration, and by turning it away they contribute to their own decline......

Cuaron is Mexican, so his vision is almost certainly influenced by the Mexico/US immigration situation.
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Will Hindmarch
Posted on Monday, June 04, 2007 - 09:21 pm:   

I see a phrase like "demographic protein" and I hear something click inside my head.
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richard morgan
Posted on Tuesday, June 05, 2007 - 02:14 am:   

Thanks. Sadly, can't claim it entirely as my own - I saw a documentary about immigration in Australia a couple of years ago in which the programme maker referred to immigrants as a necessary influx of protein - I just stole it and prettied it up a bit.

It is a curious thing though - these people cling to unseaworthy rafts in cold seas for days at a time, they trek across deserts, they stow away in the undercarriage of stratospheric aircraft or suffocating hidden spaces in trucks, and when they get here all they want to do is work. Instead of seeing the massive potential in people prepared to take those kind of risks and endure that kind of hardship, we just look for ways to send them away again. If that isn't a cultural deathwish, I don't know what is........
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Lee M
Posted on Monday, June 18, 2007 - 03:01 am:   

Just to play the devils advocate here. Having experience in border related law enforcement; I wouldn’t place all immigrants/refugees in the ‘I just want a job and a better life’ category. While (hopefully) a minority, you do still have your less than sterling individuals. Professional refugees who buy their way into quota allocations to obtain foreign passports. These people seek refugee status because they ‘fear for their life’ back home, but are generally on the first flight back after they get a western passport/residency.

Immigration scams where an individual using a fraudulent identity and possessing an in depth knowledge of a countries immigration or refugee process will gain residency. They will then bring their extended family over, under the applicable reunification scheme. Their family being a group of people paying a per head price. The original person will then leave, on sell his passport, and later attempt to return under a new fake identity to start over again. I won’t even start on the drug syndicates.

Admittedly, I probably have a skewed prospective.
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richard morgan
Posted on Monday, June 18, 2007 - 08:13 am:   

No, that's not skewed at all - it's perfectly valid, it just focuses on a different aspect of the problem. There's no doubt that with refugees and economic migrants, as with any other group of people, you get all sorts, and not all of them are going to be wholesome. The trick lies in working out a system that prizes those who will be a benefit to society and weeds out those that won't.

Currently, in the UK at least, the system doesn't do that - instead it makes it very hard for new arrivals to work, or otherwise integrate, and is focused on sending back as large a number as possible as soon as possible. In other words, entry itself is seen as the problem, not the knock-on results (good or bad) of that entry. This is backed up by a generalised tabloid ignorance in society built on tired old "coming-here-taking-our jobs-fucking-our-women" cliches. In reality, most of these people come from cultures where if you don't work you don't eat, and if they are taking jobs its because the locals won't get off their benefit-funded arses to do the work in question.

We've had this truth forcibly rammed home to us since the EU borders opened to eastern European labour - quite literally tens of thousands of Poles (not to mention other East Europeans) have flooded into Scotland and all found work in regions with high levels of local unemployment. They've also been a notable source of cultural enrichment, re-envigorating Polish social clubs that were on the point of closing, and making it far easier to get hold of good Polish deli produce in local supermarkets (I'm a big fan of good Sopocka and Cabanos) Large numbers of them will of course go home eventually, when they've saved enough money or got homesick enough, but some will stay, and I think we'll be a better, richer culture for hanging onto them.

The problem is that what drives the broad spectrum of anti-immigration feeling (and indeed pretty much all forms of racism) is not any intelligent social concern, but a blunt, primitive tribalism to which you cannot appeal with reason because it wells up from pre-rational levels of the human mind. The success you have in combatting it then comes to hinge on the extent to which your society values pre-rational tendency over intelligent analysis. Hence the problem Bush is now having trying to define a half-way smart line on immigration - he's up against his own "gut-feeling" constituency, and they won't give him the room for manouevre.
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Lee M
Posted on Tuesday, June 19, 2007 - 05:42 am:   

I agree. There is a strong need for more effective immigration systems that benefit the society to which they’re granting access. The problem I guess is the complexity of any given society and different societal aspects which are impacted by a new immigrant. Here for example the primary requirements, beyond basic English skills, generally come down to how much money they have (Economic) and what skills (education) they bring with them.

Money’s great, but there’s no guarantee that it’s going to stay here. Regarding skills, it’s generally considered enough just to have them. Little thought seems to go into whether they can utilize them in their new surroundings. This can be due to a lack of capability or comparative standard, but is often due to reluctance from the ‘natives’ to hire recent arrivals in skilled positions. Regardless of the reason, the end result is doctors and engineers swearing at each other in the middle of town on Friday night out of their taxi windows about who stole who’s fare.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we should be turning people away based on a lack of understanding or acceptance of personal or cultural differences. Your right about the benefits of cultural enrichment. It often does inject new life into a society. It also however often clashes with a society’s concept of social identity. Introducing a new and different population group (often in mass) into a preexisting one does seem to generate division. Social identity theory, them and us, call it what you like. Political correctness (fucking thing) often paints us all with the same brush. We’re all human so we should just stop mucking around and all get along each other. Yes we’re all human in a biological sense but we’re also radically diverse based on development from our social environment. Hell this can be reduced down the cognitive level in how we perceive the world. I’m sure the cognitive schema of a western university graduate would be significantly different from those of a Kalahari Bushman.

Getting back on topic, you can’t just run immigration as a numbers game where you replace emigrating person A with random immigrant B. People aren’t all square blocks to fit in square holes. We come in all shapes and sizes.

I’d like to think that one day we’ll reach a point where we can accept each other through a shared global society, while at another level still hold onto the diversity that makes us who we are. Unfortunately we’re not there yet. In some cases we seem to be sliding backwards into greater levels of intolerance. The optimist in me hopes we’ll get there at some point, but in the meantime we can’t force it. More focus need to be place on gradual and balanced integration, but as long as we follow the P.C paradigm of 100% human compatibility across the board then we’re going to run into problems. Hell we are running into problems. Look at all the rioting in recent years.

The trick is making sure this sort of controlled immigration is driven by a desire to intellectually grasp and accept our differences while developing a shared understanding; rather than as a cover for the ‘pre-rational’ generated tribalism you mentioned.

Okay it’s late and I appear to have gone way the fuck off topic. I did have a point in there somewhere. Never mind.

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