Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Film Review - CHAPPIE

It takes genuine, unfettered talent to produce an experience as depressingly unpleasant and ugly as Chappie. Whereas a studio hack might manage to crank out an ill-conceived, forgettable mess that mirrors this picture’s traffic jam of ideas and themes, only a talent as bright and promising as Neill Blomkamp is capable of dragging you into the chaos and provoking strong, repulsed emotional reactions. This is a sad case study of creative genius gone horribly awry, resulting in a punishing exercise in hubris that cockily swaggers across the line separating bad from flat out offensive.

How did we even wind up here? Back in 2009 when District 9 hit, Blomkamp seemed like an exciting powerhouse on the rise. Sure, there were warning signs of the writer/director’s action-over-thoughtfulness leanings present in that Oscar-nominated best picture contender, but his dedication to hard sci-fi trappings, grounded and intense fantastic imagery and technical virtuosity felt so fresh and invigorating. And while 2013’s bumpily scripted Elysium fell short of lofty expectations, there was nonetheless a lot to admire in the scrappy, Verhoeven-inspired crazed social commentary and hyper-violence.

Perhaps Chappie, Blomkamp’s unnecessarily aggressive artificial intelligence fairy tale, is just a natural evolution of his increasingly problematic screenwriting shortcomings and intense style-over-substance attitude. Success and diminished outside authoritarian influence has certainly created many a monster (take a bow George Lucas and M. Knight!) in the past, after all. It’s just unfortunate there weren’t more highlights along the journey to this dire point.

The latest chapter in the helmer’s futuristic Johannesburg series (it would be nice to say final, however talk of a District 10 have recently started anew), Chappie again returns us to the dusty, despairing streets and crumbling dystopian urban decay of the large South African metropolis, where punky criminals battle it out in the streets and law enforcement depends solely on superior firepower. Fortunate, then, that weapons manufacturer Tetravaal has recently sold a line of shoot-first-ask-questions-later armored robots to the police department in an effort to subdue the explosion of anarchy. Designed by Deon Wilson (Dev Patel), these mechanized peacekeepers prove exceedingly efficient in the war on crime, much to the chagrin of the increasingly frantic criminal population, as well as the young inventor’s unstable robotics engineer colleague Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman), who vehemently opposes the concept of justice being decided by machine minds.

After a late night energy drink-driven development session, Deon finally cracks the code for complete artificial intelligence. Yet, despite his insanely profitable achievements, Tetravaal’s business-minded CEO (Sigourney Weaver) sternly guns down his hopes to develop a prototype ‘bot able to think and express itself, forcing him to conduct the experiment on the sly with pilfered parts. Alas, on his commute home he’s nabbed by a street gang (headed by the South African rave-rappers Ninja and Yolandi Visser of Die Antwoord fame), who demand the robot be activated and surrendered to them. Once the switch is flicked on the bucket of bolts, Chappie (Sharlto Copley) is born; an innocent, impressionable construct who observes life through timid digital eyes. Forced to mature rapidly in a pitilessly rough and merciless environment, the newborn first-of-his-kind fast finds himself torn between the intelligent, compassionate ideals of his maker and the nihilistic, felonious attitudes of his adoptive parents. With only a five-day lifespan, our hero soon becomes determined to extend his mortality, even as Moore plots to cut it even shorter by initiating his own hulking man-driven weapon of unstoppable mass destruction.

As a work of special effects blended with performance, Chappie himself is utterly convincing. Photo-real, expressive and moving with recognizable weight and authentic clunkiness, he’s an instantly iconic character who quickly grabs our sympathy and affection. Which, strangely, becomes a serious issue and fundamentally breaks the movie before it even really gets going.

From the get go, we’re told that this robot, metal frame aside, is a child; vulnerable, helpless and without understanding of the world around him. Immediately upon activation, he cowers in fright behind furniture and has to be gently coaxed out by Deon and Yolandi (this doesn’t really make sense logically, but whatever). Given this presentation, it boggles the mind why Blomkamp feels so compelled to relentlessly mistreat this character, beating the audience into submission with each successive scene of Chappie being verbally harassed, smashed with pipes, fire-bombed and – in a scene so wretchedly cruel it’s bizarre – being dragged terrified into a van and viciously tortured. There’s an exploitative lingering mean-spiritedness to the film that’s troubling, as if viewing non-stop torment will inspire us to cheer harder for the protagonist. It doesn’t. Unlike his spiritual ancestor Pinocchio, we never witness the moments of true love and warmth that see him through the darkness. This is that famous tale filtered through the warped sensibilities of that kid who dismembered action figures in Toy Story.

 If Chappie is an ill-used conceptual triumph, the humans are a total lost cause. Patel exudes earnestness and intellectualism, but Deon is another one of those silver screen scientific wunderkinds who only make stupid decisions, while Jackman spends his hammy minimal screen-time glowering over his cubical wall, viewing events taking place mere feet away through binoculars and, most memorably, holding a gun to a coworker’s head in a crowded office with zero repercussions. As for Die Antwoord, they make credibly unsavory, obnoxious abusive movie parents you can’t wait to see eliminated. Too bad we’re actually supposed to root for them.

Blomkamp reliably brings no shortage of characteristic visual flare to the picture (he can make even irredeemable junk like this look fantastic). As a writer, though, he’s scattered in a thousand directions like a cluster bomb. Sharing duties with District 9 collaborator Teri Tatchell, he seems unclear what his movie is even about. The science is introduced as being realistic, yet quickly becomes absurd (“uploading consciousness.dat”), and there’s not much interest in seriously exploring themes of artificial intelligence, mortality or nature vs nurture. Instead, characters bluntly verbalize awkward messages as the film noisily shifts gears like an out of control freight train. Maybe the director sensed there were issues, given his reliance on ripping off now classic plot elements from his debut. Hey, it worked the first time, right?!

As awful as this disaster is, though, there’s still reason to believe Blomkamp can deliver the goods. Many A-list directors have stumbled badly after capturing greatness and achieving unprecedented power. Spielberg had his 1941, Ridley Scott made Legend and Peter Jackson bestowed upon mankind The Lovely Bones. Hollywood is a forgiving town, so hopefully the helmer can get his boundless potential and skill under control again and focus on a project that taps into what made him such a unique discovery in the first place. Because, lord knows, another malfunctioning miscalculation like Chappie could send anyone on a one-way trip to the career scrap compactor.          

1 out of 5

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

James Bond's 5 Lamest Villains

Over the course of 23 motion picture spectacles, James Bond has encountered nearly every brand of bizarre, unforgettably sadistic foe humanly possible. However, what about the ones that failed to not only kill 007, but also live up to the rich pantheon of antagonists past? The evildoers destined to have their names forgotten and be regarded as mere footnotes in the long-running franchise’s fifty-plus year history? With the passing of Louis Jourdan, Octopussy’s silkily sinister Kamal Khan, on February 14th, and continuing reports of the currently shooting 24th entry Spectre – which will feature Christoph Waltz as perhaps the latest iteration of Blofeld – grabbing fan attention, now seemed like an appropriate time to call out the series nemeses who failed to do just that! These duds proved that, when it comes to tangling with MI6’s favorite son, pretty much everybody does it better.

5) Ernst Stavro Blofeld

The actor: Charles Gray

The film: Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

The scheme: Using a weaponized satellite made of diamonds to destroy the nuclear stockpiles of major superpowers and achieve world supremacy.

Best stab at villainous dialogue: “As La Rochefoucauld observed, ‘humility is the worst form of conceit.’ I do hold the winning hand.”

While it’s understandable why Gray was tapped to be the fourth actor to assume the role of Bond’s most iconic megalomaniacal adversary, given his fun supporting role as our hero's extremely British contact Henderson in You Only Live Twice, he’s just too much of a lightweight to follow the talents that preceded him. Lacking the creepy weirdness of Donald Pleasence or the brutish, imposing arrogance of Telly Savalas, Gray’s Blofeld is, instead, mostly just a campy, stuffy, dim-witted fop who’s all talk, and very little intimidation. Certainly the subpar film he’s stuck in does him no favors – it’s hard to be threatening when you’re dressed in drag or having silly conversations with doubles – but the actor lacks the gravitas to pull off a role with so much fearsome baggage and expectations. There’s a reason, when it comes to discussing Blofeld’s legendary status, few ever mention Gray’s contributions. Okay, maybe the drag part…

4) Dominic Greene

The actor: Mathieu Amalric

The film: Quantum of Solace (2008)

The scheme: To horde Bolivia’s water supply and strong-arm the country into paying him an exorbitant rate for its usagezzzzz….

Best stab at villainous dialogue: “Please don't talk to me like I'm stupid... It's unattractive.”

Unlike Gray, you can’t blame the casting for this one! Amalric, so astonishing in Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, seemed, on paper, the perfect follow-up to Casino Royale's Mads Mikkelsen. What a difference a writers strike and poorly thought out plot makes. Playing a barely there character, the actor does his best bug-eyed Roman Polanski-gone-batshit impression, only to be completely let down by a complete absence of material to chew on. The whole environmentalist-gone-wrong angle was a fun concept – coming shortly after the success of the 2006 Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth – yet Greene is just totally devoid of interest (his oily Goldfinger-homaging murder of agent Strawberry Fields is unearned), going about his boring schemes that the audience couldn’t be less invested in. Bolivian water conspiracies? Yeesh. It’s telling that the most memorable aspect of this villain is that he screams like a frantic chimpanzee when he fights and ultimately dies unceremoniously off-screen. In retrospect, Javier Bardem really, really didn’t have a tough act to follow come Skyfall.

3) Aris Kristatos

The actor: Julian Glover

The film: For Your Eyes Only (1981)

The scheme: To get hold of the Automatic Targeting Attack Communicator (ATAC) device, which coordinates the Royal Navy’s Polaris submarine fleet, and hand it over to the KGB.

Best stab at villainous dialogue: “Oh, leave the legs free. They'll make appetizing ‘bait.’”

Unlike Diamonds Are Forever and Quantum of Solace, For Your Eyes Only is actually a really fun and exciting James Bond adventure! At least, that is, until you get to the primary antagonist. Portrayed by British classical stage actor Glover (who couldn’t look less like someone named Aris Kristatos), this evil Greek businessman vanishes from your mind almost the second the credits roll. Which is quite an accomplishment, given that he concocts one of the coolest attempts at offing 007 ever by tying him to a speed boat and repeatedly dragging him over a shark-infested coral reef. What else does he offer, though? A weird fixation on his teenage ice-skater protégée? Sweet facial hair? And, uh... Well, that’s probably about it. Perhaps even Roger Moore’s secret agent hero was aware he was dealing with an amateur, given that he allows smuggler ally Columbo (Topol) to tackle and execute this goon on his own during the climax. Don’t feel too bad for Glover, though, he’d go on to be far more notable a handful of years later matching wits with America’s own answer to Bond, Indiana Jones, in 1989’s The Last Crusade.

 2) Brad Whitaker

The actor: Joe Don Baker

The film: The Living Daylights (1987)

The scheme: To make mucho dinero by selling weapons to the KGB.

Best stab at villainous dialogue: “That's too bad, Bond. You could've been a live rich man, instead of a poor dead one.”

Continuing the proud tradition of Bond villains who are obsessed with miniature models, Baker’s Whitaker (why are so many of the bad guy names on this list so uninspired?!) is at least mildly amusing for all of his kooky, eccentric Texan cartoonishness. I mean, he’s a character whose sole defining trait is that he builds dioramas! And, in the third act, has a big shoot out in his vast diorama room! Alas, for all of his goofy bluster, he’s totally lacking in anything resembling danger, smarts or depth. Joe Don Baker is a genuinely great and imposing actor (check him out in 2013’s Mud), and made an engaging quasi-Felix Leiter in the first two Brosnan entries, but The Living Daylights isn’t remotely interested in building up his character in any way, or making him feel indispensable to the story. He’s merely grade-D hammy cannon fodder. 

 1) General Georgi Koskov

The actor: Jeroen Krabbé

 The film: The Living Daylights (1987)

The scheme: To get rich selling opium and supply the Soviets with weapons.

Best stab at villainous dialogue: “I'm sorry, James. For you I have great affection, but we have an old saying: duty has no sweethearts.”

Wait, another lackluster criminal mastermind in The Living Daylights?! Yup, Timothy Dalton’s first attempt at packing the famous Walther PPK has a lot of issues, chief among them it’s complete and utter incompetence at creating worthy foes. Not content to settle solely on lame duck Whitaker, writers Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson – both usually far more dependable – also toss in the most bland nonentity of a villain the franchise had ever seen before or since. Krabbé, a reliable sleaze on-screen (1989’s The Punisher, The Fugitive), offers up not a single noticeable quirk or spark of treachery. While the movie sells Koskov as an ambiguous, shifty personality, there’s nothing compelling about the mystery surrounding him, and the actor comes across as being way too passive and aloof. At least Whitaker had his diorama fantasy room! Thankfully, this type of character would be tackled far more effectively in Brosnan's debut entry, GoldenEye, with Sean Bean’s snaky 006, as Koskov is as dull, harmless and unremarkable as Bond is calm, cool and collected.    

Friday, January 02, 2015

The Bottom 5 Worst Films of 2014

1) TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES You know you’re in deep trouble when you find yourself longing for the artful touch of Michael Bay… Taking the Emperor Palpatine-like producer’s chair for this wretchedly shrill, mean-spirited and crass exercise in nostalgia-baiting, the Transformers mastermind instead hands the directorial reigns to Clash of the Titans/Battle: Los Angeles “visionary” Jonathan Liebesman, who tries and miserably fails to ape his obnoxiously cynical – but technically proficient! - overlord. A revolting sewage-scented toxic waste pile of ugly effects, creepy misogyny, cringe-inducing stabs at humor and unimaginative, tedious martial arts combat, this update is utterly without merit (okay, pointlessly wasted co-star William Fichtner’s super-lame April pun gets a quarter of a point) and serves only to provoke fond post-viewing critical reevaluations of 1993’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III. Forget the three-hour Transformers: Age of Extinction, last year’s most punishing endurance test was making it through this thing’s 90 soul-blackening minutes without praying for a quick death by katana blade.

2) LEFT BEHIND – Hands down, the most consistently hilarious bad movie of 2014! This ultra-earnest second cinematic adaptation (the first was a 2000 Kirk Cameron cheapie) of the popular Christian rapture book series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins plays like a tone-deaf, campy mash-up of lousy TV soap opera and the goofy 1970 disaster epic Airport. Aspiring to achieve faith-based crossover success, Left Behind 2.0, helmed by legendary stuntman/second unit director Vic Armstrong, instead only manages to earn the sad, albeit notable, distinction of being the worst entry on Nicolas Cage’s problematic filmography (and the only one to feature a little person being kicked down a slide unironically!). Watching his lifeless, dreary performance – set predominantly in a plane cockpit that recalls Plan 9 from Outer Space – it’s impossible not to feel the once-and-still-great actor’s burning desire to join many of his onscreen colleagues in vanishing altogether.

3) I, FRANKENSTEIN – It ain’t easy to make the Underworld and Resident Evil franchises look like masterworks of genre genius by comparison but, man alive, does this rotting, mindless Aaron Eckhart-in-mascara vehicle come damn close! Based on a graphic novel that’s never actually been printed (shocker!), Stuart Beattie’s ghastly angels vs. demons action dud reimagines Mary Shelley’s classic creation as a ripped, middle-aged, hoodie-wearing emo dude named Adam who beats evil-doers up with sticks. A punishing, imagination-deficient demo reel of crappy CG overkill, I, Frankenstein is, fittingly, a lurching, patched together horror show driven by an idiot’s brain.

4) TRANSCENDENCE – This cyber-thriller slog-a-thon aims to be a grounded, cerebral Christopher Nolan-esque cinematic headtrip, yet really only inspires migraines from sheer boredom. Featuring a cheque-cashing Johnny Depp as an AI specialist who, following an assassination attempt, has his consciousness uploaded into a computer and starts going all Lawnmower Man on fools, Transcendence struggles incompetently throughout its run-time to outsmart even the dimmest members of its audience. First time helmer Wally Pfister – Nolan’s long-time master cinematographer – may be a genius at composing breathtaking shots (though not here, strangely), however as a storyteller he displays all the power and capability of a broken down Commodore 64.

5) WINTER’S TALE – Many thought Mark Helprin’s much loved 1983 time-travelling fairy tale romance unfilmmable. Turns out, they were really, really right! Of course, Akiva Goldsman – the Oscar-winning writer of A Beautiful Mind, and hacky scribe behind Batman and Robin, Lost in Space and I Am Legend – probably wasn’t the man to try. His directorial debut is a deeply silly, confusing and glacier-paced checklist of corny fantasy epic tropes devoid of coherence or directorial vision. That stars Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay escape with dignity intact (even after riding a flying horse that everyone calls a dog for some reason) is a profound testament to their gifts, as Winter’s Tale is a yawning, frigid void of terrible, adorned in phony starlight, sunshine and gems.      


The Top 10 Best Films of 2014

1) SNOWPIERCER – An anguished howl of rage disguised as post-apocalyptic thrill-packed nightmare, acclaimed Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s gritty, uncompromising and deeply unsettling sci-fi allegory is a revolutionary mission statement against the dehumanizing effects of capitalism. Set in an unspeakably bleak future, the film stars Chris Evans as a resistance leader guiding a cruelly subjugated group of earth’s last inhabitants on a vicious uprising through a hellish unstoppable train that divides its population by social class. Showing an astonishingly hyper-focused eye for world-building detail, black humor (Tilda Swinton, take a bow!) and visceral technical expertise, Joon-ho has engineered a haunting, smart and challenging feel-bad action extravaganza guaranteed to shock and awe. A passionately pure cinematic expression from its first frame to ambiguous last, Snowpiercer is, hands down, the coolest ride of 2014 and an unrelenting, axe-winging juggernaut of slam-bang, "fight the power!" cinematic release.

2) BOYHOOD – Twelve years in the making, Richard Linklater’s follow-up to the suberb Before Midnight, is a miracle of a movie, and maybe even his masterpiece. Chronicling the development of Mason (Ellar Coltrane), a quiet, curious Texas-born kid from ages five to 18, the celebrated writer/director achieves unassumingly profound heights in conveying the transformative journey of childhood and how our relationships shape and form what kind of adult we grown up into. It's a sensitive film of boundless warmth and poignancy - buoyed by fantastically realized, authentic turns by Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke as our lead’s divorced parents - that mesmerizes with its pleasantly relatable every day simplicity. At one point in the picture Mason, out for a walk for his father, inquisitively asks if magic exists in the real world. Watching Boyhood unfold is joyous proof that it does.

3) WHIPLASH – Words just can’t convey the spine-tingling electricity generated by the final moments of writer/director Damien Chazelle’s enthralling indie about one obsessively single-minded drummer’s battle to win over his draconian jazz teacher. Fuelled by the combustible, profane chemistry of dueling stars Miles Teller and a sadistically terrifying J.K. Simmons (give this man the supporting actor Oscar, already!), Whiplash is a superior take on the Rocky-esque underdog story that more than lives up to its title. Although the film poses tough questions about how best to foster artistic virtuosity, Chazelle never leaves an ounce of doubt that he’s in complete and total control of his own pulse-quickening gifts.

4) LIFE ITSELF – Given Roger Ebert’s immeasurable Pulitzer Prize-winning influence in the arena of film criticism, it would have been easy to crank out a superficial, fawning tribute to the man’s brilliance and impact. Thankfully, Steve James, the celebrated director of Hoop Dreams, resisted that urge. Loosely based on the legendary newspaperman’s memoir of the same name, the picture instead offers a warts and all glimpse into the mortal behind the icon, honing in on his industry-changing work, personal triumphs and failings, ravaging illness and the extraordinary marriage that gave him peace and strength. This is a genuinely moving, funny, surprising – the segments recalling Gene Siskel’s swinging single days are jaw-dropping – and perceptive documentary that acts as a majestic testament to both its subject’s legacy and his passionate zest for, well, life itself.
5) NIGHTCRAWLER – Plainly put, no performance last year was as riveting as Jake Gyllenhaal’s unnerving transformation into reptilian sociopath Lou Bloom, the soulless corporate slogan-spouting opportunist driving writer/director Dan Gilroy’s sinister L.A. neo noir. Emaciated, bug-eyed and operating like a detached alien wrapped in human skin, the actor hypnotically disappears into his juicy role as an observant, immoral loner who sets out to conquer the TV news world by capturing the most grotesque footage possible. A near perfect blending of live wire performance and moody, character-focused storytelling (recapturing the spirit of edgy 1970s classics like Network and Taxi Driver), Nightcrawler keeps you precariously on the edge of your seat, trying - yet never quite succeeding - to anticipate which way its unrepentantly slimy protagonist will veer next.   
6) HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 – A sensational family entertainment, this enchanting return trip to the tiny Viking island of Berk matches the first chapter in terms of pure eye-popping exhilaration and wonder, while adding an unexpected layer of darkness. Adapting Cressida Cowell’s best-selling children’s novels, returning writer/director Dean DeBlois has lovingly fashioned another delightful adventure yarn, full of heart and breathtaking sights, which also serves as a refreshingly mature warning about the importance of humane animal treatment and responsible pet ownership. How to Train Your Dragon 2 is also a pitch perfect case study in sequel world expansion done with imagination and wit, opening up intriguing new terrain for Hiccup and Toothless – one of modern cinema’s most winning creature creations – to spread their wings and fly.
7) JODOROWSKY’S DUNE – There’s was never any doubt that Alejandro Jodorowsky, the surrealist Chilean director of such head-tripping hallucinogenic odysseys as El Topo and Holy Mountain, is one odd duck. However, as evidenced by Frank Pavich’s hilarious and engrossing documentary, he’s also a wonderfully engaging storyteller and thoroughly misunderstood visionary. A retrospective look at Jodorowsky’s failed attempt to adapt Frank Herbert’s science-fiction classic “Dune” into a bizarro artistic masterwork in the mid-70s, the film weaves priceless behind-the-scenes anecdotes, insightful critical commentary and page after page of beautiful concept art into an inspirational tale of thwarted genius nevertheless changing the cinematic landscape forever. 

8) INTERSTELLAR – Filmdom’s premiere large scale showman Christopher Nolan may have bitten off a tiny bit more than even he could chew with this dense, sprawling and intensely immersive space-faring epic, but his go-for-broke ambition sure led to one awesomely invigorating trip to the movies! Containing huge sequences of indescribably gripping power, and plenty of emotional pull, Interstellar is an expert work of crowd-pleasing craftsmanship, made with sharp intelligence and an unrestrained dedication to grand sci-fi concepts and innovative motion picture spectacle. There’s a reason Nolan has become a reliable brand name, and this is yet another shining example of the moviemaker at the height of his powers, dreaming unabashedly big and inviting us all to join him on a remarkable and unforgettable trek into the unknown.    
9) DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES – It’s easy to bemoan the modern Hollywood blockbuster-crazy paradigm as being doomsday for riskiness in filmmaking. However, as long as canny artistic voices like Matt Reeves are able to smuggle their ideas into tentpole studio projects, interesting and complex pictures will emerge from the pipeline. And there was no better example of this phenomenon in 2014 than Dawn of the Planet of the Apes! This eighth (!) installment in the historically forward-thinking franchise tragically raises the bar set by its 2011 predecessor by painting a disturbing portrait of the dangerous fallacies of civilization across an impressive canvas of warrior apes, desperate, grime-streaked human survivors, terrible misunderstandings and shattering violence. Eschewing black and white morality, Reeves’ superlative entry – the best since the 1968 original – gazes deeply into the wounded souls of its characters, stressing the sad reality that the horrors of the past are ultimately fated to cast grim shadows over the future.
10) NYMPHOMANIAC – Controversial cinematic provocateur Lars Von Trier’s two-part magnum opus of button-pushing excess should probably have been unwatchable. A four hour meditation on female sexuality, maturation and, uh, fly fishing, Nymphomaniac is an utterly relentless, uncomfortable and overwhelming experience that follows its erotically fixated protagonist (fearlessly played, at differing ages, by Charlotte Gainsbourg and Stacy Martin) from her earliest stages of naïve experimentation to the darkest depths of self-destructive compulsion. And yet, despite the heaviness of its downward spiral structure, Von Trier infuses the film with so much energy, offbeat humor and engaging enigmatic oddness that it leaves you mentally unpacking its many mysteries long after you’ve dazedly reached its disquieting conclusion.