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Beware of sandworms: Dune trailer gives us our first look at an epic world

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Timothée Chalamet stars as Paul Atriedes in Denis Villeneuve's upcoming adaptation of Dune.

Warner Bros. debuted the first trailer today for Dune, director Denis Villeneuve's ambitious (could it be anything else?) adaptation of Frank Herbert's sprawling epic novel. It was preceded by a livestreamed event in which Late Show host Stephen Colbert interviewed Villeneuve and several cast members: Timothée Chalamet (who stars as Paul Atreides), Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Zendaya, Javier Bardem, Jason Momoa, and Sharon Duncan-Brewster.

Dune is set in the distant future and follows the fortunes of various noble houses in what amounts to a feudal interstellar society. Much of the action takes place on the planet Arrakis, where the economy is driven largely by a rare life-extending drug called melange ("the spice") that also conveys a kind of prescience. There's faster-than-light space travel, a prophecy concerning a messianic figure, giant sandworms, and lots of battles, as protagonist Paul Atreides (a duke's son) contends with rival House Harkonnen and strives to defeat the forces of Shaddam IV, Emperor of the Known Universe.

That brief synopsis hardly does justice to the sweep and enormous cultural influence of Herbert's novel. When it was first published, the Chicago Tribune called it "one of the monuments of modern science fiction." Astronomers have used the names of fictional planets in Dune to identify various topographical features on Saturn's moon Titan. Herbert wrote five sequels, and the franchise also includes board games, computer games, and numerous prequels and sequels written by his son, Brian Herbert, with Kevin J. Anderson.

Earlier this year, Vanity Fair gave us our first look at the film, including several photos of some of the main characters. Dune is notoriously difficult to adapt—as David Lynch discovered when he directed his critically panned 1984 film adaptation—but Villeneuve found the trick was to split the novel in half. This first film will cover events in the first half of the novel, with a second installment planned to cover events in the second half.

"I would not agree to make this film adaptation of the book with one single movie," Villeneuve told Vanity Fair. "The world is too complex. It's a world that takes its power in details."

Chalamet plays the scion of House Atreides, Isaac plays Duke Leto Atreides, Ferguson plays Lady Jessica, Momoa plays Duncan Idaho, and Zendaya plays the mysterious Chani. Brolin plays Paul's other mentor, troubadour/warrior Gurney Halleck, while Bardem plays Stilgar, the leader (naib) of the Fremen tribe—original inhabitants of Arrakis who naturally view House Atreides as invaders. Villeneuve tapped Stellan Skarsgård (in full-body prosthetics) to play Baron Vladimir, head of House Harkonnen. In a departure from the book, the character of Liet-Kynes, an Imperial planetologist on Arrakis, has been gender-swapped to be a black woman, played by Duncan-Brewster.

Ars staffers were mixed in their reactions to the trailer. I found the 1984 Lynch film almost comically unwatchable (see Sting's space Speedo), so Villeneuve's take looks appealing to me. And I'm generally pretty tolerant of creative adaptations and thus not as heavily invested in how much the new film adheres to the details in Herbert's novels. I think it was wise of Villeneuve to split the film into two parts; in fact, a big-budget prestige TV series might be even better, given the span and complexity of the source material.

On the other hand

But creative director Aurich Lawson thought Villeneuve's vision was "inferior" to the 1984 Lynch movie and aesthetically disappointing. "The still suits look wrong," he said. "They're over designed, and that's in direct contradiction with the Fremen aesthetic. They look like form over function." He also didn't care for the reverend mother's veil or Chalamet's casting and bad voiceovers. (Given that Chalamet is the lead, that's a big issue.) "I'm just fundamentally running into this vibe of 'these people don't get it,'" Lawson added.

Jonathan Gitlin, automotive editor, gave the trailer low marks, too. "It's Blade Runner 2049, but Dune. And Hans Zimmer sandworms," he noted. "Based on this three minutes, I haven't seen anything that makes me think this will be a lot better than the Lynch film, which I really like. The spaceships looked better in 1984."

Kate Cox, tech policy reporter, was more forgiving and thought the trailer did a good job playing down the annoying "Chosen One" aspects of Herbert's narrative. However, "I think I've just realized that at this point in my life the story of Dune is not one I'm that interested in anymore," she concluded. "I'd rather see it retold as primarily about Jessica and Chani, if anything."

The upshot: whether or not this trailer works for you might just depend on whether you've read the book(s)—and how recently—and how much you liked the Lynch version. Dune is scheduled to hit theaters on December 18, 2020 (coronavirus willing).

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awilchak
11 days ago
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and here... we... go
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Get Organized

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Elle Summers publishes a cracking good commentary [youtube]"what an appropriate time to analyse the power of collective action" in the film "Chicken Run".
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awilchak
39 days ago
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This is wonderful, and you should 100% watch the movie too
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And Now a Message from Mask Spokesman Bane from The Dark Knight Rises

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The Auralnauts, who have rejiggered the dialogue and sounds from your favorite movies with hilarious results (most notably Star Wars), have reimagined Bane from The Dark Knight Rises as a coronavirus mask advocate for their latest video.

Do I look like I live in fear of anything?! I’m wearing this mask for you, the people of Gotham, who, I can’t help but notice, are not social distancing!

Tags: Batman   COVID-19   movies   remix   video
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awilchak
39 days ago
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Bane is the hero we need
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Shel Silverstein’s “The Tree Who Set Healthy Boundaries”

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The Tree Who Set Healthy Boundaries

Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree is a famously divisive children’s book because the story can be interpreted as an abusive relationship between a greedy boy and a tree he takes advantage of. Playing off of that interpretation, Topher Payne rewrote the ending of the book so that the tree is still generous, but only up to a point: The Tree Who Set Healthy Boundaries.

“And while we’re on the subject,” the tree said, grabbing him by the collar of his shirt. “I recognize friendships evolve over time, and we may not see each other as often because you don’t have time for your tree friends. But we used to be real tight. Now it feels like I only see you when you need something. How do you think that makes me feel?”

The Boy took a long breath. He felt a sour rumble in his stomach. Because he realized he hadn’t considered his friend’s feelings. “I bet it makes you feel bad,” said the Boy.

(via waxy)

Tags: books   remix   Shel Silverstein   The Giving Tree   Topher Payne
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awilchak
45 days ago
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👀
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Republican Party officials hid COVID-19 mask purchases by labeling them 'building maintenance' in federal disclosures

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Think "building maintenance," and you probably imagine plumbing, a new coat of paint, or a replacement toilet-paper dispenser.

But when the Republican National Committee in June spent more than $14,000 on "building maintenance," none of its facilities were getting a face-lift. 

Instead, the RNC purchased face masks designed to limit the spread of COVID-19, according to Insider interviews and a review of federal campaign-finance disclosures released earlier this week. 

The RNC ordered the masks at a time when President Donald Trump and other prominent Republicans were refusing to cover their faces in public. The purchases show Republican leaders were taking the coronavirus more seriously than they'd been publicly letting on.

"They didn't buy lacrosse sticks or baseball bats," said Jake McCampbell, who confirmed his California-based sporting-goods company StringKing scored a $9,301 mask order from the RNC. 

Kim Williams, who owns I Bambini Clothing in Texas, also confirmed the RNC last month bought $4,500 worth of "handmade cloth masks" from her small company, which mainly makes clothes for children.

Both McCampbell and Williams credited their made-in-America lines of cloth face masks with helping keep their finances afloat and their workers employed at a time when many US businesses are struggling to survive.

StringKing, I Bambini Clothing, and two other vendors from which the RNC purchased its "building maintenance" on June 10 sell one item in common: COVID-19 face masks.

The RNC declined to comment on the nature of its "building maintenance" purchase, or why it publicly described protective face masks as such.

"As a general rule, we don't itemize beyond what is required" by the Federal Election Commission, the committee said in a statement to Insider.

Following publication of this article, RNC spokesperson Cassie Smedile told Insider that "there was no obfuscation" on the committee's part.

"When we buy pens and pencils, the description is not 'pens and pencils' on the FEC report," she said. "These generic descriptions are traditionally how expenses are reported and processed."

That's mostly, but not entirely true: The RNC disclosed a purchase of "pens" in a 2012 FEC report. More recently, on May 20, the committee disclosed a "paper supplies" purchase of $324, and it's also reported several instances of "painting services" and "painting costs" over the years. 

Legal or not?

Did the RNC violate federal campaign rules with its misleading spending disclosure? No, three election-law attorneys said.

That's because neither Congress nor the FEC has required the RNC or any political committee to provide more than broad descriptions of its purchases, said Erin Chlopak, the director of campaign-finance strategy for the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center.

Karl Sandstrom, a former Democratic FEC commissioner, described the finagling of political-spending disclosures as "a practiced art" among political-campaign accountants.

The FEC almost certainly would not penalize the RNC for describing COVID-19 face-mask purchases as "building maintenance," Sandstrom added — not that the FEC could even do so, considering it doesn't have enough commissioners right now.

Bradley Smith, a former Republican chairman of the FEC, said it was "entirely appropriate" for the RNC to pay for COVID-19 face masks using its national party-building fund, an obscure class of political money created by Congress in 2014 as part of its "cromnibus" spending bill.

"They do not benefit particular candidates, they are a safety measure akin to repairing emergency exits and maintaining fire extinguishers," Smith, who is now the chairman of the nonprofit Institute for Free Speech, said. "They are a normal cost in maintaining and operating the facility, as provided by law."

Trump's about-face

Trump for months resisted wearing a mask in public and mocked presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden for doing so. Many prominent conservatives echoed Trump's views on mask-wearing.

The Associated Press in May reported that Trump told confidants he would look "ridiculous" in a mask and that detractors would use the images against him in political advertisements.

But as COVID-19 infections across the nation spiked and his reelection poll numbers plummeted, Trump abruptly changed his mind. 

On July 11, Trump appeared at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, donning a black face covering. On Monday, the president went further, declaring mask-wearing a "patriotic" act. On Thursday, he canceled in-person portions of the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville, Florida, citing concerns over the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19.

Nothing prevents political committees from volunteering more information about their campaign purchases than the federal government requires.

Several Republican and Democratic groups have publicly said they're spending campaign cash on COVID-19 face masks.

In April, for example, the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Convention disclosed a $525 purchase for masks.

America First Action, a pro-Trump super PAC, reported to federal regulators that it spent more than $40,000 on "puzzles and face masks" for distribution to contributors.

Also in May, the campaign of Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York purchased $3,600 worth of KN95 face masks, according to a disclosure filed with the FEC.

"The more details committees provide, the more helpful it is for the public," Chlopak said.

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awilchak
56 days ago
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HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
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Doom or denial: Is there another path?

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My conclusion, after years of studying environmental research literature, is that some form of societal collapse is indeed highly probable this century, depending on how we define “collapse.” … Collapse needn’t imply that nearly everybody dies at once, or that the survivors become wandering cannibals. Rather, it means our current institutions will fail to one degree or another and we will have to find alternative ways to meet basic human needs—ways that are slower, smaller in scale, and more local.

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awilchak
58 days ago
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Very intelligent perspective on a challenging, nuanced issue
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