Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - Volume 6, Number 3

© Copyright 2015, The Ultrapolis Project.  All Rights Reserved.

Birdman Win Speaks to Who They Think We Are

The Unexpected Ascendancy of Brutish Ignorance


·         Readers’ Comments: Obama No Quick Wit

·         Cartoon: Hell's Employee of the Month by Nate Beeler







Birdman Win Speaks to What They Think of Movie Audience

The Unexpected Ascendancy


By Scott Lund


With all the talk about the prospects of the movie Birdman at the Oscars, I decided to watch it the night before the awards, to see what the fuss was all about, to see if I had been wrong about my expectations.  I had seen the previews long ago, but had then immediately and prejudicially concluded that I would not see the movie because I thought that if I did, I would hate myself for taking two precious hours of my life to see yet another gratingly irritating and self-absorbed paean to showbiz people and their self-serving, convoluted ideas of the world – when I could have used those hours to see my dentist, scrape out the ancient black sludge out of the bottom of all my neighbors’ trash bins, or test out different types of mace on my eyes to see which is the most effective.  Alas, I was wrong.  I did see the movie.


The Emperor’s Clothes


As I sat through the continuous volley of spit-filled references to sexual organs and sex acts, lower body orifices, and of course the now almost ubiquitously tame mentions of excrement; and, as I noticed how aware I was of the acting, and pondered all the praise heaped upon this film, I realized what this must be: an instance of the proverbial case of the actor has no clothes - not to mention Edward Norton.  To be sure, I always wondered what Mr. Norton’s bare rear-end looked like.  I am now able to set that curiosity aside with the satisfaction of knowing that I was never missing all that much.  Considering how much time he spent onscreen mostly naked, he almost certainly disagrees.


But, Mr. Norton’s clothes were not the only things persistently missing from the film.  In Birdman there is not a single sign of awareness of a world full of people that don’t spend every waking moment of their later years in a Godless, existential, yet totally self-referential angst. Not that they have to agree with that other world, or even understand it.  But, for some of us, watching Birdman was a bit like someone who lives in the tropics watching a movie about people who live in Iceland who are perpetually perplexed about how cold the world is, and moan about that coldness as if it were unchangeable and universal.  And so, folks like me watch these characters go on about their fictional lives, fretting about how they ‘don’t exist’, all too aware that, to the film’s creators, people like us don’t exist – or perhaps just shouldn’t.  That’s fine though, after all, that is the experience we have with most movies today anyway.


The Expected Lack of Depth


I see Birdman everywhere described as a “dark comedy”.  Now, there is a bit of comedy in that, because while I sat in the theaters as the movie unfolded to a fairly full house, I did not hear all that much laughing, just the odd chuckle now and then.  Then again, the theater was dark so there was that.  If the movie itself had any darkness about it, it was not necessarily in the moody, foreboding, or empathically tragic sense.  It was dark more in the way of a smelly, damp, heavily used boudoir for which one might have paid to visit.  And, it might have been dark in what it tells us about where lies the highest acclaim of our national culture for the “Best Picture” of all pictures released last year.


They call the movie “brash.”  It sounds nicer and more sophisticated than calling it rude, noisy, or over-bearing, but that is what ‘brash’ means - though ‘brash’ is also usually used to imply it is those things in an interesting way.  For me, whatever was interesting about the movie simply did not make up for the brash I had to sit through waiting for the moment my time invested would be finally rewarded.  If anything, after initially questioning the pursuit of fleeting popularity, and providing the forum for a monologue mocking the movie-going public’s penchant for explosions and blood, the movie caves in by rewarding its protagonist with the kind of success you expect at the end of a Disney movie.  Talk about an aging Hollywood actor’s fantasy.


Continued column 2 >



Ultrapolis World Forecast & Review

Ultrapolis Project – ultrapolisproject.com



Editor: Marco Antonio Roberts

Copy Editor: Michael Alberts

Contributing Editors:

Mark Eastman

Mark Steele






Our forecast record cannot be beat.  One can follow the herd chasing the latest hyperbolic, melodramatic, and soon-forgotten micro-trend, or one can be wisely and judiciously in front of it with UWFR. 



L - Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire, portraying Blanche DuBois losing grasp of reality in the final scenes. R – Neil Harris, presiding over the 2015 Academy Awards, in a bit spoofing this year’s Oscar winner for “Best Picture”, Birdman.





< From column 1


‘The Seven’ Over and Over


Not a single idea of any importance, not a one moment of high drama, not an instance of a revelation was attempted without the liberal use of one of George Carlin’s seven words, or Lenny Bruce’s nine. With all the allegories, metaphors, and direct references to the male sexual organ one would be left to believe that the only way available to the movie’s screenwriters to describe the world was by using a teenage boy’s term for the lowest, hanging part of a man’s privates.  Swear words are a lot like slamming a ceramic plate on the floor.  Used rarely by a civilized person, it can be a powerful call for attention to a particular raw moment or emotion.  Used constantly by a brute, it just makes clear he knows no other way to command attention to anything.


Thankfully, not everyone is mindlessly applauding the emperor as he parades naked before his subjects as they all pretend to see what is not there.  A review in the New Republic online offers a more complex view.


Language reveals what we think is important, and even how we think.  If this were not so, why would opposing sides care very much about whether we say ‘pro-life’ vs. ‘pro-choice’, or ‘undocumented’ vs. ‘illegal’?  As these pages have pointed out before, the juvenile male, the most violent, brutish, and destructive member of nearly all primate species – including our own - has conquered our social language.  What fifty years ago was contained within the domain of the common teenage boy has now dominion over almost every form of art and entertainment, and adult social gatherings.  Worse, it is even now making serious inroads into the language of what were once serious news publications.  This idea of verbal thuggery as ‘advanced’ is mostly peddled by the left, especially the Hollywood left, but it has also been increasingly adopted by conservatives in the infotainment media seeking ratings and coolness ‘creds’.


The Unexpected Ascendancy of the Brute


There was a time when most educated grown-ups, when presented with titillating or lowbrow material, would not first consider whether the material excited them, or brought about some kind of animal pleasure. Instead, their first thought would be to wonder what the presenter must have thought of them to present such material, as in “what kind of person do you think I am?”  Today, that thought seems of no concern to so many people of any age or position.  Thus, we are witness to a male in underwear presiding over the Oscars, while national profile professionals, from news anchors to our president, fall over each other seeking the same thing teenage boys have always sought: cheap popularity.  That behavior used to be called ‘juvenile’.  What should we call it now?


At the Oscar’s red carpet, the lead actress of Shades of Grey, Dakota Johnson, was interviewed with her mother, actress Melanie Griffith.  It came out that Ms. Griffith had opted not to see her daughter in the movie, clearly because she did not want to see her daughter in sexual situations.  Ms. Johnson could not understand this, nor could she retain her composure when making plain her lack of understanding of her mother’s restraint.


There are a few who seemed to have mixed feelings about some of this dignity dearth.  MTV’s blogger Amanda Bell opened her article on Mr. Harris’ antic thus: “Neil Patrick Harris whipped out the big guns, so to speak, to impress his rapt audience. And that meant dropping trou [sic]. Yes, that’s exactly how it sounds. And no, this wasn’t just some childhood nightmare.”  But then, after mocking Mr. Harris with a few puns, she closed by saying, “Of course, it should [emphasis hers] be noted that this was actually a pretty clever nod to Best Picture nominee Birdman and Best Actor nominee Michael Keaton. Because details.”  Hmm.  Reads like an obligatory “I’m not a prude” disclaimer.  Let’s face it, adults today fear the accusation of ‘prude’ and ‘not being cool’ when they really should not, to borrow from the modern vernacular, ‘give a rat’s **s. (Sound of plate crashing.)


Continued column 3 >

< From column 2


May We Speak Plainly?


Does any of this matter?  While we are busy building Facebook, Instagram, and Angry Birds, all the new building and construction of the tallest skyscrapers, the longest bridges, the fastest trains, and more, all of it is happening in the East.  In our Western society, today everyone has seen Neil Patrick Harris not impressively fill his ‘tighty whities’.  But, ask your neighbors if they know that today America relies on Russia, with whom we are at dangerous odds, to travel into space.


I look back at the old movies, and how different they were.  One of my favorites is A Streetcar Named Desire.  In one of the most memorable scenes in movie history, which will be quoted far longer after anything in any movie of last year, a conflicted, corrupted, and broken Blanche DuBois makes a heroic case for something better:


May I speak plainly?...If you'll forgive me, he's common!...Suppose? Surely you can't have forgotten that much of our upbringing, Stella, that you suppose there's any part of a gentleman in his nature. Oh, you're hating me saying this, aren't you?...He's like an animal. He has an animal's habits. There's even something subhuman about him. Thousands of years have passed him right by, and there he is! Stanley Kowalski, survivor of the Stone Age, bearing the raw meat home from the kill in the jungle! And you - you here waiting by it. Maybe he'll strike you or maybe grunt and kiss you. That's if kisses have been discovered yet. His poker night, you call it. His party of apes! Maybe we are a long way from being made in God's image, but Stella, my sister, there's been some progress since then. Such things as art, as poetry, as music. In some kinds of people, some tenderer feelings have had some little beginning that we have got to make grow and to cling to, and hold as our flag in this dark march toward whatever it is we're approaching. Don’t! Don't hang back with the brutes!


With those words, and with a little help from Vivien Leigh, Tennessee Williams made my hair stand on end as the neurons in my brain rallied in excitement at the idea painted before me, elevating me, leading me to aspire.


Birdman Times


In the issue of November 27, 2013, UWFR said that Obama “is a man of the time.  He does not transcend it.  He reflects it.”   In a way, Birdman is like that.  It does not lead, it does not elevate, it does not make us aspire.  And, it most certainly does not join us in a common vision.  It just reflects the times.  But, since I already know what our time is like, Birdman was just a waste of mine.



He who does not know the laws of right demeanor cannot form his character.  He who does not know the force of words, cannot know men.

- Analects of Confucius



Readers’ Comments

Obama No Quick Wit


[RE: UWFR Feb. 6] You topped yourself in this issue.  Good luck with your experiment.

Frank Rivera

Houston, TX


I don’t think Obama is “quick-witted” or “razor sharp.” Nor, do I think Congress needed his permission to invite Netanyahu. You give him far too much credit.


John Boudreaux

Shreveport, LA



Comments may be directed to contactproject@ultrapolisproject.com, or if you receive the newsletter email, also via a reply to the email address from which you receive it. OR CLICK BELOW



UForecast Chart







Employee of the Month




Main Index of the Ultrapolis World Forecast & Review


© Copyright 2015, The Ultrapolis Project – All Rights Reserved.