Earlier this week, I heard some obscure documentary about a social justice jihadist was released. I could not be bothered about it, since that obscure release was vastly overshadowed by the public release on vimeo of Eli Cross' delicious steampunk Western, Cowboys & Engines, which is also available on YouTube:
C&E is a delicious marriage of alternate history, wherein President Lincoln has survived Booth's attentat, having been saved by the protagonist "Cade Ballard" (played by Richard Hatch of both the original and the 2000's reboot of Battlestar Galactica) and science fiction. So, far, this sounds like the 1999 Will Smith Parody version filim of the TV show Wild, Wild West, whose song was better than its eponymous filim. The difference is that Will Smith's Wild, Wild West is goofy and clichéd to the point of looking intentionally bad while C&E is as dead serious as Jimmy Stewart's Night Passage and The Man From Laramie, and as sober and hard as Randolph Scott's Seven Men From Now. "Cade Ballard" is an anti-hero, a hardened man like Jimmy Stewart's characters in the two films mentioned in the previous sentence, as opposed to Stewart's naive, Micawberist "Destry" in Destry Rides Again, filmed before the Second World War and before Jimmy Stewart was hardened from being shot at by the Luftwaffe over Europe. Just as with Stormy Daniels' 2015 Wanted, none of the characters in C&E are unidimensional "white hats"/Parsifals/Harry Potters/Hobbits/Luke Skywalers. All of them pursue their own interest and it is a matter of happenstance that their collective own interests align with taking down a nefarious scientist, played by Malcolm McDowell of Clockwork Orange, Royal Flash and Star Trek: Generations fame. (Star Trek alumni Walter Koenig also plays a scientist.) This is very much in keeping with Mr. Cross' previous filims Corruption (essentially Macbeth dressed up as a latter-day California Republican politician) and Upload (wherein two federal agents are tasked with tracking down a hacker of virtual reality simulations, but wherein the good guys are not the good guys and the bad guys are not the bad guys.)
Mr. Cross likes to say that this is because he is "dark and twisted." I would argue that his characters are very realistic, very believable people. Very few people are and very few people have ever been pure of heart Parsifals and Lohengrins. Indeed, I have long maintained that most people are, at least in large part, self-aggrandisers like Aaron Burr, John C.Calhoun, Roscoe Conkling and Martin Bormann, and that the truly clever among us are like Alexander Hamilton in that they can balance self with external interests. In C&E, just as he did in Corruption and Upload, Mr. Cross did a service to humanity by portraying us as we are and not as we would like to think we are.
C&E, however, is more than a gritty Western that shows real humans with real personal interests. It also has a strong science-fiction component: laser pistols, armoured zeppelins, cyborgs and powerful, all destructive-engines. In this regard, C&E resembles the Doctor Who serials of old of which both Mr. Cross and production designer Kerri Appleton are massive fans. (Mr. Cross' Upload resembles many a Doctor Who serial set on Gallifrey, albeit more in the sense of plot and characters than on the science-fiction elements.) Ms. Appleton and her husband Andy did a superb job on the production design. The mechanical horses, the laser pistols and the armoured zeppelin, though they would be out of place in a Jimmy Stewart or Randolph Scott Western, are sublimely subdued and not outlandish, keeping in the style and scale of what a 19th century futurist would conceive of future contraptions as being, much in the manner of the 1950's serial based on Jules Verne's Mysterious Island. This is standard Kerri and Andy Appleton, who more recently did the superb set design for Stormy Daniels' Wanted. Every time I watch the Oscars, I clap for the Best Set Design/Art Production winners, but I cannot help saying to myself "Kerri and Appleton were robbed! Yes, I know they were not nominated, but they damn well deserve the Oscar this year!"
I do not want to spoil C&E by giving too much of it away. I will say, however, that it passes with flying colours the recently inaugurated Karza von Karnstein Test For Filim and Television, as does Deadpool. I inaugurated the Karza von Karnstein Test For Filim and Television in response to the demographic supremacist social justice jihadists' loathsome Bechdel Test, wherein they seek to dictate exactly how all female characters are to be portrayed in a movie or tv show or video game. Unlike the Bechdel test, however, the criteria for a filim or show to pass the Karza von Karnstein Test are quit simple. The filim or show in question must simultaneously anger both the boyosphere and their fellow demographic supremacists, the social justice jihadists. Angering the boyosphere is simple enough; the filim or show need only have a strong, non-John Norman Gor-standard issue submissive, female character. C&E has two of those.
Angering the social justice jihadists is a little more lengthy. The must either be scantily clad, have a romantic interest in a man, be a Ms. Male Character or be a "Fighting Fucktoy." The strong female characters of C&E evince the first, second and fourth traits. So, C&E is not only a thoroughly enjoyable film in its own right, but watching it also gives you the additional satisfaction that, by doing so, you will also simultaneously giving the finger to two loathsome polarities, two repulsive sides of the same demographic supremacist coin, the boyosphere and the social justice jihadists.
Speaking of the latter, I am not going to do a Zoey Quinn and let this review be a complete hagiography of Cowboys & Engines. There is one part I must criticise, namely the part wherein a character makes a wildly improbable successful shot from the ground at a small part of an object that is flying--i.e. a small moving target that is already at an immense elevation, a trick even Carlos Norman Hathcock, Simo Häyhä and Lyudmila Pavlichenko would have a hard time pulling off. In defence of that scene, however, the rifle used therein is a Mauser, famous for being more accurate than the rifles of the British soldiers it was used against in the Boer War and the First World War. As well, that shot does not cause the entire Zeppelin to go ka-BOOM! Instead, the shooter articulates exactly what part of the zeppelin his admittedly improbably shot neutralises, with the consequence that the zeppelin's manoeuvrability is now hindered. This shows again the detail of Eli Cross' realism. Mr. Cross respects his audience enough to know that we will not be impressed by one single 7x57mm or 7.92mm rifle round by itself getting the luckiest of lucky and hitting a fuel tank while being shot from the ground (which was why Flak--anti-aircraft cannon of the Second World War--shot up HE rounds instead of solid ball ammunition), combating the wind and elevation to successfully cause the whole zeppelin to go off, Fourth of July style.
Cowboys&Engines, in other words, is a superb filim!
Now, a bit about Eli Cross. I have a profound admiration and respect for him. If Stephen Hawking met Eli Cross for an hour, his reaction to his closest associates upon leaving the meeting would be "OH MY GOD! I JUST MET ELI CROSS!!!" Eli Cross is a filmmaker and a master writer and reflector on life. I have already mentioned his two award-winning filims of the last decade Corruption and Upload. The thing about much of Mr. Cross' opus other than Cowboys&Engines is that it happens to have lots of people in varying stages of undress engaging in merrymaking with each other. The anatomical and physiological detail of these filims is exquisite. Mr. Cross, however, is such a talented filmmaker that you tend to want to fast-forward over these merrymaking scenes, as powerfully awesome and intense as they are, and get to the next plot scene. That is the cinematic genius that is Eli Cross.
Mr. Cross is also an unsurpassed writer. Before he was directing full time, he ran Adult Video News, the adult entertainment industry's trade magazine. As a result of this, and as the result of a lot of lesser people being insanely jealous of his maestro-calibre capacity in all that he does, he has had a lot of mean things said about him over the decades. Mr. Cross was dealing with attacks and vicious falsehoods from real-life trolls long before Twitter and YouTube, never mind Twitter and YouTube drama, were even a thing. The way he dealt with it serves as an example to everyone on Twitter and/or YouTube who gets falsehoods and other attacks thrown at them.
From his blog entry on the premiere party for Corruption--back in 2006.
An adult party is neutral ground, and even though there were several people there that I dislike — and even more who dislike me — we all had the good manners to simply pretend we didn’t see each other. I didn’t begrudge their presence, and apparently, they didn’t begrudge SexZ Picture’s prexy Bo Kenney’s free booze. This is how it’s done.
In fact, of the three-dozen or so reviews we’ve gotten, I’m only aware of four that are negative[...]The third is from a gossip columnist we’ll call Mary Sunshine who I completely discount because he has definite axes to grind with several of the principals[...]As for Mary Sunshine, that doesn’t bother me because I have absolutely no regard for him as a person, and no respect for his integrity. It would be like getting offended by a review written by a Rhesus monkey.
Lastly, always remember that, to Gene, accuracy is nothing but an impediment to drama, and truth is a flawed concept suitable only for lesser mortals. I can’t tell you how many times Gene came out of his office at AVN with some piece of gossip, giddy with the prospect of calling the target to get their side, knowing it would set off a flame war (before anyone had coined that term) he could dine out on for weeks.
Gene’s greatest – perhaps his only – joy in life is setting people at each other’s throats and sitting back to watch the furor grow. For him there is no greater pleasure than instigating and nurturing ill-will. If you’ve been slandered on Gene’s page, I encourage you not to write to him in response. As long as he can get a rise out of you, he will never, ever stop. For that reason, you won’t see thisincident mentioned here again.
Long story short, Eli Cross is an adult in every sense of the word. He was deftly parrying trolls back into obscurity and denying them their goal of winding him up long before social media was a thing. In that sense, every person of decency on social media today can learn from Eli Cross.