When I was a kid, the list of VHS tapes I’d worn out included Joe Dante’s Explorers, The Last Starfighter, The Last Dragon (the deliciously cheesy 80s kung fu classic set in Harlem, not the Bruce Lee film), Ridley Scott’s Legend, The Neverending Story, and maybe the first truly great comic book movie, 1989’s Tim Burton-directed Batman starring Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson and Kim Basinger.
As a kid it was adventurous, fun and even a bit spooky. As an adult it evokes a rush of warm nostalgia and joyful recognition that the actors – Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Bill Murray and Signourney Weaver — had a hell of a lot of fun making the film.
That’s why Buddy I was so excited to see this cat condo build that’s designed to look like Ghostbusters HQ from the 1984 classic. Buddy I would love to have one of these things. Instagrammer Shawn Waite explained in a post that he was just kidding around when he proposed the idea, and his family pushed him to go for it:
“We got a new kitten (her name is Stria) a couple of months prior, and we were adding some cat furniture to our home for her. We thought that she may enjoy having something in our home office, which is where I have my vintage toy collection, so I joked that we should build a cat condo that looks like the Ghostbusters Firehouse play set so that it would fit with the theme of the office. My wife loved the idea, and our twin daughters (age 9) were excited for Stria to have a condo.”
Waite not only managed to retain the three-story interior layout with a scratching post cleverly taking the place of the fire pole, he tweaked the logo so there’s a dog in place of a ghost, just in case any jealous pooches get ideas about lounging in Stria’s sweet condo.
I’ve always wanted to learn to build stuff, especially after seeing examples like Waite’s build or the amazing Hobbit house litter box one cat servant made for his feline, Frodo.
But hey, if I’m gonna go all out and build a spectacular lounging spot or bathroom for the Budster and mine 80s/90s childhood obsessions for ideas, wouldn’t the Thundercats HQ — known simply as the Cat’s Lair — be more appropriate?
Movie: The Platform (2020) Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia Genre: Horror, social commentary Medium: Netflix
The premise of The Platform is simple: A man wakes up in a concrete prison cell. The center of the cell is dominated by rectangular gaps in the floor and ceiling, and when our protagonist warily steps closer he can see levels of identical cells above and below him. The cells extend as far as the eye can see in both directions, each populated by two prisoners.
Every day, a platform is lowered level-by-level, laden with a massive feast: Meats, wine, cheese, bread, cake, soup, pie, fish, escargot, paella, salads, grapes, apples and other fresh fruit, vegetables, juice. Every kind of food you can imagine, cooked and prepared to perfection by professional chefs.
Goreng, our protagonist, is greeted by his cell mate, a kindly old man named Trimagasi who sits down next to the edge of the hole in the floor in anticipation of the platform’s arrival. When it descends to their level he pigs out, shoveling as much food as he can into his mouth before a buzzer sounds and the platform descends another level.
Goreng looks on, digusted: The food is scattered all over the platform, much of it half-eaten. Clearly, these are someone’s disgusting leftovers.
Trimagasi urges Goreng to eat, and explains that they are very fortunate indeed: At level 48 there’s still enough food leftover from the prisoners on the 47 levels above that they won’t starve this month. At the end of every month, he says, each pair of cellmates are put to sleep with gas and wake up on a new level that is chosen at random by the people operating the cruel social experiment.
Trimagasi tells Goreng he once spent a month on level 132, where not a scrap of food is left by the time the platform descends. Goreng asks the old man how he survived, and Trimagasi demures.
We also learn that Goreng voluntarily entered in exchange for a real-world opportunity promised to him after he spends six months inside. Trimagasi was sent there as punishment: Infuriated by a TV commercial for a self-sharpening knife called the Samurai Plus after he’d just purchased a knife sharpening kit, Trimagasi threw his TV out of his window and unintentionally killed an illegal immigrant who was riding a bicycle below. He’s approaching the end of his two-year sentence in what the authorities call the VSC, short for Vertical Self-management Center.
Each prisoner is allowed to take one item with them inside: Goreng takes a copy of The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, harboring romantic notions of finally reading the book with his time in the prison. Trimagasi, who loves to use the word “obviously,” told Goreng his choice of item was obvious: His prized Samurai Plus, which he cradles lovingly as he boasts about how it can cut concrete without dulling.
Goreng puts two and two together, realizing how Trimagasi survived on level 132.
The Platform is a blunt allegory for human civilization, specifically the enormous wealth disparities of modern societies. The occupants of level 1 are the Jeff Bezoses and Walton families of the world, people with unimaginable, multigenerational wealth pigging out on life’s resources without thinking of the starving street children of India, the homeless of cities like New York and San Francisco, the families in North Korea eating tree bark.
Some reviewers think it’s a critique of capitalism, but I think it’s more universal than that: The kleptocrats of countries like Mexico, Russia and Brazil, the monarchies and emirates of the Middle East, and the party bigwigs of communist countries like China pig out on their own respective first levels while the people 130 “levels” down starve just the same.
The rest of us? We’re in the 30s, 40s and 50s, happily scarfing down the scraps from above, the ad revenue the Zuckerbergs and Pichais allow us by their forbearance, the slightly comfortable salaries allowed by corporate shareholders, the house and garage we might enjoy if we’re fortunate enough to run a successful small business in an industry that hasn’t been pillaged by the multinationals yet.
Looking down at the levels below in The Platform.
A plan to preserve food for the lower levels by force.
Trimigasi with his beloved Samurai Plus.
A poster for the Japanese release of The Platform. Credit: Netflix
Some people might find the movie heavy-handed, but I don’t see it that way. As uncomfortable as it is to watch at times, reality is much, much worse. The fact that some of the movie’s scenes are difficult to watch is testament to how lucky we are to be born in circumstances where that kind of suffering isn’t part of our experience, let alone our daily lives. Show The Platform to one of the handful of people to ever escape a North Korean hard labor camp, for instance, and they probably won’t even blink.
It also shows how our betters divide and conquer to keep the rest of us distracted and themselves secure. The idea that most people who receive social services are lazy bums is a popular one in some quarters, encouraging people not to have empathy for the less well off, but to loathe them. Likewise, the people occupying the higher floors of The Platform’s prison don’t feel sorry for those beneath them. In one scene, two cellmates tell a man they’ll help him ascend to their floor, then literally shit on him as he’s just within reach, cackling with delight as he falls.
I didn’t take it as a call for socialism either. The movie makes it pretty clear that neither asking people to moderate their consumption, nor trying to enforce sharing works out for the people who try those methods. Indeed when socialism has worked in real world circumstances, it’s been part of a hybrid model that still uses capitalism as its economic engine.
Mostly, The Platform exists to make people think. While Jeff Bezos goes to sleep tonight in his $50 million compound estate, dreaming of his next vanity flight to low Earth orbit or the next hypercar he’s going to buy, there’s someone shivering on a park bench with 15 cents in their pocket, stomach grumbling, knowing the people who pass them by every day don’t even see them as human.
HOLLYWOOD — One of Hollywood’s most iconic studios has gotten a facelift, replacing its familiar roaring lion logo with a new feline face.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer has used “Leo the Lion” as its mascot since the early 20th century merger between three production houses that vaulted the new company into Hollywood’s “big five” studios.
Now 97 years later, Leo has been replaced by a tiger — a Buddinese tiger, to be exact.
“While Leo has served us well for almost a century and audiences have come to love his iconic roar, we felt it was time for something more modern, more hip, to connect with younger audiences,” studio head Marcus Mayer told Variety. “When someone floated Buddy’s name during a brainstorming session with our PR people, it seemed like a no-brainer.”
While Leo’s roar was actually sampled from a tiger and overdubbed in sync with the lion opening his mouth — a little-known piece of cinema trivia — the new logo and title card will feature both Buddy the Cat’s famous likeness as well as his blood-curdling roar.
“The first time I heard Buddy’s roar, I got goosebumps and I almost shat myself,” admitted sound man Mark Mangini, who created the 1980s update of the MGM logo and the 2001 rebrand featuring Buddy. “I knew we had to convey that kind of power and ferocity for our brand by associating it with Buddy.”
Neither MGM nor Buddy’s representatives would comment on compensation for the world famous tabby cat, but a source close to the deal said it was worth “in the seven figures of wet food cans,” presumably all or most of it turkey, the ferocious cat’s preferred meal and currency. The deal would vault Buddy into the top 50 most wealthy cats in the world, with the majority of his wealth held in turkey-related assets.
Movie-going audiences are expected to see Buddy again late this summer with the highly-anticipated release of “Cat On Deck: A Little Buddy’s Bravery,” about a British ship’s cat named Simon who rallied the crew of the HMS Amethyst in 1949 after it was nearly sunk by a volley from a Chinese Liberation Army gun battery.
Army of the Dead, the long-awaited post-apocalyptic heist movie from director Zack Snyder, has a simple premise: Las Vegas has been overrun by zombies and cordoned off behind massive corrugated steel walls, becoming a kingdom for the undead who are ruled by a handful of intelligent and incredibly dangerous “alpha zombies.”
A Japanese businessman (Hiroyuki Sanada) approaches a famed zombie killer (Dave Bautista) and tells him he’s got $200 million in a vault inside one of the now-inaccessible casinos. If Bautista and his team can fight their way in and get the money, half of it is theirs to keep.
The catch? They have a little more than a day until the US government plans to drop a low-yield tactical nuke on the city to wipe out the zombie plague.
Bautista and his crew hire a coyote (French actress Nora Arnezeder) to get them inside the city, and as they make their way toward the Las Vegas strip, they hear a blood-curdling roar. A four-legged figure approaches, obscured by dust, smoke and the ruins of abandoned cars, until it climbs on top of one of the vehicles and we see it properly for the first time — it’s a pissed-off zombified white tiger!
“Valentine,” Arnezeder says, turning to her huddled companions. “One of Siegfried and Roy’s.”
The zombie tiger, she explains, patrols the outskirts of the zombie “kingdom,” making a light snack of anyone who ventures too close.
Later in the movie there’s a scene in which the alpha zombie leader rallies all of his undead — including Valentine — and sends them en masse toward the hotel where the protagonists are trying to crack the safe and get at the piles of cash inside.
Snyder makes a great show of the endless zombie hordes thundering toward the hotel with Valentine among them, and it looks like the big cat is going to lead the charge until he stops, yawns and settles down on the hood of a car for a nap.
Is there anything more feline than that?
As it turns out, Snyder and his team were looking for a big cat expert to help them nail the tiger’s signature gait and physical tics as they created the CGI felid, and the consultant who agreed to provide them with feedback was none other than Big Cat Rescue’s Carole Baskin. As Variety notes, production on the movie began long before Baskin became a household name with the release of Netflix’s Tiger King documentary.
Although the inclusion of a zombie tiger was a fun surprise, my all-time favorite tiger from zombie fiction is The Walking Dead’s Shiva. She’s got a compelling backstory: The character Ezekiel was a zookeeper before the apocalypse and, realizing no one was tending to the animals as the world was collapsing, he risked his life to get back to the zoo and feed the trapped creatures.
When he got there, Shiva was so malnourished and hungry that her gratitude for Ezekiel’s intervention was obvious. Gambling that the powerful tigress — whom he’d taken care of for years — wasn’t going to hurt him, Ezekiel opened her enclosure to set her free. But rather than run off on her own, Shiva decided to stay with her human friend, and the two became inseparable as the world ended.
While Valentine was just another zombie, Shiva fought the undead, and she was badass. The show also earned praise from animal rights groups after opting for CGI instead of using a real tiger. The special effects team responsible for Shiva did such a fantastic job that viewers were convinced she was the real deal.
Only one of those kaiju — Japanese for “strange beast,” aka the giant monsters of the kaiju genre of film — is so powerful he wades through the city nonchalantly, completely indifferent to the carnage around him.