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July 13, 2009 1:08 AM   Subscribe

28 years ago they came to Earth. Explore the world of District 9. Consider a career with Multi-National United. Find out about enhancing your math skills with DNA from outer space. Play the game. And learn the truth behind the lies.
posted by scalefree (120 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
At last, Peter Jackson does a bug hunt movie!
posted by nonspecialist at 1:24 AM on July 13, 2009


Alive in Joburg
posted by dumbland at 1:24 AM on July 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


Alive in Joburg being the short film Blomkamp (and others) made some years back and seems to be the basis for District 9. D-9 has somehow flown right under my radar, so thanks for the FPP.
posted by dumbland at 1:29 AM on July 13, 2009


Alive in Joburg is definitely the basis for D-9, which I only found out after posting or I'd have included it. I have a prejudice against viral campaigns but this one looked so cool I couldn't resist. Although I do wonder about the parallels with Alien Nation & whether there'll be a copyright fight.
posted by scalefree at 1:36 AM on July 13, 2009


parallels with Alien Nation

Watching the trailer at first, I thought (in order): V, Independence Day, Alien Nation.

Hadn't heard of Alive in Joburg though, I'll go and watch that in a bit. Thanks for the pointer!
posted by nonspecialist at 1:39 AM on July 13, 2009


I'm pretty sure that's the worst flash game I've ever seen.

Still can't wait for the movie, though.
posted by item at 1:45 AM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, so stoked for this picture. I was stoked before I saw the trailer that included the mech exo-skeleton slugfests. I have every intention of seeing this on opening day and nagging the shit out of those friends I don't manage to drag along with me to go see it as well.

Thank you, Allfather, for Peter Jackson.
posted by EatTheWeak at 1:52 AM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Previously
posted by P.o.B. at 2:17 AM on July 13, 2009


I don't know about anyone else, but the links in P.o.B.'s "previously" yielded me an ad for Fleshlights and a blog that forgot about the short film in question a long, long time ago.
posted by EatTheWeak at 2:28 AM on July 13, 2009


Really looking forward to this.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:52 AM on July 13, 2009


This film looks bloody incredible. Like an Afrikaans Children of Men, with added robots and aliens.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:53 AM on July 13, 2009


I was expecting something funny to happen if you got a 10/10 on the math test. Nothing funny happened.

I'm still gonna see the movie, though.
posted by adipocere at 3:00 AM on July 13, 2009


Nice! Aliens, giant robots, eeevil government & miltary - and it seems like you can actually see what is going on on the screen!

Looks like a very interesting movie, definitely keeping an eye out for that one...
(Although it doesn't seem to be completely devoid of clichés: come on, who else thought the second the guy picked up the strange cylinder "ALIEN TECHNOLOGY! DO NOT PLAY AROUND WITH IT! DO NOT TAUNT HAPPY FUN BALL CYLINDER!"?)
posted by PontifexPrimus at 3:32 AM on July 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


I have a prejudice against viral campaigns but this one looked so cool I couldn't resist.

I find this kind of in-your-face, "blur the line between reality and fiction" marketing to be good times, generally. I cannot understand the inherent prejudice against it that some display (not scalefreeist). I suppose I can understand the initial aversion, it's kind of a knee jerk, especially for the marginally anti-consumerist among us. But the more I thought about the more I liked it.

Well done viral marketing is a total bonus for the consumer. Where, in the past, consumers would have been presented with linear, one-way advertising, they are now presented with interactive and entertaining advertising. Done right, it's awesome. Done poorly, well, it can't be any worse than a cliched trailer. Take a movie like Cloverfield, the producers used a six month long viral campaign to generate interest in the film, and it worked, released in the January doldrums the film topped the box office and had a fair showing on DVD too. Everyone won, the film-makers, the studio, the ARG/E creators and the consumers. I'd really like to see more of this type of immersive experience.

Also, since I am rambling, tall props to the Blair Witch Project for lighting the way on this way back when, say what you want about the film, the marketing was genius. (And I'd be interested to see any links to earlier examples of this type of marketing, in case I am mistaken about the import of the aforementioned film).
posted by IvoShandor at 3:43 AM on July 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Looks cool, but that trailer was blinking and flashing so much I couldn't really see a lot.

Also, if they came to Earth 28 years ago, why does the "alien reproductive system" clip look like a 1960's educational film?
posted by orme at 3:59 AM on July 13, 2009


I find this kind of in-your-face, "blur the line between reality and fiction" marketing to be good times, generally.

I liked being able to see something new, or cool, or strange without the nagging doubt that it might be a hoax perpetrated by a large corporation in the name of marketing. The world is uncertain enough; we don't need to encourage more players to take liberties with the truth.
posted by Pyry at 4:13 AM on July 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


yielded me an ad for Fleshlights and a blog that forgot about the short film in question a long, long time ago

Woah!
posted by P.o.B. at 4:15 AM on July 13, 2009


Those are some fugly hobbits.
posted by bardic at 4:19 AM on July 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I liked being able to see something new, or cool, or strange without the nagging doubt that it might be a hoax perpetrated by a large corporation in the name of marketing. The world is uncertain enough; we don't need to encourage more players to take liberties with the truth.

Critical thinking skills are important. I can see this as being part of that knee jerk response. If it seems fictional, it probably is. I can't think of one instance of viral marketing that seemed plausible. Unless, of course, you give in to the "woo" on a regular basis.

Films take liberties with the truth on a regular basis. The harm in advertising for said films that does so as well?
posted by IvoShandor at 4:27 AM on July 13, 2009


I liked being able to see something new, or cool, or strange without the nagging doubt that it might be a hoax perpetrated by a large corporation in the name of marketing.

Agreed. And if I'm confronted by something puzzling or difficult that will take some time and brainpower to figure out, I don't want it to finally resolve into "DON'T FORGET TO DRINK YOUR OVALTINE."

Can we get a ban on advertising posts, however clever the virality thereof?
posted by DU at 4:30 AM on July 13, 2009


I am grateful to have been shown the link to the director's short film that obviously served as the seed that this new feature film is built around. Impressive.
posted by jscott at 4:46 AM on July 13, 2009


Can we get a ban on advertising posts, however clever the virality thereof?

Nonsense. Advertising is a major part of modern culture, and there's nothing wrong with enjoying it when it is done excellently.

Shall we ban all music posts since most music today is banal and superficial?
posted by jbickers at 4:54 AM on July 13, 2009 [10 favorites]


And if I'm confronted by something puzzling or difficult that will take some time and brainpower to figure out, I don't want it to finally resolve into "DON'T FORGET TO DRINK YOUR OVALTINE."

Can we get a ban on advertising posts, however clever the virality thereof?


I would be against that ban.

There's a reason why 99% of the viral/alternate reality advertising that works comes from the entertainment world. There is a huge difference between making an alternate reality game for Cloverfield and making an ARG for Ovaltine. Cloverfield is a story, Ovaltine is not.

Movies, video games and books are created by artists to present you with a narrative. If the sort of narrative they're pitching appeals to you, you're more than happy to pay money to engage with it. A well-executed viral marketing campaign becomes an extension of that narrative that you can seek out. There are thousands of Star Wars books, movies and cartoons that extend the universe of Star Wars beyond George Lucas's six movies (for better or worse). There is an authorized sequel to Gone With the Wind. J.D. Salinger just sued the pants off of a guy who wrote a novel in the voice of Holden Caufield.

We want to persist in the universes that we like for as long as possible. A viral marketing campaign for a piece of fiction taps into that desire, and when it works, it's awesome.

So Ovaltine, no. Movies, yes. This is stuff is the best of the Web and I want to see more of it.
posted by CRM114 at 5:01 AM on July 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm not talking about banning advertising from the Internet. Just stemming the endless cavalcade of ads on the front page of MeFi. My Pepsi Blue button is almost worn out. Advertising as best of the web? Really?
posted by DU at 5:15 AM on July 13, 2009


You're not actually making any sort of argument here.
posted by CRM114 at 5:20 AM on July 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I can turn on any TV or radio or simply look out the window if I'm interested in seeing some ads. Every movie, every magazine and almost every website is littered with them. I get them in my email inbox on an hourly basis. We have the technology to prevent them from masquerading as interesting posts on MeFi, why don't we use it?

A post about viral ads themselves, with several examples, would make a great post. Once. Just like a post about Michael Jackson, with a discography and highlights, would make a great post. would make a great post. Once.

Someone compared this to banning "music posts". Well actually, we DO ban posts about The Latest Album From Your Favorite Band. Why not also ban The Latest Product Advertisers Using Your Favorite Trick Are Pushing?
posted by DU at 5:28 AM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I watched Alive in joburg a couple of months ago and it seemed to me like a very flimsy metaphor where the "aliens" are the true-to-life white aliens and it's basically just a veiled complaint by people who are upset now that aparthied is over. here is a great news story about just that(i just have to point out the affirmation of a white stereotype at about 1:35). So to gain sympathy they turn the white people into ugly bugs that crash landed there and didn't do anything wrong and are now being discriminated against. For some reason i can't get behind this. I'm not saying "turning the tables" discrimination is correct, I'm just saying i can't go for a something that tweaks the facts to its liking to make the new victims even more so the victims.

They could do a sequel for when the aliens come to the us. I mean, sequel/remake of "Birth of a nation".
posted by djduckie at 5:28 AM on July 13, 2009


Disappointingly, the 'alien' language of District 9 appears to be just transliterated English.
posted by wfitzgerald at 5:28 AM on July 13, 2009


(also, flagged and on-moved)
posted by DU at 5:29 AM on July 13, 2009


DU, if it was an Ovaltine ad, I would agree with you. But there's a compelling story here, and that makes it interesting to me. When I get home from work I'll probably go through the whole thing.

There's no question of a self-link here, so I guess you're just making an argument that advertising is inherently not-front-page-worthy.

If I put up a post with links to new interpretations of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, well that's advertising because the Pope commissioned Michelangelo to make it to advertise his papacy. The people who made the viral marketing around this movie are legitimate artists and writers and film-makers, too, and they have sponsors of their own. They've made something interesting that hoodwinks nobody and bears a narrative of its own.

Two posts below this one is a post that links to a book review in the New York Times. The book publisher supplied the Times with the book in the hopes that they would review it in order to sell more books. How is that so different from commissioning some writers to make a viral marketing campaign to sell more movie tickets? Are books inherently more worthwhile than movies? What's the difference?
posted by CRM114 at 5:40 AM on July 13, 2009


This looks blilliant, can't wait! Had also missed it entirely.
The "user submitted" videos seem in some cases a little too well acted and make me wonder what questions the interviewees are actually answering. Tourists, refugees, etc?
posted by Iteki at 5:41 AM on July 13, 2009


Monoecious like the earthworm. Seminal vesticles.

Dear viral video script writer and filmmaker: I had to stop watching your teaser film after after your character said these things. It wouldn't have killed you to consult a basic biology textbook or call a science teacher at your local school before you spent the money on production. You are making science fiction, you know. Please don't skimp on the science.

Regards,
angry nerd.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 5:48 AM on July 13, 2009 [11 favorites]


Advertising as best of the web? Really?

Well, sometimes, sure.
posted by Scoo at 6:09 AM on July 13, 2009


djduckie: I can't speak to Alive in Joburg, but I was under the impression that District 9 was a thinly veiled metaphor for the mistreatment and suspicion of (primarily Zimbabwean) refugees in South Africa.
posted by jedicus at 6:34 AM on July 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Disappointingly, the 'alien' language of District 9 appears to be just transliterated English.

Pretty common, really--though part of me wishes that every alien language was as well-developed as Klingon, I recognize that that's largely unreasonable (and that not even Trek does their other alien languages as well as they did that one).

Excited about this. Hope they make the liens well-developed, real and not just metaphorical-for-human-oppression. The journal in the ARG looks promising.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:37 AM on July 13, 2009


The movie looks good, but Alternate Reality Games have gotten so uninspired.
posted by Damn That Television at 6:38 AM on July 13, 2009


Well done viral marketing is a total bonus for the consumer.

This depends a great deal on what one means by "well done." Seth Godin, for example, is going to have radically different criteria from, say, Jay Chiatt. (I'd be far, far more likely to agree with Godin, FWIW.) And in the terms I think Godin would use, I'd agree with you.

The District 9 viral that I've seen so far seems to me to be pretty straightforward, FWIW, in that it never tries to really pretend it's anything but promotion. I like that.
posted by lodurr at 6:40 AM on July 13, 2009


And if I'm confronted by something puzzling or difficult that will take some time and brainpower to figure out, I don't want it to finally resolve into "DON'T FORGET TO DRINK YOUR OVALTINE."

The good news is that those of us who design those kinds of puzzling and difficult somethings (whether for a sponsor or independently) use the same "DRINK MORE OVALTINE" Christmas Story decoder ring bit as a cautionary tale. From a narrative or experience design perspective, that's a crude, unnecessary and counter-productive choice.

There's a reason why 99% of the viral/alternate reality advertising that works comes from the entertainment world. There is a huge difference between making an alternate reality game for Cloverfield and making an ARG for Ovaltine. Cloverfield is a story, Ovaltine is not.

You'd be surprised ... Audi is not a story either, but "branded entertainment" principles of sticking the sponsor's product into the heart of a narrative do produce results from a marketing perspective. Our brains are just wired for narratives, it is how we view the world that surrounds us. What the objects are that make up the narrative experience isn't really what the Ovaltine metaphor is about.

The Ovaltine metaphor is about deception ... a promise that someone's investment of time will produce a meaningful experience, only to have that derailed into obvious self-serving marketing that makes you feel like a rube for having poured energy into it.

Which makes it something creators and consumers should be on guard against.
posted by bclark at 6:42 AM on July 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


jedicus, I wish you would take a look at Alive in Joburg. It's short, and I'd like to know what you (and other people with better world-current-events cognizance than I) have to say after seeing it.

It hadn't occurred to me that there were new refugees in ZA, but in retrospect I don't know how I didn't -- Zimbabwe is slowly starving, after all. But to be perfectly honest, when I watched Alive in Joburg, it seemed to me to clearly be about something completely different from ZA whites feeling put-upon. I kept thinking about Roma in Europe.

My concern w/ District 9 (and I am looking forward to it, a lot) is that they'll let the thriller sub-plots and the SF'nal elements over-ride the metaphor. The bio-suits are cool -- I love the idea of scraps of advanced technology in a materially-impoverished society -- but how do they fit? (Not expecting an answer, just wondering what the answer will be when the film comes out.)
posted by lodurr at 6:48 AM on July 13, 2009


I gotta say I hope the director does a better job of telling the story in the feature than he did in the short. It was hamfisted beginning to end.

they'll let the thriller sub-plots and the SF'nal elements over-ride the metaphor.

Well the short was nothing but metaphor. It's a one sentence pitch for a story that's drawn out over 7 minutes.

Complete segue but I'm reminded of the time I worked in a video store and some idiot told me he thought Planet of the Apes was a metaphor. He thought it was a metaphor for what would happen if black people ever got in power.
posted by dobbs at 6:56 AM on July 13, 2009


Re. the language being 'transliterated English': From a storytelling perspective, I think this is a much, much better device than inventing a language. Especially if jedicus is right about what the movie's about.

Think about it: They speak a language that's a simple transformation of the film's main language. That's almost sledgehammer-obvious in its symbolism.

Making it an invented language would not be more subtle, it would completely remove the relevance.

Making it different human languages could have different impacts: For example, I think it would be interesting and more subtle if they spoke Esperanto or Lojban. But the "joke" would get lost. I like learning that it's just altered english.

OTOH, there have been films where there's a secret to the "other" languages and it usually makes a very small impact. Ewoks speak Tibetan, for example, and Tolkien's and Jackson's Elves speak Finnish. I only hear that mentioned in really esoteric contexts and have yet to hear any meaning attributed to it.

That having been said, the 'transliterated english' link really just links to a simple replacement alphabet, not anything about the actual language.
posted by lodurr at 6:58 AM on July 13, 2009


Everything I've seen about this has got me anticipating the film more and more... I've just got my fingers crossed that it won't end up as relatively disappointing Cloverfield was after it's marketing campaign.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:59 AM on July 13, 2009


I saw the trailer last night at Brüno and was disappointed that there was not a word of afrikaans nor any spooky shots of the Ponte City Apartments occupied by alien gangs.
posted by vkxmai at 7:09 AM on July 13, 2009


There's been a D-9 poster on the bus-stop by my house for a couple of months now. "Report All Non-Humans," it exhorts. I became mildly interested when I discovered it was a Peter Jackson joint. Hopefully it is at least as good as King Kong.

adieu.
posted by Mister_A at 7:10 AM on July 13, 2009


I think clever advertising is indeed the best of the web. In fact, when it's good, it is amongst the best of any medium.
posted by bz at 7:11 AM on July 13, 2009


OTOH, there have been films where there's a secret to the "other" languages and it usually makes a very small impact. Ewoks speak Tibetan, for example, and Tolkien's and Jackson's Elves speak Finnish. I only hear that mentioned in really esoteric contexts and have yet to hear any meaning attributed to it.

Elvish is based on Finnish phonology, but is not Finnish--Tolkien's languages were the cornerstone of his fiction, and he worked a little harder at them than you're implying!

The problem with transliterated languages in science fiction is that they're not realistic, at all. If this is intentional, it's a terribly heavy handed metaphor ("Hey! We all speak the same language! What are we fighting about here!?"). I'd bet my druthers that it's usually not intentional, though, and instead typically based on the writers not having the time or the inclination or the knowledge to create a more realistic language.

Incidentally, I think this viral marketing looks much better done than, say, the viral marketing that exists for JJ Abrams projects. Those always feel poorly developed and are often aborted completely when they don't serve marketing purposes any more (see: Cloverfield's ARG). Then again, I cut my teeth on the AI ARG, which developed a life of its own outside the movie.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:16 AM on July 13, 2009


Alright, I watched Alive in Joburg, and I stand by my view that it's about refugees rather than apartheid or straightforward native/colonial tension. Being set during apartheid there there are 3 parties represented: the black majority, the white minority government, and the aliens. White government agents, black police officers, and black civilians are all depicted as suspicious and even violent toward the aliens. To me, that parallels a refugee crisis more than anything else.
posted by jedicus at 7:17 AM on July 13, 2009


There's been a D-9 poster on the bus-stop

I saw one at the theater and immediately thought of the design of the blankes/nie blankes signs that were all over ZA during apartheid.
posted by vkxmai at 7:17 AM on July 13, 2009


At last, Peter Jackson does a bug hunt movie!

I heard it was a stand-up fight.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:24 AM on July 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


When I saw the first trailer for this, I was super-excited. I was expecting a thoughtful, cerebral film about racism and xenophobia and the weirdness of an Earth shared - in a sense - by humans and aliens. And now the other trailers are all mech exoskeletons and explosions. No larger questions will be asked or explored. It'll be "Transformers" with bugs.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:28 AM on July 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


I guess when I saw alive in Joburg it just triggered a memory of that news story for me. That short has absolutely no substance though. I stumbled on all the D-9 viral stuff and looked at it for a while and was intrigued but when i found and watched Alive in Joburg i think i ended up feeling more confused than anything else.

I guess i just assumed the afrikaans thing because it seemed like they were implying a new aparthied was afoot, a sentiment that is shared by the afrikaans.

I must admit that i am not the best keeper of current events.
posted by djduckie at 7:28 AM on July 13, 2009


> I think clever advertising is indeed the best of the web. In fact, when it's good, it is amongst the best of any medium.

You're one of those people who buys things from spam, eh?
posted by msittig at 7:45 AM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


And now the other trailers are all mech exoskeletons and explosions. No larger questions will be asked or explored. It'll be "Transformers" with bugs.

Trailers aren't usually cut by the guy that makes the movie - and it's easy to make a movie look like something it's not.

You'd be surprised ... Audi is not a story either, but "branded entertainment" principles of sticking the sponsor's product into the heart of a narrative do produce results from a marketing perspective. Our brains are just wired for narratives, it is how we view the world that surrounds us..

I had a really intelligent response to this but it's pretty much just devolved into OMG CAN I COME WORK FOR YOU PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE
posted by CRM114 at 7:47 AM on July 13, 2009


I can think of at least four alien languages in comics that are just transliterated. (I compiled a font for one of them, & I looked for other examples.) It's unrealistic in the sense that other languages aren't that easily translated to English, but it's also unrealistic to expect a linguist to cough up a new language that's internally consistent for a given movie or book. What's the imagined payoff there? How much effort is it worth? Doing a cipher instead of making a language gives you most of the benefits - it's visually alien, it's not the same placeholder text everywhere, there will be patterns there, etc. As for cons: fans can rip apart fictional games, based on even vague descriptions, & your fictional language invites a similar critique.
posted by Pronoiac at 8:02 AM on July 13, 2009


There have been films where there's a secret to the "other" languages and it usually makes a very small impact. Ewoks speak Tibetan, for example, and Tolkien's and Jackson's Elves speak Finnish. I only hear that mentioned in really esoteric contexts and have yet to hear any meaning attributed to it.

I just recently learned that experimental poet Christian Bök designed languages for Earth: Final Conflict and Amazon. Not knowing anything about either series, I'm very curious about how thorough these languages actually are. Bök doesn't strike me as a guy who half-asses things.
posted by roll truck roll at 8:13 AM on July 13, 2009


I actually liked the languages in the first Star Wars - Chewbacca is talking to Han, but his language is so completely alien, we can't even begin to translate. Han knows the language, because he's a sophisticated space traveler, but he's physically incapable of speaking it.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:16 AM on July 13, 2009


What dumbland said. I first ran into Neill Blomkamp and Alive in Joburg when rumor had it that he was going to be the directior of the Halo Film that may or may not be comming any day now. I was impressed.

As for viral marketing, I did the "I Love Bees" thing back in the day. It was a blast. I did not break down and buy and X Box, but as soon as there is an X-Box card for the PC I already own, I'm there.

If you're confusing a viral marketing campaign with something that might be real news (or whatever) then it's bad design, plain and simple. If you look at the good examples, you'll quickly find something that says the internet equivalent of "Whoa there pardner, you must be at least this tall to ride this ride!" and ought to clue you in on the fact that you're in line for a roller coaster and not the cross-town bus.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:30 AM on July 13, 2009


I actually liked the languages in the first Star Wars - Chewbacca is talking to Han, but his language is so completely alien, we can't even begin to translate. Han knows the language, because he's a sophisticated space traveler, but he's physically incapable of speaking it.

Han knows wookie because he was pretty much raised by a wookie. He is far from sophisticated.
posted by djduckie at 8:36 AM on July 13, 2009


in favor of the post ... because it's relevant and has spurred some interesting discussion

no particular fan of viral marketing ... because it's fucking marketing. I hate being sold to, particularly when they're pretending not to. Just be up front about it. I've got way more important things to focus on than, "oooh, is it or isn't it for real?" And as soon as I write this, I realize I'm full of shit. I'm a big fan of viral marketing if it actually does trick me. What I instantly don't like here is that it's so instantaneously, obviously bogus ... because, bluntly there are no aliens ... except for the obvious infiltrators from, the Bush administrations, but they're not really a threat anymore.

As for the movie itself, I'm thus far in no rush to see it -- just more nasty foreigners (with weird colored skin and language and customs) out to get us in the nastiest possible way (at least that's what the trailers are selling).
posted by philip-random at 8:40 AM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


What's the imagined payoff there? How much effort is it worth? Doing a cipher instead of making a language gives you most of the benefits - it's visually alien, it's not the same placeholder text everywhere, there will be patterns there, etc. As for cons: fans can rip apart fictional games, based on even vague descriptions, & your fictional language invites a similar critique.

I guess it depends on what you're looking for in sci-fi, as either a fan or a writer. I'm an obsessive sort of sci-fi fan--I enjoy immersiveness, particularly, and stuff that takes me out of the universe rankles me. The more realistic, or at least well-thought-out, an alien culture (including language), the better.

But then, I'm a big nerd, and don't expect everyone to be as nerdy as I am.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:48 AM on July 13, 2009


I'm going to share my idea for an alien invasion movie I had around 2002 or so.

Aliens invade earth and establish a huge city somewhere in America as their capital, with a gigantic citadel in the middle of it. The main plot follows a group of 12 American freedom fighters who are engaged in a plot to blow up the citadel to liberate humans from the Alien invasion.

Towards the end of the movie, they succeed, and the citadel collapses, killing thousands of alien invaders (mostly 'innocent' civilians and bureaucrats).. suddenly the tone of the movie shifts and you spend a good amount of time seeing Aliens holding the dead and injured in their hands screaming "WHY? WHY? WHY? after we did so much for them? All we wanted to do was bring them civilization...."

Then it switches to the alien planet where they are having a great deal of discussion of whether earth culture is inherently violent and whether it should be wiped out, etc, while a gigantic armada heads towards earth...

...roll credits...

Maybe a little too on the nose....
posted by empath at 8:56 AM on July 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


Like an Afrikaans Children of Men, with added robots and aliens.

The way one of the really early teasers for this film presented itself was brilliant, in that it suggested that it was a documentary-ish piece on unwanted immigrants, and it was only at the very end did they reveal that it was actually aliens. I was so taken with the skill with which they shifted expectations that I actually gaped and dragged my wife over to watch it.

I can't watch the video links at work, so I don't know if it's attached to the main post, but damn, it really excited me to see the film. Exactly what a teaser is supposed to do.
posted by quin at 9:06 AM on July 13, 2009


But then, I'm a big nerd, and don't expect everyone to be as nerdy as I am.

Sir, you are on the Internet.

Aren't the languages that Tolkien made up legitimate languages, and not just transliterations of English? I'm thinking of Bilbo's map as it was rendered on the 2nd page of my paperback copy of the The Hobbit right now, with all those Elvish runes along the border.
posted by CRM114 at 9:09 AM on July 13, 2009


As someone who spent a good deal of junior high transcribing and translating the Elvish runes from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings: sadly, no. Most of Tolkien's illustrations with Tengwar script are just English with the letters swapped.
posted by steef at 9:15 AM on July 13, 2009


Speak, Ovaltine, and enter.
posted by steef at 9:19 AM on July 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Steef, that breaks my heart.

Also: I have made this joke.
posted by CRM114 at 9:23 AM on July 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think this is a great way of marketing. It's not even particularly viral. Instead of "LOOK AT THIS MOVIE!" posters or websites, they choose more creative and intriguing examples. Oh no, advertising that's actually witty and interesting! Shield your eyes!
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:24 AM on July 13, 2009


As someone who spent a good deal of junior high transcribing and translating the Elvish runes from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings: sadly, no. Most of Tolkien's illustrations with Tengwar script are just English with the letters swapped.

Perhaps, but Elvish is a legit language.
posted by empath at 9:26 AM on July 13, 2009


I think this is a great way of marketing. It's not even particularly viral. Instead of "LOOK AT THIS MOVIE!" posters or websites, they choose more creative and intriguing examples.

It's very like the AI promotions, except not nearly as complicated.
posted by empath at 9:27 AM on July 13, 2009


I appreciate hard science fiction, where consistency & plausibility & world-building are the order of the day, but I'm pretty forgiving. You'd probably like "Blindsight" & China Mieville books, I think.
posted by Pronoiac at 9:32 AM on July 13, 2009


W.r.t. Tolkien's languages: My recollection from memory is that only Dwarvish is not largely borrowed from an existing language. Sindarin is close kin to Welsh, Quenya to Finnish. The "mannish" languages are all coinages by the narrator -- this is what I recall him saying in the appendix to LOTR. So where he gives a placename in the Shire or in Rohan, for example, he [the narrator] is actually making up a new word that has an analogous implicit etymology. So he uses Saxon-derived words and names in Rohan because the "real" names are so alien.

(I'm vaguely surprised Tolkien doesn't get classed by some folks as a post-modern writer on the meta-narrative in the appendix to LOTR.)
posted by lodurr at 9:33 AM on July 13, 2009


Sindarin is close kin to Welsh, Quenya to Finnish.

It's a bit more complicated than that.
posted by empath at 9:48 AM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Perhaps, but Elvish is a legit language.

Yes! I did not in any way mean to diminish old J.R.R.'s proficiencies as a linguist (or an illustrator, for that matter). As a matter of fact, in the 1980s, pre-Internet, I wouldn't have been able to figure out any of the runes if he had used actual Elvish.
posted by steef at 9:48 AM on July 13, 2009


philip-random: "it's fucking marketing. I hate being sold to..."

Sadly, I think our civilization will go down in history as unable to comprehend this simple concept.
posted by sneebler at 9:54 AM on July 13, 2009


As for the movie itself, I'm thus far in no rush to see it -- just more nasty foreigners (with weird colored skin and language and customs) out to get us in the nastiest possible way (at least that's what the trailers are selling).

Did you watch the same trailer that I did? I think it's quite clear that it's the exact opposite of that.
posted by empath at 9:56 AM on July 13, 2009


On a tangent, has anyone gotten 10/10 on the "Maths from Outer Space" page? I did pretty well until it got into differentiation and I only managed to get 7/10, while an engineer friend got 9/10 and insists that one of the final problems has no solution at least from the ones presented.
posted by champthom at 10:15 AM on July 13, 2009


"it's fucking marketing. I hate being sold to..."

In this case, you're being "sold" entertainment by the creator(s) allowing you to view snippets of their ideas and related imagery, free of charge. You can choose to view or not.

This is akin to marketing a music album by playing you a few of the tracks on the radio, making a video, or providing a sample of the music in another context.

There are many reasons to be upset with aggressive marketing. Drug company ads come to mind. Movie trailers and stuff that will end up as a DVD extra? Not so much.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:16 AM on July 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Maybe he's thinking of the scene in the trailer where the officious migra guy says, with a think Afrikaner accent, "But it's definitely not a weapon." Right before he presses a button that causes the thing to go off in his face.

That was actually a neat little piece of editing. The trailer makes it look like this accident of a stupid man then provokes a major crackdown.

W.r.t. Optimus Chyme's fear it might end up as 'transformers with bugs' -- I'm not seeing that. What I've seen hinted at in the trailers and viral campaign is that all this marvelous tech that lets aliens be badass is in seriously ill-repair, and this is more like a pogrom than an invasion. I'm more worried by the hints I see about how the subplot about exploiting the aliens for technology plays out. We could end up with just a mundane conspiracy thriller in alien drag.

We'll all see when it comes out. As I've said, I'm still looking forward to it.
posted by lodurr at 10:20 AM on July 13, 2009


As for the movie itself, I'm thus far in no rush to see it -- just more nasty foreigners (with weird colored skin and language and customs) out to get us in the nastiest possible way (at least that's what the trailers are selling).

Did you watch the same trailer that I did? I think it's quite clear that it's the exact opposite of that.


I watched the trailer on the first link, not all the way through. It got exciting and violent and that's usually where I tune out. I just watched it again all the way through and ... it seems ambiguous at best as to who the baddies actually are. But that doesn't take away from the fact that what's being sold here is FEAR, definitely of the xenophobic variety, with a dollop of high-level conspiracy paranoia thrown in.

I'm not saying it won't be successful, possibly even fun. I am saying that it won't be able to hold a candle to The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension.
posted by philip-random at 10:21 AM on July 13, 2009


"it's fucking marketing. I hate being sold to..."

And now, in it's original context (with bold added for emphasis).

"because it's fucking marketing. I hate being sold to, particularly when they're pretending not to. Just be up front about it. I've got way more important things to focus on"

And then, in case you missed it, I went on to say ...

And as soon as I write this, I realize I'm full of shit. I'm a big fan of viral marketing if it actually does trick me.

But this didn't even begin to trick me, therefore ...
posted by philip-random at 10:25 AM on July 13, 2009


But that doesn't take away from the fact that what's being sold here is FEAR, definitely of the xenophobic variety, with a dollop of high-level conspiracy paranoia thrown in.

I think it's pretty clear that it's going to be a fairly complex examination of racism, immigration, terrorism and occupation using aliens as an allegory for whichever underclass you want to equate them with.

Though personally, I think it would be more interesting to reverse it.
posted by empath at 10:30 AM on July 13, 2009


yeh, i saw when you said that, phillip-random. i had a couple of reactions to it.

one was a kind of visceral disagreement: I really HATE viral marketing MOST OF ALL when it tricks me.

second was that i don't think we'd mean the same thing by "trick." What you describe, I'd call "telling the story." A trick would be, for example, trying to literally convince people that there really was a trio of feckless college-age filmmakers who got lost in the woods in NJ while filming a documentary about a local witch legend. Or that there were dilapidated alien motherships hanging in the sky over Joburg.

This kind of thing is trying to consciously draw people into a game. It gives them free and informed choice about whether they want to participate. That's why I like it. It doesn't pay people the disrespect of trying to trick them into something.
posted by lodurr at 10:32 AM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


empath, can you expand on "reverse it"? What do you mean by that -- tell from alien POV? Or put humans on an alien world? Or something else? Are you keying off your earlier scenario?
posted by lodurr at 10:33 AM on July 13, 2009


If you read the plot outline at wikipedia (some spoilers, obviously) in conjunction with watching the trailer, its pretty clear who the bad guys are.

copy and paste tiny type to read (speculative) spoilers

MNU is the multinational that keeps the alients in the refugee camp, and is trying to unlock their technology. Its pretty obvious, with them being so obviously a 'mulitnational', and the squalor that the aliens are kept in, that MNU are going to be the main bad guys. The 'MNU field operative' who you see get sprayed by the weapon in the trailer, contracts a virus that starts to change his DNA. This gives him control over the alien tech and so makes him very valuable to the multinational. He escapes from the MNU people (clips in the trailer show him taking control of alien weapons and doing escape-like-stuff). Wikipedia says there is only one place for him to hide - District 9. Probably, while there, he comes to see the aliens point of view (remember he starts the film as an agent whose job is to keep the aliens 'in check'). I reckon that is him inside the mech-suit because you see him suiting-up in the trailer. There is a clip in the trailer where a soldier shoots a missle at a space-shuttle thing, and the fallen-mech suit raises and arm and grabs the missile. I expect this is the human dude inside the mech suit, doing what he can to help the aliens. So Aliens = misunderstood, good (and according to wikipedia they are literally refugees). MNU = corporate, bad. Bloke who gets sprayed = bad to good character arc. Hopefully there will be a lot more to it than that, though.
posted by memebake at 10:42 AM on July 13, 2009


aaarrghh sorry, my tiny-type spoiler thing didn't work. Someone please delete or fix : (
posted by memebake at 10:42 AM on July 13, 2009


empath, can you expand on "reverse it"? What do you mean by that -- tell from alien POV? Or put humans on an alien world? Or something else? Are you keying off your earlier scenario?

I think it would be more interesting tp put humans into the apartheid situation on an alien world, because it's easy enough to other-ize the underclass as it is without making them literally aliens.
posted by empath at 10:50 AM on July 13, 2009


The alternate trailer here, also makes it pretty clear who the bad guys are.
posted by memebake at 10:53 AM on July 13, 2009


My viral marketing tolerance increases with its transparency - that is, I dig fake sites that are obviously fake, but expand and explore ideas from the film. The campaign for The Dark Knight was a good example of this - I had a gas reading The Gotham Times, the Jokerized versions of the same and Harvey Dent's campaign site in the run-up to the film - it was a lot of fun and, yeah, I think it in some small measure enriched the viewing experience when the movie finally came out. Certainly more interesting than a series of trailers which blow more and more of the best scenes from the film.

Viral marketing that tries to stealth a commercial out there is the lameness, though. The result is usually ridiculous, embarrassing bullshit that does a product more harm than good.

Of course, I reckon everyone has their own personal cut-off point. I downright enjoy fake sites that flesh out a mythos, but it'll be a quiet day in Valhalla before I ever take part in an ARG. Who has the time? Chuckling at a pretend newspaper is one thing - it's quite another to put on some Joker make-up and go on a scavenger hunt. I've gotta get to work!
posted by EatTheWeak at 11:27 AM on July 13, 2009


> You're one of those people who buys things from spam, eh?

I am if you're one of those people who equate beautifully crafted media with spam.
posted by bz at 11:28 AM on July 13, 2009


think it would be more interesting tp put humans into the apartheid situation on an alien world, because it's easy enough to other-ize the underclass as it is without making them literally aliens.

I think this would be less interesting, actually, because it'd probably just turn into a generic "underdog humans beat evil space greenies" storyline.
posted by AdamCSnider at 11:33 AM on July 13, 2009


I think it would be more interesting tp put humans into the apartheid situation on an alien world, because it's easy enough to other-ize the underclass as it is without making them literally aliens.

cf. Octavia Butler's Bloodchild as a story that looks at this type of relationship (amongst others) between humans and aliens.
posted by never used baby shoes at 11:33 AM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was just talking about this campaign with my girlfriend, and how uncomfortable the use of racist and xenophobic iconography in a "camp" manner made us in Southern California. I realize that this is all, like, ironic, man, but with Minutemen actually kicking down doors and shooting innocent people, effectively playing that as comedic seems really off in tone.
posted by klangklangston at 11:34 AM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


empath: I hear you, but I actually think that would not work very well in practice. I don't think most storytellers could pull that off. It would end up being message-heavy and get rejected by the memetic immune system.
posted by lodurr at 11:35 AM on July 13, 2009


empath: Try Fantastic Planet.
posted by Pronoiac at 11:58 AM on July 13, 2009


I think this would be less interesting, actually, because it'd probably just turn into a generic "underdog humans beat evil space greenies" storyline.

I wonder if using aliens as a substitute for human culture is inherently problematic. War of the Worlds could be read as a commentary on European colonialism, but I wonder how many people got that when it was written.

The only way to make it interesting (to me) is if the alien culture substitutes for what would typically be the dominant culture of the intended audience, and the human characters substitute for what the audience would typically see as the alien/foreign culture. But if the audience doesn't at some point see the allegory, then the whole thing falls apart or even becomes counterproductive.

That's why I think this movie is more interesting than, say, Independence day, because the imagery is so gritty and real. It doesn't look like movie reality, it looks like the TV news.
posted by empath at 12:04 PM on July 13, 2009


Advertising as best of the web? Really?

Sadly, yes.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:09 PM on July 13, 2009


Spoiler: In Fantastic Planet, humanity fought oppressors by cockblocking an entire race. The ensuing "WTF" probably backs lodurr's assumption.
posted by Pronoiac at 12:09 PM on July 13, 2009


klangklangston, the xenophobic imagery probably appeals to a fair amount of people in CA and other places, who may go to the theater expecting a bug-hunt movie (which I think this is not) and getting something substantially different (hopefully).

I am all for trailers and campaigns that represent the film in a few different ways, because I don't want to go to the theater knowing exactly what I'm getting into. I say, if you have a complex film that somehow made it through the studio wringer, advertise it as a romance! A comedy! A mystery! A vampire movie! Keep people guessing. I'm OK with that, because I like surprises.

Obviously this won't work for Terminator IV or Rocky IX, but for a non-franchise film, go for it! Keep 'em guessing.
posted by Mister_A at 12:16 PM on July 13, 2009


I can't believe I said "amount of people," as if you can buy 'em in bulk at the deli or the Whole Foods bins. I'll take 300 kg of people, please! And some shrimp.
posted by Mister_A at 1:18 PM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I feel like the identification with an other is more transformative if you can be made to cross some boundary for it.

If you are presented with an underdog group with whom you have obvious affinity, you may find it too easy to identify with them, IOW. Embattled human minority in alien city? We're with the humans! Unless you can pull some kind of switch, people won't be doing much stretching to get your points.

Shift a bit, and you can see that you might also have the opposite problem: It becomes too hard for some people to make a connection because they're too close to the situation as long at the people look just enough different from them. For example, make your embattled human minority have characteristics that are mapped as undesirable in the viewer's social context. If you're making a film in the US, make them black or latino; if you're in ZA, make them Zimbabwean, I guess. A good chunk of your audience already hates those people, and won't make the reach.

Shift again: Make it an embattled alien minority, and you can potentially eliminate both problems. You're not talking about Same anymore, so you can force people to reach for an Other. You're not talking about Brown People (to put it in American terms) anymore, so the hobbled racists in the audience can make the stretch. So, if you do it right, it can work better.

This is related to but maybe not the same as the old idea that you can often get people to understand your core message better if it's projected onto a more detached frame. People have less at stake -- they can be persuaded to consider things they would never consider in their own context. So people could get more of the message from Swift because he wasn't talking about Englishmen; you can tolerate watching Sneetches duke it out over status even if you're a status-obsessed middle-american or middle-american-wannabe.

Put another way: A good metaphor can be a step on the way to real-world understanding.
posted by lodurr at 1:44 PM on July 13, 2009


I hope this isn't too spammy, but I wrote a comic years ago for SLG that did almost exactly this with zombies; with the publisher's permission, I've taken the graphic novel and blogged it page by page. The page-a-day comic blog started last Monday, July 6.

Again, not trying to spam: the comic was about finding interesting and intelligent ways to talk about underclasses, othering, and shifts from being Other to being integrated in society, using the undead as the Big Metaphor. Based on the comments of empath and lodurr and others, I honestly think it will be of interest to a lot of you as it develops.
posted by Shepherd at 1:55 PM on July 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Shepherd, it reminds me of Ed Helms's "Zombie-American" clip. It's cool that they're letting you do that. I suspect it will increase back-number sales on the title.

Anyway: Isn't that what the last Romero Living Dead flick was about -- class, race and social mobility, with zombies as the metaphor? (Didn't get around to seeing it, but that's how friends described it to me.)
posted by lodurr at 2:14 PM on July 13, 2009


I can't believe I said "amount of people," as if you can buy 'em in bulk at the deli or the Whole Foods bins.

That might be a good plot device in the type of story empath is proposing though.
posted by never used baby shoes at 2:29 PM on July 13, 2009


it reminds me of Ed Helms's "Zombie-American" clip.

Or American Zombie which is an actual full length movie done documentary style.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:00 PM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


if anyone wants to make a comic out of my idea, feel free :)
posted by empath at 3:10 PM on July 13, 2009


Shepherd: are you intentionally keeping your name away from your comic site?
posted by Pronoiac at 3:19 PM on July 13, 2009


On a tangent, has anyone gotten 10/10 on the "Maths from Outer Space" page? I did pretty well until it got into differentiation and I only managed to get 7/10, while an engineer friend got 9/10 and insists that one of the final problems has no solution at least from the ones presented. - champthon



I'm seeing no correct answer given for question number 6, the highest order term is clearly 12 x^3 but only options are 1 and 3 ????

adipocere claims to have gotten 10/10, can you explain what they mean there?
posted by oblio_one at 3:36 PM on July 13, 2009


I had never heard of American Zombie. Cripes. I need to get in touch with those people and send them a copy of the GN -- I'm sure they'd love it. And thanks for the note, Proniac -- it was nothing intentional, and I've adjusted the header.
posted by Shepherd at 3:56 PM on July 13, 2009


champthon, I got a 10/10. They made a mistake with the differentiation problem. The final problem is actually easy if you have the necessary math knowledge, I figure mainly those who did physics and math as undergrads and remember it. (There's a trick to solving it, the integral doesn't have to be evaluated, the answer is 0)

However, don't worry about it. I got a 404 upon completion. Bleh, I was hoping for something interesting.
posted by Hactar at 4:19 PM on July 13, 2009


I was going to post a cheat sheet, but the questions vary. I got 9/10 before.
posted by Pronoiac at 4:23 PM on July 13, 2009


Han knows wookie because he was pretty much raised by a wookie.
He also knows Huttese, at the very least. I was going to also say "Whateverthehellgreedospeaksese" too, but Wikipedia informs me that Greedo is a "Rodian", and that the main language of Rodians is Huttese.

Are there any Star Wars characters that don't understand all other Star Wars characters, no matter what language is used?

And isn't C3P0 supposed to be a "translator"? No wonder why he has all that free time to hop around the galaxy.
posted by Flunkie at 4:40 PM on July 13, 2009


Are there any Star Wars characters that don't understand all other Star Wars characters, no matter what language is used?

C3PO translates for Jabba when they're about to pitch Han and Luke into the Sarlacc pit. Presumably, Jabba forced him to do this because wanted to be certain he was understood by everyone assembled. Or maybe he was just getting off on being in a position of power.

Uncle Ben pointedly asks C3PO if he can speak to a certain class of droid, presumably because he can't, or has trouble doing so.

C3PO translates the story of our heroes to the Ewoks.

There are likely other examples I'm not thinking of.

NERRRRRRRRRD!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:59 PM on July 13, 2009


Uncle Owen. Apparently I'm not nerdy enough.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:05 PM on July 13, 2009


There are likely other examples I'm not thinking of.

He translates for R2D2 on more than one occasion...

And he's fluent in 'over six million forms of communication'

I'm just guessing now, but I think George just pulled that figure out of his ass. (I mean I guess it could work if there are 2000+ worlds as balkanised as Earth... but the 'Wars Universe is kinda big on homogenized planets)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:21 PM on July 13, 2009


Re: the plausibility of C3PO being fluent in 'over six million forms of communication'

From the example of the 'binary language of moisture vaporators' I think it's reasonable to assume that a large percentage of those six million forms of communication are protocols for communicating with droids and other computerized things. There are a hundred or so network protocols listed in Wikipedia, so it's easy to see how electronic forms of communication would outnumber natural ones.
posted by jedicus at 6:36 PM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


There are a hundred or so network protocols listed in Wikipedia, so it's easy to see how electronic forms of communication would outnumber natural ones.

And referring to fluency in a computer protocol as if it were a language spoken by sentients makes a lot more sense in the Star Wars universe, which heavily anthropomorphizes computers (both anthropomorphic-looking and not).
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:50 PM on July 13, 2009


I don't think you need to go that far. I think Lucas just didn't know much about computers or networking, and probably didn't care to. Someone mentioned the existence of "computer languages", and he ran with the metaphor. Anthropomorphism was going on, but the more important thing was this concept of "true language" -- magical language, if you will, which is capable of causing action at a distance.

This idea is also prominent in SF, but it's usually more carefully connected to mechanism. (Look at Stephenson's Snow Crash for a painfully clear example.) Even in the wildest contemporary ubicomp fantasies, there's a technical mechanism that the author can at least handwave-at. In the Lucasian universe, though, the handwaves are exceedingly shallow and painfully inconsistent.

I think the key is that Star Wars is not really Science Fiction, it's really High Fantasy with a language shift. Even the technology is really just magic. This is also true of almost all space opera, IMHO. (FWIW, IMO all SF is fantasy. Fantasy is thick with sub-genres that have their own more-rigorous rules. SF is just the largest and one of the more rigorous.)
posted by lodurr at 6:01 AM on July 14, 2009


District 9 Really Is All About Apartheid
posted by homunculus at 6:09 PM on July 17, 2009


Well, no, that's not what he said. Sorry to seem picky about this, but it bugs me when people latch onto easy hot-button skeleton-key explanations for a book or film.

What Jackson said was:
But Neill grew up in the dying days of apartheid in South Africa and he saw all the ugliness and all the brutality and how it affects people in different ways and all that is in the movie.
Charlie Jane Anders goes on to say, quoting Blomkamp:
As for Blomkamp, he says he has a love/hate relationship with Johannesburg, and that the city's insane crime level gives it a feeling of living on the edge. And it turns out the filming of District 9 coincided with real-life massacres of Zimbabwean refugees living in nearby shanty towns:
It was completely barbaric what happened and that was the same day we started rolling cameras on a film that was about the residents of Joburg wanting a foreign race out. So all of a sudden I am making a film which within South African has this massive political point of view but really that isn't what we set out to do. So I hope that the residents of Joburg don't take it the wrong way.
So it's fair to say that it's not "about" the massacre of Zimbabwean refugees, but in no way do Anders's quotes from Jackson demonstrate that the film is "about apartheid" in any specific sense.
posted by lodurr at 6:50 AM on July 18, 2009


Early Impressions of "District 9"
posted by homunculus at 3:06 PM on July 24, 2009


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