Sunday, March 10, 2019

"Take this pink ribbon off my eyes": 5 notes on Captain Marvel

1) Annette Bening's work as the Supreme Intelligence in Captain Marvel was almost enough for me to forgive her for starring in 20th Century Women.

2) It's not hard to root for Brie Larson. Now, two of the stars of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World have large superhero franchises, which only seems fitting.

3) In this short-attention-span-junkfood-saturated-with-media environment we live in where our phones devour hours of our attention each day with addictive devices and apps, one likes to think that the Marvel studio executives know what they are doing by now. But still, I find it ironic that we can take pleasure in watching Brie Larson assume her superpowers partially because Marvel movies have always starred male leads. It's about time that changed. The fact that she's not some hulking muscle-inflated stud grunting out pronouncements of arrogant male privilege can still delight, just as Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman did. Later in the movie, after many actions scenes that often involve fire bolts shooting out of her hands, Carol Danvers/Vers/Captain Marvel still takes a moment to help Nick Fury (a weirdly digitally de-aged Samuel L. Jackson) do the dishes. I don't remember Thanos doing anything like that in Avengers: Infinity War. As a star, Brie Larson remains recognizably human in spite of the corporate carpet-bombing synergistic media campaign swirling around her.

4) I did like the movie, and yet . . . how many unnecessary problems this film has. An early scene involves Vers and various Star Force Kree warriors infiltrating some planet on a secret night mission, and I could hardly tell what was going on as the green lizard shapeshifter people known as the Skrulls guerrilla fight Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) and his gang in the dark purple murk.  Then movie treats us to a clumsy dream/exposition sequence where Vers memory allows her to bop around her past life as she faced various challenges (a go-cart race, an Air Force bootcamp rope to climb, etc). Also, we see her drunkenly singing in a bar, and all of these skittering non-scenes are incoherently accompanied by some Skrull barking in a voiceover. I think that the Skrulls were mining her mind for some secrets concerning the Supreme Intelligence or something, but I can't imagine that green lizard men with large ears will age well.

5) Fortunately, the lighting and the humor improve once Vers crash lands on earth back in the 90s, in a Blockbuster Video store. Once she changes into a Nine Inch Nails t-shirt and jeans, hops on a stolen motorcycle, joins the de-aged Fury, and sets out on her journey to learn just what those mysterious glowing early dreams mean, the movie finds its footing. There's a scene-stealing cat, many jet fights in outer space, No Doubt's "Just a Girl" playing over a slightly better lit later fight scene, and bolts of light-speed engine-worthy photon blast energy erupting out of Captain Marvel's eyes and hair. It's about bloody time.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

automate us links

---"I know the science is true, I know the threat is all-encompassing, and I know its effects, should emissions continue unabated, will be terrifying. And yet, when I imagine my life three decades from now, or the life of my daughter five decades now, I have to admit that I am not imagining a world on fire but one similar to the one we have now. That is how hard it is to shake complacency. We are all living in delusion, unable to really process the news from science that climate change amounts to an all-encompassing threat. Indeed, a threat the size of life itself."  --from David Wallace-Wells' "Time to Panic"

---"Children of Men: Why Alfonso Cuaron's Anti-Blade Runner looks more relevant than ever" by Stephen Dalton

---A Night at the Garden

---"At its peak the planet’s fourth most valuable company, and arguably its most influential, is controlled almost entirely by a young man with the charisma of a geometry T.A. The totality of this man’s professional life has been running this company, which calls itself 'a platform.' Company, platform — whatever it is, it provides a curious service wherein billions of people fill it with content: baby photos, birthday wishes, concert promotions, psychotic premonitions of Jewish lizard-men. No one is paid by the company for this labor; on the contrary, users are rewarded by being tracked across the web, even when logged out, and consequently strip-mined by a complicated artificial intelligence trained to sort surveilled information into approximately 29,000 predictive data points, which are then made available to advertisers and other third parties, who now know everything that can be known about a person without trepanning her skull. Amazingly, none of this is secret, despite the company’s best efforts to keep it so. Somehow, people still use and love this platform."  --Tom Bissell

---"Why I Quit Entertainment Journalism" by Phil Brown

Shroooms from C A T K on Vimeo.

---“Forget the cliché that if it’s free, ‘You are the product,’” she exhorts. “You are not the product; you are the abandoned carcass. The ‘product’ derives from the surplus that is ripped from your life.” The worst, though, is still to come, she argues, as tech giants shift from predicting behavior to engineering it. “It is no longer enough to automate information flows about us,” she warns; “the goal now is to automate us.”  --Evgeny Morozov quoting Shoshana Zuboff in "Capitalism's New Clothes"

--"It’s a great time to be someone who makes things because there are lots of places to go and they’re all hungry for content. That’s the good news. The obvious problem is how to draw eyeballs to your project against a level of competition that was unimaginable when I was coming up in the business. I would never have thought people would be targeted with so much content all day, every day. I just couldn’t have imagined it. Given it’s impossible to get eyes on everything, I think most people are looking for a filter. That can come in a variety of guises. It can be a filmmaker, it can be a genre, it could be a certain platform that you’ve become loyal to. Any of these things can help the viewer cleave their way through all of these options, but it’s hard. Like I said, it’s a great time to be making stuff. It’s just harder and harder to be the signal in the midst of all the noise." --Steven Soderbergh

---"Nolan Book 2.0: Cerebral blockbusters meet blunt-force cinephilia" by David Bordwell

---previewing Tarantino's "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood"

Sunday, January 20, 2019

surveillance capitalism links

---David Bordwell revisits Hitchcock's Notorious

---"The Best Video Essays of 2018" via BFI

---6 Filmmaking Tips from Barry Jenkins

---"The 50 Most Anticipated American Films of 2019" by Dan Schoenbrun

---Kim Morgan discusses The Long Goodbye with Elliot Gould

---"Under the regime of surveillance capitalism, it is not enough simply to gather information about what people do. Eventually, you have to influence behavior, beyond the simple suasion practiced by targeted ads. It’s not about showing someone the right ad; you have to show it at the right place and time, with the language and imagery calibrated for precise effect. You have to lead people through the physical world, making them show up at the sponsored pop-up store or vote for the preferred candidate. Armed with a veritable real-time feed of a user’s thoughts and feelings, companies are beginning to practice just this kind of coercion, which is why you might see makeup ads before a Friday evening out or why inducements from a personal injury lawyer might pop up on your phone as you sit in a hospital waiting room. When we want things — health information, travel schedules, a date — is also when we are most vulnerable, when intimate data yield themselves for corporate capture. 'The result,' as Zuboff notes, 'is a perverse amalgam of empowerment inextricably layered with diminishment.' We seem ever more exposed to and dependent on surveillance capitalists, our benevolent info-lords, but their operations are defined by opacity, corporate secrecy and the scrim of technological authority."  --from "How Tech Companies Manipulate Our Personal Data" by Jacob Silverman

---"What's Not to Love? The New Wave of Unlikable Women in Cinema" by Anne Billson

---"Edited By"

---"How Millenials Became the Burnout Generation" by Anne Helen Petersen

---Three Reasons: Harold and Maude

---"An unapologetically mean review, too, is a big swing, and the ultimate weapon for passionate but principled critics who want to love everything but will not hesitate to really, really, really hate something. A truly vicious pan, a merciless slam, a full-scale ethering is born of a righteous fury that can transmute into pure joy. 'The secret of the bad review is that you can get a lot of pleasure out of it,' A.O. Scott tells me, chatting via phone in late December. 'It is a kind of a dopamine rush. First of all, editors—especially editors at The New York Times—love it. They love bad reviews. And they’re fun to do because they give you access to a lot of writerly tools that are fun to use. You can be funny. You can be clever. What you’re doing is, you’re demonstrating your superiority to a thing that you’re writing about.'"  --Rob Harvilla

A FICTIVE FLIGHT ABOVE REAL MARS from Jan Fröjdman on Vimeo.

---Vimeo's Best Shorts of 2018

---"Elaine May" by Melissa Anderson