Saturday, July 19, 2014

patriarchal lie links

---Random Stop

---The Coen Brothers--Men of Constant Sorrow

---making The Royal Tenenbaums

---Saute ma ville

---"The ‘70s really were a golden age. It is even more apparent now. Last year was a great year for movies. This year, so far, it’s the pits. It’s not as if good films aren’t being made. Brad Pitt ('12 Years a Slave,' the upcoming 'Selma') and George Clooney ('Argo,'  'August: Osage County'), for example, are trying to do quality work on a studio scale. The problem is the dominance of the overseas market." --Peter Biskind

---Interiors magazine considers Memento

---filmmaking tips from Terry Gilliam

---"This pretentiousness is the newest incarnation of Hollywood’s compensatory bigness, as movies are always said to be imperiled by new technology. Superman can no longer be a well-meaning alien boy scout who masquerades as a bumbling reporter. He must now be a Christ surrogate who trades portentous looks with Lois Lane in place of banter. The Transformers movies can’t be tidy little toy advertisements that deliver their set pieces in a reasonable ninety or a hundred minutes or so. They must be three-hour war films that are blessed with the production values that are pragmatically denied of filmmakers who might have an actual vision to impart. And so on. Jettisoned for this seriousness is everything else a pop movie can be reasonably expected to provide: characters, plot, dialogue, comedy, sex, or, in short, the expansive possibility of untethered imagination." --Chuck Bowen

---The New Pornographers' "War on the East Coast"

---"How to / Why Leave Facebook" by Nick Briz

---"The persistence of this decline reinforces the claim that audiences do not flex to the ‘strength’ (or number) of the films released in any given period. Instead, each film selected by a movie-goer comes at the expense of another.

Though population growth has partially offset this decline, at 0.9% per year it’s far from enough. North American audiences are rapidly substituting other forms of entertainment for the theatrical experience, a trend that’s likely driven by the strength of present-day television, the value of OTT video services, and the proliferation of console and mobile gaming. Moreover, these assailants are unlikely to leave any time soon." --Liam Boluck and Prashob Menon

---trailers for God Help the Girl, The One I Love, My Old Lady, I Origins, Gone Girl, Young Onesand Ida 

---Richard Linklater talks with Matthew McConaughey

---50 essential feminist films

---“When I shoot, I try to feel the body and the face and the weight of the actor, because the character until that moment is only in the pages of the script. And very often, I pull from the life of my actors. I’m always curious about what these characters and these actors are hiding about their lives.”  --Bernardo Bertolucci

---David Fincher's use of color

---"While 'Under the Skin' purports to ponder mankind as regarded by an objective, alien gaze, the movie is also a documentary portrait of its wildly objectified star. Ms. Johansson is a sacred monster. What makes the movie most uncanny is the knowledge that her sexy vampire is not a man-hungry femme fatale but an implacable, agendered It." --J. Hoberman

---discussing Don't Look Back

---"I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to pop culture: I’m sorry for creating this unstoppable monster. Seven years after I typed that fateful phrase, I’d like to join Kazan and Green in calling for the death of the 'Patriarchal Lie' of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. I would welcome its erasure from public discourse. I’d applaud an end to articles about its countless different permutations. Let’s all try to write better, more nuanced and multidimensional female characters: women with rich inner lives and complicated emotions and total autonomy, who might strum ukuleles or dance in the rain even when there are no men around to marvel at their free-spiritedness. But in the meantime, Manic Pixies, it’s time to put you to rest." --Nathan Rabin

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Monkeyshines: 4 notes on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

1) Perhaps I shouldn't have watched the visual effects featurette beforehand, because I couldn't help seeing the strain in Dawn of the Planet of the Apesmotion-capture acting, the convenient plotting that maintains conflict, and the self-congratulatory blockbuster-worthy earnestness of it all. In the featurette, the director Matt Reeves talks about his attempts to get to the emotions of his audience. Perhaps consequently, I was unfavorably struck by the movie's many manipulative tender scenes. We see the leader of the apes Caesar (Andy Serkis) gazing off into the rainy redwood forest outside of San Francisco, maudlin family scenes with Caesar's sickly wife and computer-generated baby chimpanzee cooing like a simian variation of the little CGI monster baby of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, sympathetic human Malcolm (Jason Clarke) touching foreheads with Caesar in a cross-species moment of trust, father-son bonding between Caesar and his sensitive older son Blue Eyes, and, lastly, Caesar's many gestures of leadership, such as when he stands up straight and says things like "Apes don't want war but will fight if we must" and "Ape home. Do not come back" and "Ape not kill ape" and "I will decide by morning" as he looks proudly to the left with the weight of the apes' fate on his noble shoulders.

2) I guess I just like my movies to be more subversive, with more trickster figures, but Matt Reeves keeps a tight focus on a small colony of earnest humans in San Francisco after "ten winters" and a Contagion-like flu has wiped out 99% of the humans from the earth. Naturally, the small colony have many guns on hand to enhance later scenes. In the nearby woods, the apes like to decorate with large logs scattered around in pick-up-sticks fashion. Naturally, they live practically on top of a hydroelectric dam that could bring power to the poor Franciscans who just want to use it to communicate with someone else by radio, if anyone else exists on earth. Of course, there are no other energy sources around. I did like the grunge look of post-apocalyptic humans, with many characters wearing jeans, construction boots, and long sleeve henley t-shirts. The city overtaken by wildlife looks cool, and the apes move well en masse, swarming over the Golden Gate bridge as if the movie's director was raised on Vertigo.

3) I kept looking for Gary Oldman (who plays colony leader Dreyfus) to apologize for his Playboy interview during his speeches to his fellow humans.

4) Caesar's Scar-like sidekick Koba (Toby Kebell) does have playful moments in the midst of spying on the humans' massive arsenal. To defuse tension with 2 armed men that he encounters, Koba romps around, rolls over, lounges back on a seat, steals their bottle of liquor, tries to drink, and then splatters them with alcohol. He fools them into complacency before taking a gun and spraying them with machine gun fire. Koba's monkeyshines bring the film to life, but the few lighter scenes emphasize the programmatic nature of everything else--every bomb, tower, climactic fight, and plot twist betraying the blockbuster conventions peeking through the scenic ruins. I could picture noble Caesar sitting on his horse, straightening his back, and saying "Caesar tired of all this posturing. Apes need to set up sequel. Humans eager to repeat mistakes of 'civilization' by seeing more movies of this ilk."

Friday, July 4, 2014

twee links

---Mick Jagger discusses Monty Python

---What's On Your Mind?

---What is Bayhem?

---Samuel Fuller: The Men Who Made the Movies

---"You’re Twee if you like artisanal hot sauce. You’re Twee if you hate bullies. Indeed, it’s Spitz’s contention that we’re all a bit Twee: the culture has turned. Twee’s core values include 'a healthy suspicion of adulthood'; 'a steadfast focus on our essential goodness'; 'the cultivation of a passion project' (T-shirt company, organic food truck); and 'the utter dispensing with of ‘cool’ as it’s conventionally known, often in favor of a kind of fetishization of the nerd, the geek, the dork, the virgin.'"

---"B-Movie Title Design of the 1960s"

---The Trumbull Effect

---Robots in Film

---Meryl Streep on Beauty

---"the rapid rise of the term normcore is an indication of how the cultural idea of disappearing has become cool at the very historical moment when it has become almost impossible because of big data and widespread surveillance. Blending in gives you a particular kind of power when standing out means being put on the no-fly list for 10 years or a predictive-policing heat list in Chicago, or earns you a chilling anonymous SMS for attending a street protest in Ukraine." --Kate Crawford

---cartoon suicides

---trailers for The Skeleton Twins, Love Is Strange, Fury, Listen Up Philip, All Is By My Side, St. Vincent, Life After Beth, Before I Go to Sleep, and Rich Hill

---"People are taking the piss out of you every day."

---Boyhood featurette

---"in Rabbit at Rest (1990), cultural tidbits start to take on the same indistinct shape as his own life’s events: 'Like everything else on the news, you get bored, disasters get to seem a gimmick, like all those TV timeouts in football.' As hard as Rabbit tries to beat back his dread with the 'win' signifiers of his era — wealth, an affair, a few chummy but superficial friendships, an uneven golf game — none of Rabbit’s fixes last. His . . . unrelenting nostalgia for his own lonely past are encapsulated and eventually superseded by a steady flow of trivial distractions. That moment in the novel when a leap of a man into the air on a Toyota commercial ('Oh, what a feeling!') yields to the cold air above Lockerbie demonstrates exactly how the enthusiasms of American life thinly mask the specter of death. When Rabbit unceremoniously falls dead of a heart attack, it’s clear that this is how most stories will end. Even as he lies dying, his son insists on Frosted Flakes over bran cereals, and the newspaper arrives, blaring 'Hugo Clobbers South Carolina.'" --Heather Havrilesky

---"A Handy Tip for the Easily Distracted" by Miranda July

---the earliest known Talking Heads recordings

---"Twees, as I saw them, were souls with an almost incapacitating awareness of darkness, death and cruelty, who made the personal choice to focus on essential goodness and sweetness. They kept a tether to childhood and innocence and a tether to adulthood as is required by the politically and socially active." --Marc Spitz

---Lost Kubrick

---the long shots of Paul Thomas Anderson

---"The lyric essay is all-telling, all the time. A snippet of image here, a stray bit of dialog there, nested in the telling: the logic of the traditional story reversed. It purposefully avoids a steady progression towards meaning, a predictable arc of exposition, climax, revelation, and denouement, preferring instead allusive, anecdotal, and abstract swipes at an opaque theme. In their introduction to the Fall 1997 issue of The Seneca Review, Deborah Tall and John D’Agata christened and defined the lyric essay. It 'forsake[s] narrative line, discursive logic, and the art of persuasion in favor of idiosyncratic meditation…It might move by association, leaping from one path of thought to another by way of imagery or connotation, advancing by juxtaposition or sidewinding poetic logic. Generally it is short, concise and punchy like a prose poem. But it may meander, making use of other genres when they serve its purpose: recombinant, it samples the techniques of fiction, drama, journalism, song, and film.' It is, in other words, a mash-up: borrowing from all, beholden to none. It likes to betray the genres from which it borrows, making wily little jabs at their most dearly held conventions. It mocks creative nonfiction in its manipulation of facts: sometimes reinventing them for the sake of 'art,' sometimes subverting their claim to objective truth by repeating or removing them from context. It mocks fiction in using these untruths, these distorted or altered facts, not as story but as dry, lyrically stylized information." --Sarah Menkedick

Monday, June 30, 2014

Refusing to be a shoe and other subversive pleasures of Bong Joon-ho's Snowpiercer

When I saw the trailer for Bong Joon-ho's Snowpiercer, I thought the premise of class warfare on a train was too schematic, obvious, and implausible, but after having enjoyed the movie twice, I found that the film's compressed treatment of the psychology of the oppressed and the oppressor rings true. Ideologically, and in terms of film technique, the movie is fascinating. Who is Bong Joon-ho? Why does he make so many allusions to films such as The Fifth Element, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The Truman Show, and others? There is so much to cinematically savor--the parallels with Nazis transporting people in railway cars, the color juxtapositions in the set design, the dramatic contrast between the largely dead future world (which in other movies such as Cormac McCarthy's The Road tend to be drearily slow) and the speeding train, the dynamics of the racial diversity in the international cast, the use of space to show class divisions.  Underlying all of this is the main emphasis on power and leadership, how the rich enjoy their position in part by ignoring the sufferings of the poor, and how the poor resist becoming commodities to be devoured.

The film begins with the news that in an attempt to engineer a solution to global warming by releasing a chemical "CW-7" into the air, scientists have ironically ended up plunging the planet into a new ice age. The only human survivors ride a train that perpetually circles the globe. While the poor in the tail of the train suffer every kind of privation--layers of grime, hunger, the harvesting of their children, etc., the rich lead much more pleasant if surreal lives in ways that suggest an updating of Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927) or the more recent Titanic. As Curtis, Chris Evans depicts a man reluctant to lead, and he's surrounded by recognizable types--the fiery younger sidekick Edgar (Jamie Bell), the wise man (John Hurt) who evokes a similar role in Midnight Express (1978), and Tanya (Octavia Spencer) a mom militantly outraged by the loss of her young boy. Tilda Swinton plays a grotesque clownishly vicious functionary named Mason with fake teeth and gangly glasses. She gives speeches where she encourages the lower classes to "Know your place! Accept your place! Be a shoe!" as one of her minions, as an example to others, publicly tortures someone who openly revolted against the system. She also castigates the rebels for having the "misplaced optimism of the doomed."

After figuring out a way to get out of the first railway car, Curtis opens a morgue-like drawer to uncover a delightfully sulky and drug-addicted expert in unlocking train car doors (Kang-ho Song) and his 17 year old daughter Yona (Ah-sung Ko) who turns out to be clairvoyant like the character River Tam in Serenity (2005) (with Snowpiercer, one can tease out the implications of these pop culture associations all day). As the rebel crew works its way forward in the train, each new door has surprises behind it. When the rebels find one train car filled with brutish enforcers with face masks and axes clearly placed there to kill them, Joon-ho leisurely lingers on the thugs as they ritualistically anoint their axes with the blood of a large fish. This scene becomes a discourse on extreme lighting changes, slow-motion action, and soft piano music highlighted with blood. Afterwards, the rebels incongruously find themselves in a brightly colored school for kids who are all well-indoctrinated by the dictatorship of the train to answer questions in unison. When the teacher asks what will happen if they leave the train, the kids gleefully cry out in unison "We all freeze and die!" Bong Joon-ho's pleasure in his craft keeps enhancing his dystopian vision with wit, insight, and visual flair.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"Death created time to grow the things that it would kill": The True Detective Files

[Note: In the midst of enjoying True Detective on Blu-ray, I compiled some quotes and links to some of the better analyses, sources, and interpretations of cryptic clues related to the show. I especially like writer Nic Pizzolatto's use of philosophy and "weird fiction" to enhance Rust Cohle's delightfully bleak point of view.]

---"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents." --H.P. Lovecraft

---“Behind the scenes of life there is something pernicious that makes a nightmare of our world.” --Thomas Ligotti

---“This world is a veil, and the face you wear is not your own.” --Preacher Joe Theriot

---"As sentient meat, however illusory our identities are, we craft those identities by making value judgements. Everybody judges, all the time. Now, you got a problem with that, you’re living wrong." --Rust Cohle

---”I think True Detective is portraying a world where the weak (physically or economically) are lost, ground under by perfidious wheels that lie somewhere behind the visible, wheels powered by greed, perversity, and irrational belief systems, and these lost souls dwell on an exhausted frontier, a fractured coastline beleaguered by industrial pollution and detritus, slowly sinking into the Gulf of Mexico. There’s a sense here that the apocalypse already happened. And in places like this, where there’s little economy and inadequate education, women and children are the first to suffer, by and large. There’s a line in a Sherlock Holmes story where Holmes explains to Watson that the evils of the city pale in comparison to the horrors of the isolated countryside, where who knows what terrors exist in the lonely farmhouse, cut off from civilization and beholden to no oversight? I always sensed that."   --Nic Pizzolatto

---“You see, we all got what I call a life trap, this gene deep certainty that things will be different, that you’ll move to another city and meet the people that’ll be the friends for the rest of your life, that you’ll fall in love and be fulfilled . . . Nothing’s ever fulfilled. Not until the very end. And closure. No, no, no. Nothing is ever over.” --Rust Cohle

---"Dystopian, Post-Collapse America is marked by a new kind of tribalism and 'niche extremism' that requires both pre-industrial survival skills like bow hunting, as well as modern military training. Rust’s hypersensitivity endows him with the ability to see beyond things, to 'mainline the secret truth of the universe.' His relationship to the 'psychosphere' connects him with the cosmological mappings of a pre-colonial landscape.

It is only through the hallucinogenic lens of PTSD and synesthesia that Rust can clearly read through the cognitive dissonance of corporate brandspeak (The 'Wellspring Initiative') and see it for what it really is in order to track corruption’s 'sprawl.' By using instinct to 'read the signs' across the 'aluminum and ash' bayou where 'nothing grows in the right direction', Rust maintains a 'meta' relationship with social order to subvert and survive it. From his place outside and between, he is uniquely suited to decode the doublespeak of institutional power (The Tuttles, Louisiana State Police Department and the taskforce) and negotiate the terrain of outlaw life (Iron Crusaders, Gas World Express, and drug cartels).

As a silent witness to atrocity, the landscape becomes the voice of the disappeared, which Rust is able to decipher by listening to other sensorial input ignored by Enlightment prejudice toward visible, observed, reality. By hearing color and tasting sound, he takes guidance from cosmological and metaphysical orders to read the signs of the exhausted, poisoned landscape. The landscape reminds us through its accompanying soundtrack of judgment and redemption, what is 'owed by our society for our mutual illusions.'

Louisiana’s not land/not water landscape becomes a shattered mirror to project our disappearing future onto. The landscape speaks sensorially, through a soundtrack of slave songs, indigenous symbols, talisman and rituals–traces of cultures and practices disappeared by genocidal economies of Antebellum South and the Western Expansion. When Rust notices a billboard for missing children that reads 'Who Killed Me?' the voice of our future and our past speaks simultaneously." --Marian St. Laurent

---"And if we’re talking about hard-boiled detectives, too, what could be more hardboiled than the worldview of Ligotti or Cioran? They make the grittiest of crime writers seem like dilettantes. Next to The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, Mickey Spillane seems about as hard-boiled as bubble gum." --Nic Pizzolatto

---"The True Detective sequence is heavily inspired by the look of double exposure photography. Instead of using stills, Clair created 'living photographs' that combine shots from the show’s footage with work from American landscape photographer Richard Misrach. Early on, Clair and his team came across Misrach’s book, Petrochemical America, which documents a stretch of industrial plants on the Gulf Coast called Cancer Alley.'" --Margaret Rhodes

---"I think human consciousness, is a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware, nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself, we are creatures that should not exist by natural law. We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self; an accretion of sensory, experience and feeling, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when in fact everybody is nobody. Maybe the honorable thing for our species to do is deny our programming, stop reproducing, walk hand in hand into extinction, one last midnight - brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal."  --Rust Cohle

---“Rust delivers arias of philosophy, a mash-up of Nietzsche, Lovecraft, and the nihilist horror writer Thomas Ligotti. At first, this buddy pairing seems like a funky dialectic: when Rust rants, Marty rolls his eyes. But, six episodes in, I’ve come to suspect that the show is dead serious about this dude. Rust is a heretic with a heart of gold. He’s our fetish object—the cop who keeps digging when everyone ignores the truth, the action hero who rescues children in the midst of violent chaos, the outsider with painful secrets and harsh truths and nice arms. McConaughey gives an exciting performance (in Grantland, Andy Greenwald aptly called him “a rubber band wrapped tight around a razor blade”), but his rap is premium baloney. And everyone around these cops, male or female, is a dark-drama cliché, from the coked-up dealers and the sinister preachers to that curvy corpse in her antlers. True Detective has some tangy dialogue ('You are the Michael Jordan of being a son of a bitch') and it can whip up an ominous atmosphere, rippling with hints of psychedelia, but these strengths finally dissipate, because it’s so solipsistically focussed on the phony duet.

Meanwhile, Marty’s wife, Maggie—played by Michelle Monaghan, she is the only prominent female character on the show—is an utter nothing-burger, all fuming prettiness with zero insides.”  --Emily Nussbaum

---"Death created time to grow the things that it would kill."  --Rust Cohle

---"This is where the self-aware aspect of True Detective really kicks in, because Cohle’s criticism of religion doubles—intentionally, I argue—as commentary about pop culture escapism. True Detective’s title — an implicit reference to the pulps — is your first clue that the show is interested in our relationship to stories. The second episode gives us another cool clue: Lange’s diary. But it contains absolutely no factual descriptions of her life, but rather ramblings about a fantasy world called Carcosa, a character called 'The Yellow King,' and poetic lines like 'strange is the night where black stars rise.' The detectives don’t know how to make sense of it … but we do. Because we have the Internet—or we have deep, geeky knowledge—and so we figure out before the characters do that all that fantasy language is pulled from The King In Yellow, a collection of short stories by Robert W. Chambers. Some of the stories make reference to a play, called 'The King In Yellow' — about a ruined city called Carcosa on an alien world ruled by an evil entity named Hastur, the yellow king known by his yellow sign –and anyone who reads the play dies.  Chambers got the setting of 'Carcosa' and the name 'Hastur' from the works of Ambrose Bierce, the author of The Devil’s Dictionary and 'An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge,' a classic example of Unreliable Narrator storytelling. Just as Chambers was inspired by/took from another writer, many writers have been inspired/taken from Chambers, incorporating motifs, imagery and words from The King In Yellow to build their own idiosyncratic fantasy worlds. Most notably, H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos owes a major debt to The King In Yellow." --Jeff Jensen

---"I don't want to know anything anymore. This is a world where nothing is solved. Someone once told me, 'Time is a flat circle.' Everything we've ever done or will do, we're gonna do over and over and over again. And that little boy and that little girl, they're gonna be in that room again and again and again forever."  --Rust Cohle

---"Where I came from a lot of people viewed violence merely as efficient communication.

As for the distress, it’s probably an effect of poverty. In America poverty amps up the usual existential dread we all feel. There, if you’re poor, you die. Or you turn to crime. Most crime in America looks to me like class warfare, the same way WWI just looks like class warfare to me, the upper classes sending the lower classes to slaughter. Once you realize that’s the situation, it makes perfect sense that not everyone is going to follow orders."  --Nic Pizzolatto

---“In the end, both the Divine Comedy and True Detective are getting at the same basic truth, which is that the only way to combat the darkness within ourselves is to form connections with one another.” --La Donna Pietra

---The ontological fallacy of expecting a light at the end of the tunnel, well, that's what the preacher sells, same as a shrink. See, the preacher, he encourages your capacity for illusion. Then he tells you it's a %$&@ing virtue. Always a buck to be had doing that, and it's such a desperate sense of entitlement, isn't it?"  --Rust Cohle

---“a basic quality of the Deep South is that everything here is partially hidden. . . . I’ve found that all weak people share a basic obsession--they fixate on the idea of satisfaction. Anywhere you go men and women are like crows drawn by shiny objects. For some folks, the shiny objects are other people, and you’d be better off developing a drug habit.” --from Nic Pizzolatto's 2010 novel Galveston

---This is what I mean when I'm talkin' about time, and death, and futility. All right there are broader ideas at work, mainly what is owed between us as a society for our mutual illusions. 14 straight hours of staring at DB's, these are the things ya think of. You ever done that? You look in their eyes, even in a picture, doesn't matter if they're dead or alive, you can still read 'em. You know what you see? They welcomed it... not at first, but... right there in the last instant. It's an unmistakable relief. See, cause they were afraid, and now they saw for the very first time how easy it was to just... let go. Yeah, they saw, in that last nanosecond, they saw... what they were. You, yourself, this whole big drama, it was never more than a jerry rig of presumption and dumb will, and you could just let go. To finally know that you didn't have to hold on so tight. To realize that all your life, all your love, all your hate, all your memories, all your pain, it was all the same thing. It was all the same dream, a dream that you had inside a locked room, a dream about being a person. And like a lot of dreams, there's a monster at the end of it."  --Rust Cohle

---"The crimes depicted on the series were enabled by a series of deliberate omissions, elisions, distortions, and outright lies: holes in what should have been honest and transparent stories. . . . The show literalizes the notion of a hole or a gap in a narrative by building it right into its visual scheme. Every episode is filled with holes, spirals, pits, and the like. There’s the spiral pattern glimpsed in everything from tattoos to bird flocks; Rust's hallucination of a black hole in the ceiling of Errol's lair; the busted taillight of Rust's pickup; the thatched nestlike spiral that covers the hole in the tree where Dora Lange's body was found; the long shot of Rust in his hospital bed that makes his bruised and swollen left eye look like a tiny pit; the tiny round eye-size mirror that Rust stares into. And that's the short list." --Matt Zoller Seitz

---If the only thing keeping a person decent is the expectation of divine reward then, brother, that person is a piece of $#^. And I'd like to get as many of them out in the open as possible. You gotta get together and tell yourself stories that violate every law of the universe just to get through the goddamn day? What's that say about your reality?"  --Rust Cohle

---"Devil's Nests and Beer-Can Men: The Origins of 13 True Detective Set Pieces" by Denise Martin

---"We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self. A secretion of sensory experience and feeling. Programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when, in fact, nobody is anybody."  --Rust Cohle

---So if there was one overarching theme to True Detective, I would say it was that as human beings, we are nothing but the stories we live and die by — so you'd better be careful what stories you tell yourself.” --Nic Pizzolatto

Thursday, June 19, 2014

the holy spectacle of the elaborate nothing links

---Transformers: The Premake

---Honest trailers: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

---"Ultimately, the more the CGI creatures don't exist, the more work one must do to make them super-important. Then everyone will go see the holy spectacle of the elaborate nothing." --from my review of Dark of the Moon

---"Did We Live Too Fast" by Got a Girl

---David Bowie and Mick Jagger

---"Art, Freedom, and the Bechdel Test" by Glenn Kenny

---"Hide in the network,” security guru Bruce Schneier made his first tip for evading the NSA. “The less obvious you are, the safer you are.”

---Martin Scorsese: The Art of Silence

---Bill Watterson's return

---Shepard Fairey: Obey This Film

---"The Devil in the Detail: Thoughts on Chinatown on its Fortieth Anniversary" by Jessica Kiang

---"Jane Wyman and All That Heaven Allows" by Farran Smith Nehme

---"I believe that the current limits on press freedom and excessive government secrecy make it impossible for Americans to grasp fully what is happening in the wars we finance.

If you were following the news during the March 2010 elections in Iraq, you might remember that the American press was flooded with stories declaring the elections a success, complete with upbeat anecdotes and photographs of Iraqi women proudly displaying their ink-stained fingers. The subtext was that United States military operations had succeeded in creating a stable and democratic Iraq.

Those of us stationed there were acutely aware of a more complicated reality." --Chelsea Manning

---trailers for The Two Faces of January, The Knick, Very Good Girls, Birdman, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, and The Signal 

---Interiors considers Stanley Kubrick 

---In Focus: Clueless

---Anatomy of a scene: Third Person

---Michael Palin discusses Brazil 

---"Weird Corporate Twitter" by Kate Losse

---"The Filmmaker's Guide to Indie Festivals and Organizations" by Eric Escobar

---Women as Background Decoration: Part 1

---I’m not suggesting that Tarantino spends his weekends perusing Henry James or Thornton Wilder. It’s just that techniques similar to theirs have pervaded popular literature. Indeed, they were already at play in one popular genre that has always used literary artifice to shape our experience. To this day, as in King’s 11/22/63, mysteries and thrillers use block construction to promote suspense, play with alternative possibilities, make us reevaluate story situations, and engage us in a game of self-conscious form.

Sometimes current developments put the past in a new perspective. The emergence of “minimal music” (Glass, Reich, La Monte Young) suddenly showed Satie’s ideas about repetition to be more fertile than most of us had thought. Similarly, Tarantino’s work forced me to think about contemporary storytelling strategies, but it also asked me to consider more distant sources of those trends.

Studying film history is valuable for its own sake; it’s just damn interesting. Needing further justification, sometimes historians go on to say, especially to students: We study history to better understand the present. That’s surely true, but so is this: We study the present to better understand history."  --David Bordwell

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A glimpse behind the void: 10 notes on 22 Jump Street

1) 22 Jump Street struck me as an inflated bit of nothing, a dubious structure consisting solely of air, a self-aware piece of belly button lint, a feature-length winking speck of dust, a Big Gulp's worth of diet cherry cola and a bagful of Fritos that emphasizes the empty calories of one's wasted time, a spectacle oddly appropriate for the Dumb and Dumber To trailer that precedes it. 22 Jump Street could also be described as:

2) a forum for Ice Cube to look cartoonishly mock-angry over and over.

3) a place where, by acknowledging the exact sentiments of the studio's desire to cash in on a sequel, we the viewers can feel in-the-know, in-on-the-joke, and clever. As Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman) says to our bumbling heroes, "Ladies, nobody gave a s^$% about a Jump Street reboot but you got lucky. So now this department [a.k.a. the studio] has invested a lot of money to make sure that Jump Street keeps going." I still wonder: is it better if a greed-oriented vacancy is honest about its avarice?

4) a kind of swamp gas enveloping my blank summer afternoon with many moments in which Jonah Hill (as Schmidt) looks put-upon because Channing Tatem (as Jenko) is not giving him sufficient attention.

5) a void, a sucking wind over nothingness which carries the threat of dwelling upon absence into infinity, a movie that gives one vertigo given its 112 minute rush of inconsequentiality.

6) various opportunities for Schmidt and Jenko to dangle. They dangle off of a speeding truck, or off of a helicopter flying over millions of partying spring breakers on the beach.

7) a system of allusions to the squalor, conformity, and willful despair of college life.

8) a place where Wyatt Russell (the son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, who plays a frat brat named Zook) to meet cute with Jenko when Jenko drops a Q-tip on his meat sub during a football huddle. Get it?  Meat Q-t?

9) A way for directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller to further prove their ability to mock Hollywood formulae as they cash in on it in the same vein as their work in The Lego Movie. Whereas The Lego Movie suggested an odd depth in its exploration of how brainwashed we've all become by popular culture tropes neatly remixed, 22 Jump Street keeps returning to chase scenes with the same dreary bad guy (Peter Stormare) and his armed henchmen within a Spring Breakers retread.

10) I understand that I'm not adequately acknowledging Hill and Tatum's chemistry, Tatum's comedic gifts, and how the film is perceived as cool because it so cheerfully acknowledges how sold out it is, but I've been really enjoying True Detective on Blu-ray, and somehow that show's grim integrity calls attention to Jump Street's howling blast of nothingness. As Detective Rust Cohle says, "You see we all got what I call a life trap, a gene deep certainty that things will be different." I don't see how a movie should be given credit for owning up to being exactly the same.