Thursday, May 21, 2009

Notable film and media links--May 21, 2009--the distracted edition


---Feeling distracted lately?  After reading Rapt and Distracted, I shut down my Facebook account, and now Sam Anderson of New York magazine has written the ultimate "Defense of Distraction" (which I couldn't read because I was busy multitasking):

"The tech theorist Linda Stone famously coined the phrase “continuous partial attention” to describe our newly frazzled state of mind. American office workers don’t stick with any single task for more than a few minutes at a time; if left uninterrupted, they will most likely interrupt themselves. Since every interruption costs around 25 minutes of productivity, we spend nearly a third of our day recovering from them. We keep an average of eight windows open on our computer screens at one time and skip between them every twenty seconds. When we read online, we hardly even read at all—our eyes run down the page in an F pattern, scanning for keywords. When you add up all the leaks from these constant little switches, soon you’re hemorrhaging a dangerous amount of mental power. People who frequently check their e-mail have tested as less intelligent than people who are actually high on marijuana. Meyer guesses that the damage will take decades to understand, let alone fix. If Einstein were alive today, he says, he’d probably be forced to multitask so relentlessly in the Swiss patent office that he’d never get a chance to work out the theory of relativity."

---Bad news.  Morley Safer distrusts bloggers. 

--- The ever-prolific Allan Fish of Wonders in the Dark takes on The Leopard (1963), which I believe was an influence on The Godfather:

"`For things to stay as they are, there must be change' we are told in the famous conversation between Delon and Lancaster, and it’s this ambiguous contradiction that runs through the entire film.  Many have seen Salina as representative of Visconti himself, with Lancaster even using some of the director’s mannerisms in his performance.  Yet it could also be argued that, in spite of the director’s more ambiguous sexuality, Delon’s character is closer to Visconti’s ideology.  Either way, if Salina is Visconti by proxy, then it’s a truly sombre self-portrait, a hymn to his ancestry.  In the final sequence, Paolo Stoppa observes when hearing gunfire that `that’s what we need for Sicily', as if predicting the succeeding ruling classes of the Sicilian palazzos, the Mafiosos, with the film showing very much the story of Sicily a generation prior to The Godfather films." 

---Eileen Jones of The Exiled gets to the root of our need for films like Angels and Demons:

"So far Angels and Demons has racked up a pile of money and a load of bad reviews. It deserves the bad reviews, heaven knows, but in reading some of them it’s clear that we sometimes forget the important function media crap plays in our culture. We need crap, and in fairness, we ought to acknowledge that need."

Damn straight.  
 
---In the same vein, Cracked has found the "secret formula" of Ron Howard's success.

---Dan North of Spectacular Attractions analyzes the unforgettable horror film Don't Look Now (1973):

"If you’ve ever been to Venice and walked around without a map, you’ll know how perfectly cast it is as the backdrop for this story. Any stroll through the backstreets, particularly at night, can turn into a fiendish, circular journey where landmarks will seem to repeat in random order, canals will seem to move their position or reverse their direction. It’s eerie how easily Venetian pathways can mess with your sense of direction, your faith in your remembrances of space, place and time. Out of the holiday season, it’s a mournful, even morbid place, and the film exploits these qualities to the full by making it an architectural analogue of the characters’ mental and visual indecisions. The blind psychic, on the other hand, can navigate it with ease because the sounds are so acute, the echoes so instructive. It is vision, often the most trusted of the senses, that is portrayed as unreliable."

---Check out Jonathan Rosenbaum's dissection of Godard's critical take on the works of Alfred Hitchcock:

"In `Le Cinéma et son double,' Godard’s analysis of Hitchcock is concerned mainly with stylistic articulations of states of consciousness, metaphysical states of being, and thematic and dramatic significations. In `Le Contrôle de l’univers,' he is primarily concerned with Hitchcock as the only `poète maudit' who succeeded commercially, coupled with the argument that his films are mainly remembered not for their states of consciousness, metaphysical states of being, or their thematic and dramatic significations but for certain physical objects. To paraphrase Godard’s own discourse in `Le Contrôle de l’univers,' one forgets the circumstances of why Janet Leigh is going to the Bates Hotel, why Montgomery Clift keeps his vow of silence, why Teresa Wright is still in love with Uncle Charlie, how Henry Fonda becomes `le faux coupable,' and why Ingrid Bergman is hired by the American government. But one remembers a rosary, a glass of milk, a windmill, a hairbrush, a lost pair of spectacles, a lost key, and the visible notes in a musical score."

---And, speaking of Hitchcock experts, T.S. of Screen Savour chooses his ten favorite films of 2001 for the Counting Down the Zeros series of Film for the Soul:

"The best film of the year, and a top-five contender at this moment for best film of the decade, is Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Love. What a knockout film this is: quiet, psychologically penetrating, heartbreaking, and so marvelously gorgeous. This is the nuanced and difficult story of two neighbors (Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung Chiu-wai) in 1962 Hong Kong who discover their respective spouses are having an affair with each other, and the troubling psychological waters the neighbors encounter when they begin counseling each other to understand why and how this has happened — and eventually, perhaps most disturbingly, how it happens, down to the subtlest movements. The film's most impressive element, if such a singular aspect be identified as its best part, is the mesmerizing way Wong takes such a simple concept adapted from a short story and folds it back in on itself with repetition of style and theme (the cinematography and editing are formidable). Wong has spoken at length about the influence Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo had on the production, particularly the development of such a moody relationship, and it's without exaggeration that I say he does Hitchcock proud."

---Has everyone seen the trailer for that 8 1/2-ish Nine yet?  Is it Fellini-redux?  Rob Marshall wishing that he is Fellini?  Is it good for a preview to look so derivative?  

---Okay, so I have a weakness for Elisabeth Shue.  Jeremy Richie of Moon in the Gutter found a David Letterman interview with her concerning the immortal Leaving Las Vegas.

---Lastly, R. J. Montano of Cine-O-Rama decries the way previews seek to explain the mystery of The Road.  I loved the book by Cormac McCarthy, and I can't wait for the movie. 

6 comments:

hokahey said...

Some quick responses -

Don't Look Now is one of the scariest movies ever made with one of the most shocking endings ever.

As for "continuous partial attention" - it's certainly true according to my observations of my middle and high school students. It takes a lot to keep their attention focused - that's why I go for the loud, dramatic, very visual style of teaching. One of the major goals of my film history unit is to expand their movie-viewing patience (their style of movie-viewing always includes texting). But there is hope. I have seen their attention spans lengthen. And they come back reporting how they noticed backlighting or the use of an iris in a movie they went to over the weekend. Probably that was between text messages.

FilmDr said...

Thanks, Hokahey,

I agree with you about the problems with teaching these days, mostly because there are so many new sophisticated forms of electronic distraction competing for their attention at all times. People increasingly text now while driving?!? In Rapt (which I recommend), Gallagher writes of how attention is a limited resource that can be squandered like any other. She recommends meditation as a way to regain the ability to concentrate.

hokahey said...

The thing I liked most about last year's film Seven Pounds is that it is a very grim cautionary tale about the tragic consequences of texting on a BlackBerry while driving the fam.

My favorite high school texting anecdote: A couple of years ago I directed an adaptation of Tom Jones and the seniors in the audience were texting friends in the cast backstage during the performance, expressing their shock that it seemed that Tom Jones was making out with his mother while the cast members texted back, assuring them that Mrs. Waters was not his mother.

FilmDr said...

That's funny. I've heard that students text each other 500, 600(?) a month at times? Also, there are the video game addicts who sometimes flunk out due to their 6 hour a day habit. Technological changes keep coming up with more elaborate little outlets for gaming, such as video games on calculators. Recently, the head of Google recommended in a graduation address for the students to get off their laptops (as I should get off of this one now).

Sam Juliano said...

Thanks very much Film Drt., for the reference to Allan's excellent review of THE LEOPARD! Have a great Memorial Day weekend.

FilmDr said...

My pleasure, Sam. I enjoyed Allan's post, although I find that I prefer the novel version of The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa even more than the movie (if one can say that in respectable film blogging circles).