Saturday, October 31, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
"The threat of sudden emotional violence is always lurking within. In his early movies, such as Meatballs and Caddyshack, he made this his shtick — witness his famously manic “It just doesn’t matter!” speech from the former movie, or the bursts of gopher-hatred in the latter. In later work, such as Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, though the performances are more restrained the threat is still there, simmering behind the impassive glare. Think of how he gleefully destroys schoolboy Jason Schwartzman’s bicycle inRushmore, or how he humiliates Robert De Niro’s tremulous cop in the opening of Mad Dog and Glory with a genuinely terrifying stare and the viciously spat, “F*** off!”
"Believers in human progress, from the Enlightenment to the present, think that monsters are disappearing. Rationality will pour its light into the dark corners and reveal the monsters to be merely chimeric. A familiar upshot of the liberal interpretation of monsters is to suggest that when we properly embrace difference, the monsters will vanish. According to this view, the monster concept is no longer useful in the modern world. If it hangs on, it does so like an appendix—useful once but hazardous now.I disagree. The monster concept is still extremely useful, and it's a permanent player in the moral imagination because human vulnerability is permanent. The monster is a beneficial foe, helping us to virtually represent the obstacles that real life will surely send our way. As long as there are real enemies in the world, there will be useful dramatic versions of them in our heads."
"As a pioneer for the Madonnas and Lindsay Lohans of today, women whose personal lives occupy more of the public imagination than does their creative work, Taylor comes across as remarkably sympathetic and uncomplicated. For all her temperament, narcissism and hedonism, she was never driven or insecure. She didn't seek applause as a balm for deeper wounds, like Judy Garland or Marilyn Monroe; her fame was forged by others rather than the object of her own ambition. She didn't much like making movies, though she'd occasionally pull out the stops when the project suited her whims. What she really wanted was to lounge around on yachts and in luxury hotels, chowing down on fried chicken with "lots of gravy" and waking up to a Tiffany's box on her pillow on a fairly regular basis. Acting, fame and a few of her marriages were little more than means to those ends."
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
"William Shockley knew the value of isolation. In 1948, shortly after his colleagues John Bardeen and Walter Brattain invented the point-contact transistor in Shockley's absence, he became so upset that he holed up in a hotel room. He knew he needed a quiet place to think. Some days later he emerged, having worked out the basic design for the far superior junction transistor that became the key to modern electronics.Today few can afford the luxury of such isolation. While just about everybody agrees that electronic messaging is critical to modern business and that some interruptions are vital to workplace interactions, clearly they've become too much of a good thing. This glut affects Fortune 500 corporations, tiny companies, schools, government agencies, churches, and nonprofits. Just about everyone, in other words.The irony of all this constant communication is that we're not communicating well at all. Consider the meeting where everyone's eyes are glued to their BlackBerries or laptops. They're sifting through e-mail or scanning reports or updating spreadsheets; nobody is paying attention to the business at hand."
"It's easy to see how this flamboyant figure has influenced would-be directors in America from Bogdanovich (who knew Welles well) and Spielberg to Paul Thomas Anderson and Steven Soderbergh. But it's more than the flourish, the eloquence with which he let himself be interviewed, and the effortless seduction of the man himself. If ever our young directors feel fear, self-pity or failure in their lives – then surely they think of Welles again. For Welles is not just the boy wonder; he is Falstaff and Hank Quinlan in Touch of Evil – gross hulks. At the root of Welles's fascination lies this question: how can anyone so creative be so self-destructive?"
"When I look at digital, the dark side of it for me is the physicality that's being presented alongside the Internet. I think about that movie The Matrix, and about these bodies that are human batteries that support computers. I met this guy who was creating software where you could watch Mad Men and you could chat with your friend while you're watching it, and things would pop up, and facts would pop up, and I said, 'You're a human battery. Turn the . . . thing off! You're not allowed to watch the show anymore. You're missing the idea of sitting in a dark place and having an experience. Are you just like sitting with your phone and you're kissing your girlfriend and saying, "'I'm kissing my girlfriend! This is so great, we're having sex!'" EXPERIENCE THINGS!"
"Finally, there’s another factor, one that cuts both ways and thereby contributes to Mad Men’s inner tension: the peculiar emotional chord the show’s setting strikes with viewers over 30. Critics invariably discuss how the series echoes John Cheever’s stories, Billy Wilder’s The Apartment, and Richard Yates’s Revolutionary Road (a novel Weiner says he hadn’t read when he created the show). But for every audience member familiar with gin-soaked Shady Hill, there are dozens whose notions of the glamour of adult life, of Manhattan, and of “creative” careers were shaped by endless reruns of three sitcoms with concrete ties to Mad Men’s particular milieu: The Dick Van Dyke Show, Bewitched, and That Girl. The key to television success, Don Draper tosses off, is to offer “derivative with a twist.” Mad Men is those shows grown up, grown hard, and—in ways that flatter its writers’ and viewers’ images of themselves—grown wise."
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
"I’ve always been uncomfortable with the didactic nature of the film, but I admire its commitment to unsettling its viewer. It’s still possible, if so inclined, to enjoy it as another extreme thrill ride (I’m often amazed by the ability of horror fans to shrug off even the most gruelling of movies or to compartmentalise them as compendia of bodily destruction in all its variations), though you can see Haneke trying to thwart such attempts at complacency. Funny Games doesn’t play fair – the divisive moment where one of the killers uses a remote control to rewind the film to make it replay in his favour breaks a contract with the spectator that their involvement in the fiction can have an influence on it. We like to believe that because we’re on the side of the innocents, the filmmaker will at least reward us with some relief, some catharsis or vengeance, but there is no comfort here: in this place of carefully applied violence, dogs and children die first. Why? Because they’re not supposed to, and thus is highlighted the artifice of the conventions that usually govern film violence."
Monday, October 12, 2009
Friday, October 9, 2009
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Sunday, October 4, 2009
d) Why is Emma Stone's character Wichita wearing eyeliner? The girls talk of desiring a shower, but no one ever appears to need one.
e) Later on, we learn that Tallahassee greatly misses his son, who died young. Tallahassee cries in front of the gang, and admits that he "hasn't cried like that since Titanic." Good thing he's such a cuddly, lovable killing machine.
3) The makers of Zombieland love to make allusions to other films, including Psycho (when Columbus tries to stop a female zombie with a shower curtain), Babe (when Tallahasee says "That'll do, pig"), and even Adventureland (which features Jesse Eisenberg once again trying to impress a woman in an amusement park). The film is loosely designed like so many summer blockbusters as a kind of carnival ride (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom comes to mind). The film (spoiler alert) ends at an actual carnival in Los Angeles called Pacific Playland, thus making the narrative arch oddly reminiscent of National Lampoon's Vacation (1983).
4) Aside from the film's wit, ultimately, I think, its chief pleasure resides in the viewer's ability to combine all of his or her concerns into one enemy--zombies--and then take pleasure in massacring them. As World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War author Max Brooks puts it:
"I think its been gathering steam throughout the [George W.] Bush years," he explained. "We live in some really uncertain times and I think people are being just bombarded with so many problems and so many fears and so many anxieties, it's kind of hard to keep track of them. And I think zombies, because they're so apocalyptic, are a great way for people to coalesce their anxieties into one threat."
Zombieland not only unites all of these threats, it supplies a violent solution that draws on the Western tradition of gunslinging vigilante justice (perhaps one reason why the film's characters turn around and drive west). In his dystopic out of print science fiction novel Stand on Zanzibar (1968), John Brunner imagined an over-populated future in which people frequently turned "mucker." Oppressed by everyone around them, muckers run amuck, killing everyone indiscriminately until someone murders them in turn. It may seem like a stretch to relate the playful comic horror of Zombieland with this extreme irrational violence, but they exist along the same axis, only zombies render massacres guilt-free and thereby suitable for mass entertainment.
Whatever the means, Zombieland satiates that desire to shake off the constraints of civilization, clear a space, and live happily in the ruins. As the trailer for the movie gloomily points out, we live with the threat of "epidemics, climate change, and dwindling resources." A mere zombie outbreak seems outright pleasant in comparison.