Thursday, April 29, 2010
Monday, April 26, 2010
All of us now occupy an information space blazing with signals. We have had to evolve coping strategies. Not merely the ability to heed simultaneous cues from different directions, cues of different kinds, but also—this is important—to engage those cues more obliquely. When there is too much information, we graze it lightly, applying focus only where it is most needed. We stare at a computer screen with its layered windows and orient ourselves with a necessarily fractured attention. It is not at all surprising that when we step away and try to apply ourselves to the unfragmented text of a book we have trouble. It is not so easy to suspend the adaptation."
---John Updike reports from the future:
"Students have trouble grasping the high value placed upon mobility even in the early decades of the Computer Revolution. `Why would anyone want to go anywhere else,' they ask me, `when the same information-gathering terminals were present at every geographical point?' The primitive catch-phrases that permeated not only the twentieth century but earlier eras on the North American continent--`starting over,' `heading west,' `leaving it all behind,' `fresh faces,' `new horizons'--ring hollowly for those who have from birth let the world come to them, in the form of computer-generated instruction, entertainment, and virtual experience. The need to `go out'--out to shop or to work or just to walk around the block--seems as arcane and absurd to them as, say, Victorian family prayers or bloody Aztec sacrifices."
---the new mood of online openness:"Mr. Brooks, a 38-year-old consultant for online dating Web sites, seems to be a perfect customer. He publishes his travel schedule on Dopplr. His DNA profile is available on23andMe. And on Blippy, he makes public everything he spends with his Chase Mastercard, along with his spending at Netflix, iTunes and Amazon.com.“It’s very important to me to push out my character and hopefully my good reputation as far as possible, and that means being open,” he said, dismissing any privacy concerns by adding, “I simply have nothing to hide.”This new world owes its origin to the rampant sharing of photos, résumés and personal news bites on services like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, which have acclimated people to broadcasting even the most mundane aspects of their lives.To Silicon Valley’s deep thinkers, this is all part of one big trend: People are becoming more relaxed about privacy, having come to recognize that publicizing little pieces of information about themselves can result in serendipitous conversations — and little jolts of ego gratification."
I looked at the footage, and the blow-ups of the footage. There are people with cameras who were mistaken for guys with guns. There appear also to be guys with guns. There was a van -- an insurgent wagon to some, a makeshift ambulance to others -- and two kids inside who were wounded. I read the rules of engagement posted on a variety of web sites that used the video.
So was any of the killing justified? War is a dizzying, murky, hyper-adrenalized maze. In the field of battle, there are facts to be had and truths to be revealed. But even with the magic of digital revelations sling-shot across all bandwidths, the answer has to be: depends. Depends on some things even second-by-second video can't uncover.
Soldiers snickering while shooting journalists and kids looks bad, no question. My favorite quote of the week was from the refreshingly blunt General Stanley McChrystal about civilian deaths in Afghanistan: "We have shot an amazing number of people, but...none has ever proven to be a threat."
---cities as software (via Boing Boing)
---Craig considers Mark Harris' book about (in part) the making of Bonnie and Clyde
---Manohla Dargis profiles David Bordwell
---an interview with Greil Marcus
---Sheryl Sandberg and Facebook
---Naomi Wolf on happiness and feminism
---Chris Ware's subversive Fortune 500 cover
---Out of the Past
---summer movies looming ominously on the horizon
---lastly, "Stone on Stone"
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
This isn't comic violence. These men, and many others in the film, are really stone-cold dead. And the 11-year-old apparently experiences no emotions about this. Many children that age would be, I dunno, affected somehow, don't you think, after killing eight or 12 men who were trying to kill her?"
“I Spit on Your Grave” deliberately placed itself on the far margin of acceptability, and like other disreputable movies that go on to attract a cult following, it has a certain transgressive, contrarian energy. You watch it — if you can stand to — with the feeling that you are participating in something forbidden, perhaps dangerous, which makes viewing it feel vaguely like defying authority.
But “Kick-Ass,” a thoroughly mainstream entertainment, carries no such thrill. Everybody can share in the bloodlust, and enjoy the kinetic choreography of flying bullets and spurting arteries. It’s all in good fun, it’s all kid’s stuff, it doesn’t mean anything. That’s the conventional wisdom, in any case, which silences ethical objections to, let’s say, the idea of showing a child’s battered face as being in some way audacious. We will, I suppose, each find our own limits and draw our own boundaries, but it may also be time to articulate those and say when enough is enough."
And we had unbelievably great reviews in England. And the harshest critic — I was terrified to read his reviews — said the thing that made me…I’ve never been so proud of a review because he described the movie as being the Clockwork Orange of this generation. And when I heard that, I was just like "Cool." That's exactly what I wanted.
So, is Kick-Ass edgy or depraved, "cool" or sick, a film worthy of being grouped in with calculated outrage of A Clockwork Orange or one that will, as Ebert suggests, lead to "kids in the age range of this movie's home video audience . . . shooting one another every day in America"?
While I had problems with the Kick-Ass' adherence to the comic book movie cliches (the adolescent wish-fulfillment, generic bad guys, the loud costumes, torture scenes, the obvious preparation for the sequel, etc.), I liked the way the film plays with audience expectations. For instance, in the opening scene, a man in a winged superhero outfit jumps off of a skyscraper. As he tries to fly, a crowd down below applauds his "heroism" until he crashes into the hood of a car and dies. Then, the voiceover (Dave) says "That's not me. That's some Armenian guy with mental health problems." In this way the makers of Kick-Ass mock the knee-jerk desire to look upon a costumed crusader as a hero. And I wonder how much that bratty impulse to lampoon that veneration might in part be one reason for all of the critical scorn of the film.
By updating and messing with the concept of the superhero, Mark Millar and Matthew Vaughn have radicalized the genre. As Ben Child points out, how will all of the upcoming superhero films look, all of the Captain Americas, the Avengers, the Green Hornet, Iron Man 2, Silver Surfer, Ant Man, Venom etc., etc.? Will they now look dated in comparison? I get royally sick of Knock'm Sock'm manly super power-filled showdowns in films like Iron-Man and The Hulk, all of the roars of the "wild" in films like X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Wolfman that serve to further emphasize just how domesticated we've all become. The makers of Kick-Ass at least resist the conventions much as Hit Girl takes on an entire criminal organization singlehandedly, and in doing so has created something new. The critical debate attests to that.
The art of Kick-Ass
Saturday, April 17, 2010
David Foster Wallace on identity, entertainment, and Tarantino: quotes from Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself by David Lipsky
Monday, April 12, 2010
(down at the body)
Will success spoil Johnny Rotten?
No. He will waste, spoil, smash, blow up and destroy success!Another pause. The room is hushed. Johnny Rotten looks slowly up and directly into the camera.JOHNNY ROTTEN
Did yer ever have the feeling yer being watched?FADE TO BLACK
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Thursday, April 8, 2010
"In the cultural logic of Hot Tub Time Machine, memory and reality become one in the same. The postmodern pop cultural haze with which we remember decades conflates into the memory, the reality, itself – thus, the clichés of culture as lived through media lose any delineation from personal experience of the reality in which those media objects were originally manifested within. This media-imbued subjective acceptance of false reality is the central tenet of the postmodernist concept of simulacra and simulation, but we see the simulated experience of simulacra operate more literally in the film."
Monday, April 5, 2010
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Control over the internet has grown far more sophisticated in recent years. It is not simply a matter of preventing citizens in repressive environments, such as China, from reading the websites of Amnesty International or the New York Times. It is increasingly focused on impeding the spread of domestically generated content that authoritarian regimes find objectionable, such as news about government incompetence or online discussions about abuses of power, and obstructing the organization of political opposition. Internet censorship and surveillance are used first and foremost by authoritarian regimes to silence their domestic critics and to prevent the emergence of political alternatives."
deep focus: Invented by Renoir.
early films: Always a director's best.
Eisenstein: Invented almost everything.
editing: The more obviously grounded in existing theories, the better.
experimental film: New and fresh even when recycling 80-year-old ideas.
film stock: Proof of seriousness. Looks better than HD.
French cinema: A genre.
Griffith: "While no straightforward, consistent political stance is in evidence in the Griffith oeuvre, there is a theme that runs through his major works. That theme is Family."
handheld: How we see the world.
horror: See "comedy."
innovation: Important in old films, to be ignored in new ones.
Japanese cinema: Contemplative, because of Buddhism or Shinto or whatever their religion is called."
Saturday, April 3, 2010
The film presents this as a revolutionary idea, and fails to acknowledge the existence of MTV’s Real World, broadcast in 1992 and predating this experiment by seven years. Quiet was different though in its sheer numbers — 100 or so people rather than the handful on MTV’s series — and because of the constant broadcasting of the camera feeds. There was a TV in every bunk bed pod and throughout the bunker so residents could watch each other, while being watched.
As depicted in the film, and as one might expect, chaos ensued."
---Kashmir Hill writing for True/Slant Network Activity
Relinquishing privacy meant the weight of your identity was shared by those around you, you were on equal footing with the other inhabitants - you were shared between and among them, divvied up into sound bites and images strewn across a vast network of monitors."
"After the cops shut the project down, Harris soon embarked on another endeavor: he fit a loft with 32 webcams that would broadcast he and his girlfriend's day-to-day life. After changing the way she and Harris interacted — we behave differently for an audience than we do in private — the venture ended in a breakup, as well as depression, paranoia, and bitterness.