Friday, December 30, 2011

commodified links

---Fincher's reasons for making his films (not including his music videos)

---Louis Godfrey's survey of Occupy Wall Street footage:

"the occupation of space is what is at the very heart of the Occupy movement, to use public areas – parks, plazas, university campuses – as the primary tool of redress, by asserting that they are commons. The concept of the commons is, according to Peter Linebaugh in The Magna Carta Manifesto, “The theory that vests property in the community and organizes labor for the common benefit” - an idea that dates back to 1215 at Runnymede and the limitations placed on the power of King John. The commons are more than just public spaces, but they are those liberties – trial by jury, Habeus corpus, etc. – that are essential to the individual use of those spaces with agency and purpose.

The antithesis of the commons is the commodity. Ever increasingly our public spaces are serviced and maintained by private entities, and open to general use in highly regulated increments requiring prior approval, and often for monetized purposes. Accordingly, officials now view public spaces as they do any asset that can be commodified, and deploy law enforcement to protect them accordingly. “The insanity of the commodity arises from its inherent contradiction or double bind: on the one hand it is useful, convenient, or commodious, on the other hand it is bought and sold for profit and gain,” Linebaugh writes. “Guile replaces plain dealing.”

---how to film a revolution

---the end credits of Being There

---Joel Bocko's Blog 11

---the precocious Maria Popova

---"Note what the president does not say: that indefinitely detaining an American suspected of terrorism would be unconstitutional or illegal."

---filmmaking power apps

---anatomy of a scene in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

---“For the first time ever, it will become technologically and financially feasible for authoritarian governments to record nearly everything that is said or done within their borders--every phone conversation, electronic message, social media interaction, the movements of nearly every person and vehicle, and video from every street corner.”

---trailer for Prometheus 

---hyper-networked revolt

---Catherine Grant's favorite film studies resources

---time to make a feature film with your cell phone

---the overture of Melancholia

---Andrew Dubber's "Music journalism is the new boring": "You’re a lazy, complacent, boring failure."

---"Many analysts – including the US military – predict that oil supply will fall short of demand in the next few years. This will lead to shortages and high prices, which will continue the economic slowdown, and high unemployment. Of course, this is on top of whatever financial crises are already waiting in the wings. We must get the transition to a renewable energy economy started in earnest, if we are to limit climate change impacts, and prepare for lower supplies of fossil fuels.  The longer the 1% delays the transition, the harder it will be."

---Terry Gilliam's 10 tips for directors

---Keyframe's year in video

---Urban Outfitters: bookseller

---Share or Die

---Spiegelman's 15 delightful internet films

---David Lynch in four movements

---lastly, the key to understanding Young Adult: Hello Kitty

Monday, December 26, 2011

The fierce cyberpunk waif: 11 notes on Lisbeth Salander of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

“At the center of all of this howling evil is the strangely relatable Lisbeth Salander, a damaged, vengeful, brilliant, androgynous cipher… She is the reason that people can't put these weird books down” ---Vogue

1) Writing for The Daily Beast, Louise Roug points out that "The charisma of the Salander character is ultimately the reason for the extraordinary success of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and its two sequels."  But who is Lisbeth Salander?  Why does her character, as played by Rooney Mara, eclipse Daniel Craig (journalist Blomkvist) so much in the new David Fincher version?  Why does she effortlessly steal the movie?  Fincher notes how Salander "oddly prizes herself in not coming to any conclusions," preferring the data cloud to any biased opinion, so I will, in the spirit of Salander's research techniques, limit myself to the evidence at hand.  Some quotes:

2) According to her state dossier in Larsson's novel, she is described as: “introverted, socially inhibited, lacking in empathy, ego-fixated, psychopathic and asocial, and incapable of assimilating learning.”

3) Again, from the novel: “[Blomkvist] couldn’t figure out Lisbeth Salander.  She was altogether odd.”  As he notes later, "Salander was an information junkie with a delinquent child's take on morals and ethics."

4) One of Salander's Principles from the novel (in her words): "a bastard is always a bastard, and if I can hurt a bastard by digging up shit about him, then he deserves it."

5) According to Katie Roiphe, "One could argue that Larsson’s world of rapists, murderers, sadists, conspirators, and assorted sickos is not an entirely balanced portrayal of reality circa now, but there is something about Lisbeth Salander that rings true. In the extremes and luridness of her experience, she somehow embodies the modern woman’s most intimate contradictions, her more ordinary straddling of power and weakness, her irrational internal admixture of fierce warrior and abused waif.”

6) "Lisbeth Salander = Lizard Salamander?" ---Roger Ebert on Twitter

7) One can imagine other actresses who tried out for the role, such as Scarlett Johansson.

8) Richard Brody claims that "What Fincher captures is the inner sense of a pair of minds—Lisbeth Salander, the genius punk survivalist hacker, and Mikael Blomkvist, the intrepid investigative journalist—that run faster than others. The relentless pace of the movie, its mercurial combination of amazingly precise and crystallized shots, is like the inside view of a souped-up biomorphic CPU."

9) “Horrible things happen to her. And she wanders home. And she sits there. She lights a cigarette, and she fumes. And you don’t know what’s going on in her head. The next time you see her, she’s got a Taser and a 30-pound chrome dildo, and she’s got a plan,” says David Fincher. “You don’t need her to say, ‘This is not right what’s happened to me, and I have to make it right.’ You see her at the hardware store, buying tape and zip ties and black ink.”

10) Monika Bartyzel writes: "Fincher’s Lisbeth is not Larsson’s. She is sexualized, softened, romanticized, and less empowered. Whether he intended this or not, it’s what countless critics see in the film; they don’t mind it – in fact most like it – but they’ve recognized it and have written about it.

There seems to be a relief that Mara’s Salander is a more relatable person, that classic “female” tropes like softness and vulnerability are visible. It speaks to society’s overwhelming discomfort with the unclassifiable, whether it’s a person’s sexuality, a terrible people who does good things, or the motivations of a young woman who has been horrifically mistreated, mentally and physically, for decades.

Yet the entire point is that Lisbeth doesn’t seem real to the regular Joe or Jane walking down the street. Even those closest to her don’t truly understand her. She’s got the double-whammy of an autistic mind and a hellish life with experiences we can’t begin to fathom. We’re not supposed to understand her, or lust after her. As A. O. Scott noted in his review: “We see all of Ms. Mara and quite a bit less of Mr. Craig, whose naked torso is by now an eyeful of old news. This disparity is perfectly conventional – the exploitation of female nudity is an axiom of modern cinema – but it also represents a failure of nerve and a betrayal of the sexual egalitarianism Lisbeth Salander argues for and represents.”

11) Lastly, to once again quote Larsson's novel: "[Salander] had never brooded over whether she was straight, gay, or even bisexual.  She did not give a damn about labels.”  Perhaps that's the one secret behind Salander's appeal: she not only resists classifications, labels, and categories.  She refuses to acknowledge them.  

Sunday, December 18, 2011

nondisruptive links

---2011: The Cinescape

---"nondisruptive" cell use

---What doomsday movies mean:

"We know our bubble is about to burst, that our artificial prosperity is corrupt and unsustainable. And even if somehow, somehow, the greedheads change their ways and the temperature of the Earth doesn’t rise and the polar ice caps don’t melt and oil remains plentiful enough to drive back and forth from our houses in the suburbs, we’ll still be haunted, like Curtis in Take Shelter, by the thought that something bad is about to go down. And we’ll seek out doomsday movies to see how it all plays out. The end of the world has barely begun."

---when the NYPD targets the media

---Sense of Flying

---Peter Mountford once sold furniture to celebrities:

"Personally, I wanted everything in the store. I wanted the objects and I wanted the people. I wanted to eat them all up, gnaw on their bones. At first, I didn’t care about it all, thought it a lot of silliness, but soon enough I was fantasizing, actively, daily, about owning those gorgeous Italian wine glasses, they were $50 each, and about the house where I’d put my immense and uncomfortable sofa. I imagined the parties on my private beach, shaded by the French marquee that no one else in L.A. owned. Or, no one except Bridget Fonda.

While driving home to the apartment I shared with two roommates in Silverlake, I’d pick out the famous guests that would come to my beachfront house, pictured myself drinking a martini in the setting sun as the sea breeze rippled through my white suit. These things had never seemed relevant before. Now, I felt mortified by my sensible late ’90s Volvo, my cheap cellphone. Somewhere nearby, someone was sharing a platter of immaculate sushi with Sarah Michelle Gellar, who’s a year younger than me and prettier in person, while I was consuming starchy blocks of Trader Joe’s faux-sushi. What I needed, evidently, was a Maserati, a beachfront house in Malibu. What I needed was a better pair of sunglasses, and a life appropriate to those glasses. Until then, I was not alive, I was auditioning for life.

Updike wrote, “Celebrity is a mask that eats into the face,” but after living in L.A. for a while, the proper reply became obvious: With a mask like that, who needs a face?"

---Seaman had his Twitter account suspended due to what?

---the worst movie posters of 2011

---"This used to be funny, but now it’s really just terrifying. We’re dealing with legislation that will completely change the face of the internet and free speech for years to come."

---"Film the Police"

---Magic and Light, Chapter 2

---"Maybe a hundred years down the line, nobody will look back at climate change as the most important issue of the early 21st century, because the damage will have been done, and the idea that it might have been prevented will seem absurd. Maybe the idea that Mali and Burkina Faso were once inhabited countries rather than empty deserts will seem queer, and the immiseration of huge numbers of stateless refugees thronging against the borders of the rich northern countries will be taken for granted. The absence of the polar ice cap and the submersion of Venice will have been normalised; nobody will think of these as live issues, no one will spend their time reproaching their forefathers, there'll be no moral dimension at all. We will have wrecked the planet, but our great-grandchildren won't care much, because they'll have been born into a planet already wrecked."

---ninja attack nuptials

---"Americans can be arrested on home soil and taken to Guantánamo Bay under a provision inserted into the bill that funds the US military," but "it is never easy to veto a defense authorization bill"

---trailers for Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, The Divide, Jack the Giant Killer, We Are Legion, and The Dictator

---Tiso's "You and Mark Aren't Friends"

---Lastly, "In a world where the society of the swarm is beginning to devour the society of the spectacle, celebrities have nothing to offer a people’s movement that does not begin with the abnegation of their celebrity."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A. O. Scott picks Pulp Fiction and other links

---A. O. Scott picks Pulp Fiction

---how Elvis Costello got banned from Saturday Night Live

---Chaos Cinema Part 3

---celebrities on the subway

---Chinese Army in Texas

---Lethem's "The Ecstasy of Influence: a Plagiarism":

"I was born in 1964; I grew up watching Captain Kangaroo, moon landings, zillions of TV ads, the Banana Splits, M*A*S*H, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I was born with words in my mouth—`Band-Aid,' `Q-tip,' `Xerox'—object-names as fixed and eternal in my logosphere as `taxicab' and `toothbrush.' The world is a home littered with pop-culture products and their emblems. I also came of age swamped by parodies that stood for originals yet mysterious to me—I knew Monkees before Beatles, Belmondo before Bogart, and “remember” the movie Summer of '42 from a Mad magazine satire, though I've still never seen the film itself. I'm not alone in having been born backward into an incoherent realm of texts, products, and images, the commercial and cultural environment with which we've both supplemented and blotted out our natural world. I can no more claim it as “mine” than the sidewalks and forests of the world, yet I do dwell in it, and for me to stand a chance as either artist or citizen, I'd probably better be permitted to name it.

Consider Walker Percy's The Moviegoer:

`Other people, so I have read, treasure memorable moments in their lives: the time one climbed the Parthenon at sunrise, the summer night one met a lonely girl in Central Park and achieved with her a sweet and natural relationship, as they say in books. I too once met a girl in Central Park, but it is not much to remember. What I remember is the time John Wayne killed three men with a carbine as he was falling to the dusty street in Stagecoach, and the time the kitten found Orson Welles in the doorway in The Third Man.'

Today, when we can eat Tex-Mex with chopsticks while listening to reggae and watching a YouTube rebroadcast of the Berlin Wall's fall—i.e., when damn near everything presents itself as familiar—it's not a surprise that some of today's most ambitious art is going about trying to make the familiar strange. In so doing, in reimagining what human life might truly be like over there across the chasms of illusion, mediation, demographics, marketing, imago, and appearance, artists are paradoxically trying to restore what's taken for `real' to three whole dimensions, to reconstruct a univocally round world out of disparate streams of flat sights.

Whatever charge of tastelessness or trademark violation may be attached to the artistic appropriation of the media environment in which we swim, the alternative—to flinch, or tiptoe away into some ivory tower of irrelevance—is far worse. We're surrounded by signs; our imperative is to ignore none of them."

---The Dark Knight Rises and hooded prisoners on a CIA plane

---what indefinite detention looks like

---the ParaNorman and Perfect Sense trailers

---Brian Eno's oblique strategies

---Jenny Turner's "As Many Pairs of Shoes as She Likes"

---"One of the greatest fears is that with the disappearance of the Arctic sea-ice in summer, and rapidly rising temperatures across the entire region, which are already melting the Siberian permafrost, the trapped methane could be suddenly released into the atmosphere leading to rapid and severe climate change."

---"Raiding the Lost Ark: A Filmumentary"

---an interview with David Graeber:

"Well, if you look at the size of US deficit it corresponds almost exactly to the real saw military budget. If you look at graphs showing the growth of the US deficit, and the percentage of it held overseas, and the US military spending—basically, you see almost exactly the same curve. So basically, foreign governments and institutional lenders are buying US treasury bonds and paying for this enormous military spending. So, who are the guys doing it? Well during the cold war it was especially West Germany, now, apart from China, the most important are places like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Gulf states. What do these states have in common? They’re all covered in US military bases, or under US military protection. The US is borrowing the money to create these military bases from the very countries that the US military is sitting on top of. In the past, such arrangements were called ‘empires’ and the money sent over was referred to as ‘tribute.’ Now apparently you're not allowed to use that language, so it’s called a ‘loan.’ Nonetheless, that link between the military and the core of the financial system remains, it’s the thing we’re not supposed to think about."

---"The great contemporary terror is anonymity."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

indefinite charge-free military detention links

---David Foster Wallace, Mark Leyner, and Jonathan Franzen discuss literature

---Newt's global warming ad

---I Believe I Can Fly

---the Oscar Bound Actress roundtable with @nathanielr's commentary

---"The House of the Rising Sun Old School Computer Remix"

---Zittrain's "The Personal Computer is Dead":

"The content restrictions are unexplored territory. At the height of Windows's market dominance, Microsoft had no role in determining what software would and wouldn't run on its machines, much less whether the content inside that software was to be allowed to see the light of screen. Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Mark Fiore found his iPhone app rejected because it contained `content that ridicules public figures.' Fiore was well-known enough that the rejection raised eyebrows, and Apple later reversed its decision. But the fact that apps must routinely face approval masks how extraordinary the situation is: tech companies are in the business of approving, one by one, the text, images, and sounds that we are permitted to find and experience on our most common portals to the networked world. Why would we possibly want this to be how the world of ideas works, and why would we think that merely having competing tech companies—each of which is empowered to censor—solves the problem?

This is especially troubling as governments have come to realize that this framework makes their own censorship vastly easier: what used to be a Sisyphean struggle to stanch the distribution of books, tracts, and then websites is becoming a few takedown notices to a handful of digital gatekeepers. Suddenly, objectionable content can be made to disappear by pressuring a technology company in the middle. When Exodus International—`[m]obilizing the body of Christ to minister grace and truth to a world impacted by homosexuality'—released an app that, among other things, inveighed against homosexuality, opponents not only rated it poorly (one-star reviews were running two-to-one against five-star reviews) but also petitioned Apple to remove the app. Apple did."

---22 free Hitchcock movies

---Don't Need You: The Herstory of Riot Grrl

---the 90 best tumblr blogs

---Kael's 5 best reviews according to Oleszczyk

---"Touch of Evil"

---Roberts' "The Brutal Logic of Climate Change":

"That makes the notion of `adapting' to 4 degrees C a bit of a farce. Infrastructure decisions involve big money and long time horizons. By the time we've built (or rebuilt) infrastructure suited to 4 degrees C, it will be 5 degrees C [9 degrees F]. And so on. A climate in which conditions are changing that fast just isn't suitable for stable human civilization (or for the continued existence of a majority of the planet's species).

Oh, and by the way: According to the International Energy Agency, we're currently on course for 6 degrees C [10.8 degrees F]. That is, beyond any reasonable doubt, game over.

So this is where we're at: stuck between temperatures we can't possibly accommodate and carbon reduction pathways we can't possibly achieve. A rock and a hard place. Scylla and Charybdis."

---traffic in Vietnam

---Greenwald: "the entire world (including the U.S.) is a battlefield and the war will essentially go on forever"

---Spielberg remembers Stanley Kubrick

---lastly, Fall, a video poem for Buster Keaton

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Twee Serendipity: 9 notes on Miranda July's The Future

1) First, let's define twee--"to be obnoxiously sweet, or quaint. It comes across as being disingenuous, corny, or effeminate.

2) From Onstad's New York Times article "Miranda July Is Totally Not Kidding": "To her detractors (“haters” doesn’t seem like too strong a word) July has come to personify everything infuriating about the Etsy-shopping, Wes Anderson-quoting, McSweeney’s-reading, coastal-living category of upscale urban bohemia that flourished in the aughts. Her very existence is enough to inspire, for example, an I Hate Miranda July blog, which purports to detest her `insufferable precious nonsense.' Or there is the online commenter who roots for July to be exiled to Darfur. Or the blogger who yearns to beat her with a shoe."

3) The first time I watched The Future on Blu-ray, I fell asleep about 30 minutes into it, in part because the narrative appears to stop dead as Sophie (July) stares at a table leg, some hose, and other seemingly random objects in her ultra hipster Urban Outfitters vintage Los Angeles apartment, and in part because I was tired from a hard day's work. Still, I was intrigued enough by the randomness of the film's aesthetics to watch it again with my significant other, and this time I enjoyed it.

4) According to my significant other, other things that "twee" involves in terms of fashion:

a) The fascination with mixed prints.

b) Mixed time periods. Sophie tends to wear 1920's-inspired clothes (her little leather shoe flats struck me as important as anything else in the movie). Her boyfriend Jason's (Hamish Linklater's) long, unkempt hair and jeans evoke the 1960's.

c) Mixed value. The Twee fashion aesthetic involves incongruously blending $500 Prada shoes with a t-shirt from Target. You form an identity by trying to pick things that please you, and they can be of any value. You fashion a DIY style out of the grab bag vintage detritus of different genres, values, time periods, and prints without being co-opted by corporate branding.

5) So how does July's serendipitous creativity work? The Future is in part about its creative technique. As Richard Brody notes about the film: "an exemplary work of modern cinema is defined by its reflection of the way in which it was made." After Sophie and Jason commit to taking care of a cat Paw-Paw that has been kept at a clinic due to its illness (renal failure), they learn that they have about a month before they can take the cat home. After that, the cat could die within six months, or within a few years if it bonds with them. This commitment suddenly (and humorously) forces the couple to rethink their whole lives. Now in their thirties, they discuss how they will soon turn forty, and then they might as well be fifty, and after that there's nothing but "loose change," as Jason puts it. So, they decide to quit their LA McJobs and remain open to everything as they attempt to reinvent themselves. Jason arbitrarily joins an environmentalist organization "Tree to Tree" where he tries to sell trees door to door. Sophie decides to create a different dance each day for thirty days, film herself performing each dance with her webcam, then show the dances on the Internet.

6) The key to all of this flaky behavior is their willingness to remain open to everything. Because of that choice, Sophie happens upon the phone number behind a drawing that Jason bought that leads her into (spoiler alert) an affair with an older man Marshall (David Warshofsky), in part due to her frustration with her attempts at choreography, and in part because she doesn't have to be creative around Marshall (thus does Sophie's failure help July fashion a successful movie). Meanwhile, Jason's new job as an environmental solicitor obliges him to get out of the house, think about the interior/exterior world, and meet suburbanites. Through this process, he discovers Joe Putterlik, an older man who sells him a used hair dryer. In real life, Miranda July found Joe through a PennySaver ad when she got frustrated with writing The Future. Thus, July, like her characters, uses random events and encounters to help her create. The film keeps obliging its viewer to say "Where in the hell is this film going now?" Twee or not, the random Ghost Worldesque quirkiness is oddly compelling.

7) Meanwhile, what about the talking cat, Paw-Paw, and the talking moon (which uses the voice of Joe Putterlik)? By including Paw-Paw, July seems to cater to the infinite internet meme interest in cats. As J. D. Salinger wrote, "we are being sentimental when we give to a thing more tenderness than God gives to it. I said that God undoubtedly loves kittens, but not, in all probability, with Technicolor bootees on their paws. He leaves that creative touch to script writers."

8) Still, Paw Paw talks about being stranded in the great "Outside" before finding some domestic comfort with her possible new owners. Paw-Paw's existential quandary in the animal clinic sets up the film's concern with our own screwed up relations with the outside world. There's something pantheistic about July's vision where animals and inanimate matter can communicate with her characters. Her world is also reminiscent of Peewee's Playhouse where most everything in Peewee's living room has been anthropomorphized.

9) Later in The Future, Marshall's little girl Gabriella (Isabella Acres) experiments with burying most of herself in a hole in her backyard. She attempts to sleep outside that way, as if she intuitively shares in the cat's fears of exposure. Meanwhile, Jason manages to "freeze" time when Sophie wants to tell him of her affair, so he (again rather randomly) talks with the full moon about what to do. In his indecision, he allows a month to slip by, thereby he and Sophie miss their appointment to pick up the cat. In the end, July's anthropomorphized cat and moon communicate our lack of connection with the environment. Even as they talk sweetly, the cat and the moon acknowledge an indifferent cold exterior world that has little to do with the Urban Outfitter hipsters and their need for attention and some sort of commitment. As she begins to understand this, Sophie looks for an escape from her faddish interests, her time, her creative limitations, her fashion sense, and her self-absorption.