Thursday, November 29, 2012

10 questions about Ang Lee's Life of Pi

1) With all of its emphasis on Richard Parker, the highly photogenic computer-generated 450 lb Bengal tiger, is Life of Pi Ang Lee's 3D version of a viral cat video?

2) Given the increasing acidification of the oceans and the endangerment of tigers, should we celebrate such beautiful fantasies as Life of Pi?

3) Should a viewer trust any story described within Life of Pi as certain "to make you believe in God"?

4) What does God have to do with Life of Pi?  Is it a computer-generated God?  When Pi yells at the sky "I lost everything!  What more do you want?", are we supposed to think of Job's complaints?

5) When Pi suggests an alternative storyline late in the movie, are we supposed to accept the expedient lie over the truth?  Is the movie suggesting that we can only know lies?

6) Early in Pi's adventure, he finds himself on a lifeboat with a tiger, a zebra, a hyena, and orangutan. Later, meerkats get involved.  Is Life of Pi a version of The Lion King for adults?

7) In Yann Martel's 2001 novel, Pi's father believed the "most dangerous animal" is "the animal as seen through human eyes, . . . an animal that is 'cute,' 'friendly,' 'loving,' 'devoted,' 'merry,' 'understanding,'" basically a "mirror" of humans looking for a reflection.  Even though the novel resists this type of animal typecasting, doesn't the movie constantly risk just that kind of interpretation, especially when Pi laments the fact that Richard Parker walks into the jungle without acknowledging their relationship?

8) Isn't Life of Pi constantly looking for a relationship between Richard Parker and Pi (such as when Richard rests his head on Pi's lap)?

9) Is there really all that much difference between a computer-generated Richard Parker and a stuffed tiger?

10) What does all of critical appreciation of the beautiful fabrications of Life of Pi suggest about our relationship with what's left of the wilderness?  

Sunday, November 25, 2012

fractal links

---The Hollywood Reporter Actress Roundtable

---"They're not going to just fix your boring rabbit."

---Science Fiction: A Supercut

---climate change in Doonesbury

---the 10 best iPhone filmmaking apps

---"11. Personal correspondence grows less interesting as the speed of its delivery quickens.

12. Programmers are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.

13. The album cover turned out to be indispensable to popular music.

14. The pursuit of followers on Twitter is an occupation of the bourgeoisie.

15. Abundance of information breeds delusions of knowledge among the unwary.

16. No great work of literature could have been written in hypertext.

17. The philistine appears ideally suited to the role of cultural impresario online.

18. Television became more interesting when people started paying for it.

19. Instagram shows us what a world without art looks like.

20. Online conversation is to oral conversation as a mask is to a face."  --Nicholas Carr

---trailers for Chasing Ice, She's Beautiful When She's Angry, Jack the Giant Slayer, Zero Dark Thirty, and Doc of the Dead  

---"The contents of Unapologetic are effectively trolling the public. The incident between Rihanna and Brown, and the wider issue it represents, is being reduced to a series of shock-tactic soundbites (with a few lines neatly sampled from Michael Jackson's 'The Way You Make Me Feel'). It's nobody's business, they sing, but we'll tell you all about it anyway, wind you up in the process, and get good publicity material from an issue as trifling as – oh – physical violence against a woman.

This also reveals how the internet often works in the most terrible way. In terms of online popularity, page hits are king. As a result, provocative subjects and statements that prompt instant reactions – and finger-clicks – take precedence. They form the bedrock of comment-board-driven editorial planning, in a world where comments themselves barely get moderated. Debates on weighty subjects on TV and radio are also now all about polarised positions. . . . This twisted, provocative logic, where extreme positions and statements are everything, is festering within our culture, and infecting it, too."  --Jude Rogers

---"Documentary is the only art, where every esthetical element almost always has ethical aspects and every ethical aspect can be used esthetically. Try to remain human, especially whilst editing your films. Maybe, nice people should not make documentaries."  --Victor Kassakovsky

---Final Cut: The Making and Unmaking of Heaven's Gate (via @LaFamiliaFilm)

---Keaton's The General and "The General's Legacy"

---"after Yellow Submarine, it was a wholly different world. It wasn't just for kids. It was satire and art and, most of all, subversion"

---anthems for buying nothing

---"Ultimately, we can be seen as living in a fractal age where things proliferate endlessly and expand like a virus or a cancer. There is no goal other than endless proliferation. The Internet is legendarily viral with all sorts of texts and images, as well as viruses and spam, proliferating endlessly." -- from George Ritzer's "The Internet Through a Postmodern Lens"

---Spike Lee's Bad 25

---Ripper: ...It looks like we're in a shooting war.
Mandrake: (politely irritated) Oh hell. Are the Russians involved, sir?

---the sounds of Killing Them Softly

---"And just as we run down our irreplaceable metals, so we have mined our soils, polluted our waters, and started to warm the atmosphere and the ocean. But the GDP reflects none of this."

---"Zapruder’s film is still the canonical ur text of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the most complete and most chilling visual record. In many ways, it prefigured all sorts of American pastimes, from widespread paranoia about government to a loss of faith in photographic truth and the news media, from the acceptance of graphic violence to newer concerns about copyright. Don Delillo once said that the little film “could probably fuel college courses in a dozen subjects from history to physics.” Without the 486 frames of Kodachrome II 8mm safety film, our understanding of JFK’s assassination would likely be an even greater carnival of conspiracy theories than it already is. Well, maybe."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"I finally found that I could shine": A pictorial primer on The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2

This is Edward Cullen.
He tends to grin sheepishly,
grin, grin, grin,
and act polite as a dreamboat vampire should.
When asked what it was like to play Edward,
Robert Pattinson replied:
"It's like a mixture of looking slightly
constipated and stoned."
Behind Edward, see the Volvo S60 T6
that figures prominently in
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2,
because, as it says in the ad,
It's the "best choice for one sexy vampire."

This is Bella Swan.
She has more to do in this fifth Twilight movie
because Edward turned her into a vampire,
so she hunts in the woods for deer or bobcat,
just slightly ripping her blue dress.

Edward and Bella have a new computer-generated
baby named Renesmee
who will later cause a big battle between the Cullen coven
and the black-robed Volturi on a snowy plain
near Forks, Washington
because the Twilight series needs a big climax.

See Jacob Black hanging out with Bella and Renesmee.
He really doesn't have much to do now
since Bella married and reproduced.
She engages in epic tireless PG-13 vampire lovemaking
with Edward (with mope rock accompaniment)
in a bed they don't need for anything else
(since vampires don't sleep). They make out
for hours, days, weeks, months on end.
One would think that Jacob would find that annoying
and go somewhere else,
but the Twilight author Stephenie Meyer
keeps him involved somehow
for the Team Jacob fans. Jacob hangs around
hangs around, hangs around, hangs around,
trying to think of a reason to take off his shirt.

This is Bella's dad, Charlie.
He's the sole recognizable human left in the Twilight series.
As the Chief of Police of Forks, Washington,
Charlie is curiously unaware
of all the vampire/werewolf activity going on
around him for five movies' worth of plot lines,
but it doesn't matter, because
Bella is a vampire with a special "shield" power.
Alice Cullen can see the future.
Another relative can shoot
electric bolts out of her hands.
Even Renesmee has a special power!
Humans are so passe nowadays.

See the Cullen coven with some Amazonian vampires,
who show up to fight the Volturi.
The Cullens assemble a multi-ethnic bunch
of "witnesses," vampires who stand around,
stand around, stand around, stand around,
waiting for the Volturi to show up.

See the Volturi with Aro (Michael Sheen)
who acts like a deranged Napoleon.

See Jane (Dakota Fanning)
who tags along for the tween market.
The Volturi are Italian vampires
who pattern themselves on the Spanish Inquisition
which makes one wonder if Stephenie Meyer
has some Mormon anti-Catholic ax to grind.

See Edward, Bella, and Jacob run,
run, run, run
across the snowy plain
to protect little Renesmee
from those evil Volturi.
Watch them PG-13 fight ,
fight, fight, fight
by flying around with their special powers
bloodlessly pulling off each other's heads.

Regardless of what happens
during the climactic fight scene
on the snowy field near Forks, Washington,
what matters is the enduring pastoral love
between Edward and Bella as they snuggle,
snuggle, snuggle, snuggle
in the flowery sunlit field,
with Bella saying "Nobody's ever loved anyone
as much as I've loved you."
Bella and Edward remain
united in their tireless vampiric PG-13 canoodling
for hours, days, weeks, months, and years
(with mope rock accompaniment).    

Saturday, November 17, 2012

extra-judicial links

---anorexic Disney

---'Tis the Season to Get Trampled

---how to get a Hollywood greenlight

---“I don’t want to read fiction, I don’t want to write it, and I don’t even want to talk about it anymore. I dedicated my life to the novel. At the exclusion of nearly everything else. It’s enough!”  --Philip Roth

---The Bad and the Beautiful


---"As the world’s population begins to swell amazingly, it is a chance to make us all feel that we are in the same world and going through the same thing, what has been called `the global village.' Whereas I feel that what the screen does is say to you, `This is reality if you want to believe it, but it’s a trick.' And in fact what it’s doing, in so profound a way that nobody needs to understand this, is giving you a screen on which you can tell yourself that you are dealing with and seeing reality whereas in fact what it teaches you is that you don’t have to bother. That the old connections of sympathy, anger, questioning, doubt, political involvement and action that through the nineteenth-century and the early twentieth-century we more or less believed in — it’s a myth. You actually now live in a world where most intelligent young people are confident that it’s going to end, and are assured of the futility of any of the kinds of action or response that would have come from sympathy and anger and protest. So that if you look at, say, Fukushima on the screen, the essential reaction is, 'Oh, that’s extraordinary, it’s not me this time, but it will be.' We have issues and we have problems of enormous scale. We know that we’re dancing on the brink and we have the most useless, futile political system we have ever had. I’m talking about this country [the U.S.] but there are many other countries too where everyone actually says, `Well, yes, I’m the president, I’ve got the job, but we can’t do anything about it, we know that.' And it’s just a question of time, just a question of waiting for it. So in many respects, what has come from this immersion in images, is to teach us that we need have nothing to do with reality; it’s pointless."  --David Thomson

--a Jean Seberg interview

---"It’s a great job — the best I can think of, actually. You walk into a room and say, ‘I’m imagining this,’ and they give you millions of dollars to go out and make it real. That’s a pretty good gig."  --Steven Soderbergh

---Night of the Living Dead


---The Cabin in the Woods' title sequence

---"The whole set-up of life doesn’t make any sense to me. I’m going to live for a while, and I’ll look good for a while, then I’ll really look good, and then it’s going to slowly fall apart. Year by year, I’m just going to cave in, then all my friends are just going to start dropping like flies, and hopefully I’m not one of them that drops first, and I’ll last as long as I can last and hopefully I won’t lose my mind and my memory while my kids have to take care of me."  --Judd Apatow

---“Irony has only emergency use. Carried over time, it is the voice of the trapped who have come to enjoy their cage.”  --David Foster Wallace quoting Lewis Hyde

---the shots of Paul Thomas Anderson

---"In essence, what we find, yet again, is that the governments of the United States and Israel arrogate unto themselves the right to execute anyone they want, anywhere in the world, without any limitations, regardless of how many innocent civilians they kill in the process." 

---"Peter Chernin’s announcement shows us the future of Twitter: a media company writing software that is optimized for mostly passive users interested in a media and entertainment filter."

---"This price surge is a response to global population growth and the explosion of capital spending in China. Especially dangerous to social stability and human well-being are food prices and food costs. Growth in the productivity of grains has fallen to 1.2% a year, which is exactly equal to the global population growth rate. There is now no safety margin.

Then there is the impending shortage of two fertilizers: phosphorus (phosphate) and potassium (potash). These two elements cannot be made, cannot be substituted, are necessary to grow all life forms, and are mined and depleted. It’s a scary set of statements. Former Soviet states and Canada have more than 70% of the potash. Morocco has 85% of all high-grade phosphates. It is the most important quasi-monopoly in economic history. `It is crucial that scientists sound a more realistic, more desperate, note on global warming.'

 What happens when these fertilizers run out is a question I can’t get satisfactorily answered and, believe me, I have tried. There seems to be only one conclusion: their use must be drastically reduced in the next 20–40 years or we will begin to starve."

---trailers for Floating Weeds, Grand Theft Auto V, Now You See Me, House of Cards, Admissionand Europa Report

---"Weekend is structured like a problem in logic or a mathematical theorem. Virtually every scene reflects the unraveling of Rousseau’s social contract and points to an inevitable disintegration into tribal atavism. Godard, who trained as an ethnologist, adapted the film’s structure from Friedrich Engels’s The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State (1884). Engels developed his ideas from the anthropologist Lewis Morgan’s study of the Iroquois and Seneca tribes, which posits that, `according to the materialist conception, the determining factor in history is . . . the production and reproduction of the immediate essentials of life.' Engels describes the emergence of civilization from barbarism, and barbarism from savagery, as marked by stages in the development of articulate speech, the invention of weaponry, and the transition from migratory hunting and gathering to fixed communities based on agriculture.

In Weekend, these stages are set in reverse: a dominant class, alienated from `the production . . . of the immediate essentials of life' and devoted to mindless consumerism, is shown regressing to a state of savagery. Even Morgan’s Indians, alluded to at the outset by a little brat in a headdress, turn up in the form of revolutionary cannibals, declaiming the poetry of Lautréamont while frying up English tourists."  --Gary Indiana

Sunday, November 11, 2012

established reality links

---"In the future, everybody is going to be a director." --Cameron Crowe

---"Denzel's anti-image is increasingly refreshing." --Anne Helen Petersen

---"Watching a news show transparently at war with itself made for extraordinary live television."

---The Cabin in the Woods' title sequence

---"The brown people and the black people and the women handed the white men’s asses to them as unsentimentally as white men have bought and sold and manipulated America for centuries now. Welcome to the future."   --Cord Jefferson

---The First 36 Hours

---"The truth of art lies in its power to break the monopoly of established reality to define what is real." —Herbert Marcuse

---"We will have four more years of a Democratic president presiding over military detention without trial, military commission trials (at least for the 9/11 conspirators, if not for more), broad warrantless surveillance, drone strikes around the globe, and covert war more generally."  --Jack Goldsmith


---Free Cinema

---"Almost lost in the multitude of post-election analyses is the most significant point of all: despite the long held truism that a Democrat can win a second term only if he is from the South—an extrapolation from one post-FDR example—the nation’s first black president was elected to a second term. The implications of this are enormous. Consider the difference in the mood of more than half the country as well as the “lessons” that would have been drawn had he been defeated after a single term.  He escaped the fate of joining Jimmy Carter on the list of well-meaning but failed one-term presidents. One of the reasons this didn’t occur is that so many people rose up against the maneuvering of Obama’s political opponents to bend, distort, deny the essence of our democratic system that otherwise could result in his election. Which, to a significant extent because they overplayed their hand, it did."  --Elizabeth Drew

---"if the . . . conservative media is stuck in a vacuum sealed, door locked, spin cycle of telling each other what makes them feel good, and denying the factual, lived truth of the world, then we are all deprived, as a nation, of the constructive debate between competing, feasible ideas about real problems."  --Rachel Maddow

---Data Visualization, Reinterpreted

---David Foster Wallace on why writers write

---YouTube intelligence

---"The larger narrative is a nation becoming gradually acclimated to female power. We are starting to see women in command as less of a novelty, less of a curious phenomenon to be dissected in all of its fascinating manifestations—Will she cry? Can she wage wars? Can she bake cookies and wage wars at the same time?—and more as a normal part of our political landscape.

Most of these newly elected women will vote Democratic, but plenty won’t. Many of them will protect women’s reproductive rights but by no means all of them. (Akin and McCaskill split the white women’s vote.Michele Bachmann just won re-election in Minnesota.) But they will seem less like newcomers to the process, which is exactly what we want."  --Hanna Rosin

---"Black frock, golden epaulettes
Parishioners crawl bowing [toward the priest, during the Eucharist]
Freedom's ghost [has gone to] heaven
A gay-pride parade [has been] sent to Siberia in shackles
Their chief saint is the head of the KGB
He leads a convoy of protestors to jail
So as not to insult the Holiest One
Woman should bear children and love"  --Pussy Riot

---Stanley Kubrick: The Works

---"he would turn himself into a `human tape recorder.' Capote claimed to have the auditory version of a photographic memory that, with practice, he was able to hone to a high degree of accuracy. `This is of the greatest importance in the kind of reportage I do, because it is absolutely fatal to ever take a note or use a tape recorder when you interview somebody.' This technique, in Capote’s estimation, allowed him to `live inside the situation, to become part of the scene I was recording and not cut myself off from them in any way.'”

---Dreaming of Jeanie

---"the larger ideas in the film [They Live] — media manipulation, the displacement of the lower socioeconomic classes, rampant consumerism — remain wildly relevant"

---"Fassbinder: An Essay in Thirteen Scenes" --Charlie Fox

---police brutality in Vietnam

---the Wachowskis' and Steven Soderbergh's filmmaking tips

---the origins of Rosemary's Baby

---trailers for World War Z, Ginger and Rosaand Hitchcock

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Carpet-bombing Disney Schlock: Wreck-It Ralph

For some reason, I thought that Wreck-It Ralph might share with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World an edgy visually flamboyant potpourri of videogame tropes, but then I sat through the 439 Disney-related ads and trailers of Smurfs sequels, aliens in french maid uniforms threequels, Monsters Inc. 3-D blue monsters, James Franco's sickly over-exposed presence as Oz in an Oz the Great and Powerful trailer, and so on and so forth (not to mention a painful 10+(?) minute trailer for Les Miserables that I've now seen 5 times due to the Regal Cineplex's media torture techniques, with Hugh Jackman and company talking about all of the emotion, emotion, emotion that we're going to see this Christmas as everyone sings, sings, sings (since there's no regular dialogue) syrupy cheesy music with a lot of red flags and revolutionary barricades and a poverty-stricken imprisoned Anne Hathaway looking drained, wan, and tearful with a bad haircut).

Provided that one endures the carpet-bomb marketing, Wreck-It Ralph does have a nice shiny look and an arcade story framework that heavily evokes the Toy Story series (with various video game critters hobnobbing in Game Central Station when the arcade closes), but Mr. Wreck-It himself proves to be an insipid nebbish. 30 years of diligently wrecking the same apartment complex in game after 8-bit Donkey Kong-esque game leaves Ralph feeling unappreciated and unloved by other characters such as Mr. Fix-It, so Wreck-It heads off on a quest to find a medal.  He also visits a support group (Bad-Anon: One Game At a Time) for fellow villains (a zombie, Zangief, M. Bison, a Pac-Man ghost) who tell him that "labels will not make you happy," so the titular character who would be destructive and interesting turns out to be a sensitive in-need-of-approval-and-acceptance dipweed in Li'l Abner mufti with large hands and John C. Reilly's voice.

Ralph does find a medal in a military scene worthy of Battleship in the midst of stumbling into a contemporary military first-person shooter game called Hero's Duty with "tough-as-nails" Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch). Even though she looks younger and blonder, Jane still sounds exactly as she does in Glee, with increasingly stale wisecracks. Wreck-It and some Cybug then contrive to fly into Sugar Rush (a turbo-cute variation of Candy Land), where Wreck-It promptly loses his medal to Vanellope von Shweetz (Sarah Silverman gurgling like she's five years old) in a candy cane tree. Schweetz then uses Ralph's medal to enter a race, but she doesn't know how to drive, so Ralph has to teach her, but the Oz-like King of Sugar Rush wants to stop her, and nog, nog, nog.

Amidst omnipresent product placement (Mentos stalactites, Oreo cookies singing "OReO" like the Wicked Witch's palace guards in formation (the film's one witty pun), a police donut named Duncan, and crowds of candies dancing in stands), spunky Vanellope also seeks approval and acceptance, but this time from her Mean Girls-esque candy car-racing cohorts with names like Taffyta Muttonfudge. Everyone eventually feels fulfilled because brainwashed customers keep playing their video games over and over indefinitely. Funny how Disney executives would like that ending.             

Monday, November 5, 2012

behemoth conglomerate links

---visiting Staten Island

---Romney vs. Sandy

---La Luna

---Google Now

---"How to Launch a Short Film Online"

---the IMDB top 250

---Kurosawa's Rashomon

---postmodern True Stories

---"When I first saw The Usual Suspects, it suddenly hit me who the real Keyser Söze was: Stanley Kubrick. A figure enveloped in mystery and carefully constructed anecdote, someone about whom everyone has a different story, but all of which end in submission. There is probably no other American filmmaker of his generation who so thoroughly dramatized cruelty, and Kubrick’s whims—his playful malice—have become an integral part of his legend.

Like Söze, the near mythical ur-gangster at the heart of The Usual Suspects, Kubrick was a master manipulator who could bend people to his will and then place them exactly where he wanted them. When it is said in the film that Söze was the one to gather a group of extras and march them into certain death, I was reminded of Kubrick’s ability to extract the ultimate commitment from his collaborators. He was one of the last working directors to exist, like Söze, as a living myth."  --Elvis Mitchell

---It's a Paycheck!

---Joss Whedon supports Romney and Chris Rock's message for white voters

---Lincoln in movies and TV 

---Off the Rails

---"the CIA at the end of the day is going to be demolished, is going to be deleted from our consciousness, and it has to be called the greatest criminal organization [in the country]. . . .Can Obama [stop the growth of the counterterrorism-industrial complex before it installs David Petraeus as emperor]? Yes — [he could] if he were the young vigorous figure that he pretended [to be]. That I thought he was. But he wasn't."  --Oliver Stone

---Three Reasons: Rosemary's Baby

---Staircases to Nowhere: Making Stanley Kubick's The Shining

---behind the scenes of Raiders of the Lost Ark

---"The end of a picture is always an end of a life.”--Sam Peckinpah

---"Constructive Editing: Pickpocket (1959) Robert Bresson"

---"It is undeniable that Star Wars’ success put the whizz-bang thrill machine front and centre – its rapid pace and zappy graphics also influencing the emerging MTV channel and computer games, more entertainments that critics like to pronounce as the death knell of cinema. But just as ageing racer John Milner in Lucas’ American Graffiti lamented that “rock’n’roll has been going downhill ever since Buddy Holly died,” so the ‘Star Wars murdered movies’ conspiracy theorists, perhaps blindsided by the saga’s impact, haven’t really studied the evidence. For starters, as the unadulterated genius of Badlands, McCabe & Mrs Miller and Mean Streets were being lapped up by the cognoscenti, the masses were enjoying Earthquake, The Towering Inferno and The Spy Who Loved Me, blockbusters every bit as programmatic as Star Wars but with none of the charm. ‘70s Hollywood was changing anyway, the period of creative freedom facilitated by the end of the studio system coming to an end as behemoth conglomerates took control of Tinseltown at the close of the decade. The days of wine and ambiguous freeze-frame endings were probably numbered, Star Wars or no Star Wars."  --Ian Freer

---"The military commissions are just one piece of a larger, disturbing trend toward centralized presidential power with virtually no oversight or transparency"

---the increasing cultural irrelevance of movies

---trailers for West of Memphis, On the Road, Side Effects, and The Rift 

---Split of a Second