Friday, August 30, 2013

narcocultura links

---trailer mashup tiff festival

---"Believe in Government God"

---a scene from Fassbinder's Love Is Colder Than Death

---Incredibly Strange Film Show featuring Sam Raimi

---Seconds is no mere problem picture or message movie, though. It’s less a polemic than a punch to the sociopolitical solar plexus. It’s also a powerfully constructed work of art, darting with icy precision among a wealth of narrative, thematic, and cinematic ideas. Its unifying image is the human face, first seen behind the titles in huge, distorted close-ups that echo the swirling eye that opens Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958), also a product of Saul Bass’s genius. Filmed by Bass himself, these shots provide a brooding foundation for James Wong Howe’s cinematography in the rest of the film, which is astonishing throughout, charged with the dark-toned intensity that made him a legendary camera artist. Disorienting close-ups reappear in the first scene, where a man from the Company stalks Arthur through Grand Central Terminal, slipping him a secret address just before his train pulls out of the station. A few scenes (and surgeries) later, Arthur emerges from his bandages with his fine-looking Tony features, still lacerated, stitched, and scarred from the ordeal they have undergone. The imagery comes full circle when the story culminates in one of the most excruciatingly intense close-up sequences ever filmed, recording the unhappy destiny of a man who has allowed himself to be literally defaced." --David Sterritt

---Edgar Wright's filmmaking tips

---Elmore Leonard's opening lines

---Glenn Greenwald Killed the Internet

---"the hard truth of the apocalyptic lottery: We're virtually guaranteed to witness the end of nothing except our lives, and the present, far from fulfilling anything, is mainly distinguished by being the one piece of time with us in it."

---108 years of Herman Miller

---making In The Mood For Love

---The Birdman

---"the list is the signature form of our time"

---designing Matt Zoller Seitz's The Wes Anderson Collection

---"See my co-workers standing around looking somber and respectful? They’re not there to just have a presence of authority, they are studying you. They are watching the family dynamic and will report back to me with any potential angles I can play to manipulate your emotions, which family members are taking it the hardest and will therefore be the easiest prey, and their estimation of your financial well-being. If, by the way, you appear to be less affluent, I’ll tell you to take your business elsewhere. This is not a hospital and I don’t provide a service – this is a business. If you aren’t paying me (in full and up front, generally), all you’re getting is my sympathy."

---Lesser-known "Golden" Ages of Media"

---"Visual Index: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid"

---Winona Ryder's comeback

---actors in Woody Allen films before they were famous

---Eric Rohmer's contemporary influence

---“Rosalyn is 100 percent a product of David’s imagination,” she says. “She’s a manic-depressive alcoholic, and I couldn’t wait. Plus, I got to make out with Christian Bale.” --Jennifer Lawrence

---trailers for Narco Cultura, Diana, Parkland, Two Livesand The Unknown Known

---defining the director's job

---making The Wolf of Wall Street

---storyboarding with the Coen brothers

---"Why film an action — say, the lighting of a cigarette — in one shot when you can do it in six? So you get match swipe, match flare, another angle (with a double exposure) on the flare, tip of cigarette burning, cigarette going between lips, character inhaling in close-up … And the film stock changes in each shot, one green, one black-and-white, one overexposed … And the sound of that flare is like a bomb going off … and the cigarette isn't even a big deal."

Sunday, August 25, 2013

12 pubs, 12 questions about Edgar Wright's The World's End

1) How, exactly, do the 12 pubs in The World's End work as "tarot cards" that "prefigure" events in the movie? The pubs' names are The First Post, The Old Familiar, The Famous Cock, The Cross Hands, The Good Companions, The Trusty Servant, The Two Headed Dog, The Mermaid, The Beehive, The King's Head, The Hole in the Wall, and The World's End.

2) How does The World's End explore its central theme of freedom vs. middle-aged enslavement in the system? As Gary (Simon Pegg) says to his four friends at one point, "You're all jealous, because I'm free and you are all slaves."

3) Are the light-emitting capabilities of the antagonists of The World's End allusions to Village of the Damned (1960) and Big Trouble in Little China (1986)?

4) How much of the threat of The World's End the loss of cultural individuality in terms of the "Starbucking" of one's home town as the chains overtake it? How much is the threat the loss of personal individuality due to the pressures of conformity when one grows up and joins the workforce?

5) How is this scene in The Wild Angels (1966) important? The World's End alludes to it twice.

6) How do both Shaun of the Dead (2004) and The World's End explore the idea of the pub as a refuge?

7) Edgar Wright admitted that he was influenced by the Syd Field paradigm of screenwriting when he composed Shaun of the Dead (complete with plot points). Does The World's End follow the same pattern?

8) Wright tends to use lots of close ups and wipe cuts in a given scene. What kind of editing syntax does he tend to use? (Note: I'm in awe of the editing of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010).)

9) In terms of film technique, is The World's End something of a retreat from the comic/videogame allusive innovations of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World? As Guillermo del Toro pointed out, "Scott Pilgrim is the first movie to articulate our popular culture."

10) Why do different characters narrate the beginning and end of The World's End?

11) How much is The World's End an attack on the baleful international influence of Facebook and Apple?

12) As Edgar Wright said, "Are you in or are you out? Are you going to be a McPerson, or are you going to be completely off the grid?"

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The evils of sugar: 5 (no doubt) semi-paranoid notes

“It seems like every time I study an illness and trace a path to the first cause, I find my way back to sugar.”  --Richard Johnson, nephrologist

1) When I was young, I often stopped by a bakery on the way to school to pick up some apple strudel. After school, I would sit and eat about three bowls of King Vitamin cereal. My family had no qualms about sweets. Early on, my Virginia grandparents exposed me to the pleasures of ginger ale, petit fours, and tomato aspic made with lemon jello. I would watch as grandfather poured extra sugar on his already quite sugary stewed tomatoes during dinner. Since I was athletic, none of this mattered much at first, but more recently I began trying out some various techniques to slim up a bit. None of them worked all that well, and then I tried a very low sugar diet.

2) I kicked sugar about two weeks ago, and it's interesting to see how my view of the stuff has changed, with much imagery of 1988's They Live coming to mind. When I see a billboard on I-95 advertising McDonald's McCafe Frappe Mocha and a Cherry Berry Chiller, I think "drug delivery system." A sign promoting ice cream sandwiches at a convenience store conveys "narcotic fix available here." At my workplace, nice ladies routinely hand out candy as a successful means of manipulating students. Shiny red bags of Jelly Belly jelly beans and Dove dark chocolate "promises" around the household suddenly resemble sinister bright Candyland-marketed bags of crack. The Sweet cupcake place in town strikes me as an egregious opium den of iniquity, selling pockets of addicted joy with much frosting for $2.50 a pop.

3) As time goes on, others hear about my new dietary habits, and they say it's okay as long as one can bring in sugar substitutes, but I'm not going for that either. Every day, the cravings hit me mostly after meals. How about some dessert at that Starbucks? I would think to ask for my significant other for a mint and then stop myself. Suddenly, coffee and tea no longer taste as compelling, now that I'm no longer following Mr. Winston Wolfe's example in Pulp Fiction, who says "Lots of cream, lots of sugar," when asked by Tarantino if he'd like something in his coffee.

4) One's taste for sweet things changes on this diet. Now, a grapefruit tastes very sweet without any sugary addition. I visited a Subway and found that their 9-grain wheat bread tastes like cake. Many of the things that I used to put on my sub (such as their honey mustard) would now make it taste like some sort of highly nutritional candy bar, so I stick to mustard, oil and vinegar. At night, I dream of accidentally eating a bowl of Breyer's Natural Vanilla ice cream in the midst of a crowded party, and realize with dread that all is lost. I even made a $1000 bet with my significant other that I will not sugar binge on anything until November, and that includes a simple bowl of Kellogg's Raisin Bran or a glass of Pepsi.

5) Thus far, I've not lost the bet, and I've lost weight and in general feel much better physically, but the sugar is everywhere, snuck into the most unexpected things--hamburger buns, fries, LemonZest nutrition bars. The cravings persist. "They" want you to consume it--the omnipresent drug.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

parallel construction links

---Hitchcock's obsessions


---Harrison Ford--from brilliant to grump

---"Now the Joshes — 'we take turns being good Josh and evil Josh,' Mr. Davis said — say they believe it is time to try another way, especially with some publishers like Condé Nast offering contracts to writers that require sharing the money from film options. On Monday, Mr. Bearman and Mr. Davis are introducing Epic, a kind of online literary platform that will commission and publish big, nonfiction narratives that might also make good movies. They are trying to build a model for long-form journalism where the revenue generated over the entire life of a story — magazine fees, sales on and Amazon Kindle Singles, ancillary film and television rights — can be used to finance the costs of reporting."  --David Carr

---reviewing Paul Schader's and Elaine May's directorial career

---Edgar Wright teaches

---behind the scenes of The Day the Clown Cried, Elysium, Saturday Night Feverand Brazil 

---the last shot in blockbuster trailers

---new art forms? Best Vines? Alamo Drafthouse celebrity threats?

---VFX breakdowns of Alice in Wonderland and Game of Thrones Season 3

---the best film I've seen of 2013

---"What will distinguish the essay film, as Bazin noted, is not only its ability to make the image but also its ability to interrogate it, to dispel the illusion of its sovereignty and see it as part of a matrix of meaning that extends beyond the screen. No less than were the montagists, the film-essayists seek the motive forces of modern society not by crystallising eternal verities in powerful images but by investigating that ever-shifting, kaleidoscopic relationship between our regime of images and the realities it both reveals and occludes." --Andrew Tracy

---the spaces of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

---T-shirts in movies

---"Freedom in the Cloud" by Zizek

---the Yardbirds in Blow-Up

---"federal agents are trained to 'recreate' the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant's Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don't know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence - information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.

'I have never heard of anything like this at all,' said Nancy Gertner, a Harvard Law School professor who served as a federal judge from 1994 to 2011. . . .The training document reviewed by Reuters refers to this process as 'parallel construction.'"

---The Art of Portrait Photography

---filmmaking tips from Kevin Smith

---3 reasons for Seconds

---trailers for Wax Trax! Records, How I Live Now, Closed CircuitEnder's Game, ParadisePhilomena, The Monuments Men, CBGB, 99%, Mother of George, and Her

---"Like The Cause, film hypnotically transports us through time, into other lives. Like many religions, it unites people in shared experiences, and asks for belief in miracles. But for Anderson, seeking forgiveness from heaven, or the restoration of our souls to a state of grace, is less meaningful than humbly admitting and accepting our own fallen natures. His cinema is a great communion. Call it a religious experience."  --Jack Welch

Monday, August 5, 2013

"I love a little macho male bonding": 10 shallow pleasures of 2 Guns

As formulaic Hollywood products go, 2 Guns somehow works in a summer where so much formulaic cinema has gone awry, thus making it just as notable for the many things the movie does not do. 2 Guns presents us with a buddy comedy without resorting to the ersatz Abbot and Costello (superego and id) dynamics of The Heat or the grotesque sight of Ryan Reynolds seeking Jeff Bridges' Baby Boomer approval in R.I.P.D. Allow me to count the ways 2 Guns proved a pleasure:

1) Directed by Baltasar Kormakur, and adapted from a comic by Steven Grant2 Guns is just shallow enough to suit the viewer who has been psychologically bludgeoned by the movies of June and July.

2) The film's fireball aesthetics conform to a simple credo: when in doubt, blow it up, especially as a means to conclude a scene. Extra credit goes to the climactic moment when Bobby Trench (Denzel Washington) says "Make it rain" before detonating a pile of cash stuffed in the trunk of a vintage red convertible, thereby simultaneously alluding to Now You See Me with its compulsive use of floating money as mise en scene, Stanley Kubrick's culminating scene in The Killing (1956), and a botched train robbery in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969).

3) When robbing a bank, Stig (Mark Wahlberg) wears a clown mask to remind us of The Killing (again) and The Dark Knight (2008).

4) 2 Guns frequently evokes the charm of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Stig effortlessly shoots off the heads of several distant chickens in a manner that shows off his skill as a marksman. As the Kid, Robert Redford does something similar early in Butch Cassidy. Paula Patton's role as Deb parallels that of Etta Place (Katherine Ross in Butch) to show how the movie's latent homoeroticism does not preclude having beautiful women around and about. Also, Stig's covering of Bobby as he eludes various gunmen in a dark warehouse apartment reminded me of the conclusive scene of the western. Like Butch (Paul Newman), Bobby is older and smarter while Stig is more childlike. (Butch Cassidy was, by the by, a big influence on David Fincher's decision to become a film director.)

5) 2 Guns is not PG-13, and I'm about to swear off any movies of that designation forever.

6) The sleeper hold/affectionate clinch that Stig and Bobby maintain after lovingly bashing each other's big Chevy trucks in an extended demolition derby pas de deux, their tendency to square off with guns, to shoot each other lightly (just flesh wounds), these love-taps of cross-racial bantering post-Pulp Fiction friendship all reminded me of Susan Sarandon's line in Bull Durham (1988): "I love a little macho male bonding. I think it's sweet, I do, even if it's probably latent homosexuality being rechanneled. I'm all for rechanneling, so who cares, right?"

7) 2 Guns accepts the all-powerful ascendancy of the CIA (with Bill Paxton playing cocky agent, Earl) to the extent that Stig and Bobby consider water-boarding the Mexican cartel kingpin Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos). Funny how torture becomes another light form of fun and games coming out of Hollywood. The film also makes nods to the authority of the Naval Intelligence and the DEA, but it's all an alphabet soup backdrop to supply some plot layering for the lovable duo.

8) Even when captured by the Mexican cartel, Bobby and Stig have little to fear except some punches with a metal rod to the belly and the awkwardness of being dangled upside down in front of a bull in a barn (2 Guns is macho enough to have bulls appear frequently throughout). Bobby and Stig also suffer the indignities and hardships of illegally crossing the Mexican/American border in the desert with some Mexican refugees. Basically, Bobby and Stig are untouchable. How could they remain so cheerful otherwise? Whereas Robert Stone's Savages conveyed some of the ruthless ferocity of the cartels, Olmos' Papi Greco is downright cuddly.

9) Once Bobby and Stig's bank robbery gets them in trouble (they accidentally steal 37 million dollars more than they mean to), bad guys keep finding occasions to say "Where's the money?" For instance, Earl points his gun at Bobby's crotch and asks just that. Bobby replies, "It ain't down there. I can guarantee you that, Earl." Later, Papi Greco says "You got 24 hours to bring me the money." Very focused and noir, this emphasis on the money.

10) Ultimately, the success of 2 Guns hinges on Bobby's reluctant acceptance of Stig's friendship. His approval (and by extension, Denzel's decision to appear in this light entertainment) is all that matters, and somehow, given Washington's easygoing fedora-wearing star presence, that suffices.