Saturday, March 29, 2014

strike zone links

---"Simple and Sure"

---"Form is not just an academic side dish to the main course of content.  We critics of film and TV have a duty to help viewers understand how form and and content interact, and how content is expressed through form. The film or TV critic who refuses to write about form in any serious way abdicates that duty, and abets visual illiteracy." --Matt Zoller Seitz

---True Detective

---"Where to find film work"

---Leigh Brackett's screenplay for Altman's The Long Goodbye

---"Men have the advantage of a much longer shelf life not defined by their looks: as they age into masculine authority in their forties and the decades beyond, still making love to scads of constantly replenished sweet ingénues in their twenties and thirties, women age out, with few exceptions. Sixtyish character actress Meryl Streep remains eminently bankable because she’s an Oscar perennial. But she is also an anomaly.

Foreign countries nurture far more world-class women directors—New Zealand’s Campion, Denmark’s Susanne Bier, Poland’s Agnieszka Holland, and France’s Agnès Varda and Anne Fontaine, to name just a handful—but their films command relatively small budgets. More men move on from film schools to direct films than do women, who tend to wind up in lower-budget indie and television production. Many talented women serve the visions of their male bosses, as did the late production designer and producer Polly Platt, with Peter Bogdanovich and James L. Brooks.

In Hollywood, the barriers remain incredibly high for women hoping to direct, unlike the music or publishing industries where it’s relatively easy for exploitable talent to show what it can do. Men are permitted a few mistakes, where women are not. Movie stars Barbra Streisand and Angelina Jolie did not earn much respect for their directing on Yentl and In the Land of Blood and Honey, respectively. The list is long of women who have directed one or two films. Women directors with bona fide big-budget movie careers like Ron Howard or Barry Levinson? Rare."  --Anne Thompson

---"A good director, says Farber, is always 'seeking the idea in the visual world of action and movement, which is the more suitable, and so more emotionally vital, manner for the movies.'"

---Wes Anderson Centered

---trailers for Jupiter Ascending, Hercules, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Begin Again

---filmmaking tips from Lars Von Trier

---"I probably am the most uniquely American director in the world. Me and Clint Eastwood. And that's the truth." --Harmony Korine

---The Motion Picture Camera: Past, Present and Future

---les Cahiers du Cinema on screen

---21 cinematographers share their favorite shots

---"I'm not letting critics off the hook. You're a critic because you should be able to spot it. You know, you're not a critic just for your opinion. My elevator man has got an opinion. Theoretically, you know movies enough technically so that you can recognize what lenses are being used, so that you can recognize a color palette. The color palette in The Verdict is wonderful and so carefully worked out. You know the color blue appears only once in that movie? I couldn't get the sky out of the shot. And I looked for a way to change the lens, but I needed that lens for another reason. But that kind of control on a movie is what my work is about."  --Sidney Lumet

---fake Criterions

---who stole my ads?

---3 reasons: Persona

---the animations of Monty Python's Flying Circus

---Anne Helen Petersen on leaving academia for Buzzfeed

---a history of the anthology film by Calum Marsh

---"If Gregor occasionally hits a wedding party and makes another family even more miserable than his own, the US government’s all-but-explicit explanation will be that guilt is never to be doubted. There is no word more frequently misused than “kafkaesque,” but it is hard to think of a more appropriate word for much of the language that the United States used to justify the War on Terror. According to The New York Times, for example, the US government 'in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants […] unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.' In other words, they are guilty for the most kafkaesque reason of all: because they are being punished. They can only save themselves by way of their own destruction, which sounds like just the sort of miniscule and pointless hope that would send a Kafka character madly scurrying about (if that Kafka character were on the wrong side of the monitor). So let’s hope for Gregor’s sake that he would be on the right side of the monitor: a non-person in a non-place control room somewhere in the United States." --David Burr Gerrard

---Jason Schwartzman auditions for Rushmore

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Facebook is the cruelest content generator, linking
Pageload activity out of simulated twitter feeds, trending
Search engines with the attention economy, streaming
Keyword addresses with hypertext protocol.
Data kept us warm, following
Spoilers in encrypted cookies, geotagging
A little spam with login approvals.
Tumblr surprised us, processing pixel tags over Instagram.
With a mention of a domain, we favorited the instant personalization,
And bookmarked the password into more shareworthy
And browsed Buzzfeed firmware, full-screen chatting about hyperspace identity.

Unreal comment feed.
My iPhone battery is empty,
And no one liked my recent Facebook status update.
With my perfect 0% rating on Rotten tomatoes,
I had to buy all of my Instagram followers.
The NSA does not even track or record the sites I visit.

All of human interaction now is downloadable public relations,
The marketing of the insufficiently famous and their family photos
For the profit of Jesse Eisenberg's simulacrum of Mark Zuckerberg.
Let me take a selfie.
(Stand beside me as I take this selfie.)
Can you smile for this selfie?
And I will show you something more than your
MacBook Pro booting up in the morning,
Or your MacBook Pro logging off at night.
I will show you starvation for attention in a handful of pixels.

Unreal teaser trailer.
I did not know than an epic fail had undone so many.
They said California is the place you ought to be.
Everybody's working for the weekend.
Everybody needs a new romance,
'Til the one day when the lady met this fellow,
The tiny ship was tossed,
And they knew that it was much more than a hunch,
If not for the courage of the fearless crew,
Oil that is, black gold, peak Texas tea,
The Minnow would be lost,
The Minnow would be lost.

Oh Lord, I am not worthy,
But text the word only
And Google will auto-correct it in Silicon Valley.

Do you have no followers, no incoming traffic?
When you scroll around, do you track nothing?
Do you post nothing? What do you post?

"I think we are in MySpace where the virtual dead have allowed their passwords to lapse."

People become brands and brands become logos,
Which become defaced graffiti,
Their links and grievances quickly forgotten in the prevailing white noise
Of trolls, GIFs, cat videos, avatars, and reality shows,
Insofar as anyone can sustain attention towards anything
Before they recheck their cell phone for hours and months of empty time,
(Just a sec, let me just check, hold on a minute),
Occupying a perpetual present, suspended, waiting
For a reaction from a Twitterbot
Or a text reply that never arrives.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

"The slaughter to come is probably beyond our imagining": a debate about the pleasures of The Counselor

After so much critical negativity, I found Ridley Scott's The Counselor to be delightful trashy fun with an almost endearing drug cartel. Predatory, Darwinian, casually vicious, what Oliver Stone's Savages (2012) wanted to be but wasn't due to studio compromises, The Counselor squares with my take on reality as infinitely remorseless without any opportunity for absolution, a place where even the affluent can quickly be reduced to garbage, the hunter is more compelling aesthetically than the victim, the spike in population growth will reach a critical mass, and, as Malkina (Cameron Diaz) cheerfully points out: "the slaughter to come is probably beyond our imagining."

And yet, the naysaying critics kept me from seeing the movie in the theatre, and only a residual affection for Cormac McCarthy's novels got me to see the movie on Blu-ray. To reflect those critics, I have a friend named W, the kind of guy who can recite chapter and verse the Rotten Tomatoes rating of every new release. As he says, "When you see the trailer for The Counselor, and you see all of these high level power players involved, with maybe the exception of Cameron Diaz. Actors, director, writer--everyone has great prestige, but then you watch the movie, it just doesn't live up to that potential even remotely, and because of that, critics just went "Wha? Wha?" They were confused, and they probably reacted more harshly than the movie warrants, but now you're watching it with such low expectations. So, you will approach it with a different mindset, especially since it is not a completely terrible film. I would say it's about half-good."

FD: For a sad person who has internalized all of this negative criticism, you just . . . fell into that.

W: No, I actively hated the first 30 minutes. I was like 'What the hell is this? What are the words that are coming out of their mouths?' As soon as Brad Pitt showed up and said, in so many words, we're all gonna die, I immediately liked the movie better. He sets up the latter half of the film in such a cynical way, I appreciated it, and when everything (spoiler alert) goes down hill, I thought that was kind of fun, but, I still didn't care about any of the characters.

FD: You have been suckered by all of the naysayers into not liking this modern-day trashy masterpiece. The End.

W: I would say the fundamental problem with the film is the script.

FD: HA!!

W: In terms of the construction of plot elements, it is perfectly fine, but in terms of character development, there are scenes that are handled so clumsily, and without any restraint of subtlety, that it comes off as barely watchable.

FD: Give me an example.

W: Cameron Diaz has some really stupid lines such as "Truth has no temperature." What does that mean?

FD: It's very cold. It's a very cold movie.

W: Duh. Why does she have to phrase it in such a flowery stupid way? There are these tangential moments that are either laughable, bad, or they progress the plot. I did enjoy those moments where Brad Pitt (who plays Westray) makes allusions to other weird things like snuff films.

FD: The snuff film reference prepares the viewer for a key scene late in the movie.

W: Most of the time, the movie is almost unintelligible. There are moments with Javier Bardem (Reiner) and some Hungarian guy talking, and I can't follow what they're saying.

FD: What scene are we talking about?

W: The scene with a Hungarian man and Michael Fassbender (who plays the counselor).

FD: They are in Amsterdam, and they are discussing the diamond that the counselor is thinking of buying for Laura (Penelope Cruz). That sets up a scene later when Malkina knows everything about the diamond just by looking at it. Meanwhile, Laura, as one of the "faint of heart" who will bring us to the "edge of ruin," does not know anything about the diamond except that its pretty. The diamond motif develops new meanings until the very last scene in the movie. McCarthy explores how every character creates his or her own reality, and Laura shows how she's just not aware. As Malkina points out, "What a world." Laura replies, "Do you think the world is strange?" And Malkina says, "I was talking about yours."

W: What is the point of the old man, though? It all seems thoroughly pointless.

FD: You just don't understand. Therefore, you don't like it.

W: I understand.

FD: You didn't even want to watch the beginning again on Blu-ray. You just want to judge it.

W: The film is at its best when no one is talking.

FD: ?!?!? What about the great scene later on when the counselor talks to the jefe, or the leader of the Cartel?

W: It's a beautiful scene, but it goes on way too long.

FD: People talk all of the time in Godard films. People talk all of the time in Tarantino films! There's nothing wrong with talk in a movie that works. You are saying that you just don't understand.

W: All of McCarthy's work so far has a philosophical edge to it. You look at the survivalism of The Road (2009) and the unbridled evil of No Country for Old Men (2007) and how the old cannot really contain the new evil.

FD: Right. You could say that's true for the drug cartel too, and they are pleasantly efficiently evil.

W: But it's so trashy. With The Counselor, McCarthy is trying to have his cake and eat it too. He's trying to make a typical fun noir thriller, but he's also trying to have all of these layers: quotes, references, allusions, and tangential connections, and you can't do both.

FD: A lot of great films are trashy yet serious at the same time: The Third Man, Psycho, Silence of the Lambs. People go back and reconsider. Those that were considered trash suddenly become the best films of the era.

W: All three of those films push the genre forward. The Counselor's overbearing Cosmopolis-like philosophical dialogue incoherently conflicts with its pulpier more fun action elements.

FD: I'm just saying that you don't understand.

W: You are just so wrong.

FD: On that note, we should probably stop before violence breaks out. Thanks for your thoughts.     

Thursday, March 13, 2014

digital canyon links

---1001 movies you must see (before you die)

---Between Two Ferns: Obama

---The Fox and Mr. Anderson

---"Critical Condition" by Kent Jones

---Richard Widmark

---"Cool Girls don’t have the hang-ups of normal girls: They don’t get bogged down by the patriarchy, or worrying about their weight. They’re basically dudes masquerading in beautiful women’s bodies, reaping the privileges of both. But let’s be clear: It’s a performance. It might not be a conscious one, but it’s the way our society implicitly instructs young women on how to be awesome: Be chill and don’t be a downer, act like a dude but look like a supermodel."  --Anne Helen Petersen

---the spaces of Her

---the end title sequence of The Lego Movie

---"It used to be you’d go into a restaurant and the owner would say, 'Do you mind if I take a picture of you and put it on my wall?' Sweet and simple. Now, everyone has a camera in their pocket. Add to that predatory photographers and predatory videographers who want to taunt you and catch you doing embarrassing things. . . You’re out there in a world where if you do make a mistake, it echoes in a digital canyon forever."  --Alec Baldwin

---"Putin will teach you how to love" by Pussy Riot


---Scorsese's top 10

---There was a storied time when people really did take movies—and movie reviews—seriously, when the internecine struggles between Pauline Kael, Andrew Sarris, Stanley Kauffmann, and John Simon spilled out into arguments at countless bars and dinner parties. Not coincidentally, this relentless chattering, applauding and bickering coincided with a particularly brilliant period for American movies." --Malcolm Thorndike Nicholson

---"Elegy for a Country's Seasons" by Zadie Smith

---Liz Wahl quits

---"The Psychology of Begging to be Followed on Twitter"

---Three Reasons: Foreign Correspondent

---behind the scenes of The Grand Budapest Hotel 

---trailers for Stripped, Jupiter Ascending, Captain America: the Winter Soldier, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

---"There’s a feeling in our culture that play, that creativity is almost demonic.  You need it to drive the engine, but it scares you.  You need to isolate it, put it someplace where it’s not that dangerous.  We have to isolate it from the political domain—any kind of imagination or sense of play or fun is only going to lead to the Gulag; any kind of transformative, visionary politics scares us.  Creativity is something that we obviously need, and we talk as if we like it all the time, but really we don’t. I find this in academia all the time.

Why do you go into an academic job, why do you become a scholar? It’s partly because it’s fun." --David Graeber