Thursday, October 29, 2015

future links

---I Thought the Future Would Be Cooler

---Covers

---Why Props Matter and Settings Are Characters, Too

---"Taken together, the secret documents lead to the conclusion that Washington’s 14-year high-value targeting campaign suffers from an overreliance on signals intelligence, an apparently incalculable civilian toll, and — due to a preference for assassination rather than capture — an inability to extract potentially valuable intelligence from terror suspects. They also highlight the futility of the war in Afghanistan by showing how the U.S. has poured vast resources into killing local insurgents, in the process exacerbating the very threat the U.S. is seeking to confront." --Jeremy Scahill

---1.000.000 Frames: Movie Posters

---"Technology companies don’t need to pry into our brains to exploit us, Rinesi says; they have built windows into them, and those windows are open all the time." --Nick Statt

---the title sequence of Zombieland

---Drone Culture

---"The inevitable result would seem to be that the internet will suck the creative content out of the whole world until nothing is left."  --David Byrne

---"Today’s consumer is under a near constant barrage of visual and auditory stimuli across every device and medium; we can no longer rely on a passive audience to see an advertisement and take action. Therefore, today’s marketer must create experiences that cut through the noise of the media landscape and deliver brand impressions that are impossible to ignore.

With VR, you can give every consumer the best seat in the house." --Pete Sena

---How the Beatles Changed Album Covers

---"Welles’s detractors have been trying to punish him for his uncompromising approach to filmmaking—a directing style that looked, especially to Hollywood traditionalists, unorthodox—since before Citizen Kane was even released. By 1942, the year RKO butchered his second film, The Magnificent Ambersons, and blamed Welles for his own film’s disfigurement, the myth of the self-destructive auteur was already in place. But now when we look back on Welles’s work in Hollywood in the early 1940s, his real problems become clear: His dark vision of American capitalism was out of tune with the gung-ho years of World War II. That Welles pursued his original vision, even as he worked in a state of hand-to-mouth auteur financing, into the ’80s looks from our vantage point like a sign of strength and integrity." --A. S. Amrah

---We Don't Need Roads

---"We once glorified Twitter as a great global town square, a shining agora where everyone could come together to converse. But I’ve never been to a town square where people can shove, push, taunt, bully, shout, harass, threaten, stalk, creep, and mob you…for eavesdropping on a conversation that they weren’t a part of…to alleviate their own existential rage…at their shattered dreams…and you can’t even call a cop. What does that particular social phenomenon sound like to you? Twitter could have been a town square. But now it’s more like a drunken, heaving mosh pit. And while there are people who love to dive into mosh pits, they’re probably not the audience you want to try to build a billion dollar publicly listed company that changes the world upon." --Umair Haque

---"License to Play: Mark Cousins and the Personal Essay Film" by Thirza Wakefield

---"Sparkle’s mind was on a desert 7,000 miles away. Over the next 24 hours she would track an insurgent, watch as he was killed by a Hellfire missile, and spy on his funeral before ending her night with a breakfast beer and a trip to the dog park." --Kevin Maurer

---A Bit of History on Data

---"David Lynch's Elusive Language" by Dennis Lim

---trailers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Joy, The Man in the High CastleJane Got a Gun, and Crying in a Sweater

---"Hellfire missiles—the explosives fired from drones—are not always fired at people. In fact, most drone strikes are aimed at phones. The SIM card provides a person’s location—when turned on, a phone can become a deadly proxy for the individual being hunted.

When a night raid or drone strike successfully neutralizes a target’s phone, operators call that a 'touchdown.'" --Josh Begley

---Quentin Tarantino Push Ins

---Casey Neistat's Guide to Filmmaking

Sunday, October 11, 2015

data mining links

---Guns

---Olivier Assayas' top 10 Criterion choices

---this week's Sunday reading

---"The Dark Beauty of Film Noir in 50 Shots" by Nora Fiore

---The Above

---La jetee

---"A couple of months ago, at a meeting of the Television Critics Association, the C.E.O. of FX, John Landgraf, delivered a speech about 'peak TV,' in which he lamented the exponential rise in production: three hundred and seventy-one scripted shows last year, more than four hundred expected this year—a bubble, Landgraf said, that would surely deflate. He got some pushback: Why now, when the door had cracked open to more than white-guy antiheroes, was it 'too much' for viewers? But just as worrisome was the second part of Landgraf’s speech, in which he wondered how the industry could fund so much TV. What was the model, now that the pie had been sliced into slivers? When Landgraf took his job, in 2005, ad buys made up more than fifty per cent of FX’s revenue, he said. Now that figure was thirty-two per cent. When ratings drop, ad rates drop, too, and when people fast-forward producers look for new forms of access: through apps, through data mining, through deals that shape the shows we see, both visibly and invisibly. Some of this involves the ancient art of product integration, by which sponsors buy the right to be part of the story: these are the ads that can’t be fast-forwarded." --Emily Nussbaum

---Junot Diaz's syllabi

---"The Making of John Wayne" by Anne Helen Petersen

---"Exxon (whose spokesman has disputed the Inside Climate News reporting) had a choice. As one of the most profitable companies in the world, Exxon could have acted as a corporate leader, helping to explain to political leaders, to shareholders and institutional investors, and to the public what it knew about climate change. It could have begun to shift its business model, investing in renewables and biofuels or introducing a major research and development initiative in carbon capture. It could have endorsed sensible policies to foster a profitable transition to a 21st-century energy economy.

Instead — like the tobacco industry — Exxon chose the path of disinformation, denial and delay. More damagingly, the company set a model for the rest of the industry." --Naomi Oreskes

---surveillance over Baltimore

---the nail houses of China

---Pavlovian Twitter

---China's new "Citizen Scores"

---"Why the UK trailer for Suffragette is watered down and just less revolutionary"

---10 things to learn from Going Clear

---trailers for Victoria, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Room, MacbethHail Caesar!, The Conformist, and 81 more from the Oscar's Foreign film race

---Tarantino from above

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

"Let's do the math": six dreams of Ridley Scott's The Martian

I enjoyed Ridley Scott's The Martian, but afterwards found myself dwelling on all of the dreams that undergird the movie's realistic surface. In comparison to the dark beauty of Scott's Alien (1979) and the extravagant mise en scene of Blade Runner (1982), The Martian is an oddly square, geeky, almost prim picture of our future in the year 2035, one in which Mars ends up appearing fairly dull as a place to live (but the movie is too well-built for us to notice that). What are some of the dreams that support this well-grounded vision?

1) A fully funded NASA. With movies like The Martian, Gravity, and Interstellar, the film industry can at least picture keeping the space program alive. Writer Andy Weir fully invests his narrative in supporting NASA, and who can fault him for that?

2) Science can solve most any problem. As Mark Watney (Matt Damon) keeps exhorting himself and others, "Let's do the math." He must figure out, sometimes through trial and error, multiple solutions to the immediate problem with keeping himself alive after being accidentally left by the rest of the crew on Mars. Indeed, Mark constantly confronts complicated dilemmas with a can-do spirit that proves infectious. As he says, "technically, I colonized Mars. In your face, Neil Armstrong!" At one point, in the midst of trying to manufacture water, he blows himself up (with minor injuries). But he returns to work out a solution. His success with growing potatoes evokes both the American depression-era use of the tuber as well as the Irish famine. As much as anything, his scientist's cheer, his bemusement with trying to professionally fight the long odds against his survival, keeps The Martian engaging and funny. The Martian kept reminding me of Apollo 13 (1995), especially in the way various severe extraterrestrial problems could get solved by a highly caffeinated gang of scientists and engineers back on earth. When things go wrong, most problems are those that a gang of scientists can solve. This movie is not interested in doom, only setbacks.

In my killjoy negative way, I couldn't help being reminded of the many seemingly insurmountable complications left back on earth (terrorism, climate change, illegal refugees, overpopulation, religious extremism, etc.) so neatly explored in darker science fiction movies like Children of Men (2006). The Martian neatly sidesteps all of that by sticking largely to the blank, largely untouched surface of Mars and the propagandistic agenda of supporting NASA.

3) Traveling by solar power. At one point, Mark drives his rover across Mars, stopping every day to let solar panels absorb enough sunlight to recharge the vehicle to go on. What a perfect guilt-free form of transportation, one that even allows for meditative breaks along the way.

4) Duct tape. Watney repeatedly shows how duct tape can fix a broken helmet, a blown-out hole in his work station, etc. Duct tape can fix anything.

5) As in the case of Transformers: Age of Extinction, The Martian very carefully demonstrates how the United States can work with China to solve any extraterrestrial issues, as well as find broader international cooperation with the space program. Inconvenient things like wars, ethnic strife, etc. do not come up as everyone back on earth cheers for Mark waiting in the sky.

6) Mark mentions that he understands loneliness at one point, but The Martian depicts the introvert's ultimate dream: the pleasure of having an entire planet to yourself. Back on earth, Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) wonders what could Mark be brooding about back on that distant planet, but then the movie cuts to Watney cheerfully boogieing to Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff" in his rover. Often Mark comes across as tickled with his Robinson Crusoe lifestyle and the continuing unlikelihood of his existence. He's free to have total privacy, a mythical relationship as a pioneer on his adopted planet, and later, total fame as the entire world looks on when he figures out a way to communicate with those on terra firma. Who knows if returning to earth may be something of a letdown?

Monday, October 5, 2015

cynosure links

---What Orwellian Really Means

---First and Final Frames: Part 2

---Hell's Club

---Ridley Scott narrates a scene from The Martian

---"The films of a century ago may look like a foreign landscape, but 1915 was the year when cinema, as we now know it, was born."  --Pamela Hutchinson

---"Social Media Self-Defense" via @Snowden

---filmmaking tips from Martin Scorsese

---Andy Weir recommends some science fiction titles

---"Whatever your hopes or fears about movies and their influence, there is no doubt that they shape us. But can they be the equivalent of literature, something complex that given our deep attention fires all the right neurons making us somehow better? Can movies cure what ails us?" --Shari Kizirian

---Cinephilia and Beyond celebrates Bonnie and Clyde

---George Miller's masterclass in filmmaking

---"In North By Northwest during the scene on Mount Rushmore, I wanted Cary Grant to hide in Lincoln’s nostril and then have a fit of sneezing.

The Parks Commission of the Department of Interior was rather upset at this thought.

I argued until one of their number asked me how I would like it if they had Lincoln play the scene in Cary Grant’s nose.

I saw their point at once." --Alfred Hitchcock

---the 21st century's 12 best novels (according to the BBC)

---"Last week, a coalition of environmental and financial groups announced that more than two thousand individuals, four hundred institutions, and Leonardo DiCaprio had agreed to divest their financial holdings, which total 2.6 trillion dollars, from fossil fuels." --Katy Lederer

---trailers for Vinyl, Spectre, and Mistress America

---the opening of Raging Bull

---Greta Gerwig discusses Mistress America

---Nathaniel R's first impressions of Todd Haynes' Carol

---"The movie’s a personal favorite of mine—on the night I got canned from my job at the website for the defunct Premiere magazine back in 2008, I started a blog that I named after the movie. As for why, it’s a hard question to answer exactly. It’s not just my regard for the movie itself, but also that the movie pulls together a lot of my own enthusiasms, and the enthusiasms associated with film itself. A cursory look beneath its gorgeous surfaces reveal all manner of cultural correspondences and themes that make it look like a crucial cynosure of 20th Century concerns. The books that Dave pulls out of his duffel bag when he checks into the hotel—The Portable Faulkner, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe—evoke a whole world of American Aspiration, and also bring to mind some of literary critic (and World War II veteran) Paul Fussell’s observations on the 'greatest generation,' observations made well before Tom Brokaw coined that term. Director Minnelli’s work was greatly admired and occasionally deplored by the future directors of the French New Wave, and Jean-Luc Godard included a pointed Some Came Running reference in his own house-of-mirrors attempt at commercial cinema, 1963’s Contempt. Then, of course, there’s the fact that the movie is, in a sense, the story of a has-been writer. But let’s not read too much into that." --Glenn Kenny

---Brian De Palma and Noah Baumbach talk about a scene in Dressed to Kill

---Willie Promo via Fandor's Keyframe Daily

Friday, October 2, 2015

"What good is the right to free speech?": a review of Laura Poitras' Citizenfour

I was stunned by Laura Poitras' Oscar-winning Citizenfour, both for its seeming nonchalance and its intensity, and because Poitras manages to pack so much tension and paranoia into scenes in which very little is going on. For much of the first half of the documentary, we mostly watch Edward Snowden hang around a nice hotel room in Hong Kong during the summer of 2013. He talks with Glenn Greenwald and a reporter from The Guardian, types on his laptop, watches the news as his release of top secret NSA-related information gradually dominates the worldwide press, tries to fix his hair, and occasionally looks out the window at the Hong Kong skyline much as Scarlett Johansson's character Charlotte did in Lost in Translation (2003).

Edward keeps insisting, in a distinctively low-key way that the powers-that-be will want to twist the story of the NSA's lies and transgressions in regards to our privacy into one that concerns him and his "crimes" alone, but I couldn't help fixating on his intelligent brandless demeanor. At first he wears a white t-shirt and jeans. He wonders about what to do about his stubble. One can sense that he's getting a bit uncertain and nervous about what will happen to him (later he goes underground, and (as we know) resurfaces somewhat in Russia), but meanwhile he lets Greenwald and others tell the story of the NSA as they will. Due to his job, Mr. Snowden had access to amazing amounts of top secret information flowing across his computer screen, including real-time drone footage. We also learn that people with that kind of access can focus on our data stream in real-time, tracking our phone calls, computer communications, purchases with a credit card, etc. We might get used to having our privacy violated in this way for the good of "national security," but as Citizenfour keeps asking us--at what cost? Do we have freedom of speech under total surveillance, or does the entire concept of freedom get cancelled out in the midst of the Patriot Act curtailment of civil liberties? When I bring up the idea with friends, they tend to assume that no one will ultimately care about whatever data stream they leave behind, but Citizenfour never allows that kind of complacency to reduce its tension.

Meanwhile, as Snowden comes clean as the whistleblower and appears talking on video in the international press, the US authorities charge him with several crimes under the Espionage Act, in effect accusing him of being a spy. We see him suddenly getting lots of phone calls from mysterious people, so he hides out (now wearing a black suit) for a while in Laura Poitras' hotel room to get away from media scrutiny. I was struck by the movie's postmodern sense of drama. Mr. Snowden need not engage in a car chase, evade machine gunfire, or dally with some supermodel to gain worldwide attention. In fact, Citzenfour emphasizes how all of those Bond cliches have become passe. So many people, media outlets, corporations, and governments use so many dubious and increasingly desperate devices to gain attention and thereby attempt to influence others. In dramatic contrast, Snowden does next to nothing on screen as the dark implications of his release of information continues to spread today.