Monday, June 30, 2014

Refusing to be a shoe and other subversive pleasures of Bong Joon-ho's Snowpiercer

When I saw the trailer for Bong Joon-ho's Snowpiercer, I thought the premise of class warfare on a train was too schematic, obvious, and implausible, but after having enjoyed the movie twice, I found that the film's compressed treatment of the psychology of the oppressed and the oppressor rings true. Ideologically, and in terms of film technique, the movie is fascinating. Who is Bong Joon-ho? Why does he make so many allusions to films such as The Fifth Element, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The Truman Show, and others? There is so much to cinematically savor--the parallels with Nazis transporting people in railway cars, the color juxtapositions in the set design, the dramatic contrast between the largely dead future world (which in other movies such as Cormac McCarthy's The Road tend to be drearily slow) and the speeding train, the dynamics of the racial diversity in the international cast, the use of space to show class divisions.  Underlying all of this is the main emphasis on power and leadership, how the rich enjoy their position in part by ignoring the sufferings of the poor, and how the poor resist becoming commodities to be devoured.

The film begins with the news that in an attempt to engineer a solution to global warming by releasing a chemical "CW-7" into the air, scientists have ironically ended up plunging the planet into a new ice age. The only human survivors ride a train that perpetually circles the globe. While the poor in the tail of the train suffer every kind of privation--layers of grime, hunger, the harvesting of their children, etc., the rich lead much more pleasant if surreal lives in ways that suggest an updating of Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927) or the more recent Titanic. As Curtis, Chris Evans depicts a man reluctant to lead, and he's surrounded by recognizable types--the fiery younger sidekick Edgar (Jamie Bell), the wise man (John Hurt) who evokes a similar role in Midnight Express (1978), and Tanya (Octavia Spencer) a mom militantly outraged by the loss of her young boy. Tilda Swinton plays a grotesque clownishly vicious functionary named Mason with fake teeth and gangly glasses. She gives speeches where she encourages the lower classes to "Know your place! Accept your place! Be a shoe!" as one of her minions, as an example to others, publicly tortures someone who openly revolted against the system. She also castigates the rebels for having the "misplaced optimism of the doomed."

After figuring out a way to get out of the first railway car, Curtis opens a morgue-like drawer to uncover a delightfully sulky and drug-addicted expert in unlocking train car doors (Kang-ho Song) and his 17 year old daughter Yona (Ah-sung Ko) who turns out to be clairvoyant like the character River Tam in Serenity (2005) (with Snowpiercer, one can tease out the implications of these pop culture associations all day). As the rebel crew works its way forward in the train, each new door has surprises behind it. When the rebels find one train car filled with brutish enforcers with face masks and axes clearly placed there to kill them, Joon-ho leisurely lingers on the thugs as they ritualistically anoint their axes with the blood of a large fish. This scene becomes a discourse on extreme lighting changes, slow-motion action, and soft piano music highlighted with blood. Afterwards, the rebels incongruously find themselves in a brightly colored school for kids who are all well-indoctrinated by the dictatorship of the train to answer questions in unison. When the teacher asks what will happen if they leave the train, the kids gleefully cry out in unison "We all freeze and die!" Bong Joon-ho's pleasure in his craft keeps enhancing his dystopian vision with wit, insight, and visual flair.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"Death created time to grow the things that it would kill": The True Detective Files

[Note: In the midst of enjoying True Detective on Blu-ray, I compiled some quotes and links to some of the better analyses, sources, and interpretations of cryptic clues related to the show. I especially like writer Nic Pizzolatto's use of philosophy and "weird fiction" to enhance Rust Cohle's delightfully bleak point of view.]

---"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents." --H.P. Lovecraft

---“Behind the scenes of life there is something pernicious that makes a nightmare of our world.” --Thomas Ligotti

---“This world is a veil, and the face you wear is not your own.” --Preacher Joe Theriot

---"As sentient meat, however illusory our identities are, we craft those identities by making value judgements. Everybody judges, all the time. Now, you got a problem with that, you’re living wrong." --Rust Cohle

---”I think True Detective is portraying a world where the weak (physically or economically) are lost, ground under by perfidious wheels that lie somewhere behind the visible, wheels powered by greed, perversity, and irrational belief systems, and these lost souls dwell on an exhausted frontier, a fractured coastline beleaguered by industrial pollution and detritus, slowly sinking into the Gulf of Mexico. There’s a sense here that the apocalypse already happened. And in places like this, where there’s little economy and inadequate education, women and children are the first to suffer, by and large. There’s a line in a Sherlock Holmes story where Holmes explains to Watson that the evils of the city pale in comparison to the horrors of the isolated countryside, where who knows what terrors exist in the lonely farmhouse, cut off from civilization and beholden to no oversight? I always sensed that."   --Nic Pizzolatto

---“You see, we all got what I call a life trap, this gene deep certainty that things will be different, that you’ll move to another city and meet the people that’ll be the friends for the rest of your life, that you’ll fall in love and be fulfilled . . . Nothing’s ever fulfilled. Not until the very end. And closure. No, no, no. Nothing is ever over.” --Rust Cohle

---"Dystopian, Post-Collapse America is marked by a new kind of tribalism and 'niche extremism' that requires both pre-industrial survival skills like bow hunting, as well as modern military training. Rust’s hypersensitivity endows him with the ability to see beyond things, to 'mainline the secret truth of the universe.' His relationship to the 'psychosphere' connects him with the cosmological mappings of a pre-colonial landscape.

It is only through the hallucinogenic lens of PTSD and synesthesia that Rust can clearly read through the cognitive dissonance of corporate brandspeak (The 'Wellspring Initiative') and see it for what it really is in order to track corruption’s 'sprawl.' By using instinct to 'read the signs' across the 'aluminum and ash' bayou where 'nothing grows in the right direction', Rust maintains a 'meta' relationship with social order to subvert and survive it. From his place outside and between, he is uniquely suited to decode the doublespeak of institutional power (The Tuttles, Louisiana State Police Department and the taskforce) and negotiate the terrain of outlaw life (Iron Crusaders, Gas World Express, and drug cartels).

As a silent witness to atrocity, the landscape becomes the voice of the disappeared, which Rust is able to decipher by listening to other sensorial input ignored by Enlightment prejudice toward visible, observed, reality. By hearing color and tasting sound, he takes guidance from cosmological and metaphysical orders to read the signs of the exhausted, poisoned landscape. The landscape reminds us through its accompanying soundtrack of judgment and redemption, what is 'owed by our society for our mutual illusions.'

Louisiana’s not land/not water landscape becomes a shattered mirror to project our disappearing future onto. The landscape speaks sensorially, through a soundtrack of slave songs, indigenous symbols, talisman and rituals–traces of cultures and practices disappeared by genocidal economies of Antebellum South and the Western Expansion. When Rust notices a billboard for missing children that reads 'Who Killed Me?' the voice of our future and our past speaks simultaneously." --Marian St. Laurent

---"And if we’re talking about hard-boiled detectives, too, what could be more hardboiled than the worldview of Ligotti or Cioran? They make the grittiest of crime writers seem like dilettantes. Next to The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, Mickey Spillane seems about as hard-boiled as bubble gum." --Nic Pizzolatto

---"The True Detective sequence is heavily inspired by the look of double exposure photography. Instead of using stills, Clair created 'living photographs' that combine shots from the show’s footage with work from American landscape photographer Richard Misrach. Early on, Clair and his team came across Misrach’s book, Petrochemical America, which documents a stretch of industrial plants on the Gulf Coast called Cancer Alley.'" --Margaret Rhodes

---"I think human consciousness, is a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware, nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself, we are creatures that should not exist by natural law. We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self; an accretion of sensory, experience and feeling, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when in fact everybody is nobody. Maybe the honorable thing for our species to do is deny our programming, stop reproducing, walk hand in hand into extinction, one last midnight - brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal."  --Rust Cohle

---“Rust delivers arias of philosophy, a mash-up of Nietzsche, Lovecraft, and the nihilist horror writer Thomas Ligotti. At first, this buddy pairing seems like a funky dialectic: when Rust rants, Marty rolls his eyes. But, six episodes in, I’ve come to suspect that the show is dead serious about this dude. Rust is a heretic with a heart of gold. He’s our fetish object—the cop who keeps digging when everyone ignores the truth, the action hero who rescues children in the midst of violent chaos, the outsider with painful secrets and harsh truths and nice arms. McConaughey gives an exciting performance (in Grantland, Andy Greenwald aptly called him “a rubber band wrapped tight around a razor blade”), but his rap is premium baloney. And everyone around these cops, male or female, is a dark-drama cliché, from the coked-up dealers and the sinister preachers to that curvy corpse in her antlers. True Detective has some tangy dialogue ('You are the Michael Jordan of being a son of a bitch') and it can whip up an ominous atmosphere, rippling with hints of psychedelia, but these strengths finally dissipate, because it’s so solipsistically focussed on the phony duet.

Meanwhile, Marty’s wife, Maggie—played by Michelle Monaghan, she is the only prominent female character on the show—is an utter nothing-burger, all fuming prettiness with zero insides.”  --Emily Nussbaum

---"Death created time to grow the things that it would kill."  --Rust Cohle

---"This is where the self-aware aspect of True Detective really kicks in, because Cohle’s criticism of religion doubles—intentionally, I argue—as commentary about pop culture escapism. True Detective’s title — an implicit reference to the pulps — is your first clue that the show is interested in our relationship to stories. The second episode gives us another cool clue: Lange’s diary. But it contains absolutely no factual descriptions of her life, but rather ramblings about a fantasy world called Carcosa, a character called 'The Yellow King,' and poetic lines like 'strange is the night where black stars rise.' The detectives don’t know how to make sense of it … but we do. Because we have the Internet—or we have deep, geeky knowledge—and so we figure out before the characters do that all that fantasy language is pulled from The King In Yellow, a collection of short stories by Robert W. Chambers. Some of the stories make reference to a play, called 'The King In Yellow' — about a ruined city called Carcosa on an alien world ruled by an evil entity named Hastur, the yellow king known by his yellow sign –and anyone who reads the play dies.  Chambers got the setting of 'Carcosa' and the name 'Hastur' from the works of Ambrose Bierce, the author of The Devil’s Dictionary and 'An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge,' a classic example of Unreliable Narrator storytelling. Just as Chambers was inspired by/took from another writer, many writers have been inspired/taken from Chambers, incorporating motifs, imagery and words from The King In Yellow to build their own idiosyncratic fantasy worlds. Most notably, H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos owes a major debt to The King In Yellow." --Jeff Jensen

---"I don't want to know anything anymore. This is a world where nothing is solved. Someone once told me, 'Time is a flat circle.' Everything we've ever done or will do, we're gonna do over and over and over again. And that little boy and that little girl, they're gonna be in that room again and again and again forever."  --Rust Cohle

---"Where I came from a lot of people viewed violence merely as efficient communication.

As for the distress, it’s probably an effect of poverty. In America poverty amps up the usual existential dread we all feel. There, if you’re poor, you die. Or you turn to crime. Most crime in America looks to me like class warfare, the same way WWI just looks like class warfare to me, the upper classes sending the lower classes to slaughter. Once you realize that’s the situation, it makes perfect sense that not everyone is going to follow orders."  --Nic Pizzolatto

---“In the end, both the Divine Comedy and True Detective are getting at the same basic truth, which is that the only way to combat the darkness within ourselves is to form connections with one another.” --La Donna Pietra

---The ontological fallacy of expecting a light at the end of the tunnel, well, that's what the preacher sells, same as a shrink. See, the preacher, he encourages your capacity for illusion. Then he tells you it's a %$&@ing virtue. Always a buck to be had doing that, and it's such a desperate sense of entitlement, isn't it?"  --Rust Cohle

---“a basic quality of the Deep South is that everything here is partially hidden. . . . I’ve found that all weak people share a basic obsession--they fixate on the idea of satisfaction. Anywhere you go men and women are like crows drawn by shiny objects. For some folks, the shiny objects are other people, and you’d be better off developing a drug habit.” --from Nic Pizzolatto's 2010 novel Galveston

---This is what I mean when I'm talkin' about time, and death, and futility. All right there are broader ideas at work, mainly what is owed between us as a society for our mutual illusions. 14 straight hours of staring at DB's, these are the things ya think of. You ever done that? You look in their eyes, even in a picture, doesn't matter if they're dead or alive, you can still read 'em. You know what you see? They welcomed it... not at first, but... right there in the last instant. It's an unmistakable relief. See, cause they were afraid, and now they saw for the very first time how easy it was to just... let go. Yeah, they saw, in that last nanosecond, they saw... what they were. You, yourself, this whole big drama, it was never more than a jerry rig of presumption and dumb will, and you could just let go. To finally know that you didn't have to hold on so tight. To realize that all your life, all your love, all your hate, all your memories, all your pain, it was all the same thing. It was all the same dream, a dream that you had inside a locked room, a dream about being a person. And like a lot of dreams, there's a monster at the end of it."  --Rust Cohle

---"The crimes depicted on the series were enabled by a series of deliberate omissions, elisions, distortions, and outright lies: holes in what should have been honest and transparent stories. . . . The show literalizes the notion of a hole or a gap in a narrative by building it right into its visual scheme. Every episode is filled with holes, spirals, pits, and the like. There’s the spiral pattern glimpsed in everything from tattoos to bird flocks; Rust's hallucination of a black hole in the ceiling of Errol's lair; the busted taillight of Rust's pickup; the thatched nestlike spiral that covers the hole in the tree where Dora Lange's body was found; the long shot of Rust in his hospital bed that makes his bruised and swollen left eye look like a tiny pit; the tiny round eye-size mirror that Rust stares into. And that's the short list." --Matt Zoller Seitz

---If the only thing keeping a person decent is the expectation of divine reward then, brother, that person is a piece of $#^. And I'd like to get as many of them out in the open as possible. You gotta get together and tell yourself stories that violate every law of the universe just to get through the goddamn day? What's that say about your reality?"  --Rust Cohle

---"Devil's Nests and Beer-Can Men: The Origins of 13 True Detective Set Pieces" by Denise Martin

---"We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self. A secretion of sensory experience and feeling. Programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when, in fact, nobody is anybody."  --Rust Cohle

---So if there was one overarching theme to True Detective, I would say it was that as human beings, we are nothing but the stories we live and die by — so you'd better be careful what stories you tell yourself.” --Nic Pizzolatto

Thursday, June 19, 2014

the holy spectacle of the elaborate nothing links

---Transformers: The Premake

---Honest trailers: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

---"Ultimately, the more the CGI creatures don't exist, the more work one must do to make them super-important. Then everyone will go see the holy spectacle of the elaborate nothing." --from my review of Dark of the Moon

---"Did We Live Too Fast" by Got a Girl

---David Bowie and Mick Jagger

---"Art, Freedom, and the Bechdel Test" by Glenn Kenny

---"Hide in the network,” security guru Bruce Schneier made his first tip for evading the NSA. “The less obvious you are, the safer you are.”

---Martin Scorsese: The Art of Silence

---Bill Watterson's return

---Shepard Fairey: Obey This Film

---"The Devil in the Detail: Thoughts on Chinatown on its Fortieth Anniversary" by Jessica Kiang

---"Jane Wyman and All That Heaven Allows" by Farran Smith Nehme

---"I believe that the current limits on press freedom and excessive government secrecy make it impossible for Americans to grasp fully what is happening in the wars we finance.

If you were following the news during the March 2010 elections in Iraq, you might remember that the American press was flooded with stories declaring the elections a success, complete with upbeat anecdotes and photographs of Iraqi women proudly displaying their ink-stained fingers. The subtext was that United States military operations had succeeded in creating a stable and democratic Iraq.

Those of us stationed there were acutely aware of a more complicated reality." --Chelsea Manning

---trailers for The Two Faces of January, The Knick, Very Good Girls, Birdman, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, and The Signal 

---Interiors considers Stanley Kubrick 

---In Focus: Clueless

---Anatomy of a scene: Third Person

---Michael Palin discusses Brazil 

---"Weird Corporate Twitter" by Kate Losse

---"The Filmmaker's Guide to Indie Festivals and Organizations" by Eric Escobar

---Women as Background Decoration: Part 1

---I’m not suggesting that Tarantino spends his weekends perusing Henry James or Thornton Wilder. It’s just that techniques similar to theirs have pervaded popular literature. Indeed, they were already at play in one popular genre that has always used literary artifice to shape our experience. To this day, as in King’s 11/22/63, mysteries and thrillers use block construction to promote suspense, play with alternative possibilities, make us reevaluate story situations, and engage us in a game of self-conscious form.

Sometimes current developments put the past in a new perspective. The emergence of “minimal music” (Glass, Reich, La Monte Young) suddenly showed Satie’s ideas about repetition to be more fertile than most of us had thought. Similarly, Tarantino’s work forced me to think about contemporary storytelling strategies, but it also asked me to consider more distant sources of those trends.

Studying film history is valuable for its own sake; it’s just damn interesting. Needing further justification, sometimes historians go on to say, especially to students: We study history to better understand the present. That’s surely true, but so is this: We study the present to better understand history."  --David Bordwell

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A glimpse behind the void: 10 notes on 22 Jump Street

1) 22 Jump Street struck me as an inflated bit of nothing, a dubious structure consisting solely of air, a self-aware piece of belly button lint, a feature-length winking speck of dust, a Big Gulp's worth of diet cherry cola and a bagful of Fritos that emphasizes the empty calories of one's wasted time, a spectacle oddly appropriate for the Dumb and Dumber To trailer that precedes it. 22 Jump Street could also be described as:

2) a forum for Ice Cube to look cartoonishly mock-angry over and over.

3) a place where, by acknowledging the exact sentiments of the studio's desire to cash in on a sequel, we the viewers can feel in-the-know, in-on-the-joke, and clever. As Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman) says to our bumbling heroes, "Ladies, nobody gave a s^$% about a Jump Street reboot but you got lucky. So now this department [a.k.a. the studio] has invested a lot of money to make sure that Jump Street keeps going." I still wonder: is it better if a greed-oriented vacancy is honest about its avarice?

4) a kind of swamp gas enveloping my blank summer afternoon with many moments in which Jonah Hill (as Schmidt) looks put-upon because Channing Tatem (as Jenko) is not giving him sufficient attention.

5) a void, a sucking wind over nothingness which carries the threat of dwelling upon absence into infinity, a movie that gives one vertigo given its 112 minute rush of inconsequentiality.

6) various opportunities for Schmidt and Jenko to dangle. They dangle off of a speeding truck, or off of a helicopter flying over millions of partying spring breakers on the beach.

7) a system of allusions to the squalor, conformity, and willful despair of college life.

8) a place where Wyatt Russell (the son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, who plays a frat brat named Zook) to meet cute with Jenko when Jenko drops a Q-tip on his meat sub during a football huddle. Get it?  Meat Q-t?

9) A way for directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller to further prove their ability to mock Hollywood formulae as they cash in on it in the same vein as their work in The Lego Movie. Whereas The Lego Movie suggested an odd depth in its exploration of how brainwashed we've all become by popular culture tropes neatly remixed, 22 Jump Street keeps returning to chase scenes with the same dreary bad guy (Peter Stormare) and his armed henchmen within a Spring Breakers retread.

10) I understand that I'm not adequately acknowledging Hill and Tatum's chemistry, Tatum's comedic gifts, and how the film is perceived as cool because it so cheerfully acknowledges how sold out it is, but I've been really enjoying True Detective on Blu-ray, and somehow that show's grim integrity calls attention to Jump Street's howling blast of nothingness. As Detective Rust Cohle says, "You see we all got what I call a life trap, a gene deep certainty that things will be different." I don't see how a movie should be given credit for owning up to being exactly the same.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Film Doctor's Sixth Anniversary

Six years ago, the Film Doctor started posting reviews, including this one concerning George Clooney and Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton (2007).

Friday, June 6, 2014

visual dictatorship links


---Signs from the near future

---Fast Film

---"Midnight Blue" by Mr. Flash

---filmmaking tips from Alain Resnais and John Boorman

---"Her eventually resorts to the unimaginable prospect of technological singularity as a way of acknowledging others. In the end, Jonze’s film expresses a gentle (rather than dystopic or unsettling) ambivalence regarding new media’s ability to confront or overcome solipsism. Indeed, the film may even be positing that others are increasingly existing for us only through mediation. Theodore’s loving relationship with a constructed consciousness – initially designed for him alone – is not an isolated incident; this quasi-solipsistic affair seems to spread with the cultural penetration of the OS system. As the film develops, people are increasingly seen wearing earpieces and talking to their devices (rather than each other) in public. And so, this is why the film’s romanticism is so disquietingly unstraightforward, and its ambivalence toward new media so intriguing." --Aaron Taylor


 ---"Walden Connection: The Thoreauvian Agenda of Upstream Color" by Anna Robertson

---“I’ve heard about stingrays attached to drones but seeing them on a typical police car (combined with being used 200 times) suggests the device is far more frequently used and deployed than we’ve known before. The other thing that’s interesting is that the way these devices are configured and physically used shows how invasive they are. They force the phone to use more battery, capture all the information in the area around it and then require police to go from door to door to capture signals. These aren’t simple innocuous devices but really aggressive and invasive ones.”

---"We’ve seen our fair share of federal government attempts to keep records about stingrays secret, but we’ve never seen an actual physical raid on state records in order to conceal them from public view."

---"Ghostbusters’s astronomical success was far from a foregone conclusion: from its inception, the eventual blockbuster faced countless obstacles, unravelings, and emergencies." --Lesley M. M. Blume

---Philip Seymour Hoffman on Happiness

---The Rules of Film Noir

---"In his most critical mode, De Palma shows us that, in a world of visual dictatorship, some images are concealed, while everybody turns their heads to the same screens."  --Cristina Alvarez Lopez and Adrian Martin

---"the biggest Hollywood star images are complicated, and even contradictory: Marilyn Monroe was pure sex, but she radiated innocence; Marlon Brando was overpoweringly masculine yet incredibly sensitive.

So Jolie’s image mixed dangerous sexuality . . . and benevolent humanitarianism? It sounds ridiculous. But it was precisely that combination, and the flexibility it permitted, that allowed Jolie to not only weather one of the biggest potential scandals of the decade, but facilitated her rise to superstardom." --Anne Helen Petersen

---The Cine-Files

---"On climate change, the truth has gone from inconvenient to awful. Right now we're failing our future. And we will be judged harshly for it." --Ezra Klein

---"An Analysis of Christopher Nolan's Inception"

---"Liman's eclectic oeuvre goes some way to explaining why he chooses to view his latest effort — a $178-million popcorn movie that makes extensive use of green-screen technology and stars the most enduring action hero in moviedom — as an 'independent film.'"  --Chris Lee

---trailers for Edge of Tomorrow and Borgman

---"Simply posting status updates and sharing photos, links and interesting content, is no longer what leads to a successful social media campaign. Today, organic reach comes only by creating original, bespoke, content that is highly visual, 'clickable', and sharable.

The most loyal and powerful online communities are now centered around visual content, not text. This is leading incredibly devoted fan bases to develop organically around visual content shared on sites like Instagram, Pinterest and Vine." --Marc Schiller

Monday, June 2, 2014

A western viewed through a contemporary lens: 4 desultory notes about A Million Ways to Die in the West

"Everyone grew weary of the meaningless affair." --Franz Kafka

1) When watching A Million Ways to Die in the West, I was confounded. What is going on? Who is Seth MacFarlane? Why is Charlize Theron involved? The movie left me not so much disgusted as concerned for the people who appeared on screen.

2) Charlize Theron's participation in A Million Ways to Die in the West forms a kind of paradox: Theron's star presence makes the movie appear worthwhile (we won't concern ourselves with "Release the Kraken" Liam Neeson). Yet, Theron's choice to star in the movie is its most suspect decision.

One can imagine that Theron desired a pleasant break from shooting the new Mad Max reboot, or that she's friends with Seth MacFarlane, or she likes how her character, Anna, the wife of chief bad guy Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson), who gets treated with respect (her most degrading moment consists of placing a daisy in Liam Neeson's rear end). For all I know, Theron may enjoy putting down Amanda Seyfried (who plays MacFarlane's previous love interest, Louise). Her character, Anna, proves to be an excellent shot, and she gives confidence to Albert (MacFarlane). Perhaps Theron just thought what the hell. It's a paycheck and a leading role. Olivia Wilde's career successfully recuperated after appearing in Cowboys & Aliens (2011) after all.

3) In AMWTDITW's featurette, Seth MacFarlane claimed that he was making a portrait of a western viewed through a contemporary lens. If that is the case, AMWTDITW indicates that today's western audience is bored, jaded, and distracted enough to require a liberal amount of expletives and casual deaths to keep them awake, pseudo-jolted, and possibly laughing (MacFarlane does include one visual reference to John Ford's famous door scene in The Searchers just so any die-hard western fans in the audience can start weeping on cue). The contemporary lens somehow compels Foy (Neil Patrick Harris) to squat and emit a steaming stream of diarrhea into not one but two cowboy hats in the midst of a shootout.

4) Why was AMWTDITW made? I imagine that MacFarlane figured that it would enhance his career as an actor (even though on screen he comes across as exactly the kind of hopelessly tragic easy-grinning fellow who very much wants to please, but never gets anywhere as an actor in Los Angeles, so he lives there anyway, as it were in the lowest pit of hell). The movie will appear on the "Popular New Releases" on the Netflix queue, or the list of movies that one watches on jet flights out of a sheer desire for diversion and not much else. A Million Ways to Die in the West will find its audience, and persist in space, and confuse any extraterrestrials who may wonder why such a cultural artifact ever existed, and what we were thinking.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

zombified links

---Edgar Wright--How to Do Visual Comedy

---Sci-Fi: Since 1902

---"The Interiors of Wes Anderson"

---"Dark Sunglasses" by Chrissie Hynde

---How Kurosawa Made Star Wars

---"I think everyday existence is somewhat zombified in terms of how we go about our beloved routines and the way we numb ourselves." --Colson Whitehead

---the title sequence of Alien (1979)

---"How James Agee Changed Film Criticism" by Jason Bailey

---“Like Monet forever painting lilies or Bonnard always re-creating his wife in her bath, Hawks made only one artwork. It is the principle of that movie that men are more expressive rolling a cigarette than saving the world. ... The dazzling battles of word, innuendo, glance and gesture—between Grant and Hepburn, Grand and Jean Arthur, Grant and Rosalind Russell, John Barrymore and Carole Lombard …—are Utopian procrastinations to avert the paraphernalia of released love that can only expend itself. In other words, Hawks is at his best in moments when nothing happens beyond people arguing about what might happen or has happened.” --David Thomson

---The Clash: Live in Tokyo 1982

---Banksy's New York Residency

---"While once focused on written and oral communications, the N.S.A. now considers facial images, fingerprints and other identifiers just as important to its mission of tracking suspected terrorists and other intelligence targets, the documents show."

---trailers for Clouds of Sils Maria, Mood Indigo, Lucy, Kill the MessengerMagic in the Moonlight, and The Equalizer 

---"where the written word could only go so far in articulating this engagement, video allows Seitz to juxtapose image, narration and music, introducing the manipulation that film makers have utilized for decades." --Adam Hofbauer

---"Why I'm Not Watching the New Adam Sandler Movie" by Eric D. Snider

---Richard Brody considers Two-Lane Blacktop

---"The phrase ‘pre-Code’ is bandied about so much in writing about film censorship that one would be forgiven for thinking it’s a genre term. Historically, it refers to a specific period between the announcement of the Hays Code and the formation of the PCA to actually enforce it. Culturally, the interregnum represented a fertile few years in which the studios tested the outer limits of propriety with movies of increasing frankness and fearlessness." --James Bell

---behind the scenes of Black Swan

---Work Sex Glory: A Tribute to Michael Glawogger