I can think of no better distillation of the America the cinetrix loves (courtesty of Rutube.ru, which is PERFECT) than this clip. Don't blow off any digits, y'all, and remember to hydrate.
Here in a flash are links either directly or tangentially related to my experience "Turning the Inside Out" last month. It's a selfish way to gather them for myself, masquerading as selflessness. I often think of writing, or making films, as hospitality, anticipating a guest's needs, making places for them, giving them moments to rest, and exposing them to nourishing new flavors. So imagine my delight when I found this, in an interview John Waters just conducted with David Cronenberg:
"I don’t really look for them," Cronenberg said when asked by Waters if he keeps up with the horror genre. "There was a time when I studied them when I was a kid. But since then, unless it’s something really special, I won’t seek it out. It has to be something that I feel will nourish me."
Qui si mangia bene.
How Not to Be Seen:
Not coincidentally, to see and be seen are the most pressing imperatives of our audiovisual economies. To disappear is to subtract oneself from the fluxes of semiotic capitalism—the subject of another Steyerl video work, the fittingly titled How Not to be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File (2013). First shown/exhibited/fed to audiences at the Venice Biennale, the video revolves around and hovers over disused photo-calibration targets in the Californian desert— once used to test the resolution of analog aerial photography, they now look like abandoned Mayan temples on Google Earth—while speculating on our contemporary pan-optical besiegement and suggesting possible escape plans. To retreat into gated communities or tax havens, to be over 35 years old (if you’re a female) are some ways to make yourself invisible, but also voiceless; another is to scale yourself down to the size of a pixel, helpfully illustrated in the video by mimes wearing quadrangular, pixel-like boxes on their heads. If clandestinity once required a low profile, these days the cyber outlaw needs a low resolution, though a burqa might just do the trick as well. To use images in order to show how to be invisible is the signifying contradiction at the heart of Steyerl’s video, as it is at the bleeding heart of our virtual condition. Is there really no escape from the tyrannical rule of appearances? Does disappearing inevitably mean also ceasing to exist? Is there life before and beyond images?
After these tactics are outlined, the film crew making this educational video also disappears. In their absence, happy low-resolution pixels take over the production. Digital rendering ghosts dance in the desert landscape as The Three Degrees' "When Will I See You Again" plays on the soundtrack. Silliness ensues.
Which I thought of when I read this cartoon, "Out Damned Spot" on Rookie after returning from the seminar.
And this item about MIT folks working on camouflage algorithms:
We think of camouflage as a concern for hunters and soldiers, but in fact our lives are filled with objects we wish blended a little better into their surroundings: a wireless router in your living room, a port-a-potty beside a soccer field, a trash can in a public park. Now, a team of computer scientists at MIT is on the case. Led by graduate student Andrew Owens, they've created an algorithm that analyzes pictures of incongruous objects and creates custom camouflage that makes them fade into their surroundings.
The algorithm analyzes images of an object in situ and pays particular attention to textures and contour lines, which are two of the biggest visual cues we use to distinguish objects from their backgrounds. The researchers' biggest challenge was figuring out how to make the camouflage work from multiple perspectives (if a box sits between a black leather couch and a smooth yellow wall, a pattern that makes it blend in best from one angle would make it striking from another). There's no perfect way to solve this problem, but the MIT researchers found that the best algorithm came up with a camouflage design that worked best from as many angles as possible and also allowed for smooth transitions from one side of the object to another. The camouflaged objects don't disappear completely, but it does take a few extra moments of scrutiny to find them, which, come to think of it, may not actually be what we want in a trailside restroom.
Also related, from The Awl, Why is the Internet blue?
A designer for Tumblr says Tumblr is blue, and "dark," because nobody notices blue. "Everything’s blue," he says. "Posts are bright on that blue background and lifted up with shadows." Blue is for the parts you "don’t need immediately." You can make your Tumblr any color you want; it will appear that way to you, and to people to come directly to your page on their own. Your Tumblr doesn't have to be blue until it shares space with others.
On the dashboard, everyone is trying to be noticed, but everyone is blue.
e-flux Journal: "The Wretched of the Screen" / Hito Steyerl
Hito's work is on display at MIT's List Gallery through July 13 as part of "9 Artists." I am hoping to slip down July 9 for this discussion:
More on surveillance from Maura Johnston, who posted Rockwell's song "Obscene Phone Caller" to This Is My Jam with this note: "what pop songsmith will write the definitive lite-funk jam about being catfished, i wonder"
Smitten also by the work of Duncan Campbell and Jesse McLean, which likewise blew me away. I am still tracking down information about their films. Meanwhile, this WaPo fact-checker piece reminded me about how Duncan's films engage with new, forgotten, and distorted histories:
“Kennedy was certainly bracing for an ‘eyeball to eyeball’ moment, but it never happened,” Dobbs wrote. “There is now plenty of evidence that Kennedy — like Khrushchev — was a lot less steely-eyed than depicted in the initial accounts of the crisis, which were virtually dictated by the White House. Tape-recorded transcripts of White House debates and notes from participants show that Kennedy was prepared to make significant concessions, including a public trade of Soviet missiles in Cuba for American missiles in Turkey and possibly the surrender of the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay.”
Then there's this on borders drawn and not drawn on Google Maps, which reminded me of Eric Baudelaire's "Letters to Max."
It’s hard to draw a map without making someone angry. There are 32 countries that Google Maps won’t draw borders around. While the so-called geo-highlighting feature—which Google uses to show a searched area’s borders—is unaffected by the locale of the person looking at them, the borders drawn on Google’s base map will look different depending on where in the world you are.
And here's Eric's lovely "The Makes," about Michelangelo Antonioni’s Japanese films. "Starring French film critic Philippe Azoury in the role of 'The Critic.'”
This piece about the Dokumat 500 seems in keeping with the themes stirred up during the week, especially by how Jesse McLean works with "found footage":
While there is no image recognition involved, the robot also does not recognize any coherence in the sequence it films. But the human viewer links, due to his conditioning, the individual takes in the finished film. A person who watches those videos will discover inspiring sequences and bizarre plots. Recurring motives run like a thread through the video documentary.
By the robot’s random control, it produces unexpected sequences and also predictable ones. Occasionally, it composes its pictures in completely conventional ways, sometimes it deviates from our viewing habits. Often, things in the background seem to interest it much more, than the obvious.
It directs the attention of the spectator on things, where humans usually don’t take the time to view it, or on situations, where we would not have the necessary boldness for an insistent observation....
The robot has a basic artificial intelligence, which allows it to move independently in almost any environment. Infrared sensors avoid collisions and provide the robot with the required basic information about its surroundings. Pans and tilts of the camera depend on the movement of the machine in its particular environment, and not on what the camera sees. The movements are based on an algorithm, which lets the robot behave, as if it would have a personality.
However, both, the design and the behavior of Dokumat 500 suggest a curiosity about the happening in front of its lens, to be inherent in it.
Its presence and the attributes of an offensive observation are regarded first as being exciting, after a while they get annoying, obtrusive and disturbing. The flightcase of the robot accommodates not only the robot during transport, it also offers space for large archive of video cassettes, which is build up gradually.
Man, I haven't even gotten to Johan Grimonprez. But I'll close here by hailing some present but not officially presenting artists from the week. First up are Jonas Mekas and Ken Jacobs, "The Monks of Cinema."
And last is Maura Jasper, at the Flaherty as a seminarian, whom I knew from a past life but not this past life, where she did the art for Dinosaur, Jr.'s albums and made the transistion to the video art she does now with this clip for one of my favorite covers.
"I had so little experience, but that was a plus. I didn’t have any technical ability; I had ideas. I knew it would be OK if it was falling apart, because it would be funny. It was the same as if you’re in a punk rock band and can’t play the guitar — you just need the attitude and you just go.
The attitude in that work, and the ideas that came out of that, those came with me and went into everything I’ve gone on to make. I take it with me. Some artists burn the work they made before a certain time, to let go of the past, so no one can see it. I can’t do that. All my developmental years are out in public. And I’m OK with that."
Saw this film at Full Frame and have ideas and thoughts about it I'll get around to sharing one day. For now, here are Matt Zoller Seitz's:
Despite the film's title, Block doesn't interview all 112 couples whose weddings he's covered — just a few of them. There are heterosexual couples and same-sex couples. Some followed up their ceremonies and receptions with long and/or happy marriages. Others basically peaked with the exchange of rings and got divorced a while later. Still others put on happy faces for Block's camera but seem to be hiding something, or tiptoeing around something.
A great piece on seeing the remake before the original:
The same goes for Against All Odds. I not only saw that before seeing Out of the Past, I saw it five or six times before seeing Out of the Past. That’s because it played on Showtime seemingly around the clock back in the mid-eighties. And I kind of liked it back then, too. Sadly, like every other remake I’ve mentioned so far, revisits have not been kind. And it goes without saying that Out of the Past is the better of the two and also one of the best, if not the best, noir of all time.
Tom Shone on film scores:
There’s much less Peter-and-the-Wolfing, fewer big themes, spelled out in strings, pegged to specific characters. If “Doctor Zhivago” were made today, there would be no “Lara’s Theme”. Instead you’ll find more layering, more washes of sound, less melody, more rhythm. The work of Thomas Newman is less hummable than it is hypnotic, often marking out empty space with spare, reverb-heavy two-part piano melodies, which step up or down an interval, then hold, as if poised on the edge of something vast. It’s horizontal music, made for the empty earthscapes of “WALL-E” or the oceanic ambience of “Finding Nemo”.
Mychael Danna did something similar with his “Moneyball” score: a work of pure, glittering expectation, like a wet lawn at dawn. That’s his Gorecki-like ascent of chords you can hear building in the trailer for the new Christopher Nolan epic “Interstellar”. Stylistically, Williams’s most immediate heir is Michael Giacchino, who has some of the same ear for high-vaulting melodic intervals, and is thus a perfect fit for any film that puts a low premium on the forces of gravity. That makes him a busy man—he wrote the beautiful cloud-bound waltz for “Up” and will be working on the next “Star Wars”—but not as busy as Alexandre Desplat, the French composer whose name so superbly evokes the image of a tomato hitting a wall. This year he has scored the unlikely trio of “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, “Godzilla”, and Angelina Jolie’s forthcoming second-world-war drama about the Olympic track star Louis Zamperini, “Unbroken”. Desplat likes to combine the lush romanticism of Georges Delerue with a rhythmic backbone of mallet instruments, harps and timpani that somehow recall the inner workings of a grandfather clock
Lisa Rosman gets personal about Roger Ebert:
So, like everyone who had enjoyed his reviews and borne witness to his courage - and especially like everyone who had benefitted from his enormous generosity of spirit - I was bereft when he died. But I was suspicious about the prospect of "Life Itself." I knew that Chaz, his wife, had loved Roger so much and was so understandably proprietal of his legacy that any documentary about his life, no matter how well-intended, might have been a mere puff piece.
I am so happy to admit that I was wrong, that I underestimated everyone involved in this extraordinary biopic. I should have known that Roger respected and loved movies so much that he never would have allowed one to be made in his name that did not live up to the cinematic standards he spent a lifetime upholding. Not to mention that "Life Itself" is executive-produced by Martin Scorsese (who appears in this film) and Steven Zaillian (who produced "Moneyball"), is inspired by Roger's best-selling eponymous memoir, and is directed by Steve James.
A: To make the recording, I’m wearing two mics strapped to each side of my head. The grey acrylic fur windcovers enveloping each mic might, from a distance, look like small woodland animals. It’s as well that not many people come here.
Q: When was the last time you saw a web address on a movie poster or trailer and felt compelled to type it into your browser, letter by stupid letter, to see what you'd find? An ad displaying a humble domain name already feels like an archaic marketing method, the equivalent of shouting your URL at someone out of the window of a moving car.
A: I thought: let’s go for broke, here. Let’s try to create some environments and experiences in which kids (and the kid in all of us) can really explore what their voices can do. Let’s give them freedom to experiment. Let’s reward them for wildness. Let’s try to make it child and family friendly, but beautiful and rich and somehow sensual, despite the limitations of the tablet format.
A: Chances are, if you’re receiving AARP mailers, are experiencing partial deafness and have knee and/or back trouble, then you do know that ‘zine is short for magazine and is the term for fan-published periodical sent out into the world by the eager and the obsessive back in the days before e-mail, newsgroups, Internet blogs, and YouTube subscriptions. The ‘zine was the bastard child of the religious tract and political pamphlet, something to slap into a stranger’s hand and say “This! And this!”
Judy, Judy, Judy! [via]
The thing is, in a similar way to how a “manic pixie dream girl” is a limiting criticism of a film’s characterization, I’m not sure if “the Bedchel test” should necessarily be a “bare-minimum standard,” and what real change comes from criticizing that representation, in movies and TV. At its heart, it’s a joke, and a pretty good one, as seen in the original panel from Alison Bedchel’s Dykes to Watch Out For (above). But when critics mention it as a metric of whether something’s good or bad, judging art by whether it reflects your experience or not, I wonder if we’re losing something.
In the company of wolves with Kim Morgan sunsetgun.typepad.com/
conceived and shot by Kim Morgan & Guy Maddin
Contemporary costume, even from popular movies, is surprisingly hard to trace. What has happened to George Clooney’s Aloha shirts from The Descendants? The film’s costume designer Wendy Chuck isn’t sure. “I have no idea where his shirts went, probably into the stock at Fox costume house,” she guesses. And Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s iconic jacket worn as social armour in Brick? Another uncertain costume designer. Michele Posch rented three of the jackets from the Universal Studio’s costume department in order to distress a couple for different moments in the film. Their current whereabouts are uncertain. “The jackets were returned but I have looked recently and they seem to be gone,” Michele explains. “Could be someone has rented them for another project or that they were lost at some point.” Another piece of collectable costume (or three) goes missing.
I still remember the first time I ever saw a two-dollar bill. It was in a wallet, on a TV screen in the living room of my childhood home. The wallet belonged to a dead woman called Ida Sessions, and it was Jack Nicholson who was riffling through it: Social Security Card; Screen Actors Guild Membership; two-dollar bill. I was maybe 12 or 13 and had never even set foot in America, but like anyone in the English-speaking world who watched way too many movies, I felt I knew the country like the back of my hand. Certainly its currency, which seemed more like real money than the colorful, monopoly notes we used, so often had I seen it brimming out of briefcases, left contemptuously on nightstands or fluttering down like green confetti after an explosion. But I had never seen a two-dollar bill, so that, of all things, was the detail that snagged my attention the first time I watched Roman Polanski’s “Chinatown.”
I doubt that it’s of much use to note that a scene in a kitchen brought mid-career Fassbinder to mind. The frame seems boxier here, the colors definitely brighter—see the still above; that orange-red glass and those blatantly yellow fingernails are at one point complemented by the angular turquoise-and-white design of a pack of cigarettes—and there are two camera movements that are clearly meant to draw attention to themselves as well as to the pairing they accentuate.
The continued abuse of a movie that had already been relegated to the slab could be taken as profaning a corpse. But it was on the midnight-movie circuit—a place where the occult is taken seriously and vampires and zombies feel at home—thatShowgirls began its rise from the grave. Though few people wanted to seeShowgirls when it was in theaters, on home video it became a curiosity, and then a minor group-viewing phenomenon. Starting in 1996, MGM graciously offered prints to repertory theaters, and then hired drag queens to attend the screenings and encourage audience participation.
Suddenly, Showgirls's major reference point had shifted from Valley of the Dolls toThe Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). "A performer named Winona, in a black vinyl miniskirt and bustier, passed out scripts that cued viewers... when to shout along with the dopiest lines," reported the New York Times. "The movie rolled, accompanied by non-stop shouted wisecracks. When Nomi threw a pile of French fries during a dramatic scene, a heckler yelled ‘Overact, Nomi!'" MGM had allowed their intellectual property to be reduced to a punch line, but in the end, the studio laughed all the way to the bank. The various re-releases shored up Showgirls' box-office take until it became, with all revenue streams accounted for, one of the most profitable titles in the studio's back catalogue. To date, Showgirls has grossed more than $100 million. To quote the film's loquacious screenwriter: "Remember that chicken shit can turn into chicken liver."
Why I'd like to be... [Still waiting for cross-gender-lines candidates in this Guardian role model series.]
But much more importantly, what we witness in Private Benjamin is an awakening of spirit and the uncovering and rejection of the Prince Charming myth. Anyone who appears to be coming to the rescue has something to gain for themselves. This realisation first dawns on our battered and bruised heroine when her parents come to release her from basic training – and she perceives that they are not there to save her, but their family's reputation.
“The great strength of the movies in the 1940s,” Manny Farber once wrote, “was the subversive power of the bit player.” Few had more such power than the character actor SKELTON BARNABY KNAGGS (1911–55). With Jack Elam and Rondo Hatton, Knaggs was one of the most memorably unattractive men in the history of movies. Emaciated, pockmarked, with waxy skin and bulging eyes, Knaggs had the face and manner of a dried-up tangerine.
Appearing in the first half of Lauren Greenfield’s Thin (2006), this moment is a remarkable representation of disordered eating. It is neither sensational nor aspirational—it is boring. And when it comes to narratives about eating disorders, the tedious approach is rarely taken. Instead, mainstream media gives us images of shrunken bodies or endless discussions of self-regulation (widely accepted in the form of diet trends and cleanses); eating disorders are either foreign and grotesque (who would ever want to look like that?) or normalized (who doesn’t want to be thin, really?). With no representations of the grey area between these two extremes, this complex mental disease becomes an easily digestible story of shock and awe, sickness and health, and exteriority over interiority. Then there is Greenfield’s documentary. Rejecting these frameworks, she aims for a depiction of something closer to the isolating experience of addiction, emphasizing the mundane, the dull, the routine.
The HBO-produced documentary follows four women at Renfrew: Shelley, Polly, Brittany, and Alisa. For most of their lives, these women have binged, purged, and restricted, which has led to incidences of self-harm and attempted suicide. Renfrew, they all say, is their last hope for recovery. As this brief plot synopsis suggests, the potential for sensationalism lies at every turn. But rather than indulge in theatrics, Thin, like its subjects, restricts its worldview to the present moment. A moment that, for the four women the camera is following, is consumed by and structured around one thing: food.
Greenfield’s emphasis on this myopia of the moment is what writer Alice Gregory would call “radical.” Writing in The New York Times, Gregory says: “When it comes to writing about anorexia, the only truly radical move, as far as I can tell, would be to show clearly just how profoundly boring it is—not sad or prurient or overdetermined.” For Gregory, discussing EDs should not be centred around idealized tales of tortured geniuses or brave survivors who have found self-acceptance—these are normalizing, unchallenging narratives. As Gregory bluntly puts it: “a voluntarily isolated person choosing not to eat until she’s addicted to not eating doesn’t make for a very good story.” Because of this, Gregory says, “I don’t know what a deliberately boring book about anorexia would look like.” The film version might look like Greenfield’s documentary.