The time has come to develop curricula in visual media literacy for all children K-12. For a country as media saturated as ours, it is dangerous not to teach children how images work, why we use them instead of words, how sequencing them alters their meanings, and what lies ahead for language once expression becomes liberated from the alphabet. Media is not a tool to be censored, it is a tool that must expand along every horizon to search for all knowledge yet unkown. Future modes of expression are what will elementally lead us to our next breakthroughs in the sciences and in the arts. Pivotal is the performance of violence, since its essential metaphor is the breaking down of old ways, old systems.
"The United States is the only developed nation without a national curriculum in visual literacy." Douglas Ruskoff Coercion: Why We Listen To What They Say 1999
As a Batman trilogy rooted mostly in despair, only the villains are allowed to take pleasure in their craft. And it's through pleasure that you can identify them, Lucius Fox, Ra's alGul, Talia alGul, Bane, Dagget. The heroes are the ones who suffer. Bruce Wayne has to fake his pleasure for the entire trilogy. With even Alfred playing it for the pure sacrifice of it, we can't be too sure Nolan isn't laughing about all this strained seriousness. He's famously taken a kid's hero and given him only adult concerns: defense contracts, wire-fraud, terrorism, seduction, and despair. These concerns might appear emotionally complex, they are adult. The undercurrent pathos is by way of Frank Miller's teenage form of masochism, it adds weight to all that shadow. The problem is, the emotions get torqued by this distortion: An abnormal desire for pain. The plot may be complex, but that's about it. Nolan divides his identities along very basic lines of 'good' and 'evil' and then makes it seem real. Photographic grain and undigitized physical gags shade a board game's black and white emotionalism.
By hijacking the opening of Star Wars, Nolan introduces his Vader-Bane with one flying vessel taking over another (Bane later crushes a throat a la Darth). Giving his masked villain a highlander's accent, Nolan seems to be hiding an ace Sean Connery in the mixing room, it's no wonder this all looks so Bondish. Bane is a vast improvement over The Joker's shrieking hysterics in The Dark Knight. Hardy's Bane manages to be both sadistic and tender. In every way this is a far superior film to Dark Knight. Nolan shifts from duel to ensemble. He serves up a group of supposed good guys vs. bad guys and switches their camps. He pairs them continuously, like a medieval dance. Devil Lucius Fox and Daughter Miranda Tate team up to both destroy and save Gotham from a similar atom smashing fate from Batman Begins. Bruce Wayne complies with retreading the first film by donning Begins's Ducard's/Ra's's goatee. A clever extended sequence, one of Nolan's best, involves a cater-waitress, a string-of-pearls, lifted fingerprints and a stolen congressman, ending in a dive bar shootout. The pearls were Bruce's mother's; his father's move to protect his wife's pearls became the trigger for their murder. Which means the pearls are the reason Batman exists. Had Joe Chill made it out of the alley with them there would never be a Dark Knight. The pearl necklace in TDKR starts off as a maternal memory that phases into a class struggle metaphor, becoming a window into a criminal's life. Nolan flips meanings when the pearls serve as a tracking device, leading Wayne to a 'benefit' with two potential Ms. Waynes attending. It's clever. It's so clever you start to feel trapped in it without an emotional connection to any one character. The film feels audacious, but so were Godfather III and The Matrix Revolutions, two films that couldn't pull off their muscular tragic deaths of key females. Here there is no 'real' tragedy. A bizarre death scene involving a truck is so strangely acted you aren't sure if Nolan is channeling Trinity just in case it's too much death for the repeater teen crowd.
The film is at its best when the stakes are mostly visible/local and Rises's first 2/3rds are active with a plot worthy of the best card-counter in Vegas. Gravely it slips into the usual foggy exile of third-acts, where the juggling has to pay off and here, unadulterated nonsense takes-over. Police are simplistically trapped underground for months, Bruce Wayne is trapped (with access to CNN) across the planet. A scarecrow's court seems pulled right out of Brazil. Class rebellion is employed as a ruse to armageddon (Nolan reuses the location of a 1920 anarchist's bomb, set in front of J.P. Morgan's old HQ posing here as the stock market). A Gotham under siege is not only ignored by the country at large, but a tired special forces insert merits a C- cinemascore. As Gotham suffers for months, vast resources of a surrounding country (and President) are left largely inert, forcing the audience to plea for Batman's return simply to end the film. A climax subplot involving a bus, orphans and a checkpoint falls as flat as they come. Plot devices from Inception and Begins reappear as well as some new ones: switched bodies & software (one of Nolan's best touches is to fuse the concepts of clean-slate and auto-pilot feeding the ending of Batman/Bruce Wayne). The error lies in the retooled legend of Ra's alGul, boosting the amperage but not the complexity of the villains. Had Bane been a dummy and Talia a digital venriloquist of sorts, then the villains' would be sharing an uncertain border. That's where what will be known as the best comicbook trilogy ever made for IMAX should have gone. Wordplay is at its height in TDKR, think about the double meaning laced in The Dent 'Act.'
Watch the swansong of celluloid in style: At LA's Century City IMAX, both ArcLights and NY's single-theater Ziegfeld and NJ's OMNIMAX Spherical Projection Dome at Liberty Science Center, the largest IMAX dome in the world.
Top: Paul Strand's Wall Street, 1915 Below: Aftermath of the 1920 unsolved bombing of J.P. Morgan Bottom: Same building at top, evidence still visible today.
Non-stop sequencing in a great piece from the New York Review of Books.
Two days before the presidential election results were announced on June 24, Al-Dustor newspaper ran across its front page, in big, bold, black and red print, the headline “The Massacre of the Century,” referring to the Muslim Brotherhood’s alleged plan for Egypt, which supposedly called for assassinations and disorder. The paper cited intelligence sources and a secret meeting of the Brotherhood.
By the pool at the Gezira Sporting Club that morning, a group of retired army generals and high-ranking intelligence officers spoke with assurance of Shafik’s coming win. The officer really in charge of the country, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, commander in chief of the armed forces, “won’t have it any other way,” so it was said. Later that day, when I chatted with a former Egyptian ambassador to Pakistan, he vehemently contradicted them. “It will be Morsi, it’s what the Americans want.”
Jack (and Suzy) write a little op-ed piece in the WSJ admitting they're addicted to corporations for pleasure. For breathing, for eating. Read between the lines and start to realize, the new age of the CEO has turned transhumanist to a wide degree. Dangerous times ahead if this becomes our latest sociobiological path
Here's a quote from their dimension of the galaxy, the intro fools us by agreeing with detractors, a simplistic argumentative employed best by demagogues:
Here's a new party trick. Want to be accused of being a member of a satanic cult? Like to be called the kind of person who would steal candy from a child, or harm a puppy and start a forest fire—all in the same day? Do you want to be described as evil, heartless and stupid?
Then just do this: Offhandedly mention in public that you agree with Mitt Romney—and that, yeah, you think corporations are people.
Oh, how that notion sets some people right off their rockers! Take, for instance, the scene last month when senatorial candidate Elizabeth Warren introduced President Obama at a big fundraiser in Boston:
The Guardian on Televisa's role in electing the favorited P.R.I. candidate in the upcoming national election. Their exclusive:
Televisa refused to meet the Guardian to discuss the allegations. It first ignored requests for comment, then proposed a meeting with legal counsel present. When the Guardian submitted a list of eight questions with a small sample document attached, a spokesman cancelled the meeting, saying the documents had not been not been submitted in a "timely" fashion.
2-D tablets are a distraction for the next phase of the game, personalized language development. That will be the domain of the 3-D tablet, when keyboard is augmented and finally replaced by Kinect-type field manipulation. Each user will start gesturing a stable language then transform it, personalize it.
That's where Apple has to go, towards Kinect, they're playing catch-up privately, while Microsoft bungles its tablet prospects. This is long strategy, many are only looking at the next 16 quarters of the tablet. Think a decade.
Top: With the Curios, Bottom: In the Studio (1909)
From the Wm Cody Collection
There may be a cultural malaise in North America. The idea that we can improvise our way out of any problem suffuses our media, our myths, maybe even our ideologies, and it's spoon-fed unwisely into our children. There was a time North Americans made fun of these qualities more than celebrating them outright (late 1970s/1980s). Now we treat them at times as if they are literal possibilities. The Iraq War had its isomorphs between myth and reality. So does the 2008 downfall of investment banks. A growing ability to ignore facts and hope problems are resolved by accident, luck, or last-minute breakneck improvisation. Depression erasure in real time, with a rising number of adults tasked with solving humanity's problems munching prescribed anti-anxiety meds. A chemical assist. While software and hardware offer us better planning tools that extend much farther into future modelling, we operate spiritually/psychically in the opposite direction. No problem too great, no disaster unsolveable. Our biome and its ecology suffers under this unconscious, psychic desire to solve everything at the last minute, after it's too late, and our media is unusually complicit. Where does this occur visually in fictional media? Pixar is the myth's most successful proponent, humanizing protagonists that may or may not save us, or converting depressives through outright fantasy. There's something suspicious in its CGI euphoria. Sometimes Pixar's films even cause havoc directly. Finding Nemo is a sanitized and sedated version of Bambi. It's been modernized to mitigate human encroachment while the reverse has happened in the time differential between both films. Nemo's human entrance into Eden is portrayed as unintentional, misguided destruction (fish collecting vs. Bambi's hunting). Pixar doesn't address human paradoxes, it manufactures its own: Nemo's success started a mad dash of fans collecting clown-fish, badly depressing the fish's population. Pixar takes credit for its own misguided myths causing mayhem in reality's ecosphere. Sometimes even death is reversible in the Pixar canon. Especially when it comes to reanimating anthropomorphised robots, cars and toys. The joke on us in Wall-E is that Pixar gets us to the apocalypse on time. Human surviveability and Earth inhabitability are shown as secondary to the romantic interests of a robot. 'Life' as background noise. Wall-E begins with biological armageddon as a fait accompli. Children leave the theater assuming the planet is doomed with its rebirth entrusted to an Adam and Eve pair that merely turn away from their computer screens. That's heroism for you. It means that Wall-E is death-mask satire played as lightmare. If you can disengage from the synthetic emotions these myths manufacture, then the themes slowly become visible. Should we teach children through these visual forms of pharmaceuticals? In this link, a transhumanist named Munkittrick mistakes narrative devices for themes and finds hope merely that in Pixar, the animators personify the inanimate or anthropomorphize the non-sentient animal or robot. The essay is unusually skewed to serve the writer's transhumanist needs. He claims Pixar films incorporate no devices of magic, while their biggest franchise is about toys coming to life. Even essayists have to sanitize Pixar's messages to relate them. Consider satirizing Pixar as the animator of a Jim Jones's Kool-Aid commercial and you'll know where they're taking us...
Selected comments from Munkittrick's essay reveal its message and cultural forms:
(1)....I think this is a beautiful post. Personally, Toy Story sticks out as the movie most in line with your thesis. I’ve grown up with Pixar movies (Toy Story came out when I was five). Way down deep, it still makes me apprehensive to think that my toys could have lives that I’m unaware of. I think this apprehension comes from the fact that these toys’ happiness and sense of fulfillment comes almost entirely from the approval of Andy. I’m drawn to think, even now, what if the toys I’ve abandoned over the years have felt the same depression and ennui that Woody and Buzz would have felt if Andy callously abandoned them? Of course, given a little deeper thought, it’s ridiculous to think that plastic toys could have self awareness. They’re made of plastic, they don’t have a nervous system. But the thought remains, because it’s found a parallel.
(2)....Am I the only one who’s noticed that the central conflict in all Pixar feature films is always resolved via fist fight? Except in those cases where fists don’t apply, such as Cars, where fenders are used instead. Let me think about this… Toys=fight with evil toys. Cars=fight/race thing with evil cars. Up=fight with evil explorer and his dogs. Wall-E=fight with evil co-pilot. Monsters=fight with monsters. Why the hell did Up have to degenerate into a fist fight? It started out so promising. The Incrdibles had lots of fighting, but it was a superhero flick after all so no complaints there.
(3)...Key point that seems to be missed: Pixar makes CGI films.
Unsurprisingly, Pixar chooses ideas that give life and human intelligence to otherwise inanimate, not-so-intelligent items (cars, toys, rats and so forth). That’s because it plays to the strength of the medium.
It’s a bit like noting that early Disney films were all fantasies, without observing they were also animated.
#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
#8: Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
#9: When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
#17: No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on - it’ll come back around to be useful later.
#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.