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  • 312194.0838

    Just as in the 60's, our age's media is enmeshed in cycles of heroic films transplanted from our far and near past mythistories. Talk about neo-conservative, the superhero with his/her origins in comics is a retrograde icon. Film studios: taking us backwards one myth at a time.

  • 312191.0749

    Thomas Ince invented the first film factory, Inceville, in 1918 on a discarded valley spot where Sunset Blvd. met the Pacific.

  • 312188.2002

    Culled from the slippery hi speed Nickelodeon cartoon Avatar the Last Airbender, M.Night's live action feature version makes its first mistake by slicing off the first word in the title. Any preliminary marketing meeting worth its salt would have decried the wobbly and unspeakable, unsimplicity of The Last Airbender,  a title so inept it behaves as its own self-fulfilling parody. What follows the opening credits might be labelled a condition - now afflicting Los Angeles and Orange counties - as terminal state blockbuster. Ladies and Gentleman you are watching a megafilm in its death throes. A film bereft of the double whammy of comprehensive plot and visual mechanics, its failure is not simply a tone issue. The opposite of the anti-cynicism of Speed Racer, this similar cartoon-anime to live-action lacks the Wachiowskis fundamental desire to experiment with the translation. Speed Racer failed the grade, but at least they went down swinging, inventing some of the craziest motion panoramas ever seen in IMAX.  Instead the film crashes just after takeoff. No one can say Paramount wasn't warned, after his stellar turns of Sixth Sense through Signs, Night's films attracted a steadily decreasing audience. Instead of following along instincts, the industry betrays its desperation for directing talent, a profitable closing pitcher like Night, who sleepwalks audiences in monotonous creepiness until his gotcha appears on schedule in his third act, Paramount moves him into the starting rotation, offering him the chance to adapt a start-to-finish mythology. The problem is the existing talent pool, Spielberg, Cuaron, Jackson, Cameron, and the like are rare birds with skills that compress myth readily, many of them are brilliant hacks but the job gets done. But Night? Whoops. A chilling and underestimated director of adult chamber-nightmares almost all rated PG-13, Night makes a terrifying segue to children's action where his sedate, underplayed directorial style simply has no place executing youth cosmology: framings are out of whack, eyelines are fuzzy, visual strategies are toyed with then discarded, entire sequences are introduced with little tempo adjustment. Airbender is so barely and ineffectively executed that no save could occur in post, the film includes at its peril choppy narration that comes in and out like a barely audible radio signal that feeds sentence fragments to the audience. And he makes no attempt to make fun of himself.  Badguys start flying out of shot before we even know we're in a battle scene.  Entire sequences are filmed over our heroes' standing shoulders with seated subjects, who are forced to emote and portray dramatic nuances 10-20 feet from a lens in motion. Talk about hitting your mark.  Characters appear in different settings abruptly as if the Enterpise had been hired as the trilogy's travel agent. Action scenes begin in the middle of lofty dialogue and then end unceremoniously (the Avatar announces his presence in an occupied village and Night offers no form of reaction from locals or occupiers, it's as if he simply doesn't understand basic filmmaking: the audience requires their counterpoints for identification). The comedic nuances seem abrupt, crammed in, synthetically tooled while the mythology is taken seriously enough to warrant a guidebook, we can never be sure if we're missing all the references or were the references themselves too misplaced to mean anything. Night overestimates his cold audience and underestimates the learned Nicklodeon attuned. Sequences within scenes are so poorly realized the balance of the scene's weight becomes lost, extant. Beyond credible accent stability, actors' vocal qualities, timber, timings shift per scene, haunting a new low in performance calibration. Characters appearing to comprehend one facet of logic during one scene suddenly seem unaware of their own awarenesses later where massive plot holes grow vaster and deeper by the minute. The film even manages to invent new genres of continuity errors in an effort to expose filmmaking as an impossible craft.  Areas of the film flirt with a pointlessness never seen before in a film so vetted with blockbuster thinking (the association of Kennedy-Marshall now seems to have been a form of protection one would purchase from organized crime — he gets to keep his final cut). Entire roomfuls of extras are dressed and fed to watch a minor altercation (three lines, one spoken sotto) over lunch between the prodigal Firebender and one of his father's minions. Action scenes, the lifeblood of anime-lite, with the exception of one bravura shot, are poorly staged, shot obliquely as if to rob the audience of any pleasure of conflict-in-motion or eye candy; at one point during the trio's first revolts in an Earthbender town under Firebender control, a single take covers a few hundred feet of movement and it flops so badly it could be mistaken for test material, a Blu-Ray extra gone wrong. The initial siege of the Waterbender's arctic village is so poorly edited, the audience can't detect the shift in the hunter's quarry, the mode jerk has been either edited out or it was never covered properly on set. Adults are given the hapless task of trying to explain repeatedly what they are searching for, what they once fought against, speechifying desperately for no apparent reason. And the kicker is logic, logic, logic. What seems so simple to outsiders is mind-numbingly difficult to insiders crafting visual epics, here in complex fantasy, grounded logic must provide the semblance of connection. Each action and reaction must relate to a palpable collective pallette of choices, otherwise films like Airbender become disjointed postcards. It's like watching a film made out of Viewmaster stills. The plot succumbs to its visuals without any inherent strategy — the film is resolutely disorganized of any unifying image-messages. Even the pivotal awareness our Last Airbender achieves while finally mastering water is diffused, we know his water skills held a dark secret, an ominous side-product of his training is witnessed, but the memory that fuses his mastery of a tsunami bears no correlation, the dangerous stirrings are merely a mechanism to waste time in, a condition the film suffers the most under: plot artificiality. Without decisive control over logic, there is no stability offered to Airbender's mytho-religion. The ingredients are there, they're just illogic in sequence, the conflict is there but the camera doesn't frame it decisively, the acting talent is there, but the phasings of character development are totally discarded. It feels like we're experiencing in one hour and forty seven minutes the entire shooting period hacked into its individual takes, like an experiment in tonal terror.  Haphazardness becomes the weapon of choice for M. Night and here he is relentless and unforgiving. 

  • 312188.0756

    The rule for optimal television drama is carefully balancing outer and inner conflicts. Invent decisive inscrutable characters as centerpieces. Solve their outer conflicts - intentional or not, leave the inner ones as unsolveable. Does anyone realize how strange it is to advertise advertising (Mad Men) to this culture? Think about the image above reflexively: the campaign for season three is still only a lure to sell the ads that surround a show about the ads.

  • 312188.0742

    Some fellas look at the eyes Some fellas look at the nose Some fellas look at the size Some fellas look at the clothes I don't care if her eyes are red I don't care if her nose is long I don't care if she's under fed I don't care if her clothes are worn First I look at the purse Some fellas like the smiles they wear Some fellas like the legs that's all Some fellas like the style of their hair Want their waist to be small I don't care if their legs are thin I don't care if their teeth are big I don't care if their hair's a wig Why waste time lookin' at the waistline? First I look at the purse A woman can be fat as can be kisses sweet as honey But that don't mean a thing to me If you ain't got no money If the purse is fat... that's where it's at Some fellas like the way they walk The way they swing and sway Some fellas like the way they talk Dig the things they say I don't care if they wobble like a... Or talk with a lisp I still think I'm a good lover If the dollar bills are crisp First I look at the purse First I look at the purse First I look at the purse First I look at the purse I don't care if you got yourself a wrap All I want is your pretty green cash Bought me a suit, bought me a car Want me to look like a Hollywood star First I look at the purse First I look at the purse First I look at the purse First I look at the purse

  • 312186.1919

  • 312185.1956

  • 312185.1525

    Courtesy of the Sunday Telegraph (4 January); by Colin Freeman (ZNDA: Baghdad)

    For a country recently purged of its chief tormentor, it is perhaps a grimly appropriate theme for its first new tourist attraction. American troops in Iraq have launched what has been dubbed "The Exorcist Experience", after discovering that the ancient ruins they were guarding provided the location for the 1973 horror classic's opening sequence. They now plan to help locals put the 2,000-year-old city of Hatra back on the international tourist map by marketing it as a future holiday destination to fans of the cult film. Using a modest $5,000 (£2,800) grant, the soldiers have recruited local guides and guards to the city and built a car park and police station nearby. They have also revamped the nearby Saddam-built Hatra Hotel, which they hope to privatise. "Once it's up and running again as a visitors' spot, this place will be a real moneypot," said Capt Nik Guran of the 2-320 Field Artillery Regiment, attached to the 101st Airborne Division. "The film will just add to the numbers of people coming here. You should see it all at night - we've put in floodlights and it looks really beautiful." The regiment hatched the plan to revamp the Assyrian site's derelict visitors' facilities after spending the summer living in Hatra's 200ft-high sun temples to protect them from looters. An oasis of pre-Christian civilisation in the middle of the desert south-west of Mosul, Hatra's finely preserved columns and statues make it one of the most impressive of Iraq's archaeological sites. After spending several months looking after the site and researching its history, most of the soldiers can now discourse knowledgeably on the various Assyrian, Sumerian and Parthian influences on its butterscotch-coloured stonework. Pointing with a hand that guided 105mm howitzer shells during the war in Iraq, Capt Guran slips fluently into tour-guide mode as he strides towards the 100ft iwans - huge, open-fronted vaulted halls that resemble Arab guest-tents. Initially, the troops thought the main interest would come from archaeology enthusiasts who flocked there decades ago, before Saddam virtually closed the site to the outside world. They only realised its marketing potential to millions of fans of the world's most famous horror film when, completely by chance, Capt Guran watched The Exorcist on a portable DVD player one night. To his astonishment, he spotted Hatra's distinctive skyline in the director William Friedkin's opening sequence, in which a priest at an archaeology dig unearths the ancient Mesopotamian demon that goes on to possess a young American girl. "It was filmed a bit before Saddam really came to power, and the opening scene was made at an actual excavation that was taking place here at the time," said Capt Guran, 30. "I thought, 'Wow - that's the place we've been guarding'. We've spent so much time down here, you recognise it straightaway." Saddam would no doubt have admired Hatra's defensive record against invading superpowers, which involved using early forms of chemical and biological weapons. Naptha bombs and jars of desert scorpions were poured over the outer wall to successfully repel Roman invaders , according to the classical folklorist Adrienne Mayor. More recently, the temple has been associated with the so-called Exorcist's Curse, said to have plagued all those involved in the film with bad luck. "We had an incident a while back where one soldier shot another, and there were mutterings about it being the curse of Hatra," said Capt Guran. "We had to stop that right away." The city was left in ruins after it was sacked and burnt by Sapor, the Sassanian Persian king, in AD 241. The impressive temple complex dedicated to several Hatrene gods, the chief of which was the sun god Shamash, lies in the very centre of its limestone and gypsum walls. Mohammad Sulaiman, 35, a former US army translator who has been trained to manage the hotel, hopes it will revive the economic fortunes of the poverty-stricken local town. "This is our heritage and we want to show it to all the world," he said. "Hopefully, now that Saddam has been captured, peace will come and the tourists will return." Lt Col Kevin Felix, who had the original idea of revamping the site, said: "I would love to come back in a few years' time and stay as a tourist at the hotel, if things work out in this country. I guess it will either be doing brilliantly, or it will have burned to the ground."

    Below, scale-mirroring by Friedkin, Pazuzu/Merrin & Pazuzu/Karras

  • 312181.1614

  • 312180.2108

    "My wife says she doesn't like to stay inside because it gives her a strange feeling," he said. "When we have guests, after an hour they ask if they can sit outside. They say being here gives them a feeling that they have been taken captive by the Americans."