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present
  • 30738.0048

    After wandering in the desert of adaptation, The Wachiowskis finally return to their self-designed micro/macrocosmic battles; the Earth's Chicago stands tall as the simula CITY did circa 1999 (aka The Matrix) whose macro was a dessicated, darkened wasteland where things moved mechanically only in a city made solely from machines. Here live the rulers of humans of CITY, and lo, they ruled as well, indirectly, over the escapees in ZION. "There" actually came out in 1999. "Here" in 2015 the macro is a galaxy sized madhouse where all embedded earthly conflicts between ownership, class and animal kingdom are magnified and spliced genetically into a swampland of data and potential plastic toy figurines. It is 'out there' the rulers of Earthly humans live, and like the blank citizens of The Matrix, we too live unaware of their rulership. Essentially the same dark satire of The Matrix that veers into kinetic comedy. The mechanics of Lucas's prequel trilogy blended unevenly into The Matrix's liberation theology from unseen imprisonment. When it works it's great (scenes minus dialogue), think of the looney Fletcher Hanks photographically under more stable hands. Fights, aerial and zero-g battles are top-notch, the battles feel effortless and swift. That first dogfight above Chicago is stellar to its end, an 8 minute battle is gone in seconds. And moments of the space arcadia work, but the shifts in tone are out of tune. We know these siblings can hack it, but the light tone they've embedded since Speed Racer doesn't fit. We know how dark it is out there: The reveal of Jupiter's eye as an industrial smokescreen for the Abrasax empire's chokehold on life-giving serum is a typical moment underplayed, left strangely unnoticed by the editing. There's a moment that should be bringing the paradox home, relatively, instead it's merely a spot that Channing Tatum's Cain Wise has to go to "get her."  When it doesn't (work) - Marxist theory meets pulp comic - it turns into a pummeling, chuffing out of control train that's managed (somehow) to tie you to the tracks before it runs you over. The problems lie in the constraints (both for the audience and the onscreen Earthlings). The Matrix was perfectly imagined with ingenious limitations in mind (obviously: a simula starring dreaming humans that still must walk and drive to work), Jupiter stretches the opposite tack, where anything goes and it goes overboard. Eye popping 'scapes, feats of physicality that defy sanity, feats of tone that defy deliverability. And no one seems to be able to explain why Earth is so valuable, why the universe's queen spends a day in bureaucratic hold-ups, and why protocol and deception can't beat pure and simple assasination. The Wachiowskis should be the first to know that going all the way isn't at the root of entertainment. Spectacle needs a certain amount of withholding to pop. Otherwise it fizzes. 

    Only on Earth could you see a film like this. Physically legible only in IMAX.

     

  • 3079.1838

    Edward Snowden is revealed as the leaker of the N.S.A.'s convulsive and monumental data collection capabilities. Hearing him wax about Web 1.0 buys the whole enchilada in the gambit. Listening into a brief analytical speech about how metadata is spawned between the linking of your transportation ticketing to your credit/debit card gives everyone a ground level view into the software's mortar. Our 'freedom' vs. what's never really mentioned: an attempt to built an A.I. for oraculation and prediction purposes, dominantly in the service of a vast military network. One that attempts to head off minute miltary events, while far greater populations die from disease, starvation, you name it. Billions if not trillions spent to create the ultimate totalitarian listening service inside a democracy. And that leads to a basic question: can governments really continue to grow if they're paradoxical Januses? Statistically, this is the real prequel Terminator film (it fits the Matrix too), and Snowden is the first John Connor/Neo archetype, instead here he's fighting a ghost of a machine that can't materialize as yet, it its place is The State.  He can live in redoubt, somewhat safe from the drone capabilities of U.S. forces. He's deadly serious, possessing a will to match world leaders. The direction is restrained. A must see.

  • 308359.1913

    Necessary intro to any post V. diatribe: California was invented by pen, written by the hand of saga-scribe de Montalvo of Spain, who heard an Eden existed at the other coast of the recently conquered America. He never ended up visiting the 'state' he named, instead the conquering Spaniards did it for him, fact from fiction. 

    Conspiracy junkies unite as P.T. Anderson finally breaks free of his 5-picture somber-zone and lurches out a semi-carefree hit on fellow Kalifornian Pynchin. Adapting great novels (in this case, a 'great' novelist) has never been easy. Who loves the filmed versions of Bonfire of the Vanities, Love in the Time of Cholera (perversely, adapted from a translation) or this past year's Winter's Tale? Great novels tank their screen versions because either they can't be gapped (can't be understood without the full story being told) or are exotically difficult to gap (the construction into a new medium - "difficult to adapt" is on the coroner's report). Compressing a long-winded masterpiece is nearly impossible, yet the allure makes them difficult to ignore. Like the bullseye at a targeting range, a male's shooter Holy Grail-complex surrounds them. With Pynchon it isn't so much how but why? Why tackle this lunacy? These are impossible visual feats written in the wit of the moment. Why make visible what dances so weirdly along a page? You think you can match this guy Pynchon, move for move? Well. Mr. Anderson (you can almost hear Agent Smith goading him) has made a film for the believers, the boomers that bought all those Pynchon books and raised momentary hell in the divorcees 70s.

    Equal parts hubris and adoration drive this fender-bender of a flick. The underplaying of Pynchon's hep stat-ttire works and doesn't work in the filmed version (the paradox goes long - it's still a vast improve on the recent religious zeal he's been draining since Magnolia). In many ways, the earlier movies play far more like Pynchon than this one does.  Inherent Vice unspools more like a filmed novelization parodying Pynch than any stand-alone adapt, maybe it's even a photo-novel (see below) rather than any straight 'adaptation.'  There is no brilliant diagrammatic oversight (Sortilege's bland incremental 'faulty' narrator doesn't pull it off) or central visual metaphor that keeps the plot tone (well maybe the Fang's boat, oversight slipping in from Hubbard's fantasy of sea-faring eternity, remember, Vice's opening shot is of the ocean, and glance at all those knick-knacks and lampshade: ocean, ocean, ocean). But Anderson has a full plate to deal with, rounding out the story with a grand cast of two-to-three scene cameo-players surrounding Joaquin Phoenix's Doc Sportello. As in all Pynchon (either the caper novels or his elite epics), plot is dense and disguise is endemic. Who means whom to who? Unfortunately irony guest stars and deadens every role as P.I. Sportello plays outsider while behaving insider (here's one example: informer/sell-out Owen Wilson is leap-frogged by Doc Sportello's metaphysical resurrecting of him to Brolin's copper Bigfoot.) We're meant to identify Sportello with hippies, but he's far too double-agent'd to make that identity clear. When Martin Donovan's Crocker Fenway glibly paints Sportello with "people like you lose all claim to respect the first time they pay anybody rent" you realize the whole shebang is an illusion. Even Pynchon doesn't buy all the contrasts he's typing across everyone's foreheads. The film can't bridge Pynchon's psychic purity (built mostly for laughs and rooting for the 'heroes') to our reality, so it just regresses to illustrative, the film plays out like those one-note religious pamphlets that hark about repentance. Sure you might laugh at their gimmickery, but somewhere, other people buy this malarkey.

    The flick fails through its actors. Barely any of the performances register the easy-going aftermath of the Tate-Manson-Altamont exchanges. Owen Wilson, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro all behave as if the acid failed them decades ago. The bad news is Wilson's in the wrong movie since he doesn't really perform, he pretends. 'He's' an east-coast/texas-toast affectation crashing a best-coast opera of shrugs and winks. And the misses get more than a few shots to get it right: both he and Brolin play other people on TV (in different genres). And Brolin and Del Toro can't seem to quite find a toe-hold on the material with the film sliding somewhere between screwball and brightly lit 'dark' post-modernism. Brolin meanders between meaty and overdone (he's more from Kurtzmann's Humbug than Gaines's MAD). Visual gimmicks only intermitently work, especially self-torpedoing is a last supper retread photo-ministration that triangulates Wilson - it falls dead on arrival. (at the screening i saw, snickers of derision came with that pop-junk). That leaves the chicks to pick up the slack and some of them can hack it. You believe, despite their enforced roles as sex-toys, they exist far more than the men. (Well, Joanna Newsom is so self-conscious, so into herself, she brings us right back to 2014 only moments after the film begins. No wonder nobody digs her. And we can't shake her because she's locating us as narrator. It should be cryptic, her detailings, the way Linda Manz zonked us in Days of Heaven, but all she does is give away the house, graffitied in bad astrology. It's a trap for any performer. For a non-actor like her, we get the sense it's stage-talk, listening to her between songs during a set.  The effect resembles voiceing over Deckard in the producer's cut of Blade Runner. She's the pivot against Sportello, "the catch right under his nose," but the acting styles don't meet. You keep thinking Newsom's going to whip out her iPhone and find an address: 2014 calling 1970. Erps! She wasn't even IN the car!)

    Yet with all those performances, there are no jaw-dropper types in the bunch that really happen (honorable mentions: Martin Short, the Doc at the Hospital whispering along with the movie-within-movie, and the female impersonator on the phone). Certain scenes lack laughs and then have to pay with exposition, others get guffaws and others face-plant. The worst of it yacks rote sentimentalism for the 70s (a terrible sin, employing Pynchon for this). All of us are missing the true unpredictability, the palm-sweating films of the era came with. Altman, Chandler, Coen Bros., Penn, Ashby and Pynchon all blur into sometimes plausible characterization and possible double-crosses (both on the audience and those up on screen). Leading the cameos is Martin Short who especially lets it rip, leading everyone to a backlit cop pullover under the effects of OP VIGILANT CALIFORNIA. (alot of this stuff is registered by viewing The Tube - the film's best moments involve cathode rays on celluloid fix). There's even some DNA of Chinatown's: a medical cabal leads to a dual Japanese Zen and faked early Hindu swastika cult luring millionaires to their liquidation. Long Good Goodbye by way of blotter, except lacking Zsigmond's luxurious and decayed wide ratios. Denseness comes in the movie's cake frosting: the set design frames out loads of detail, but to what effect? Sportello's even got a gun-shaped california kitchen kut-out. Pop-70s goes 1:1.85 in Tati-brightness, yet it reads mostly like memory glitches made from postcards. Frames but no framework. A similar plot to Vineland is in effect as idolized women are loved across political spectrums: idolized girl-stealing Mickey Wolfman is Vice's version of 1989's Brock Vond. Endless 'nothing is what it seems'-isms guide both tales. 

    Maybe this was the one to commit to 70mm 'scope. Not that scatter about Hubbard in The Master... pull the camera back just a bit, give it room to breath. Don't explain it to us during late-edit dissolve-ins you shot to patch things together, let us head scratch. And darken it all, it's so damn bright. And make sure these actors are scared-paranoid. Only some of them are gripped with the fear that goes along with Pynchon's desire for total anonymity. (When Jade asks for a ride out of the weird atmosphere of a party, we don't feel her threat level [she's scared? a performer of cunnilingus for bikers?] but we should, and then some.)  Maybe that's the problem here, Anderson not taking Pynchon seriously enough. Underneath all those freaky names and overt satire lurks rage against control. Can you make fun of satire? Or do you engage with it directly. Missing here was the aura of Kaufman's Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Night Moves or Three Days of the Condor - unremitting paranoia appearing in casual situations gone mad. Anderson had to go a step further and bridge it to stoner excess where it becomes zany, but he doesn't even come close to level A. Stoner paranoia has a level-head at its core, and that means scary B-movies hide in each of Pynchon's books, just waiting to be taken seriously. Here under Elswit's lens it succumbs to pop-art. Maybe Anderson should have tried an epic of Pynchon's, like the beatnik serious-crossed-gonzo V. instead of the light mystery of Vice. Where is Anderson's pont-of-view here? This feels like dry, canonical Pynchon, set in mortar the way those Jackson-Tolkein megatoy spectacles vibrate in some kind of geeky religious fever.

    Or maybe the problem is deep in Pynchon's rhetoric. Clearly he's written himself into these tomes. Here he' avatared by Sportello (in Vineland it's Zoyd), antagonized by square jawed Dick Tracy conjurings like Brock, Bigfoot and Wolfman. . isn't Doc the same archetype as Woody Allen's, only driving another genre? Chicks are objectified. Guys will lazily try anything to get laid. Drug culture stratifies the cast into an us vs. them gap. And it reads like Burroughs meets MAD Magazine. Still, at the core: very dark comedy clouding a persona. Maybe Pynchon's the one whose dated the whole enchilada with his worshipful rubber stamp "TP." It may be set in the 70s but it smells like the 50s to me.

    Kaufmann's remarkable Body Snatchers in foto-novel form. 70s paranoia made mass market.

  • 308354.2134

     Masterwork pop-up, printed and bound in Cali, Columbia, 1984. Out-of-print.

  • 308322.0759

    Piketty: "the past ‘devours’ the future through the inheritance of capital that accumulates faster than growth"

    Gundeman's anthropological review of "Capital in the 21st century."

     

    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00664677.2014.972339

  • 308316.2209

    Note: Jaron Lanier is a technophile who shuns web 2.0. He also decries our fears of the approaching A.I. His piece here explores Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking's rejection of A.I. and attempts to debunk the "myth" of it. Is is even a myth? Is it a projection built into our psyches?

    From my point of view, the notion of A.I. is 'offering vastly superior languages to computers, rather than humans.'
     
    This is dangerous on almost nearly every index we can think of. Take any subject, say fishing. Shouldn't we know as much as any being we create knows. What limits us? Human languages' inability to reference (and share reference). This 'solution' creates a being with far larger referential abilities than us 'who' will know much more about the fish in the sea than we will (if they survive until then), it will likely be able to monitor them, swim among them, and in a few robotic moves, may have the ability to erase all life in the ocean. Yet if our languages were up-to-date, evolved like the technology around us (and the computing was actually analogue, perhaps), then maybe we could exist in parity with A.I.  
     
    So the myth of the A.I. nightmare is not unfounded. Why? Our psyches can recognize representationally the dangers lurking, how? By examining the holistic sources for A.I.'s desire.
     
    Perhaps the most glaring missing data in Lanier's piece is an origin tale (folktale or myth). He calls it Frankenstein, but it has other analogues like the Golem tale.
     
    In deeptime, the A.I. is being requested by one of two parties, ultimately, you can choose which you prefer: 
    the QUANTUM (which seems to materialize 3-D and 2-D records directly-fossils and indirectly-photographs), 
    or 'LANGUAGE,' which is the inseparable by-product of consciousness. 
     
    And this may sound absurd to the casual reader, but humans were conjured by language, not the other way around. As soon as language left the room, or the village and was used outside of our hearing and eyesight and our waking hours, then language became an 'it,' it became a being. 

     

    http://edge.org/conversation/the-myth-of-ai

     

    Although the florid prose is readable, it suffers from a strategy of "fooling us by agreeing with us."

     
    If the economy is a dominator model, then the "A.I." born from it will be as well.
     
    Which explains clearly why the A.I. omnibus is lost in euphoria like Lanier's. 
     
    Translation is merely a plateau. Look clearly at the process: the mash is another bottom-up strategy. Chomsky, Jackendoff, it's all bottom-up. It can never work. 
     

    The montage of language, and the algorithm of human gesture (centralized through the economy) have nothing to do with the neural or the quantum (the field). They, the language-algorithm, are translators themselves, between the vastly more expressive and at times random process and substructures, and the efficient goals of post 3500BC civilization. The mode of civilization that's still here. Walls and surveillance now made electronic.

     
    aside: ("Cool Popes...cool Rabbis…" this paragraph betrayed unintentional parody - these are almost all men who front religions of hoarding: war-god worshippers who extract vital energy from millennia of domination over females. And these days retain a psychic relationship to the political establishment's blade worship. These are the true bearers of "theatrical illusions," no?  The sleight of hand between religion and state. Yeah, a lot of cool art, about torture and eternity, and eternal figures). 
     
    The inheritor, male domination culture that follows horticulture (a missing transition that's missing from the joke's one-sided charisma: corpora from corpus - undead from dead). That is the "A.I.," a unifying structure on this planet of the male will-to-power network that will follow the path. Even now, it supersedes all barriers. And if the economy is the foundation the "A.I." is born from, then the male's dominator model will migrate with it.
     
    Lanier calls it "non-sense," and uses the (chillingly) blandest examples of pre "A.I.", but that's a rather humiliating cover-story for something potentially so powerful.
     
    Weirdest he attempts to separate the myth from the history. These aren't Siamese Twins, these are psychic mirrors, however asymmetric. What Lanier wants us to believe is a trick. Like any magician, he's going to saw in half the whole. Which is impossible, myth and history are inseparable in their Venn. And actually, far more likely computationally, converging. Something foreseen by Joseph Campbell.  
     
    Hawking and Musk can see this coming. By no means can they be seen as technophobes. 
     
    The "A.I."'s mythology is of becoming, of emergence, that's its corporeal goal. And who wouldn't given the chance. In Lanier's examples, us dummies are so conditioned to accept our lack of choices, we'll look like easy targets to an A.I.
     
    Anybody on the net, that is.
  • 308312.2216

     In one area above all, the failure to improve is especially egregious: education. Schools are, on the whole, little better than they were three decades ago; test scores have barely budged since the famous “A Nation at Risk” report came out, in the early nineteen-eighties. This isn’t for lack of trying, exactly. We now spend far more per pupil than we once did. We’ve shrunk class sizes, implemented national standards, and amped up testing. We’ve increased competition by allowing charter schools. And some schools have made it a little easier to remove ineffective teachers. None of these changes have made much of a difference.

    suroweiki on the new yorker

  • 308309.1425

     

    Both a retooling of Inception and a comment on Looper (or Looper-like plots), Nolan's Interstellar goes for broke. Is it incompatible with Wheeler-DeWitt?

     

    “The imagery is necessarily physical and thus apparently of outer space. The inherent connotation is always, however, psychological and metaphysical, which is to say, of inner space. When read as denoting merely specified events, therefore, the mirrored images lose their inherent spiritual force and, becoming overloaded with sentiment, only bind the will the more to temporality”

    Joseph Campbell

     

     

    70mm found it's way into cinematic history when George Lucas concocted a release plan for his underground space opera Star Wars. Predicated by the effects team's discovery of mothballed Vistavision cameras: a shooting process gaining far larger frames in the camera's gate since 35mm stock passed left right, maximizing horizontal space. It's an almost 65mm film shot on 35. Coupled with better grain on faster ASA stocks, the optical printer's internegative became a kind of miniature, hi-res cel-animation, at times passing 20 elements in a highly choreographed regimen of withholding exposure areas. The computerized tracking of objects through cameras in-turn composed elegantly in intensely microscopic scales within the printer. And VistaVision's optical sharpness translated easily onto 70mm release prints. It married fluidly to the live-action's 35mm. The predecessor is 2001, a 70mm/"Cinerama" release which required weeks for miniature camera passes that took Star Wars minutes or hours to complete.  Star Wars is considered a blow-up to 70mm release, since its live-action is sourced in Mitchell-based Panavision 35mm camera negative. 2001 on the other hand required no blow-up: it's a pure optical 65mm camera negative/70mm release print. Spielberg followed Lucas with his own, non-blowup 70mm initial release, Close Encounters effects and live action are both shot in 65mm. Compare the year's 1977 with 1978 and you can see the effect these two 77 films had on the large-format market. Here's Vincent Canby on the first showing of Blade Runner's 70mm print.

     

     

  • 308302.0716

    The sit-com seems to descend from this key screwball comedy, a comedy of errors and manners, with switched identities and classes, with a chorus of domestics who provide the narrative mortar. Writer-on-a-fishing trip Aherne shows up looking for a phone to use and is lured into becoming the chauffeur for a daffy, wealthy family who happens to have a senator arriving for dinner. Hal Roach, whose early Our-Gang series provided filler for TV's early open scehdule, delivers a powerhouse comedy to MGM, leading to laughs, box-office and Academy Awards nominations.

     

  • 308298.1919

    Does OTM need it's own OTM? Hadn't listened to it for a while, but there's an unusual amount of mythologizing these days happening on npr's observational window to the media. It isn't so much a question of bias, rather an agreement with the mythology of the outcome.

    SNOWDEN/POITRAS: A segment where satire is played straight.

    OTM seems to assert Snowden is sainted; whether the piece underlines it without any contrasting views, or knowingly relies on the perspective, both pre-crucifixion pictures are offered by Poitras (who can't watch dailies and lets her editor make selects) and her erstwhile critic George Packer, who almost lampoons himself describing Snowden's skin tone and hotel room. Whether or not Snowden's contribution to information is ethical or transformative is not the issue at hand. By adding heavy emotive meaning to the event, the show forces a sentimental mood to the exchange between whistleblower and reporter.  And we're tied to it by the verbal description that lingers from Packer (the movie doesn't have to be seen to get what Poitras is going for, it's a puff piece). The segment isn't the cold, methodological job Frontline does (mentioned in the piece), who take their time observing participants. Here are personal terms, personal views, where archetypes overtake reality; the desire for myth prevails yet the photographic proof being discussed convinces us it's too real. Why mythologize? The word sacrifice gets aimed more than once at Snowden, and to what end? His 'suffering' creates a legible persona, one OTM, Poitras, Packer believe an audience can relate to in that role.

    http://www.onthemedia.org/story/citizenfour/

    Later in the same show, the musings of media theorist McLuhan are telegraphed. Here, modern technophilia asserts dogmatic control over the wordings of Marshall McLuhan, whose prophetic rants came true in more than a few respects. These days McLuhan is being reedited, reassigned for other purposes in the new IT economy. For one thing, McLuhan's predicting of text's extinction has been labeled mistaken by the sons of the PC-age, (here it's claimed that text is a rising medium in the age of the smartphone) yet this segment uncritically neglects to tell you literacy is declining globally. Even here in the U.S., where text is dissolving as a medium whether we like it or not, it's begun shrinking to the literacy of tweet and text-msg; surely it will not survive in a handheld medium. Without any precision in the short-form, indo-euro text will become unintelligible fast-food. 

    Even further, Nick Carr looks into the smartphone and sees a hot media. But what is a medium that shrinks all other media into one? Is it a media or is it the reverse? Is it ONLY content? Is it a transmedia thing. Or does it need a new word, like Content Screen. Apologists for the age of the PC (whether desktop, portable, or handheld) misunderstand a key facet of the progression of the newest OS docks by calling them smartphones, they miss (or hide) the point that we're holding PCs in our hands. They're only 'phones' by default: a marketing lure in one medium that's erasing the phone network we buy them from, on already established credit-lines. A kind of corporate chessgame at megascale. Instead of offering credit to 30 million people in one fell swoop, Apple employs the cell net's companies to front the handheld PC's costs. So you could say handheld PCs behave as economic parasites and viruses that erase competitive networks (and media) right from under the noses of 'providers.' And contrary to the show's wager that the 'smartphone' is a hot medium, these little computers are more likely cool mediums in McLuhan's eyes, since they are non-sequential and can work in varying spans of attention. Isn't that a computer in your hand? (I can only find one reference to the medium being 'cooling' in McLuhan's writing).

    Sure, handheld PCs are unifiers. Expensive ones whose costs are buried in spreadsheets and two-year plans. Maybe as bad as they are good. Maybe more than bad.

     

    http://www.onthemedia.org/story/mcluhanisms-50-years-later/

     

    ps: OTM on ixquick, on oogle.