The masterpiece of analog cinema, Stanley Kubrick's 2001, simulated all levels of digital through unadulterated waveforms. HAL 9000, circuitry board repairs, guidance simulations, even picture-phone calls, all are imagined digital elements rendered through analog craft. A voice tempered Douglas Rain imitates a digital computer while thousands of hours on animation stands give screens the appearance of digital computation. Its insurmountable visual effects simulating space-travel were also rendered through time-consuming animation stand compositing. Original camera negative was sometimes stored for months as mattes were designed in multiple passes scheduled weeks apart. Never before or since have analog techniques been tweaked to such extremes. Now 2001 has made the crossover into a digital medium for large-scale projection. Museum of the Moving Image is screening the new DCP version of 2001 as part of its new See It Big! series (also making its DCP premiere Apocalypse Now Redux).
Legendary director Chung Cheng Wa presents his two great films Five Fingers of Death and his personal favorite The Swift Knight. Both are in 35MM and are shown at Lincoln Center's part of the New York Asian Film Festival. The master makes personal appearances at both screenings. Chung's mastery of plot compression and action potential is on full display. Humor parallels fortune, music is sung to augment themes, color and darkness are expertly played with. Treachery and righteousness go hand in hand as pre-Bruce Lee Lo Lieh masters baddies as well as his self. Despite his shooting speed (two films per year) Chung kept his visuals meticulous, saving close-ups for monstrous moments. His punctuations are carefully placed. Zooms that open fight scenes are precise. It's his style Tarantino copies predominantly in Kill Bill's kung-fu, but QT can't decide if he's parodying or paying tribute (imagine Kill Bill's MAD Magazine send-up, it doesn't need any new jokes). Both are must-sees.
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.
I still have my dog-eared copy of Andrew Sarris's The American Cinema, and I used it efficiently to sift through Lightly Likeable and Strained Seriousness, but let's be careful to bury the dean of the auteur theory. This is the reviewer that began checking out of the American scene with his unapologetic pan of 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968, the same year his key text arrived. Coincidence? While the experimental cinema of the 60s was being merged with serials and John Ford and Kurosawa within the blockbusters of the 70s, Sarris was far more hypnotized by accented sit-coms like Erich Rohmer, 'realist' portrayals like Agnes Varda and self-conscious fare like Jaques Rivette. It's likely Sarris's full-view of American Cinema ended in 1968 (huh, just as the studio system was ending). He essentially abdicated full knowledge of the forces driving the studios, becoming more selective in the American scene. Sarris, though crucial to revising the perception of Lang, Welles, Stroheim, Dmytryk, Sirk, Losey, Tashlin, McCarey, Sturges, Roach, Keaton, and particularly Ford etc. may have spent the longest period of his career in coda-mode, where he seemed to have found his tastes inspired more by Europeans.
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.