Monday, February 2, 2009

Feel-good movie? I hope not.

Sorry about the time it's taken to start posting again. I'm the world's worst blogger and we'll leave it at that.

As Slumdog trudges towards its now all-but-inevitable Oscar win, I get more and more annoyed at the movie. It's not that I didn't appreciate Danny Boyle's hyperkinetic, technicolor spasmatics - they are most impressive. My beef was whether or not this aesthetic is appropriate for such a horrific story. I was hardly the first to find Boyle's movie thematically similar to classic Dickens novels but Slumdog has one crucial difference: Dickens made squalor seem, well, disgusting. Boyle makes it pretty. I came across this David Denby quote today in the New Yorker and I think he hit the nail on the head:
As slum children, Jamal and his friends are enchantingly beautiful, but the supersaturated color makes not just the kids but every surface and texture shine glamorously, including the piles of garbage that Jamal and his brother live among. Boyle has created what looks like a jumpy, hyper-edited commercial for poverty—he uses the squalor and violence touristically, as an aspect of the fabulous.

You should walk out of Slumdog feeling horrified at the depravity and poverty in India's slums. But that would give the movie an actual social conscious and political slant; there is no room for any of that in a fairy tale. Instead, Boyle wants you to dance down the aisles as you exit - Bollywood style! To the celluloid Gods I plead: Please let MILK pull an upset!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Gay Marriage makes a widow...

Sad news. It seems that Del Martin, one half of the first same-sex couple to wed in California, has died at the age of 87. If there is any couple that should riddle the proponents of prop-8 with doubt and shame it was these two. Here is the link:

Friday, August 8, 2008

Virtual Thespis!

For all of CGI's wonders the technology has yet to capture that most ineffable and important of images, the realistic human face. Looks like that's all about to change! CGI characters with complicated emotional expression, like Gollum in The Lord Of The Rings, are getting better and more realistic every day, but actual human faces have still been, in my opinion, a distant dream. But this new test clip gives me pause. With technology progressing like this, in 50 years will the actor be a thing of the past? A relic of antiquated cinema technology thrown into the dust-bin alongside stop-motion animation or CinemaScope? I doubt it but...if a perfect computer simulation of a human face (that is is to say an indistinguishable one) is a 10, this is at least an 8.5!


Now why can't I think of these things?

From Gizmodo:
Confirmed: Eight Morons Bought the $999 I Am Rich iPhone Application

The New Pseudo-Intellectual!

David Brooks, he of "Bobo" phrase-coining fame, has a great new article on the subtler points within the world of contemporary pseudeo-intellectualism. Navigating the minefield of 21st century snobbery is a treacherous endeavor, lined as it is with 20th century pitfalls. Quoting Slovoj Zizek is a must, but referencing Baudrillard or Norman Mailer, well, you may just as well start collecting a social security check early. Reading the New Yorker every week is, however, still a prerequisite. Like Death and Taxes, some things never change. Thank God we have the always funny and satiric Brooks to set us straight.
Money Quote:

Now the global thought-leader is defined less by what culture he enjoys than by the smartphone, social bookmarking site, social network and e-mail provider he uses to store and transmit it. (In this era, MySpace is the new leisure suit and an AOL e-mail address is a scarlet letter of techno-shame.)

Today, Kindle can change the world, but nobody expects much from a mere novel. The brain overshadows the mind. Design overshadows art.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Where is Henry Higgins When You Need Him?

This is kinda stupid and goes on too long made me laugh. Batman definitely needs some elocution lessons!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Bobo say "Hipsters Are Not Hip!"

Being a Bobo, my interaction with Hipsters has been mostly tangential. An endlessly dissectible social phenomenon, my feelings toward the group have always been apathetic at best. Seeing how apathy is the dominant stance of a hipster toward, well, everything, the reaction is not without some appropriateness. I do love reading about them though. Here's the link for a biting smackdown of the whole hipster counter-culture. Here are some money quotes:
The American Apparel V-neck shirt, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and Parliament cigarettes are symbols and icons of working or revolutionary classes that have been appropriated by hipsterdom and drained of meaning. Ten years ago, a man wearing a plain V-neck tee and drinking a Pabst would never be accused of being a trend-follower. But in 2008, such things have become shameless clich├ęs of a class of individuals that seek to escape their own wealth and privilege by immersing themselves in the aesthetic of the working class.

An amalgamation of its own history, the youth of the West are left with consuming cool rather that creating it. The cultural zeitgeists of the past have always been sparked by furious indignation and are reactionary movements. But the hipster’s self-involved and isolated maintenance does nothing to feed cultural evolution. Western civilization’s well has run dry. The only way to avoid hitting the colossus of societal failure that looms over the horizon is for the kids to abandon this vain existence and start over.

An interesting response is here. His money quote:

The question, though: does any of the above matter? Adbusters seems to think that because a portion of youth culture subscribes to this meaningless lifestyle that Western civilization as we know it is doomed. Their mistake is to assume that those who choose hipsterdom had the potential to be meaningful cultural contributors in the first place. If you'll allow the analogy, hipsters are the thieves that would never be customers. If they valued anything in the first place, they wouldn't have made the unconscious choice to value nothing.

While a tad alarmist, I am incined to agree with most of the AdBusters criticisms. If the earnestness and "free-love" flower-power dreams of the 60's seem silly to jaded modern eyes at least we can say that the Hippies really believed in their dreams of social progress, free-love and a liberated consciousness. Hipsters, believing only in irony, exist in an ocean of random yet meticulously chosen signifiers, undoing all meaning rather than bolstering it. Neither left nor right, political ideologies are something to be undermined and not endorsed- a lazy cynicism about progress is a staple of the hipster diet. Indeed, they could be called anti-Hegelian but even being against an ideology is to retroactively endorse the concept of ideology itself. But, maybe this is the Hegelian end of history: Francis Fukuyama's dream of capitalist democracy's triumph is true, but the price we pay is that we all morph into self-referential, uber-sarcastic, consumption pod people who, in capitalism's sneakiest trick, think that this very consumption is the purest expression of our individualism. Self-obsession and the free-market go hand-in-hand, and by being too "meta" to believe in meta-narratives anyway, the hipster is nothing if not self-obsessed- all the while, like a moth to a flame, subscribing subconciously to the most insidious kind of groupthink and conforming to the most rigid and insidious social standards. I suspect the only way to eradicate this hipster problem is satiric ridicule. And so, for your enjoyment pleasure...who needs Beijing when you have THE HIPSTER OLYMPICS: