Amoeblog

Watchmen (2009): Some Arguments about Design

Posted by Charles Reece, March 14, 2009 11:32pm | Post a Comment

The Impotent God Snake

I love discussing issues of time in comics and film, so Zack Snyder's Watchmen makes for a good opportunity to reflect on its relation to both media. I'll be returning to this sometime in the future. For now, I'm going to stick to a few problems with Alan Moore's conception of Doc Manhattan that the movie doesn't do much to improve on. There is one improvement, though, namely the Mjölner-sized hammer he has hanging between his legs, befitting a puny scientist resurrected as a god. Dave Gibbons merely gave him the statistical average. The Doc can create anything from anything else -- perhaps ex nihilo, if you believe in miracles -- and exists in all points in time simultaneously. One can't get more virile than absolute mastery of matter. However, even though he can still sexually please his woman, he's ontologically impotent-- everything already existing as it was/is/will be, independent of his will. His control of matter is constrained by the deterministic course of the world. Thus, the fact that we never get to see the hammer of the gods raised on camera is a telling sign of his lot in existence (as well as the failure of our last, best chance to see expensive CGI-porn). While Doc's attending the Comedian's funeral, he's shown to exist in Vietnam, where the latter murders a girl who's pregnant with this child. The girl, like the Comedian, is already dead to Doc, so he stands by flaccidly and "lets" the murder occur. When Doc voices concern, he gets a moral lecture from the most nihilistic of the bunch:

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The Jigoku Aesthetic: Hell as Excessive Specular Mediation

Posted by Charles Reece, March 8, 2009 08:42pm | Post a Comment
JIGOKU

jigoku

Hallucinate

jigoku

Dessegregate

jigoku

Mediate

jigoku

Alleviate

jigoku hell

Try not to hate

jigoku hell

Love your mate
Don't suffocate on your own hate


RITUAL DE LO HABITUAL

Posted by Charles Reece, March 1, 2009 08:31pm | Post a Comment
If I can just get off of this LA freeway
Without getting killed or caught
I'd be down that road in a cloud of smoke
For some land that I ain't bought
-- Guy Clark, "L.A. Freeway"


There are few directors I rank up there with Hitchcock, but Jacques Tati is one of them. I finally got around to watching Criterion's release of Trafic, his final installment in the Monsieur Hulot series. If Playtime is his Vertigo, then that would make Trafic his North By Northwest, only it didn't put Tati back on top of the commerical foodchain. After the box-office failure of Playtime, Tati had to take a step backwards, at least production-wise. Maybe that's why the critics never gave his followup the same attention as all the other Hulot flicks, the artistry of each increasing at exponential rate over the last. And maybe the diminished role of the Hulot character in Trafic is the reason it didn't do much better than Playtime among the masses (that's the reason Jonathan Romney gives). I suspect it was due to the same brazen social critique condemning his former film to academic circles, resulting in the charge of pretension from newspaper reviewers and the like. Most people like to keep their seriousness and humor separate.


In the opening credit sequence, Tati looks straight down the maw of an automobile assembly line, creating an effect similar to the infinite regress of two mirrors facing each other. The men are as much like replicas as the parts they're pushing through the machine. After having spent a couple years doing register duty in retail, a musician buddy of mine commented the other night that if America spent as much time habituating its citizens to the piano keys as it does to menial tasks in the service of commerce, the creative possibilites would be limitless. As it stands, those guys in that shot don't stand much of a chance of doing anything else with the procedural knowledge they've acquired. Dan Lalande expresses a similar thought in his evaluation of the film in the latest Cineaction:

OSCAR RESULTS 2009

Posted by Charles Reece, February 22, 2009 11:09pm | Post a Comment
Welp, I only got 50% this year. In hindsight, after the deluge of promotion for Slumdog Millionaire, I would've probably changed a few of my choices (for music) if playing in an Oscar pool. But since I wasn't losing any money, who cares? Orange is for my prediction; blue is for what I got wrong (or, rather, when the Academy didn't live up to my iron-clad reasoning).

Performance by an actor in a leading role
  • Richard Jenkins in The Visitor (Overture Films)
  • Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon (Universal)
  • Sean Penn in Milk (Focus Features)
  • Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
  • Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler (Fox Searchlight)
Performance by an actor in a supporting role
  • Josh Brolin in Milk (Focus Features)
  • Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder (DreamWorks, Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount)
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt (Miramax)
  • Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.)
  • Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage)
Performance by an actress in a leading role
  • Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Angelina Jolie in Changeling (Universal)
  • Melissa Leo in Frozen River (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Meryl Streep in Doubt (Miramax)
  • Kate Winslet in The Reader (The Weinstein Company)
Performance by an actress in a supporting role
  • Amy Adams in Doubt (Miramax)
  • Penélope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona (The Weinstein Company)
  • Viola Davis in Doubt (Miramax)
  • Taraji P. Henson in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
  • Marisa Tomei in The Wrestler (Fox Searchlight)
Best animated feature film of the year
  • Bolt (Walt Disney) -- Chris Williams and Byron Howard
  • Kung Fu Panda (DreamWorks Animation, Distributed by Paramount) -- John Stevenson and Mark Osborne
  • WALL-E (Walt Disney) -- Andrew Stanton
Achievement in art direction
  • Changeling (Universal) -- Art Direction: James J. Murakami / Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.) -- Art Direction: Donald Graham Burt / Set Decoration: Victor J. Zolfo
  • The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.) -- Art Direction: Nathan Crowley / Set Decoration: Peter Lando
  • The Duchess (Paramount Vantage, Pathé and BBC Films) -- Art Direction: Michael Carlin / Set Decoration: Rebecca Alleway
  • Revolutionary Road (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage) -- Art Direction: Kristi Zea / Set Decoration: Debra Schutt
Achievement in cinematography
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.) -- Claudio Miranda
  • Changeling (Universal) -- Tom Stern
  • The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.) -- Wally Pfister
  • The Reader (The Weinstein Company) -- Chris Menges and Roger Deakins
  • Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) -- Anthony Dod Mantle
Achievement in costume design
  • Australia (20th Century Fox) -- Catherine Martin
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.) -- Jacqueline West
  • The Duchess (Paramount Vantage, Pathé and BBC Films) -- Michael O'Connor
  • Milk (Focus Features) -- Danny Glicker
  • Revolutionary Road (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage) -- Albert Wolsky
Achievement in directing
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.) -- David Fincher
  • Frost/Nixon (Universal) -- Ron Howard
  • Milk (Focus Features) -- Gus Van Sant
  • The Reader (The Weinstein Company) -- Stephen Daldry
  • Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) -- Danny Boyle
Best documentary feature
  • The Betrayal (Nerakhoon) (Cinema Guild) -- Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath
  • Encounters at the End of the World (THINKFilm and Image Entertainment) -- Werner Herzog and Henry Kaiser
  • The Garden (A Black Valley Films Production) -- Scott Hamilton Kennedy
  • Man on Wire (Magnolia Pictures) -- James Marsh and Simon Chinn
  • Trouble the Water (Zeitgeist Films) -- Tia Lessin and Carl Deal
Best documentary short subject
  • The Conscience of Nhem En -- Steven Okazaki
  • The Final Inch -- Irene Taylor Brodsky and Tom Grant
  • Smile Pinki -- Megan Mylan
  • The Witness - From the Balcony of Room 306 -- Adam Pertofsky and Margaret Hyde
Achievement in film editing
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.) -- Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
  • The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.) -- Lee Smith
  • Frost/Nixon (Universal) -- Mike Hill and Dan Hanley
  • Milk (Focus Features) -- Elliot Graham
  • Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) -- Chris Dickens
Best foreign language film of the year
  • The Baader Meinhof Complex A Constantin Film Production - Germany
  • The Class (Sony Pictures Classics) A Haut et Court Production - France
  • Departures (Regent Releasing) A Departures Film Partners Production - Japan
  • Revanche (Janus Films) A Prisma Film/Fernseh Production - Austria
  • Waltz with Bashir (Sony Pictures Classics) A Bridgit Folman Film Gang Production - Israel
Achievement in makeup
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.) -- Greg Cannom
  • The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.) -- John Caglione, Jr. and Conor O'Sullivan
  • Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Universal) -- Mike Elizalde and Thom Floutz
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.) -- Alexandre Desplat
  • Defiance (Paramount Vantage) -- James Newton Howard
  • Milk (Focus Features) -- Danny Elfman
  • Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) -- A.R. Rahman
  • WALL-E (Walt Disney) -- Thomas Newman
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
  • "Down to Earth" from WALL-E (Walt Disney) -- Music by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman / Lyric by Peter Gabriel
  • Jai Ho from "Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) -- Music by A.R. Rahman / Lyric by Gulzar
  • O Saya from "Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) -- Music and Lyric by A.R. Rahman and Maya Arulpragasam
Best motion picture of the year
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.) -- Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall and Ceán Chaffin, Producers
  • Frost/Nixon (Universal) -- Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Eric Fellner, Producers
  • Milk (Focus Features) -- Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen, Producers
  • The Reader (The Weinstein Company) -- Nominees to be determined
  • Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) -- Christian Colson, Producer
Best animated short film
  • La Maison en Petits Cubes -- Kunio Kato
  • Lavatory - Lovestory -- Konstantin Bronzit
  • Oktapodi (Talantis Films) -- Emud Mokhberi and Thierry Marchand
  • Presto (Walt Disney) -- Doug Sweetland
  • This Way Up -- Alan Smith and Adam Foulkes
Best live action short film
  • Auf der Strecke (On the Line) (Hamburg Shortfilmagency) -- Reto Caffi
  • Manon on the Asphalt (La Luna Productions) -- Elizabeth Marre and Olivier Pont
  • New Boy (Network Ireland Television) -- Steph Green and Tamara Anghie
  • The Pig -- Tivi Magnusson and Dorte Høgh
  • Spielzeugland (Toyland) -- Jochen Alexander Freydank
Achievement in sound editing
  • The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.) -- Richard King
  • Iron Man (Paramount and Marvel Entertainment) -- Frank Eulner and Christopher Boyes
  • Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) -- Tom Sayers
  • WALL-E (Walt Disney) -- Ben Burtt and Matthew Wood
  • Wanted (Universal) -- Wylie Stateman
Achievement in sound mixing
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.) -- David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Mark Weingarten
  • The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.) -- Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo and Ed Novick
  • Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) -- Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke and Resul Pookutty
  • WALL-E (Walt Disney) -- Tom Myers, Michael Semanick and Ben Burtt
  • Wanted (Universal) -- Chris Jenkins, Frank A. Montaño and Petr Forejt
Achievement in visual effects
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.) -- Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton and Craig Barron
  • The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.) -- Nick Davis, Chris Corbould, Tim Webber and Paul Franklin
  • Iron Man (Paramount and Marvel Entertainment) -- John Nelson, Ben Snow, Dan Sudick and Shane Mahan
Adapted screenplay
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.) -- Screenplay by Eric Roth / Screen story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord
  • Doubt (Miramax) -- Written by John Patrick Shanley
  • Frost/Nixon (Universal) -- Screenplay by Peter Morgan
  • The Reader (The Weinstein Company) -- Screenplay by David Hare
  • Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) -- Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy
Original screenplay
  • Frozen River (Sony Pictures Classics) -- Written by Courtney Hunt
  • Happy-Go-Lucky (Miramax) -- Written by Mike Leigh
  • In Bruges (Focus Features) -- Written by Martin McDonagh
  • Milk (Focus Features) -- Written by Dustin Lance Black
  • WALL-E (Walt Disney) -- Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon / Original story by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter
Another reason to love two time Oscar winner Mel Gibson:


COULD SOMEONE DIRECT ME TO THE CROSSROAD?

Posted by Charles Reece, February 8, 2009 09:44pm | Post a Comment
I went down to the crossroad
fell down on my knees
I went down to the crossroad
fell down on my knees
Asked the lord above "Have mercy now
save poor Bob if you please"
-- Robert Johnson, "Cross Road Blues"
Corporate-manufactured popular music aka The Mainstream is like a ninja, everywhere and yet hidden to me. The best place to hide from my ears is on the radio, out in the open. Thus, out of curiosity, I caught a bit of the Grammy Awards tonight. (It's still on as I write this: Smokey Robinson is currently teaming up with Jamie Foxx).  Here's something that I saw:
I've never been a fan of Stevie Wonder. In fact, I hold him responsible for the moribund course R&B has been on since he first appeared -- all that meaningless vocal gyration that's called winning on American Idol.  Just when I thought his music couldn't get any less soulful, he surprised me with the above. That's little Stevie performing with Generation Next's version of the Hanson Brothers. I'm guessing the Jonas Brothers are some spin off from a NIckelodeon or Disney Channel show.  Why is it that the more famous and successful a star gets, the more likely he or she has no concern for artistic integrity? I can understand why some up and coming bar band would be willing to sell one of their songs to an ad agency, but a rich artist who doesn't need the money? Hell, a Grammy appearance probably doesn't even pay, rather it's about exposure -- as if Stevie fucking Wonder needed exposure!  Anyway, his appearance reminded me of an old essay by John Densmore, drummer for The Doors.  He wrote:
Apple Computer called on a Tuesday--they already had the audacity to spend money to cut "When the Music's Over" into an ad for their new cube computer software. They want to air it the next weekend, and will give us a million and a half dollars! A MILLION AND A HALF DOLLARS! Apple is a pretty hip company...we use computers.... Dammit! Why did Jim (Morrison) have to have such integrity?

I'm pretty clear that we shouldn't do it. We don't need the money. But I get such pressure from one particular bandmate (the one who wears glasses and plays keyboards).

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