The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'hollywood'
After the US film industry tried to buy a law outlawing the internet as we know it, the internet is striking back: Paul Graham's venture-capital startup Y Combinator is now planning to explicitly fund driving Hollywood into extinction, before the dying beast drags anything worth saving into the tarpit it's sinking in:
Hollywood appears to have peaked. If it were an ordinary industry (film cameras, say, or typewriters), it could look forward to a couple decades of peaceful decline. But this is not an ordinary industry. The people who run it are so mean and so politically connected that they could do a lot of damage to civil liberties and the world economy on the way down. It would therefore be a good thing if competitors hastened their demise.
That's one reason we want to fund startups that will compete with movies and TV, but not the main reason. The main reason we want to fund such startups is not to protect the world from more SOPAs, but because SOPA brought it to our attention that Hollywood is dying. They must be dying if they're resorting to such tactics. If movies and TV were growing rapidly, that growth would take up all their attention. When a striker is fouled in the penalty area, he doesn't stop as long as he still has control of the ball; it's only when he's beaten that he turns to appeal to the ref. SOPA shows Hollywood is beaten. And yet the audiences to be captured from movies and TV are still huge. There is a lot of potential energy to be liberated there.Meanwhile, after former US senator turned MPAA representative Chris Dodd made dire warnings to US politicians that Hollywood may not fund their campaigns if they don't comply in passing the laws they have bought, a petition was started on the Whitehouse website to have him investigated for attempted bribery. The petition is unlikely to result in an official investigation, but has, in less than a week, gathered the 25,000 signatures required to oblige the Whitehouse to respond.
A team in Germany has developed software which can edit objects out of live video in real time. Termed, catchily, "Diminished Reality", the software works a bit like Photoshop's content-aware fill, but is able to track, and eliminate, objects in moving video. The team from the Technische Universität Ilmenau are planning to release an Android port, so you too can be Stalin.
Perhaps even more interesting is software from the Max Planck Institute which can alter the body shapes of actors in video. The software contains data obtained from 3D scans of 120 naked people of different body types, apparently using a machine-learning algorithm, to form a 3D body model with a number of controllable attributes, such as height, muscularity and waist girth. The system can pick out human figures in video (in some conditions, anyway), map them to the model, adjust it, and then rerender the video with the adjusted model. The team have demonstrated this with a clip from the old TV series Baywatch, in which the male lead is given Conan The Barbarian-style musculature.
The article gives a number of potential applications for such technologies:
The technology has obvious applications in films like Raging Bull, for which Robert de Niro put on 27 kilograms in two months to portray his character. "The actor wouldn't need to go to all that trouble," says Theobalt. It could also be a cost-saver for advertising companies. Because standards of beauty vary across cultures, it is the norm to shoot several adverts for a single product. With the new software, firms could make one film and tweak the model's dimensions to suit different countries.The possibilities don't, of course, stop there. In the market-driven entertainment ecosystem, film and TV companies are competing for the attention (and money and/or eyeballs to sell to advertisers) of a public, a large segment of which is captivated by spectacle. With improved special-effects technology comes "awesomeness inflation", where yesterday's blockbusters look boring compared to the latest; so anything that can capture the eyeballs of the sensation-hungry, compulsively channel-surfing consumer (whom William Gibson memorably described as "something the size of a baby hippo, the color of a week-old boiled potato, that lives by itself, in the dark, in a double-wide on the outskirts of Topeka. It's covered with eyes and it sweats constantly. The sweat runs into those eyes and makes them sting. It has no mouth... no genitals, and can only express its mute extremes of murderous rage and infantile desire by changing the channels on a universal remote") could give a film studio or TV network the edge; that extra average five seconds before the viewer changes the channel which, aggregated over an audience of hundreds of millions, means a lot of ad revenue.
It's perhaps obvious that film studios will use the software as another computer effect, making their actors more cartoonishly exaggerated, more punchily extreme, with taller, more ruggedly muscular action heroes, more exaggerated comic short/fat/skinny guys, leading ladies/love interests whose waists could not physically support their breasts, and so on. Eventually the public will get used to this, and the old films with realistically physiqued (by Hollywood standards) actors will look as shabbily unattractive as those films from the 70s they're always remaking because the pace's too slow, the scenes look crappy (didn't the ancients even know about orange and teal colour grading?) and there aren't enough awesome explosions and sex scenes. If the software's cheap enough (as it will eventually be), though, they won't even need to remake things: imagine, for example, a channel that shows reruns of popular old series, "digitally remastered for extra awesomeness". And so, every year, the stars in yesteryear's classic serials become that bit more like animated action figures and/or anime schoolgirls, culminating in a 8-foot, musclebound Jack Bauer who can shoot laser beams from his eyes. (The remastering process would also quicken the pace, by speeding up scenes and cutting out pauses, which would both hold the audience's attention for longer and leave more time for ad breaks.) Meanwhile, Criterion sell box sets of the original, unretouched versions in tasteful packaging; these become a highbrow affectation, a signifier of refined taste, and end up featured on Stuff White People Like.
Of course, in this universe, there'd be an epidemic of body-image disorders, with large numbers of deaths from anorexia, steroid overdoses and black-market plastic surgery. At least until physique augmentation ends up as a universal feature of compact cameras and/or Facebook uploading software, and gradually the survivors come to accept that it's OK to look imperfect, as long as you don't do so on film or video.
The latest fashion in mainstream Hollywood filmmaking seems to be colour-grading films to a uniform palette of teal and orange:
The orange and teal look is an artefact of technological possibility and creative laziness. About a decade ago, filmmakers started digitising film and electronically manipulating it, which gave them the ability to adjust colours for the whole film as easily as tweaking an image in Photoshop. While some of the more visionary filmmakers have used this as a creative tool (the Coens made use of it in Oh Brother Where Art Thou to give the film a sepia look, and Peter Jackson made extensive use of colour grading in the Lord Of The Rings films), those churning out action films, who typically have no time for such hoity-toity concerns as artistic vision, needed a quick and easy formula for how to make their films look more awesome. And they got one in complementary colour theory; human skin tones (especially when oversaturated for extra awesomeness) look orange, and stand out most strongly against bluish-green hues. Thus, grading films to an orange-on-teal palette is a cinematic equivalent of compressing the dynamic range of recorded music for extra kick-ass loudness; both add extra zing, producing a product that's superficially exciting, at the cost of subtlety. Though who goes to see Transformers for subtlety, right?
As artificial as it looks, it'll look quaint once they figure out how to shoot entire films in HDR.
The latest character to get a darker, edgier makeover: Mickey Mouse. Yes, the antiseptically squeaky-clean mascot of one of the largest family-entertainment corporations is being brought back to his original roots as a sadistic prankster, mostly because today's kids find him too much like a personification of benign authority to actually, you know, identify with:
Mickey was a bit of a wild child himself, when he made his first appearance, in 1928, in that changeover period when silent movies were being superseded by the “talkies”. He played practical jokes, he pursued his girlfriend Minnie aggressively, and in Steamboat Willie, he vented his anger on an undeserving parrot.
But in the anxious 1930s, when American was threatened by recession and political radicalism, the highly conservative, communist-hating Walt Disney toned down Mickey’s behaviour and created the bland, all-American mouse kid that he has been ever since.
The new, grittier Mickey makes a début in a Nintendo Wii game set in a "cartoon wasteland" occupied by forgotten Disney characters.
I wonder if it'll work any better than Warner Bros. attempt to give their Looney Tunes characters a gangsta hip-hop makeover in the 1990s.
The Graun has turned what was meant to be a review of the latest Hollywood romantic comedy into a critique of this culture's emphasis on romantic love:
Romcoms don't merely provide an evening's harmless escapism. They help underpin one of the most potent doctrines of our culture: the sanctity of romantic love. It's a doctrine in which many find relief from the materialism, apathy and banality of a society no longer hallowed by religious transcendence. Yet it comes at a price.
The involuntary cognitive state that Jennifer Aniston finds herself depicting so frequently is real enough, but not particularly mystical. Brain scans show it to be generated by the frisky interaction of chemicals like norepinephrine and dopamine. If this hubbub's triggered by recognition of genetic quality, as now seems to be assumed, that would explain why Aniston and her ilk have to be so annoyingly good-looking.
What we call love induces some of the worst behaviour that we're likely to encounter. Yet when this occurs, it usually invites no censure, let alone punishment. Romantic love is a get-out-of-jail-free card that legitimises actions which would otherwise be thought contemptible. Home-wreckers steal something cherished far more deeply than money or possessions. Nonetheless, they go on to build their happiness on the misery of others without having to endure the slightest disapproval. After all, they had no choice but to do what they did: they were in love.
In other cultures, romantic love enjoys no comparable status. Our own ancestors might find our veneration of it as puzzling as we find their worship of pagan gods. In our otherwise disrespectful age, the persistence of its dominion is rather remarkable. Would it have proved so enduring without the big screen's relentless promotion of its supposedly limitless benefits?I have been wondering whether the emphasis on romantic love in popular culture (a significant proportion of mainstream pop songs seem to be about the transitions into and out of the state of being in love, for example) and the sexualisation of the media are not two sides of the same coin, namely a focus on relations between people as being a marketplace of potential partners, rather than less glamorous and less dynamic forms of relations. Could this be a sort of social Reaganism/Thatcherism, the ideological assertion that "everything is a market" translated into the realm of interpersonal relations?
Blogging ambulanceman Tom Reynolds on the clichés found in TV drama, with an emphasis on medical drama:
I think that there are two reasons, first that TV producers think that viewers are stupid, secondly that the writers carry paintbrushes.
I remember, as a child, watching Rolf Harris on a Saturday afternoon creating works of art using 4" paintbrushes. Big sheet of paper, slopping the paint everywhere and then, as if by magic, a painting would appear.
Big tools, used well to create wonderfully subtle works of art.
Writers today also use those 4" brushes, but they use them not for portraits, but to paint walls. Huge strokes slabbered on with no finesse. Before I visited NBC's character biographies I could guess the characters 'personalities'. You'd have the maverick, the womaniser, the hard as nails female, the unsure rookie, the heartless administrator, the drinker/gambler/philanderer. The list goes on. Oh, and we must not forget the racially diverse cast of good looking people.
Look at those character types, you can see them appearing in pretty much every show.
And yes, 'Casualty' does still make me grind my teeth - 'blonde sexbomb'. 'joker', 'socially awkward nerd in glasses' who, in the their second episode tell us what their personalities are by talking to a psychiatrist. Next series I think they'll stop giving the characters names and instead they will instead walk around carrying placards with their character traits written on them.Elsewhere in the post, he posits an updated version of Chekhov's Gun which applies to such shows:
'Chekhov's pregnancy' - 'If there is a heavily pregnant woman in the first act, she will get trapped in a lift/locked building/under rubble and will then give birth'. (Needless to say, on TV pregnant women race through the stages of labour in fifteen minutes, not the more normal twelve hours or so)
McSweeney's Internet Tendency has a detailed interview with underground comics author Daniel Clowes, in which he sheds light on his early career with Cracked! magazine (which he describes as being like methadone for MAD Magazine addicts, and reels off a comprehensive list of various MAD clones and their nebbish mascots), the genesis of Ghost World and its making into a film, the art of writing/drawing comics, and numerous other things:
I used to tell people I was a "comic-book artist," but they'd look at me as if I'd just stepped in dog shit and walked across their Oriental rug. I never knew what to call myself, but I was always opposed to the whole "graphic novelist" label. To me, it just seemed like a scam. I always felt that people would say, "Wait a minute! This is just a comic book!" But now, I've given up. Call me whatever you want.
Whenever a musician isn't happy with the quality of an early record and records it again with a "better" band, it's never better. It's like when Paul McCartney re-recorded "Eleanor Rigby" in the  movie Give My Regards to Broad Street. Did "Eleanor Rigby" need to be re-recorded? The original work is connected to a specific moment of time; it's never going to become "better." Even when I do a new cover for one of my old books, it always seems sort of condescending to the material.
You just mentioned a movie I'm not familiar with: Scarlet Street. What is it about?
It's a strange movie. People always think of film noir as a genre of violent action. To me, noir is more about a state of anxiety and profound loneliness − an awareness of the quotidian grimness of the postwar world. Scarlet Street is about a poor, ugly loser [Edward G. Robinson] who gets hoodwinked by a horrible woman and her pimp, almost willingly so, since even this cheap thrill is preferable to his emasculated existence with his harridan wife.
The original version, directed by Jean Renoir, is even better. The  movie is called La Chienne, which translates to "the bitch." I'm not even sure "the bitch," in this case, refers to the prostitute as much as life itself.
I never really considered Ghost World to be a teen film. To me, it was more about these two specific characters working through something −l something very personal to me. I wasn't necessarily trying to communicate with teenagers, and I never really imagined they would be as much of our audience as they have.
(via Boing Boing)
A study at Edinburgh's Heriot Watt University has claimed that watching romantic comedies can damage relationships, by inculcating unrealistic expectations:
They found fans of films such as Runaway Bride and Notting Hill often fail to communicate with their partner. Many held the view if someone is meant to be with you, then they should know what you want without you telling them.
Kimberly Johnson, who also worked on the study, said: "Films do capture the excitement of new relationships but they also wrongly suggest that trust and committed love exist from the moment people meet, whereas these are qualities that normally take years to develop."
The Graun has an article outlining how to write a Hollywood disaster movie:
A lot of the best disasters – asteroids, aliens, earthquakes, tsunamis – have already been taken, sometimes twice, as in the embarrassing simultaneous releases of Armageddon/Deep Impact and Volcano/Dante's Peak. So you'll have to be a bit creative. Pick something unusual: what if gravity started going sideways instead of straight down, say?
In a cave underneath Mount Rushmore, the president should introduce the scientist to a crack team dedicated to fixing the problem – which should turn out to include his attractive ex-wife as well as a droll Englishman. The three of them should come up with a plan to stop the disaster – the more unrealistic the better. A good one in this case would be to have someone jump off the Empire State Building like a diving board in order to activate a nuclear weapon that would destroy the moon and thus reset earth's gravity; anything like that, really. Watching a cable news channel as they discuss who could carry out this dangerous mission, the team sees a report from the devastated New York, where the cat burglar is leaping across sideways skyscrapers to save an old grandmother's life. "By Jove," says the Englishman, "I think we've found our man!"
The cat burglar dives. The scene cuts to outer space as the moon is destroyed. The sun tilts back on its axis, and back on earth gravity swings gradually back to its normal direction. Buildings right themselves and stand up straight again. Foreigners in turbans or Eskimo furs cheer and hug in far-off locations. The scientist reaches out for the hand of his ex-wife. And the little orphan boy runs up to his cat burglar dad for a dramatic hug, the Empire State Building back to normal behind them. He didn't die after all!
Wired has a guide on how to turn anything into a screenplay, which is to say, into a screenplay marketable to Hollywood:
- Create a protagonist
- Establish what the protagonist wants
- Be sure to have an antagonist.
- Decide what the antagonist wants
- You need a conflict to drive the plot
- Don't forget a beginning, a middle, and an end
They're now making a sequel to early-1980s hacker film Wargames. The Russkies have, predictably, been replaced with Middle Eastern terrorists, though the plausibility doesn't seem to have improved much:
In this updated version, WOPR (the uppity NORAD supercomputer) is replaced by Ripley (a sexy artificial intelligence that tempts terrorists out of the woodwork -- while defending Newt in her downtime). When the 21st-century equivalent to Matthew Broderick (Matt Lanter) ticks Ripley off, she decides to hijack a Predator drone armed with nukes (I knew they were around somewhere). The race is on to stop Ripley or see American cities wiped from the map.
After the recent wave of films reprising 1980s films. such as Indiana Jones and Rambo, some speculation on other sequel possibilities we may soon see:
"Back to the Future IV"
The sequel: Teenage Marty McFly Jr.* (Michael Cera) and best friend/secret crush Madison Tannen (Evan Rachel Wood) discover Doc Brown's DeLorean hidden in a storage shed and take it for a joy ride, accidentally landing in 1985.
In this only-loosely-tied-to-the-originals “reboot,” the two nerdsters attempt to fit in by adopting the styles and lingo of the day. (Madison: “Seriously, 'Gag me with a spoon?' People actually said that?”) They try on various period clothing in a mall-set montage and crash a raucous high school dance featuring Huey Lewis and the News.
The sequel: “The Big Chill” as envisioned by Judd Apatow. Screwball antics ensue when the original cast reunites at the funeral of Jake Ryan, tragically killed in a car crash. (In real life Schoeffling now makes furniture in Pennsylvania, so his character only appears in flashbacks.) Divorcée Sam has a teen daughter of her own and the father is—wait for it!—Farmer Ted.
Momus' latest blog post is a critique of the recent film Pan's Labyrinth. Other than being an exercise in the goring of sacred cows (an often useful exercise), it makes some good points:
The film bore all the hallmarks of COG screenwriting. COG screenwriting is the opposite of personal vision, the opposite of imagination. It's screenwriting as taught by "experts" in screenwriting class, a kind of brutal, plot-advancing writing style based around a Centre of Goodness (COG) who wins the audience's sympathy (usually by pure genetic superiority -- ie a very good-looking actor is cast -- but also by a series of sufferings overcome throughout the narrative). It takes no prisoners -- and no risks. COG screenwriting is the filmic equivalent of modern managerial techniques. It's brutally efficient -- yes, it can and will make you laugh and make you cry -- but the difference between a film made by a COG director like Guillermo del Toro and an artist like Jodorowsky or Arrabal is like the difference between a house designed by a Project Manager and one designed by an architect. I will not let del Toro pass for an artist. I'm sorry, critics. He is a cinematic Project Manager.
Complete absence of sensuality, the incidental, the non-programmatic. Appeal is made to our adrenal glands, but no sexual organs (del Toro has the nerve to talk about Pan, but read the antics of the original Greek Pan here then compare them to the sexless, boring Pan character in this movie). Shock and surprise and mawkish empathy dominate, but there's no moment in which a character senses the breeze blowing in from the woods, just for its own sake. No, everything is fire and death and danger and hatred and forward motion. No indirection allowed. Improbable chases, with a deus ex machina to save the COG and a fatal comeuppance for the COB.
This is a Mexican-US co-production. But its values are American -- it has the shiny blue lighting, the flashy special effects, and all the conventions, of a US blockbuster (and the director apparently turned down both Harry Potter and the Narnia film to make it). This, then, is "global" film-making as a kind of outsourced American filmmaking. We do not leave the technical nor the moral universe of the Americans. Nothing is imported, in the sense of a "foreign" worldview. The film has learned American ways, but American audiences will not learn anything they don't already know from it, either texturally or morally.
Cory Doctorow argues that high-definition television might kill special-effects-heavy blockbusters, by amplifying the way that Moore's Law keeps increasing audience expectations and making last year's special-effects extravaganza look like so much cheese:
It's a good reason to go to the box-office, but it's also the source of an awful paradox: yesterday's jaw-dropping movies are today's kitschy crap. By next year, the custom tools that filmmakers develop for this year's blockbuster will be available to every hack commercial director making a Coke ad. What's more, the Coke ads and crummy sitcoms will run on faster, cheaper hardware and be available to a huge pool of creators, who will actually push the technology further, producing work that is in many cases visually superior to the big studio product from last summer.
It's one thing for a black-and-white movie at a Hitchcock revival to look a little dated, but it's galling -- and financially perilous -- for last year's movie to date in a period of months. You can see what I mean by going to a Lord of the Rings festival at your local rep-house and comparing the generation-one creatures in Fellowship of the Ring to the gen-three beasts in Return of the King.Where does HDTV come into this? Well, until now, yesteryear's blockbusters could make back some of their mammoth production costs on the long tail of DVD rentals and TV licensing; thanks to the inherent poor quality of TV, consumers were more forgiving of their dated effects. With HDTV, this may not be so, and the long tail may be decimated, making mega-blockbusters uneconomical to produce.
(via Boing Boing)
Recent research has shown that the film and TV industry is one of Los Angeles' largest air polluters, giving off more emissions than aerospace manufacturing or hotels, or indeed any other sector with the exception of petroleum manufacturing. A lot of this is apparently due to generators on film sets and special-effects explosions. (That sounds a lot of exploding cars/helicopters/buildings.)
Could this be a new record for concentrated stupidity on an advertising poster?
- Hollywood is staffed by people who don't know what a cow actually is, or
- they're assuming that most of the kids whom they market this steaming pile of mass entertainment at are clueless about where their hamburgers come from and those who aren't are sufficiently conditioned by condescendingly stupid television and movies to switch off the parts of their brains that notice that there's something wrong and just go with the flow, or perhaps
- in this post-industrial, post-post-agricultural society, the concept of barnyard animals has receded from plausible reality into the realm of mythology, where taking liberties (such as anthropomorphising cows as male) is acceptable.
The Top Ten Sci-Fi Films That Never Existed takes apart what went wrong with various sci-fi films which did exist:
There was a movie that perfectly captured the Douglas Adams experience, the combination of bitter sarcasm and sharp imagination, the droll British wit and whale-exploding slapstick that infused his novels. And that movie was Shaun of the Dead. That movie was not, unfortunately, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a movie that floated around Hollywood for about 20 years before it finally appeared in theaters as a flat, lifeless, americanized lump that was mostly hated by people who liked the book and loathed by people who hated the book.
Everyone remembers the exact moment when they realized that their Phanom Menace sandwich was filled with shit. For me, it was the scene on Tatooine where Qui-Gon is talking and Jar Jar is snatching fruit from the bowl with his tongue, eating like an insect. Annoyed, Qui-Gon reaches out and snatches his tongue out of the air and holds it in his fist while he talks. That was when I realized I was watching a cartoon.
So what happened? The Chicago Cubs, that's what. The Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908. Why? Because Cub fans sell out Wrigley Field every game, regardless of how bad the team is. Management makes money regardless of whether or not the team is winning, so why bother? Likewise, studios think video game fans will pile into the theater on opening weekend regardless of whether or not any effort was put into the film. Will that change? Come ask me after I've seen the Peter Jackson-produced Halo.
I have a theory. There are two eras for the Hacker Movie genre. Pre-Matrix, hacker movies were always horrible and always box office poison (see Hackers and Johnny Mnemonic) that only appealed to a tiny segment of geeks. After The Matrix in 1999, every hacker movie was unfairly compared to The Matrix (incuding that film's own sequels, but we'll get to that in a moment). In neither era could you get the money to make a movie like Snow Crash. If you want your $150 million monster to get made, it'd had better be something with such universal appeal that even grandmothers will go see it. No hacker movie will have that and Snow Crash least of all:
I finally got around to watching the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie.
For the most part, I enjoyed it. The new parts of the script, in many places did seem rather Douglas Adamsesque. The visual design and effects also worked rather nicely, giving the whole film a slightly cartoonish, Monty Pythonesque look. For the most part, the obvious concessions to the Hollywood story (the vogons becoming the main bad guys, as a film needs a villain, for example) were relatively unobstrusive, and the casting was quite apt. Except for two glaring flaws.
Firstly, the character of Trillian. In the books and other material, she was somewhat intelligent and rounded as a character. In the film, she is a vacuous bimbo; a shiny American-TV-show female character who looks and behaves as if she should have canned laughter after each of her one-liners, and, in actual personality, is little more than a plot device.
Which brings me to the second flaw: the way that Arthur's history with Trillian was fleshed out into a standard Hollywood romcom plotline, complete with schmaltzy dialogue (the scene about "the real answer" was cringeworthy), undoubtedly at the behest of some studio bean-counter insistent on following proven formulas to maximise audience appeal. I think the DVD should have come with an option to view a cut with the studio hacks' commercially-driven additions edited out (much like the Criterion box set of Brazil).
All in all, if one cauterises those memories from one's brain Zaphod-fashion, the film is quite enjoyable. I enjoyed it more than Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the other (and weaker) cool-stylised-pictures film of this year.
The grim story of the next Superman film, which has remained in development hell for 10 years, while armies of hacks, egomaniacs and philistinic studio types battled over the details, is an eye-opening example of the horrible things that happen to a property once a Hollywood studio buys the rights to it. Read about the dozen or so different scripts, tacked-on merchandising opportunities, plot elements shamelessly lifted from the most recent blockbuster, the many forms of Lex Luthor (rogue CIA agent, mutated shoe salesman, member of the Illuminati), Tim Burton's darker, gothic Superman, and even the studio's plans to cast Justin Timberlake and Beyonce Knowles as Superman and Lois Lane. Read it, laugh uncomfortably, and then pray to whatever gods you have that the studios never get their hands on your favourite stories.
Peters then told Smith to have Brainiac fight polar bears at the Fortress of Solitude, demanding that the film be wall-to-wall action. Smith thought it was a stupid idea, so Peters said, "Then have Brainiac fight Supermans bodyguards!" Smith responded, "Why the hell would Superman need bodyguards?" Peters wouldnt let up, so Smith caved in and had Brainiac fight the polar bears. Then Peters demanded that Brainiac give Luthor a hostile space dog as a gift, arguing that the movie needed a cuddly Chewbacca character that could be turned into a toy. Then, after watching Chasing Amy, Peters liked the gay black character in the film so much that he ordered Smith to make Brainiacs robot servant L-Ron gay, asserting that the film needed a gay R2-D2 with attitude. Then Peters demanded that Superman fight a huge spider at the end of the film, which Smith refused to dohe used a "Thanagarian Snare Beast" instead. (However, Peters did manage to recycle his spider idea and use it in Wild Wild West.)
1. Krypton doesnt explode. Instead its a Naboo rip-off overrun by robot soldiers, walking war machines, and civil war (can you say, Star Wars: Episode I?). Jor-El is literally the king of Krypton and leader of the Kryptonian Senate (thus Superman is a prince), and he and Lara send Kal-El to Earth because he is "the One" whom a prophecy states will save Krypton from destruction (rip-off of The Matrix). The villains, Jor-El's evil brother and nephew Kata-Zor and Ty-Zor, take Jor-El prisoner and send probe pods out to find and kill the baby Kal-El. 14 years later, Lara and her shell-less turtle servant Taga (shades of Jar Jar Binks) are found by Ty-Zor, and Lara gets tortured to death.
5. An aerial kung-fu fight between Superman and Ty-Zor results in Superman being lured into a trap: Lois is drowning in a tank filled with kryptonite. (This begs the question of how there can be kryptonite when Krypton didnt even explode, but.) Superman is given a choice: save her and die from radiation poisoning in the act, or stand by and watch her drown. So he goes in, saves her, and dies. Jor-El magically senses Supermans death from across the galaxy, commits hara-kiri with a rock he sharpens in his prison cell, goes to Heaven, and talks Superman into coming back to life so he can fulfill the prophecy of saving Krypton from its civil war. So Supermans soul returns to his body, and he proceeds to trash Ty-Zor and his cronies. And at the end of the film, Superman flies off in a rocket to save Krypton (which is where the second film is planned to take place).
Time Magazine has an interview with Neil Gaiman (who has a movie, made with Dave McKean, coming out) and Joss Whedon (who did some rinky-dink TV show about valley ghouls in California or something):
JW: I find that when you read a script, or rewrite something, or look at something that's been gone over, you can tell, like rings on a tree, by how bad it is, how long it's been in development.
NG: Yes. It really is this thing of executives loving the smell of their own urine and urinating on things. And then more execs come in, and they urinate. And then the next round. By the end, they have this thing which just smells like pee, and nobody likes it.
It looks like the Wicker Man remake is going to be rubbish:
...In the original, Woodward's character was a virgin, making him ideal for sacrifice. That element has been ditched from the remake, because it was thought that while audiences would accept the idea of an American community that practised human sacrifice, the idea of a grown-up virgin was just too farfetched.Other than doing away with the lead's virginity (because nobody would respect a 40-year-old virgin as anything other than a comical schmuck, and certainly not a worthy hero for a thriller) and ripping the story out of its meticulously-researched setting amidst British folklore and Scottish religious weirdness and moving it to America because America Does It Better, the director has made Lord Summerisle a woman (to keep up with the times, presumably) and brought in killer bees. (I wonder if the director had to fight to make it killer bees rather than dinosaurs or something cool and exciting like that.)
Anyway, it looks like the Wicker Man remake will take its rightful place next to the Sylvester Stallone Get Carter (with its all-American message of redemption) and the Californian-set Italian Job. It'll probably eclipse the original more than in the previous cases, though, because of the poor quality of the surviving prints of the original.
Bloody hell; they're remaking The Wicker Man. They are, of course, relocating it to the US (as all today's stories happen in America); though for some reason, they're setting it off the coast of Maine (presumably because the climate is like Scotland's). IMHO, a US-set Wicker Man would have worked better somewhere around the Old Testament heartland of the south, where people take fire and brimstone absolutism in with their mother's milk, good Christian folk believe that Satan is real and walking among them, black-clad teenage outcasts believe that Satan is way cool and drinking blood will give them super powers; they could have made Lord Summerisle into a David Koresh-like figure, a mullet-haired leader of a devout Christian community that's really a weird pagan cult. Moving it to Maine, in contrast, sounds somewhat unimaginative.
The various reviews of Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory look encouraging; it looks like he has neither Americanised it (as, common sense has it, is essential for a story to be universal and sell well) nor turned it into a Gloom Cookie-esque steaming pile of gothsy clichés (the aesthetic, thankfully, seems to owe more to Carnaby Street circa 1967 than Camden High Street circa 2005). It also features Noah "young Adolf Hitler/Nick Cave lookalike" Taylor as Charlie's dad, and they used real squirrels in the filming. Hmmm...
Another thing I didn't know until today: that the Childcatcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was created by Roald Dahl, who worked on the script for that film.
A magazine named Radar has the start of a potentially interesting series on Kabbalah (not the Mediæval branch of esoteric Judaism, but the red-string-and-sacred-bottled-water one that's the hottest new celebrity cult in Hollywood):
In December the Guardian of London published a 10-month investigation that revealed the dubious nature of the Rav's qualifications as a religious leader, as well as the Centre's avaricious ways. Then, in January 2005, a BBC documentary caught high-ranking Kabbalah Centre officer Rabbi Eliyahu Yardeni on undercover camera saying that the Jews who died in the Holocaust perished because they weren't studying Kabbalah. The same documentary showed an employee at the Centre's London office selling a man with cancer more than $1,500 worth of merchandise, including Aramaic books he could not read and bottled water with no proven health benefits.
The article promises more details on findings, including:
The false claims the Centre has made about its distinguished origins.
The Centre's use of cultlike techniques to control members, including sleep deprivation, alienation from friends and family, and Kabbalah-dictated matchmaking.
The bizarre scientific claims made by the Centre's leaders on behalf of Kabbalah Water, ranging from its ability to cleanse the lakes of Chernobyl of radiation to its power to cure cancer, AIDS, and SARS.
The Centre's sponsorship of the Oroz Research Centre, a "23rd century" scientific institution that markets a "liquid compound for the treatment of nuclear waste" that also cures gynecological problems in cows, sheep, and other farm animals.
The Bergs' explicit strategy of steering Kabbalah away from its Jewish roots in order to appeal to a wider global market, and their plans to brand both the Centre and family members for maximum popular appeal.
As for steering Kabbalah away from its Jewish roots, isn't that old news, though? There have been non-Jewish self-professed Cabbalists since the time of Aleister Crowley if not John Dee. Though, granted, they weren't peddling overpriced bottled water to celebrities.
(via bOING bOING)
Apparently, the new Hitchhiker's Guide film really sucks:
This just doesnt feel like Hitchhikers Guide. Theres no sense of a big crazy universe packed with weird lifeforms that somehow reflects our own world. Hitchhikers Guide has always been a Swift-ian satire but the makers of the movie have decided to ditch all that and replace it with pointless surrealism and crude physical comedy.
(Please say it's not packed out with standard Hollywood-issue gross-out bodily-function gags.)
There are quite a few nods to Douglas Adams himself and although these go some way to making up for the almost complete absence of his name from the publicity, surely a better way of paying tribute to this much-loved, much-missed author would be to not fuck about with the sublimely witty dialogue that he sweated blood to create.
And here is a list of things not in the film.
It looks like they're now making a romantic comedy about Friendster (remember that? It was a somewhat dating-centric social-networking click-toy; everyone gave up on it after hitting the limit of their social group who have time for these things). What next: a Heathers-esque comedy about LiveJournal (Subtitle: "OMG the drama!")
A PhD study into music copyright enforcement (by a former lawyer for ARIA, the Australian RIAA equivalent, no less) has found that consumer choice of music titles has fallen dramatically, with the number of music products released falling 43% between 2001 and 2004; and it's likely to get worse as record labels merge and "rationalise" their catalogues into safely marketable titles. Alex Malik argues that this, and not file sharing, is to blame for falling music sales.
"If you go into a typical CD store these days, there's the new Australian Idol CD and of course there's the other new Australian Idol CD. You'll also find more DVDs and accessories than ever before ... But if your tastes are a little eclectic or go beyond the top 40, you may be in trouble," he said.
Of course, one could argue that the majors are now signing a lot of exciting, energetic indie bands from the underground. Except that this argument falls apart on closer examination; most of the major-label-indie fall into one of several formulaic, easily marketable categories: 70s garage primitivist rockists (think Jet/The Datsuns/Kings of Leon/&c), other radio-friendly post-ironic rehashings of old formulae (Scissor Sisters), easy-listening vaguely-indieish pap like Keane and Badly Drawn Boy, and attempts at The Next Interpol/Franz Ferdinand (or whatever the band of the moment happens to be).
Which is what happens when recording companies become agglomerated into large corporations beholden to shareholders who demand safe returns; in such a model, there is no scope for maverick A&R people to make decisions based on gut instinct or take risks. But that's OK; with modern market research methodologies, there is no need for such archaic and unreliable practices, when formulae can me made up to please enough of the market. The same has happened in Hollywood, where all scripts are plotted out with special script-writing software that ensures that characters move and develop like automata along pre-programmed tracks. The scriptwriter only has to flesh things out.
Surprise of the day: Hollywood's adaptation of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials books will do away with the atheist subtext, making the evil Church into a secular authoritarian organisation of some sort instead.
According to the French film industry's rules, Oliver Stone's action film Alexander qualifies as a French film (because Stone has a French mother and did the postproduction in Paris), but Jean-Pierre Jeunet's latest film isn't (because Warner funded part of it).
Working Title, the (Hollywood-funded) British film company whose studiedly "quirky" romantic comedies have become as synonymous with the 1990s as Merchant-Ivory costume dramas were with the Thatcher era, are putting the formula to rest. That's right, Hugh Grant will have to find something else to do. The studio will continue to make films in other genres (and, indeed, outside of swinging London and whimsical Britain; Working Title have made several films in Australia, including Ned Kelly and that Australian gangster comedy that followed shortly afterwards); chances are, whatever they are, they will be written to formula, focus-grouped to grab the broadest possible audience, and will make a mint.
I finally got around to going to see that climate-change disaster-porn film that various US "liberals" were acclaiming as a progressive Passion of the Christ. It was much as I expected it to be.
In short, the visuals were spectacular (about half a dozen SFX firms were credited), with magnificent sets and computer graphics sequences. The characterisation and plot was pure Hollywood formula, with a very linear plot and characters having only the simplest of motivations, and, half the time, thinking in schmaltzy Hallmark-card truisms. Mind you, it being from Roland Emmerich (and the sub-Spielbergian sequence from Independence Day of the towheaded little boy and his dog watching Will Smith take off to battle the aliens still sticks in my mind), I wasn't expecting anything above the lowest common denominator in this respect, so I wasn't disappointed. (Some day, I'd like to see a visually spectacular film whose characters are more than focus-grouped, computer-plotted cardboard cutouts, but I digress.) The science, of course, was exaggerated by orders of magnitude to make it more spectacular (running afoul of the laws of physics in places, such as the instant temperature drop), and some of the details were a bit geographically ignorant (such as the scene with the whisky in the Scottish research station; someone there either assumed that Scotland was part of England or that most Americans wouldn't know otherwise; I wonder how well this film will do in, say, Glasgow or somewhere). Then again, none of that was a huge surprise; as I said, it's special-effects porn, and porn films of any variety aren't known for their plotting or characterisation.
In late 1994, a 16-year-old American girl named Heather Robinson ran an elaborate scam in what she said was an attempt to make her recently divorced mother happy; she obtained access to an Air Force base and used this access to make up an imaginary Col. Cunningham, who then carried on a 3-month virtual relationship with her mother. She even sent her mother a marriage proposal from Col. Cunningham, along with an engagement ring, bought with a stolen credit card.
"We were 16 years old, and I wanted to do something good for my mom," Robinson said. "After the court stuff was done, my mom put her arm around me and said, 'I understand why you did it and maybe some day they'll make a movie about it.'"
And a movie is in the pipeline, masterminded by the same Heather Robinson. This time, she has pulled it off by getting a job at AOL, illicitly finding contact details of Hollywood celebrities and producers, and befriending them under false identities. The family-oriented romcom The Perfect Man is apparently autobiographical. Proof that social engineering pays, or itself a bogus story planted by some Universal Studios marketroid to generate buzz for an otherwise insipid-sounding film?
- Parrot knows 950 words, has grammar, can coin phrases and shows evidence of a sense of humour. Which calls into question the accepted belief that parrots act as sound-recording devices. Mind you, the article also claims that the parrot has telepathic abilities, which makes it sound rather dubious. Perhaps the BBC News has been acquired by Pravda?
- FBI computer expert talks about (in)security:
American companies have tried to respond to the massive fraud being perpetrated online. One common preventive, adopted by most companies that sell products online, has been to refuse shipments outside of North America, or allow international shipping, except for Eastern Europe. Criminals have figured out a way around this, however. They hire folks to act as middlemen for them. Basically, these people get paid to sit at home, sign for packages from Dell, Amazon, and other companies, and then turn around and reship the packages to Russia, Belorussia, and Ukraine. You know those signs you see on telephone poles that read "Make money! Work at home!"? A lot of that "work" is actually laundering products for the Russian mob. Of course, anyone caught acting as a middleman denies knowledge of their employer: "I had no idea why I was shipping 25 Dell computers a day to Minsk! I just assumed they liked computers!"
Dave also had a great quotation for us: "If you're a bad guy and you want to frustrate law enforcement, use a Mac." Basically, police and government agencies know what to do with seized Windows machines. They can recover whatever information they want, with tools that they've used countless times. The same holds true, but to a lesser degree, for Unix-based machines. But Macs evidently stymie most law enforcement personnel. They just don't know how to recover data on them. So what do they do? By and large, law enforcement personnel in American end up sending impounded Macs needing data recovery to the acknowledged North American Mac experts: the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Evidently the Mounties have built up a knowledge and technique for Mac forensics that is second to none.
- The amazing story of three blind brothers who became Israel's most formidable phone phreaks, partly by dint of their acute senses of hearing:
Two hours into an afternoon-long interview with the Hebrew-speaking Badirs, my translator's lips lock. He shrugs and tells me that the Badirs have shifted into a secret code. Ramy later explains that as kids he and Muzher developed their own language - reordering letters in mathematically complex ways - after they discovered that other boys were snooping on their conversations.
Ramy, Muzher, and Shadde were arrested on a variety of charges relating to computer fraud in connection with their hacks of the radio station and Bency Levy's phone sex operation. Police took them from their home in wrist and leg cuffs, but even in custody, they could not help but show off by conversing in their secret language and announcing telephone numbers that were being keyed in by law enforcers.
- Warning: blogging can endanger your career, relationships or general wellbeing: (via FmH)
"The blogging community is terribly incestuous," Lapatine admits. "If the relationship doesn't go well, all your mutual friends will read about it. This," he adds, "is how a friend of mine learned that he had halitosis and was a bad dancer."
Some bloggers run into difficulties from seemingly mundane reports about their daily thoughts and activities. "As an Asian girl, I get weird Asian-fetish e-mails from people who read [my] site," says Lia Bulaong, the twentysomething Manhattan author of Cheesedip (she includes tame photographs of herself in everyday clothes). "Also, stalkers I had in college that I didn't know about have come out of the woodwork."
- The prognosis for the upcoming Hitchhiker's Guide film looks somewhat dubious, what with Karey "Chicken Run" Kirkpatrick rewriting the script (undoubtedly crushing out anything that doesn't fit the standard Hollywood rules of characterisation and plot) and a rapper being cast as Ford Prefect. The thing about Trillian having been rewritten as a "brilliant scientist" also seems dubious. But you knew that already.
- A proposed Trainspotting-themed tour of Edinburgh has run into problems because the city has been cleaned up too much, with many of the locations in the novel and film no longer existing in any recognisable form (via Lev)
Director John Boorman (of Deliverance fame) on how Hollywood studios' insistence on blockbusters is killing them, both by raising the bar to higher and higher budgets and by restricting plots and concepts to the most facile and simplistic ones that won't lose any of the audience.
Is there an inherent flaw in a socio-economic system whereby everything gets bigger and bigger until it collapses under its own weight?
Boorman describes what it would be like to attempt to make Deliverance in today's environment:
Today, I would have received pages of detailed notes from a number of studio executives. I would have been obliged to hone the script down to a simple, direct storyline that is clear and undemanding, and eradicate any eccentricity or quirkiness. When the script satisfied their requirements, the studio would send it out to a star. If the star passed, the studio's response would be to hire a new writer. Further rejections by two or three stars and the project would be dropped. If they found a star who was interested, the title, cast and storyline would then be test-marketed, asking people in the street if they would go to see such a film four men canoeing a river and one gets buggered.
script gurus such as Robert McKee have brainwashed a generation of screenwriters into constructing scenarios along rigid lines: introduction of characters, statement of conflict, development of narrative, division into three acts, carefully placed climaxes, conclusion. This contributes to the sameness of movies and feeds into audience expectations of comfortable patterns, and makes them uneasy if a film diverges from that formula. Little by little movies become more and more similar to each other, with marginal variations. One can imagine them evolving into a form where only an audience inured to them can discern any differences.
Tonight I went to the cinema to see Master and Commander, Peter Weir's film depicting naval battles between a heroic British crew and dastardly French privateers in the oceans around South America. Visually, it was quite spectacular, with impressive sets, locations and effects. The story was the usual boy's-own adventure on the high seas. Interestingly enough, the music was composed by one Iva Davies (the lead singer of 80s Australian-rock band Icehouse, and best known for not wearing underpants); it consisted mostly of chamberish pieces. There were also some sequences in the film with the captain (played by Russell Crowe) playing (and almost rocking out on) a violin; I wonder whether he'll incorporate his violin lessons into the next TOFOG album.
(Something else to think about: would Master and Commander, a film in which the British Navy are heroic and the French are snivelling villains (not all that far removed, morally, from the craven, effete redcoats in The Patriot), have been made before 9/11? Could it be the trade-off for films like Fight Club and Starship Troopers (not to mention the two Che Guevara biopics Hollywood had on the drawing board on 10/9/2001), which would not get the green light these days? My hypothesis is that, on September 10, Middle America saw the British Empire as evil colonial oppressors; after September 11, the British Empire became a projection of contemporary America/McWorld, a force for good through superior firepower; sort of the way that the Star Trek Federation was. Discuss.)
I got around to seeing the new Matrix film tonight. Village City Centre has been showing it every day on the hour for the past few weeks in all their cinemas; the session I was in had about a dozen people.
So what did I think? The effects were very slick, in a TV-commercial sort of way (the sheer amount of work that doing all that must have involved is mind-boggling), and the philosophy wasn't completely gutted (as some commentators said it was). In places it seemed to go randomly from one impressive set/stunt sequence/effect to another, using the fact that it's-all-in-a-computer as a massive deus ex machina to get away with it, and parts of it seemed unclear, but it will hopefully be tied up neatly in film 3 (due out in a mere few months, undoubtedly to suit the MTV Generation's attention spans). The story also knocked down Keanu Reeves' messianic status a bit, which was a good thing (though his acting still has that plastic-action-figure quality about it). The soundtrack was mostly incidental music and the odd Juno Reactor psy-trance bit. The surfeit of extreme-sports-metal/fucked-up shit on the soundtrack had me worried for a while that they'd mook things up, but thankfully all that was pushed back to the closing credits.
While computer-generated actors have yet to be widely adopted in Hollywood, computer-generated characters are already the norm in many formula flicks, thanks to screenplay-writing software that designs stories and enforces tried-and-tested rules of character development.
Now, how about a new form? The box promises it will "find a story form that matches questions you've already answered." (Translation: a whole new screenplay at one click of a mouse.) I wind up with story form #25,192, in which all the characters have new goals, new motives - essentially new lives. According to #25,192, Joycelyn (Dodson, rest in peace) has a new flaw: hope. Whoa! Hope is a flaw?
Steven Spielberg, undisputed master of cloying, all-American sentimentalism, now plans to bring the major-label hip-hop aesthetic to filmmaking, with "film sampling". Spielberg's Dreamworks plan to create a film by taking bits of footage from older films and digitally inserting Mike Myers into it. Which sounds like it could be every bit as good as Puff Daddy's last few hits.
One possible side-effect of the recent France-vs.-Texas spat: more French villains in Hollywood films, replacing the usual British-accented bad guys.
The news from Beverly Hills is that producers are telling scriptwriters to 'think French'. This is a relief. For years, a British accent in a mainstream movie served as cinematic shorthand for shiftiness or downright evil. Now we can at least hope for a return to an older cinematic tradition in which the British are loyal sidekicks, chirpy corporals or colonels in the mould of David Niven.
For decades, the US love affair with France was sustained by admiration for its culture, food and wine. A visit to Paris has long been the ultimate stamp of sophistication among the US middle classes. It is hard to pinpoint when things began to change. It was certainly before September 11, as populist politics pursued by Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and now his son, sought to link liberalism with elitism and the hint of foreign conspiracy.
Surprise, surprise: after September 11, a number of Hollywood films which had been made were shelved as unpatriotic. These films included those which projected negative images of the US military.
And then there were not one but two Che Guevara biopics planned, one starring Antonio Banderas. On September 10, 2001, with Communism having all but collapsed as a threat, it was safe to pander to baby-boomers' '60s radical nostalgia by rehabilitating one of the (now safely commodified) icons of their wild youth. Then the planes hit, and the projects got scrapped to make room for Jerry Bruckheimer patriotic thrillers and safely escapist fantasy flicks.
(The identity of heroes/villains in films can be telling; for example, there's Four Feathers, which glorifies the British Empire (which can be seen as a rather prestigious model to proponents of a a global American empire) and its doings in the Middle East, only a few years after pre-9/11 film The Patriot painted the British as the original Nazis (somewhat slanderously, apparently). I wonder whether we'll see any metaphorical films about straight-dealing, heroic apple-pie Romans (played by Ben Affleck or Brendan Fraser) doing battle with treacherous, Taliban-like Visigoths.)
FALCO! British film production outfit FilmFour is being shut down. Having been responsible for films such as Trainspotting and My Beautiful Laundrette, FilmFour was the premier maker of edgy, intelligent British films. Now the British film industry looks likely to be mostly Working Title/Miramax feel-good pap, insipidly bourgeois Merchant/Ivory costume dramas and formulaic Hollywood blockbusters.
Perhaps having realised that going out of one's way to inconvenience customers is not a good business model, Hollywood may be giving up on Macrovision, the copy-denial mechanism that prevents you from connecting a DVD player to a VCR. Warner Home Video have released the Harry Potter DVD without Macrovision encoding in the UK; this means that you can plug your DVD player into your VCR and pirate it for all your friends untrammeled. Or, if you have an older TV without A/V inputs, you can plug your DVD in through your VCR and watch it, full stop. Mind you, Macrovision costs the studios a few cents per disc, and is fairly easy to bypass with (as yet not illegal) "signal enhancers".
Looks like there are plans for a Lemony Snicket movie. Paramount's kids' unit Nickelodeon are planning to make one, with Daniel "Lemony Snicket" Handler writing the script. Though the article suggests that the studio suits may force a happy ending onto it (you know, the standard Hollywood character development arc: characters are plunged into dire peril, find inner strength, and ultimately overcome); meanwhile, Handler is already planning merchandising tie-ins like unwinnable board games.
I hope they get Stephin Merritt to do the soundtrack, given how good a job he did with the book-on-tape version. Though they may just do the obvious thing and get Danny Elfman to do one of his spooky-fairytale scores. (via bOING bOING)
Apparently the message of recent films such as Spider-Man and the latest Star Wars is that celibacy is a heroic virtue, and bootywhang is the root of all evil. Which the author considers surprising, given the traditional belief that Hollywood is a den of hot-tub hedonists whose ultra-permissive liberal ideology infuses everything they touch.
(I'd say that "Hollywood liberalism" is a myth. Hollywood is a set of commercial ventures, far beyond human scale, and dealing in whatever rakes in the most profits; i.e., having a bias towards crowd-pleasing populism, which, by its very nature, sticks to familiar and conservative beliefs and motifs. For every oversexed flower-child auteur, there are dozens of accountants, script doctors, market researchers, lawyers and other components of the studio apparatus to keep them in check, and keep things profitable.)
Hollywood's next power grab over your computer and digital rights: requiring watermark detectors in all analogue-digital converters; i.e., a gatekeeping mechanism ensuring that the digital domain is securely locked down. Needless to say, if they get this through (and they stand a good chance of doing so), it could mean the end of actually useful general-purpose computers and technologies which can be creatively adapted to new purposes. (They can't have that, you see, in case someone adapts them to a purpose that violates their (new, expanded) copyrights, or otherwise puts them out of pocket.)
Which could be disastrous. The technology of steam power was discovered in ancient Greece, but not developed because it didn't fit with the mores of the time, and remained unknown until the Industrial Revolution. Several hundred years ago, the Chinese came close to sailing to Europe and the New World. They had the technology, but turned back by Imperial decree. And now our corporate emperors want to kill off innovation to protect the valuable conditions of scarcity on which their power and wealth are founded.
In short, such a régime has the potential to impede technological development by decades if not centuries. (And the consequences will be felt all over Earth, especially if backed up with US military power, which is backed up with US economic power, which depends on "global stability". If the New Zealanders or Indonesians or someone develop an unencumbered bit-shuffling device industry, watch the high-energy particle beams from Fort Kissinger, high earth orbit, vapourise the offending facilities as if they were Iraqi penicillin factories.)
Life riffs off David Lynch movies: Robert Blake, who played the sinister eyebrowless cameraman in David Lynch's Lost Highway, has been arrested for murdering his wife in real life. (via Lukelog)
Read: The curse of coffee-table cinema, or how thanks to Disney's Miramax unit, much of "art-house" cinema is now formulaic, content-free soft-focus schmaltz designed to flatter viewers' sense of culture in a mindless sort of way.
Miramax has given the world a host of cliches about European culture - naughty French priests, macho Greeks, hoity-toity Englishmen, zany Italians - and has reduced human complexity to a bunch of hopeless stereotypes bursting with sentiment.
(See also: Working Title, Merchant Ivory) (via FmH)
News from Cannes: Bolshy British kitchen-sink film director Ken Loach has spoken out against current British film, saying that it's too concerned with being Hollywoodish. He has a point; most of the films coming out of the UK are rather formulaic. I blame Working Title and the "Cool Britannia" thing. Meanwhile, critical reaction to Baz Luhrmann's latest opus, Moulin Rouge, has not been the nigh-universal acclaim the Australian press would have us believe, with some critics dismissing it as little more than a music video aimed at adolescents. I guess we'll have to wait to find out.
Director of facile sentimental schlock Steven Spielberg is to receive an honorary knighthood, putting him among such great men as George Bush and Norman Schwarzkopf.
Odd film concept: Michael Jackson to play Edgar Allan Poe in big-budget Hollywood film?