Category Archives: Movies

Internet Self Awareness

Internet Self Awareness

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When the Internet Finally Becomes Aware of Itself

 

Science Fiction has been contemplating this now to the point of cliché. A super-computer, now the Internet, becomes aware of its own existence and decides to wipe out humanity. From the sublime to kitsch, really peeved digital consciousness is out to get us. Some are even now seriously talking about the coming “singularity,” when a person can upload into a machine. Of course, many of these people think The Matrix is a documentary. Now why would a self-aware machine give itself away like that?

The similarity of this belief to a belief that these are the “end times” is shown in its hubris. We are it! There is no more evolution, society has reached its maximum potential, and all the signs in the stars are there, astronomical or astrological. The universe is done, time is done, God is done, life is done, right here at the corner of Wilshire and Beverly Glen. Yep, this is what all of history has been leading to, from Planck time to the building of Stonehenge: the collective self-awareness of E-Bay, Nerdist.com, and YouTube.

Honestly, should the Internet become aware of itself, there is something to be said for the interconnection of servers like synapses in brain cells, or the tails of the blue people connecting to the trees in Avatar, I’m not worried about it. Think about what fills the Internet, okay, there’s that and the PayPal account you don’t want your significant other to know about, but that other ubiquitous thing that dominates the digital domain:

 

Cat videos

 

Should the Internet become aware of its own existence, or simply become alive and act proactively, I truly don’t believe it will be seeking to set off nuclear missiles – have you seen what the government relies on to run nuclear missiles: Floppy Discs! Freakin’ floppy discs that actually are floppy. But perhaps there is a point; everyone who could hack them is in a retirement home in Florida – with their cats. Their cats playing piano, their cats lulling, their cats jumping off of roofs, their cats dressed as The Justice League, their cats snuggling, dreaming, acting like people, outsmarting the dog, and anything else a cat shouldn’t be able to do. There are even cats ordering things on the Internet, smoking, and fighting over the remote.

When the Internet becomes aware of itself, it will be a giant, world-sized feline. And why worry about that? What is a cat’s favorite thing to do: Ignore people. We may have to live with building sized balls of yarn and forgo any dairy as an offertory saucer to the great consciousness, but we’ll be fine. Long as there’s Meow Mix, everything will be okay. The man made consciousness will be shut down and sleeping twenty hours a day anyway.

Now for mice, the same may not hold true, computer and otherwise. The Walt Disney Company may want to rethink its classic characters. But who cares, didn’t those rodents bring about the Black Plague? The giant feline self-aware consciousness may very well save of us from the obvious coming Zombie Apocalypse. Now that’s real.

 

 

Cats are slowly taking over the world and we aren't noticing.

Cats are slowly taking over the world and we aren’t noticing.

 

 

 

Spoilers

Spoilers

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Spoiler

“It is a far, far better thing I do, a far better thing than I have done before…”

-Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

The guy dies at the end.  Sorry.

 

Okay, I’m disturbed by out of it I must be. I didn’t hear the new Star Wars VII latest spoiler for like, you know, a week. I have to check if there’s something wrong with my Twitter account. I am a Star Wars fan, but have lacked a certain amplitude of energy since the first films came out. I had to have every action figure, trading card, and still have my Princess Leia Barbie doll with hair I can style. (She has little white curly ribbons I felt she was lacking.) Of course, a whole freaking week is a change from when Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back first came out and we could really be blown out of our seats by Darth Vader’s big reveal. Don’t keep reading if you have lived on another planet for the past forty years: Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father! Damn!!!!!! It had been reported in Star Log two years prior, seems David Prowse, the guy in the Darth Vader suit, leaked that tiny bit of information. The disappearance of David Prowse from subsequent films and promotional material suggests his slip wasn’t appreciated. His was the only Darth Vader credit on the film in 1977. James Earl Jones got none. How things change and yet stay the same…

I was glad I read that Return of the Jedi had Luke and Leia as brother and sister before seeing the film. Didn’t like the twist, still don’t, and could harden my disappointment for it as the reveal came slowly, ploddingly. For all the criticism Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher have taken over the years about their performances in the films, I think they were freaking brilliant to pull that off. Still wasn’t ready for the Ewoks though. I love the Muppets, just didn’t expect them quite like that. Yoda worked but where was Miss Piggy and the Muppaphones for the Ewoks victory song?

And as I have been slowly lured into the excitement for Star Wars VII, I find myself taking a step back. Return of the Jedi disappointed me, but not enough to hurt my love wholly. It’s like realizing mom and dad are real people or your one true love actually does gastrointestinal problems at times. Still, I waited for a cheap matinee of Attack of the Clones and found myself looking around for the exit as the romantic dialogue ensued. (I don’t blame Christian Hayden and certainly not the awesome Natalie Portman. If they could have pulled off that dialogue, I would have to question them as actors.) Never did look around a theater before for a way to escape, even when there was a minor fire, just wondered if I would get my money back. I did end up liking Revenge of the Sith. Still, if the prequels didn’t have the words Star Wars in the titles, they would just be other films from the era. James Cameron really owned that particular time in pop culture. There is the Star Wars core audience, but it is the ubiquitous quality of the first films, The Wizard of Oz cultural saturation, that makes them unique and the stuff of academic analysis along with the subject of copious fan fiction. I was afraid to be happy about the possibility again, of a Star Wars sans George Lucas and his seeming lack of connection to his material and audience, but with J.J. Abrahams aAnd as I have been slowly lured into the excitement for Star Wars VII, I find myself taking a step back. Return of the Jedi disappointed me, but not enough to hurt my love wholly. It’s like realizing mom and dad are real people or your one true love actually does gastrointestinal problems at times. Still, I waited for a cheap matinee of Attack of the Clones and found myself looking around for the exit as the romantic dialogue ensued. (I don’t blame Christian Hayden and certainly not the awesome Natalie Portman. If they could have pulled off that dialogue, I would have to question them as actors.) Never did look around a theater before for a way to escape, even when there was a minor fire, just wondered if I would get my money back. I did end up liking Revenge of the Sith. Still, ifok around a theater before for a way to escape, even when there was a minor fire, just the prequels didn’t have the words Star Wars in the titles, they would just be other films from the era. James Cameron really owned that particular time in pop culture. There is the Star Wars core audience, but it is the ubiquitous quality of the first films, The Wizard of Oz cultural saturation, that makes them unique and the stuff of academic analysis along with nd Kathleen Kennedy and the Disney machine behind it. Anticipation still built, Luke, Leia, and Han were coming back! I was seduced again, to the dark or light side, I can’t quite recognize.

The supposed leaked image of Luke’s bionic hand falling to the surface of Tatooine from the initial word roll in the new film made my eyes a little moist when. That Kevin Smith was teary-eyed leaving the set in England made a kind of sense to me with that evocative idea running through my head. I am of the first Star Wars generation. I saw it at the movies as a kid and had my world rocked. For everyone who comes after, we want you to love it too, The Wizard of Oz wasn’t beloved until it was on television, but that wasn’t Star Wars fate. Sorry kids, but we old folks in our forties are the ones who were effected by and in return, infused all that energy into Star Wars. I wasn’t there for Gone with the Wind, but I was there for Star Wars. I feel some generational ownership of the mythos. I may appreciate the music from Woodstock, but I wasn’t there. I was at the Loews in Pittsford, New York in 1977.

So now for the real spoiler that has been suggested: Luke is the villain in the new film. It’s from the extended universe of Star Wars material that I always felt, no pun intended, Luke warm about. And if you’re like most Internet readers, you haven’t gotten this far so I’m not doing too much to disseminate the rumor. I’m kind of hoping that J.J. Abrahams is teasing us, and he has some sensibilities about such build-ups, but I also suspect with the time pressures of making Star Wars VII he doesn’t have a whole lot of energy to carefully craft on-line leaks to go viral a year out from a release date. I had seen pictures and production leaks that Luke had isolated himself as a monk in an “other galaxy Ireland.” A lot of attention has been paid to Mark Hamill’s beard. – It should have its own contract. Personally, I kind of like it. But I always was in love with him so I don’t have a whole lotta credibility on that subject – never did move on to Han Solo.

Is Luke tempted by the dark side? Of course. One of the ringing problems with the first three films is Luke’s real lack of temptation, of slipping. He gets pissed when Leia is threatened. That does not make for a bad man. In fact, another reaction might be slightly disturbing. The rebellion is blowing up things with lots of, I don’t know, clones on it, and Obi-Wan and Yoda want Luke to kill his own father. Luke is the only truly good Jedi in the lot. He lacks personal agenda. He gets a bigger picture than that the Jedi Order failed to perceive. Compassion is more important than the church, uh, Jedi Temple. But Luke isn’t martyred nor off on a normal life after saving the galazy: huge, wonking problem with Return of the Jedi. Luke’s story is truncated to the point of not being resolved. Part of why we want another Star Wars film thirty some odd years later and it’s not a television movie on Friday night.

But is beloved Luke Skywalker the next Darth Vader?

Way back when, when we actually had a dial phone, touch tone was available but we were cheap, went to the library to look up things in encyclopedias, music was played on vinyl, and a happy home had a Hammond organ in the living room, a friend of mine, Sherry, did say she always thought Darth Vader was Luke’s father. She said: it kind of had to be. I believe her. A little kid might have an insight like that. I never saw it.

What I always thought was that it was a King Arthur redux. Obi-Wan and Anakin were in love with the same woman, she was married to Anakin but something happened with Obi-Wan, and Anakin turned to the dark side after the betrayal. Honestly, I still think that would have propelled the sequels a little more strongly than the sudden desire for power Anakin Skywalker exhibits. The whole thing would play out again with Luke, Leia, and Han. The brother sister thing wouldn’t exist, and Luke would be tempted to turn to the dark side to get rid of his rival – and best friend. But he would make a different choice than his father. Being a fantasy film from Hollywood, Luke could go on to save the galaxy, find a nice wife, and make little Jedis for the future. That’s close-ended. We didn’t get that. George Lucas did have personal issues around the time of the making of Return of the Jedi and I suspect it informed the course of the movie and franchise quite a bit. Romantic rivalry wasn’t something he wanted to explore.

So we have what we have. Still, Luke is unresolved: I have written about this before. Whether we take a Biblical or Arthurian approach, Luke hasn’t finished an arc.

But Luke as the villain? Too cute by half. Tempted yes. But do I suspect a sad but noble ending for the White Night. Yes. But let’s stop spoiling for a while. Take a lesson from David Prowse.

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The Best Movies About Hollywood

The Best Movies About Hollywood

The Best Movies About Hollywood

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In almost every writing class, students are instructed to: “Write what you know.” But the rule is completely, wholly untrue for anyone with ambitions in scriptwriting. Want to quickly end a pitch meeting with a producer? Just say you have a screenplay, play, or television pilot about movies, theater, or television production. It may be what you know, kind of, does anyone really know Hollywood? But the privilege of reflecting on the process is usually given to those with established careers and don’t have to go to pitch meetings – or are self-funded.

In early cinema history, theater was the metaphor for “the business” and was most often reflected upon in terms of the lives of actors: Stage Door and 42nd Street being notable. But the unique process of filming a movie, and all the disparate players and industries involved didn’t have much to reflect upon until the mid-twentieth century and now is something of a genre unto itself. So it’s time to give credit where credit is due, and contractually obliged, gone over by an agent, lawyer, manager, and all appropriate guilds, unions, and government entities.

And the ten best are:

10. Bowfinger – 1990, Directed by Frank Oz, Written by Steve Martin

Big silly fun, Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy leave no stereotype unturned in the classic story of a dreamer making it big in spite of himself. While the bad film makes good conceit has been done, and done well before, the simple charm of the actors and a trip across the 101 Freeway by Murphy pushes Bowfinger past the usual. The undocumented workers brought on as film crew who study Truffaut and Citizen Kane only adds to the collision of cultures and expectations that are part and parcel of the film industry: it is the FedEx truck coming for Bowfinger that the main character dreams of.

9. Sunset Boulevard – 1950, Directed by Billy Wilder, Written by Charles Bracket and D.M. Marshman Jr.

Perhaps the best known classic film about Hollywood starring William Holden and Gloria Swanson, told by a dead man, is about his involvement with a silent movie actress, Norma Desmond, and the delusion and desperation that are often strewn into the daily life of the entertainment industry and its subculture. Not the just by the “beyond her prime” star suffers from clinging to glories past, but so do those around her. The protagonist, the one the audience is to identify with, is already dead.

8. Mulholland Drive – 2001, Directed by David Lynch, Written by David Lynch

What? You don’t think it’s about Hollywood, being lost in a fantasy world, and the painful truth of reality intervening upon hope? Okay, but that’s what I got out of it. The title references a lovely, if motion sickness inducing, winding road in Los Angeles and one of the first power players in the City of Angeles. As with Sunset Boulevard, movies about business and Los Angeles define the journey in terms of roads, and Sunset Boulevard’s dead narrator may be the key to getting into (onto?) Mulholland Drive.

7. The Artist – 2011, Directed by Michel Hazanavicius, Written by Michel Hazanavicius

A black and white silent film about black and white silent films made in the twenty-first century. A young starlet comes to Los Angeles to make it big, well, you know the story, but that is something of the point. The derivation from classic silent cinema is brilliantly woven together with humor, but melodrama not skimped on as the main character played by Jean Dujardin clings to a can of film as his home burns dramatically and his dog goes for help.

6. Gods and Monsters – 1998, Directed by Bill Condon, Written by Bill Condon

A pondering on the last days of James Whale, the director of such indelible films as Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, the uncomplicated character played by Brendan Frasier shows the lure and desire to see through and be seen through a lens of an artist, if blind to the artist framing the picture. Ian McKellan mixes genius and childishness seamlessly much like James Whale’s classic movies and monsters.

5. Postcards from the Edge – 1990, Directed by Mike Nichols, Written by Carrie Fisher

Very loosely based on Carrie Fisher’s book of the same title and with a script written by Carrie Fisher, the self-effacing reflections of a Hollywood insider vary between just plain funny to sad. Meryl Streep is brilliant, does that need to be said? And when the main character let’s go of a fake ledge on a projected set and doesn’t plummet to the street below, the whole theme of the movie is encapsulated as is the falseness of happiness based on fame, and the falseness of the projection that it must always be great to be Carrie Fisher.

4. Swimming with Sharks – 1994, Directed by George Huang, Written by George Huang

If Kevin Spacey has made a career playing the devil (does he have to pay residuals?) he’s never more unnerving than in this movie about a put upon assistant played by Frank Whaley finding out what it really takes to make it in the entertainment industry. Where many of the movies about movies ultimately celebrate human foibles and the creative process, and/or lack thereof, Swimming with Sharks shines a spotlight on the truly dark aspects of the business of filmmaking and makes law school so much more enticing.

3. Argo – 2012, Directed by Ben Affleck, Written by Chris Terrio

Technically, a movie about making a fake movie, Argo gave cinema history the line, “If I’m going to make a fake movie, it’s going to be a fake hit.” The business of Hollywood and the artifice involved with the seeming empowerment to actually fund a film, even before any cameras are turned on, is as complex and byzantine as the filmmaking process itself – along with international espionage. The bows to Star Wars and the use of an actual film being shot interfering with the spy craft – the nasty red light holding up answering an important phone call – only deepens the commentary on perception.

And you can see Princess Leia as an action figure at the end of the movie.

2. Singing in the Rain – 1952, Directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, Written by Adolph Green and Betty Comden

Hollywood became self-reflective about its own history without much history to be self-reflective about, and did a wonderful job in the process. A musical starring Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds about silent filmmaking is a funny conceit. The bravura talent and technical skill showcased only adds to the film’s long renown as a classic.

And you can see Princess Leia’s mom, Debbie Reynolds, before she became Carrie Fisher’s mom.

1. Ed Wood – 1994, Directed by Tim Burton, Written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karazewski

It is only right and good that the best film ever made about the filmmaking process is about what is arguably the worst movie ever made Plan Nine from Outer Space, directed by Edward D. Wood, Jr. Plan Nine from Outer Space was declared the worst movie ever made by The Golden Turkey Awards written by Harry and Michael Medved published in 1979. The film is also mentioned as the goal in the Seinfeld episode where the gang is waiting at a Chinese restaurant in real time trying to get to a movie.

The joy of filmmaking is shown and the human spirit is celebrated in a film about a cross-dressing, would-be movie mogul played with innocent verve by Johnny Depp and a drug-addled Bella Lugosi played by Martin Landau. The details of the filmmaking process are realistically portrayed in this black and white fever dream and driven by a man with absolutely no talent for what he does – but he doesn’t let that stand in his way. Even the great Orson Wells makes a “cameo” appearance and encourages young Ed to pursue his vision, whatever that might be.

 

The fact that Ed Wood didn’t live to see his work fully “celebrated,” just like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Emily Dickenson, only adds to the complete truth of the picture and why it should be required viewing in all film schools.

 

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All Things Media

All Things Media

 

For the first time in history, we are not merely subjected to culture and must endure monumental resistance to change.  We can now interact with and create personal culture.

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Of course, that can be a bitch.

My weekly musings on the electronic culture we’ve been living in for the past hundred years but haven’t seen fit to call it its own thing yet.  -Radio, Telegraph, Telephone, Photography (albeit chemical for too long), Audio Recording, Cinema (see photography), Television, Fax (remember when that was cool), Internet, Cell Phone, Smart Phone- We talk about CyberSpace, thanks to William Gibson, but an alternate reality to the immediate family and community beyond the written word, has been taking hold, shape, and probably re-mapping our brains for some time.  Oz is better known than most lands, and the Emerald City has an excellent chamber of commerce.  They just have to do something about the infrastructure.

More people wanted a Death Star built by the United States Federal government than care about legislative reform to keep Congress from well, being Congress.  This can be used for good or ill.  Hitler had great propaganda skills.  Fortunately, Hollywood was even better.  Fighting it is like Henry Ford trying to re-create a world that didn’t have mass produced cars and Walt Disney making theme parks celebrating ways of life that didn’t have movies or television.  It’s burning books so we don’t get too many ideas in our heads.  We can pretend the world isn’t different and suffer the consequences: Hitler, Osama Bin Laden, Jim Jones.  All master manipulators of symbolics and culture.  People didn’t follow them out of fear, at least not initially, but for the idea of being part of “something else.”  How many a young people, myself included, sought refuge in some made up world from uncaring parents and less than hopeful circumstances?  Books, art, poetry, have long traditions in this and can guide us as we change.  But we have to accept we are changing.  I don’t quite know what to call it, something like the Mediasphere.  It’s where you are right now, and most people who can get to an outlet or at least a rechargeable battery are living.  The President of the United States, Bill Gates, and some folks in a remote village in Afghanistan may all be watching the same program.  They’re all certainly connected to the Internet.  The lure in part, there isn’t much of a caste system.  The fear in part, there are no boundaries.  I’m old enough to know that’s something to fear, so we should talk about it.

All Things Media, Great and Small

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