Monday, 11 July 2011

My Week Destroying Apathy: Week Commencing 26th June 2011

Time for a change
I'm changing things up as I’ve had two main problems with the blog so far.
1) I just don’t have the time to write up everything as detailed as I want to
2) that I was only really writing about film, whereas there are so many more things out there that warrant scrutiny.

Therefore in an effort to combat both, I’ve decided to run this weekly feature. It sounds pretty dramatic, but it basically entails a pretty brief media diary and hopefully plenty’a links to things that have inspired or infuriated me (or both in equal measure).

Sex and Violence in the Films of Stanley Kubrick
Thanks to a helpful tweet put out there by the Leeds International Film Festival team, I was signposted to a day course put on by the Centre for Life Long Learning at Leeds University entitled Sex and Violence in the Films of Stanley Kubrick. What apt timing after the Kubrick-fever induced in me by the Kubrick Project over at Hopelies at 24 Frames Per Second. Well the short notice of the event made me do some last minute cramming, as I watched Doctor Strangelove and Eyes Wide Shut in the space of a few evenings. Doctor Strangelove was one of the films I was most inspired to go read up on after reading Timothy Matthews' contribution to the above mentioned Kubrick Project. I had pretty high hopes and wasn’t let down in the least. It is crammed with interesting, funny characters, has a pitch perfect tone of political satire and must have had infinitely more weight when viewed at the time. A time when complete nuclear annihilation felt like it was much more likely than it feels now (not that it isn’t there; I highly anticipate seeing Lucy Walker's Countdown to Zero, about the reality of the current nuclear landscape). Eyes Wide Shut I went into with much lower expectations, partly due to getting the vibe that it isn’t as highly regarded as some of Kubrick’s other films (Kubrick’s film number 12.5 as it has been referred to). Add to this the fact that you have to look at Tom Cruise’s face throughout and I certainly had my hesitations. I couldn’t have been more wrong, and think the film has been either overlooked, or unfairly condemned. It is so precise at dealing with temptation, the draw of the forbidden, the fulfilment of the Lacanian lack and so forth that although it runs for two and a half hours, I was glued to it. Admittedly the first half sorta plods through, as it meticulously sets the scene and lays a solid foundation, but as soon as he reaches the mansion, it becomes a truly eerie masterpiece. Every encounter and re-encounter with the various temptations is structured perfectly and leaves the possibility for many readings of what is going in the mind of the protagonist. This will definitely be one of the films I revisit when I prepare myself to brave the minefield of Lacanian psychoanalysis – something I have been meaning to better get to grips with for a long time.

The day event was really insightful. There were a tremendous mix of people in attendance,all of which expressed an interest in Minicine and provided me with their contact details to keep them posted on developments there. Patrick Webster, who took the course is the author of the recently released Love and Death in Kubrick: A Critical Study of the Films from 'Lolita' Through 'Eyes Wide Shut'. He had his own firm views on all of Kubrick’s films, but was able to draw out the opinions and readings from the others in attendance. I learnt a few things and met some great people, so all in all had a great day out.

The Messenger with the Seniors.
As you may know, on approximately a bi-weekly basis, I facilitate a post film discussion following the Senior Citizen Screening at the National Media Museum. This week’s film was The Messenger, which I was due to see closing the Bradford International Film Festival, but thanks to a less than inspiring trailer and the fact that I’d fallen asleep that Sunday afternoon and woke up about 10mins before the screening, I decided to just crack on with writing up the rest of the festival. The film was nothing like the sentimental bullshit that the trailer led me to believe. It follows the daily job of informing the Next of Kin that their loved ones have died at war. The predictable relationship with a bereaved soldier’s widow is vastly overblown in the trailer and only surfaces as a minor detail in this complex life of a fully fleshed out character undertaking a job neither he, nor most people would consider an easy pass-time. In stark contrast to the film seeming superficially sentimental, I’d say it attacked my emotions more vigorously than any film recently and even made me shed more tears than when watching Toy Story 3. I put this film alongside some of the other outstanding American indie films I have seen this year (Black Swan, Blue Valentine, LiTTLEROCK and Meek’s Cutoff). It was probably the most universally liked film I’ve discussed with the seniors thus far, followed closely by Attack the Block.

Other films
One of the only other films I saw this week was the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man, which I unfortunately didn’t really take to. Not a bad film by any means, but a film that didn’t really capture my imagination. It seemed to me, neither funny enough to be really entertaining, nor psychologically sincere enough for me to become invested in the character. Because of the high esteem I hold for the Coen’s films, anything other than excellent seems a little disappointing.

Meltdown of global economics and food production
This week’s LoveFilm title (other than my catchup with Kubrick discs) was the first of a curatorial partnership between me and LoveFilm. I have set to high priority a number of the biggest documentaries from the last few years. The first one to arrive was Food Inc, which succeeded in making me incapable of buying fresh meat from the supermarket and made a more concerted effort to get down to a real butchers. I must admit though, we rarely buy supermarket meat anyway, on accounts of being economically sensible (really tight) and therefore don’t eat a great deal of meat. The meat we do buy, we usually buy from the market in Bradford centre or the Halal butchers on the end of the road. The food production may not be too dissimilar to the soul destroying situation laid out in Food Inc, but at least the people I give my money to are actually getting it, unlike when I pay the cashier at Morrissons.

One striking quality of the film’s structure and the way it attacked the systemic problems within the food industry is that it draws almost exact parallels with the systemic problems in global capitalism, as seen in Inside Job, or the book I’ve been stuck into this week, Meltdown: The End of the Age of Greed. Newsnight’s economic correspondent Paul Mason tracks the buildup to, and fallout from this present collapse of capitalism in the form we have seen it over the last two decades. The same problems seen in Food Inc are highlighted: Those creating the legislation benefit from the companies they legislate making more money. Also, there is little or no regard for long term stability and short term shareholder wealth maximisation is blindly accepted as the guiding light. This not only creates massive wealth in equality, but props up an unsustainable bubble. Further still, in both global economics and global food production, all of these problems stem from the massive deregulation by the neocons and continued by the succeeding so-called Left wing opposition of New Labour and the Clinton administration.

Dexter series 4
I find it difficult to talk about TV series’ in the same way as I do films, being fully aware that people reading may be at different points throughout any of the series’, but what I would say is that I have been thoroughly enjoying this 4th series - as I have every other. Things move so fast. Story arcs or threads of narrative, that in other TV shows you would expect to be spanned out for whole ten episode chunks are brought up, then resolved within a couple of episodes - if not the same episode. This helps it keep an enjoyably frenetic pace.
The other thing I’d like to say about watching Dexter is that it’s one of the shows my wife and I enjoy in equal measure, so it’s always nice to sit down together with a few drinks and enjoy the story unfolding. Afterwards, I can go back to some European art film and Tasha can watch her One Tree Hill - everybody's happy.

Transformers debate: People ca use their brain and be entertained
This was a particular highlight of the week. To get to what I thought was significant about this whole debate I’d just have to take the Transformers film completely out of the equation. It appeared that some people like the idea of Transformers (or liked the previous titles) and therefore reacted negatively to the reviewer, whereas some people dislike the idea of Transformers (or liked the previous titles) so reacted positively to the reviewer. I would just like to point out that on the initial round of comments nobody commenting had actually seen it, which created a strange situation of people picking a side and vehemently sticking to it. What interested me though, was the whole debate around “this is JUST entertainment”. I don’t think it will surprise you in the least that I think this is not only a ridiculous heap of bullshit, but it is in fact the main source of apathy’s powers and one of the worst things in society, harbouring perfect circumstances for ideological manipulation (brainwashing) and the ability to completely defer responsibility, which happens to be a passionate pass time in contemporary western society. I must stress that by saying this I don’t mean that things cannot be enjoyed as entertainment, but as you will see from my comments, I don’t see why entertainmet and using your brain have to be mutually exclusicve.
Rather than go on about it here, I would recommend checking out the article and more importantly the comments feed here. I do think that this arena for debate is really important and this particular debate has so many various opinions and voices, from the intentionally funny, to the moronically and unintentionally funny (which are also a little depressing regarding some people’s stupidity). Even on the side of the debat that I disagree with, amongst some inarticulate and ill thought out rambles, there are some compelling arguments.

Joe Strummer podcasts
I was informed by a friend and former work colleague (on twitter as @Olivercocker) that some archive recordings of Joe Strummer’s radio show London Calling had been released as podcasts and were available on iTunes. They really are a phenomenal collection of world music, from Cuban samba to the Wu-Tang Clan. I never quite knew how much of a fluent radio personality the Clash frontman would be, but his passion for music beams through the shows and his radio dj-isms are simultaneously full of cliché, but completely Earnest and sincere.

Hopelies' Superheroes intro
This week brought the intro to my bi-weekly investigation of the onscreen representation of the superhero. It will be going up on and gives me a great opportunity to go over some work from my final year of my undergrad degree and bring it back up to date ready for my MA.

Films watched and ranked

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)
The Messenger (Oren Moverman, 2009)
Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999)
Food Inc (Robert Kenner, 2008)
A Serious Man (Coen Brothers. 2009)

1 comment:

  1. Doctor Stranglove is one of my all time favorites remember it was
    Recommended to me through my law lecturer who is a big fan of the movie and loved it. I think your right in the sense that we in this modern day may not relaise how terrifying it was during that period of. time but how this movie pulls off such a difficult subject with comedy is pure genius