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‘The Master’: It ain’t the meter, it’s the motion
09.11.2012
10:27 pm

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There are few theaters left in the world that have the capability to screen 70 millimeter film. Which is a shame. Because if you’re going to see Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master one of the main reasons to do so is to be ravished by the look of the film, which was shot in the high resolution 70mm format. The Ritz (part of the Alamo Drafthouse chain) in Austin will be screening The Master in 70mm when the film opens wide on September 21. While Anderson has made a bold move by reviving the format, this isn’t a first for The Alamo. In its ongoing commitment to present films as they were originally shot, The Alamo has already been screening classics like West Side Story, Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade and Baraka in 70mm. Upcoming films include Ghostbusters, Cleopatra and Jacque Tati’s Playtime. Bliss for film fans

I saw The Master in 70mm this past Tuesday and it really is an amazing looking film. The opening shot of ocean water churning in the wake of a boat was the bluest blue I recall ever having seen projected onto the silver screen. A series of shots in a mid-twentieth century department store had the heightened look of photo realism, the colors so rich they seemed edible. Yes, the film is ravishing to look at, but as an emotional experience, it is hollow - an epic about nothing. It may be a masterpiece of some sort, but it’s not a good movie.

Anderson creates screenplays that on the surface seem important but as you attempt to dig deeper there’s nothing below. It’s like the wooden laminate flooring you buy at Home Depot - there’s a veneer of faux wood stamped onto some synthetic crap. It pleases the eye and fools you into thinking you’re seeing something real, but it’s plastic.

The Master approaches subjects that had they been examined with more insight and imagination could have yielded hugely thought-provoking and entertaining results. Subjects like Scientology, sexual dysfunction, post traumatic stress disorder, psychoanalysis, masculine rage, past life regression, alcoholism and the cult of personality are rich in possibilities for a director who might have a real passion for storytelling. Unfortunately, Anderson doesn’t seem to have either the patience, the intelligence or curiosity to approach these worlds with more than a glance. It is not enough to throw this stuff up on the screen and hope that somehow through some sort of mystic alchemy they will coalesce into something approximating a point of view - something that transcends mere technique and gives us something to think about, to feel. Not even Jonny Greenwood’s relentlessly melodramatic score can fill in the emotional blanks.  Anderson’s eye candy may be gorgeous, but it has little nutritional value.

Frankly, I’m fucking tired of film makers who demand that their audiences fill in the blanks. There’s a mighty big difference between films that compel one to think and those that ask the viewer to co-write the script. Like the Rorschach test that appears early in the film, The Master asks us to make something out of a series of beautiful blots on the screen. When confronted with the Rorschach, the main character in the movie sees mostly “pussy.” When confronted with The Master I saw something other than “pussy.” But it wasn’t nearly as satisfying. And I saw it in 70mm.

The Master has two brilliant performances that will no doubt be nominated for this year’s Academy Awards. Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman are extraordinarily good in roles that have almost no anchor in character. These are indelible acting riffs that exist in a series of powerful moments none of which connect to the other. Therefore, they have no momentum or shape. As you watch Phoenix and Hoffman act, you’re enthralled not by the persons they’re depicting but by their skill in making you believe in something that is not there. I challenge anyone who sees the film to tell me who these men are…what makes them tick, why they do what they do. And most importantly: why are they drawn to each other? As much as I admire the acting skills on display here, there’s absolutely nothing to engage you. And that goes for the rest of the cast as well. These people are members of some kind of Scientology-like cult. Even cults built on depersonalization have some defining qualities. With the exception of one jarring scene involving a nude sing-a-long, there’s nothing about this group of people that differentiates them from any gathering of good friends. They could be your local PTA. Why make a bunch of boring stiffs the subject of a movie? Even the normally magnetic Laura Dern fails to make an impression.

Hoffman has a certain appealing bluster in his depiction of an L. Ron Hubbard-type guru. But he’s more of a mess than a messiah. It’s hard to believe that anyone would fall sway to this fleshy fellow with anger issues and an alcohol problem. He’s a huckster more along the lines of Criswell than Hubbard and I guess it makes some sort of sense that his most slavish disciple (Rivers) seems to have wandered in from a Jim Thompson novel.

Anderson has been given all kinds of props for being some kind of wunderkind, a boy genius film maker. Well, guess what? He’s no longer a boy. He’s 42 years old. One year older than Roman Polanski was when Polanski made a genuine masterpiece Chinatown. He’s seven years older than Donald Cammel was when Cammel made (with Nic Roeg) the mindbendingly brilliant Performance.

Anderson has formidable skills, but he lacks the ability to summon up a vision from deep within. No matter how hard his characters stomp their feet and no matter how many millimeters he has at his disposal, there is something emotionally stunted in his work. His films are beautiful, and like Stanley Kubrick’s they have their own special architecture. But just as Kubrick’s films suffer from a lack of a human pulse, so does Anderson’s. His movies feel as though they were made by someone who hasn’t really lived yet. Anderson’s ideas may appear big and gorgeous looking. But so is Italian pastry…and that shit’s mostly air.

I recently watched F.W. Murnau’s beautiful and moving Sunrise on my television set. In terms of scale, it was as far as one can get from seeing The Master in 70mm. Sunrise is black and white, silent and was made in 1927 when its director was 39 years old. But any given scene in Sunrise packs more of an emotional punch, a sense of humanity and an engagement with the world we live in than the entirety of The Master. Proving, at least for me, it’s not the size of your frame that matters, it’s what you put into into it. It ain’t the meter, it’s the motion.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Hedy Lamarr: screen goddess and inventor of Wi-Fi
09.11.2012
08:38 pm

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Gosh dang it! You learn something new every day. And here’s something I learned from the Venus Envy blog that is just so fascinating and downright cool that I had to share.

Having been (and I guess I still am) a student of film, I have heard the name Hedy Lamarr before. I can’t say if I’ve seen any of her movies, mind, but the name has definite connotations of a golden age of silver screen glamor. The kind of thing your grandparents might go all misty-eyed at the recollection of.

What I did not know, however, was that Lamarr (real name Hedwig Kiesler) was the co-inventor, along with the avant garde composer George Antheil, of a radio communication system that would go on to be the basis of GPS, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. The actress once dubbed the most beautiful woman in the world had an idea in the 1940s that has irrevocably affected the world we live in today.

Here’s the story, via Venus Envy:

“Any girl can be glamorous,” Hedy Lamarr once said. “All she has to do is stand still and look stupid.” The film star belied her own apothegm by hiding a brilliant, inventive mind beneath her photogenic exterior. In 1942, at the height of her Hollywood career, she patented a frequency-switching system for torpedo guidance that was two decades ahead of its time.

She was born Hedwig Marie Eva Kiesler in Austria, 1913, to a pianist mother and a successful banker father. She first diddled Hollywood’s skittle in Gustav Machaty’s 1933 film Ecstasy. There was much outcry about the film, which depicted Lamarr in a state of perpetual orgasm, not least from Lamarr’s then husband, Freidrich Mandl. Rumored to be the 3rd richest man in Austria, Mandl was an arms dealer and a regular attendee of the 30s’ burgeoning bourgeoisie fascist social set’s political soirees. In her autobiography, Lamarr described Mandl as an extremely controlling man who prevented her from pursuing her acting career and kept her a virtual prisoner, confined to their castle home “Schloss Schwarzenau.”

However, it was this unlikely union which sowed the seeds for Lamarr’s scientific endeavours. Mandl often took Lamarr to scientific functions, exhibitions and talking shops, an environment in which, much to his dismay, she thrived. As with all mysterious and intelligent women, her escape from the overbearing Mandl is steeped in melodrama, rumor and conjecture.

One story suggests that in 1937, disguised as a handmaiden, Lamarr fled to Paris and acquired a liberal lawyer to grant her a divorce before exiling herself to London. Another story indicates that, purposefully arraying herself in her most valuable jewellery, she drugged Mandl at a party with the assistance of a maid, then fled the country with the jewellery as her portable financial asset. I must say, I enjoy the second story better.

Lamarr met film producer Louis B. Mayer during this spell in London and was thrust into the limelight, appearing in no less than 18 films for MGM in the next decade. Not one for the party scene, Lamarr had other things on her mind during this period. Lamarr met avant garde composer George Antheil whilst living next door to him, and first approached with a question about glands, in a bid to find a way to make her breasts bigger (yes, even clever women in the past had these issues.) Fascinated by his experiments with automated control of musical instruments, she shared her idea of a Secret Communication System with him, no doubt in part inspired by her exile from both the fascist bourgeoisie of Europe, and the escalating rise of Fascism in Germany, led by one of her countrymen.

They began talking about radio control for torpedoes. The idea itself was not new, but her concept of “frequency hopping” was. Lamarr brought up the idea of radio control. Antheil’s contribution was to suggest the device by which synchronization could be achieved. He proposed that rapid changes in radio frequencies could be coordinated the way he had coordinated the sixteen synchronized player-pianos in his Ballet Mecanique. The analogy was complete in his mind: by the time the two applied for a patent on a “Secret Communication System,” on June 10, 1941, the invention used slotted paper rolls similar to player-piano rolls to synchronize the frequency changes in transmitter and receiver. It even called for exactly eighty-eight frequencies, the number of keys on a piano.

Together they submitted the idea of a secret communication system in June 1941. On August 11, 1942 a patent was granted to Antheil and “Hedy Kiesler Markey”. Although a presentation of the frequency hopping technique was made to the U.S. Navy, it was met with opposition and was not adopted. Eventually the idea was implemented by the US military during the infamous Cuban blockade, but only after its patent had expired.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation gave Lamarr an award for this contribution. It is reported that, in 1998, Ottawa wireless technology developer Wi-LAN, Inc. “acquired a 49 per cent claim to the patent from Lamarr for an undisclosed amount of stock” (although expired patents have no economic value.) Antheil had died in 1959. Lamarr and Antheil’s frequency-hopping idea serves as a basis for modern spread-spectrum communication technology, such as Bluetooth, COFDM used in Wi-Fi network connections, and CDMA used in some cordless and wireless telephones. Blackwell, Martin, and Vernam’s 1920 patent Secrecy Communication System seems to lay the communications groundwork for Kiesler and Antheil’s patent, which employed the techniques in the autonomous control of torpedoes.

Lamarr wanted to join the National Inventors Council, but was reportedly told by NIC member Charles F. Kettering and others that she could better help the war effort by using her celebrity status to sell War Bonds. And of course, women shouldn’t be joining male only clever-clubs, now should they?

As is the case with many of the famous women inventors, Lamarr received very little recognition of her innovative talent at the time, but recently she has been showered with praise for her groundbreaking invention. In 1997, she and George Anthiel were honored with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Pioneer Award. And later in the same year, Lamarr became the first female recipient of the BULBIE™ Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award, a prestigious lifetime accomplishment prize for inventors that is dubbed “The Oscar™ of Inventing.”

Hedy Lamarr died of natural causes in January of 2000, aged 86. She is survived by three children.

There’s a kick-ass movie in there somewhere! But before Hollywood gets to this story, here’s a CBS report on this fascinating tale:
 

 
With thanks to Venus Envy.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Elton John upstaged by ‘Legs’ Larry Smith: Royal Command Performance 1972
09.11.2012
08:29 pm

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Dance
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Drummer with the Bonzo Dog Band, “Legs” Larry Smith upstages Elton John at the Royal Command Variety Performance Show in 1972.

Not be the best picture, but still an enjoyable moment, one which was quite risky for Elton to sing a cheerful ditty about a needy teen and his manipulative approach to suicide to the rich and spoilt Royals . And yes, this is still miles better than Coldplay.
 

 
Bonus solo version of ‘I Think I’m Going To Kill Myself’, after the jump…
 
With thanks to Neil McDonald
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Mark E. Smith: A brief tour of Edinburgh
09.11.2012
07:13 pm

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Mark E. Smith has occasionally claimed that Edinburgh is his favorite city. He lived there between 1988, when he performed I Am Kurious Oranj, with The Fall and Michael Clark’s Dance Company at the Edinburgh Festival, until around the mid-nineties, when he returned to England. Edinburgh has long captured the imagination of writers and artists - in part because of the city’s mythic history and role as “the Athens of the North” during the Enlightenment. But also because of its darker and more murderous associations.

This symbolic division is reflected in the city’s design of Old Town, with its original fortress and fishbone wynds off a cluttered HIgh Street; and the New Town, to the north, with its Georgian and Victorian splendor. This physical division symbolically underlines the duality at the core of the Scottish psyche and literature.

It was G Gregory Smith who first noted and defined the division in Scottish psyche and literature as Caledonian Antisyzygy - the “idea of dueling polarities within one entity”:

“...[Scottish] literature is the literature of a small country…it runs a shorter course than others…in this shortness and cohesion the most favourable conditions seem to be offered for a making of a general estimate. But on the other hand, we find at closer scanning that the cohesion at least in formal expression and in choice of material is only apparent, that the literature is remarkably varied, and that it becomes, under the stress of foreign influence, almost a zigzag of contradictions. The antithesis need not, however, disconcert us. Perhaps in the very combination of opposites - what either of the two Thomases, of Norwich and Cromarty, might have been willing to call ‘the Caledonian antisyzygy’ - we have a reflection of the contrasts which the Scot shows at every turn, in his political and ecclesiastical history, in his polemical restlessness, in his adaptability, which is another way of saying that he has made allowance for new conditions, in his practical judgement, which is the admission that two sides of the matter have been considered. If therefore, Scottish history and life are, as an old northern writer said of something else, ‘varied with a clean contrair spirit,’ we need not be surprised to find that in his literature the Scot presents two aspects which appear contradictory. Oxymoron was ever the bravest figure, and we must not forget that disorderly order is order after all.”

This notion of “a zigzag of contradictions” was further developed by the poet Hugh MacDiarmid who saw it as a key influence on Scottish Literature, for example R L Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and James Hogg’s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner. It was also a theme in MacDiramid’s greatest poem A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle, in which he wrote his own definition:

“..I’ll ha’e nae half-way hoose. But aye be whaur extremes meet – it’s the only way I ken…”

Jekyll and Hyde may be set in London but it is one of the best novels about Edinburgh and the Scottish psyche. Here is a fictional representation of such infamous Edinburgh characters as Deacon Brodie, who was a cabinet-maker by day and a burglar by night, or its Resurrection Men (Burke & Hare), and indeed, of Stevenson’s own experiences as a visitor to brothels with his student friends, one of which, a respectable family man, was implicated in the murder of a prostitute. This split continues today Irvine Welsh and his Edinburgh of Trainspotting, Filth and Porno.

Unfortunately, in this quirky and very brief tour of Edinburgh, Mark E. Smith only highlights his rather superficial likes and dislikes. His main dislike is the statue to Field Marshall Douglas Haig, the First Earl Haig, on the Castle Esplanade. It was Haig’s whose mismanagement during the Battle of the Somme and the Third Battle of Ypres, that led to the needless slaughter of thousands of soldiers during the First World War.

However, Smith does like the military statue to Blackwatch Regiment, situated at the top of the Mound. Smith’s old man was in the Blackwatch, and he claims he likes to visit it when he feels sentimental. But it’s the Scotch Malt Whisky Society that Smith describes as favorite location in the city.
 

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Bonus track ‘Edinburgh Man’ by The Fall, after the jump…
 
With thanks to Alan Shields
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Giant Klaus Kinski head sculpture
09.11.2012
05:46 pm

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Art

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Here’s something I never thought I’d see: A HUGE Klaus Kinski head sculpture by German artist Paule Hammer. The title of the piece—made in 2005—is “Niemand weiß, was wir fühlen” (which translates to “Noboby knows what we feel”).

Previously on Dangerous Minds:

‘I am not your Superstar’: Klaus Kinski as Jesus Christ

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Poème électronique: Le Corbusier, Edgard Varèse & Xenakis collaborate, 1958
09.11.2012
05:01 pm

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The Philips Pavilion was a World’s Fair pavilion, part of Expo ‘58 in Brussels and was designed by the office of Le Corbusier. Commissioned by the Dutch electronics corporation Philips, the exhibit was a multimedia spectacle that celebrated postwar technological progress. Iannis Xenakis, the famous Greek experimental composer/architect, was responsible for much of the experience.

Le Corbusier said he wanted to present a “poem in a bottle,” so he asked French avant gardist Edgard Varèse to write an electronic score for the installation. Poème électronique was heard on over 350 speakers embedded into the walls of the nine hyperbolic paraboloid of the exhibit and seen on multiple projection screens. Several human operators using telephone dials somehow controlled the sounds.
 
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Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Stan Lee’s rant on why ‘fuck you’ isn’t really an insult
09.11.2012
05:00 pm

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Amusing

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60 Minutes needs to hire Stan Lee pronto to take over Andy Rooney’s empty “old guy ranting” chair. Now THAT I would watch! Excelsior!

See more of Stan Lee’s rants at his YouTube channel World of Heroes.
 

 
Via Boing Boing

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Incredible image of man skydiving into Burning Man
09.11.2012
04:37 pm

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Pop Culture

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Redditor opi8 shared this pretty amazing image of his friend skydiving into Burning Man this year.

As Redditor onion_cutting_champ puts it:

“He is still not the highest one there.”

Agreed.

Click here to see larger image.

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Mitt Romney’s biggest problem is that he’s a dick and everyone knows it
09.11.2012
03:42 pm

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Class War
Idiocracy
Politics
Stupid or Evil?

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Kos, the majordomo of liberal blog Daily Kos, cracked me up with his blunt assessment of what is perhaps Mitt Romney’s most difficult to surmount problem with the American electorate: Even after $180 million in TV ads, too many voters still think the guy’s a fucking dick.

And at this late stage of the game, Romney has little time, and few options left, to change their minds…

So if money isn’t doing it, and Romney’s personality isn’t winning him converts, what’s left?

The debates. They start in early October, then it’s bam, bam, bam: 10/3, 10/11 (veep), 10/16, and 10/22. They will present Romney with his last chance to gain points from Obama.

However, he can’t score points by playing it safe. If he tries to be nice and gracious and not touch Obama like he touched Gov. Rick Perry in one of those early-season debates, he might earn brownie points, but Obama will remain unscathed.

So he has to attack.

But remember, people think he’s a dick. So Romney has to attack in a manner that doesn’t reinforce the narrative that he’s a dick. And who really thinks Romney has the chops to pull that off? He can’t interact with NASCAR fans or picnicking ladies or British prime ministers without coming off as a dick. He’s now supposed to deftly attack—with a convincing smile—the guy who is standing between him and his birthright presidency?

Meanwhile, Obama can play it safe. He is winning. He can be gracious and accommodating, all the while rising above any nastiness with presidential bearing. He doesn’t need to win these debates as much as not lose them, and that makes his job so much easier.

It seems pretty clear cut. If Romney plays it safe, he continues to lose. He has to throw that Hail Mary. But by going on the offensive, he’ll remind people that they think he’s a dick. Because he is.

Watching Thurston Howell III Mitt Romney and the Marie Antoinette Republicans flailing this hard—like fish on the sand, right?—is such good fun. I’m not that all hot on the Democrats or Obama, but I would very much like to see Mitt Romney’s richie rich nose rubbed in dogshit in November.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Lynchian: Cross-dressing California man arrested for exposing himself
09.11.2012
03:13 pm

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Current Events

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57-year-old Lee Hazen Williamson was arrested last Thursday afternoon (apparently again) for allegedly lifting his dress and exposing his genitals to Lake County residents.

“Williamson, who was born in Austria and lists his occupation as “care giver,” was hit with both misdemeanor and felony indecent exposure charges (the latter count stems from his prior conviction for a similar crime)” says the Smoking Gun.

Dat’s a freaky mugshot to say the least.

Via Arbroath

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
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