Day 336: Some Kind of Monster

This weekend I had a LOONG discussion with a friend regarding monsters (we were both supposed to read/write at Intelligentsia…). Since we could not really come up with a lot of answers, here my attempt to take the debate to the streets:

1. If we assume that each specific stage of capitalism creates its own monster in cultural production (e.g. Industrial Revolution –>Frankenstein), what is the monster that corresponds to contemporary capitalism? (pre-emptory note: zombies do not count, since they do not qualify as monsters per se, since monsters must be freaks that stand OPPOSED to a norm, while zombies often are a way to represent this very norm itself in a freakish way).

2. What stage of capitalism does the alien in Ridley Scott’s Alien represent (the first movie–just by means of explanation: EVERY character in the movie is very specifically materially coded–class and otherwise–and the story itself is at heart an allegory for a transformation in international trade–remember what turns out to be the entire logic of the space mission–so how do we read that alien itself)? Bear in mind: this movie was released in 1979 (hence we must be very specific here as far as economic transformations are concerned).

Just wondering if people have any ideas.

Day 310: Cloverfield

I need to see a different post than Day 306 when I get to this page. Hence, just quickly, here some info on a new movie that’s coming out in a little less than a month, which I am quite excited about (mainly because of the flurry of cultural, affective and marketing activity surrounding the release and the production of the film). It’s a new J.J. Abrams production that seems to be very much in the spirit of Lost. Here some basic background info. I also love the film’s aesthetics (of destruction) and the fact that it is entirely filmed with handheld cameras.


Day 292: Lars and the Real Girl

I just saw Lars and the Real Girl. What a beautiful little film. It’s been a long time since I had to hide my tears at the end of a film about a man who orders a sex doll online–and the best thing is: none of the parts of this previous sentence are ironic, sarcastic, or meant to be a joke. What a beautiful little film. Again, as so often, I am with Marcuse when it comes to the importance of the emotional tie. There is much sociopolitical potential in it. Love isn’t sappy. It’s radical. It’s progressive.

Hug somebody today. It may hurt at first (like frozen feet that begin to thaw when you get back inside), but you can work through it.

Day 250: No Country for Old Men

I have no idea why I haven’t heard about this before: The Coen brothers directed an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men (limited: November 9, wide: November 21). I am slightly scared to see the outcome of this gutsy project.

Personally, I don’t think the novel lends itself well to filmic adaptations. The outcome will doubtlessly focus more on the actual action of the novel than the psychological struggles, the political backdrop of immigration and globalization, which is juxtaposed with traditional US values, morals and narratives and the philosophical conflicts contained in the interaction between the characters–or so I fear. Maybe it is just because I am actually writing about the novel in my dissertation and fear that too many hack critics will write crappy CS criticism about the movie I will have to deal with when revising the dissertation for a publisher later on. In any case, the novel is fantastic. Especially memorable scenes include the final encounter between Chigurh and Llewelyn’s wife, in which Chigurh explains in painstaking detail the reasons that require him to kill her. In the novel this is a long, drawn-out scene that contains a very complicated argument regarding the attachment to universalizing teleologies, an argument that runs through the entire novel via the intersected passages that reflect the thoughts of the Sheriff on the “new world,” which is simply no country for old men. McCarthy’s novel, however, illustrates to us the pervasiveness of those desiring structures that are clearly outdated, but which at the same time appear to be difficult to supersede. Many of us, so McCarthy, are old men in a country that seems to travel faster through history than we appear to be able to.

Let’s hope the Coen brothers are able to at least capture a part of McCarthy’s extraordinarily sentitive and insightful exploration of the present US psyche.

Here a trailer:

Day 245: Colbert Amok

Today is a busy writing day (well, yes,  I admit it: I will have the game on on the side and enjoy writing a lot more while it is accompanied by the sweet sound of the Bears crushing the Vikings). I have also wanted to go see a few new movies for a while now. There a LOTS I would like to see (including a few zombie and vampire flicks I STILL could not make it to–is 30 Days of Night out yet?), but the ones that really bug me, because I haven’t had the time or the proper persuasion by a second person to leave my work for a few hours, are Into the Wild, The Darjeeling Limited and The Assassination of Jesse James… . In any case, I don’t have much time for, well, anything, really and will thus simply post this link to a very funny op-ed column in today’s NY Times (Steven Colbert writing Maureen Dowd’s column–which, I must say, is a change the NY Times should consider making permanent–not necessarily because of Colbert–mostly because of Dowd–well, that’s unfair–she actually wrote a great piece on regressive sexual politics a while ago–but still–actually, the more pressing issue would be to finally replace Thomas Friedman–maybe with a parrot who constantly repeats: “the world is flat, globalization is opportunity, outsourcing makes for cultural diversity and great anecdotes…”–but I’m rambling…). Here the article:

Day 228: Wednesday Series Premieres–WTF???

I’m procrastinating. <<I edited the time stamp, as you may realize at this point.>> Instead of continuing to write I just took a brief break to see what the fall series premiere hype is all about. abc’s Dirty, Sexy Money died for me after five minutes. The capitalist asshole family arrives to the tune of a Rage Against the Machine song. Seriously–what the fuck??? So, that’s over. (It’s still on as I am typing this, but I won’t watch it again.) BTW: thumbs up for the Sutherland family. Father and son are truly selecting great TV roles–there are probably really ugly Republican vs. Libertarian catfights in their house around Thanksgiving. And to think I liked The Lost Boys.

I just watched NBC’s Bionic Woman in its entirety. C+. Maybe. Pretty weak pilot. Maybe it will pick up in the future–however, there is, as of yet, no indication of an interesting, complicated plot. I kinda had the feeling I knew the show. Oh, wait…that’s because it’s a nostalgic assortment of 1980s sci-fi cliches (which is strange, considering it is a remake of a 60s/70s show–this begs the question: why this remake at this point in time and why does this point in time become replaced by the past??? sneaky logic these people!)

 Basically, what we have here is The Matrix camerawork and cinematography (on a TV budget) re-telling Blade Runner (complete with an only slightly removed and thinly disguised Daryl Hannah–Pris character). Oh–I  believe they actually stole some of the Vangelis tracks from the Blade Runner score–that may be the parts I liked best (because I closed my eyes and imagined I was watching Blade Runner). The nostalgia mode is completed by various random insertions of classic punk rock songs, including work by Iggy Pop and the Teddy Bears (which was earlier this year also featured in a Cadillac commercial, if I am not mistaken). Not sure what the punk rock thing is supposed to do there. I guess it is supposed to establish the female central character as a tough, alternative, single woman–which might have worked, had it not seemed as though she was sort of scared of the background music and  made me want to rescue her, take her to a pink bedroom filled with unicorns and play her some Justin Timberlake. Oh, we also have some Species meets Universal Soldier going on here, yet not a single trace of any motivation behind the supposed political motives and the drama in the past the show seems to assume we were familiar with. It tries to create suspense by introducing antagonistic characters, however these are as remarkably flat and underdeveloped as Thomas Friedman’s account of a globalized world into which this technoscience account of our present would fit so well. Can’t yet tell who the female main character reminds me of. I have to say I like the fact that she’s not too obviously attractive. She is a less powerful, slightly disoriented and cutely deer-eyed version of Jennifer Garner in Alias, which, however, also means that we don’t buy the strongest, most dangerous woman in the world thing–she still plays too much into the “please help me through this, I’m, so cute” male gaze of visual narration. Oh: there is also a German bad guy. How very Cold War! I guess the makers really feel like they should cover the James Bond cliches as well–outstanding commitment to the anxiety of influence, I must say. I can’t quite figure out who the German actor is, though. Does anyone know specifics?

BTW: I have some intentional tense-shifts in there, which grammatically indicates my inkling that this new show will be a thing of the past very soon, if nothing drastic happens to the plot.

Oh, wow! The music in the abc show is so hip it’s making me sick! Millionaire-hipsters??? (a good word combination to try and sound out while you vomit, no?  Now, if you will all excuse me–I have to run…)

Day 214: Frost, Death Proof and BJs

Still: writing day. Still: minimalist. Hence, two short public service announcements:

I have been getting lots of traffic from people who want to know what the poem in Death Proof  (second, Tarantino-directed, part of Grindhouse) is. First: have you never taken a literature class? It is one of the most recognizable poems in US literature! And, as all other poems by this writer, they seem conducive to being misused, misinterpreted and mis- lots of other thingsed by popular culture (because no one ever reads up on Robert Frost himself and realizes how deeply ironic, yet connected to New England his poems are–or bothers to read poems CLOSELY, as in the case of “The Road Not Taken”–right, advertisers?). So, here the answer: the poem in Death Proof is “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost. Maybe the only thing that really bugged me about an otherwise decent movie. Terrible use and completely over-Tarantinoed.

The second PSA is for women. Doo-Wop Bee-Jay. Go nuts.

Day 213: Hipster Love

Still writing. Minimalism continues.

Also: when will I ever find love like this??? (or at least a good kicking fight) I may try out the “thinking about crossing?” line when I get out of this room again.

P.S.: why is it that I do not consider it far fetched to fall in love over Swamp Thing (or some good zombie splatter)?

Day 210: Rambo 4 Trailer

Cerebraljetsam is experiencing cerebral overload.

too many insults

too many cynical jokes

too much disappointment

too many (frankly way too obvious, one would think) points of critique

here the trailer:

The trailer above might not work any more (copyright). If so, try this one instead:

Day 207: The Dark Knight (teasers)

Already found trailers/teasers for the new Batman movie (The Dark Knight–release: July 2008). It’s a sequel to Batman Begins, as the previous movie directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale as Batman (I really like Christian Bale as an actor anyway–no and not just because of his portrayal of Patrick Bateman–the movie also features a bunch of other actors I generally tend to like, such as Gary Oldman and Maggie Gylenhaal). I am not a huge Batman fan (or a fan of any comic/movie adaptation of comics, excluding works by Alan Moore, or Brian K. Vaughan), but Batman Begins was not bad. Also, I have a strangely personal relationship to this new movie: it seemed to follow me throughout Chicago. When I still lived downtown they filmed right in front of my house, beneath the El tracks, in Lower Wacker, etc. When I moved up here they began filming in Lakeview, renting out entire houses/condo buildings, closing down entire streets and lighting up huge sections of the neighborhood during the night (which also recently happened for the filming of a new Angelina Jolie movie–something about car racing and a beefy Dodge Viper) and shut down a part of West Chhicago last week, since they decided to blow up an entire abandoned factory. The Batman crew was/is very secretive about all of this, trying not to let people know what it is they are filming, but if there are hundreds of people in a neighborhood lighting it up all day and blocking the access to my coffee shop with dozens of film trailers people begin to wonder. Upside of all of this, though: they had lots of catering tables standing around and since the security people were too busy making sure people could not see any part of the filming process, take any video they would later post on youtube, or even find out details about the film, I was often able to grab dinner for myself in the form of some muffins and fruit without anyone noticing. I am now officially a fan of big budget movies filmed in my neighborhood. Oh, and on a very different level: just as this new one, Batman Begins was filmed in Chicago and I do enjoy the city as shown in the movies. There is no US city that is more Gotham than Chicago, dark, brooding, large, threatening, crazy architecture (but, if need be, also all fluffy, cute and filled with nice people–apart from North Clark/Wrigleyville and frat-boy Cubs fans, of course). Ok, so here the trailers: