1) An entire movie about a handsome glorified romantic solely defined by his love for a flibbertigibbet blonde?
3) If we took away all of his trappings--the nice house, the associations with Romeo + Juliet and Titanic (note: DiCaprio inhabits the role extremely well), the parties, the car, and the fine clothes--wouldn't we consider Gatsby gullible and slightly silly?
4) While I admired the set designs, the costuming, the cars, and several scenes of the movie (especially the humorous super-awkward encounter between Gatsby and Daisy (with Nick Carroway (Tobey Maguire) making the slightly dubious arrangements for them to meet (sort of pimping out his married cousin)), and Nick's awkward drunken evening with Myrtle Wilson's (Isla Fisher) social circle), I kept wondering about Lurhmann's melodramatic technique as it began to wear me down. When in doubt, cut to the green light?
5) What is the significance of those spectacled eyes on the billboard again? My significant other (who teaches the novel) says it could indicate the absence of God. There's nothing to put your hopes in after the devastation of the first World War, so the divine power has been replaced with conspicuous consumption and advertising, the antithesis of religious hope. Ironically, the eyes look over the Waste Land-esque area of abject poverty, which just enhances the scene's air of futility. As Kathryn Schulz points out, the book is full of "low-hanging symbols."
6) Was Lurhmann borrowing a narrative strategy from Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye when he included the Nick-stuck-in-a-sanatorium frame device?
7) What would F. Scott Fitzgerald have thought of the movie's elision of psychiatric curing techniques and writing? Doesn't that equation diminish his artistic achievement?
8) As Nick, Tobey Maguire observes, perceives, sees, and then witnesses some more. Maguire is good at doing that, but couldn't he take a break from all of that burdensome point-of-view work and swing through the skyscraper canyons of New York for old times' sake?
9) In this rough and tumble blogosphere world of endless film analyses, why do the critics who liked The Great Gatsby often sound apologetic? Does the Internet encourage us to be competitively vicious?
10) My significant other (who really liked the movie) insists that Gatsby is admirable for being, as Nick says, "the single-most hopeful person [he's] ever met," the one man "exempt from [his] disgust." At one point, Nick yells to Gatsby in the distance, "They're a rotten crowd. You're worth the whole damn bunch together." As we gradually learn, Jay Gatsby is an idealist who deserves credit for sticking to his endlessly renewable love, no matter how much his beloved may be unworthy of it (not to mention she's married and with a child). Yes, Gatsby embodies a fond glorious vision that serves as the foundation of a beautifully written novel, but isn't he also, at bottom, a dashing but still delusional goofball?
11) Is his unwillingness to abandon a dream ultimately what makes Gatsby great?
---“Asocial people will be able to find a way to do asocial things with this technology, but on average people like to maintain the social contract,” Mr. Starner said. He added that he and colleagues had experimented with Glass-type devices for years, “and I can’t think of a single instance where something bad has happened.”
An incident at a Silicon Valley event shows, however, the way the increasing ease in capturing a moment can lead to problems — even if unintentionally.
Adria Richards, who worked for the Colorado e-mail company SendGrid, was offended by the jokes two men were cracking behind her at the PyCon developers conference. She posted a picture of them on Twitter with the mildly reproving comment, “Not cool.”
One of the men, who has not been identified, was immediately fired by his employer, PlayHaven. “There is another side to this story,” he wrote on a hacking site, saying it was barely one lame sexual joke. “She gave me no warning, she smiled while she snapped the pic and sealed my fate,” he complained.
Critics lashed out at Ms. Richards, using language much more offensive than the two men used. SendGrid was hacked. The company dismissed Ms. Richards, saying there was such an uproar over her conduct, it “put our business in danger.”
---"One scene early in the film that was objected to was a rooftop party in Islamabad where an officer, after drinking fires a celebratory burst of AK-47 gunfire into the air. We insisted mixing drinking and firearms is a major violation and actions like this do not happen in real life. We requested this be taken out of the film. Boal confirmed he took this out of the film."
---"12 Great Opening Shots" and "20 Shots to Be Retired Henceforth from Film Vocabulary"
---"Something has got to give at some point with all of that product in the market," said Vincent Bruzzese, chief executive of Worldwide Motion Picture Group, a research firm, speaking about the coming summer. "There has got to be some cannibalization."
---“Tell Mike it was only business. I always liked him.”
---trailers for Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis, Ain't Them Bodies Saints, The World's End, and The Butler ---Destroy boredom
---"Because the first take went fairly well, I immediately become cocky and start overplaying it. I’m acting drunk. It’s whiny and high-pitched, and for some reason I’m leaning over the sink in a way that makes me look like a hunchback." --Greta Gerwig
---“Our ancestors predicted all of this,” he said to no one in particular. “The weather changing in strange ways, the destruction of the land, the water, the fish, the animals. They said, ‘The white man will continue to come, and everything will die.’"
Iron Man 3 makes most sense if one thinks of it not as a movie, but as the skillful marketing of a brand. Robert Downey Jr. lends his expertise as an actor to provide a mildly subversive human face to this product line, and in many ways his performance in the movie (as well as his equally important Comic-Con appearances, worldwide promotional tours, etc.) resembles that of a politician satisfying the demands of his constituents, or a film executive making a presentation to his stockholders. I was struck by just how comfortable film executives at Marvel (Walt Disney Company) are with the entire Iron Man franchise. One can find them quoted in the May 10th Entertainment Weekly within the cover article subtly entitled "Stark Raving Awesome" (no editorial bias there): "I believe there will be a fourth Iron Man film and a fifth and a sixth and a 10th and a 20th," as if they have found the eternal profitable formula (superhero mechanic know-how, Avenger buddies, Downey's charming snark, robots, and Gwyneth Paltrow).
I learned of how important marketing is to Downey with the help of an article by Isaac Chotiner entitled "The Robert Downey Jr. Rehab Program." As he writes:
"More than one person who knows him told me that Downey deliberately channels his manic intensity into the financial side of movie making. 'I made it my business to educate myself,' he explained to one interviewer. He is involved in every aspect of his films, from tinkering with screenplays to marketing strategy to developing new consumer bases for his franchises. A year ago, he gave an interview an obscure magazine called Success, apparently for no reason other than the sheer enjoyment he derives from discussing the intricacies of multi-platform initiatives. 'The thing is,' he observed, when explaining his acting choices, 'you’re either involved in a certain product design that’s a one-off, or you’re involved in a product line.'"
I didn't care much for the first two Iron Man films, but once I learned to look at the most recent manifestation of the franchise as a 2 hour and 15 minute advertisement for a second tier Marvel figure, then Iron Man 3 proved surprisingly pleasant to sit through. One need only view the movie as a visual code for self-promotion. How does it enhance the Tony Stark product line, with a generous amount of journalistic support? I count 5 ways both within the movie and in its external marketing:
1) Journalists help by emphasizing Downey's problematic past with drug addiction, his many earlier movies that bombed, etc., and noting how he has turned it around. People are invited to feel good about how he has resurrected his career.
2) Within the movie, Tony Stark spends time with a rabid Tony Stark fan. At one point, Stark needs access to a local news van so that he can broadcast some information. The newsman turns out to be an out-of-control Stark enthusiast, even down to patterning his facial hair from his hero. Stark kindly gives the man his reluctant attention. Are scenes like this designed to serve as a kind of fan service for awestruck devotees in the audience?
3) Stark finds he need the help of a child named Harley (Ty Simpkins) as he researches a bombing in rural Tennessee, thereby taking providing kids in the audience with someone to identify with. One can find many blockbusters that similarly pander to the youth market, such as Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991).
4) Iron Man 3 emphasizes how terrorists create propaganda to further their agendas. The bin Laden-esque Mandarin villain turns out to be a (mild spoiler alert) carefully constructed media platform, full of fundamentalist Muslim visual tropes on videos that illegally take over American television periodically, all designed to pander to American xenophobia. I am in the midst of reading Stephen Apkon's excellent The Age of the Image: Redefining Literacy in a World of Screens, and one passage seems relevant:
"Even the most radical organizations understand the power of visual media. In 2001, Al Qaeda reversed a decade-long Taliban prohibition on video as it created its own production company, As-Sahab, in order to spread its message and recruit new members. Headed up by the media-savvy disaffected American Adam Gadahn, the company once produced close to a hundred videos a year deep in the mountains bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan. Its reach, though, is global.
Evan Kohlmann . . . had respect for the skill of the As-Sahab productions, even if he finds their content despicable. 'It's actually amazing,' he said. 'You're talking about very, very high-quality video subtitling. You're talking about English translations. Graphic sequences have been done showing rockets being fired into an American flag, and having the American flag exploding into pieces. And it, you know, these are very high-quality videos. They're very dramatic. They get passed around like baseball cards. . . . the video form of expression has become the preferred method for expressing a point of view to an international audience, where a spoken language is not always held in common by interested parties'" (26-7).
5) Lastly, Iron Man 3 affirms the value of multi-media presentations by including scenes that show off what they can do. Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) makes a slick 3D presentation to Pepper Potts (Paltrow) of his own brain in a live feed. From the previous Iron Man movies and from The Avengers, we've already gotten used to Stark's research techniques that involve 3D displays of texts and images that evoke Minority Report (2002). In this film, Stark's research into a bombing just gets more elaborate, using his voice and hand gestures to move around a room full floating images (he even uses a 3D version of the crime site to locate some dog tags on the ground).
While still including the usual battle scenes, explosions, robot-battling action, and terrorist torture scenes, Iron Man 3 is also quite open about the rhetorical effectiveness of multimedia. In this light, it makes sense that Colonel James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) has trouble deciding between calling his exoskeleton/armor War Machine or Iron Patriot. Both terms have connotations that the movie takes pains to explore. It's refreshing to see a blockbuster that's somewhat willing to examine its own manipulations.
---"Schrader has mixed feelings about the process. 'The new technology allows people to make films very, very cheaply, but it also unhinges the vital connection that has existed for over 100 years between capitalism and motion pictures.' Filmmakers are now free, he explains, to 'make movies the same way you can make poetry, songs, paintings. You can make it for no money.' However, the disconnect between supply (audience) and demand (filmmaker) inherent in capitalism means that 'we are in an era when you can make a film for nobody.'
He soberly noted that of the thousands of films submitted to Sundance last year, only 100 or so were chosen and of those only a handful landed distribution deals. 'The entire dilemma of filmmaking has changed. It used to be how you get the money to make the film. Now it’s how do you get anybody to see it?'"
---"punk’s spirit of negation is a very seductive thing. It’s what makes Lydon’s voice on those Sex Pistols recordings so gripping. (His lifelong ability to ooze disdain is really nothing short of a superpower—I can’t even imagine him ordering a salad without making it a confrontation.) It’s corrosive, and the great value of corrosive energies has always been for cleaning things, scouring away the buildup of empty values."
---"In the Costume Institute’s compendious catalogue for the 'Punk' exhibition is an amazing photograph of Television’s Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell (who would go their separate ways) standing torn and frayed in a harsh glare of interrogative light that fuses German Expressionism, Depression-era vagabondage, and a crime-scene blast of Weegee’s flashbulb into a fashion anti-statement. In such early glimpses, punk looks indistinguishable from impoverishment, a barely-scraping-by that was echoed across the ocean by Johnny Rotten’s ode to safety pins, which held the rips of his jacket together like sutures—an aesthetic born of necessity. (The catalogue’s juxtaposition of 70s images of real punks in their slashed, shredded, zippered, parachutist, Baader-Meinhof-ish, mental-ward-straitjacketed, plastic-garbage-bag getups with the luxury-item homages and appropriations of high-fashion maestros is jarring, even dismaying—so much more originality in the originals!)" --James Wolcott
---"Repo Man, released in early 1984, was the first feature film by a twenty- nine-year-old British UCLA film school graduate named Alex Cox. Even now, the film’s existence seems implausible. It is an apocalypse tale with no doomsday, a punk movie with no concert, a science fiction story with less than ten seconds of aliens."
---"Tell Renee she's not allowed to run faster than me." --Tom Cruise
---He says he doesn’t remember exactly why he and Lee decided to start burglarizing celebrities’ homes, except that 'these were women with, like, fashion sense. Rachel watched The Hills, Gossip Girl—all those shows. She loved their clothes.' They started 'checking up on celebrity Web sites. We’d be like a little research team.' They’d drive by celebrities’ homes to do surveillance, figuring out how to get in.
They picked Paris Hilton as their first victim, Prugo said, because they figured she was 'dumb.' 'Like, who would leave a door unlocked? Who would leave a lot of money lying around?'"
---"As in 2011, when he shot Frances Ha, Baumbach was working with a digital camera, in a low-key, almost covert way. There was nothing about the project in Variety or on IMDb. For the permit paperwork, Baumbach had chosen a misleading and dull working title: Untitled Public School Project. (Frances Ha was Untitled Digital Workshop.) New York pedestrians know that a film production involves, at the least, a basket of unripe fruit under a white tent, and a lot of cables. In the absence of that—a small huddle around a camera, in the dark, as Kirke hurried across the street toward Gerwig, at a flower stand—Baumbach’s operation was almost invisible. A passerby explained knowingly to his friends, 'This is N.Y.U.-land.'"
---"The assistant laid down the box, opening it to unfurl folds of acid-free archival tissue. Gently, she lifted up a few sheets, revealing her treasure: a dingy, ripped 'Anarchy in the U.K.' Sex Pistols T-shirt, sized to fit a child or an extremely hard-living rock star. There also was T-shirt after well-worn T-shirt, with punchy slogans and graphic images — many faded, with pit stains and rings around the collars. The assistant held up a scribbled black one. 'We have to make sure we don’t remove that safety pin,' she said, reverentially. --From"Haute Punk"
With its short attention span, terminal ageist body consciousness, increasingly frenetic concern with keeping the young ADD viewer amused, and many shots heightened with guns, sunlight, bright Miami Vice colors, Schlotzsky's Deli product placement, blood, strippers, fat jokes, a shot-off big toe eaten by a chihuahua, biceps, American flags, and SWAT teams attacking in slow-mo, the surprisingly not wholly deplorable Pain and Gain skims along like a splatter flipbook of Michael Bay hack fixations starring Mark Wahlberg as Daniel Lugo ("I believe in fitness") implementing his curdled American dream ("I'm a doer, not a don'ter!") as a likable Miami hustler who uses his supposed employment in the CIA and his brutalization of a "scumbag" millionaire (Tony Shaloub) as a way to score with dimwitted Sorina Luminita (Bar Paly evoking Transformers: Dark of the Moon's Rosie Huntington-Whitely who in turn evokes Megan Fox) by saying "That gun is government issue, and in a sense, so am I," the film following a Spring Breakers-esque aesthetic with Florida sun-bleached excess, desperate innocents turning to sloppy naive gangsterdom based on a Miami New Times story about true-life extortion, kidnapping, and a double murder amateurishly cleaned up in part by a chainsaw that gets clogged with human hair ("The bloodied heads were as slippery as rain-slicked coconuts") wherein the always humorously bulbous Dwayne Johnson (playing ex-con coke-addicted Jesus freak Paul Doyle) absentmindedly roasts some human hands on a grill in public to get rid of the fingerprints (neighborhood lady waving at him) before Lugo angrily calls him and the burning body parts back inside their bad-guy lair; still, Bay isn't that comfortable telling a slightly more adult story given that he's devoted much of his career to ad copy catering to the fetishes of teenage guys, so Pain and Gain backslides into familiar testosterone-filled Armageddon(1998)visual tropes (i.e., macho men walking proudly towards the camera as an explosion erupts behind them) as much as it soldiers on with its unexpectedly lengthy true-life story about enterprising bodybuilders emulating recent deplorable United States foreign policy techniques (indefinite retention and torture (but sweetened with cute variations, like hanging the businessman upside down from a dry cleaning overhead conveyor and swirling him about the room)), and everyone wanting that ocean-front view of the sunny Atlantic stretching out to the Bahamas-horizon of easy-street living instead of being stuck with the pain of a "shame sandwich" existence as a working-class spotter having to smile and cater to contemptuous clients in another fitness gym.
1) What exactly is the place beyond the pines? Aside from the fact that the city of Schenectady means "the place beyond the pine plains" in Mohawk, I can only think of two major scenes in the movie where the woods play a prominent role:
a) When Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling) rides his motorcycle far into the woods where he meets Robin (Ben Mendelsohn). They later become buddies.
b) When another key character gets lured/forced out to the woods where he risks execution.
In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne has the woods suggest the wild, immoral landscape that the controlled civilized world of the town keeps at bay. What does writer/director Derek Cianfrance intend here?
2) Why does Avery's son AJ (Emory Cohen) act like he's in Jersey Shore?
3) Derek Cianfrance likes to trail his camera behind Gosling as he walks away, leaving his head and shoulders in the frame. Doesn't Darren Aronofsky like to use a similar shot in The Wrestler (2008) and Black Swan (2010)?
4) Why do men keep trying to force Romina (Eva Mendes) to accept wads of cash just outside of the restaurant where she works? (Place tends to rely on repetition of scenes, locations, and camera techniques, perhaps, to unify its otherwise wide-ranging multi-generational plot).
5) What is the exact relationship between Gosling's work in Drive (2011) and The Place Beyond the Pines? In both films, Gosling plays a reticent, charismatic, and talented driver/motorcycle rider who commits crimes (the last of which goes bad). In both films, he also falls for an inaccessible woman who has a man already (and child). In an interview, Gosling points out that "Drive is a very surreal movie, more of a dream, and this [Place] is a film all about ramifications and the consequences of your actions." True enough. Yet, I kept thinking of Drive (one of my favorite films of 2011) while watching Pines. 6) Is Luke a kind of reply to the Driver in the earlier film, a more delinquent/stupider/psychotic version of a character? Does Cianfrance mean to demythologize the former movie? 7) What does The Place Beyond the Pines suggest about fatherhood and the way an absent father creates legacies for future generations to address?
8) Does Cianfrance mean for the viewer to think of that verse from Numbers 14:18: "The LORD [is] long suffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing [the guilty], visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth [generation]"?
9) When Place suddenlyshifts to 17 years in the future, and Avery's attending the funeral of his father, are we meant to think of Michael Corleone attending his father's funeral on a sunny day late in The Godfather (1972)?
10) Given Luke's instinctual talent for speed and escape, why does he (of all people) ruin his life in an attempt to stay in one place and raise his son?
---“I don’t want my movies to feel like movies,” she says. “I want them to feel like life.” If there’s less smart talk than small talk in her films, it’s because she believes that’s how life is. “People don’t really express themselves that articulately in real life.” When she constructs a scenario, Coppola says she’s thinking in images. To get more of the in‑the‑moment feel, she encourages improvisation from her actors.
“Remember Scarlett [Johansson] perched in the window ledge in Lost in Translation, looking out over Tokyo?” she asks. “You project your feelings on her. That’s what I’m going for. I want the visual ways to tell the story rather than have the characters talk.” What’s unsaid speaks volumes.
For Coppola, “The scripts are notes to let cast and crew know what I want to do. I don’t make a shot list. There’s no sense in that until you see the actors rehearse the scene. So, I’ll say, ‘In this scene I want to show X.’ I feel camera placement is really intuitive. It helps to have a script supervisor who keeps track of what I want to accomplish in each scene.”
She breaks down the script while writing it. “I see the movie in three acts and have a sense of how I want each act framed. With Bling Ring I knew I wanted the early acts to be in wide shots and gradually proceed to tighter shots.”
---"Here is where this Ameriad begins, in a Colorado cabin erected on the RKO lot in 1941 and surrounded by mounds of asbestos flakes, and with three adults and a kid and a sled. Something like both the Rosetta Stone and Sistine Chapel ceiling of cinema history, Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane (1941) may have been finally supplanted in the globe’s most authoritative film critics poll (Sight & Sound’s) as the be-all, end-all "greatest" film ever made, but it remains an unparalleled feat of modern cultural hubris and textual density. In the course of 120 years of Babylonian exegesis, ranging from fast newspaper reviews and blog ejaculates to doctoral theses and Lacanian psychoanalytics, no other film has been analyzed and written about so much, and no film has therein generated such a varied and copious library of critical and analytic response. In fact, one could go so far as to say that no film, given the warehouses of dead trees and the warehouse servers of files in question, has remained so defiantly raw and fresh despite the amount of discourse devoted to it. From Andre Bazin’s 1957 employment of Kane as an auteurist foundation text to Pauline Kael’s over-famous 1974 essay Raising Kane to Laura Mulvey’s BFI Classics volume (1992) and beyond, each shipment into the subindustry of critical address surrounding the movie cannot help but demonstrate, the whole while, the analysis’s own singular inadequacy, and cannot help but pale before the scope and richness of the film itself." --Michael Atkinson
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