Archive for the 'film, tv, video' Category

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The Week

The week in review

I’ve always had a feeling I witnessed the Lunar landing and the now sadly passed Neil Armstrong’s Moon walk live as it happened. So vivid are my memories of my dad opening his box of clippings and laying them out on our large dinner table when I was a kid. His narration of the landing, along with LIFE Magazine photos and news clippings from the summer of 69, was like being there. It probably merged with a contemporaneous rerun of clips on our black and white television to convince me that I was there as it happened. Only some years later did the fact that it had happened six years before I was born dawn on me.

I guess the point here is that the Moon walk is such an extraordinary event, not just for science, but also for our collective imagination, that it continues to reverberate as if it just happened. At the same time, of course, it seems to belong to a different era. The optimism it expressed on our collective behalf seems naive and anachronistic, especially after the Obama administration’s mothballing of the NASA programme two years ago — something Armstrong strongly criticised. The recent launch of the Mars probe Curiosity is exciting, but manned space exploration seems like a chapter past. Sadly, because it seems to me an aspiration with the potential to unite us globally (however fleetingly) in a way few other things have ever done.

See pictures and footage of the Apollo 11 mission at NASA’s website. Read fellow moonwalker Buzz Aldrin’s statement on his friend’s death here. And check out this nice appreciation by Ian Crouch of Armstrong’s way with words. Oh, and he also took one of the most mesmerising, beautiful photographs ever. Rest in Peace.

Links:

  • Reportage from what is surely one of the most insane film projects ever attempted. A revival of Soviet Era reality by Ukrainian director Ilya Khrzhanovsky. Is it for real? (Thanks @Madinkbeard!)
  • Take a trip down memory lane with Complex Magazine’s list of 50 tracks released by Rawkus Records, James Murdoch’s vanity project before he started working full time for his dad. Rawkus was an incredible force for creative, innovative hip hop in the late nineties through the early naughts, until it all went sour.
  • Also, Hip hop legend Afrika Bambaata is working to create a hip hop museum in the Bronx Armory.
  • Noted film critic Christian Braad Thomsen on Hitchcock’s Vertigo, again. (Danish alert!)
  • Notes on the Passing of Chris Marker

    Last week saw the passing of filmmaker Chris Marker. I’m not that familiar with his work, unfortunately, but what I have seen I found touching on a kind of “pure cinema” level, where the elements of film come together to create something unique to the medium, achieving the kind of lyrical no so che that happens way too rarely in cinema. Very different, to be sure, but similar to the best moments of Andrei Tarkovsky’s work. Continue reading ‘Notes on the Passing of Chris Marker’

    The Week

    The week in review

    James Holmes who killed 12 people and wounded 58 last Friday at the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado was quickly christened the ‘Batman Killer’ in Danish media. Just one of those shortcuts the tabloids trade in, I suppose — it’s far from clear whether the gunman chose what movie to shoot up because of its content and it is, of course, a moot question to ask of such a tragedy.

    If anything, one might ask the whether it makes any sense at all that 100-round drums for full automatics can still be ordered on the internet, no questions asked. Or why this statistic, which speaks volumes as to the causality between gun ownership and gun fatality, remains acceptable for Americans.

    For somebody familiar with Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan’s comics sources, it seemed at least a little bit poignant that Frank Miller anticipated the Aurora massacre in the seminal Dark Knight Returns (1986). Appearing in a sequence detailing Batman-inspired vigilantism, it is to Miller’s credit that he here mocks the media’s tendency to jump to conclusions about the causality between fictional and actual crime, while clearly acknowledging that it exists.

    Links:

  • Petition to prevent the substitution of old master paintings with modern ones at the Berlin Gemäldegalerie. These plans for a radical reorganisation of the Berlin galleries would spoil one of the world’s best galleries and be a sad concession to the popular preference for modern art. Surely some other solution can be found? Please consider signing.
  • William Noel of the Walters Art Gallery on why sharing digital images of their collections online is good business and just the right thing to do for museums. It remains an uphill battle, but it seems things are changing re: museums hoarding the IP they’ve been given to share with the public.
  • New issues of academic journals on comics. Recently published, the first issue of the Scandinavian Journal of Comic Art is worth a look. As is the newest issue of ImageText.
  • A Good Ache?

    Sean Bean, looking vulnerable.


    Look, I’ve really been trying. Not only was I prepared to like Game of Thrones when first I sat down to watch the opening episode of HBO’s series last year, I’ve come back to it several times, figuring I might have missed something, since so many people of generally discerning taste have been raving about it. But sorry, despite the best efforts of the producers to put on a good-looking, big budget production, it is hard for me to see where it differs from a Live Action Role-Playing Game writ large. Lot of overpaid actors running around in the woods with styrofoam swords, throwing flour at each other. Plus lots of tits.

    I’ve also tried going to the source, figuring that the show might have got it all wrong. People have been singing the praises of this guy, George R. R. Martin, calling him “the American Tolkien” and stuff, and for all his faults, Tolkien is pretty damn great in my book. So I picked up the first volume in his endless cycle of 800-page novels and gave it a crack.

    Oh gawd. What’s there to like? I mean, really? The world-building is staid, consisting of every fantasy cliché you can imagine (hardened but pure Northerners, decadent big city politicians with worm-tongued advisors, and dark-skinned savages that are awesome in battle as well as in bed, etc.) And everything is named so generically — you’re in trouble when “King’s Landing” is the best you can come up with for a great city, and when “Ice” is your idea of a cool name for a sword.

    But the worst is the prose. I shall refrain from going on at length about it and merely flip through the book a random to give you a sample. This is on page 59. The righteous viking king (played by Sean Bean on TV) is haunted by doubts about a political move while his queen pines after him:

    The wind swirled around him and he stood facing the dark, naked and empty-handed. Catelyn pulled the furs to her chin and watched him. He looked somehow smaller and more vulnerable, like the youth she had wed in the sept at Riverrun, fifteen long years gone. Her loins still ached from the urgency of his lovemaking. It was a good ache. She could feel his seed within her. She prayed that it might quicken there. It had been three years since Rickon. She was not too old. She could give him another son.

    Please.

    The Week


    The week in review

    Whew! What a week. It seems the great things that have been brewing in Danish comics for the last few years are finally starting to make waves, what with a year of excellent and innovative homegrown comics, the resurrected Ping Awards, plans proceeding for an official educational track for comics makers at the fine Animation Workshop in Viborg, and the ambitious further development of the comics festival Komiks.dk, which has now changed its name to Copenhagen Comics and will once again be held in Øksnehallen, Copenhagen, in 2013 — bigger and better than ever, if the current signs are to be believed.

    It’s all still baby steps of course, and there’s a long way to go before we can talk about genuine consolidation in terms of financial security or cultural clout. As things are, much of all this is run on a volunteer basis and a shoestring budget and it remains hard to muster the support, public or private, for comics accorded to other art forms in the country.

    Still, the will seems to be there and good comics continue to be made. The photo above is from the release on Thursday of sometime Bunker denizen and my long-time collaborator (and Danish Comics Council chairman, and Ping director) Thomas Thorhauge’s latest comic, Det sidste ord (‘The Last Word’). The book compiles a series of strips done for the film section of the daily Politiken from 2009-2010, adding two longer, similar strips from elsewhere as well as a brand new one.

    The concept is one that harks back to “M”, his contribution to BLÆK, an anthology we edited together in 2006 — a comic reprinted in English in the Fantagraphics/Aben Maler production From Wonderland with Love. Thomas takes authentic quotes from figures of interest and illustrates them in comics form. In the case of the Politiken strips, the focus is a diverse range of personalities from cinema. (One, on Godard, is republished in English here).

    In the newspaper, they were primarily fun, satirical mini-portraits of the celebrities involved, but taken together they become much more than that — Thomas has been sensitive to certain types of quotes, dealing with issues of vanity, desire, aging, legacy, and death, and has crafted from them an acutely personal statement on life, all the while producing a very funny book. A direct jump from his last book’s youthful aspirations to something anticipating mid-life reflection. Give it a (second) look.

    Photo by Frederik Høyer-Christensen. The entire set is here.

    This week’s links:

  • Obama on Iran. The American President talks to Jeffrey Goldberg in anticipation of his meeting today with the Israeli Prime Minster and his address at AIPAC.
  • Carl Th. Dreyer on his métier. Recorded at the Copenhagen cinemathèque in 1968, Dreyer answers questions from film students a few weeks before his death. Fantastic, although sadly not subtitled in English (yet?). (Thanks @monggaard!)
  • Matt Seneca on Guido Crepax. A passionate examination of the comics of the Italian master. Replete with rather shaky assertions, but great on observation.
  • The Author’s Face?


    The Tintin movie makes good on the promise of not disgracing its august comics source. Spielberg is a pro and he delivers what he does best — a sense of adventure and possibility and a sufficiently sensitive approach to his film technology that his characters come alive despite the mo-cap plastic feel. The rewrite of the books (mainly The Secret of the Unicorn and The Crab with the Golden Claws) is well thought out and most of the characters are well realized, with good voice performances all round. The personal, slightly brooding and troubled subtext of Hergé’s work pretty much gets lost in the mix, but hey — this is a popcorn movie and a pretty good one.

    Spielberg hits a couple of false notes. Continue reading ‘The Author’s Face?’

    Picks of the Week

    “Of course London’s riots weren’t a political protest. But the people committing night-time robbery sure as hell know that their elites have been committing daytime robbery. Saqueos are contagious. The Tories are right when they say the rioting is not about the cuts. But it has a great deal to do with what those cuts represent: being cut off. Locked away in a ballooning underclass with the few escape routes previously offered – a union job, a good affordable education – being rapidly sealed off. The cuts are a message. They are saying to whole sectors of society: you are stuck where you are, much like the migrants and refugees we turn away at our increasingly fortressed borders.”

    – Naomi Klein

    The picks of the week from around the web.

  • “An Empty Regard,” William Deresiewicz on the American reverence for its troops. I’ve long been mystified by the unquestioned reverence in America for its military personnel. It depersonalizes their (often admirable) efforts and suggests that they are somehow inherently more valuable human beings than everyone else. Deresiewicz addresses the question smartly.
  • Naomi Klein on the UK riots. Often prone to hyperbole and tendentious hypothesizing, Klein remains a great rhetoritician and this eloquent op-ed piece very effectively situates the riots and the pathetic official reaction to them in a valuable perspective.
  • Harold Bloom on his influences. Speaking of great communicators, here’s Bloom on five great works of literary criticism and the decrepit state of literary studies. You can’t argue with him, you just wanna hug him.
  • Questlove on the last fifteen years (or so) in hip hop. One of the subculture’s greatest raconteurs offers some intriguing tidbits from his storybook, such as how Puffy screamed at him and his Roots cohorts for their player hating back in the gay nineties.
  • Nelson George on the Civil Rights struggle on film. Enlightening and pointed survey, offered on the occasion of the opening of The Help this week.
  • Beats, Rhymes, and Longevity


    I’ve been on a bit of a Tribe quick this last week, culminating Saturday at the Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival, where Q-Tip was the headliner. It was a bravura set by a born performer: Tip’s clear delivery, whether rapping, singing (weakly, but charmingly) or beatboxing, coupled with a tighly-knit band animating the Tribe compositions with live instruments, made for a great show.

    The icing on the cake was an all-star line-up of guests that included Monie Love (reluctantly performing “Monie in the Middle” before quickly absconding), an on point Sean Penn (not the mopey-faced actor), Black Thought from The Roots (spitting “Love of My Life and “The Next Movement”, tight as always, then backing up Tip on a crazy rendition of “Bonita Applebum”), Busta Rhymes (the crowd went wild when he appeared for “Scenario”, but it quickly turned into call-response; the real fyah was his insane verse from Chris Brown’s “Look at Me Now”) and Kanye West (rapping “Dark Fantasy” down among the crowd, dropping a couple of his pop joints, then acting plug 2 for Tip on “Award Tour”).

    For me the most enjoyable parts were elsewhere though. Continue reading ‘Beats, Rhymes, and Longevity’

    Count to Ten, Lars

    Congratulations to Nicolas Winding Refn for winning best director at Cannes. Well done, I’m looking forward to Drive, just as I hope to catch Terence Malick’s Palm-winner Tree of Life. I did however find shameful Refn’s callous disavowal — he was “repulsed” — of his mentor Lars von Trier’s extremely ill-advised, but ultimately harmless comments that got him banned from the festival earlier in the week.

    Look, what Trier said was clearly offensive, if taken at face value, and the press being the press of course immediately did so, reducing it to out-of-context soundbytes — “Trier admits to being a Nazi,” and so on. He did no such thing, and Refn of all people should understand Nordic irony when he hears it. This is a deeply ingrained way of joking in Scandinavia, and anybody who has followed Trier just a little bit, at his Cannes press conferences perhaps more than anywhere, would know that he relishes this kind of humor, and has a tendency to talk out of his ass. Refn is right when he says that Danes can be parochial and insensitive — witness the Muhammad cartoons — but how about sticking up for your embattled colleague instead of choosing the easy way out?

    The real disgrace in all this, however, is the festival board of directors’ decision to expel Trier. Continue reading ‘Count to Ten, Lars’

    Picks of the Week

    The picks of the week from around the web.

  • The Daily Show on the “Common Controversy,” parts one and two. Wednesday, Jon Stewart performed an epic takedown of the ridiculous hype machine that is Fox News. Extra hilarity ensured by the fact that the source of it all is one of the most anodyne rappers working today. First segment above, click through to the second once you’ve seen it! Also, Stewart’s crew pulled out the funniest scene from the underrated hip hop Spinal Tap spoof CB4 for their opening segment on Thursday.
  • Speaking of takedowns, this skewering of 90s po-mo and the ‘cultural turn’ by Kevin Mattson writing for Dissent Magazine is an instructive, if surely tendentious history lesson, that may seem to have it in for Andrew Ross, but actually proves redemptive too (thanks Andreas!).
  • Tezuka shorts. The ever trusty MetaFilter provides links to a handful of the great Tezuka Osamu’s short animation films.
  • Finally, I enjoyed Matt Seneca’s examination of a bunch of comics as criticism. Some good ideas and observations in there.
  • Sidney Lumet RIP (Liz Taylor too)

    Goodbye to a master craftsman with several discrete classics to his name.

    Also, while I’m at it, I missed marking the passing of Elizabeth Taylor here — she was great.

    Picks of the Week

    The picks of the week from around the web.

  • Eagleton on Hobsbawn on Marxism. Three-in-one. What’s not to like?
  • Kirb Your Enthusiasm. HiLowbrow is currently running a relay series on Jack Kirby, with 24 writers, artists and critics each writing about one panel of choice from The King. Good contributions from Gary Panter, Ann Nocenti, and Greg Rowland. Bonus: 4cp is running a suitably fetishistic series of 70s panels concurrently.
  • James Romberger on Jules et Jim. Excellent analysis of Truffaut’s masterpiece as a political film.
  • Picks of the Week

    The picks of the week from around the web.

    It’s been a busy few weeks here, plus we’ve been on a short holiday, so I ain’t got much, except for this clip above, of Danish Minister for Health, Bertel Haarder, losing it Thick of It-style on a journalist Friday night (full interview here). It’s a very human reaction — he’d been pulled away from his rice pudding (no shit) and was persistently asked about something he couldn’t answer, but his defense, that he hadn’t been briefed in advance, is also problematic, and in any case, it provides for a yuletide reminder of the increasing blur between Man and medium.

    Oh, and there’s been some good comics criticism around the web lately:

  • Sean Collins on Love & Rockets. Long-standing internet critic extraordinaire, Sean Collins, spent a couple of months reading the entirety of the Hernandez brothers’ work and wrote about it. Lots of good writing on critically neglected, classic material.
  • Eric Berlatsky on time and comics. A piece in Hooded Utilitarian’s ongoing republication of academic work on comics, this is a fine piece on time, space and simultaneity in comics.
  • Matt Seneca on Morrison & Quitely’s All-Star Superman. Seneca is one of the few critics around who really pays attention to the visual side of comics. This is a good list of notes on Quitely’s astonishing work on this landmark series.
  • Images from the Copenhagen debate on transgressive cartooning

    5141847796_abff21e48e.jpg
    As mentioned earlier on this blog, the Danish Comics Council organised a panel discussion on transgressive cartooning at the University of Copenhagen this past Tuesday, focusing in equal measures on the recent debate about legislation against drawn and animated child pornography and the Mohammad cartoons.

    It was a lively and well-attended event, despite the regrettable last-minute cancellation by the Social Democrat member of parliament Karen Hækkerup, who is the instigator of the proposal to ban drawn child pornography. The Council invited a number of other politicians who have supported the proposal, but without luck. The debate was streamed live on the internet and is archived in its entirety here.

    Several photographers were there, including my buddy Frederik Høyer-Christensen, who took the above photo of literary critic Klaus Rothstein and commentator/lawyer Jacob Mchangama and has more in his Flickr- and Facebook sets. More images, from photographer Niels Larsen and cartoonists Erik Petri and Annette Carlsen can be seen at the Danish Comics Council website.

    DWYCK: Critiquing a Lively Art

    lively.jpg
    At HU I have a post up about the classics — specifically Popeye (with Buster Keaton thrown into the mix) — and notions of high and low culture, including ample quotation from pioneering pop culture critic Gilbert Seldes. Check it out.