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Showing posts from March, 2012

Derek Jarman Rides the Rain Taxi

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The latest print issue of Rain Taxi includes an essay I wrote, "Derek Jarman and The Memory Palace Of Life", about Derek Jarman's books, particularly the ones re-released by the University of Minnesota Press. I incorporated a few sentences from the piece in my video essay on Jarman and Caravaggio a few months back, but to read the whole thing you'll need to pick up a copy of Rain Taxi. Here, to tempt you (or dissuade you), are the first two paragraphs:
Derek Jarman died in 1994, leaving behind him one of the most important bodies of work of any artist or filmmaker of his generation, an oeuvre that challenged orthodoxies of sexuality, politics, and aesthetics. Though best remembered for such films as Jubilee, Caravaggio, The Last of England, Edward II, and Blue, Jarman was also a prolific writer, particularly as a diarist, and The University of Minnesota Press has now brought all of these books back into print in uniform paperback editions. Additionally, they have rep…

Formalist?

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I have to admit that while plenty of Damien Walter's "Weird Things" columns at The Guardian are interesting, and it's really wonderful to see a major newspaper paying regular attention such stuff, and Walter seems like a passionate and thoughtful person ... the latest one, titled, "Should science fiction and fantasy do more than entertain?" pretty much made me gag. Mostly it was that headline that caused the coughing and sputtering; the piece itself isn't terrible, is well intentioned, and seems primarily aimed at a general audience. I'm not a general audience for the topic, so in my ways, I'm a terrible reader for what Walter wrote. Thus, I'll refrain from comment on the main text.

But there's a statement he made in response to a commenter that didn't make me cough and sputter, it just made me question something I hadn't really questioned before: the term "formalist" and its relationship to criticism within the field …

Farewell to a Poet

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The L.A. Times is reporting that Adrienne Rich has died.

Her words, discovered at an early and impressionable age, changed my life.

I return to them frequently. They are a gift she has now left behind for us.

Read "Diving Into the Wreck", my favorite American poem of the last 50 years at least. Read "What Kind of Times Are These".

I remember this interview with her from 1994, which I read so many times in The Progressive that I still have some of her responses memorized.

Make sure these books, at the very very least, are on your shelves: The Fact of a Doorframe;An Atlas of the Difficult WorldOn Lies, Secrets, and Silence; What is Found There.

The loss sends me into silence. Perhaps I will be able to say more later. For now, this:

I wanted to go somewhere
the brain had not yet gone
I wanted not to be
there so alone.

—from "Letters to a Young Poet" in Midnight Salvage
by Adrienne Rich (1929-2012)

Chaos Cinema, Revisited

In the chaos of the internet, I missed Matthias Stork's response to critics of his video essay on Chaos Cinema, posted at Press Play back in December as "Chaos Cinema, Part III" (with the other two helpfully embedded on the same page). I watched it today after reading Steven Shaviro's text from a talk, "Post-Continuity".
I was interested in Stork's response, because I had had a fairly strong initial reaction to his essays, and I've continued to think about it all, especially after using Gamer in a class last term. My own viewing of such movies has been deeply influenced more by Shaviro's approach than others, but I also like to show students the first two "Chaos Cinema" essays as well as Jim Emerson's video essay on a scene from The Dark Knight.
Watching the third "Chaos Cinema" essay, I discovered that Stork responded specifically to one of my criticisms. It's a very fair and, I think, accurate response to a point I …

Faces: Garbo & Van Damme

A new video essay, this one about my two favorite faces in the movies: Greta Garbo and Jean-Claude van Damme:



Mimesis

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Like most words, mimesis is a nest of meanings. Shadings fly from it like fledgling birds: imitation, representation, replication, impersonation, or portrayal do for Plato; nowadays we could add copy, counterfeit, dupe. Grammatically different forms of what is called "the mimesis group" designate the action of mimicry — or the actor, mime, or mockingbird that performs the tune — while others aim at either the subject of imitation or its result, or sometimes indicate the arena of representation itself: the agora, law courts, or the stage. Mimesis calls the theater home, some say; it is derived from the dance; it belongs to mockery and mime, not always silent, and is often concerned with events and situations in daily life; no, it is the creation of effigies — statues, scarecrows, voodoo dolls — it is the means by which we call upon the gods. But did these meanings of mimesis really compete, or is the competition to be found in the disputatious pages of contemporary scholars,…

Trayvon Martin (1995-2012)

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A black boy was shot dead in Florida.

His killer is known, but the police refused to arrest him.

The police said they had no probable cause to arrest the killer, who claimed self-defense.

The killer was a Neighborhood Watch volunteer. He saw a black boy walking in the rain. He called 911. The dispatcher told him not to follow the boy. But he did. He approached him. They wrestled. Witnesses called 911.

Trayvon Martin was armed with a bag of Skittles and a bottle of iced tea.

A black boy was shot dead in Florida. His killer walks free.

More information:

The Trayvon Martin Killing, Explained (by Adam Weinstein, Mother Jones)What Everyone Should Know About Trayvon Martin (by Jud Legum, ThinkProgress)Coverage at The Atlantic. See in particular the posts by Ta-Nehisi CoatesRe-Nigging on the Promises: #Justice4Trayvon (The Crunk Feminist Collective)UPDATE: U.S. Department of Justice, FBI and FDLE to probe Trayvon Martin killing
Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the…

The Snowtown Murders

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The Snowtown Murders (aka Snowtown) inevitably draws comparisons to another brutal and disturbing Australian crime movie, Animal Kingdom, with which it shares some general plot elements and stylistic moves (both films were shot by Adam Arkapaw). But where Animal Kingdom shows one young man's struggle to stay innocent in a family of thieves and murderers, Snowtown depicts the power of a small-time messiah to employ hatred as an excuse for torture and murder. Both films focus their narrative on a quiet (eventually traumatized) adolescent surrounded by monsters, but Animal Kingdom, for all its virtues, is primarily a drama of demons and angels fighting for a soul, whereas Snowtown is less allegorical, less schematic, and more deeply disturbing. (A more meaningful comparison than with Animal Kingdom would be with Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.)

Though in some ways Snowtown is the story of how Jamie Vlassakis goes from being an apparently gentle and unassuming teenager to a partic…

The White Savior Industrial Complex

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Teju Cole:
The White Savior Industrial Complex is not about justice. It is about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege. See also Aaron Bady's excellent collection of reading material: "On the genre of 'Raising Awareness about Someone Else’s Suffering'".

Science Fiction Transcendent

The latest issue of the film journal Scope has just been posted online, and it includes a review I wrote about three books having to do with science fiction film and tv(PDF), with a particular view to their expressions of spiritual transcendence and their use of religion as a plot device, character trait, and general motif.

The maximum length allowed for reviews at Scope is 3,000 words, and my original draft was well over that. I cut it down to the best of my ability, but some things got lost. Below the fold here, I'll put the longer version, which gives a fuller exploration of the three books. If you just want to get an overview of the books and what I thought about them, read the Scope version of the review. If you want more detail, keep reading here...